College Football Predictions for Betting: Teams that Could Surprise
by Trevor Whenham - 8/16/2010
Every year in college football there are a few lousy teams that put together surprisingly good seasons - or at least teams that have long been easy to completely ignore that finally do something to capture your attention. Needless to say, spotting those teams in advance can be useful for bettors. Here are three teams that have this chance to be significantly better than we have come to expect them to be:
Temple - The Owls had their first winning season since 1990 last year, and played in their first bowl game in 30 years. This year they are out to take another step forward and to prove that they are for real. I like their chances of doing so.
It all starts with the coach. Al Golden is very competent, and he has just signed a nice extension so he’s secure and motivated. They return nine offensive starters and eight more on defense - and both kickers - so they have a very experienced squad. Add in a huge and surprisingly solid recruiting class and Golden has a lot of pieces to play with as he tries to win his first conference title in his fifth year.
Junior Chester Stewart is an inexperienced QB, but he started four of the last five games last year, and he can really throw it deep. He’s had an offseason to develop a more well-rounded game and reports are that he has done well. He’ll be helped out by a solid receiving corps, and by one of the more exciting running backs in the country in Bernard Pierce. On defense the front is very good, and the secondary is better than it has been.
All in all, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Temple in the MAC Championship Game. This is a team on the rise.
UTEP - The Miners have been lousy for a long time, and coach Mike Price hasn’t been able to get much going so he arrived in self-imposed exile in El Paso after his Alabama debacle. This may finally be the year he gets things turned around, though - even though he is just coming off a 4-8 season.
Price has a very good offense going for him. Senior QB Trevor Vittatoe is the best QB in C-USA not named Case Keenum. He has NFL ability, and he has a very good group of very fast receivers to pass to. They also have a special running back in senior Donald Buckram. He ran for almost 1,600 yards and 18 TDs last year, and he’s stronger than he was last year. This team is going to be able to score.
They were disastrous on defense last year, though, and that has to change if they want to improve. There is a good chance it will. They have upgraded their defensive coaching staff significantly, and that should bring more aggressiveness and general competence to the squad. They have gone from a 3-3-5 scheme that just wasn’t working to a 4-3 one that better suits what they have. It won’t be a great defense, but it will certainly be better.
They have two tough games that loom in their schedule - their second game at Houston, and their second to last one at Arkansas. Those are tough challenges - though they upset Houston last year - but the rest of the games are at least theoretically winnable.
Last year the Miners did two things very well - win the turnover game and outgain their opponents. Those are very positive signs of a team moving in the right direction. UTEP has a chance to be a real surprise.
Utah State - The Aggies were a good team when Merlin Olsen played for them, but that was a while ago, and they haven’t put up a ton of highlights since. This could be the start of a turnaround, though.
Head coach Gary Andersen is in his second year and he is very good - he was the defensive coordinator at Utah when they went undefeated and won the Sugar Bowl in 2008. He was just 4-8 in his first season, but he has the potential to do much more this year.
They have 17 returning starters, and Andersen has done miracles in recruiting in a short time, so talent is better than it has been. The key guy of those returning starters is QB Diondre Borel. He would get a lot more attention in the WAC if it weren’t for Kellen Moore and Boise State. He’s accurate, he avoids mistakes, he is a much better than average runner, and he already has two years as a starter under his belt. He’s just the kind of guy a team who is looking to take a step forward needs.
Borel is going to have some nice tools to work with thanks to three junior college transfers at wide receiver who should be dangerous. The offensive line should be better than it was as well. The defensive line is deep, the linebackers are very good - especially future NFLer Bobby Wagner - and the secondary is sound. They will lose to Oklahoma and Boise State, but the rest of the schedule isn’t too scary, and this is a team that should be headed to their first bowl game since 1997.
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