Seven College Football Teams That Could Surprise in 2010
The consensus national championship and BCS contenders are basically set for next season, and you won't see a list that doesn't contain Alabama, Boise State, and Ohio State.
To me, another one of those lists would be pointless, and while this cone may be too, at least it adds a little fun instead of picking the same teams over and over again.
So here are my top seven teams, in no particular order, that could surprise college football in 2010, whether that be a BCS bowl or just making some noise.
After enduring the tragic death of cornerback Jasper Howard, UConn finished the season strong with a 7-5 record and a 20-7 thrashing of South Carolina in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
The Huskies return 17 starters next season, including quarterbacks Zach Frazer and Cody Endres, both of whom started in 2009. The backfield needs some work and I don't expect Connecticut to go undefeated, or even win more than nine or 10 games.
But it is the Big East, so look for UConn to challenge for a conference title and a BCS bowl berth.
Although a losing season and missed bowl game would be a disappointing season for most teams, Coach Steve Sarkisian seems to have his Huskies back on the right track.
Jake Locker looked very good at quarterback last season and he'll be back to lead the Washington offense that returns all of its starters from 2009. The defense will also be experienced, returning nine starters from last season.
And with USC's coaching change, Washington might have a chance to reach the top of the Pac-10. Road trips to Los Angeles and Eugene might derail those dreams, but it seems more possible now than it has in a long time.
This might be the kiss of death for Clemson, considering it plays awful with high expectations, but plays well with low expectations. But this isn't too far-fetched since the Tigers were a win away from a BCS bowl in 2009.
Granted most of that success came because of C.J. Spiller, who has since moved on to the NFL Draft, but I like what Dabo Swinney has done with this team. Only 13 total starters return, but quarterback Kyle Parker is back, along with most of the offensive line.
And in the lackluster ACC, anything can happen.
Jim Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the country. He doesn't bring in a lot of talent, but he finds good, hard-working players and develops them into stars.
And while most people still fail to see Stanford as a Pac-10 threat, the Cardinal have a decent chance at a conference title next season. Star running back Toby Gerhart is gone, but quarterback Andrew Luck is a rising star and the sophomore could be one of the best in the country in a few years. Eight other starters return on offense, as do six on defense.
The schedule doesn't look amazingly daunting, although road trips to Oregon and Washington shouldn't be taken lightly. But the bottom line is Stanford now has what it takes to be an annual contender for the Pac-10 title.
Texas A&M Aggies
After reaching the Independence Bowl in 2009, the bar has been set a little higher for the Aggies in 2010. Quarterback Jerrod Johnson will be back to lead a solid Texas A&M offense next season and running back Cyrus Gray will help lead a balanced offense.
But defense may be the bigger story for the Aggies in 2010, which seems crazy for a Big 12 team. A&M returns ten defensive starters from last season and will be good in all parts of the field.
This may finally be the year that the Aggies are able to upset Texas and win the Big 12 South.
After leading his team to a solid season and an Outback Bowl win, Coach Gene Chizik seems to have his Tigers on a path to success in 2010.
The offense could struggle, with the loss of quarterback Chris Todd and running back Ben Tate. But the defense returns eight starters and could help Auburn do fairly well in the strong SEC West.
Don't expect a lot out of the Tigers this year, especially playing in a division with Alabama and LSU, but if they can get off to another fast start, Auburn has a chance to reach another January bowl in 2010.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Red Raiders ended 2009 on a high note after the Mike Leach scandal, with a win over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl. Now, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville takes over and inherits one of the best offensive teams in the country.
Quarterback Taylor Potts is back and loses only one starting wide receiver, meaning Texas Tech should again have tremendous success through the air. Running back Baron Batch is also back, but he won't be needed much in Tech's high-powered passing attack.
Defense was never a concern for Mike Leach, but Tuberville is more defensive minded and it will be interesting to see if he can make Texas Tech a premier team on both sides of the ball.