College Football 2011: Five Teams Who Could Surprise This Season
As we sit and prepare for pro football’s biggest games, part of the football offseason includes looking forward to next season.
Phase one of the college football offseason is over; players have declared their intentions to enter the draft or remain in school. Plus, there have been numerous coaching changes.
Let’s take a look at a few schools that could surprise some people in 2011.
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Andrew Luck took the college football world by storm, throwing for 3,338 yards and 32 touchdowns and finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting. He led the Cardinal to a 12-1 record, a 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech and the No. 4 overall ranking.
However, while Luck chose to stay in school for his senior season, his head coach Jim Harbaugh chose to accept a job across town with the San Francisco 49ers.
Luck will look to retain his No. 1-draft-pick stock and will try to get the Cardinal their first national title since 1926.
This one may not seem like it would be a surprise, but many people would bet a drop-off after the departure of Harbaugh.
Big 12: Colorado
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The Buffs have underachieved for quite a few seasons. In fact, they haven’t had a winning season since 2005 when they went 7-6.
Head coach Dan Hawkins was fired mid-season in November; he went 19-39 in his four-plus years in Boulder. In his place, Colorado hired former Washington Redskins tight end coach Jon Embree.
Quarterback Tyler Hansen, entering his senior season, will look to close out his college career in a positive way. He began the season as the starter, but in their seventh game, after suffering a ruptured spleen, was forced to miss the remainder of the season. In his truncated season, Hansen threw for 1,102 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions.
Big Ten: Michigan
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The Michigan Wolverines stormed out of the gate in 2010, winning their first five games of the season, including victories over UConn and Notre Dame.
Sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson broke out on the scene this year, passing for 2,570 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushing for 1,702 yards and 14 touchdowns. He had nine games in which he ran for over 100 yards and two of over 200 yards.
Rich Rodriguez was fired as head coach right after the new year, going 15-22 in his three seasons as the Wolverines’ coach. Michigan followed by hiring Brady Hoke, in hopes of returning to its winning form as it was under Lloyd Carr.
In addition to Michigan’s hope to climb up the Big Ten ranks, they’ll look to take advantage of arch rival Ohio State and their suspension issues. Five Buckeyes will be forced to sit out the first five games next season (if they return to school). Those players include star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, starting running back Dan Herron, No. 2 wide receiver DeVier Posey and All-Big Ten tackle Mike Adams.
Big East: Syracuse
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Being a native upstate New Yorker, I try to keep up on Syracuse as much as possible. This past season, the Orange were very impressive, especially compared to recent years.
The team went 8-5, their first season over .500 since 2001.
The surprising part of it was that it was with Doug Marrone as the head coach, who is in only his second season at the helm.
Syracuse was able to notch quality conference victories over West Virginia, Cincinnati and Rutgers. In addition, they defeated Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl to wrap up the season.
Coming from 4-8 in 2009 to 8-5 the very next season is a tremendous turnaround. Quarterback Ryan Nassib will be back for his senior season and will look to improve upon this past year.
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The Gators are coming off of their lowest season win total in Urban Meyer’s tenure in Gainesville. Perhaps that’s why Meyer announced in December that he was resigning as Florida’s head coach.
The team went 8-5 and despite managing a victory in the Outback Bowl against Penn State, the Gators lost key inter-conference games against Alabama, LSU and South Carolina.
After Meyer’s departure, Florida hired former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. In addition to Muschamp, they also signed former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis as their offensive coordinator.
Quarterback John Brantley will be coming into his senior season. This past season he threw for 2,061 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 touchdowns. He’s been pedestrian so far in his career but could thrive in a new system with a proven coach like Weis.