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.


Auburn Tigers

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.