It may seem like Clemson’s thrashing of Alabama in the national title game was only a few months ago but as fresh in our minds as that contest was, it was last season. Hard as it is to believe but the 2019 campaign is almost here and it’s time to turn our attention from what happened last year to what could happen between the lines this fall.
As part of CFTalk’s 2019 College Football Preview, we’re exploring every nook and cranny of the sport before kickoff in Week 0. After exploring a few candidates to breakout and turn in a surprising run this upcoming season, we’re headed in the opposite direction with a number of candidates who could go belly up despite high expectations.
Without further ado, here are five candidates to go bust in 2019 and see some serious regression from a year ago:
The Knights want to be taken seriously like a Power Five program so we’ll give them that treatment here while discussing why they will come back to earth in 2019. There’s no doubt the program is still full of talent compared to their AAC peers, the conference has already started to catch up to the Knights on the field and that should continue this season. Their schedule is tougher with non-conference games against Stanford and at Pitt, plus Houston and at Cincinnati among others in league play. There’s some big question marks in the front seven and, chiefly, at quarterback. While there’s plenty of skill position on hand, starter Brandon Wimbush is still to be determined as a passer after his stint at Notre Dame and there’s virtually zero depth behind him until Darriel Mack Jr. returns. This will still be a pretty good team but it’s far from the great one many UCF fans have come to expect.
Gardner Minshew was a revelation for the Cougars during their 11 win, top 10 campaign last season. He’s gone and while you can still pencil in whatever quarterback Mike Leach has being somebody who puts up stats, there’s little doubt Wazzu will miss Minshew’s leadership and, uh, moxie. Max Borghi is one of the Pacific Northwest’s best-kept secrets but the team will also need to replace fellow tailback James Williams plus fill the void left behind by left tackle Andre Dillard on offense.The defense will be solid but extending winning streaks against Oregon and Stanford — to say nothing of ending the losing streak to rival Washington — will be a tough ask given how much more competitive the division and conference should be in 2019.
There’s a lot of hope that with former five-star/ex-Clemson QB Hunter Johnson under center, the offense has nowhere to go but up. Even if that’s the case in 2019 for the Wildcats, they’ll have to deal with a much improved Big Ten West making every game a fight during conference play and a tough non-conference trip to Stanford to open the year. Ohio State and Michigan State aren’t exactly easy cross over opponents either and the team has to go to Nebraska and Wisconsin this season. Even if the defense remains pretty good, Pat Fitzgerald’s group will have a tough time repeating their trip to Indianapolis.
The Gators will start the year in the top 10 of most polls but it has been a truly awful offseason for Dan Mullen the past few months. Arrests, transfers, sexual assault allegations… you name it, Florida probably has a name to go with it. To make matters worse, the team is perilously thin at two really key positions on either side of the ball, offensive line and in the secondary. Mullen and company did a terrific job in Year 1 but things figure to slide back a bit in Year 2.
Mark Stoops is bullish on his team and while there’s no doubt the program is on solid ground right now, it’s really hard to see anything but regression from their 10 win campaign a year ago after the departures of their best offensive and defensive players. And not just the best players from last season’s team, but some of the best in school history in LB Josh Allen and RB Benny Snell Jr. Add in a more competitive SEC East, a few pesky MAC teams in the non-conference slate and a return to their 2017 level shouldn’t be too surprising in Lexington.
Other Group of Five teams ready to bust: Buffalo, Temple, Fresno State, Troy, UAB