The Top Sleepers in College Footballs Most Wide Open Divisions
The Top Sleepers in College Footballs Most Wide Open Divisions There are a few things in college football that feel like near certainties—Alabama and Clemson making the College Football Playoff are among that group. And while there are favorites to join them among the sports final four, the ebbs and flows of a grueling 14 week season always find a way to shake things up somehow. Not every team that makes a conference championship game appearance is necessarily on the same plane as the Crimson Tide or the Tigers, but its an opportunity for those sides to show that they can at least compete with the nations premier programs. In some cases, those teams will have to unseat a favorite to get there. In others, theyll emerge as the best from a crowded mish mash of average squads. No matter who it happens, there are plenty of teams that could make some noise this season, even if its not expected from all of them out of the gate. Virginia Cavaliers last season: 8–5, beat South Carolina in Belk Bowl I realize this is a bit of a cop out in the crapshoot Coastal given that the Wahoos finished first in the division in the ACC preseason media poll last month. That said, the Coastal also has a pair of perennial powers Miami and Virginia Tech that could turn a corner at any moment. QB Bryce Perkins finished 11th in the ACC in rushing on his own last season and CB Bryce Hall earned preseason All ACC honors after leading the nation with 22 pass breakups in 2018. Virginia shouldnt really be tested early—it will visit Pitt before playing three home games, including one against Florida State. If the Cavs are 4–0 when they head to South Bend on Sept. 28, that will be the real litmus test to see if they indeed are the cream of the crop in the Coastal. Minnesota Golden Gophers last season: 7–6, beat Georgia Tech in Quick Lane Bowl This race always manages to be wide open, and 2019 shouldnt be an exception. Nebraska or Iowa feels like the favorite here—and thats what voters thought in the unofficial Cleveland.com media poll the Big Ten doesnt do preseason voting . P.J. Fleck is now in his third season, meaning the bar should be a bit higher this year as the Gophers look to build on three wins in their last four games of 2018. The quarterback play is a question mark after neither Zack Annexstad nor Tanner Morgan was truly able to seize the starting job last season, and things were complicated when Annexstad sustained a that will have him out indefinitely. But Minnesotas leading receiver, Tyler Johnson, and rusher, Mo Ibrahim, are both back, and a light start to the year should build toward a critical home game against Nebraska on Oct. 12. TCU Horned Frogs last season: 7–6, beat Cal in Cheez It Bowl Im guessing you probably wish you never had to think about at least if you watched any of it ever again. Nine combined interceptions are, in a word, horrific. But the Horned Frogs are a team that have three New Years Six bowl victories this decade and are just two years removed from an 11 win season. The Big 12 shouldnt be some juggernaut this year outside of favorites Oklahoma and Texas, both of whom could always slip up. TCU will get the opportunity to host the Longhorns after the mid October Red River Rivalry game, meaning a win in Fort Worth could give Gary Pattersons team the chance to control its own destiny. Wideout Jalen Reagor will look to build on a 2018 campaign in which he earned second team all conference honors, as the Horned Frogs have no choice but to rebound from a year in which their offense was one of the worst in the Big 12. USC Trojans last season: 5–7, no bowl game If I were writing this a decade ago, people would look at me like I had 10 eyes. At the start of the 2009 season, Southern California was coming off three straight Rose Bowl wins and just five losses over three seasons. Last year alone, the Trojans lost more games and finished lower in their division than any year since the conference expanded in 2011. Utah is the clear and should be at least a preseason top 20 team. But the Utes will have to deal with USC in a massive early season test when they visit Los Angeles on Sept. 20. The Trojans out of sophomore JT Daniels, the third ranked pro style QB from last years recruiting class, but have the pieces around him to rebound and make a surprise run. Florida Gators last season: 10–3, beat Michigan in Chick Fil A Peach Bowl Alabama and Clemson are the nations clear top two teams—and while its hard to say anyones all that close, it certainly seems like Georgia is a definitive No. 3. The Bulldogs were left out of last years playoff, yet return a team that has players scattered all over the preseason All SEC team. Yet, the Gators should absolutely be in consideration for a spot in the SEC title game. QB Feleipe Franks continues to rise, RB Lamical Perine will be one of the conferences best rushers after finishing just outside the top 10 in yards on the ground last season, and head coach Dan Mullen is one of the most underrated in the conference. Florida and Georgia meet, as usual, in Jacksonville on Nov. 2. That day might be all that matters in deciding who gets to play in Atlanta come December.