Fall Football Preview: Sleeper BCS Teams
by Robert Ferringo - 7/17/2009
Right now all of the college football futures talk is about which teams have a chance of unseating Florida as the BCS National Champions. And while any case against the Gators, or for another squad, is going to seem flimsy given the Gators' reservoir of talent and experience, I believe that there are still some teams out there that could jump up and make a not-as-miraculous-as-it-seems run to the national championship game.
However, while all of the focus recently in the college game seems to be centered on who is going to win the championship I still say that there is a lot more that goes into a season than who came out on top. Just like in college basketball where a team can have a fantastic and exhilarating year just by making the Sweet 16 I would have to say that there are some sleeper college football teams out there that would be thrilled just to make a BCS Bowl Game. And I'm sure that their fans and their backers would be thrilled to see these teams make a run as well.
Below are eight teams that are not nearly as far away from a BCS Bowl Game as some people might think:
Georgia Bulldog - I know it seems crazy, but the Bulldogs are really below the radar right now and could be a serious BCS contender despite losing their all-world quarterback and running back from last season. Everyone saw last year as a "disappointment" because the Dawgs didn't play for the National Championship. But with their schedule those goals were a pipe dream from the start.
This year their defense will be significantly better and this is one of the more experienced teams in the SEC. Mark Richt is also a magician when he has low expectations and this year is setting up nearly identically to the 2005 (D.J. Shockley) season in which the Dawgs went 10-3 after a tough Sugar Bowl loss. Two games, at Oklahoma State and against Florida, will define their season. If they win one, and if they can get past Georgia Tech in their final game, then I see no reason UGA couldn't make their case with an 11-1 or 10-2 mark heading into bowl season.
Mississippi Rebels - The Rebels aren't exactly under the radar but this team certainly isn't getting much love from the national media. Looking at what Ole Miss is bringing back - quarterback Jevon Snead is one of 16 returning starters, half of which are three-year starters - this team should be a force. And with their schedule an 11-1 or 10-2 regular season is not a stretch at all. In fact, I'll be very surprised if they lose more than two games. That would likely put them in the SEC Title game against Florida, whom they beat in The Swamp last year after nearly pulling the upset in 2007. All it would take is one upset in that game, against a team they beat last year, and the Rebs could be playing for the BCS Title.
Illinois Illini - Everyone in Big Ten country is split between Penn State and Ohio State but I think that the Illini are actually the best team in the conference. And they are going to get a chance to prove it early in the season with a trip to The Horseshoe on Sept. 26 followed the next two weeks by games against Penn State and dark horse Michigan State. If they can make it through that stretch with just one loss then the path will be set for an 11-1 or 10-2 year. And even though they play Penn State and Ohio State in the first few weeks that is actually an advantage for the Illini because both of those teams are breaking in new starters and youth at critical positions.
Oklahoma State Cowboys - The Cowboys are perched in nearly the same spot that Texas Tech was in last year. Oklahoma State has perhaps the best QB-RB-WR trifecta in the country this season and boasts an obscene amount of experience and firepower on the offensive side. If they can get by Georgia in Stillwater to open the season then Oklahoma State should be 7-0 when they host Texas on Oct. 31. After that the only test is the season finale, Bedlam, at Oklahoma. But if State can just beat OU or UT then they should be in line for the Big 12's BCS berth because one of those two teams will likely be in the national title game. Or, a win and then some help could land them in the Big 12 Championship Game and on the doorstep of the National Championship Game.
Clemson Tigers - Yeah, I know, you've heard this before. Last year was supposed to be the Year Of The Tigers in the ACC and this team was supposed to be a fringe national championship contender. Then they got their asses kicked the opening weekend, had a quarterback controversy, ditched their coach, and ended up losing another bowl game. But this year I think that Dabo Sweeney will have his team playing with a chip on its shoulder. And after Sweeney took over in the middle of last year this team definitely made strides. Their offensive line, a killer weakness last year, is now strength. As is their potentially dominating defensive line. People are sour on this team for its disappointing 2008. This year will be different.
North Carolina Tar Heels - I loved this UNC team heading into last year and they didn't disappoint. Now they bring back 15 starters including their quarterback (whose injury last year derailed their conference title hopes), a stud wideout (Greg Little) and three offensive linemen. On the defensive side they have nine starters back, and six of them are of the three-year variety. Five tough road games and home games with Miami, FSU and ECU await them. But if the Heels manage to put up a 10-2 season and then win the ACC Championship then they'll have a resume to stack up with anyone's in the country. The ACC Coastal is absolutely loaded this year. And whoever comes out of it should get plenty of love from the BCS committee.
Georgia Tech Yellowjackets - It's simply amazing what the Yellowjackets accomplished in Paul Johnson's first year in Atlanta. Now think about what they could do now that they know what they are doing. They did seem to catch a lot of bounces last year and they were 5-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Also, they have a killer schedule this year. Their first five conference games are against the ACC's best: Clemson, at Miami, North Carolina, at Florida State, Virginia Tech. But this team, like its coach, is tough as nails. Their scheme is tough to stop and if they make it out of the Coastal they'll be a force in bowl season.
BYU Cougars - We have to throw in the token non-BCS school that will have the support of members of the national media that are cheerleaders for a playoff. On top of that, BYU's roster is full of like 25- and 28-year-olds back from their Mormon missions. (There is a reason that BYU doesn't put their player's birth dates in their media.) Having a senior quarterback in Max Hall (will be 24 this season), solid running back Harvey Unga (birth date unknown), and eight starters back is also a big help. The Cougars play Oklahoma in Arlington to open the season and then host Florida State on Sept. 19. If BYU somehow pulled an upset they would likely go 11-1 and have a solid case for a BCS game.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and you can purchase a full season's package of his football selections for just $25 per week! Click here for details.
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