June 23, 2024

LSU, Florida State, Arizona lead college football’s seven boom-or-bust teams in 2024


Who are the boom-or-bust teams in college football for 2024?

Most college football fans might argue Ohio State is the answer. The Buckeyes are looking to end a three-game losing streak to Michigan, and they responded in the portal with several key additions. Ohio State also added offensive coordinator Chip Kelly. 

The Buckeyes, however, are ranked No. 2 in eight publications’ early Preseason Top 25 lists. Nobody is expecting Ohio State to miss the 12-team College Football Playoff no matter what happens against the Wolverines, and the Buckeyes have not lost more than two games in a single season since 2011. That is not a boom-or-bust. 

MORE: Sporting News Preseason Top 25

There are seven other schools that fit that label heading into this season. They might win their conference. Or they could miss the College Football Playoff in its entirety. 

Sporting News looked at the teams across Athlon, The Athletic, USA Today, CBS Sports, ESPN, SI, 247Sports, and, of course Sporting News, to find the teams with a high variance in their preseason ratings (11 spots or more). Those are the teams that have a boom-or-bust feel heading into the 2024 season.

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College football boom-or-bust teams 

LSU 

Composite rank: No. 12. The Sporting News and CBS Sports have the Tigers at No. 10. The Athletic left LSU unranked. That is a variance of more than 15 spots. 

Lowdown: Are the Tigers truly a top-10 team? Brian Kelly led the Tigers to 10 wins each of the last two seasons, and that was an accomplishment considering the defense allowed 28 points per game. Will Missouri defensive coordinator Blake Baker fix that? The offense lost Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels and a pair of first-round receivers in Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr., and offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock returned to Notre Dame. LSU now has co-offensive coordinators in Joe Sloan and Cortez Hankton. Garrett Nussmeier is on the spot as the new starting quarterback. There are a lot of questions, but they can always fall back on that home-field advantage against Ole Miss (Oct. 12), Alabama (Nov. 9) and Oklahoma (Nov. 30). LSU lost its opener against Florida State the last two seasons. That cannot happen at Allegiant Stadium against USC in Las Vegas on Sept. 1. 

Arizona

Composite rank: No. 17. The Wildcats were ranked as high as No. 11 (Sports Illustrated) and were unranked (247Sports.com) in one poll. That is a variance of more than 14 spots. 

Lowdown: On one hand, the Wildcats closed last season on a seven-game winning streak, Noah Fifita and Tetairoa McMillan might be the best quarterback-receiver connection in the country and there is hype around a team that will be ranked in the Preseason AP Poll for the first time since 2015. Yet the move to the Big 12, the coaching switch from Jedd Fisch to Brent Brennan and a brutal Big 12 road schedule that includes September trips to Utah and Kansas State before an alphabet soup of BYU, UCF and TCU has tempered those expectations a little bit. 

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Oklahoma State

Composite rank: No. 20.  The Athletic has Oklahoma State at No. 11, but CBS Sports has the Cowboys at No. 25. That is a variance of 14 spots. 

Lowdown: The Cowboys have a veteran team with quarterback Alan Bowman and running back Ollie Gordon, the reigning Doak Walker Award winner who rushed for 1,732 yards and 21 TDs last season. Oklahoma State’s offensive line features five seniors. The defense remains a question mark, however, and finding a true Big 12 favorite isn’t easy to do. A three-game stretch against Utah, Kansas State and West Virginia from Sept. 21 to Oct. 5 will either elevate or end the Oklahoma State playoff conversation. 

DJ Uiagalelei

Florida State

Composite rank: No. 18 

Sporting News has Florida State at No. 7, but CBS Sports has the Seminoles at No. 20. That is a variance of 13 spots. 

Lowdown: This was a bit surprising considering Mike Norvell led the Seminoles to a 13-1 record last season – and perhaps an over-reaction to the 63-3 Orange Bowl loss to Georgia in which 29 Florida State scholarship players did not play. The Seminoles brought in 17 more players via the portal, and it’s a pivotal year for quarterback DJ Uiagalelei – a two-time transfer who played at Clemson and Oregon State. The opener against Georgia Tech in Dublin on Aug. 24 will be intriguing, but the ACC matchups against Clemson (Oct. 5) and Miami (Oct. 26) come before non-conference games against Notre Dame (Nov. 9) and Florida (Nov. 30). Strength of schedule should not be an issue this year, right? 

Clemson 

Composite rank: 16. USA Today had Clemson at No. 10, but The Athletic put the Tigers at No. 22. That is a variance of 12 spots. 

Lowdown: That is more of a gap than usual for the Tigers, which are coming off their first season without at least 10 wins since 2010. That works both ways as a nod to the successful program Dabo Swinney has built, and the Tigers are still the highest-ranked ACC team on the composite list. Will that hold up after the first five weeks of the season – which features the season-opener against Georgia, an early-season matchup with NC State and a road trip to Florida State? We’ll know more than enough about Clemson’s playoff chances after that stretch.

Oklahoma 

Composite rank: No. 14. USA Today has the Sooners at No. 8, but The Athletic has Oklahoma at No. 19. That is a variance of 11 spots. 

Lowdown: The Sooners won 10 games last season, and yet they enter their first season in the SEC with less hype than Texas. Oklahoma averaged 41.7 points per game last season, and quarterback Jackson Arnold has a five-star pedigree. The defense improved in Brent Venables’ second season. The Sooners have a new offensive coordinator in Seth Littrell, too. The schedule is loaded with six teams that ranked No. 13 or higher in Sporting News’ preseason poll in Tennessee (Sept. 21). Texas (Oct. 12), Ole Miss (Oct. 26), Missouri (Nov. 9), Alabama (Nov. 23) and LSU (Nov. 30). That game against the Vols will be a pressure point knowing former Sooners quarterback Josh Heupel is on the other sideline. 

Miami

Composite rank: N/R. 247Sports.com and The Athletic have Miami at No. 14, while Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and USA Today still do not have the Hurricanes in the Top 25. That is a variance of 11 or more spots. 

Lowdown: The Hurricanes feel like one of the trendy teams of 2024. That can go either way. Will transfer quarterback Cam Ward reverse the fortunes for Miami? The program is 6-10 in ACC play under Mario Cristobal the last two seasons, and that includes a .500 record in one-score games. The opener at Florida – the first matchup in five years between the in-state rivals – will be huge for both teams. This is only the second time Miami has visited the Swamp since 2002. Lose that game, and it will be a while before the Hurricanes can entertain being ranked in 2024.



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