Sports fans, by nature, are optimistic folks. If you can't find silver linings in every cloud, it's hard to keep coming back year after year. No matter what's happening at present, the promise of a better future fuels everything from the massive interest in recruiting to ticket sales to the coaching carousel.
But at any given moment, some fan bases are at their best when things are at their (perceived) worst. And the beauty of college football is that all misery is relative and can change rapidly from one Saturday to the next. So today we introduce the Misery Index, measuring the 10 most miserable fan bases in the country going into Week 2.
This isn't a ranking of worst teams, worst losses or coaches whose jobs are in the most jeopardy. Heck, some of these teams are even 1-0. This is simply a measurement of a fan base's knee-jerk reaction to what it last saw.
(Disclaimer: The way in which a team won or lost, expectations vis-à-vis program trajectory and traditional inferiority complex of fan base all factor into this ranking.)
1. Georgia: "Poor Mark Richt," one big-time head coach told me last summer, and we're really going to ride this roller coaster forever, aren't we? The love-hate relationship Georgia fans have with their program is perhaps the most fascinating in America, and until Richt wins it all, every stinking game is going to be a referendum on whether he can. Richt is 118-41 as Georgia's coach, but Bulldogs fans are as good as anyone at finding cracks in the program regardless of whether they truly exist. Whether it's his in-state recruiting, Mike Bobo's playcalling or discipline problems, there just has to be an overarching narrative to every loss. Or maybe they just went on the road and lost by three points to a really good football team Saturday.
2. Connecticut: Sometimes miserable fan bases are justified in their misery, and there's no disputing UConn belongs in that category. Three years ago, they're playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Now they're getting left out of the Atlantic Coast Conference and losing to Towson in front of mediocre crowds at a stadium 40 minutes from campus. Oh, and they're being coached by Paul Pasqualoni, whose last winning season was at Syracuse in 2001. But here's the good news, UConn fans: A loss to your old coach Randy Edsall and Maryland on Sept. 14 and you've got a real chance to move up to No. 1.
3. Boise State: It must be difficult to do nothing but win for years and years and years and then absorb the reality of getting smashed 38-6 by what is expected to be a mid-tier Pac-12 team. In fact, the last time the Broncos got beat that badly, it was 2005 and now-unemployable Dan Hawkins was running the show. The next year under Chris Petersen, Boise State went 13-0 and beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, starting a run of unprecedented national relevance. Maybe it was just one game, but Washington made the Broncos look like a run-of-the-mill Mountain West team - not a program gearing up for BCS runs. Boise State fans also are irate today that Robert Prince's revamped offense was a dud. Of course, you only revamp your offense if it's not working, and perhaps that says more about what's going on in Boise than anything else. Petersen is one of the best in the business, but he's lost a lot of talented coordinators over the years, including Justin Wilcox, whose Washington defense shut Boise down. At some point, maybe that catches up with you.
4. Iowa: Late in a tie game against Northern Illinois on Saturday, with overtime the absolute worst acceptable scenario, the Hawkeyes committed a turnover and yielded a winning field goal. Since the 11-2 Orange Bowl year in 2009, Iowa has gone 8-5, 7-6 and 4-8. Oh, and Kirk Ferentz is scheduled to be paid around $3.65 million a year through 2020. Good luck with all that.
5. Southern California: Trojans fans used to sort of defend coach Lane Kiffin, and it was kind of cute. But then last year happened, and OHMYGODWHATWASTHATINHAWAIIONTHURSDAY? Seriously, though, what was that? Quarterback indecision, shaky play on both sides of the line of scrimmage, trailing 5-3 deep into the second quarter against one of the worst teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision? Part of being a miserable fan base is building up ridiculous expectations only to see them wither away into acceptance of mediocrity. With USC, it is happening before our very eyes.
6. West Virginia: Nothing makes one miserable quite like a hold-on-for-dear-life, 24-17 win against a William & Mary team that went 2-9 last season in the Football Championship Subdivision. It's hard to tell exactly what that portends for the Mountaineers, but after last season's crash-and-burn act in the Big 12, probably nothing too good considering they travel to Oklahoma next weekend.
7. BYU: It's one thing to be a fan of a mediocre team, but if that's your lot in life, don't you at least want to be a fan of an unpredictable mediocre team? The Cougars pretty much picked up where they left off last year, losing 19-16 at Virginia, the only difference being that they are running their offense faster. But faster doesn't mean better when it's BYU. Think of it this way. Would you rather watch Taysom Hill complete 13 of 40 passes the way he did against Virginia, or six of 20? I thought so.
8. Southern Miss: This ranking is mitigated a bit by the fact that Todd Monken is in his first year on the job, but losing 22-15 to Texas State after going 0-12 last season is about as bad as it gets. The Golden Eagles committed six turnovers. Six! And their next three games are as follows: At Nebraska, at Arkansas, at Boise State. Alrighty then.
9. Texas: Longhorns fans haven't needed excessive prodding to be miserable over the last few years, and one can only imagine the vibe around Austin if things had continued Saturday on the path they were on in the first half. Though Texas beat New Mexico State 56-7, Mack Brown's team trailed 7-0 in the second quarter and didn't score a touchdown until there was 1:48 left in the half.
10. Alabama: Expect "What's wrong with the Tide?" to be a big topic on the Paul Finebaum Show the next two weeks. Yeah, it was a 35-10 victory against Virginia Tech, but the offensive line play left a lot to be desired, AJ McCarron averaged 4.8 yards per passing attempt and the Hokies actually ran fairly effectively on the Tide's defense. "PAWWWLLLL, HAS NICK SABAN LOST HIS TOUCH?"
Also receiving votes, but not quite miserable enough: South Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico.