College Football 2011: 5 Under-the-Radar Teams That Could Win It All in January
Just last year, I previewed eight "Under the Radar" teams that I felt could make a run to the BCS National Championship game.
One of those teams, Auburn, actually did the deed.
Four of those teams went on to play in their conference championship games (Auburn, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Florida State) and a fifth went on to play in a BCS bowl game (Stanford).
Not a bad effort, but it is time for bigger and maybe even better things.
Time to make another run at who are the best under the radar teams in 2011 that could end up in New Orleans playing for it all.
This year, I can only come up with five contenders to that notion of under the radar.
The Hokies lost a ton of talent off of a team that was ranked in the preseason Top 10 just last year.
In 2011, look for the Hokies to be ranked outside of the preseason Top 10.
Despite the fact they have won the ACC title three out of the last four years, most people are expecting a dive from the Hokies in 2011.
Four-year starter Tyrod Taylor is gone at QB.
Stud RBs in Ryan Williams and Darren Evans? Off to the greener pastures of the NFL.
With only 13 starters returning for the Hokies, this abominable mess means an assured step down in the ACC, right?
Not so fast.
Frank Beamer and long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster have been around the block a few times.
David Wilson is an electric RB that has been chomping at the bit to unleash his skills on the college football world. The Hokies also return two All-Conference performers to their ledger on the offensive line.
Defense won't be a problem. Question is: Can the Hokies score enough?
With four near-guaranteed wins to start the season, the Hokies start conference play at home against Clemson and Miami, FL.
And that is the meat of their schedule.
With Wake Forest, Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia as their only road games, this is a team with a schedule so deficient of competition that they can be 12-0 without actually having beat anybody.
Beat Clemson and Miami at home and...
The Hokies could run the table with a normal strong defense and little offense. When and if they roll to a 6-0 record, confidence will roll amongst this team and they could easily sneak in under the radar and become a very large part of the national title talk.
The former Miami coach that led the Hurricanes to two national titles under his care has a team ready to surprise in 2011.
Coming off of a dismal 6-6 season that did not include a bowl bid, Dennis has a team returning 20 starters including the much-maligned QB Steven Threet.
Entering his third season as the starter at QB, Threet will be the trigger man for an offense looking for more spark.
He'll likely get that with his entire offensive starting unit returning.
While chastised a bit during his career, Threet has the tools to make this offense more than good.
Throw in a defense with Vontaze Burfict returning and Arizona State has some parts brewing that many simply don't have.
Even with the six losses last year, Arizona State was never really out of any ball game outside of the whipping they took from California.
The schedule is tough with early games against Missouri, @Illinois and USC at home, followed by @Utah, @Oregon and @UCLA.
Too tough a schedule for ASU to run through? Likely, but Auburn ran the gauntlet last year and did just fine.
You want to doubt Brian Kelly?
He has won at every level he has ever coached.
Notre Dame finally knocked it out of the park with a head coach that can take advantage of the talent and history of Notre Dame Football.
Welcome back to the big time, Irish. College Football has dearly missed you.
With one of the tougher schedules in all of college football, the Irish don't face a real "power" team.
Sure, Michigan, Michigan State and USC sound like tough games, but the Irish are facing a schedule that they are more than ready to run through undefeated.
And an undefeated Irish team will get a serious amount of pub.
With 19 starters returning and a defense that will get better by the week, the Irish are a serious underdog entering 2011. At the very least, they could/should win 10 games. On the top end...who knows.
North Carolina State
NC State? Are you serious Husker Fan?
Yes. I am.
The Wolfpack return a four-year starter at QB in Russell Wilson. They also return 16 starters that will surround a four-year starter at QB.
The schedule is more than manageable with their only road games at Cincinnati, Boston College, Florida State, Virginia and in-state rival North Carolina.
The Wolfpack were more than competitive last year, only getting their lunch handed to them by Virginia Tech 41-30. The rest of their losses were in OT or by less than a TD.
With 16 starters returning, this Wolfpack could create many a problem for their opposition. So much so that they could actually win the ACC.
Don't count this team out from winning 10 or more games in 2011. And with Tom O'Brien in charge with 16 starters returning, don't be shocked if this team shocks you.
2010 was a disaster.
The worst season under the Mack Brown regime ended in a basement finish in the Big 12 South.
Sure, he got a win over Nebraska, but losses to Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M turned into a dismal performance that nobody saw before the season started.
The defense was superb as usual, but the offense was an absolute Longhorn disgrace.
Can the 'Horns turn the table?
Absolutely. The talent on this roster is second to none in the Big 12. The real question is if Garret Gilbert can actually be the man.
Here is saying he can—and with a solid defense, this crew can rebound in a hurry.
While Texas hit rock bottom, they'll rebound in a big way. So big that they can challenge the best of the best in the Big 12. It simply comes down to the Red River Rivalry. Can Texas win that game?
Absolutely. Can they win the rest of their games?
No one should ever doubt the 'Horns.