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The 2023 College Football Season: Surprises and Disappointments

As the college football season moves swiftly along, it's apparent that this year's campaign is not short on excitement, surprises, and disappointments.

As the college football season moves swiftly along, it's apparent that this year's campaign is not short on excitement, surprises, and disappointments. The regular season is already a third of the way done, leaving fans and analysts with much to ponder. Several teams have defied expectations, while others have struggled to meet the lofty hopes set for them. In this article, we will delve into the most surprising teams that have exceeded expectations and the most disappointing ones that have fallen short.

Surprising Teams:

USF - A Resurgence Under New Leadership

The University of South Florida (USF) football program had endured several lean years, failing to win more than three games since 2019. However, under the guidance of new head coach Alex Golesh, the Bulls have turned things around, posting a respectable 3-2 record. Their most notable performance came in a rain-soaked game against powerhouse Alabama, where they held their own in a 17-3 loss. After years of struggle, USF looks poised to secure their first bowl season since 2018.

Colorado - The Enigma of Coach Prime

The Colorado Buffaloes have had an intriguing season, with a 3-2 record that leaves fans wondering if it should be even better. Armed with a high-powered offense filled with talent, they've shown flashes of brilliance, but inconsistency has plagued them. The arrival of Coach Primes promised an exciting brand of football, but their actual performance has left fans wanting more.

Duke - Unexpected Dominance

Duke has emerged as one of the biggest surprises of the season. Led by star Riley Leonard, they shocked everyone by defeating Clemson by 21 points and nearly toppling Notre Dame. With a 4-1 record, they are on the cusp of a top-ten ranking, far exceeding preseason expectations.

West Virginia - Resilience and Success

West Virginia's season began with a loss to Penn State, leading many to overlook the Mountaineers in a conference filled with compelling storylines. However, the Mountaineer defense, supported by a strong offensive line, rallied to secure a 4-1 start, their best since 2018. The team's determination and surprising success have caught the attention of college football fans.

Texas State - The Ultimate Underdog

Perhaps the most remarkable story of the season is the resurgence of Texas State under new head coach GJ Kinne. With a 4-1 record and the ninth-best scoring offense in the nation, the Bobcats have defied all expectations. Having last won more than four games in 2014, they now appear poised to compete in the highly competitive Sun Belt Conference and potentially reach their first-ever bowl game.

Disappointing Teams:

While several teams have exceeded expectations, others have struggled to meet the high hopes set for them in the 2023 season.

Cincinnati, Houston, UCF - The Big 12 Newcomers

The three American Athletic Conference teams that transitioned to the Big 12 this season, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF, have found the going tough in their new conference. All three teams currently hold a 0-2 record in conference play, and their overall performances have left fans and analysts wanting more. While it was expected that they would face challenges, the extent of their struggles has been surprising.

UAB - A Tough Transition

UAB had enjoyed success in Conference USA for years, but their transition to the American Athletic Conference under new head coach Trent Dilfer has been rocky. With a 1-4 record, their struggles include losses to strong opponents like Georgia, Georgia Southern, Tulane, and Louisiana. While not all losses can be considered soft, the team faces an uphill battle in their new conference.

South Carolina - A Deflated Start

South Carolina had high hopes after an impressive 2022 season, but they got off to a disappointing 2-3 start in 2023. While losses to Georgia and Tennessee are understandable, the loss to North Carolina stung. The Gamecocks still have a chance to turn things around with winnable games ahead, but the pressure is on.

Illinois - Falling Short of Expectations

Illinois had a strong 2022 season under Bret Bielema but has struggled to maintain that momentum. Despite a relatively favorable schedule, the team has had difficulty against opponents like Toledo and Florida Atlantic. The defense, once a strength, has not lived up to its reputation. Reaching six wins and a bowl game appears challenging.

Pitt - A Drastic Decline

Pitt, under head coach Pat Narduzzi, was expected to continue its ascent in the ACC after a conference title in 2021 and strong performances in recent years. However, the team has stumbled to a 1-4 start, with a defense that struggles and offensive inconsistencies. The road ahead is challenging, with several tough matchups, and this season may prove to be one of the most difficult for the program in years.

The 2023 college football season has been a rollercoaster ride, filled with both surprising success stories and disappointing performances. While some teams have exceeded expectations and captured the hearts of fans, others have faltered under the weight of high hopes. With two months remaining in the season, there is still time for these teams to turn their fortunes around, making the rest of the season highly anticipated and full of possibilities.

Undrafted Team


October 2, 2023 at 4:00:00 PM

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