Wisconsin Badgers and 9 Other Struggling FBS Teams Who'll Finish Strong
Only two weeks into the season and many teams are struggling to find themselves. Some of these teams had very low expectations, but then there are the ones that had goals of taking that next step as a program. We took a look at some of these teams on Monday, as there have been quite a few upsets already in the short college football season.
But who are some of the struggling teams that can turn things around and make a strong run at the end of the year?
With much of the college football season left to play, every team in the country still has a shot to prove everyone wrong and once again become a contender.
Here are 10 teams that will turn some heads in 2012, despite getting off to a rocky start early on.
Syracuse has gotten off to an 0-2 start but really could have won both games.
The Orange lost a late-second heartbreaker to Northwestern at home and couldn't capitalize enough on the subpar play of the USC Trojans. Still, Syracuse dropped 455 total yards on the Trojans and were able to do some positive things defensively.
The Orange currently have the most effective offense in the Big East, averaging 525 yards of total offense. That offense is also getting wide receiver Alec Lemon back, as he missed much of the offseason and season opener with a knee injury.
Defensively, Syracuse has seven sacks, which is up there with some of the league’s best.
With not much competition in the Big East, Syracuse is a team that should still be considered a contender.
I know Georgia is 2-0 to begin the season, but the Bulldogs have struggled in both of the first two games, allowing Buffalo and Missouri to hang around.
Still, this is an experienced and talented ball club that will likely improve as the season goes on. Freshman running back Todd Gurley has provided that spark on the ground game (averaging over nine yards per carry), while quarterback Aaron Murray is still one of the better quarterbacks in the country.
The defense should improve once they get many of the suspended starters back.
With a schedule that does not include Arkansas, LSU or Alabama, Georgia should still be the slight favorite to win the SEC East.
I have no idea what I see in the Pittsburgh Panthers, as this team has been absolutely horrible in the first two games.
The offensive line has allowed six sacks, the defensive line is generating little to no pressure, the defense as a whole is dead last in the Big East and the Panthers offense struggles in the red zone.
While the defense that only returned four starters from a year ago may be a lost cause, I do like that the offense is experienced.
Quarterback Tino Sunseri is a senior who has shown glimpses of being a solid quarterback, and running back Ray Graham is one of the best players in this conference. He should continue to improve, as he is still recovering from a torn ACL.
Also, four of the starting five offensive linemen are upperclassmen.
I'm not sure how many games this Pittsburgh team will win, but I do know they are better than what they have shown.
Penn State Nittany Lions
After many of the key players left the program during the offseason, the expectations for Penn State have dropped dramatically. After an 0-2 start to the season, many are wondering just how many games the Nittany Lions will end up winning in 2012.
This team has looked terrible at times, but don't forget this team was just one possession away from beating Ohio and would have beaten Virginia if a kicker could make a field goal or two.
The positive signs are that this team is staying in games and is getting better quarterback play out of Matthew McGloin. He is making better decisions with the football and has improved his completion percentage a little bit (he's over 55 percent, a slight improvement over last year).
The offense is also doing a solid job of moving the chains, converting on third downs more than 46 percent of the time.
If Bill O'Brien's club can continue to stay in games, the ball will eventually bounce in their favor, especially with a weak Big Ten schedule ahead.
Another Big Ten team that has looked awful so far this season is the Iowa Hawkeyes. They beat Northern Illinois by one point and lost to Iowa State last week.
The good news is the defensive side of the ball is not the problem with Iowa, as the veteran secondary is allowing just 147.5 yards in the air—good for 14th in the country. In fact, the defense as a whole is ranked third in the Big Ten, allowing just 271 yards a game.
Offensively, things should turn around, as quarterback James Vandenberg is arguably the best pure passer in the conference. He has not been himself lately, but usually completes a high percentage of his passes and makes good decisions with the football.
Iowa still has yet to find a No. 1 wide receiver and the running game is not looking good either, but you have to believe a veteran quarterback will begin to turn things around.
Auburn will turn things around, as the main reason this team is losing this bad is because of turnovers. In just two games, the Tigers have turned the ball over seven times, which would make things difficult for even the most talented teams in the country to win games.
Quarterback Kiehl Frazier will continue to improve his game with time, as he only has two complete games under his belt. The defense must improve, as this unit is currently one of the worst in the country, but the good thing is that the Tigers are doing a good job of generating pressure up front on opposing quarterbacks.
Auburn does have its hands full with a tough SEC schedule, but expect Gene Chizik's club to begin to find themselves and become more competitive as the season goes on.
Utah lost last week to Utah State, which we will call a fluke. Well, of course, 10 penalties and failing to score on two red-zone trips didn't help either.
Still, the Utes could very well be considered the third best team in the Pac-12. The defense is doing its job and is arguably the best unit in the conference, led by future NFL first-round pick Star Lotulelei.
The offense is the concern with this team, as quarterback Jon Hays is now the leader of this squad after Jordan Wynn has decided to quit football. Running back John White has to turn into the beast he was last season for this offense to get that much-needed spark.
But overall, this is a talented team that—unlike most Pac-12 squads—puts defense first. The Utes will be just fine the rest of the way.
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M did much better against Florida than I thought they would do, which makes me a believer that the Aggies will be competitive in their first season in the SEC.
The Aggies finished the game with eight sacks, which is just the way they finished last year, leading the country in sacks.
Freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel also did a terrific job in his first start, completing 76 percent of his passes against a top-10 Florida defense.
Texas A&M is a tough-minded team on the defensive side of the ball, which is what it takes to be successful in this league.
If the Aggies can continue to pressure the quarterback and get their freshman quarterback to continue to make the right decisions, this is a team that could surprise the rest of the way in the SEC West.
Wisconsin has not looked good the first two games of the season, barely knocking off Northern Iowa and then losing to Oregon State. And while many Badger fans may be ready to hit the panic button, everybody in Madison should relax.
The offensive line is still one of the best the country has to offer.
Quarterback Danny O'Brien has the highest completion percentage of his career so far.
It is only a matter of time before Montee Ball gets going again.
Defensively, the Badgers are doing a great job of getting off the field on third downs and have the second best run-stopping defense in the Big Ten.
Things will begin to look up for Wisconsin, and with only three teams bowl eligible in the Leaders Division, the Badgers are still the overwhelming favorites to return to the Big Ten Championship.
Boise State Broncos
It seems like forever since the Boise State Broncos have played, as they have yet to play a game since they lost to the Michigan State Spartans back in August. Although the team lost and was removed from the AP Poll, there is little to worry about with this team.
The Broncos did a great job defensively, flying to the football and forcing two turnovers. Offensively, it was difficult because Michigan State happens to be one of the best defensive teams in the country, but Boise still managed to pick up 14 first downs and had two plays of over 20 yards.
While replacing nearly an entire roster isn't good enough to knock off a Top 10 team, Boise State is still good enough to contend for a MWC title.