College Football 2011: 5 Unranked Teams to Be Feared This Season

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2011

College Football 2011: 5 Unranked Teams to Be Feared This Season

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    Every year several teams pop in and out of the Top 25.

    Some teams stick around. Others fall out as fast as they fell in.

    The teams that stick around at times make waves in the BCS picture, and become a group that no one wants to see at the end of a momentous season.

    In 2011, this situation will be no different.

    Several teams will rise out of nowhere, and crash the BCS party.

    Here are five teams who could make waves in 2011:

Florida Gators

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    The Florida Gators endured a rough first year in the post-Tebow era.

    They finished 8-5, and could not find a quarterback able to run the spread offense as well as Tim Tebow had in his four seasons there.

    Coming into 2011, the Gators are led by a new coach, Will Muschamp, after Urban Meyer stepped aside for personal reasons.

    Under the new coaching regime, the Gators should have more energy on both sides of the ball.

    John Brantley will be given another shot to lead this team behind center, but if he can't get it done the ball could go to Jeff Driskell.

    Look for the Gators to win with their defense, and use Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey out of the backfield as big-time weapons.

USC Trojans

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    In Lane Kiffin's first season as head coach of the USC Trojans, they finished 8-5.

    2011 will be Kiffin's second season, and should also be a much more successful one.

    Quarterback Matt Barkley is one of the best signal callers in the country. He has play making targets to throw too, especially Robert Woods. Woods is a great athlete. He has the ability to get by the defense on any given play.

    The Trojan defense should be more comfortable with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's system.

    Their front seven is athletic, and will create pressure on the quarterback.

    By season's end, the Trojans will be around. Barkley is capable of putting up very big numbers in this offense and could find himself in the mix for the Heisman trophy.

Maryland Terrapins

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    Former University of Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall has taken over for long-time coach Ralph Friedgen.

    The cupboard is not bare in College Park.

    Heavy expectations are on the head of quarterback Danny O'Brien. Quintin McCree is a capable target, as is Adrian Coxson. Coxson is now eligible after transferring the University of Florida.

    The defense is led by Kenny Tate. He will be given the freedom to roam the field in Edsall's defense. His athleticism will allow him to disrupt the passing game. His strength will allow him to terrorize the backfield.

    Edsall had reasonable success with the Huskies in the Big East. The ACC is not a powerful conference, and that schedule could benefit the Wolfpack's climb into the rankings.

Missouri Tigers

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    The Missouri Tigers will be forced to work a new quarterback into the fold after the loss of Blaine Gabbert to the NFL.

    Whether it will be James Franklin or Ashton Glasser could also be in the mix after Tyler Gabbert's transfer to Louisville.

    The Tigers return ten starters on offense and should be a very solid unit.

    Tight end Michael Egnew is a solid weapon and T.J. Moe is a reliable target out wide.

    Defensively, the Tigers will need to replace Aldon Smith but Brad Madison should soften the blow of that loss.

    Two starting linebackers and two starting defensive backs also return on the Tigers' defense.

    The experience on both sides of the ball should keep this team in the hunt throughout the year. If a few things go their way, the Tigers could be on the prowl in 2011.

Texas Longhorns

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    The Texas Longhorns plummeted from a 13-win, 2009 season with Colt McCoy to a five-win, 2010 season with a committee of quarterbacks.

    The Longhorns are a proud program and will look to bounce back in 2011.

    Garrett Gilbert will get another look at quarterback but will be pushed by Case McCoy and Connor Wood.

    With prized recruit Malcolm Brown entering the mix at running back, the Longhorns could gain a major playmaker on offense.

    The strength of this team is its defense.

    Safety Blake Gideon and linebacker Emmanuel Acho are leaders and provide consistent overall presences on defense. Kheeston Randall is the best defensive player on the Longhorns' team and is possibly the best defensive tackle in the nation.

    Mack Brown is 133-34 in his 13-year career with the Longhorns. He does not like to lose.

    Look for the Longhorns to be making some familiar noise in 2011.