Here they come again.
Those Florida State Seminoles, all full of August strut, are back in the preseason top 10. War chants, burning spears and Chief Osceola are all the rage. This is the year for garnet and gold, we're told. The year the Noles are back.
Have we heard that one before?
How many times?
Florida State may well be returning to dominance -- but for once can we make the Seminoles prove it before giving it to them? They're ranked No. 5 in the nation, despite failing to win the underwhelming Atlantic Coast Conference in 2010, losing a first-round draft pick at quarterback and replacing him with a guy who has thrown six career touchdowns and 10 career interceptions.
Over the past 10 years, the Noles have finished below their preseason USA Today coaches' poll ranking seven times. And not just a little below. Every one of those seven seasons they've finished at least seven spots lower than they began.
Therefore Florida State wins the award as the ultimate "Tease Team" of the past decade, often tempting us to believe it is better than it turns out to be. Since 2001, nobody has a wider gap between expectation and performance than the Seminoles.
But they have plenty of company. The rest of the Top 10 Tease Teams:
The annual August tease: We've got our swagger back!
The annual fall reality: Swagger doesn't equate to a 20-21 record in ACC play and two fired coaches over the previous five years.
The U hasn't finished a season with a victory since 2006, when it took down Nevada by a point in the MPC Computers Bowl. Good luck finding that epic moment among the program's historic high points. The U hasn't played in a BCS bowl since it was a member of the Big East. It has some proving to do to get off this list in 2011.
The annual August tease: We're going to get back to the glory days! Perry Tuttle! Homer Jordan! Danny Ford! It's 1981 all over again!
The annual fall reality: Um, 1981 was a really long time ago. The Tigers have won two of their last 14 games against AP Top 25 opponents, by a combined four points over poser North Carolina State in 2010 and fellow Tease Team Miami in 2009.
To date, fourth-year head coach Dabo Swinney's highlight is winning the 2009 Atlantic Division. That was helped by a six-game winning streak over Wake Forest, Miami, Coastal Carolina, Florida State, North Carolina State and Virginia. Combined record of those six that year: 34-39.
Not much on the Dabo résumé worth rubbing Howard's Rock over.
The annual August tease: We're a national title contender!
The annual fall reality: They can't beat anyone in the top 10, and they'll cough up one abject hairball every year.
The Hokies are always good, but never good enough to crack the glass ceiling between them and the true power programs. They lose the big games -- but that's not all. They also lose at least one game they should win. Last year it was James Madison; in 2009 it was to 15.5-point underdog North Carolina; in '08 it was to 9.5-point dog East Carolina; in '07 it was to 3.5-point dog Kansas; in '06 it was to 10-point dog Georgia Tech. And so forth.
Astute readers will notice a pattern through the first four Tease Teams. Yes, they all belong to the ACC, in which the entire season is just a tease for basketball.
The annual August tease: As the winningest program in college football history, we never lose our place among the elite!
The annual fall reality: More often than not in the last decade, they couldn't find elite with a GPS and a pack of bloodhounds.
It hasn't just been rival Ohio State beating up on Michigan in the Big Ten. Since winning a share of the 1997 national title, the Wolverines have dropped at least two games every year -- and in the past three have lost an ungodly 22 games total. They've done some unfathomable things in recent years -- losing to Appalachian State and Toledo, losing five straight to end the year in '09, losing consecutive games by 20, 30 and 38 points to close 2010. (That's how you get fired, RichRod.)
Yet every August we seem to froth over a flashy quarterback, some highly rated recruits and a new attitude. Brady Hoke could well be the long-term answer, but for now his work is cut out to simply rise above Tease.
The annual August tease: We just needed a coaching change to get back to the vanguard in the SEC!
The annual fall reality: Neither Derek Dooley nor Lane Kiffin in his first try nor Phil Fulmer in his final try came close to winning the SEC East, and the Vols have been a combined 24-25 in league play over the last six seasons.
Tennessee is 16-1 in that time span against teams from outside the BCS conferences. It is 26-33 against the big boys. The Vols don't put 111,000 people in the seats in Neyland Stadium to beat Memphis, Western Kentucky and Tennessee-Martin. They'd like to occasionally win a big game.
The annual August tease: We're ready to shove aside Alabama, Florida and the rest of the SEC and take over the conference!
The annual fall reality: The Mark Richt expiration date is looming.
The Bulldogs have pretty well underachieved four of the past five years. Yeah, one of those alleged underachievers was a 10-3 team in 2008, but it began the year ranked No. 1 and had the overall No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in Matthew Stafford. That qualifies as underachieving.
The past two years have been so bad that they almost defy description. I'm still trying to figure out how Georgia could be a plus-10 in turnovers in 2010 and still wind up 6-7.
The annual August tease: Jeff Tedford has elevated the program to the point that every few years, we can contend for the Rose Bowl!
The annual fall reality: Last Rose Bowl berth remains Jan. 1, 1959.
Few programs are more reliable to fold under the weight of great expectations than Cal. In 2006, '07 and '09, the Golden Bears began the season ranked in the AP top 12, yet they lost a combined 10 games in those years as a favorite. The more hype the Bears get in the summer, the more nervous Tedford seems to get in the fall.
The annual August tease: Just keep enough Western Pennsylvania kids home, and we'll be winning like the Tony Dorsett days in no time!
The annual fall reality: The Panthers haven't even been able to win the weakened Big East since Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left.
Dave Wannstedt recruited well enough in six seasons. The trouble was always translating that to winning a league that has been dying for a bell cow program in recent times. Pitt has abdicated its responsibility to uphold the flimsy banner of the Big East.
Annual August tease: We can win it all!
Annual fall reality: The Sooners can win most of them, but very rarely all.
Yeah, I said it. Oklahoma hasn't lived up to national contender status in recent years.
It wouldn't know how to go through life tethered to an underdog's leash. The Sooners are accustomed to being favored in at least 11 games a year -- and this season they could definitely be favored in all of them. But they always seem to lose a big game somewhere along the line, usually on the road.
Not a Tease Team: Notre Dame. I said that, too. The Fighting Irish are typecast as perennially overrated, but the fact is they haven't been in the preseason top 25 much in recent years as voters caught on to their flop act.
Notre Dame actually has had a couple seasons in the last decade in which it pretty dramatically exceeded expectations -- the first year under Tyrone Willingham and the first year under Charlie Weis. After that, the going got tough.
Don't look now, but the expectations are back in Year 2 under Brian Kelly. We'll see whether the Irish collapse under that weight.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.