Top Ten College Football Programs Poised to Exceed Expectations in 2010
Which of the NCAA Division I football programs will surprise and delight their fan base in 2010? Which teams are primed to pull off the big upsets this coming season?
There are always a number of factors that play into any team exceeding expectations. Returning players, coaching changes, schedule, team goals and even the lack of respect can play a part in motivating a team to exceed expectations.
Every year in the world of college football the so-called experts predict how a team will perform during the up coming season. There have been preseason polls released as early as last December and many more have followed in the first couple of months of 2010.
As teams prepare to begin spring practice drills, here is a look at 10 teams who are poised to exceed the pundit's expectations once the 2010 college football season finally begins around the first of September.
Click through the slides to see if your favorite team will exceed the expectations that the experts have already established for most of the Division I programs and conferences.
10. TENNESSEE VOLS
While many expect Tennessee to be in a building year, don't underestimate the Vols and their potential to pull of the upset in the SEC this year.
Make no mistake, Derek Dooley is a very good football coach. Many look to his record at La Tech and question the Vols hiring of this son of the legendary Vince Dooley.
Dooley went out and found what just might be one of the best defensive coordinators in the country in Justin Wilcox. It was Wilcox's innovative defensive game plans that helped Boise State to an undefeated and No. 4 ranking in 2009.
Tennessee has an early test against a top rated Oregon team in Knoxville and then must take on the always tough slate of SEC opponents.
The Vols have a new system to learn and a number of starting positions to fill on both sides of the ball but you can expect the unexpected from Tennessee in 2010.
9. MISSOURI TIGERS
Missouri returns nine starters on offense and eight starters from their 2009 defense. Included in this returning group of 17 is junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert was one of the most highly sought-after prep quarterback prospects in the nation. The 6'5" junior is only going to get better.
Handing the ball off is not one of coach Gary Pinkel's main ingredients, but he has a big time talent in RB Derrick Washington, and there’s plenty of depth behind him.
The Tigers are coming off an 8-4 2009 season and have a favorable schedule that vaults this team into the "dark horse" category.
Missouri appears to be on solid footing to exceed the pundits expectations in 2010.
8. HOUSTON COUGARS
C-USA Coach of the Year Kevin Sumlin has created an offense that reminds the Cougar faithful of the days when David Klingler was under center back in 1989-1990.
The Houston offense lead the nation in passing in 2009 led by record breaking quarterback Case Keenum. Basically same offensive package is back again, which includes three all-conference receivers and a legitimate Heisman candidate behind center.
The Cougars return nine offensive starters and eight starters from the 2009 defense which struggled at times last year. The Houston offense should be so explosive that it will cover any mistakes by the Houston defenders.
The Cougars not only return one of the leading passers in the nation with Keenum back but also his three all-conference receivers in Patrick Edwards, Tyron Carrier and James Cleveland.
This year's Houston Cougars could beat all expectations and end up a BCS buster in 2010.
7. WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
In terms of overall speed and quickness, the Mountaineers have it across the board.
WVU returns eight starters on offense and nine on the defensive side of the ball.
Leading the Mountaineer's returning offensive starters is speedy all-conference running back Noel Devine. About the only real question West Virginia coach Bill Stewart must answer is at quarterback.
Sophomore QB Geno Smith was one of the nation's top pro-style recruits out of high school and is expected to take over the signal calling duties for the Mountaineers.
The Mountaineer defense is lead by three potential All-Americans with Chris Neild a senior NT, Scooter Berry DT and J.T. Thomas LB.
A 10-win season for West Virginia in 2010? That would be exceeding expectations and is a very real possibility.
6. OREGON STATE BEAVERS
When you think of Oregon State it's not hard to think Rodgers times two. The two brothers, Heisman candidate RB Jacquizz Rodgers and all Pac-10 WR James Rodgers, will lead eight returning offensive returning starters for the Beavers in 2010.
It's no secret that either Jacquizz or James will get the ball on most of the Beavers offensive plays. Even though the defenses have known where the ball is going, the problem is that few have been able to stop the two.
Gone from OSU's offense is All-Pac Ten First Team QB Ryan Canfield. The battle to replace him should be a good one with both So. Ryan Katz and Sr. Peter Lalich expected to compete for the job.
On defense Oregon State returns nine starters from a 2009 team that competed for the Pac-10 title.
For the 2010 Beavers to compete for a Pac-10 title they must find a way to shore up a generous pass defense. With nine returning starters you can expect them to make great strides towards cutting down the opponent's passing yards.
Oregon State has a schedule full of opportunities to exceed expectations. A tough season opener in Dallas at Cowboy's Stadium is only the start.
The Beavers will travel to Boise a couple of weeks after the TCU game to take on a Top-Five rated Boise State Bronco team in what many expect to be a pivotal game for both schools.
There is no doubt the Oregon State Schedule presents a number of opportunities for the Beavers to exceed expectations and pull of the upset of higher ranked teams.
5. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
Jimbo Fisher replaces the legendary Bobby Bowden at Florida State and with Jimbo comes new hope that the Noles will once again climb to the top of NCAA polls.
All 11 offensive starters return for Florida State led by senior quarterback Christian Ponder. The Seminoles offense was very productive at times in 2009, while at other times it appeared to sputter. Will Jimbo Fisher work some magic and make the Noles more consistent offensively in 2010?
The defense has some holes to fill with but do have six returning starters but do return a number from the two-deep that are expected to plug the holes created by graduation.
Exceeding expectations could start early for Florida State in 2010 as they will be tested by a road trip to Norman, Oklahoma to take on the Sooners the first game of the season.
The very next weekend, the Seminoles will host a BYU team that is expected to be looking for revenge from the pounding the Noles gave the Cougars in Provo in 2009.
4. AUBURN TIGERS
The Auburn Tigers return a veteran offensive line and the time is ripe for the Tigers to return to the once feared teams of the past.
The Tigers return a total of 15 starters, seven on offense and eight on the defensive side of the ball. Leading the way on offense will be returning all SEC OT Lee Ziemba and all SEC senior center Ryan Pugh.
You can expect Ziema and Pugh to be opening holes for So. TB Onteno McCalebb, Jr. Eric Smith and Sr. Mario Fannin.
You can expect an improved Auburn defense with nine returning starters and an additional two defenders who started at times during the 2009 season.
The Tigers are hungry and looking for respect from their SEC foes. You should see the Tigers exceed expectations in 2010.
3. ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett looks to be everything he was cracked up to be when recruited out of high school. A great passing quarterback with pocket presence with a beautiful touch on the ball.
It is well known that Mallet initially went to Michigan and then decided he didn't care for new Michigan coach Rich Rod, so he transferred to Arkansas. And the Razorbacks will be very pleased that he did when Arkansas exceeds the pundits expectations in 2010.
Arkansas returns 10 solid starters from the 2009 offense as well as seven on the defense. Expect to see the Razorbacks near the top of the SEC stats offensively in 2010 and expect a much improved defense.
The secondary was the Razorbacks biggest downfall in 2009 but they return most of that group this year and expect considerable improvement over the team that lead the SEC in passing yards allowed.
With some improvement to the secondary unit and an impressive offense returning, Arkansas could be primed to make some serious upset noise in the SEC.
2. WASHINGTON HUSKIES
Steve Sarkisian's second season as the head football coach at the University of Washington is full of excitement. "Sark's" biggest recruit this year was probably the NFL's first pick in the 2010 draft.
Jake Locker decided to return for his senior year instead of entering the NFL draft and earning millions of dollars, most of it guaranteed. How big was Locker's decision to return to the Huskies? About as big as it will ever get in college football.
Why would Locker return and pass on the millions? Perhaps because he knows that he can lead Washington back to the promised land of college football respectability.
The Dawgs return all 11 starters on offense including 1,000 yd. plus rusher Chris Polk and all Pac-10 WR Jermaine Kearse.
The Huskies return nine from a much improved 2009 defense. Expect an even more improved Washington 2010 defense under defensive coordinator Nick Holt (former USC coach).
Sark's Dawgs will be tested early with a game in Provo, Utah against a rated BYU team and then take on Nebraska in Husky Stadium.
It is expected that the Huskies will be greatly improved and become bowl eligible in 2010.....but expectations are made to be broken and this Husky team is primed to upset the Pac-10.
1. BOISE STATE BRONCOS
How is it that a Top-Five rated team can be No. 1 among the Top-10 teams most likely to exceed expectations?
Because there are few who think that the Broncos will actually believe BSU will be a BCS team again in 2010. And even fewer who think they will be rated in the Top-Five when it's all said and done.
Surprise! This is a Bronco team that returns 21 of 22 starters from last season's undefeated Fiesta Bowl team. One of the nation's most productive offenses returns every position plus every two-deep roster position.
Boise State will be led by Heisman candidate and All-American QB Kellen Moore who threw for 39 touchdowns and only three interceptions in 2009. Yes, Moore is pictured (above) as a gladiator, but there are many gladiators on play "on the blue" in Boise this year.
With an explosive offense and a tough, hard hitting defense you can expect the Broncos to exceed expectations and go undefeated again in 2010 and not only return for their third BCS bowl game in four years but play for the national championship in Glendale, Arizona next January.