Underrated College Football Teams
by Trevor Whenham - 07/03/2008
Have patience college football fans - the season is almost here. It seems like it has been an eternity since the best sport there is has been in action, but the season is just a couple of months and a few sunburns away. As we are waiting for the season to get started, now is a good time to look at teams that may not be getting the respect that they deserve. To do that, I took a look at the prices assigned to teams regarding their chances of winning the national championship. I'm not suggesting for a second that any of these teams are going to win it all, but by looking at where they fit in compared to other teams we can get a sense of what people are thinking and whether the teams get enough respect. As I did that four teams stood out as being undervalued. That means that they might present value early in the season if the public doesn't like them like perhaps they should.
Missouri (+1800 at 5Dimes) - There are nine teams given the same or better chance to win it all than the Tigers. Do you really think that there are nine better teams than Missouri? Maybe, but I don't think so. They ended the season ranked No. 4 in the AP poll last year. They played in the Cotton Bowl and absolutely decimated Arkansas. They have a senior quarterback, Chase Daniel, who is coming off a very good year and who is on watch lists for every major award he is eligible for. He was a Heisman finalist last year, so it's not like he is just about potential. Chase Coffman was one of the better tight ends in the country last year and he was playing with bone spurs in his ankle. He's healthy this year. Maclin broke the NCAA freshman record for all-purpose yards last year, and is one of the most exciting and dangerous players in the country. That adds up to a dangerous offense. On the other side of the ball you have a solid defense that got better as the year went along. The star of the unit was William Moore, who tied for the national lead in interceptions. He's back for his senior season. This is an explosive, deep and experienced team who got a taste of what it takes to be competitive last year. If they were a stock I'd be buying it.
Texas Tech (+6000) - I don't think that the Red Raiders are going to the BCS. Actually, I am pretty sure that they aren't. I just think that this price slots them in further down the list of teams than they deserve to be. There is no doubt that this is a gimmicky offense. It works, though. Graham Harrell is the latest quarterback to benefit from the system, and he is one of the best. He's one heck of a passer, and he is being given Heisman attention this year after winning the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the nation's best passer last year. His job is much easier thanks to receiver Michael Crabtree. He was a unanimous All-American last year as a freshman, so imagine what he'll be able to do now that he is comfortable with the game and he has a confident senior QB looking for him. This team ended up at No. 22 in the AP poll last year, and I expect better this year. They have a soft non-conference schedule, and 6-2 seems possible in conference play.
South Florida (+6600) - This is simply a matter of where they rank in their conference. In the eyes of the odsmakers they are the second best team in their conference, but the favorites, West Virginia, have a four time better chance of winning it all. Ridiculous. The Mountaineers face a whole new coaching staff. They lost Steve Slaton to the draft. Pat White is still there, and he is piling up the accolades, but the team is full of questions beyond him. Don't get me wrong - the Mountaineers are the favorites. They just shouldn't be so far ahead of South Florida. The Bulls weakened as the season went along, but it was their first time in the national spotlight so that is expected. They were led by QB Matt Grothe. He's a junior now, and he has beaten West Virginia twice in his career. Not bad. The Bulls don't have the names or the profile of West Virginia, but they can obviously hold their own.
Arizona State (+5000) - Dennis Erickson performed miracles in the desert in his first year there. I expect more of the same from the guy in year two. He might not be the most likable guy, and he isn't much of an NFL coach, but he knows his stuff when it comes to college. He returns his quarterback, and Rudy Carpenter obviously enjoyed playing under Erickson. The Pac-10 has USC, but beyond that it has a lot of teams that are trying to rebuild and reassess. There is little doubt in my mind that the Sun Devils are the second best team in the group. They have tough games against Georgia and at USC, but the second half of their season gets much easier and they can build momentum. Based on where their odds are, this is a team that could surprise many.