Reality has a painful way of turning preseason optimism into anything from disappointment to a straight-up nightmare.
Last year, Oklahoma rapidly devolved from a conference favorite into an afterthought. Miami and Nebraska are tradition-rich schools, yet neither reached the postseason. And the list goes on.
That trifecta is among a half-dozen big-name college football teams hoping to avoid a similar letdown in 2023.
The list is subjective, although it's limited to programs that managed no more than six victories in 2022.
Bryan Harsin entered the 2022 campaign on a hot seat, and the second-year coach met his unfortunate fate following a 3-5 start. Auburn ultimately closed the season with a 5-7 record.
And now, it's Hugh Freeze's turn at the helm.
Because his Ole Miss tenure ended with recruiting violations and off-field scandals, he was a controversial hire. But he posted a 39-25 mark with the Rebels and recently went 34-15 at Liberty.
That history of winning is the largest reason why Auburn, which hasn't cracked six victories in the last three years, took a risk and hired Freeze. It might work out in the long term, too.
Freeze's debut season, though, clearly has the potential to become a frustrating one after a couple years of subpar recruiting. Auburn's early four-game run against Texas A&M, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss will largely shape the narrative of his debut on the Plains.