College Football's 25 Most Overlooked Coaches, Players and Teams

Carl Stine@@CFBAllDayCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2013

College Football's 25 Most Overlooked Coaches, Players and Teams

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    College football fans have been fed a variety of college football news this offseason.

    Just kidding. The only variety has been when the coverage switches from Johnny Manziel to Jadeveon Clowney.

    This is no slight to them, they deserve coverage, but its been a tad excessive at times.

    We don't need hourly updates on Clowney's presence, nor do we need tweets every five minutes letting us know Manziel's moods.

    The players, teams and coaches on this list are the ones in the shadows, the overlooked, possibly underrated football entities needing to be watched this season. They will be worth your time.

    Oh, by the way, Clowney comin'.

25. Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan

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    Now that Denard Robinson is not at Michigan anymore, the uses of the word "shoelace" in broadcasts of the Wolverines' football games will not be quite as excessive.

    Robinson's replacement at quarterback, Devin Gardner, is not getting a whole lot of press this season, at least when compared to Robinson's ridiculous amount of hype that never actually panned out.

    This is a travesty, as Gardner has the potential to put up monster numbers in 2013.

    He's protected by an excellent offensive line that includes All-American Taylor Lewan, and he will be in the backfield with running back Fitz Toussaint, who will break the 1,000-yard mark in 2013.

    In the five games in which he appeared last season, Gardner scored at least three touchdowns, and in the fifth, he scored two.

    He averaged over 200 yards passing per game, and instinct to scramble will be secondary to making a solid pass, as he develops into a starting quarterback in Al Borges' system.

    Michigan fans may seem a little delusional when they suggest that Gardner is Heisman material, but they are not as far off as one might believe.

24. TCU Horned Frogs

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    The stepchild of the Big 12, finally back in the fold, has the opportunity to become the conference winner this season.

    That is, if Casey Pachall stays clean, Gary Patterson's defense is up to par, and Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy decides his team needs to run the ball on every down.

    Pachall is a talented guy, and his first test this season will be a stout one.

    In a matchup of two of the best coaches currently in college football, the Horned Frogs will take on LSU. If you think that one's going to be a cakewalk for the Tigers, think again.

    The Horned Frogs defense, while young at certain positions, is progressing into something of a force, and could easily be the best defense in the Big 12. Of course, defense is harder to find than Bigfoot in the Big 12, as a matter of fact, that famous video looks remarkably like Bob Stoops.

    All legends aside, TCU had a transitional season last year to adjust with a quarterback thrust into the starting role. With Pachall at the helm, this team is going to be a double-digit-win team.

23. ULM Warhawks

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    ULM is not going to win any BCS games. Heck, they might not even win the Sun Belt conference.

    They are, however, one of the most interesting teams in college football.

    Head coach Todd Berry led his Warhawks to an upset of Arkansas last season early, in one of the best games of 2012.

    The team runs an offense that is on par with the excessively fast-paced offenses of Oregon or Baylor called "funroe."

    It features two quarterbacks on the field at times, quarterbacks Kolton Browning and Cody Wells. Wells is now gone, but just having this option in the playbook gives the offense boost.

    But wait, there's more. The guys line up in the backfield, the snap can go to either, then that quarterback can run, pitch, hand off or pass.

    Confused yet?

    Mark it down now, the highest-scoring game featuring the least amount of defense possible will take place in Waco when these two meet.

22. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

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    Rich Rodriguez is still alive and well and will flourish this season at Arizona.

    Michigan and West Virginia fans, stop booing and hissing.

    Rodriguez led Arizona to wins in five of its last seven games in 2012, including a bowl win over Nevada.

    He is the coach who helped transform Pat White into a monster on the football field, the man who led West Virginia into national prominence and who brought you "the runaway beer truck."

    He then flopped horribly at Michigan, but that is beside the point.

    The Pac-12 South is in a bit of turmoil, Rich-Rod's recruiting chops are rising to the fore and Arizona returns the nation's leading rusher from last season, Ka'Deem Carey.

    While they may not win the conference title, you can expect the Wildcats to have an impact on the Pac-12 race, courtesy of Rodriguez's wizard-like coaching acumen.

21. Gary Patterson, TCU

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    Not to be confused with America's most popular cartoonist, Gary Patterson.

    The head coach of the TCU Horned Frogs is an artist of another type.

    He routinely fields defenses that are underrated, and yet spend the season wreaking havoc.

    He also cannot be separated from his visor, and "rumor has it," he even showers in it. (This is yet to be confirmed.)

    Over the past five seasons, his team has averaged 10.8 wins.

    Pay attention, it won't take him long to make this a regular thing in the Big 12.

20. Glasco Martin, RB, Baylor

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    Look up "second fiddle" in the dictionary, Glasco Martin's face is right there—also, Mark Richt's.

    But that's a story for another day.

    Martin is the second piece in Baylor's ridiculously talented backfield, behind Lache Seastrunk, the flamboyant running back with Heisman aspirations.

    Art Briles' offense can be sure of producing a yet unknown quarterback who will throw for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 500, it's as certain as death and taxes at this point.

    With an offense as loaded as this one is, Martin doesn't get much credit.

    The man is now a senior, coming off a season in which he averaged five yards per carry and scored 15 touchdowns as Seastrunk's backup.

    Turn the radar on and find this guy, he will be extremely productive in 2013.

19. ULL Ragin' Cajuns

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    Terrance Broadway slowly emerged last season as a star.

    The quarterback for Mark Hudspeth's Ragin' Cajuns is a legit threat to put up over 2,500 yards passing in 2013.

    He's accurate and has steadily improved since taking over last season.

    ULL was a hair's-breadth away from upsetting Florida, giving up two touchdowns in the final minute of the game to lose in mind-numbing fashion.

    They will have two chances for big upsets this season, against Arkansas and Kansas State. Broadway will have a field day against Arkansas' defense. The quarterback averaged a whopping 7.3 yards per carry last season and averaged over 14 yards per passing attempt.

    Sun Belt football is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the SEC, pretty much the doorstep away from FCS. That said, teams such as ULL make for some entertaining football, especially in the middle of the week when there is no other football to watch.

18. Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    Texas Tech may be the sixth most talked about college football team in Texas, behind Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor, TCU, UTEP and the Dallas Cowboys.

    Lubbock may or may not be ready for Kliff Kingsbury, but the man who once led the offense on the field will field a pretty decent product as the head coach in 2013.

    While a Big 12 title is almost certainly a little too ambitious, don't be shocked when Kingsbury and the Red Raiders play a factor in the conference title hunt. The offense will almost certainly be high-powered, with a defense that resembles a sieve very closely.

    A big upset would almost certainly boost the Red Raiders, to at least No. 4 on the list of most popular college football teams in Texas.

17. Al Golden, Miami

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    Al Golden deserves more respect for his accomplishments at Miami than he is receiving.

    This man inherited a mess, and he has straightened things out. He now has a team that is positioned on the edge of returning to national prominence.

    The 'Canes finally feel like Miami of yore again, with a team that exudes swagger, talent and explosive capabilities.

    Golden's squad is returning 19 starters from last season, including quarterback Stephen Morris, who has received rave reviews this offseason.

    Golden has done well the past few seasons to bring this team from the brink all the way back to national respectability.

    It won't be long before he wins a national title and begins growing a Howard Schnellenberger-esque moustache.

16. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin has a new head coach, a new system, a new starting running back and an old linebacker.

    Chris Borland has accumulated 147 tackles over the past two seasons and forced eight fumbles.

    He's dynamic, intelligent and the leader of a defense that is shaping up to be stout.

    But he's not the typical Wisconsin player whom some folks picture.

    He's a freak athlete.

    No word yet as to whether his freak punt-blocking abilities are due to a radioactive spider bite or being born on another planet.

15. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

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    Discussion can always be heard regarding Aaron Murray, AJ McCarrron, Braxton Miller, Johnny Manziel and even Marcus Mariota.

    Not as much about Brett Hundley, for whatever reason.

    Hundley gets some recognition, but not near enough. He scored 38 total touchdowns last season, threw for over 3,700 yards and did so with panache.

    For some reason, Arizona State is being talked up as the cream of the Pac-12 South, when UCLA won the division last season.

    With Hundley at the helm of the offense, in his second season in the system, he deserves a little more respect.

    That's especially true since he was within a game of taking his team to the Rose Bowl.

14. Northern Illinois Huskies

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    "MACtion"—that's where it is at.

    Middle-of-the-week football, laced with stars from schools that you wouldn't normally perceive as having this kind of talent.

    Take Northern Illinois University (NIU), for example.

    The team went to a BCS game last season and lost.

    That said, quarterback Jordan Lynch is back, and the Huskies schedule, on paper, appears even more favorable than it did last season.

    So while this offense, led by Lynch, rattles off another double-digit-win season and tries to find its way back into a BCS game, sit back and enjoy the "MACtion."

13. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona

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    De'Anthony Thomas is on ESPN's Heisman Watch.

    So is Lache Seastrunk.

    Neither of them led their respective conferences in rushing last season.

    Neither of them finished inside the top 50 in rushing yards nationally last season.

    Meanwhile, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey toiled in relative obscurity and finished as the nation's leader in rushing yards with 1,929 in 2012.

    And yet, for some reason, he is missing from this watch list.

    It's a perceived slight, but it just demonstrates that Carey is not getting any respect.

    This needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

12. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

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    We like to talk about Ohio State and Michigan, Penn State's issues, Wisconsin's three straight Rose Bowl losses and Nebraska's apparent adjustment to Big Ten life (finally).

    What about Mark Dantonio and Michigan State?

    Dantonio is the forgotten man in the pantheon of Big Ten coaches, who has led his team to 29 combined wins over the course of the last three seasons.

    That's more over that time span than Mack Brown and Mark Richt.

    Dantonio has had little to no trouble fielding an elite defense.

    If he can hammer out some of the concerns on offense, meaning find a quarterback who can actually complete a pass with something approaching regularity, his team is going to be scary good.

11. Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

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    How the blue blazes has this guy been overlooked?

    Perhaps it's a side effect of working in Randy Edsall's system.

    Diggs exploded onto the scene last season in the ACC, posting 848 yards receiving. That number is not overly impressive, taken at face value.

    But he accomplished this as a freshman, in a season when everyone except the waterboy played quarterback for the Terrapins.

    Diggs, somehow, only made the preseason All-ACC squad as a return man, which is ludicrous.

    He is easily one of the best wide receivers in the ACC, even leaving out the stellar return capabilities.

10. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

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    Northwestern is finally gaining some traction, earning a preseason ranking this year and attracting some notice outside of Evanston.

    Thank you, Coach Fitzgerald.

    This program, long synonymous with football mediocrity, needed a shot in the arm. Pat Fitzgerald has provided that.

    He's one of only three coaches in school history to lead the team to three consecutive winning seasons.

    He's one of only two head coaches in school history to lead the team to a bowl victory.

    He has the most wins of any coach in school history, and it appears he is just warming up.

    The man who once anchored the Wildcat defense is now leading the program into unprecedented territory, attempting to reach a sixth consecutive bowl game.

    At some schools, these accomplishments would not be all that impressive. At the football graveyard that has been Northwestern football, Fitzgerald is working miracles.

9. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss

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    At times during the 2012 season, it appeared that rather than "Bo knows," "Bo doesn't have any awareness of anything going on around him" might be a better slogan for Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace.

    By season's end, he led the nation in interceptions thrown, shrugged shoulders and quizzical looks to the sideline.

    But heading into 2013, there is much to be excited about for Wallace. He was young last season, and in spite of his difficulty completing passes to his own team, he managed to post 30 total touchdowns.

    All he will have to do this season is feed receiver Donte Moncrief, and things will be fine.

    No, seriously Wallace, feed Moncrief.

8. Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Yes, the Mississippi State Bulldogs are overlooked.

    That doesn't mean it's not justified. The thought that Dan Mullen's team can compete with Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M is more comical than thinking that Hines Ward actually returned a kickoff for a touchdown in Dark Knight Rises.

    But Ward's character actually did, and MSU might surprise you this season.

    The offense returns six starters, including quarterback Tyler Russell and running back LaDarius Perkins, who finished second in the SEC in all-purpose yards.

    The offensive line returns Blaine Clausell, a guy with All-American talent and three other starters.

    So while we laugh at the idea that Mississippi State could knock off the elite SEC teams, expect Dan Mullen's squad to play a major role in the national picture this season with a major upset.


7. David Shaw, Stanford

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    Stop talking about Harbaugh.

    This is David Shaw's team.

    Harbaugh didn't take this team to the Rose Bowl and win. He didn't make a midseason adjustment to his quarterback situation that proved to be one of the smartest moves of the season. He didn't have to, with Andrew Luck holding down the position.

    David Shaw, the head coach at Stanford, deserves more credit.

    This team is a grinding, physical team that brings the pain on offense and defense.

    With the right breaks, Shaw could waltz his team right into the BCS title game.

    That's something Harbaugh never did.

6. Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall

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    It wasn't Geno Smith, Landry Jones, Johnny Manziel or Aaron Murray who led the nation in passing yards per game last season.

    It was Rakeem Cato, quarterback of the Marshall Thundering Herd.

    And most of you just said "who."

    He averaged over 350 yards per game and threw for 37 touchdowns, good enough for third in the nation.

    And he was a sophomore playing for a team that couldn't make the postseason.

    Cato will put up some of the best numbers in college football this season and will have a shot at a big-time upset against Virginia Tech in 2013.

5. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

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    Yes, Dabo Swinney is the real name of a college football coach.

    Clemson has gotten better every season that Swinney has been the head coach.

    Quarterback Tajh Boyd is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and the team has had a breakout wide receiver in each of the past two seasons.

    Swinney and his team took on LSU in last season's bowl game and did so by running the offense at a ridiculous pace against an extremely stout defense.

    Swinney has blown the doors off the ACC with his explosive offense and will have a unit in 2013 with the potential to do so again.

    If he keeps it up, and if a team led by a man named Dabo can actually compete in an ACC title game without being obstructed by some obscure NCAA rule, the Tigers have a shot at making the verb describing this program's performance a thing of the past.

4. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Nebraska doesn't play Wisconsin or Ohio State in 2013.

    The team hosts Northwestern and Michigan State.

    And Taylor Martinez, not Braxton Miller, will be the best quarterback in the Big Ten.

    The Huskers have struggled recently against mobile quarterbacks on defense, but return some depth on that side of the ball, as well as a raging head coach whose face turns bright red at the very thought of an opponent's first down.

    He was red way too often last season.

    All that said, Martinez is the key for Nebraska. The senior quarterback has improved his accuracy, mechanics and hairdo every season, but still has some work to do.

    He has the wheels to make a difference in any game and has been in Bo Pelini's system long enough to know it inside and out.

    The Huskers were in the Big Ten title game last season, mauled by Wisconsin, and emerged wondering how the Badgers got away with fielding 11 Jadeveon Clowney clones.

    The talent that got them to that game is still present, and while Michigan appears to be the favorite to win the division, the Huskers are prepared to keep the Wolverines out of contention for the Rose Bowl for yet another season.

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

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    Bill Snyder is Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

    There is no other explanation.

    That or he made a deal with the devil, Faust style.

    Who else in the nation can cobble together a top-10 team from a band of JUCO transfers, a quarterback who makes Tim Tebow look like Tom Brady for accuracy and a program featuring purple uniforms?

    This man is a living legend and should be treated as such.

    Respect him, love him, pay attention to what he does or he may send you to the abyss with extreme prejudice.

2. Carl Bradford, LB, Arizona State

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    His name sounds more appropriate for a college professor than a beast of a linebacker.

    When he blitzes, opposing linemen fall down in fear.

    When he stomps the ground, the repercussions are felt as far away as Phoenix.

    He is...the most underrated linebacker in college football.

    Bradford doesn't get much press because he plays on the same defense as Will Sutton. He should.

    While Sutton posted 23.5 tackles for loss in 2012, Bradford checked in with 21.5.

    That is ridiculous.

    Fear the fork, my friends, fear the fork.

1. Chaz "the Other DE" Sutton, DE, South Carolina

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    Chaz Sutton is easily one of the most overlooked guys in college football.

    He plays on the opposite end of the South Carolina defensive line from some guy named Clowney.

    You may have heard his name at some point during your daily perusal of digital media.

    But back to Sutton. The man posted five sacks and seven tackles for loss last season.

    Clowney casts a long shadow and draws all kinds of attention—both on and off the gridiron.

    Sutton is going to need some of that attention this season, for he's going to have a monster season.