2013 College Football Teams Who Are Exceeding Expectations

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIISeptember 13, 2013

2013 College Football Teams Who Are Exceeding Expectations

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    Preseason college football rankings are often thought to be pointless, unnecessary and superfluous. Why rank teams that haven't even played?

    Well, one thing that preseason polls often provide is bulletin board material for teams that feel underrated.

    Already in the young 2013 season, a number of teams have absorbed those rankings and stepped out onto the field to prove them wrong.

    Clemson did so in Week 1, while Miami (FL) followed suit in Week 2—but what other teams have snubbed their preseason distinctions so far in 2013?

    Note: All rankings based on the Week 3 Associated Press poll unless otherwise noted.

Texas Tech

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    Ranking: NR

    Texas Tech's new head coach Kliff Kingsbury is only 34 years old, but that hasn't mattered so far in his first season.

    The Red Raiders are off to a remarkable start, as they knocked off No. 24 TCU on Thursday night to improve to 3-0 on the season.

    Just like while Kingsbury was the quarterback in Lubbock, the Red Raiders passing game has been explosive, as they have averaged an even 400 yards per game—good for No. 5 in the nation.

    Now knocking on the door of the Top 25, TTU is quickly surpassing what it was supposed to do this season. Selected to finish seventh in the Big 12 Conference preseason poll, the Red Raiders are now poised to compete for the league title.

    Following the hot start, Texas Tech's schedule sets up nicely to do just that.

    After a nonconference warm-up against Texas State, the Red Raiders will ease back into Big 12 play, as they take on the three teams picked to finish below them: Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia.

Fresno State

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    Ranking: NR (28)

    Fresno State kicked off its season with a thrilling 52-51 overtime win over Rutgers. The Bulldogs carried on the next week with a jovial win over Cal Poly that featured a hook-and-ladder touchdown—by a lineman.

    As a result, Fresno is on the fringe of the Top 25 with potential to be this year's Boise State.

    Of course Boise State was expected to be this year's Boise State, but the Broncos were crushed by Washington in Week 1.

    In order to take Boise's throne, Fresno will have to stop Colorado this week and best the Broncos themselves on Sept. 20.

    While the Mountain West Conference has a number of capable teams, the Bulldogs could be set up for a BCS bowl run.

Illinois

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    Ranking: NR (34)

    Illinois was slapped in the face by the media voters when it was chosen to finish last in the Big Ten Leaders Division in the preseason.

    In a Week 1 win over Southern Illinois, Illinois performed as expected, edging the Salukis by just one possession.

    Then in Week 2, the Illini took a step up and thumped Cincinnati 45-17, just a week after the Bearcats beat Purdue, 42-7.

    All the while, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been outstanding, leading Illinois to the No. 11 passing offense in the nation. The senior has tallied 728 passing yards and six touchdowns with just one interception.

    The Illini can prove they are for real this weekend when they take on Washington at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Washington

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    Ranking: 19

    Speaking of Washington, the Huskies have also been a surprise this season after being selected fourth in the Pac-12 North Division.

    Last year, they struggled to a 7-6 record, ending the season with a 28-26 bowl loss to Boise State.

    Right out of the gates in 2013, UW made an excellent turnaround by stomping the Broncos 38-6 in a Week 1 rematch.

    After a rough 2012 campaign, quarterback Keith Price was back to the form that made him an O'Brien Award semifinalist in 2011.

    Also with running back Bishop Sankey, Washington might prove to be strong enough to challenge for the Pac-12 crown.

     

Miami (FL)

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    Ranking: 15

    Although the media selected Miami to win the ACC Coastal Division, the Hurricanes were largely forgotten in the running for the overall league title.

    Clemson was tabbed as the overwhelming favorite, with Florida State as the clear No. 2. From there, Miami was slated along side Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia Tech as having an outside shot at the title.

    After their win over Florida, the 'Canes are right there with FSU and Clemson as a serious ACC contender.

    Miami will take on rival FSU in Tallahassee on Nov. 2, but won't potentially face the Tigers until the conference title game.

    If quarterback Stephen Morris, running back Duke Johnson and Miami's ball-hawking defense keep up their strong play, the Canes could be taking on the Tigers for a national title berth.

LSU

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    Ranking: 8

    LSU was somewhat written off in the preseason SEC poll and national Top 25 rankings.

    The Tigers were a clear No. 3 in the SEC West Division behind Texas A&M and Alabama and weren't even selected in the Top 10 of either of the major preseason polls.

    As a response, LSU walked out of the locker room and handled TCU, 37-27, in Week 1. Next the Tigers clubbed UAB 56-17.

    Altogether, the Tigers have looked as strong as any team in the nation, much thanks to the record-breaking start of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. 

    LSU still has to face arguably the nation's toughest schedule, featuring SEC West foes Alabama and Texas A&M, as well as Florida and Georgia from the SEC East Division.

Clemson

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    Ranking: 3

    Voters were cautiously optimistic about Clemson in the preseason.

    While the Tigers were the overwhelming favorites in the ACC, their No. 8 national ranking suggested that they still needed to show more before they could be considered a national title contender.

    In an enormous 38-35 Week 1 in over then-No. 5 Georgia, Clemson showed all that and more.

    Now ranked No. 3 in the AP Top 25, the pressure is on the Tigers to live up to their adjusted expectations.

    Clemson has a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in Tajh Boyd and plenty of talent around him on offense.

    Still, to make it through Florida State and the rest of their ACC slate, they'll have to show some defensive improvement.