Non-Power 5 Teams To Watch
Now I’ll give you a few teams from the non-power five conferences that could make a case for a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl or perhaps the College Football Playoff.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
First off South Bend, where it seems every year the Irish is picked to make a case for a high post-season spot. DeShone Kizer or Malik Zaire? Zaire or Kizer? Could head coach Brian Kelly go with a two-quarterback system, we’ll see. Tarean Folston and Josh Adams are a great backfield pair. With Will Fuller now in the NFL and Corey Robinson (son of the admiral basketball hall of famer David) retired due to concussions, it’ll be up to Torii Hunter Jr. (son of MLB all-star Torii Sr.) to pick up the slack at wide receiver.
All-American linebacker Jaylon Smith and tackle Sheldon Ray are gone, but there’s talent back on defense. End Isaac Rochell leads the way up front. Nose tackle Jarron Jones and fellow tackle Jerry Tillery have talent but are unproven. The secondary suffered a hit as safety Max Redfield was dismissed and cornerback Devin Butler was suspended indefinitely after they and three others were arrested in a recent off-field incident.
They face Texas on the road to start the season, they also go to North Carolina State and USC. They host Michigan State, Duke, Stanford, Miami, Navy and Virginia Tech.
Next stop, Houston, where the upstart Cougars from the American Athletic Conference, finished 13-1 and had an impressive win over Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Though there’s talent returning, it may be hard for head coach Tom Herman’s team to duplicate that mark. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was one of only two quarterbacks (Clemson’s Deshaun Watson was the other) to pass for at least 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards last season. Ward Jr. could be a Heisman dark horse. Texas transfer Duke Catalon must fill the void at running back left by Kenneth Farrow. Chance Allen and Oklahoma State transfer Ra’Shaad Samples lead a culpable receiving corps.
Though key guys like back William Jackson III, tackle Elandon Roberts, who was the Cougars’ leading tackler last season and Trevon Stewart all graduated, the defense could be even more athletic. Linebacker Steven Taylor had ten sacks last season. Linemen Cameron Laveaux and B.J. Singleton are back up front. Versatile safety Brandon Wilson was the only player in the nation who scored multiple touchdowns in offense, defense, and special teams.
They face Oklahoma at NRG Stadium to start the season, they also host UConn, Tulsa, and Louisville. They must play Cincinnati, Navy, SMU, and Memphis on the road.
Boise State Broncos
We go to Boise and the Mountain West Conference next, where for some non-power 5 teams finishing 9-4 would be considered a great season. Heck you may even get a rally or parade. But for the Broncos, it was somewhat disappointing especially after losing two critical conference games in November that kept them from even winning their division. Preseason all-Mountain Wests quarterback Brett Rypien and wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck as well tailback Thomas Nichols are back and lead a powerful offense. The main concern could be lack of depth.
Linebacker Ben Weaver, who was the Broncos’ leading tackler last season is back. They must rebuild outside and in the secondary.
They host Washington State, Utah State and BYU. They must face Oregon State, Wyoming and Air Force on the road.
San Diego State Aztecs
In San Diego, where the Aztecs could be on a collision course to meet with the Broncos for the Mountain West Championship. The Aztecs won 11 games last season, tying for the most in program history. They feature preseason all-Mountain West running back Donnel Pumphrey, who’s the reigning Offensive Player of the Year in the conference. Cornerback Damontae Kazee is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and has talent to play on Sundays.
They host Cal and Colorado State. They must face Northern Illinois, Utah State, Nevada and Wyoming on the road.
Phew, that’s it for our preview, should be a great season coming up, enjoy.