Blog Entry

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

Posted on: January 14, 2011 9:21 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2011 3:20 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi

Earlier today, our own Dennis Dodd posted his pre-preseason Top 25 for the 2011 college football season. We here at the College Football Blog wouldn't dare disagree with our esteemed colleague's opinions ... but every year there's teams that vastly exceed the expectations of even the wisest prognosticators (like, say, Auburn in 2010) and some that disappoint despite some seemingly major advantages (like, say, Iowa in 2010).

So earlier today we named five that are in his Top 25 that might slip out or could otherwise disappoint, and right now we'll name five more teams we think can crack that Top 25 next season. Without further ado (and in no particular order):

1. Baylor - The good news for Baylor: dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III is back along with most of the offense, and while he loses starting tailback Jay Finley to graduation, Finley's backups Terrance Ganaway and Jarred Salubi provide an intriguing balance of power and speed -- they both return. In addition, RG3 gets his top five receivers back (all of whom caught at least 40 passes this year), and three-year starting lineman Philip Baker will be the anchor at center for a mostly intact offensive line. Yes, Baylor still looks wretched at times on defense (53 points to Oklahoma and 55 to Oklahoma State aren't exactly solid efforts), so there's no telling whether the Bears' losses on that side of the ball are addition by subtraction or not, but one thing's for sure: there'll be points put up in Waco in 2011.

2. Illinois - This spot would likely go to fellow "Leader" Penn State if it weren't for the fact that PSU's replacing Evan Royster, two leading receivers, its two best offensive linemen, and there's really no telling who's starting at QB in 2011. Oh, and most of the Penn State defense -- including two of three starting LBs -- is graduating too. Contrast that with Illinois , who found a star quarterback in freshman Nathan Scheelhaase this year and returns four of five starting offensive linemen. The Illini won't miss early declarant Mikel LeShoure much with Jason Ford (who's basically a human truck) waiting to take over at tailback. The defense will definitely miss Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget on the interior, on the other hand; those guys were anchors of a stout rushing defense and their backups are unremarkable. Still, Illinois' 2011 schedule looks primed for some upsets, and nine wins is hardly out of the question. If Wilson and Liuget were returning, Illinois would probably be in Dodd's Top 25, but it's not as if no borderline-Top 25 team has ever exceeded expectations after losing two juniors to the NFL.

3. Utah - Everything's going to come crashing down once Utah joins a "real" conference, right? Maybe not. If QB Jordan Wynn recovers from December shoulder surgery in time for the season (which he should, but six months of rehab can turn into nine without the patient doing anything wrong), he'll be a third-year starter with a reasonable set of returning players. Senior wideout/returner Shaky Smithson is sure to be missed, but this is college football; so it goes. And while Utah's schedule looks daunting, it really could be worse; the Utes miss both Oregon and Stanford in inter-divisional play, and neither BYU nor Pitt should be as tough of matchups as they'd have been over the past couple years. In addition, the schedule's pretty top-heavy, and it's easily possible that Utah wins at least five of six down the stretch. Head coach Kyle Whittingham keeps proving predictions wrong by not bolting for a paycheck elsewhere, and now he's got a chance to lead his Utes into battle in a real conference and destroy the "mid-major" label that's been dogging the program -- even through multiple BCS bowl wins! -- once and for all.

4. Oregon State - Meanwhile, in the Pac-12 North, the Oregon State Beavers have a chance to make noise. Yes, Oregon and Stanford are the class of the division and should remain so for the near future, but don't sleep on the passing skills of QB Ryan Katz , especially now that he'll have his first full season as a starter under his belt. With the game slowing down for him and with Markus Wheaton and James Rodgers both returning at WR (to say nothing of Joe Halahuni coming back at TE), Katz should be able to more effectively use his NFL-caliber arm to put some points up in Corvallis. The offense will miss Jacquizz Rodgers desperately, and while deserved, his jump to the NFL will likely cost the Beavers a win or two. So while the defense struggled in 2010 and stands to lose several seniors, it may not matter in a Pac-12 with several struggling offenses and an OSU attack that should set 30+ points per game as a goal. Scheduling a road date at Wisconsin might not have been the wisest idea, though. Still, look for a push from Oregon State to hit that eight-win mark, which against a schedule like this could mean a spot in the Top 25 when it's all said and done.

5. Tennessee - Dodd ranks eight SEC teams in his Top 25 (26, really, but whatever). We're not sure all will end up ranked at the end of the 2011 season, but one thing seems clear: of the four teams he left out -- Kentucky , Ole Miss , Tennessee , and Vanderbilt -- Tennessee's the closest thing to a contender of the four. No, the SEC East shouldn't spend its entire season on fire like last year, where South Carolina took the division trophy in a five-loss season, but Florida 's going to be experiencing major upheaval and Georgia will be missing A.J. Green (again). With Tyler Bray coming off a successful freshman campaign and returning starting RB Tauren Poole and deep threat wideout Justin Hunter , we could see the Vols make some noise. On defense, the only major loss is leading tackler Nick Reveiz ; Herman Lathers made strides along with the rest of the defense down the stretch, and the secondary returns intact. If there's ever a time to make a run in the East, it's -- well, okay, it was 2010. 2011's not a bad opportunity for the Vols either, though.


Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 22, 2011 6:15 am

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

Extremely striking online site. I am glad for so on that lookout beforehand to help reviewing much much more content articles.

Since: Sep 25, 2006
Posted on: January 17, 2011 12:51 pm

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

How is Utah a sleeper team when they lose half their starters from only a decent team, and switch to a harder conference?

Since: Oct 3, 2006
Posted on: January 16, 2011 6:08 pm

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

What is with the lack of respect for PSU on this website. How was PSU not in the pre-season top 25, and then not even considered a sleeper team? They have 17 returning starters! So much young talent on this team.

Yet, Illinois is a sleeper? They just had like their 5 best players declare for the draft!!!

Baylor? Call me when they have a defense.

Utah loses 10 starters!

Oregon State loses 13 starters from a below .500 team!!!

And Tennessee, is probably the biggest sleeper of all of those teams but still isn't going to do anything special, I see them getting 9 wins tops. And that may even be a stretch.

Honestly, that list is pretty pathetic. I know it is only January but hardly any of those teams are going to be legit.

Real sleeper teams would include BYU, Northwestern, Michigan, Penn State, Arizona State and South Florida.

Since: Mar 10, 2008
Posted on: January 16, 2011 3:59 pm

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

Tennessee is still going to be a rebuilding project next year, though there's a chance they could be better. They still lack major depth on defense, particularly with the defensive line and linebackers. 

Just like last year, the Vols have a tough conference schedule: at UF, UGA, LSU, at Bama, South Carolina and at Arkansas. Tyler Bray won't be able to just throw it deep and up for grabs on every play anymore. 

Since: Jan 24, 2007
Posted on: January 16, 2011 1:31 pm

Go Haters is Right

Worry about your Gators with overrated Brantley at QB and NO running Game at all. Bray makes Brantley look like a second string high school QB!

Since: Oct 14, 2007
Posted on: January 16, 2011 12:48 pm

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

Simms got the shaft a good ole rocky top!  He had to take the ride through the SEC gauntlet and then had to give way to Bray to take on Memphis and the three worst teams in the SEC (Ole Miss, UK, and Vandy) and then takes a heart breaking loss to UNC in their bowl game.  Don't get me wrong, I thought the kid should have been starting the entire season, but as of right now he has proven nothing.  And living in Knoxville and hearing these idiots talk, saying he is going to be better than Peyton Manning and so on is absured.  Let hims take a wack at UF in the SWAMP, Bama, LSU, S Carolina and all the rest before we decide if he is going to be worth a dang.

Since: Mar 7, 2010
Posted on: January 16, 2011 11:22 am

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

I have to agree, Tennessee showed signs of promise after making the QB switch around the 7th or 8th game.  Give Dooley just a little more time and Rocky Top will be jumping again, thank god LSU will be done with them for a little while after our game in Neyland this year.

Since: Jan 20, 2008
Posted on: January 16, 2011 10:20 am

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

I enjoy reading all the pure speculation of the off season. Opinions, predictions,etc. Whats even better is it never turns out the way we think. Teams rise out of nowhere, and others sink into oblivion. And, of course there are the perrenially good teams who can't win the big one. Its CFB and for the most part I love it.

Since: Jan 20, 2008
Posted on: January 16, 2011 10:13 am

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams


Since: Jan 16, 2011
Posted on: January 16, 2011 9:54 am

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

Great article on Baylor. But don't think they played Iowa St last year....   So certainly don't think Iowa St could have scored 52 on them. However, with the hiring Phil Bennett as the new DC, their defense should be much improved new year.....   If Robert Griffin continues to improve they could be a pretty good team.  

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