Originally Published: November 8, 2010

Better luck next year

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

For a handful of college football's traditional powers, the 2010 season seemed to be over almost as soon as it started.

Defending Big 12 champion Texas has to win two of its last three games to qualify for a bowl game. Georgia lost three of its first four games. Notre Dame is one game below .500. Southern California is playing out the first of two seasons without a bowl game.

Will these teams rebound next season? Or will they fail to meet their lofty expectations once again?

Georgia Bulldogs (5-5, 3-4 SEC)

Current state: The Bulldogs have won four of their past five games, but don't have a victory over a team with a winning record this season. Georgia will have to win one of its last two games -- at No. 2 Auburn on Saturday and home against rival Georgia Tech on Nov. 27 -- to qualify for a bowl game.

Look ahead: Star receiver A.J. Green's four-game suspension was a big blow to start the season, but the Bulldogs probably will have to play all of the 2011 season without him. Green, a junior, is considered a potential top-five pick in this spring's NFL draft. Quarterback Aaron Murray has a bright future, but the Bulldogs need to recruit the right personnel to fit defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme.

Miami Hurricanes (6-3, 4-2 ACC)

Current state: After knocking off Maryland 26-20 on Saturday, the Hurricanes are two games behind Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division standings. Miami's last three games: at Georgia Tech, home against Virginia Tech and home against South Florida.

Look ahead: With the way freshman Stephen Morris has played in the past two games, Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon will have to decide whether Jacory Harris is going to get back his starting job once he returns from a concussion. There also figures to be a competitive quarterback battle in the spring and before the 2011 season. Miami will return a slew of starters on both offense and defense next season, but the Canes will miss wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, tailback Damien Berry and defensive tackle Allen Bailey. The Hurricanes' nonconference schedule is aggressive again next season, with home games against Kansas State and Ohio State and a road trip to South Florida.

Michigan Wolverines (6-3, 2-3 Big Ten)

Current state: The Wolverines are bowl eligible after winning their sixth game, 67-65 over Illinois at the Big House. However, coach Rich Rodriguez has a 14-20 record in three seasons, and the Wolverines missed the postseason in his first two seasons.

Look ahead: The Wolverines have made obvious strides in Rodriguez's third season, and it probably will be enough to save his job. But Michigan still has serious flaws, particularly on defense, and Rodriguez will have to take a long look at his team's defensive scheme and whether Greg Robinson is the right coordinator. Quarterback Denard Robinson is only a sophomore, so Michigan might have a hard time persuading backup Tate Forcier to stick around. The Wolverines played 13 true freshmen this season, and most of the starters will be back in 2011.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-5)

Current state: After losing to Navy and Tulsa in consecutive games, the Fighting Irish will have to win two of their last three games -- home against No. 14 Utah, vs. Army at Yankee Stadium and at Southern California -- to qualify for a bowl game.

Look ahead: Notre Dame's first season under coach Brian Kelly has been undone by injuries and close losses. Then the season turned tragic two weeks ago when student videographer Declan Sullivan was killed while filming practice. Quarterback Dayne Crist, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, has two seasons of eligibility remaining. But the Irish will lose tailback Armando Allen and possibly receiver Michael Floyd, who is a candidate to enter the NFL draft as a junior.

Texas Longhorns (4-5, 2-4 Big 12)

Current state: After losing 39-14 at Kansas State on Saturday night, the Longhorns have dropped four of their last five games to fall below .500. Texas, the defending Big 12 champion, will have to win two of its last three games -- home against No. 10 Oklahoma State, Florida Atlantic and No. 25 Texas A&M -- to qualify for a bowl game.

Look ahead: The Longhorns seem to have more serious problems than just struggling to replace departed quarterback Colt McCoy and star receiver Jordan Shipley. The Longhorns' offense has been a mess, and it still can't run the ball consistently. Now the defense is giving up a bunch of points, too. Coach Mack Brown might have to make some tough calls with his coaching staff, including whether he needs fresh ideas from a new offensive coordinator.

USC Trojans (6-3, 3-3 Pac-10)

Current state: The Trojans have lost three of their past five games and will spend the postseason at home because of NCAA probation.

Look ahead: The Trojans haven't yet felt the full consequences of four years of NCAA probation. They will be ineligible for a bowl game again next season and will lose 30 scholarships over three years. Quarterback Matt Barkley is a sophomore, and only seven starters on offense and defense are scheduled to depart after this season. Coach Lane Kiffin has the pieces in place to be competitive in the Pac-10 again next season, but USC's fortunes probably are going to get much worse before they get better.

West Virginia Mountaineers (5-3, 1-2 Big East)

Current state: The Mountaineers are two games behind rival Pittsburgh in the loss column in the Big East standings after dropping consecutive games against Syracuse and Connecticut. West Virginia is still in the Big East title hunt, though, and plays the Panthers on the road in the Backyard Brawl on Nov. 26.

Look ahead: Coach Bill Stewart, who has a 24-11 record in three seasons, is under fire after his team's slow start. Quarterback Geno Smith has played well in his first season as a starter, but the Mountaineers will lose their two biggest playmakers, running back Noel Devine and receiver Jock Sanders. There will be heavy losses on defense, too, with nose tackle Chris Nield departing, along with two starting linebackers and two defensive backs.

Conference rankings

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

Ranking the BCS conferences after 10 weeks of college football's regular season:

1. SEC
After Alabama lost at LSU, the SEC might need the Bayou Bengals to win the rest of their regular-season games if the league is going to send two of its teams to lucrative BCS bowl games. There are seven SEC teams ranked in the top 25 of the BCS standings: No. 2 Auburn, No. 5 LSU, No. 12 Alabama, No. 15 Arkansas, No. 19 Mississippi State, No. 22 Florida and No. 23 South Carolina. The Gamecocks play at Florida on Saturday, and the winner will play in the Dec. 4 SEC championship game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

2. Big Ten
Barring Armageddon everywhere else between now and season's end, the Big Ten probably won't be sending a team to the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game. But there still seems to be a good chance that two Big Ten teams will play in BCS bowl games. No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 9 Ohio State and No. 11 Michigan State each have only one loss and remain in the hunt for a trip to the Rose Bowl or for an at-large bid to another BCS game. Iowa is ranked No. 13 in the BCS standings, and Penn State has won three games in a row to improve its bowl prospects.

3. Big 12
It wasn't a great weekend for the league's BCS chances as Missouri and Oklahoma lost, knocking themselves out of contention for a BCS at-large bid. It would have been even worse if Nebraska hadn't hung on for a 31-30 victory at Iowa State. Of course, the Sooners can still get to a BCS bowl game by winning the Big 12 South and winning the Big 12 championship game. Six Big 12 teams are in the BCS top 25: No. 8 Nebraska, No. 10 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Oklahoma, No. 17 Missouri, No. 24 Kansas State and No. 25 Texas A&M.

4. Pac-10
No. 1 Oregon and No. 6 Stanford are playing as well as any teams in the country, but there is very little depth behind them. Arizona fell to No. 18 in the BCS standings after losing 42-17 at Stanford. Oregon State fell to 4-4 with a loss to UCLA, 17-14. Washington fell to 3-6 with a resounding loss to Oregon, 53-16. The Pac-10 might come up at least one team short (and maybe two if Oregon and Stanford play in BCS bowls) in filling its bowl agreements.

5. ACC
Does anyone want to win the ACC's Atlantic Division? NC State lost to Clemson, 14-13. Maryland fell 26-20 at Miami. And Florida State couldn't hold a late lead in a 37-35 loss to North Carolina. The Seminoles, Terrapins, Wolfpack, Tar Heels and Hurricanes each have two losses in the L column in ACC play, and the Tigers are only one game back after beating Maryland and NC State. Virginia Tech has a two-game lead in the loss column of the Coastal Division, after the No. 20 Hokies beat defending ACC champion Georgia Tech, 28-21.

6. Big East
There's not a Big East team ranked in the top 25 of the BCS standings, and Pittsburgh has a two-game lead in the loss column in league play. Each of the league's other seven teams has lost two games in conference play and at least three games overall. Louisville upset Syracuse 28-20 to knock the Orange back to the middle of the pack, and South Florida defeated Rutgers, 28-27. Pittsburgh plays at Connecticut on Thursday, and the Orange play at Rutgers on Saturday.

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