Expert NCAA Football Predictions: Underrated Squads for 2018
In August every college football fanbase feels like their team is being disrespected. That they are better than people think and that they aren't getting the attention from the national media that they should be getting. Most of those fans are just being delusional, of course, and the sad reality will arrive once Labor Day comes and goes. But there are indeed fanbases out there that could actually have a case - their team could actually be better than it seems like people are perceiving them to be. Here are five teams that have a case for fitting in that category:
Wisconsin: We'll start near the top. Wisconsin is viewed pretty much universally as a Top 10 program this year, yet they are still underrated. At Bovada they sit at +2800 to win the national title, which places them behind seven teams, including two in their own conference. But they return a solid quarterback, a stellar running back, and an entire offensive line that was just excellent last year. And the defense has been consistently strong for years. And while they play at Michigan and Penn State, they miss Michigan State and Ohio State entirely, and the nonconference schedule is a joke. This is a team that could very easily run the table - for the second straight year - in the regular season. It feels like people are sleeping on them a little.
Boise State: When I wrote my preview of Boise State I was struck by a couple of things. The defensive line is really, really good. And the team has remarkable depth. They lost some key players, but they are ready to plug and play and keep rolling. They were a good team last year and have the pieces to be dramatically better. They have tough games at Troy and Oklahoma State early, but I expect them to win both. And then I expect them to have a very good look at running the table. That won't be enough for a playoff bid without a whole lot of help, but it will have them higher in the rankings and in the futures odds than they are heading into the season.
TCU: The defense is mostly back intact from a team that finished in the Top 10 last year after 11 wins. They have lost Kenny Hill at QB, but that could easily be seen as a positive - even if they didn't have a highly-touted replacement in Shawn Robinson waiting in the wings. With QB changes at both Oklahoma schools, and uncertainty of some sort at all of the other schools in Texas, and Dana Holgorsen still shining his incompetence onto his program at West Virginia, the Big 12 is as open as it has been in a while. And that game against Ohio State in Week 3 suddenly doesn't look quite as scary as it did at the start of the week. There is real upside here - especially with a coach as good as Gary Patterson is.
Oregon: The Ducks floundered post-Chip Kelly, and they have gone through coaches in bulk lately, so it is easy to forget about them. But the defense has a chance to be quite good - Jim Leavitt really had it improving as the season went along last year. And after some missteps at QB, the team is in good hands with Justin Herbert, and he is getting a whole lot of NFL buzz. Mario Cristobal never quite got things figured out at FIU, but he is a good coach, and his enthusiasm and recruiting prowess are real assets here. The Ducks start the year unrated, but I would be at least somewhat shocked if they finished it the same way.
Utah: I am looking towards teams like Oregon and Utah in part because there is plenty of opportunities in the Pac-12 since the top teams don't necessarily inspire a lot of confidence beyond Washington. But there is more going for Utah beyond that. They remain very well-coached. They have good talent on both sides of the ball, with a QB in Tyler Huntley who should take a big step forward after debuting last year, a running game that is going to wreak havoc, and a secondary that many teams would kill to have. And they get both Washington and USC at home - and Oregon, for that matter - so they will have an advantage in their biggest games. Oh, and the nonconference schedule is a total joke, too. There are plenty of wins for this team to get, and I would not be the most surprised person in the world if they beat USC and won the division. Far from it, in fact.
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