College Football Rankings 2012: Breaking Down Year's Biggest Surprises

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College Football Rankings 2012: Breaking Down Year's Biggest Surprises
Dave Reginek/Getty Images

If this season hasn't convinced you that preseason rankings are nearly worthless, I'm not sure what will.

Sure, it's fun to project teams and play the "what if" game before we've seen them take a single snap together, but in 2012, we were once again proven oh so wrong.

And by oh so many teams.

There were countless surprising teams this year that deserve praise, but let's take a gander at the last BCS top 25 of the season and see which ones stand out most.

Note: A complete look at the Top 25 can be found at the bottom of this page.

 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (No. 1)

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
People knew Manti Te'o was good. They just didn't know he was legendary.

Might as well start at the top.

The Irish came into the season unranked with an inexperienced quarterback. If there is anyone out there—who isn't a die-hard Notre Dame fan—who truly believed this team would go 12-0 and clinch a spot in the National Championship, I would like you to pick my Powerball numbers for me. 

What's interesting about Notre Dame's historic season is that it has followed essentially the opposite path of rival USC. The Trojans, led by a veteran, Heisman-worthy quarterback, entered the season No. 1 with hopes of a national title, but they've scurried off into obscurity and a spot in the Sun Bowl against 6-7 Georgia Tech.

 

Texas A&M Aggies (No. 9)

The Aggies were supposed to get crushed in their first season in the SEC. Their uptempo, Big-12 offense wasn't supposed to survive against the hard-nosed defenses of the new conference. No one was supposed to figure out who Johnny Manziel was. 

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
I'm guessing most people, at the beginning of the season, would have guessed Manziel is the one on the left.

Welp, none of that quite worked out.

Johnny Football exploded onto the national scene, running and throwing over nearly every offense he faced en route to putting himself in the driver's seat of the Heisman race.

But it hasn't been just an individual effort. The Aggies, who were unranked at the start of the year, have played well on both sides of the ball on their way to 10 wins, a monumental, program-changing upset over then-No. 1 Alabama and a date with Oklahoma in the prestigious Cotton Bowl.

I guess the new guys belong. 

 

Oregon State Beavers (No. 13)

Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Beavs propelled into the top 25 so quickly—and have found ways to stay there despite an untimely injury to quarterback Sean Mannion—that people forget just how surprising their season has been.

They were picked by many to finish near the bottom of the Pac-12, but thanks to a balanced offensive attack and dangerous defense led by Scott Crichton and Jordan Poyer, they went 9-3 and finished third in a stacked Pac-12 North division. 

A win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl would cap off one of the most impressively quiet seasons in the country.

 

What's the most surprising ranking (from a beginning-of-the-season perspective)?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Northern Illinois Huskies (No. 15)

There are a few non-automatic-qualifier teams that have surprisingly cracked the top 25, but Northern Illinois obviously takes the cake. 

Not only did the Huskies, who were picked at the start of the season to finish second in the MAC West division, roll through the conference and knock off a solid Kent State team to win the conference, but they found a way to rise all the way to No. 15 and land a spot in the Orange Bowl. 

Moreover, Jordan Lynch's play at quarterback has him as a darkhorse candidate to make it to New York as a Heisman finalist.

 

Here are the BCS standings after 14 weeks.

WEEK 15 BCS STANDINGS
 1. Notre Dame
 2. Alabama
 3. Florida
 4. Oregon
 5. Kansas State
 6. Stanford
 7. Georgia
 8. LSU
 9. Texas A&M
 10. South Carolina
 11. Oklahoma
 12. Florida State
 13. Oregon State
 14. Clemson
 15. Northern Illinois
 16. Nebraska
 17. UCLA
 18. Michigan
 19. Boise State
 20. Northwestern
 21. Louisville
 22. Utah State
 23. Texas
 24. San Jose State
 25. Kent State

 

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