Well, it’s official. The college football season hasn’t even kicked off yet, and we’re already sick of hearing about Florida, Texas and USC.
Oh sure, those three teams likely will be outstanding. But hey, anything is possible. Tim Tebow could trip over a burning bush. Texas could get victimized as the Big 12 South teams savage one another. USC could get caught napping on a road trip again. It happens. And when it does, here are five teams way off the beaten path that could crash the BCS title game party (in no particular order):
- Rutgers: A favorable schedule can be as tantalizing to a football prognosticator as a tax break is to Kirk Herbstreit. But in this case, we actually think there’s a chance the Scarlet Knights won’t let us down. Anthony Davis anchors an experienced offensive line that returns all five starters, and linebacker Ryan D’Imperio leads a talented defense. And then there’s that damn schedule. We’ve looked at it a hundred different ways, and we can’t figure out a way they finish with less than seven wins. So if the stars align, South Florida continues its trend of late-season nosedives, West Virginia falters and Pittsburgh underachieves, Rutgers could find itself playing for the whole enchilada. Badda-bing!
- Florida State: Bobby Bowden loves to play the kindly ol’ grandpa routine these days, but don’t let it fool you. He’s still as competitive and ego-driven as any coach you’ll find (including his counterpart down the highway in Gainesville). So while Bowden has stuck to his aw-shucks script publicly, we’re guessing that the thought of conceding the all-time wins crown to JoePa – the school has appealed an NCAA penalty that could take 14 of his victories away – has the veteran coach fightin’ mad. And a fightin’ mad Bowden could be exactly what this team needs. That, and a breakthrough year from QB Christian Ponder. They’d likely have to beat Tim Tebow in his home finale on Nov. 28 to earn a spot in the BCS title bash, but the ‘Noles might be worth keeping an eye on.
- Kansas: Without a doubt, the Floyd Mayweather Jr. of college football resides in Lawrence, Kan. Generously – and we do mean generously – listed in the school’s media guide as 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, senior Todd Reesing is the best quarterback pound-for-pound in America, period. And if the Jayhawks can somehow replenish their gutted linebacking corps, there’s a good chance they could find themselves in the Big 12 title game. That could mean one final showdown between the Longhorns and the fiery, pint-sized QB they shunned when he was a high schooler at Austin Lake Travis. If that happens, our money’s on the Flutie of the Plains.
- Oregon: We’re a little nervous about this one, because a loss on Boise’s smurf turf on Sept. 3 would dash the Ducks’ BCS title chances in Week 1. But if new Ducks boss Chip Kelly is able to maneuver his team past the Broncos, the schedule becomes favorable in a hurry. USC, Cal and Oregon State all make trips to the downright unfriendly confines of Autzen Stadium. An inexperienced group of Ducklings will have to grow up quickly, but QB Jeremiah Masoli is a dangerous matchup for opposing coaches.
- East Carolina: OK, so the system isn’t exactly rigged to help a Conference USA team crash the BCS title game. But if a C-USA team ever does pull off the feat it’ll be this season – and the team will be the Pirates. Skip Holtz boasts a loaded squad of talented returning starters from last year’s team, which vaulted into the rankings early after knocking off Virginia Tech and West Virginia only to stumble to a 9-5 finish. If the Pirates can pull off an equally quick start this year and keep from stubbing their toes along the way, they’ll actually have the resume to stake a title game claim – namely, road wins over the Mountaineers and North Carolina, and a home victory over the Hokies.