All the college football teams around the nation will have reported to fall camp by this time next week. It's a time for optimism! But here are three teams that I believe will fall short of expectations along with their wins totals on college football odds.
Auburn Tigers (7 wins in NCAAF betting)
Can a team with a wins total of just seven even be considered a disappointment? I think so. One year ago, Auburn was a Top-10 team in the preseason polls and many experts thought the Tigers were the team to beat in the SEC West, not that team in Tuscaloosa. And I'll admit that I fell into a bit of Heisman hype for quarterback Jeremy Johnson. I think we all knew something was amiss with this team when it was incredibly lucky to avoid one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history at home in Week 2 against FCS school Jacksonville State. Frankly, Auburn should have lost that game. But then the Tigers were dominated the next two weeks by LSU and Mississippi State on the way to a 7-6 record. Johnson was largely a bust. Now the pressure is hugely on Auburn coach Gus Malzahn as the Tigers have regressed in each season since playing in the national title game in 2013, Malzahn's first season as head coach.
Auburn has only 11 starters back and that includes Johnson, who may not be the guy this fall. This week, Malzahn dismissed the team's leading returning rusher, Jovon Robinson. Despite missing five games last year, he finished with 639 yards and three scores. Robinson really came on at the end of the year, capped by 126 yards and a score in being named Birmingham Bowl MVP against Memphis. Robinson was expected to be a focal point of this year's offense. And then there's the schedule: vs. Clemson, vs. LSU, at Mississippi State, at Ole Miss, at Georgia, at Alabama. That's six likely losses right there.
TCU Horned Frogs (8.5 wins on college football picks)
The Horned Frogs were No. 2 in both preseason polls last year and obviously the team to beat in the Big 12. But losses at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma ended any hopes of a conference title and spot in the College Football Playoff. The Frogs finished 11-2, capped by an epic triple-overtime comeback win over Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. No Big 12 team this season brings back fewer starters than TCU's 10, which includes just three on offense. Gone are record-setting quarterback Trevone Boykin, a former Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and receiver Josh Doctson as well as leading rusher Aaron Green (Boykin was the team's No. 2 rusher).
Yet the Frogs are No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches Poll released on Thursday. Who plays quarterback? The battle is down to Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill and Foster Sawyer. Hill was brilliant at the start of the 2014 season with the Aggies as a freshman but then soon regressed, was suspended and decided to leave. Thus he sat out last year. Sawyer was 11-for-27 for 155 yards, two touchdowns and three picks in 2015 for TCU. He had to start the Oklahoma game because Boykin was hurt and Sawyer played well for the first quarter, then really struggled and was benched in the game. As for the schedule, TCU could lose Sept. 10 vs. Arkansas out of conference. And I don't see the Frogs winning vs. Oklahoma, at West Virginia, at Baylor, vs. Oklahoma State and perhaps not at Texas. Best-case, this is a 7-5 team.
Michigan Wolverines (10 wins on college football odds)
I really don't understand why everyone is so giddy over Michigan, which is No. 8 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, and to be fair the 'under' is a slight -120 favorite here on 5Dimes. Sometimes the media and thus the fans are blinded by coaches and that's happening in Ann Arbor with Jim Harbaugh. Guy's one of the five best football coaches on the planet, no doubt. The Wolverines were 5-7 in Brady Hoke's final season in 2014 and then 10-3 last year under Harbaugh. The defense was one of the nation's best and should be very good again despite losing five starters; it even adds highly regarded coordinator Don Brown from Boston College after last year's coordinator, D.J. Durkin, got the Maryland head coaching gig. My concern here is on offense and particularly at quarterback.
Harbaugh still hasn't named his guy between Houston transfer John O'Korn and holdovers Wilton Speight and Shane Morris. O'Korn had to sit out last year and Morris did too as a redshirt. Speight some playing time last year as Jake Rudock's backup. UM's preseason practice begins Aug. 8. I actually think Michigan could win 10 games because of a soft schedule but not the Big Ten East. That's because UM has to visit both Michigan State and Ohio State, teams that won in Ann Arbor last year and who have owned Michigan in recent years.