I already broke down the dozen Power Five teams that exceeded betting expectations this season, so here’s a closer look at 12 programs that underachieved in 2019.
NC State (4-8) | Regular season win total: 7 | Against the spread record: 2-10
North Carolina State was expected to drop off from 2018 after losing four offensive players who are playing in the NFL, including quarterback Ryan Finley. They won and covered against East Carolina in Week 1, but found very little success after the opener. After securing their second cover of the season against Syracuse on Oct. 10, the Wolfpack failed to win or cover in the final six games of the season.
Northwestern (3-9) | Regular season win total: 6.5 | Against the spread record: 3-9
The defending Big Ten West champs had a daunting schedule on paper entering the season. Stanford, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State and Iowa in six of the first seven games was going to be a challenge for a rising program. Northwestern lost all six of those games and covered only two of them. The Wildcats offense scored a combined 48 points in their first seven games against Power Five teams, which is why Northwestern struggled to win and cover throughout the year.
Nebraska (5-7) | Regular season win total: 8.5 | Against the spread record: 3-9
A lot was expected from Scott Frost in his second season, especially since he led UCF to a 12-0 regular season record during his second year with the program in 2017. There was also Heisman buzz for quarterback Adrian Martinez that wasn’t warranted. Nebraska’s season got off to a shaky start with a close win against South Alabama and a loss at Colorado during the first two weeks of the season. After the Huskers were embarrassed on national television against Ohio State, they were pretty much an afterthought in the college football landscape. Nebraska covered the final two games of the season, but fell short of reaching a bowl game.
Stanford (4-8) | Regular season win total: 6.5 | Against the spread record: 3-9
We knew Stanford was going to have one of the more difficult schedules in the country, especially in their first six games. They started a manageable 3-3, but injuries took a toll on David Shaw’s team. They lost five of their last six games and failed to cover the number in all five of those losses. Stanford’s only win and cover in the final six games came against the next team on this list.
Arizona (4-8) | Regular season win total: 6.5 | Against the spread record: 3-8-1
Things were looking up for Arizona early in the season after a 4-1 start. Then they dropped their last seven games of the season with the only cover coming in the finale against Arizona State. Kevin Sumlin could be a popular name on the 2020 hot seat rankings if he’s given a third year in Tucson.
Michigan State (6-6) | Regular season win total: 8 | Against the spread record: 3-9
Michigan State was returning almost every starter from their 2018 team, which led to legitimate talk about the Spartans being a dark horse to win the Big Ten East, but losing 10-7 to Arizona State as 15.5-point home favorites was the first sign that Michigan State wouldn’t be as good as Vegas expected. They lost and failed to cover against Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, and needed wins against Rutgers and Maryland in the final two games of the season just to get to a bowl game.
Miami (6-6) | Regular season win total: 8.5 | Against the spread record: 6-6
Miami was one of the first teams to go under their win total after losing as 18.5-point favorites to a Georgia Tech team that finished the season 3-9. While the Hurricanes had a resurgence after that game and secured bowl eligibility with wins over Pittsburgh, Florida State and Louisville, they closed the season with shocking losses to FIU (as three-touchdown favorites) and at Duke (as nine-point favorites). It’s fair to say Manny Diaz’s first season as Miami’s head coach didn’t go as planned.
Syracuse (5-7) | Regular season win total: 8 | Against the spread record: 4-8
Syracuse was a pleasant surprise in 2018, but failed to match that success this season. It all started in Week 2 when they lost 63-20 at Maryland a week before their highly anticipated home matchup against Clemson. That loss to the Terps was one of three games Maryland won this year, so that defeat stings even worse looking back.
TCU (5-7) | Regular season win total: 7.5 | Against the spread record: 4-8
The Horned Frogs had a very inconsistent season, falling short of their win total by 2.5 games and failing to help their backers from an against-the-spread perspective. But the most disappointing aspect of TCU’s season was the team failing to make a bowl game. In order to go bowling, the Horned Frogs just needed to win straight-up at home against West Virginia in Week 14, but they lost 20-17 — despite being 13.5-point favorites.
Vanderbilt (3-9) | Regular season win total: 5 | Against the spread record: 3-9
Vanderbilt fell short of their win total by two games and only covered three times, and one of those games was against FCS school East Tennessee State. The low point of their season was losing 34-10 at home to UNLV as 15.5-point favorites.
Arkansas (2-10) | Regular season win total: 5.5 | Against the spread record: 4-8
Arkansas can make the case for being college football’s most disappointing team this season, which ultimately led to Chad Morris being fired with two games left. The game that sealed Morris’ fate was a 45-19 loss at home to Western Kentucky. The Razorbacks also fell to San Jose State as 20.5-point favorites at home in September. Two of the four games Arkansas covered came after Morris was fired, making him one of the several second-year coaches that struggled to meet market expectations.
Missouri (6-6) | Regular season win total: 8 | Against the spread record: 4-8
Mizzou started on the road at Wyoming to kick off their season, and they ended up losing as 17.5-point favorites, but they then rebounded with five straight home wins, including four covers. Their second road trip of the season came seven calendar weeks after their first away game, where they lost as 21-point favorites to Vanderbilt. The Tigers followed that up with an outright loss as 9.5-point favorites at Kentucky. Missouri failed to cover their four games after that — and their only win was against Arkansas. The disappointing 6-6 finish is a major reason why Barry Odom was fired by the school.