Check out the top 10 teams in the country according to the Amway Coaches Poll following Week 12 of the college football season.
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We are almost at the end of the college football season, which means there’s not much more misery to go around. By this point, there’s more apathy than anger, which is understandable given the nature of fandom. When you root for a team that loses or disappoints week after week, a certain numbness and acceptance sets in over time, dulling the pain of ineptitude. By this point, most fans of teams that have massively underachieved are checked out and just ready for it to be over.
So if it’s not the fans of losing teams that are feeling the most acute agony right now, we turn our attention to the handful of teams that are frustrating in different ways. It’s the game that slipped away that will ultimately keep your team out of the College Football Playoff. It’s the key injury that will forever linger as a “what-if” over the program. Or it’s the team that keeps winning but does so in the most fatalistic manner possible.
Though all but a few fan bases in the country would be willing to change places with Oklahoma fans, the Sooners’ 10-1 record may qualify as the least enjoyable run to a potential playoff bid in history.
Winning is supposed to be fun in college football, but watching Oklahoma is a real chore. With a defense that can’t stop anybody, the Sooners basically put their fans through an endurance test every week. Though Kyler Murray is probably having an even better season at quarterback than Baker Mayfield did when he won the Heisman Trophy, it’s not particularly exciting to watch the Sooners play. Instead, its four hours of frustration and dread, knowing that as soon as its offense scores, the defense has to go back on the field.
At this point, after giving up 524 yards to Kansas in a 55-40 win on Saturday, you wonder if Lincoln Riley might be better-served just going onsides kick every time. It probably couldn’t yield any worse results than the Oklahoma defense is producing on its own.
Not only has the mid-season firing of Mike Stoops not made any difference, but the Sooners seem even worse now under Ruffin McNeill. Maybe they’ll be good enough on offense to win a fourth consecutive Big 12 title. But short of winning a national championship, which seems highly unlikely to happen, it’s going to be hard for Oklahoma fans to reconcile the win-loss record under Riley with the feeling that half the program is a downright embarrassment.
And for that reason, Oklahoma is No. 1 in the Misery Index, a weekly measurement of knee-jerk reactions based on what each fan base just watched.
FOUR MORE IN MISERY
Colorado: Following his team’s sixth straight loss and with speculation raging that he’s on the verge of losing his job, coach Mike MacIntyre played the loyalty card Saturday. “The thing about this business is when you are doing good, everybody’s asking why you’re leaving,” MacIntyre said. “I could have left for three good places and stayed. That’s just the way it is. Then when you’re losing they want to get rid of you.” Colorado did get rid of MacIntyre on Saturday, two years after he was national coach of the year for lifting the Buffaloes to a semi-miraculous 10-4 record. Tough business, indeed — especially because there’s no guarantee Colorado will find somebody better.
Arkansas: Though a lot of college football fans think of Arkansas as one of the more difficult jobs in the SEC, the Razorbacks averaged nearly eight wins a year from 1998 through 2011. It was indisputably a good program and at times a very good one. In other words, as hard as it may be for Arkansas fans to accept what has happened this decade, going 4-19 in the SEC since 2015 is not normal. Though Chad Morris may get things turned around — the recruiting class he’s putting together has built some hope — this season, and particularly Saturday’s 52-6 loss to Mississippi State, is a reminder that there will be no quick fix.
Texas Tech: Just when it seemed like Kliff Kingsbury had finally pulled through the uncertainty of whether he was the long-term answer for his alma mater, the Red Raiders decided to go on a four-game losing streak that keeps him in the purgatory of .500 football. Though quarterback Alan Bowman missed the last two games while recovering from a collapsed lung, it’s still not a great look to gain just 181 yards in a 21-6 loss to Kansas State. Even if Texas Tech finishes with a win over Baylor, it’s hard to make the case that the program has progressed under the 39-year old Kingsbury, whose career record is 35-39. Simply put, after six years of investment in him as a young head coach, the trajectory is flat. Thus, you’re going to hear more and more fans who think the school can do better.
Michigan State: The chosen scapegoat for Spartan fans is co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner, who chose to throw the ball 16 times over Michigan State’s final 17 plays in a 9-6 loss to Nebraska on a day when it was having far more success with the run. The bottom line for the 6-5 Spartans is that they’ve underachieved this year largely because quarterback Brian Lewerke didn’t progress as expected and freshman Rocky Lombardi, who played Saturday, is still pretty green. Regardless of the specific reason, this is the second time in the last three years Michigan State won’t finish as a top-25 team, which is pretty rare in the Mark Dantonio era.
TRENDING TOWARD MISERY
Tennessee: One game will define whether Jeremy Pruitt’s first season will be viewed as a success or failure. If the Vols can beat Vanderbilt, they’ll be 6-6 while building a narrative that Pruitt exceeded expectations heading into an important recruiting class. If they finish 5-7, the story will be that Tennessee got blown out five times by 25 or more points, which points directly at Pruitt’s defense and an inability to keep his team in games. Tennessee has rarely looked more overwhelmed than in Saturday’s 50-17 loss in Neyland to Missouri.
West Virginia: The dream season is not going to happen. It will be a very good season for the Mountaineers regardless, but with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, they got outscored 21-10 in the fourth quarter by Oklahoma State and lost, 45-41. West Virginia’s offense played well enough to win but stalled out in critical situations (5-for-18 on third down) and couldn’t capitalize on a 4-1 margin in turnovers. The Mountaineers can still get to the Big 12 title game if they beat Oklahoma next Friday, but even that would feel a bit empty since a playoff bid is now off the table.
Arizona: The bad moments this season for Arizona have been exceptionally bad, but the Wildcats have never looked worse than in a 69-28 loss to Washington State. A snapshot: Immediately after the Cougars scored to make it 34-14 halfway through the second quarter — yes, the second quarter — Arizona’s Cedric Peterson flat-out fumbled the kickoff. Washington State’s Kainoa Wilson picked it up cleanly off the turf and ran it in for yet another touchdown without running an official play. Arizona was picked as a sleeper to win the Pac 12 South in Kevin Sumlin’s first year, but at 5-6 with Arizona State still to play, the Wildcats could very well miss the postseason.
Houston: Halfway through the season, it seemed like a lead-pipe lock that the Cougars would run away with the American’s Western division and get a shot at UCF to earn a New Year’s Six bowl bid. Instead they have to go on the road to Memphis, which is now in the driver’s seat for the division, without starting quarterback D’Eriq King, who was injured in last Thursday’s win over Tulane. Meanwhile, the ugly sideline spat between head coach Major Applewhite and star defensive lineman Ed Oliver — over a jacket of all things — put Houston in the headlines for reasons it wanted nothing to do with.
Colorado State: This has been just a horrendous season for Mike Bobo’s squad with only three wins, but it looked like the Rams were going to have reason for a big celebration Saturday after knocking off Mountain West leader Utah State on a “Hail Mary” as time expired. Only they didn’t win, as receiver Preston Hill was ruled ineligible because he stepped out of bounds before his acrobatic 34-yard catch. Sometimes, you’re both bad and unlucky.
TOTALLY REAL AND IRRATIONAL MESSAGE BOARD THREADS
“This defense takes all the joy out of winning” – ouinsider.com
“Coaches who have erased their legacy quicker than Dantonio?” – Spartantailgate.com
“Honestly, would you take Nutt back?” – hogville.net
“Is there any team better at giving up third and long than WVU?” – wvsports.com
“I’m just really sad.” – insidetheredraiders.com