A number of factors can cause an individual to go from distinguished to disappointing in one season.
One season, a player is an All-America candidate; the next, he's almost unnoticed.
The reasons can be a nagging injury, a matter of opponents' adjustments or as simple as some poor performances.
But some players come back strong. After a strong freshman season in which he threw 29 touchdown passes and seven interceptions, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy regressed as a sophomore, throwing 18 interceptions. He bounced back as junior, with 34 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions in leading Texas to a 12-1 record last season.
USF defensive end George Selvie, a former All-America, is the best known of a group of players aiming for similar rebounds this season.
As a sophomore in 2007, Selvie emerged as one of the premier defensive forces in the country when he posted 14.5 sacks and 31.5 tackles for loss. With Selvie leading a stout defense, USF posted nine victories and climbed as high as No. 2 in the national polls.
But Selvie and the Bulls faltered last season. USF finished sixth in the eight-team Big East and Selvie, slowed by an ankle injury and facing double- and triple-teams from offenses that schemed to contain him, had 5.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
"It was tough at first out there against those teams doing all that stuff," Selvie said of the double-team blocks he faced. "I struggled at first, but I got used to it."
In 2007, USF led the nation with 42 forced turnovers. Last season, the Bulls ranked tied for 97th with just 17. A 25-turnover decrease can't solely be blamed on a weakened pass rush, but that surely played a significant role.
Selvie is confident he and the Bulls can make a big comeback this season.
"It's now or never," said Selvie, a senior. "I have to win a [Big East] championship this year. I can't hold anything back. There's no next year at South Florida for me."
That doesn't necessarily mean Selvie must equal or surpass his '07 sack total. Rather, he just needs to remain the same pass-rush threat and hope teammates can take advantage when he is double-teamed.
"I know our defense has a lot of great players," Selvie said. "If [opponents] are double-teaming me, some guys are going to get free and make plays. After a while, they're going to have to start accounting for those players, so then I'll be free to do whatever I want."
On the rebound
Here's a look at five players aiming to bounce back from disappointing showings in '08:
USF DE George Selvie: Selvie frequently faced double-teams and was hindered by a gimpy ankle last season. But great players still find a way to get the job done, and Selvie struggled to get to the quarterback in '08. Perhaps his '07 performance was so outlandish that he raised expectations to unrealistic levels. That season, he posted 14.5 sacks, was credited with 13 quarterback hurries and had 31.5 tackles for loss. Last season, he had 5.5 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and just three hurries.
Indiana DE Greg Middleton: The reasons for Indiana's drop from seven victories in '07 to three last season were numerous – the departure of star wide receiver Greg Hardy, inconsistency at quarterback and an emotional letdown, among others. Middleton's decline certainly was a factor, too. In '07, Middleton was a first-team All-Big Ten performer after leading the nation with a school-record 16 sacks. Last season, his total plummeted to four and he received no postseason honors. The Hoosiers desperately need him to re-emerge.
Florida State CB Patrick Robinson: Robinson, a senior, has seven career interceptions, but six came during his sophomore season. In '07, Robinson tied a school record by grabbing an interception in five consecutive games. Last season, he managed just one pick. Robinson looked sharp in spring practice and some feel he's destined to be Florida State's next great cornerback. A spike in his interceptions would prove that.
Kent State RB Eugene Jarvis: As a sophomore, the diminutive Jarvis – he's 5 feet 5 and 170 pounds – was a record-breaking machine. He set Kent State standards for rushing yards (1,669 yards), rushing yards per game (139.1) and 100-yard games (nine). Jarvis entered the '08 season as the nation's leading returning rusher; this season, he's not in the top 20 on that list. His rushing yardage was more than cut in half last season (801 yards). He was hobbled by injuries that kept him out of three games and reached the 100-yard plateau just four times. Despite Jarvis' struggles, Kent State improved from three wins to four. But if the Golden Flashes are going to contend in the MAC, they need Jarvis at his best.
Arizona State WR Chris McGaha: McGaha's decline in production didn't cause Arizona State's drop from 10 victories in '07 to five last season. But it was definitely a problem. McGaha had just 35 receptions (26 fewer than '07) for 501 yards (329 fewer). He's the most experienced receiver for the Sun Devils, who have a new quarterback leading the offense. He doesn't have to lead the Sun Devils in receiving, but he needs to be more productive. Another subpar season for McGaha may mean another below-.500 mark in Tempe.
Each week, we match up two teams to determine which has the edge in various categories. Have a matchup you want to see? Send it to [email protected] and we'll work on it.
1. HEAD TO HEAD
Stanford leads the all-time series 3-2. In the most recent game, Stanford prevailed 23-20 in 1982.
2. NFL FIRST-ROUND PICKS
Ohio State: 69 (most recently CB Malcolm Jenkins by New Orleans and RB Chris Wells by Arizona in 2009).
Stanford: 18 (most recently offensive tackle Kwame Harris by San Francisco in 2003).
Edge: Ohio State.
3. ROSE BOWL VICTORIES
Ohio State: 6 – 1950 over California, 17-14; 1955 over USC, 20-7; 1958 over Oregon, 10-7; 1969 over USC, 27-16; 1974 over USC, 42-21; 1997 over Arizona State, 20-17.
Stanford: 5 – 1928 over Pittsburgh, 7-6; 1936 over SMU, 7-0; 1941 over Nebraska, 21-13; 1971 over Ohio State, 27-17; 1972 over Michigan, 13-12.
Edge: Ohio State.
4. SUPER BOWL MVPs
Ohio State: 1 – Santonio Holmes made the winning catch to lift Pittsburgh over Arizona 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII.
Stanford: 2 – Jim Plunkett led Oakland over Philadelphia 27-10 in Super Bowl XV, and John Elway led Denver over Atlanta 34-19 in Super Bowl XXXIII.
5. GREAT GOLFER WITH ANIMAL NICKNAME
Ohio State: Jack "The Golden Bear" Nicklaus notched 73 PGA Tour wins and 18 major championships. He won the Masters six times.
Stanford: Eldrick "Tiger" Woods has 70 PGA Tour wins and 14 major championships. He has won the Masters four times.
Edge: Stanford. True, Nicklaus leads in the categories mentioned, but Woods is only 33.
6. OLYMPIC LEGENDS
Ohio State: Jesse Owens won four track and field gold medals in the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin.
Stanford: Eric Heiden won five individual gold medals and set four Olympic records and a world record in speed skating at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Edge: Ohio State. Both had remarkable athletic achievements. But Owens' performance was historic in that he debunked Adolf Hitler's concept of "Aryan racial superiority."
7. FAMOUS ACTRESSES
Ohio State: Patricia Heaton, who won an Emmy for playing Debra Barone in "Everybody Loves Raymond."
Stanford: Sigourney Weaver, a three-time Academy Award nominee.
Edge: Stanford. Heaton's character just had to endure Raymond's family. Weaver's Ripley had to fight off a killer alien in "Alien."
8. BAND TRADITIONS
Ohio State: Dotting the "I" in the script "Ohio."
Stanford: Suspensions. Stanford's band has been suspended numerous times for offensive behavior and what some consider tasteless jokes directed at, among others, Notre Dame, BYU and UCLA.
Edge: Ohio State. Nobody gets their feelings hurt when the "I" is dotted.
9. PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMERS
Ohio State: 6 – Sid Gillman, Lou Groza, Dante Lavelli, Jim Parker, Paul Warfield, Bill Willis.
Stanford: 3 – John Elway, James Lofton, Ernie Nevers.
Edge: Ohio State. A big win for the Buckeyes. But where are Stanford's Jim Plunkett and Gene Washington?
10. INVOLVEMENT IN FAMOUS/INFAMOUS RETURNS
Ohio State: Ohio State coach Woody Hayes punched Clemson's Charlie Bauman after his interception of an Art Schlichter pass thwarted the Buckeyes' comeback bid in a 17-15 loss in the 1978 Gator Bowl.
Stanford: The Cardinal was victimized by Cal's five-lateral kickoff return for a last-second touchdown that resulted in a 25-20 victory in 1982. Stanford faithful forever will insist that Dwight Garner's knee was down before he made the third lateral.
Edge: Stanford. That kickoff return is arguably the most memorable play in college football history.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.