Preseason College Football Rankings 2013: Underrated Ranked Teams That Will Rise

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IAugust 8, 2013

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Quarterback Devin Gardner #12 of the Michigan Wolverines passes in the fourth quarter against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl January 1, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  South Carolina won 33 - 28. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Now that the USA Today Coaches Poll has been released, it's time to start analyzing which teams aren't getting enough credit.

Beyond the unranked teams that have been given the short end of the stick so far this preseason, it's also important to notice the ranked teams that deserve more respect.

That includes a program that lost a premier running back but is still standing strong, as well as a couple of programs that disappointed in 2012 but may surprise in 2013.

Here are the ranked teams that deserve to be ranked higher in the preseason.

Wisconsin (23)

Wisconsin showed last season in the Big Ten Championship Game that the team was better than its record suggested (I don't care what Bill Parcells says).

The Badgers destroyed Nebraska in the conference title game, 70-31, racking up 539 rushing yards and 640 yards of total offense.

The reality is, several of Wisconsin's losses last season could have gone the other way. Three of the Badgers' six losses on the season were decided in overtime, and all six losses were decided by seven points or less. At some point, it almost became comical.

The law of averages suggests Wisconsin can't go through such heartbreak again. Yes, the team lost lead rusher Montee Ball to the NFL, but second-leading rusher James White is more than capable of picking up the slack, and redshirt sophomore Melvin Gordon racked up 621 rushing yards on just 62 carries last season.

Add the fact that the Badgers have two capable quarterbacks in Joel Stave and Curt Phillips and the program should be ranked higher than No. 23 to start the season.

Nebraska (18)

Not surprisingly, the key for me is quarterback Taylor Martinez.

Martinez threw for over 2,800 yards while tossing 23 touchdowns to 12 interceptions last season. He also rushed for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Of course, 11 of those 12 interceptions came in the final nine games of the season, highlighting Nebraska's propensity to beat itself. Four of those 12 picks came in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin and Capital One Bowl against Georgia.

So, yes, there is reason to doubt the Cornhuskers a bit this season.

But, I think the added experience will help Martinez. I think the mistakes he made last season will make him a better quarterback in 2013.

Head coach Bo Pelini talked about Martinez trying to play hero ball at times last season and getting himself in trouble. But Pelini has already noticed a difference in Martinez this spring.

Pelini said in April, via Brian Bennett of

He has been accurate and his decision-making has been phenomenal. He is really recognizing defenses well and getting us in and out of the right plays. If he can manage games the way he is right now and stay on the path he's on, the sky's the limit. I can see him taking another step, and that could be scary for our opponents.

Michigan (17)

Like Nebraska, the number of turnovers coughed up by Michigan last season was just astounding.

In the Wolverines' five losses, they committed 18 turnovers. In their eight wins, they committed nine.

The Wolverines constantly beat themselves last season, and may have actually defeated Notre Dame, Ohio State and South Carolina if they had been more careful with the ball (all three losses were by seven points or less).

The maturation of quarterback Devin Gardner figures to help Michigan get back on the right track this season, though. And while he's not the same threat on the ground as Denard Robinson was, he does have dual-threat ability and he's a much better pocket passer than Robinson ever was.

Gardner averaged 9.7 yards per pass attempt last season, which would have ranked second in the country if he had thrown enough balls. Robinson ranked 34th in that category.

I will also say that I think head coach Brady Hoke has taken way too much flak for last season. Have we forgotten about what he did in his first season at Michigan, or the fact that he built two programs from the ground up before he arrived in Ann Arbor?

Apparently we have. 

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