The ebb and flow of college football demands that some teams improve substantially, while other teams fall from grace. That is the nature of a sport in which every player has a four year shelf life.
One of the most improved teams of 2010 was Auburn, which went from 8-5 to 14-0. Michigan State was another team that made great strides. In 2010, the Spartans went from the previous season's 6-7 to 11-2. Then there was Miami (Ohio). The Red Hawks went from 1-11 in 2009 to 10-4 in 2010.
To some degree, these improvements were predictable. After all, Auburn returned almost its entire offense and a substantial portion of its defense. Plus the Tigers fielded a pretty good Juco transfer under center.
Meanwhile, in 2010, MSU didn't even leave the state of Michigan until the end of October. On the other hand, 2009 saw the Spartans playing two ranked opponents and two away games before September was out.
Finally, Miami (OH) had a ridiculous turnover margin of minus-24 in 2009. As the Red Hawks started a freshman at quarterback and turnovers tend to fluctuate from year-to-year, it was a safe bet that they would be much better in this capacity in 2010. This would logically lead to more wins.
Certainly, these clues didn't give any sort of guarantee that Auburn, Michigan State and Miami (OH) would improve quite as much as they did, but one had to expect a bump in the win column.
As we head into 2011, there will be a new group of teams that will improve.
In my opinion, every team on this list is a safe pick for more wins. Just how many more wins is where it becomes sketchy.