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2017 Non-Power Five College Football Surprise Teams

August 8, 2017 | Posted By Freddy Wills

Image result for south florida charlie strong

These teams won’t contend for a national title, but they will be in the mix for a New Year’s Day bowl game, and also on my list for betting value in key situations throughout the season.

Ohio Bobcats – Out of the MAC we have Ohio with Frank Solich in his 13th year here.  This team returns 13 starters, but should be in good position schedule wise to be in contention and get into the MAC title with a chance at winning it for the first time since 1968.  As we all know from my previous podcasts I usually rate the MAC West over the MAC East and there is a lot of data that supports those claims over the years.  This year though I think Ohio has a shot.   They do draw Toledo out of the West, but this team has a deep stable of running backs behind an experienced offensive line that could put them in the title game.

South Florida – Head coach Willie Taggart departs for Oregon and enter Charlie Strong (fired from Texas).  So let’s just talk about Strong for a bit here, because I still do believe he is a good coach and that’s going to get us betting value early in this season.  There are many doubters of Strong’s ability to caoch, but  a coach that is willing to make changes to his philosophy in order to win is a good coach.  Unfortunately Strong’s ability to be flexible by bringing in an offensive coordinator with an up-tempo offense back fired on him.  To be honest Strong’s place at Texas never felt right, and I don’t know quite what it was.  It could have been the pressure, but I can’t say for sure.  Either way I am excited for what this South Florida team can achieve this year.

For starters this team will have 16 guys coming back which includes 9 on defense and they get their star QB Quinton Flowers back who ran for 1530 yards while also throwing for nearly 3,000 all the while throwing 24 TD’s and just 7 interceptions and completing over 62% of his passes.  Flowers is a stud and the schedule looks right for this USF team to actually run the table.  They get Houston at home as well as Temple their two toughest games and should be favorites in all games.  A 12-0 season would put Strong back on the map and South Florida in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Appalachian State – This team returns 14 starters from last years 10-3 squad.  On offense they’ll have their starting QB in Taylor Lamb back for his senior year.  Lamb fought through some injuries last year and had a very down year, but expecting big numbers from him in 2017.  Lamb has a better supporting cast this year with both his top RB, Jalin Moore and receiver Sheedon Meadors returning.

The schedule sets up nicely for them as they avoid the next two top teams in the Sun Belt in Troy and Arkansas State.  App State opens up against a highly touted Georgia team.  Looking at some value there as App State played extremely well last year against a highly touted Tennessee team.  They’ve had all off season to prepare for that game and right now they are 14.5 point under dogs.  Georgia has a good team, but they may be peaking ahead to their road game at Notre Dame the next week.

Tulsa Hurricane – We spoke about this team in depth a year ago with Phillip MOntgomery coming over as their new head coach from Baylor.  All he did in his first year at Tulsa was achieve something that has never been done before in college football.  He had a 3,000 yard passer, two 1,000 yard rushers, and two 1,000 yard receivers.  They have 13 returning starters, and 4 of those 5 players including their starting QB Dane Evans are gone.. What does that mean?  Betting value. Many are going to see that they lost all of those players an expect a down year, but Montgomery did this at Baylor with first year QB’s and I think this offense will continue to click while the defense improves for a second year in a row.

Tulsa, a year ago had to face the top 3 teams from the West and all of those games were on the road.  This year their toughest game is at South Florida, but will be home against Navy, Houston, and Temple.  I see a 10-2 year for this team, and see some betting value as they take on Oklahoma State in the first week who return just 5 guys on defense.

Colorado State

This will be Mike Bobo’s third year and they open the season up in their new Stadium.  The Rams return their starting quarterback, all three primary backs, their top two receiving targets, an all-conference center, three of their top four defensive linemen, nearly every linebacker, and nearly every defensive back.  This is a team that really caught fire down the stretch of last season, and return 14 total starters and they avoid some of the best teams in the conference not having to face San Diego State is one of them. 

It’s hard to not discuss the fact that they do have to go on the road to face Alabama.  They open up against two Pac 12 teams, but both games are winnable in fact they might even be favored in both games against Oregon State and Colorado.   The only other game I see them a dog in is against Boise State later in the year and this team could have some betting value along the way especially to open the season.

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