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College Football Sleepers
by ASA - 08/10/2010
The 2010 College Football season is nearly upon us and while we hear the likes of Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Florida mentioned frequently among the talking heads, there are some very good teams out there that aren’t front page news. These “sleeper” teams may provide some value as you weave your way through the College season. Here are a few of my “underappreciated” and less talked about teams for the upcoming season. I’ll post more as we push toward the season opener.
Boston College Eagles – BC just might be one of the most underappreciated college football programs in the nation. All they do is win. And they do it pretty much every year. Their last losing season was back in 1998. Their overall record since 1998? Try 96-44 on for size. Not bad at all. There spread record during that time? How about 75-57-2 (almost 57%).
Their defense is always tough especially against the run. Last year they finished 15th nationally vs. the run and many of the key members of the Eagles stop unit return in 2010. There is also a good chance that the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, LB Mark Herzlich, will return after successfully fighting cancer last season.
On offense this team loves to run the ball and they are good at it. RB Montel Harris had nearly 1,500 yards on the ground and is one of the top return rushers in the NCAA. At QB, 25-year old former baseball player Mark Shinskie had his ups and downs but now with a full year under his belt we look for him to improve dramatically. With four starters back on the offensive line, including 3 senior starters, expect a big improvement on their 24 PPG performance a year ago.
After winning the ACC Atlantic Division for two consecutive seasons in 2007 and 2008, this team, who was supposed to be rebuilding, finished second last year. They should get a solid jump on the schedule with not a single road game until October 9th. They miss out on both Georgia Tech and Miami (FL) and get most of their tough ACC games at home with the exception of Florida State.
Oregon State Beavers – Believe it or not, the Beavers went into their last two season finales knowing a win would send them to the Rose Bowl. Most would not have guessed that. They did lose both of those “Civil War” battles vs. Oregon however we feel this is the year they have a great chance to break through and beat the Ducks.
OSU has offensive personnel that ranks with any team in the league. They have the best RB and probably the best overall offensive player in the Pac 10 in Jacquizz Rodgers. His brother, James Rodgers is among the best WR’s in the country as he is coming off a 91 catch season. The offensive line returns nearly in tact with 4 of 5 starters back. QB will be the key. Sean Canfield is gone and Ryan Katz is ready to take over. Head coach Mike Riley really likes Katz and says he is both mentally and physically tough. He definitely won’t have to carry the load with all of the talent surrounding him.
The defense was middle of the pack in the conference in most key categories. However, they return 8 starters including what many consider to be the best defensive lineman in the Pac 10, Stephen Paea. The fact is, even with an average defense, this team went right down to the final game in each of the last two seasons with a shot at the Rose Bowl.
This team also tends to get better as the season wears on under one of the best coaches in the nation, Mike Riley. They tend to struggle at times early in the year, but once October hits, they have been money in the bank. In fact, from October 1st on the last three years, this team is a massive 21-5 vs. the number. Watch out for the Beavs.
Auburn Tigers – Scheduling is such a key in college football. With that being said, Auburn has a very nice path laid out in front of them this season. Here is a team that is coming off a solid 8-5 season, they return 15 starters and nobody is talking about them. Not only that, they are very experienced through the two deep as they return more lettermen (50) than anyone in the SEC except Arkansas.
On offense, the Cats scored more points last year (33 per game) than they had in the previous six seasons. They bring back one of the better offensive lines in the country this year. They are very deep and talented at RB led by Mario Fannin and Onterio McCalebb. WR Darvin Adams will be one of the top wideouts in the country. That leads us to QB. Hugely talented Cameron Newton, who originally signed with Florida a few years ago, will be the man. He won a JC National Championship last year.
The defense sucked last year by Auburn standards. After allowing an average of just 15 PPG the previous five seasons, this stop unit gave up nearly 28 PPG last year. With seven seniors slated to start and a potentially great defensive backfield if all are healthy, that number should come down drastically in 2010.
Speaking of the schedule, it’s fairly easy when compared to their SEC counterparts. They only play four road games this season and their first three are definitely winnable (@ Mississippi State, @ Kentucky and @ Ole Miss). Their last roadie is vs. rival Alabama. Remember, last year the Tigers gave the future National Champs all they could handle before losing 26-21 despite outgaining the Tide 332 to 291. This Auburn team will be dangerous this year and could push double digit wins.