These five breakout Power Five college football programs will likely take a step back in 2022

Unlike college basketball, it is often said that college soccer is not a Cinderella-based sport. While this statement contains a lot of truth, our view misrepresents this fact.

When discussing Cinderella in college basketball, we cite teams that do a surprising post-season job, potentially nullifying two Blue Bloods programs along the way. College football does not have a post-season structure to support such running, and the sport itself is not open to outliers due to how the game is designed.

But there is Cinderella in college football. The difference is that they are in the regular season.

A team expected to win only six matches surprises everyone with a 10-win campaign, and may even make it to the Conference Championship match. Sometimes, you win that tournament. But like almost all Cinderella stories, the clock eventually reaches midnight.

Every season, we see the previous year’s Cinderella become this year’s disappointment. Then a new Cinderella appears, and the process begins all over again. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the life cycle of college football.

Let’s find out which Power Five programs had such success in 2021 that it will be difficult to sustain in 2022.

Full disclosure: I had some software in mind when I first envisioned this topic. Kentucky was not one of them. I’m a fan of the show’s coach Mark Stubbs who built it in Lexington and I don’t think his recent success is a coincidence. While that is still the case, there were a lot of aspects to the 2022 season that will be hard to replicate.

Good teams find ways to win tight games, and Kentucky State has topped 16-8 in single-score games since 2017. But they outpaced their pace last year. After going 11-7 in games like this from 2017-20, the Wildcats were 5-1 last year. That includes a 3-0 mark in the SEC with two wins from those teams they will face on the road this year in Florida and Missouri. Their only one-point defeat was a three-point loss at home to Tennessee, which the Wildcats have to face in Knoxville, Tennessee, this year. Kentucky is also getting a road trip to Ole Miss which can be challenging.

The UK was in this same situation in 2018 when it only went 10-3 to trail it with an 8-5 score in 2019. The Wildcats went 3-1 in single-score games during the 2018 season, outperforming their opponents by five points in those four games. In 2019, they went 2-2 in one match. Don’t be surprised if 2022 looks a lot like 2019.

Studying the Spartans will be interesting in 2022. Coach Mel Tucker sent a jolt through this program as he only hit the Grand Slam in the transfer gate last season and helped lead the Spartans to the Peach Bowl. They’ve been active in the gate again in this off-season, and the Spartans have had plenty of success on the career path with the top 10 class so far in the 2023 cycle. After finishing last season in ninth in the AP Top 25, this team is a lock to start 2022 is in the top 15, if not higher. But we should not assume that everything that worked in 2021 will continue to work in 2022.

What’s amazing about Michigan is that it’s a hit in the gate – third Kenneth Walker finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy vote – but the gate is still a new tool. We don’t have enough evidence to suggest one way or the other if relying on it is a stable way to maintain success. What happens to the Spartans if the players they have added through the gate this season don’t have the kind of success that Walker experienced?

Even if we ignore it, like Kentucky, Michigan State was great in single-score games last season, going 4-0. Those four wins (Nebraska, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania) came by a combined 15-point lead. If it wasn’t for the +3 spin margin in those games (talk about something that’s hard to predict and rely on), one or two of those games are swinging the other way, and we have a very different view of Michigan for 2021.

Finally, the table presents some obstacles. There’s a road trip to Washington in September that could be tough, and after getting Michigan and Penn State in East Lansing last season, the Spartans will both face off on the road in 2022. They’ve also drawn Wisconsin and Minnesota (18-8 together last year) to go on a road trip to face off The Illinois team that showed signs of no longer being an easy feat were long considered last season.

The Cowboys finished 2021 within yards of the Big 12 title, falling 21-16 to Baylor. They followed that up with an impressive victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 12-2, making the 2021 season only the second time in the program’s history that the Cowboys have won 12 games. The first was in 2011 when the Cowboys were on a weekly trip to Ames, Iowa, away from the BCS Championship Game pier. But while the 2011 team used to blow teams — eight of the 12 wins were by over 20 points, four by 30+ — the 2021 team played a lot of games.

Oklahoma State started 2021 with a 6-0 record, but those six wins came with a total of 42 points. After losing three points to Iowa State (again in Ames), OSU blew up Kansas, West Virginia, Texas and Texas Tech before finishing with another three close matches. And why have the Cowboys been able to win so many close matches? Unlike in 2011, when the team averaged 48.7 points per game, the 2021 Cowboys scored 31.1. It was their defense that allowed the Big 12 to best 18.1 points per game, keeping them very much alive.

Unfortunately, the architect, Jim Knowles, left to become Ohio State’s defensive coordinator. While that doesn’t guarantee that the Oklahoma State defense will lose bottom, coach Mike Gundy’s teams were never known for their defenses before Knowles arrived at Stillwater.

Unlike Kentucky, which wasn’t on this list expected, Pete was the poster child for the concept. In my opinion, the Panthers are the most obvious candidates for a program to roll back in 2022, and I don’t think it takes any kind of unique insight to figure out why.

No one expected the Panthers to win the ACC title in 2021, but that’s what they did. They went 11-3 behind Heisman’s performance in the Heisman Final from veteran quarterback Kenny Pickett and Biletnikoff Award-winning performance from Jordan Addison. Beckett and Addison are both gone. (Okay, Beckett is right next door, but Addison is all over the country.) Attack coordinator Mark Whipple is called to Nebraska in hopes that he can implement the same kind of miraculous alteration to his Kornhauser crime he made with the Panthers.

For Pete, while there are basic statistical concerns about the other teams on this list, the Panthers’ issues mostly depend on individuals. They were 2-2 in single-score games last season, and their other nine wins are averaging 26.9 points. This did not prove to be a difficult team. It was just a good team that played well and took advantage of the opportunities. But without Pickett, Addison and Whipple, it’s hard to imagine the offense performing at the same level to lead this team to another ACC title. Coach Pat Narduzzi has done a lot of work building a foundation for this program to believe things are falling apart, but saying that the ACC title is the cap on this Pitt program doesn’t sound like the kind of hot extraction that would make me sound an idiot. the future.

Ask around Big Ten country for a convention sleeper team this season, and you’ll hear Purdue mentioned often. Boilermakers kicked off their first nine-win season since 2003 and Aidan O’Connell got Aidan O’Connell back in QB after a fantastic season. It’s the first time in Jeff Brohm’s era that Purdue has entered the summer without questions about who would be the team’s starting signal caller. However, while I understand the hype and belief that boiler makers are about to surprise at Big Ten West without a clear favorite, I’m slamming the brakes a bit.

Like others on this list, Purdue had success in single-score games, going 3-1. Wins came by 12 points against Illinois, Nebraska, and Tennessee (15-22 combined records). While it lost seven points at home to Minnesota, Purdue’s other three losses to Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Ohio State came in at an average of 19.7 points and the closest was a 14-point loss at the hands of the Irish fighters.

Purdue should also replace his most reliable attacking player in WR David Bell and his most disruptive strength in defense in haste passing George Karlavtis. Finally, the schedule does not provide many breaks. As they avoid Ohio and Michigan to the east, the Boilermakers will be on their way to games against Syracuse, Minnesota, Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. In other words, plenty of win-win games will be played outside of West Lafayette, Indiana, and home games against Penn State and Iowa won’t be picnics. It took 18 years for Bordeaux to win nine games again after 2003, and while I don’t think it will take 18 more for it to happen again, it will probably take at least two.

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