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CFB Turnarounds

   by Larry Ness - 08/09/2004

What do 10-3 Michigan, 12-2 Oklahoma and 10-3 Washington State have in common with 1-11 Buffalo, 3-9 Eastern Michigan and 2-10 Vanderbilt? They are SIX of the 16 Division 1-A schools (of 117) that have had EXACTLY the same records in each of the last two seasons....

Last season, the year's most dramatic turnaround was made by Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane went 1-11 in 2002 but finished the 2003 season at 8-5, a 6 1/2-game improvement. Right behind Tulsa was Memphis, which improved 5 1/2 games from 3-9 to 9-4 and Navy (also up 5 1/2 games from 2-10 to 8-5). Miami-Ohio improved five games from 7-5 to 13-1, while LSU went from an 8-5 2002 season to a 13-1 mark in 2003 and won the BCS title game! Rounding out the top-seven turnarounds in 2003 are Utah (up 4 1/2 games from 5-6 to 10-2) and Rutgers (up four games from 1-11 to 5-7)....

Seven schools in 2003 fell off four games or more from their 2002 records. The three schools at the top of the list that no one wants to be on, are three of the biggest names in college football history! They are Alabama, Penn State and Notre Dame....

Alabama fell to 4-9 in 2003, after going 10-3 in 2002. The Tide's six-game fall, represents the worst drop-off of any school last year. Penn State followed a 9-4 season in 2002 by going 3-9 in 2003, a 5 1/2-game fall. As for the Fighting Irish, Notre Dame fell from 10-3 in Ty Willingham's first year at South Bend, to 5-7 last year, a drop-off of 4 1/2 games....

On July 29, the coaches' poll released its preseason top-25. USC was first, Oklahoma second and LSU was third. That may not be good news for Trojan fans, as since USA Today began administering the coaches' poll in 1991, Florida State is the only team to start and finish the season No. 1 (1993 and 1999)! The last two BCS titles were won by teams ranked 12th or worse in the preseason....

It should also be noted that THREE of the last four BCS champions have won the title, a year after a five-loss season! As noted earlier, 2003 champion LSU was 8-5 in 2002 and they are joined by 2002 champion Ohio State (7-5 in 2001), as well as 2000 champion Oklahoma (7-5 in 1999)!...

Sticking with the theory that "fives are wild", maybe we should keep an eye out for these five-loss teams from 2003, that are all ranked in the coaches' preseason top-25. No.11 West Virginia (8-5) received its highest-ever preseason ranking in the coaches' poll and is joined in this year's initial poll by these four five-loss teams from 2003. Florida (8-5) is No. 10, Missouri (8-5) is No. 17, Auburn (8-5) is No. 18 and Oregon (8-5) is No. 25. Two schools which had six-loss seasons in 2003, California (8-6) and Wisconsin (7-6), are ranked 15th and 22nd, respectively....

Clearly, identifying who will be this year's surprise team or for that matter this year's disappointment, is no easy task....Good luck, Larry Ness.

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