College Football 2011 Predictions: 5 Dark-Horse Teams with Chances to Win BCS

Eric BowmanFeatured ColumnistJune 15, 2011

College Football 2011 Predictions: 5 Dark-Horse Teams with Chances to Win BCS

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 07:  Quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Texas A&M Aggies looks to throw a pass against the Louisiana State University Tigers during the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on January 7, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Chris
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The 2011 college football season isn't far away. 

    We already know who the favorites are for this upcoming season, but what about those teams that may surprise you? 

    They say not to pay too much attention to the preseason top 25, and even though there isn't an official list yet, there has been much speculation about who belongs in the top 25. The preseason top 25 sets the tone for the upcoming season, and it gives a few teams extra motivation for the season.  

    The list that follows features teams in my preseason top 25. These teams aren't considered the favorites in their conferences, but they do have an outside chance of winning the BCS National Championship this year.

    Nobody thinks these teams can win it now, but as the season moves on, these teams could be in contention. 

    Any team has a chance at winning the title. Here are five dark-horse teams that, if they play to potential, can win the BCS National Championship.  

5. Virginia Tech Hokies

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Frank Beamer of the Virginia Tech Hokies watches pre-game warmups before the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against the Tennessee Volunteers at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Hokies beat the Volunteers
    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    Frank Beamer always does enough to get by. Just when you think the Virginia Tech Hokies are done, they find a way to turn it around. 

    You might be wondering how a team that lost its quarterback and top two running backs will still be a force this year. Beamer always recruits well and doesn't have a hard time rebuilding a team. 

    The Hokies will rely on Logan Thomas to lead them to victory. The 6'6", 242-pound QB has a strong arm, and he's mobile. If Thomas lives up to the hype, the Hokies will be just fine. The Hokies return four offensive lineman and seven starters on an improved defense.  

    Virginia Tech also has a favorable schedule. The ACC isn't that strong, and because the Hokies don't have to play Florida State this year, they could run the table. 

    Their toughest opponent comes near the end of the season when they host North Carolina, who lost their quarterback as well.  

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Head coach Brian Kelly and quarterback Tommy Rees #13 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish embrace after the game against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  No
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The Fighting Irish first have to figure out who their quarterback is. Will it be Dayne Crist or Tommy Rees? 

    Both have solid experience, but I give the edge to Crist. If he stays healthy all season long, Notre Dame will be very dangerous. 

    The Fighting Irish are very thankful Michael Floyd decided to return to school, but they're hoping he stops getting into trouble. They'll need him to be good off the field and great on the field.

    Notre Dame returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense. Their schedule isn't too difficult, but they will have a tough time in the month of September. They play at Michigan, host Michigan State and then travel to Pittsburgh. 

    The Irish will also face USC. In total they play in nine games against 2010 bowl teams, so it's not going to be easy...

    But the Irish have a fighting chance.  

3. Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    STILLWATER, OK - SEPTEMBER 05:  Wide receiver Justin Blackmon #81 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys warms up before the college football game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Boone Pickens Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  The Cowboys defe
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Oklahoma State Cowboys' 2011 season will be determined by the play of quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon. 

    The Cowboys no longer have to fight to be in the Big 12 championship game because there isn't one. If they win their games, then they have a very good chance of reaching the BCS title game.

    It won't be easy for the Cowboys because they have to replace Kendall Hunter. They will rely on Joseph Randle and incoming freshman Herschel Sims.  

    Their toughest game will come at the end of the season against rival Oklahoma. There is a high possibility that both teams could be undefeated. 

    The 2011 season won't be easy for the Cowboys with road games at Texas A&M, Texas and Missouri, but the Cowboys are talented enough to win them all. 

    The defense is the main concern as the Cowboys will have to replace six starters, but the offense can certainly carry this team. 

2. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    AUBURN - OCTOBER 16:  Backup quarterback Tyler Wilson #8 of the Arkansas Razorbacks threw for 332 yards and 4 touchdowns during the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  The Tigers beat the Razorbac
    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    The Arkansas Razorbacks' entire season depends on the play of Tyler Wilson. You may remember him from his limited action against Auburn during the 2010 season. 

    Wilson displayed signs of brilliance in that game, but he also showed he still needed work. It won't be easy for Wilson to replace Ryan Mallett, but he definitely has the talent to keep the Razorbacks in contention.

    To help Wilson transition to the starting role, the Razorbacks will rely heavily on 1,300-yard rusher Knile Davis. The Razorbacks also have one of the best receiving corps in the nation in Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright. Childs is the best on the team, but he suffered an injury in 2010. 

    A healthy Childs will make life easier for Wilson. In addition to a loaded offense, the Hogs return eight starters on an improving defense. 

    Of course, Arkansas has a tough schedule playing in the SEC. The Razorbacks host Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State. They have travel to Alabama and LSU as well as play Texas A&M on neutral sites.

    If Arkansas can manage to survive the brutal schedule and come away with only one loss, then they will be in great position to play for the BCS title game. The Razorbacks have the fewest questions of the top SEC West teams as Alabama and LSU both have greater quarterback concerns than Arkansas. 

    As I said before, their season depends on how well new quarterback Tyler Wilson plays. If he's close to level of Mallett, then watch out for Arkansas.   

1. Texas A&M Aggies

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    AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 25:  Quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 of Texas A&M during the game against University of Texas in the first half at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 25, 2010 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
    Darren Carroll/Getty Images

    The Aggies will need quarterback Ryan Tannehill to play as well as he did down the stretch in 2010 in order for them to reach the title game. 

    Tannehill was able to beat Oklahoma, Texas, and Nebraska. Had he been the starter earlier in the season, there's a chance the Aggies could have beaten the Oklahoma State Cowboys. They only lost by three. 

    The offense is loaded with 10 total starters returning and features Tannehill, 1,000-yard wide receiver Jeff Fuller, and 1,100-yard rusher Cyrus Gray. Nine starters return on defense, but the toughest challenge is replacing linebacker Von Miller. 

    Their schedule won't be easy, but they know they can beat the big boys of the Big 12. The Aggies host Oklahoma State, Missouri and Texas. They travel to Oklahoma and play Arkansas at a neutral site.

    They are a solid all-around team that, with a little luck, can find themselves in the title game.   

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