Overrated/Underrated: A Look at Which Teams Have Underperformed or Surprised in 2015 So Far
Throughout every college football season, there are teams which are expected to do great things but they end up losing five games but also teams which nobody expect to be good and they wind up being special. Let's take a mid-season look at the teams that have both surprised and underperformed.
Northwestern Wildcats- Beginning the season unranked, the Wildcats were only expected to win six or seven games, barely making a bowl game. Now, after a 5-0 start, they are all the way up to No. 13 in the AP poll, with a huge game against Michigan in Ann Arbor this coming week. It would be a shock and a big disappointment if the Wildcats ended the season with anything less than 8 wins because they are playing great on both sides of the ball right now. Their defense is 5th in the nation in total defense and freshman QB Clayton Thorson has been fairly consistent.
Last week I wrote an article about Northwestern's fantastic start this season and their chances to win the Big Ten West so I will leave this segment a little shorter than others. It goes much further into detail about each remaining game for the Wildcats and compliments the overall theme of this article very well.
Texas A&M Aggies- At the start of the season, A&M was sitting right outside the Top 25 and after five straight wins, they find themselves in the Top 10. In the season opener against Arizona State, not many people gave the Aggies a chance, as the Sun Devils were a hot pick for a New Years Six Bowl or even the Playoff, but the Aggies outplayed them.
Kevin Sumlin's squad is led by QB Kyle Allen (1,274 yards and 13 touchdowns) and speedy freshman WR Christian Kirk (519 yards and 4 touchdowns). Kirk has not only impacted games on offense but also special teams, where he has flipped field position with his punt returns.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis has his defense playing much better than they have in past seasons. The Aggies are tied for 5th in the country in sacks and DL Myles Garrett (7.5 sacks and 25 tackles) is starting to get some Heisman consideration. So far, Texas A&M has surprised the country and they can do it again when they play Alabama in two weeks.
Florida Gators- After a frustrating 7-5 campaign last season which resulted in the firing of Will Muschamp, the Gators weren't expected to be good for a few years. Everybody knew the Florida defense would be talented, but the offense had plenty of question marks. New head coach Jim McElwain has seemed to solve the offensive problems and now the Gators are No. 11 in the nation.
The country really took notice of Florida last week, after they handed No. 3 Ole Miss a 38-10 shellacking in Gainesville. In that game, freshman QB Will Grier (996 yards and 10 touchdowns) threw 4 touchdown passes in the first half!
As expected, the Florida defense has been playing great, but one of the big factors for the Gators this season is that they are forcing turnovers on defense and are not turning the ball over on offense (tied for 20th in the country for turnover margin). Almost midway through the season, it seems as if Florida and Georgia may battle it out for the SEC-East title.
Utah Utes- The Utes were expected to compete for a PAC-12 title this season but they weren't the favorites. Now they are, especially after they destroyed Oregon and shot up the polls to No. 5.
In addition to the victory in Eugene, Utah's season opening win against Michigan is looking better each week, as the Wolverines haven't lost since. Part of the Utes' success is due to the fact that they aren't hurting themselves, only being called for 18 penalties (5th in the nation).
RB Devontae Booker has contributed not only in the rushing game (443 yards and 4 touchdowns), but also the receiving game (15 receptions for 149 yards) and even the passing game (25-yard TD pass). It is still yet to be determined if the Utes are championship contenders, but they are definitely one of the surprise teams so far this season.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets- After finishing last year with a New Years Six Bowl win over Mississippi State, the Yellow Jackets began the season ranked No. 16 overall and have completely fallen apart. Playing a complete game has been a problem for Paul Johnson's crew in the last three contests. For a much more in depth look at Georgia Tech's tough start to the season, check out Christopher Paschal's excellent article.
Auburn Tigers- Ranked No. 6 in the preseason, the Tigers have struggled since the season began. Against Louisville, QB Jeremy Johnson made some questionable throws that resulted in interceptions, but the Tigers found a way to win. Auburn was further exposed the next week, when it took them until overtime to beat FCS Jacksonville State, and even more the week after that, when Auburn traveled to LSU and Gus Malzahn's team was dominated in every aspect.
Based on their performance so far this season, and their remaining games on the schedule, it seems unlikely that the Tigers will win more than seven games.
Arkansas Razorbacks- A popular preseason pick to reach a New Years Six Bowl, the Razorbacks had all the makings of a great team: a consistent QB, solid running game, and complete defense. However, when RB Jonathan Williams went down with an injury, it didn't seem like Arkansas was even close to the same team. Losing to Toledo was the first of a three-game losing streak for the Razorbacks, but they were able to respond and beat Tennessee last week.
Bret Bielema and company probably won't win more than six games, but perhaps they can gain momentum off of last week's solid win.
Tennessee Volunteers- The Volunteers were a sneaky pick to win the SEC-East because of their successful finish to last season and the talent that they have recruited, but it won't happen this year. Right now, Tennessee is struggling to finish games, and as a result, they are facing a possible 2-5 record with losses to Alabama and Georgia.
QB Josh Dobbs hasn't played badly and the defense has played decently, but they need to break through and find a way to win games in the 4th quarter (which they couldn't do against Florida).
Most importantly, remember that this is college football, and anything can happen. Some of these 'surprise' teams could find themselves at 6-6 at the end of the season, making their impressive starts very easy to forget. Time will tell -- watch on!