Posted by Frazier
Time to pick some teams that might be down-right surprising. Teams we're all overlooking. Maybe it's because of a down year last year, or the last several. Maybe it's because we have no idea where they play, or what conference they're in. But somebody is going to step-up. Last year Penn St. came out of nowhere to put together a phenomenal season, losing their only game in literally the last second. So who will it be this year? I have no idea, but I can always guess.
5) Nebraska. This might be a nostalgia pick, but you have to have a good feeling about a team that was supposed to experience some serious growing pains, still managed to win 8 games, and is returning 15 starters. Their defense should be downright nasty at times, and Carricker is a stud on the line. He'll provide great push, and will threaten the quarterback on a consistent basis. The schedule isn't terrible with two exceptions. An early game AT USC and a later showdown with Texas coming to Lincoln. However, if you have to play those two, you could do worse than catching USC early, when they still may be recovering from the loss of Leinart and Bush, and they haven't quite gelled, and at least having to force Texas to play well in Lincoln. Those may turn out to be their only losses, and they are probably the favorites in the Big 12 North with, gasp, a potent passing attack, and a running game which will undoubtedly improve. This could be an 11 win team, and that would help the 'Husker faithful get over the loss of their beloved option.
4) Arkansas. I am not going to break this team down like my esteemed co-blogger. It's this simple. They have an excellent coach, the most highly recruited quarterback in the country, and 19 returning starters. Also, they have a relatively light SEC schedule, altho they do start the season with USC. But, once again it's early, also, USC has to travel across the country and with a young lineup, the Hogs may stand a chance. The season will only look brighter from there.
3) UConn. Look, it's the Big East. There are two really good teams, and a bunch of mediocre ones. Which means that if any of the mediocre ones can rise a little bit above, they can stumble into a 9 win season, and a major bowl. I think UConn is that stumbler. The QB position has been solidified, and most of the defense, which was a strength last year, is returning. Caulley is finally healthy at the tailback spot, and this could be an excellent year. UConn has done nothing but improve over the last several years, and this may be the year when they pull it all together, and make a run at a major bowl.
2) Boise St. They may have lost their coach, but they kept the man behind their offensive innovations. They also kept 18 starters and a schedule that has most of their toughest games at home. Will they get last year's Zabransky, or the super-promising one from 2 years ago? I'll bet it the latter, and if it is, they could break into the top 15. The smurf turf used to make Boise St. distinct, but in the future, it just may be excellence on the field, no matter the color, that brings the national attention.
1) UTEP. I am not one to go against a Palmer. Or any coach who can make Washington St. a fearsome team, I don't care how many strippers he brings with him. This team is returning 19 starters from an 8 win team, and that includes an ugly end of season slide. Price has a great track record, and Palmer is easily one of the best QB's in the country. He wants to get over an embarrassing bowl performance, and the early season shoot-out with Texas Tech may provide that opportunity. It's hard to feel down when you put up half a hundred on anybody. This team has traditionally started well, and with their toughest games earlier in the year, that is a good thing. Maybe they'll swoon late, but they'll be out to prove that they have a full season in them for once, and Palmer will be out to prove that Carson isn't the only pro prospect in the family. Is it possible to be underrated when you are getting some national buzz at a place like UTEP? Yeah, I think it is. Any team that can have success in those god-awful uniforms deserve all the attention they can get.