Biggest Surprises and Disappointments One Month Into the Season

Now that we have officially gone one month since games started being played, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some teams to see who is exceeding and failing to live up to preseason expectations. I feel like there is enough of a sample size to start judging teams’ performances.

Surprises

Honorable Mentions: Arizona, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, TCU, Georgia Southern, Florida, Coastal Carolina, San Diego State, Memphis, San Jose State, Minnesota, South Florida, Tulsa, Temple, Navy, Liberty, Texas Tech

10. Marshall

Yes, they have a home loss to Pitt, but it was only by 12 points and the Panthers are now ranked. But more importantly, they have 2 very solid victories over Boise State and at Ohio. Also the season opening win over ECU gave them a win over 3 fellow G5 conferences and sets them up very well for Conference USA play.

9. Florida State

The Noles do only have 3 wins thus far and the 2 “better” teams they have beat have been underwhelming to say the least. But this is the kind of break FSU has needed over the last 3 or so years. They have capitalized, and have shown definite improvement so far. Perhaps double digit wins is not out of the question in a weak ACC. That’s a heck of a year 1 for the Mike Norvell era in Tallahassee.

8. LSU

Many of you may be surprised to see the defending champs on this list. However, they are more than deserving. The Tigers lost an absurd amount of talent to the NFL and graduation in the offseason. Regardless of the recruits Coach O and co. have brought in, the Tigers have demolished the competition so far, outscoring their opponents 182-34 through 4 contests, including a drubbing of the Texas Longhorns. LSU is here to stay, folks.

7. Air Force

The Falcons had an outstanding season in 2019, even spending some time ranked during it. They are following it up with a promising 2020. After demolishing FCS foe Duquesne, they pulled the upset at home in the conference opener against ranked powerhouse Boise State. Then, they traveled to West Lafayette and escaped with a one-point victory over the Boilers. They entered the Top 25, and promptly lost to Fresno State. Nevertheless, this is quite the start for a Falcon squad that lost a lot from last year.

6. Maryland

There is really only one impressive win the Terps have so far. A road win at West Virginia has proven to be quite successful for Maryland. Yes, WVU has struggled. But considering the mess Maryland was last year, those are the kinds of wins that were completely off the table at times. Taking care of business against Towson and Northern Illinois has the Terrapins looking at 3-0 for the first time in 4 years.

5. Kansas State

The Wildcats have ripped off 4 straight to start the season, including domination of MAC favorite Buffalo, a 3 point win over an SEC squad in Vandy, and a road conference opening win in Morgantown against the Mountaineers. The last 2 wins have not been the most convincing, but Chris Klieman’s group is trending in the right direction for sure. It will be interesting to see how the success sustains as the season moves on.

4. Oregon State

Corvallis, Oregon is one of the hardest places to succeed at in the Power 5, and the last few years have been no exception to that rule. However, this year’s Beaver squad has started off quite well. They held more than their own in the season-opening trip to Stillwater to face a ranked OK State team, only losing by 4 points. Then they took care of business against a decent Colorado State team, throttled Portland State, and won a shootout against division rival Wazzu. Don’t be surprised if the Beavs go bowling this year.

3. Wyoming

This Cowboy team is one to be aware of. They have quietly been building a pretty consistent winner in Laramie, and this year is off to a pretty good start indeed. They beat Weber State big, won at an underrated Ball State team by 20, and were oh-so-close to upsetting a ranked Utah team in their own barn. The most impressive feat thus far however, is a win at Louisiana, outscoring the high-powered Ragin’ Cajun offense, in one of the better games played this year.

2. Rice

I’ve seen #RankRice floating around the internet, and that alone is enough to put Rice on this list. The Owls have been a cellar-dweller in terms of FBS programs for quite a few years now, but this year things may be starting to change for the better. The Owls were dominated by LSU, as everyone has. No shame there. But they pitched a shutout against lesser Lamar, and pulled two big upsets against Army and at city-rival Houston. These are 2 games that I personally did not give Rice a chance at winning. Those games are the ones that could really turn things around for Mike Bloomgren.

1. Michigan

Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan has been trying to get back to the glory days of competing for a national championship. While Harbaugh has raised the profile significantly, the Wolverines are not there yet. Could this be the year? The maize and blue went into Seattle and beat Washington, smoked Ball State and and underrated Arkansas State team, and then upset a top 10 opponent in the Wisconsin Badgers. The Wolverines have a ton of momentum moving forward, but still have tough games ahead, especially that team down south on Thanksgiving weekend. Michigan is on a great path to finally get to the playoff, but will they follow through?

Disappointments

Honorable Mentions: Washington State, Houston, Toledo, North Carolina, Oregon, Wake Forest, Hawai’i

10. Louisiana

The Ragin’ Cajuns have lost to App State twice in a row in the Sun Belt Championship. But this was the year that fans in Lafayette truly thought they had the better team. Through 4 games, I think opinions may have changed. Louisiana has already dropped 2 home games, one to Wyoming, and the other a conference game to Georgia Southern. A trip to Boone is next on the docket, and this seems like a fork in the road for the Ragin’ Cajuns.

9. Tennessee

Death, taxes, and too much hype for the Volunteers. Tennessee has not done anything wrong this season. They have looked impressive in winnable games, and lost to 2 top 10 teams in Florida and Oklahoma. Unfortunately, fans in Knoxville still think Tennessee is a top 10 type program. Thus, they are underperforming. Oh, by the way, Alabama and Georgia still loom on the schedule.

8. West Virginia

On the bright side, the Mountaineers have been competitive in every game they have played in. But, they are 1-3, with losses to Florida State, Maryland, and Kansas State. These teams are no slouches, but WVU probably should have pulled at least one of these out. This could be a rough season for Neal Brown if luck doesn’t start turning in his favor.

7. Arkansas

Poor, poor, poor Arkansas. Most fans had rock bottom expectations for the Razorbacks, yet here they are on our list. How, you may ask? They lost 3 tough games, and also lost to Nevada. You heard that correctly. Arkansas lost to Nevada. At home. Ouch. The Hogs still have a long way to go to get out of the basement of the SEC West.

6. Arizona State

ASU has a relatively impressive home win over BYU this season. But when the Sun Devils hit the road, problems have arisen. Coming into this season ranked, and with aspirations of a division crown, getting spanked by USC is not the blueprint to achieve that goal. Also, the Sun Devils were somehow tripped up by UNLV. That is one ASU could not afford to lose if they had sights of the national stage.

5. Syracuse

Here we have another team that had very low expectations, but still cracked our list. An overtime loss at BC in the season opener, was frustrating, but certainly respectable. Then the Cuse went out and lost to Rutgers by double digits. If you thought they would right the ship by pounding Colgate, you were sadly mistaken. The Orange were annihilated in a trip to Kalamazoo by Western Michigan. This looks like the bottom feeder in the ACC to me.

4. Michigan State

MSU knew they were going to have an overhaul with Mel Tucker coming to East Lansing, but they probably did not envision a start this rough. The Spartans got spanked in their own building by Northwestern, lost at BYU, struggled in a win against flailing Toledo, and were overmatched in a home date with the Miami Hurricanes. Oh by the way, three currently ranked teams make up the next portion of their schedule in Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio State. Minnesota and Penn State come later. This season is shaping up to be a disaster for Sparty.

3. Purdue

Purdue is in an odd spot, where if things break their way, you think they could contend for the B1G West. They have not done so this year, and I am not sure if they will win again. They looked decent at Nebraska to start the year, but still lost a game that Jeff Brohm thought they should win. Then the Boilers were snake-bitten, as they lost consecutive home games to very underrated G5 teams, in Memphis and Air Force, the latter by 1 point. Purdue had the sort of “unlucky” mantra going for them for a while. Then, they went out east and gave up sixty to a below-average Boston College team. The Boilers are bad, but their next 2 games are very winnable.

2. Texas

Remember when Sam Ehlinger said “We’re back”? Neither do I. Texas came in as a top 15 team in the country and their fans somehow thought they could compete with the rival Sooners for the Big XII. Then right out of the gates, Texas loses at home to a USF team with a brand new coach. Well done, Tom Herman. Also, in a rematch from last year’s classic. The Horns faced off with LSU, this time traveling to Death Valley, only to get run off the field by halftime. A slaughtering of lowly UTEP likely won’t turn their season around. The playoff is out of reach already for Texas, leaving the fans in Austin longing for yesterday once again.

  1. 1. Boise State

Before, I mentioned Purdue as being “unlucky.” If Purdue is unlucky, than BSU is cursed. Boise State started the season ranked 21st in the country, and one of the front runners to be the Group of 5 rep for the New Years Six. The Broncos played a scrappy Georgia Southern team to start off the year, but only won by 5. Then BSU pulled off something remarkable. The Broncos are on a 3 game losing streak, almost unheard of in Boise. Not only that, but they lost three consecutive games by 1 point. They did play Florida State, and had to travel to Air Force and Marshall. Despite the tough opponents, this isn’t horseshoes, (pun) and the Broncos are an unheard of 1-3 thus far.

-Scott

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