The 2013 college football season has officially begun and, as a result, the madness has ensued. In every city across the country, teams are looking to prove their legitimacy and display just how ready they are for glory.
The question is, which unranked teams will turn heads and finish in the Top 25?
The AP Top 25 poll accurately depicts the preseason favorites, which makes it difficult to complain too much about the squads left out. With that being said, multiple teams that were omitted are of the caliber necessary to finish the season better than they started.
Regardless of how they do it, multiple teams will finish in the Top 25 after being underrated during the preseason.
Votes: 3 (40th)
2012 W-L: 8-5 (4-5)
The Arizona Wildcats are on the outside looking in for the AP poll, likely due to the departure of quarterback Matt Scott and the injury sustained by leading receiver Austin Hill. Still, the Wildcats remain one of the best offenses in the nation.
That will be reflected in their season-ending ranking.
During the 2012 season, Arizona lost 54-48 in overtime at the Stanford Cardinal, dropped a 38-35 heartbreaker to Oregon State and lost 41-34 to rival Arizona State. With one score going the other way in those games, Arizona could've been looking at an 11-win season.
Losing Scott and virtually every piece of their receiving corps hurts, but it's far from crippling.
Ka'Deem Carey ran for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2012, also catching 36 passes for 303 yards and a score. Joining him is Daniel Jenkins, who ran for 139 yards on 12 carries in the season opener, and both will play critical roles in 2013, shaping an elite rushing attack.
Furthermore, Scott averaged 41.6 pass attempts per game in 2012, which is a statistical anomaly in a Rich Rodriguez offense. Arizona is a run-first team and, with Carey at the helm, will put up points as well as any team in the nation.
Defensively, Arizona returns NFL prospect Marquis Flowers, who led the team in sacks and interceptions in 2012. Flowers will be joined by virtually the entire defense from last year.
They aren't national title contenders, but the Wildcats will be a Top 25 team.
Votes: 85 (29th)
2012 W-L: 7-5 (5-3)
The Miami Hurricanes haven't won 10 games since they took home the Orange Bowl title in 2003 under Larry Coker. Since then, they've averaged 7.3 wins per season and haven't won a bowl game since the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl.
Expect 2013 to be the year they rebound and finish the season in the Top 25.
Miami has stars on offense with senior quarterback Stephen Morris and sophomore running back Duke Johnson. Morris threw for 21 touchdowns to seven interceptions in 2012, while Johnson picked up 947 yards and 10 touchdowns on 6.8 yards per carry.
In his 2013 debut, Johnson tallied 186 yards and a score on 19 rushes.
A 34-6 win over Florida Atlantic is hardly reason to believe they're a Top 25 team, but it's a step in the right direction. Miami held just one team below 10 points in 2012 and, in 2013, it returns key players. Some of the biggest names have the necessary experience to improve.
Those factors combine to create a team that should win at least nine games.
The true clincher for Miami is that it has a favorable schedule, playing at home against No. 10 Florida, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. The only road game against a ranked opponent is on Saturday, Nov. 2, when the Hurricanes travel to play No. 11 Florida State.
If they win the games they're supposed to, the 'Canes have the look of a nine-win team at the end of the regular season.
Northern Illinois Huskies
Votes: 16 (35th)
2012 W-L: 12-2 (8-0)
There's hardly any question that Northern Illinois was the wrong selection for the most recent Orange Bowl, especially after losing 31-10 to Florida State. With that being said, there's little reason to believe that the Huskies are anything less than a Top 25 team.
Elite quarterback Jordan Lynch is back, and that should be enough in the MAC.
Lynch finished the 2012 season with 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns to six interceptions through the air. He also ran for 1,815 yards and scored 19 touchdowns on the ground, making him the Mid-American Conference's version of Johnny Manziel.
There are other quality teams in the MAC, but Northern Illinois will be a 10-win squad and finish inside of the Top 25 because of it.
If Tommylee Lewis is able to stay healthy, he will emerge as a star receiver for Northern Illinois, helping Lynch overcome the loss of leading receiver Martel Moore. Akeem Daniels, meanwhile, ran for nine rushing touchdowns in 2012, helping to establish the Huskies' unstoppable offense.
Throw in a defense that allowed just 19.9 points per game and you have yourself a Top 25 team, regardless of which conference it comes from.
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