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10 College Football Teams That Are Overachieving After Week 9

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2013

10 College Football Teams That Are Overachieving After Week 9

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    UCF's Storm Johnson rushed for 592 yards and nine touchdowns, helping carry the Knights to a 6-1 start.
    UCF's Storm Johnson rushed for 592 yards and nine touchdowns, helping carry the Knights to a 6-1 start.

    Each season, a few college football teams are labeled as overachievers due to the unexpected nature of the respective program's rise into relevance.

    The 2012 Notre Dame squad is the first example that comes to mind, ripping off a 12-0 season and a trip to the BCS National Championship Game.

    One year later, the teams may be different, but college football nation is again being surprised by a few schools. Using the 2012 season as a measuring stick is also helpful, showing what a difference one year truly makes.

    Overachieving does not necessarily exclusively mean an unexpected win-loss record, it also denotes how a team is playing compared to its competition.

    With that in mind, welcome to the land of overachievers.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-2)

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    Minnesota leads the overachievers out of the gate due to its 6-2 record.
    Minnesota leads the overachievers out of the gate due to its 6-2 record.

    The Minnesota Golden Gophers have quietly put together a 6-2 record, beating the likes of Northwestern and No. 24 Nebraska, respectively, over the last two weekends.

    Earlier this season, Minnesota jumped on San Jose State quarterback and pro prospect David Fales, forcing three turnovers and controlling the ball for more than 41 minutes. Though the time-of-possession battle is a vastly overrated stat nowadays, that high of a number cannot be ignored.

    Plus, senior defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman is listed as one of college football's ten scariest players by CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman.

    The Gophers have not earned bowl eligibility this quickly since 2008 and have done so without head coach Jerry Kill on the sideline for three games.

    Minnesota still must play Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State, but an 8-4 season with three marquee wins would be a noticeable improvement over a 6-7 record last year.

Buffalo Bulls (6-2)

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    Buffalo roughed up Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.
    Buffalo roughed up Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.

    Hailing from the Mid-American Conference, the Buffalo Bulls are led by first-round caliber linebacker Khalil Mack. After a 4-8 2012 campaign, the Bulls are 6-2 (4-0) and at the top of the East Division.

    Buffalo hung around Ohio State in its season-opener before being thrashed by Baylor—but how many teams haven't been dismantled by the Bears?

    After a crazy five-overtime victory against Stony Brook for their first win, the Bulls trounced Connecticut 41-12 and have currently won four straight MAC games.

    On Tuesday, Nov. 5 (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Buffalo faces its biggest conference test when the Bulls host Tyler Tettleton, Beau Blankenship and the Ohio Bobcats. This matchup kicks off a string of three consecutive Tuesday-night kickoffs for the Bulls.

    Early-week MACtion, ladies and gentlemen. One of life's greatest pleasures.

Duke Blue Devils (6-2)

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    Anthony Boone did not play great against Virginia Tech, but he played well enough to win.
    Anthony Boone did not play great against Virginia Tech, but he played well enough to win.

    Despite a 7-of-25, 107-yard and four-interception performance from quarterback Anthony Boone, the Duke Blue Devils went on the road and knocked off Virginia Tech.

    The upset win was Duke's sixth of the season, and the Blue Devils have qualified for two straight bowls for the first time in school history.

    Wide receiver Jamison Crowder has admirably replaced the ACC's all-time receiving yards leader, Conner Vernon, snagging 60 passes for 769 yards and three scores through eight games.

    Duke hosts North Carolina State and Miami before making the hop-skip-and-a-jump trips to Wake Forest and North Carolina to close out 2013.

    And with a 3-1 finish to the year and a victory in their bowl game—something the program has not done since 1960—the Blue Devils could win 10 games in a season—something Duke has never accomplished.

Ball State Cardinals (8-1)

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    Keith Wenning is one of the nation's top passers.
    Keith Wenning is one of the nation's top passers.

    The Ball State Cardinals are 8-1 this season and earned a road win over a major-conference team, dropping the ACC's Virginia Cavaliers by 21 points.

    Ball State's lone loss came to North Texas, but that's the same Mean Green team that was tied at 21 with the SEC's Georgia Bulldogs during the third quarter.

    Senior quarterback Keith Wenning had thrown for at least 300 yards in every game before only gaining 240 yards during the Cardinals' most recent game...when he tossed five touchdowns.

    A four-year starter, Wenning has completed 62.4 percent of his passes throughout 2013, and his 2,865 yards ranks second-best in the nation. Wenning has thrown 23 touchdowns to just five interceptions.

    On Wednesday, Nov. 13 (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Ball State and the No. 21 Northern Illinois Huskies will battle for the MAC West Division crown. And if you like midweek-MACtion, a meeting between Wenning and NIU's dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch is one you can't miss.

Central Florida Knights (6-1)

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    Blake Bortles has directed the UCF offense into the national picture.
    Blake Bortles has directed the UCF offense into the national picture.

    Want underrated? I'll give you underrated.

    The Central Florida Knights burst onto the national picture when they took down Teddy Bridgewater and the Louisville Cardinals by scoring 31 points during the game's final 20 minutes to win by four.

    Before that upset, however, UCF defeated Penn State at Happy Valley and nearly topped South Carolina.

    Led by quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson, the Knights achieved the program's highest-ever AP ranking this week, boosting its previous record of No. 21 to No. 18.

    If George O'Leary's team takes down 6-1 Houston on Nov. 9 (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), UCF is in excellent position to earn a spot in a BCS game as its remaining opponents have a 10-20 combined record.

Auburn Tigers (7-1)

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    Dee Ford's sack of Johnny Manziel sealed the Tigers' upset win over Texas A&M.
    Dee Ford's sack of Johnny Manziel sealed the Tigers' upset win over Texas A&M.

    Auburn went winless (0-8) in SEC play and 3-9 overall last season, but 2013 is a different story.

    The Tigers are 7-1 with wins over two ranked teams—No. 24 Ole Miss and No. 7 Texas A&M—and Auburn's only loss came on the road vs. No. 6 LSU.

    Consequent to Auburn's success, the 2013 edition of the Iron Bowl has huge implications for both teams. If the Tigers take care of Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia, Auburn would be fighting the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide for a spot in the SEC Championship Game and, conceivably, the national championship.

    Considering Alabama's 49-0 blowout win last season, for Auburn to be competitive in the rivalry game means first-year head coach Gus Malzahn has righted the ship in dramatic fashion.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-1)

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    Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro has caught 64 passes for 861 yards and three scores.
    Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro has caught 64 passes for 861 yards and three scores.

    Behind a surprising 7-0 start, the Texas Tech Raiders jumped into the Top 10 of the AP poll before falling on the road to No. 15 Oklahoma.

    First-year head coach and former TTU quarterback Kliff Kingsbury is at the helm, guiding the Red Raiders' two-headed passing attack that ranks third in the nation.

    Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, a pair of freshmen, have combined for 21 touchdowns and are one win away from matching Texas Tech's 2012 win total.

    Kingsbury was the first Big 12 coach to begin his career 7-0, but the Red Raiders have entered the gauntlet of their schedule.

    After losing to Oklahoma, No. 18 Oklahoma State, Kansas State, No. 6 Baylor and Texas now await them. Fortunately for Texas Tech, however, only the tilt against the Longhorns is on the road.

Miami Hurricanes (7-0)

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    Duke Johnson has put up gaudy numbers despite missing plenty of game action.
    Duke Johnson has put up gaudy numbers despite missing plenty of game action.

    Triggered by upsetting the No. 12 Florida Gators in early September, the Miami Hurricanes are 7-0 for the first time since 2003.

    Additionally, its current No. 7 ranking is the highest Miami has held since 2005.

    Last season, the 'Canes finished 7-5 and statistically had one of the nation's worst defensive units. But in 2013, Miami has already won seven games, boasts the 18th-best yardage defense and has allowed the 11th-fewest points per game.

    Behind an experienced offensive line, running back Duke Johnson is averaging 117.6 rushing yards per game, and second-stringer Dallas Crawford has scored nine touchdowns.

    Miami has a realistic shot at an 11-1 regular season and, at insane as it sounds, could be 12-0 heading into the ACC Championship Game. But the vaunted No. 3 Florida State Seminoles stand in the 'Canes way this Saturday, Nov. 2 (8:00 p.m. ET, ABC), looking for an undefeated season of their own.

Missouri Tigers (7-1)

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    Maty Mauk is getting experience for 2014 and beyond, but he's been a respectable replacement this season, too.
    Maty Mauk is getting experience for 2014 and beyond, but he's been a respectable replacement this season, too.

    Yes, the Missouri Tigers, well, choked against South Carolina. But raise your hand if you predicted Missouri to start the 2013 season 7-0.

    Seeing none save for the class joker, I continue.

    The Tigers knocked off No. 7 Georgia in Athens but lost senior quarterback James Franklin to a sprained shoulder in the process. Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star reports Franklin has started throwing again and will move to the starting position upon his return—which might be very soon.

    In Franklin's absence, freshman Maty Mauk finished off Georgia, sealed the win over Florida and put Missouri in position to edge the Gamecocks.

    Gary Pinkel's team still controls its own destiny to the SEC Championship Game, but Missouri must rebound from the heartbreaking loss to South Carolina.

    The Tigers will play Tennessee, Kentucky and Ole Miss before a clash with Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies on Nov. 30 to close out the regular season.

Baylor Bears (7-0)

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    The Baylor Bears have simply outrun every team on the field and on the scoreboard.
    The Baylor Bears have simply outrun every team on the field and on the scoreboard.

    Looking at its schedule, there is no excuse for the Baylor Bears to not be 7-0. But should Art Briles' speedy squad be averaging 63.9 points per game?

    That's just plain ridiculous.

    Baylor hung 73 and 71 points on West Virginia and Iowa State, respectively, and scored at least 69 points during three other games.

    Additionally, the Bears offense is racking up an absurd 718.4 yards per contest. Similar to Ball State's Wenning, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty has thrown for at least 300 yards in every game, and he boasts an 18-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

    Running back Lache Seastrunk has scampered for 869 yards and 11 touchdowns, while wide receivers Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese have combined to tally 71 receptions, 1,718 yards and 16 touchdowns.

    Baylor is currently in the Top Five for the first time since 1953, but its road to a conference championship is about to get tricky. The Bears play ranked opponents in Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State over their next three games.

    Will Baylor's offense come back to earth? Or will the Bears make like 2012 Notre Dame and ride one unit's dominance all the way to a national championship appearance?

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