Top 15 Teams Most Likely to Choke Down the Stretch
Top 15 Teams Most Likely to Choke Away Title Hopes
Fewer words are more damming to a player or a team than affixing the term choke to the respective player of team. It is a modern day scarlet letter synonymous to the red “A” that Hester Prynne was forced to bear.
Entire careers can be tarnished by a single moment where a player failed to deliver in the clutch and conversely stars are born and legends are made in the moments where teams and players have thrived in clutch situations.
The initial BCS standings were released Sunday night and not much was surprising other than Florida being ranked second behind Alabama rather than Oregon, who has been #2 in the AP poll for the last few weeks.
With success comes expectations and with expectations comes added pressure that some coaches and players are not well-equipped to handle.
Of the teams ranked that have high expectations this season and to those that have surprised and raised their collective expectations from the preseason, who is the most likely to buckle under the pressure and choke away all the hopes and dreams of a conference or national title?
Without further ado these are the 15 teams I think have the greatest likelihood of choking down the stretch of the college football season.
Please comment and let me know who you think I should have included in the list and who I should have no business including in the list that nobody wants to be on.
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Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and avid college football fan, and the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com Wednesday mornings from 8-10.
The #1 Crimson Tide is in prime position to repeat as national champions under the guidance of Nick Saban. His team has coasted through their schedule so far, but have three ranked opponents yet to play before a potential SEC championship game appearance. The toughest game on the schedule is no doubt the November 3rd game at LSU. Last time these two met it was Alabama winning the national title in a one-sided title game.
The next two weeks are opportunities for Florida to blow the goodwill they build during the win over LSU with games vs. South Carolina and their game vs. Georgia in Jacksonville for the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party. A loss to either of these teams could blow the Gators chance at a national and SEC conference title.
Ineligible for postseason play, but the undefeated Buckeyes can still choke away an undefeated record, which would go a long way toward recruiting the next wave of Ohio State players for Urban Meyer to coach up. Braxton Miller is in position to contend for the Heisman and will likely be favored to win the remaining games on the docket, but the game at Wisconsin and the finale vs. Michigan could spoil those plans.
The #3 ranked Ducks still have four road games to play including trips to USC and Oregon State in addition to their home game vs. Stanford. The Ducks will need to go undefeated to play in the national title game and the potential for a repeat affair with USC in a Pac 12 championship game would be a hellacious stretch to get through unblemished.
The Tigers were written off after their loss to Florida, but got momentum with a big home win over South Carolina. With three ranked opponents on the schedule before the Tigers welcome Alabama to Death Valley in a rematch of the BCS national title game of a year ago, they certainly will be battle tested, but Nick Saban may have Les Miles’ number.
The Cardinals are 6-0 thus far but have yet to face a ranked opponent. A Big East title may in their sights with the play of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but must get past two ranked teams in Cincinnati and Rutgers to do so.
A surprise in the Pac 12 this season under Mike Riley who has his team undefeated after five games, including wins over two ranked teams. However, the Beavers must navigate their way through a tough conference slate that includes trips to Washington and Stanford before the civil war game vs. Oregon.
I use the term choke loosely here, because the Bulldogs have had a tremendous season under Dan Mullen who is doing fantastic things in Starkville. However a 6-0 record that likely will be 7-0 after a scrimmage vs. Middle Tennessee State this Saturday raises expectations that are sometimes unrealistic to reach. The Bulldogs have the toughest remaining schedule in America with road dates at Alabama and LSU with home dates vs. Texas A&M and a talented Arkansas before traveling to Oxford to take on an upstart Ole Miss team. If the Bulldogs do not finish at least 3-2 in their final five games, it will be a relative disappointment not to reach 10 wins.
The Badgers defeat in week two at Oregon State doesn’t look at bad as it did at the time, and the Badgers have played much better since the 10-7 loss. The Badgers face a couple road blocks on the way to a potential trip to the Big Ten title game. Home games vs. Michigan State and Ohio State before traveling to Penn State in the season’s finale will be difficult tests for a team that is reliant on one player, Montee Ball. The latter two opponents will be looking to play spoiler as they are ineligible for postseason play.
Playing a very soft schedule has benefited the Scarlet Knights as they are without a loss, but their signature win is over a down Arkansas team, so we don’t know what to make of this team just yet. And we still may not know how good this team is until a November 17 game at Cincinnati and a season finale matchup that could decide the Big East at fellow unbeaten Louisville.
The Seminoles have already started their choking process after a humiliating loss to NC State two weeks ago, and have road trips at Miami and Virginia Tech to get past before their season finale against Florida. An ACC crown may not be the certainty it once was after their win over Clemson.
The Wildcats face an angry West Virginia team coming off a loss last weekend and escaping Morgantown with a win may be the toughest challenge yet for Bill Snyder’s team who still has three games vs. ranked opponents remaining on the schedule.
The Gamecocks need to win out to get to their conference championship game in all likelihood and Florida stands in their way this Saturday. After losing to LSU, the Gamecocks have no margin for error and a loss to Florida will all but seal their fate as a 2nd or 3rd place finish in the SEC east.
Already have one blemish on their schedule after their beat down suffered at the hands of South Carolina, so the noose is getting tight around Mark Richt’s neck as his Bulldogs must win out to get to Atlanta for the SEC title game. A loss to #2 Florida and Georgia can call it a season.
The Fighting Irish have been the toast of college football this year behind their best start since 2002. With a difficult schedule to attempt to navigate through, the Irish have two big road games against teams ranked inside the top ten (Oklahoma, USC) to beat before the Irish faithful can feel comfortable about playing in a national title game. The defense in South Bend is as good as any in the nation, but I have serious reservations about the offense being able to keep pace with those two aforementioned teams.