The Declaration of Independence may state that all men are created equal, but DraftKings disagrees. Come this fall, when the alumni pull on those XXXL sweatshirts and the band strikes up horribly off-key versions of Taylor Swift songs, we’re going to find out just how unequal they are because college football season is finally here! And take heart, parents. As much money as you are sinking into your entitled spawn’s liberal arts degree, it’s not nearly as much cash as these universities are burning through to field the worst 12 teams in the Power Five conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference and Southeastern Conference). No amount of wealth redistribution is going to prevent these programs from stinking this year. These teams are so bad, a Supreme Court Justice wouldn’t even accept a flight on a private jet, a luxury suite, and an interest-free “loan” to watch them play. But fear not, America. Justice will be served! So, let’s shake hands and come together as a nation to watch Gen Z see how unfair life is that their universities are saddling them with student loan debt while they can’t even field a mediocre football team.
12. (tie) Arizona
When head coach Jedd Fisch led the Wildcats to victory over blood rival Arizona State, it was reason to celebrate on campus. After all, the Wildcats had been drubbed in their last two meetings against the Sun Devils by a combined score of 108-22. But as the Kansas City Chiefs or any man who has been married for 10 years will tell you, it’s hard to do something two consecutive times.
Like finding $20 in an old jacket, Fisch’s 5-7 season last year was a pleasant surprise. But we’re not so sure how long that euphoria will last. Fisch is relying heavily on quarterback Jayden de Laura to lead this team out of the desert. After de Laura transferred from Washington State last season, the offense improved from 17.2 to 30.8 points per game.
Despite the improvement from 1-11 in 2021, Zona went on a four-game spree last season where they gave up 45 points or more to Pac-12 opponents. And with nine defensive starters leaving the crime scene, there aren’t many clues as to how this defense plans to get better.
The bottom of the Pac-12 may have more tomato cans than a Warhol painting, so there may be a few pleasant surprise wins again this year, but even Kari Lake’s math won’t get Arizona to a bowl game this season.
12. (tie) Iowa State
Like residents of London, Iowa State experienced a brief moment in the sun in 2020 and 2021. Thanks to quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall, head coach Matt Campbell was able to resurrect the program and lead them to a few winning seasons. But with Purdy and Hall now in their second NFL seasons with the 49ers and Jets, respectively, these Cyclones aren’t likely to do much damage, scoring 14 or fewer points in seven games last year.
Campbell was betting on quarterback Hunter Dekkers to make a developmental leap and lead this team back to the winning column. But Dekkers is stepping away from the team and freshman quarterback JJ Kohl may have greatness and a lot of defensive linemen thrust upon him this season.
Campbell should definitely tip the schedule makers for putting Northern Iowa and Ohio on the calendar early this season. But once Iowa State gets into the heart of a Big 12 schedule that includes Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor and TCU, expect these Cyclones to be the ones getting blown out.
The Purdue faithful are despondent as their successful head coach Jeff Brohm heads back to his alma mater Louisville to take over that program. Many felt Brohm had taken the coaching job at Purdue as a stepping stone to bigger things… and they were right. This will be Ryan Walters’ first head coaching position after serving as defensive coordinator at Illinois the last two seasons, and he’ll need the luck of finding a roommate that shares their Netflix password to bring in the talent necessary to keep Purdue in the win column.
First, he’ll need to replace standout quarterback Aidan O’Connell who is rolling the dice in training camp with the Las Vegas Raiders. Hudson Card, who transferred from Texas, is the likely candidate. Purdue’s best path to victory may be the returning starters on defense under Walters’ tutelage. But with games against Ohio State, and on the road against Virginia Tech and Michigan, Purdue has a schedule as unforgiving as an ex-wife. Purdue? More like Purdon’t.
10. Arizona State
After a humiliating loss to Eastern Michigan last season and some pesky recruiting violations following them around, Arizona State decided the Sun Devils needed to exorcise their head coach. So out with the old (Herm Edwards), and in with 33-year-old Kenny Dillingham. The new coach is bringing in last season’s Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne to open up the offense and hold down the position until five-star recruit Jaden Rashada is ready for the job.
Much like Kim Kardashian taking an algebra test, Arizona State will need all the points they can get. Their defense gave opponents offenses so much television time, the Screen Actors Guild is striking to get them a union wage. The run defense surrendered more real estate than an NBA player’s divorce agreement as opponents racked up over 188 yards per game carrying the football.
The Sun Devils may be optimistic with the energy Dillingham has brought to the program. But with UCLA, USC, Washington, Oregon and Utah on the schedule, a bowl game is nothing more than a desert mirage.
9. West Virginia
Poor West Virginia. Imagine how they must feel watching the great players in the South head to luxury destinations in the SEC, the land of milk and NIL money.
Well-respected head coach Neal Brown, who put Troy University on the map, enters his fifth season in Morgantown, and his seat is hotter than Olivia Dunne’s floor routine. Brown is hoping his quarterback Garrett Greene can unleash the same dual threat magic he used to upset Oklahoma last season. West Virginia is actually 18-4 under Brown when they rush for over 100 yards in a game, and they’ll need to do more of that as their top three receivers have seceded from the university. They’ll also have to do it without offensive coordinator Graham Harrell who left to take a similar job at Purdue. The running game will need to help Mountaineers mine the clock for time. Their defense digs holes that no coal miner could survive, giving up over 400 yards and 30 points per game last season.
Divine intervention may have helped with West Virginia’s scheduling, as they’ve drawn all four newcomers to the Big 12—Houston, Central Florida, BYU and Cincinnati. But otherwise expect the West Virginia faithful to continue losing their religion.
New Jersey may be the home of guys who like to make offers you can’t refuse. But the invitation to join the Big 10 may have been something Rutgers should have reconsidered in 2014. This season will mark a decade since the Scarlet Knights moved from the then Big East (now AAC) to their current conference, but it hasn’t exactly been a Big 10, as they’ve gone 12-58 in conference play.
Like the girls at the Bada Bing on a Saturday morning, the talent is a little light in Piscataway, making it difficult to score. The end zone has been as off limits as Area 51, as Rutgers offense has averaged just 13 points per game (128th nationally) and 254.5 yards per game (130th nationally) against FBS opponents. Greg Schiano has brought back his old offensive consigliere Kirk Ciarrocca to try and restore the family’s honor. Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt started six games last season, and much like Rutgers’ recruiting staff, he had trouble finding receivers, completing only 44.8% of his passes. It may not get better. Behind a makeshift offensive line, he’s going to take some hits that would make Tony Soprano wince.
The defense resembles a divorced dad back on the dating scene—it starts out strong but tires out quickly. They’re playing the field so much, by the second half, they’re looking to enter the witness relocation program. Eight starters are back, which might help this team cover some big spreads for the paisans. But a bowl game? Fugheddaboutit!
7. Georgia Tech
For a while, it seemed like the Yellow Jackets were buzzing with coach Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense. But in the following 3 ½ years under his replacement, Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech was a bug on the ACC’s windshield going 10-28. Brett Key stepped in mid-season last year and stabilized the hive with a 4-4 finish in 2022.
It won’t help that the team is losing a promising quarterback in Jeff Sims, who transferred to Nebraska. He may have simply kept running out the stadium door as their atrocious offensive line gave up 39 sacks last season. They were able to pick up some solid receivers in the transfer portal, including Dominick Blaylock from Georgia and Christian Leary transferring from Alabama.
The defense had trouble stopping long runs, as the team allowed 189 yards rushing per game. That doesn’t bode well with games against Ole Miss, Clemson, Miami and Georgia on the docket. Sorry, Georgia Tech, you’ll continue to be a Ramblin’ Wreck in the ACC for a while longer.
Remember when Vanderbilt won the SEC title? Neither do we, because it’s never happened. And it looks like the world’s emptiest trophy case will be lonely for another year, as the Commodores set sail this season over troubled waters.
Head coach Clark Lea deserves some praise for his squad’s late season upsets at Kentucky and home against Florida. You’re likely to find him sleeping at the door of the transfer portal to keep opposing coaches from poaching his rocket-armed sophomore quarterback A.J. Swann.
Vanderbilt’s defense would be the saddest thing in Nashville, if it weren’t for all of those country singers losing their wives, dogs and pickup trucks and writing songs about it. The Commodores surrendered over 460 yards and 36.0 points per game last season. With a 55-3 loss to Alabama, 55-0 drubbing from Georgia and a 56-0 volunteer trouncing from Tennessee, the Vanderbilt student body will be used to their favorite cheer, “It’s alright! It’s ok! You’re gonna work for us someday!”
Star punter Matt Hayball’s booming kicks send opposing teams to their end of the field, where they will have to travel a little farther to score inevitable touchdowns this year. This year’s Vanderbilt team is like a 6-year-old whose parents have hidden the cereal—the bowls are out of reach.
Much like the rest of the world, Indiana has struggled since the pandemic. After posting a 6-2 record in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Hoosiers are 6-18 overall and 2-16 in the Big Ten.
Allen hasn’t decided who should take the reins at quarterback between Brendan Sorsby and Tayven Jackson. “We’ve got two talented quarterbacks,” Allen said “They can both throw it and run it. Who is able to do that at the highest level, protect the ball, and move the team down the field?” Good question, coach. If we knew the answer, you probably would have picked one by now.
What do you call a defense that gives up 33.9 points per game and loses its top four defensive backs? You call 911. Indiana scrolled the transfer portal faster than Pete Davidson on Bumble. Defensive end Andre Carter from Western Michigan is the most promising playmaker of the bunch.
Stranger things have happened in Indiana, But even Eleven couldn’t save this team from a schedule that includes Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin and Maryland. Bet the farm against them before it gets foreclosed.
The “Harvard of the ACC” is the slogan Virginia University made up to charge their student body double the tuition. And what do you get for all that money? Not a good football team, that’s for sure. It’s nice that Virginia is for lovers, because you’re definitely going to need something else to keep you busy on Saturday afternoons. Head coach Tony Elliott was brought in from Clemson to ignite this far-too-Cavalier offense, but like the Titanic, it still rests at the bottom of the Atlantic at 17.0 points per game. Monmouth transfer Tony Muskett will battle it out with inexperienced backup Jay Woolfolk to start at quarterback. Winner gets to unload the ball faster than their crypto portfolio behind a completely different offensive line for the second year in a row.
Thankfully, the defense may keep the other boys from scoring too often. Eight starters return for defensive coordinator John Rudzinski’s unit to stop some of the bleeding, especially with a road schedule that includes underdog games at Tennessee, Maryland, North Carolina, Miami and Louisville. If things get any worse for Virginia, they may have to secede from the ACC.
With a 1-11 record last year, virtually everything was uncertain about Northwestern football coming into this season, except for their head coach. Pat Fitzgerald was a beloved former player and the winningest coach in Northwestern history, leading the school to 10 bowl games in 13 seasons. So, it was understandable that the college football world was shocked when Fitzgerald was fired after an investigation that revealed a variety of hazing that took place within the football team over the last several years.
Once the popular Fitzgerald was shown the back door, the job he left vacant was about as desirable as being a North Korean travel agent. Maybe that’s why newly hired defensive coordinator David Braun was asked to assume the position with the ink on his contract still wetter than a weekend in Seattle. Braun already had a tall task in front of him as the Northwestern defense. But defense isn’t the only puzzle Braun needs to solve. The Wildcats’ offense has been on strike, scoring only 13.8 points per game, dead last for all Power Five teams.
A team that already had an uphill climb faces steeper odds as several players have thought aloud about hitting the transfer portal after Fitzgerald’s firing, which would leave the roster thinner than Donald Trump’s hair.
Stanford prides itself on being one of the elite academic schools in the country, and if you don’t believe it, without prompting, an alumnus will tell you within three seconds of meeting you! Yet with all that brainpower buzzing around campus, they still can’t seem to put together a good football team. David Shaw was the winningest coach in Stanford’s history, but like Judd Apatow making funny movies, all good things must come to an end. After going 14-28 in the last four seasons, Shaw decided to take himself out of the game, leaving the job to Sacramento State’s Troy Taylor. But with only two starters coming back on offense, Taylor will need to be more creative than George Santos’ resume to find some wins this year.
There are some bright spots for the Cardinal. E.J. Smith, aka son of Emmitt, showed early promise last year before getting injured in the second game of the season. But which quarterback is handing him the ball? There haven’t been this many guys vying for the same job since Emily Ratajkowski got divorced. They do have All-Pac-12 tight end Benjamin Yurosek returning. But like Donald Trump’s legal team, expect a lot of last-minute replacements in the starting lineup on offense.
On defense, just like Twitter, the news continues to get worse. This was a squad that finished 112th out of 115 Power Five defenses, as five conference opponents poured out a 40+ point game in their honor. New defensive coordinator Bobby April III brings NFL experience to the field, but unfortunately, he doesn’t get to bring NFL players with him. Stanford may produce some of the best doctors in the country, but it’s going to take a lot more to resuscitate this football program.
It’s Prime Time in Colorado! Hall of Fame cornerback and trash talker Deion Sanders puts on a cowboy hat and rides into Boulder on his very high horse to take over a 1-11 Buffaloes team on the brink of extinction. After being last in the nation last season in defense, giving up 44.5 points per game, Coach Prime is going to need some special accounting tricks to balance that scoreboard.
As Sanders’ first order of business, he shuffled most of the Buffaloes off the roster, advising most of the current players on the team not to let the door hit ‘em where the Good Lord split ‘em. Neon Deion seems confident that along with the bright lights he brings, the NIL money that will roll in on his arrival will allow them to spend bigger than the Mets’ payroll for replacements.
He didn’t have to look far for a quarterback as nepo baby Shedeur Sanders takes over at quarterback after throwing for 70 touchdowns the last two seasons at Jackson State. But even Duolingo can’t tell us how those numbers will translate in the Pac-12. Sanders is already talking about winning the Pac-12, but that may be high hopes, unless that transfer portal is a time machine. With 33 incoming transfers, there will be talent in the future, but for now, Coach Sub Prime’s team will be underwater.
Teams from the Power Five Conferences (listed alphabetically) that will underachieve by winning four to seven games are: Boston College, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Washington State.
Danny Sheridan is one of the country’s most eminent sports analysts. He provides football odds for USA Today’s Sports Weekly and served as USA Today’s Sports Analyst for three decades. He makes frequent TV and radio appearances and is in demand as a speaker for his expertise in sports analysis. Sheridan’s preseason College & Pro Football, NBA, Baseball, March Madness and Previews are featured in national publications yearly. He is the author of several books, publishes one of the country’s most popular sports newsletters and is a private advisor to an elite roster of high-net-worth individuals. A graduate of the University of Alabama, Sheridan was inducted into the Mobile, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.