Overlooked College Football Units That Will Surprise with Huge 2013 Seasons
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Many units, like a team's offensive line or defense, are often overlooked after a successful season.
Last year, Oregon's offense got most of the credit despite an almost equally impressive season from its defense. At Alabama, the opposite held true as the defense got most of the glory despite a terrific year from quarterback A.J. McCarron and the offense.
For teams to win at a high level, every unit must be successful, even if a team has a specialty in one area of the game.
So heading into the 2013 season, here are some of the overlooked units that will play pivotal roles for their squads.
The Oregon Ducks' Defense
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When you think of Oregon Ducks football, high scoring and a fast-paced offense is usually what comes to mind. And that's fine because the Ducks do have one of the most prolific offenses in the country.
But last year's Fiesta Bowl champions were almost equally as impressive on defense, and this year's unit should be just as good. In 2012, the Ducks gave up just 21.6 points per game, which ranked 25th in the country.
Heading into 2013, Oregon returns seven starters on defense, according to Athlon Sports. The leader of that unit will be Brian Jackson, who had 69 tackles last year, the most of any returning player for the Ducks.
Losing defensive end Dion Jordan to the NFL draft is a big loss., but the Ducks still have tremendous depth on their defense. And with new coach Mark Helfrich taking over for Chip Kelly, the defense will prove to be the anchor for the Ducks in 2013 .
The Baylor Bears' Offensive Line
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With Bryce Petty taking the quarterback reins in Waco, Texas, the Baylor Bears' offensive line will be under heavy pressure to make an easy transition for the new signal caller.
But with players like Cyril Richardson, who is coming back for his senior season, despite being a possible first-round draft pick, the offensive line for Baylor will play a huge role in the team's run at a Big 12 title.
One of the biggest weapons for the Bears is their running back, Lache Seastrunk. He's one of the best players in the country, but he'll need his offensive line to open up holes for him to attack.
If the offensive line can also protect the pocket well enough for Petty to get used to the fast-paced offense, the Bears could be one of the best teams in the country.
The Kansas State Wildcats' Offensive Line
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Similar to the Baylor Bears, the Kansas State Wildcats have a tremendous offensive line heading into a season where they'll have a great running back and a new quarterback.
The Wildcats have running back John Hubert returning to help anchor the offense, but they'll have to replace Collin Klein.
In 2013, Kansas State returns five guys with starting experience to the offensive line, which will be huge in helping either Daniel Sams or Jake Waters develop as the new starting quarterback.
The leader of the group is junior center B.J. Finney. Finney already has two years of starting experience and his direction will be crucial as Bill Snyder's group looks to defend its Big 12 title.
The Louisville Cardinals' Secondary
CB Terell Floyd
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While quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will grab most of the headlines in 2013, it will be the Louisville Cardinals' secondary that makes or breaks this team.
According to Athlon Sports, the Cardinals defense as a whole returns nine players. This includes Terell Floyd, who had three interceptions last season on a team that won the Big East and the Sugar Bowl.
As a whole last year, the Cardinals ranked 16th in passing defense. That allows the Cardinals to force offenses to grind out drives on the ground. That's certainly not going to happen much in the new American Athletic Conference, one of the weakest all-around conferences in the country.
If Louisville wants to have the same level of success it did last season, the secondary will have to perform at the same heights it did in 2012.
The Washington State Cougars' Defense
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Ever since Mike Leach arrived at Washington State, the focus has been on revitalizing the Cougars' offense.
However, in 2012 the Cougars defense quietly had a very successful year. They were 14th in the country in sacks with 35, just shy of three per game.
In 2013, the Cougars return their best defensive player from last season, safety Deone Bucannon. He led the team in tackles last year with 106 and also had four interceptions and one forced fumble.
If Buccannon can get enough help around him, Leach will have more than enough time to continue to mold his offense and give this team a chance to have a breakout year in 2013.