College Football 2010: Seven Unranked Teams That Could Crash BCS Party
This college football season could be as wild and crazy as any in recent memory. Alabama is the clear-cut favorite, with Ohio State trailing.
The third-ranked team in the country is Boise State, and all that means is that any number of teams could make a run at a conference championship and BCS bowl bid this season.
Boise State is finally getting the credit it deserves, but the fact that the school is ranked third in the country shows that the quantity of dominant teams is few and far between this season.
Even Alabama and Ohio State are by no means shoo-ins to win their respective conferences this season.
The college football rankings never end up the way they start and this year will be no different as there are many solid teams that are ranked outside the top 25.
This is a list of seven unranked teams that could potentially win their conferences and head to a BCS bowl come January.
The Cardinal has been a trendy pick to win the Pac-10 this season, and it's easy to see why when you consider how far it has come since Jim Harbaugh began his tenure at the helm in 2007.
Stanford has many valuable players returning this season, even after the loss of its star running back, Toby Gerhart, to the NFL.
The most valuable is junior quarterback Andrew Luck. He has the pro scouts raving with his 6'4" sturdy frame, and his ability to stretch the field with his arm.
Luck will be the player to watch for the Cardinal this season as he tries to become the first Stanford QB to win the Heisman since Jim Plunkett won the award in 1970.
Luck is not the only playmaker returning for Stanford this season, as his top wide receiver, Ryan Whalen, will be returning as well.
The 6'2" receiver was Luck's primary target last season, reeling in 57 receptions for 926 yards and four touchdowns.
The Cardinal defense wasn't great last season, giving up 26.5 points per game, but they didn't have to be with the team's high-scoring offense that averaged 35.5 points per game.
Stanford's defense will need to improve this season if the team is to reach the top of the Pac-10 and earn a trip to Pasadena in January.
After finishing with an 8-5 record last season, most believe the team will be even better, and Stanford fans could be celebrating a conference title and BCS bowl as early as this season.
The Bearcats had a fantastic season last year, going 12-0 before getting thumped in the Sugar Bowl by Tebow & Co.
They then lost coach Brian Kelly to Notre Dame and their biggest offensive weapon in wide receiver Mardy Gilyard to the NFL.
Cincinnati has holes to fill and questions to answer if it is to return to New Orleans this season, but the Bearcats still have a great chance at doing so.
New head coach Butch Jones will be relying heavily on returning quarterback Zach Collaros this season to continue the offensive success the Bearcats enjoyed last year.
Collaros saw action for Cincinnati in nine games last season, flourishing in the Bearcats' spread attack.
The 6'1" junior quarterback completed 75 percent of his attempts while throwing for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Collaros will be looking in the direction of senior wide receiver Armon Binns often this season as Binns takes over as the team's go-to-guy on offense with the departure of Gilyard.
Binns is an athletic, 6'3" receiver who caught 61 passes for 888 yards and 11 touchdowns a season ago.
Isaiah Pead returns as the team's leading rusher after running for over 800 yards last season. Collaros also has the ability to run as he ran for 344 yards last season, third most on the team.
The big unknown for the Bearcats this season is how well the offense will play with Jones at the helm as opposed to Kelly.
Cincinnati fans are hoping they won't skip a beat, and the team does have a favorable conference slate as it gets Pittsburgh and Rutgers at home.
The toughest test of the season may come on Nov. 13 when the squad travels to Morgantown to take on West Virginia.
The Bearcats start the season as the first team out in both polls and if they can take care of business at home, they have an excellent chance of repeating as Big East champs this season.
UConn is another Big East team with the potential to surprise this season. The Huskies will get a good test of where they stand when they enter the Big House on Saturday to take on Michigan.
The Huskies have a very favorable conference schedule this season as they get Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Cincinnati all at home.
UConn doesn't stand out on either side of the ball, but they are solid on both sides. Last season, they finished in the top 50 in the country in scoring offense and defense.
The Huskies relied on their rushing attack last season, as they ran for an average of 170.7 yards per game, and this season should be much of the same.
UConn returns its leading rusher from a season ago in running back Jordan Todman. The 5'9" back led the Huskies with 1,188 yards rushing last season while finding the end zone 14 times.
Senior quarterback Zach Fraser will be called upon to be an efficient signal-caller for the Huskies while Todman shoulders the load.
The UConn defense is led by senior linebackers Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson. Both players have the chance to play on Sundays in the future and both will be counted on this season for leadership on the defensive side of the ball.
UConn coach Randy Edsall has a good group of talent to work with this season and the Huskies will be looking to make a statement after winning eight games last year.
Nebraska is the clear favorite in the Big XII North this season, but no one should count out the Missouri Tigers.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert returns for his junior season to lead the Tigers offense following his sophomore campaign, in which he threw for 3,593 yards and 24 touchdowns.
The Tigers lost their top two receivers from a year ago, including Danario Alexander who had over 1,700 yards receiving.
Alexander will be especially tough to replace, but Mizzou seems to churn out productive players on offense with every new season so there is no reason to think this year will be any different.
One potential candidate to assume the role of playmaker for the Tigers offense is junior wide receiver Wes Kemp.
Kemp averaged 18.4 yards per catch last season as he hauled in 23 catches for 418 yards and three touchdowns.
Kemp also has the size that the Tigers look for at the position with his 6'4" frame, similar to Alexander, who is 6'5".
The Tigers should once again boast one of the conference's top offenses, but the key to their season will be the defense.
The Tigers must find a way to replace linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who was selected in the first round of the NFL draft in April.
The team took a hit with the recent suspension of senior running back Derrick Washington, but the Tigers should still have enough firepower on offense to challenge for the Big XII North title this season and another shot in a BCS bowl.
Boston College Eagles
Boston College fans are hoping their Eagles will soar this season after the return of linebacker Mark Herzlich.
Herzlich was an inspiration to the BC players last season after sitting out while battling cancer, but now that he has won the battle and been cleared to return to action this season, he will be an even bigger inspiration.
Herzlich will no doubt be the leader of the BC defense, as he is currently rated as the No. 11 prospect in the country by ESPN's Scouts Inc.
The Eagles defense was the strength of their team last season when they allowed just 19.8 points per game, which ranked them 19th in the country.
The Golden Eagles offense struggled at times last season and will need to take a step forward this year if they are to overtake Clemson for the Atlantic division crown in the ACC.
The BC offense will need improved play from the quarterback position this season as the starting job is still up for grabs with only six days until the Eagles take on Weber State.
Last season's starting quarterback, Dave Shinskie completed only 51.7 percent of his passes while throwing for 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Shinskie is currently locked in a tight battle for the starting job with fellow sophomore Mike Marscovetra.
Shinskie is the incumbent so conventional wisdom would have him landing the job, but after his struggles last season, no one can blame BC head coach Frank Spaziani for taking his time in deciding who will play this season.
If BC is able to get its act together on offense then the team will have a great chance to contend for the ACC crown, but if not, it could be a long season for Eagles fans.
Texas A&M Aggies
With the loss of quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy to the NFL, the race for the top spot in the Big XII South is wide open.
Texas A&M struggled last season, going 6-7 on the season and finishing 3-5 in conference play, but there are some big reasons to be optimistic in College Station this season.
The biggest reason is the Aggies starting quarterback, a 6'5", 245-pound mountain of a man with a rocket for an arm, Jerrod Johnson.
Johnson finished last season completing 59.6 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,579 yards and 30 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
Johnson put the ball in the air a lot last season for the A&M offense, attempting 497 passes, and this year figures to be no different.
The Aggies liked to spread the ball around on offense, as nine receiver had at least 15 catches last season.
Wide receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu should be Johnson's favorite target this season, as he is the leading returning at the position after catching 40 balls for 708 yards and six touchdowns a season ago.
The A&M defense will need to show major improvement from last season if they are going to challenge in the South this season.
The Aggies' defense gave up an average of 33.5 points per game last season, ranking them 105th in the country.
This season the defense will be led sack-artist Von Miller, who fills the DE/LB spot for the Aggies and is a terror to contend with for opposing offensive lines.
Miller was named to the Lombardi Award watch list which is given annually to the best player at either linebacker, defensive line or offensive line.
Miller will almost certainly be a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and the Aggies will need him to be at his best in every contest if they are going to be successful this season.
The Aggies have work to do, but if they can come together on defense, they will have a shot at the Big XII South title and possibly even a BCS Bowl.
The Washington Huskies will win the Pac-10 this season.
Jake Locker will win the Heisman Trophy this season.
Now that we have that out of the way, the Washington Huskies will be one of eight teams with a legitimate chance to win the Pac-10 title.
The Huskies are led by one of the top quarterbacks in the country in Jake Locker.
Locker is a preseason favorite to end up in New York for the Heisman ceremony and a virtual lock to be taken within the top-five picks in next April's NFL Draft.
Locker is one of the best running quarterbacks in the country and he has one of the strongest arms to go with his scrambling ability.
Second-year coach Steve Sarkisian turned Locker into a pro-style quarterback last season, forcing Locker to abandon the spread offense to which he had always been accustomed.
Locker responded by increasing his completion percentage from 53.8 percent to 58.2 percent last season under Sarkisian.
Locker is by no means the only weapon on the Huskies offense this season, as running back Chris Polk returns fresh off his 1,100 yard season last year.
Polk is one of the top running backs in the country with his combination of speed and power.
Polk rarely goes down without a fight and should be a great asset once again this year for Locker.
Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse will be Locker's favorite target through the air this season, as he caught 50 passes for 866 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
The defense improved last season under fiery coordinator Nick Holt and should continue to get better this year as they will be led by senior linebacker Mason Foster and sophomore corner back Desmond Trufant, brother of Seahawks corner Marcus Trufant.
Washington is a program on the rise, and fans should expect a return to prominence this season with a trip to Pasadena on the horizon in Locker's final season at UW.