One of the most tired clichés in history is, "it is not where you start, it’s where you end." Rarely is that true in college football, where teams near the top of the poll usually stay in the rankings, with a few surprises and the inevitable disappointments usually means their coaches is in danger of losing his job.
While the preseason USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll isn’t that kind of Miss Cleo predictor, the five teams on this snubs list can take solace that they are starting the season just like other teams in Bowl Subdivision: with a record of 0-0 with championship aspirations no matter how realistic or absurd those dreams may be.
Here are the biggest snubs in the preseason poll, who should have been included but were left out.
It seems every few years Iowa surprises people and they used a suspect 2021 schedule to get all the way to the Big Ten championship where they were exposed and humiliated by Michigan. Despite the talents of all-world center Tyler Linderbaum, the Hawkeyes were next to last in the conference in total offense, rarely scared defenses with their passing attack and averaged a little more than three yards per rush.
The combination of Spencer Petras, or whoever is going to be QB1, and tight end Sam LaPorta is key and Iowa must find another playing making wideout to keep defenses honest.
Iowa ranked in the top 10 in turnover margin, while leading the nation in interceptions and must sustain that productivity and rely on its outstanding linebacking corps to compete with Wisconsin along with Ohio State and Michigan, who join the schedule this season.
OUTLOOKS: A closer look at every team in college football's preseason poll
One thing is for sure. The leadership down in the Bayou are not paying Brian Kelly $95 million to go 6-7 like the 2021 Tigers did. Kelly has big shoes to fill as the last three LSU head coaches went on to win national championships. No matter what his contract says in terms of length (10 years in this case), the 60-year-old Kelly knows the leash is short and anything outside of holding a trophy in mid-January is simply unacceptable.
It’s not like LSU is devoid of talent. They generally recruit well, but getting back to becoming a respectable unit is not that far off. If the defense can get back to stopping the run, they will be fine. But the key is shoring up a leaky offense line and figuring out quarterback position, including Jayden Daniels from Arizona State. Anytime you are dealing with the gauntlet called the SEC West, which has gotten more coaches fired than any other in the past 15 years, nothing is assured.
The Tar Heels were the preseason darlings last season, starting off in the top 10 armed with a potential Heisman candidate (QB Sam Howell) and a Hall of Fame coach. They promptly lost their first game and then watched their defense give up six yards a play, while also losing to the likes of Georgia Tech and Florida State.
UNC has an absolute stud in wide receiver Josh Downs and the inevitable questions at quarterback and offensive line will linger without improvement. Despite having an offense that ranked in the top 10, more often than not Howell was running for his life, going down nearly 50 times in 2021.It seems the entire Coastal division got better and now Carolina is looking up at Miami, who brings in coach Mario Cristobal , and the often-forgotten Pittsburgh, who happen to be the defending conference champion. So, it may be a good thing to fly under the radar as tampered expectations could lead to a few upsets.
It seems year in and year out, the Nittany Lions have the talent to compete for Big Ten and national championships, but somehow always come up short. Last year, Penn State started 5-0 before things went downhill, resulting in a three-game losing streak. They lost their seven games by an average of 5.8 points, and had ample chances to win each.
Quarterback Sean Clifford is back for a sixth year, and coach James Franklin vowed to the Happy Valley fan base that whatever issues have plagued his team over the past two years that it will get fixed. Here is an alarming thing they can start with: No running back gained 100 yards in any game in 2021. As with all of the teams on this snubs list, replacing departed production will mean success in 2022. In this case it’s the 91 catches of Jahan Dotson, now in the NFL. Ex-Miami head coach Manny Diaz is in control of the defense, which was stout at times and returns ball hawk Ji’Ayir Brown and other capable young playmakers on the front seven.
Josh Heupel’s second season success will likely begin and end with quarterback Hendon Hooker, who threw for 2,945 yards with 31 touchdowns and only three interceptions in 2021. Hooker and his top target, Cedric Tillman (64 catches, 12 TDs) will give opponents fits all season.
While the offense has the ability to score with anyone in the nation, stopping anyone was an issue as their defense was on the field for more plays than any other team in the SEC and gave up nearly 30 points a game.
When the defense didn’t get to the quarterback on a consistent basis, it spelled trouble giving up an absurd 97 plays that went for 20 yards or more. The first six weeks are key as they play at Pittsburgh and have Florida, LSU and Alabama before the middle of October. Getting off to a fast start is key and if they don’t, the usual pessimistic rumbling from the Tennessee faithful could lead to another disappointing season.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coaches Poll: Five biggest snubs in college football's ranking