Six College Football Teams That Will Meet or Exceed Expectations in 2010

Nowhere on God’s green earth is Ferris Bueller’s dictum about the rapidity of the pace at which life hurtles along more evident than in Bulldog Nation, where onrushing events batter us about like Jack Nicholson slapping Faye Dunaway around in "Chinatown," so you are to be forgiven for forgetting that, many moons and a handful of alcohol-related arrests ago, I identified five college football teams that won’t be as good as advertised in 2010. (Egad, was that all one sentence?)

Thanks to a challenge issued by Orson Swindle and other extenuating circumstances including but not limited to a family vacation, I am only just getting around to my follow-up post, in which I call your attention to . . . Five Six Teams That Will Meet or Exceed Expectations in 2010.

1. Boise St. Broncos: Yes, I understand the arguments against Boise State, but I don’t buy them. The Broncos, like such upstarts as the Arizona St. Sun Devils, Florida St. Seminoles, and Miami Hurricanes in the 1970s and ‘80s, have played their way into prominence, and the world has turned a few times since that stirring night in Sanford Stadium five years ago. The only team in orange and blue that doesn’t make me want to puke is ready for its close-up.

2. Florida Gators: You wouldn’t know it by looking at the EA Sports NCAA Football ‘11 ads on both sidebars, but Tim Tebow is long gone like a turkey in the corn, as are four other offensive starters and a half-dozen first-teamers from the Florida D. You know what? It doesn’t matter. The Sunshine State Saurians have the talent, play in a watered-down Eastern Division which they have represented in Atlanta in three of the last four seasons, and are coached by a tanned and rested Urban Meyer. (Remember Coach Meyer’s leave of absence? That feels like it was 100 years ago, doesn’t it?) They’re still the Gators until proven otherwise, damn it.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels: I know all about the problems with UNC’s offense, but the Tar Heels’ attack has to be at least somewhat improved with ten returning starters, including the quarterback, and it would be an understatement to characterize the defense as "loaded." North Carolina gets Coastal Division foes Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in Chapel Hill, with a bye week immediately preceding the club’s ACC opener against the defending conference champion Yellow Jackets. Butch Davis is coming off of a five-loss season featuring a 4-4 conference record as he heads into his fourth year with the Tar Heels, but there is precedent for a rebound under such circumstances: Coach Davis’s third Miami squad lost six outings and went 3-4 in league play as a prelude to a fourth-season turnaround that included a 5-2 conference ledger. If UNC loses only two ACC games this autumn, the North Carolinians likely will represent the more balanced half of the conference against the weaker Atlantic Division champion in the league title tilt with a BCS bowl berth up for grabs. Although I am not highly regarded in Tar Heel country, I think well of North Carolina this season.

4. Pittsburgh Panthers: A year ago, I bought into Pitt’s prospects, and Dave Wannstedt’s crew came within a point of an outright Big East title and a BCS bowl berth. With Brian Kelly, Jim Leavitt, and Rich Rodriguez no longer overseeing programs in the conference, the Panthers are a good bet to capture the league crown this season.

5. Texas A&M Aggies: Last year’s Independence Bowl runners-up sported a young roster, as eighteen true freshmen saw playing time. With Jerrod Johnson back for his final year of eligibility and nine starters returning on what ought to be a much-improved defense, an Aggie outfit that gave the Longhorns all they could handle and dropped heartbreakers to Oklahoma State and Colorado ought to be ready to assert itself in the Big 12 South. Texas A&M plays seven games in College Station and an eighth in Arlington against Arkansas, with an open Saturday right before its conference road opener, so the schedule sets up nicely prior to November. While late fall dates with Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas in a nineteen-day stretch will be grueling, the Aggies ought to do well enough this autumn to prove that they would have made a fine addition to the SEC. (Remember conference expansion? That feels like it was 100 years ago, doesn’t it?)

6. Washington Huskies: With Cal descending, Oregon imploding, and USC handcuffed by NCAA sanctions and a horrible head coaching hire, the Pac-10 is as wide open as it’s ever been, and the downtrodden longtime regional power in Seattle is ready to return to relevance. The Huskies’ ten returning offensive starters include senior signal caller Jake Locker, so Washington is in a prime position to improve upon a 2009 campaign that saw the Purple and Gold fall one win short of bowl eligibility in a season in which the Huskies lost a trio of games by a touchdown or less. After playing LSU tough, upending the Trojans, and ending the autumn with back-to-back conference wins by a combined 72-10 margin, U-Dub heads into 2010 ready to make noise in the Pac-10 again.

As always, your feedback is welcome and appreciated. Where am I wide of the mark and where have I hit the nail on the head? Which teams have I missed in compiling my list of anticipated overachievers? Feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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