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Non-Power 5 College Football Surprise Teams 2016

August 20, 2016 | Posted By Freddy Wills

We have spent a lot of time looking at the power 5 conferences and breaking down 10 of my top surprise teams, but there are teams that exist in the non-power 5 believe it or not.  There are some interesting conferences in college football in 2016 that can have an impact on the 2016 bowl predictions.  I do apologize, because I included Houston as my #3 team in my blog post, “TOP 10 SURPRISE TEAMS – COLLEGE FOOTBALL POWER 5 CONFERENCE 2016: PART 2.”  All that really means is you get an extra surprise team that I will talk about that will have in my opinion a betting edge.

The first three I will cover are teams that may not be under valued.  I expect them to win their divisions, but they are surprise teams in the fact that they could get a major bowl and have the potential to sneak into the Top 10!

Appalachian State (SUN BELT) 11-2 in 2015

I mentioned this team in a previous podcast when I went over the most experienced college football defenses for 2016.  Appalachian State return 73.46% of their production from 2016 when they finished 11-2.  Their only losses were on the road against Clemson in week 2, and later in the year against Arkansas State who I believe they will challenge for the Sun Belt Championship, and they won’t have to face Arkansas State on their schedule.

We spoke about the returning production from 2015 because they ranked 13th in opponent yards per play allowed.  Their offense also returns greater than 70% of their production from last year including their QB Taylor Lamb, and experienced backfield led by Marcus Cox who had 1,423 rushing yards a year ago for an offense that ranked 15th in yards per play.

There are some concerns after losing their C and LT, and a lot of things need to be replaced in the receiver corps, but overall I like what I see.  Check out some of the best Canadian sports betting picks as we have Canadian Football odds available on this site as well.   They open up at Tennessee which stay tuned I may take App at +21 to give the Vols a scare considering they are in a look ahead spot and App has been preparing all year for this game.  Then they will host Miami, and visit Georgia Southern as their most challenging games.  If they somehow upset Tennessee watch out.

Western Michigan (MAC) 8-5 IN 2015

Vegas certainly expects this team to improve setting their win total at 8.5.  P.J. Fleck, the head coach should be moving on very shortly to the next big job, but this is his 4th year he has the #1 recruiting classes over his time here at Western Michigan.  Nobody else in the MAC has done a better job recruiting than Fleck.  This team returns 79% of their offensive production and 62% on defense.

I think this team is ready for the ultimate breakthrough in 2016.  They have a lighter schedule this year, an excellent returning QB in Zach Terrel who has an experienced offensive line with some dynamic players at the skill position.  They will host Northern Illinois this year and have two key Big Ten games against winnable opponents in Illinois and Northwestern.

They open up at Northwestern, a team that I feel is on the decline from last year where I thought they got extremely lucky at times with their close wins.  Western Michigan played well a season ago on the road against a Big Ten opponent in Michigan State covering the spread by 4 points and were in the game in the 4th quarter.  Western Michigan is a 6.5 point under dog vs. Northwestern.  It appears the oddsmakers are praying for you to take the Wildcats, but not me.  This is on my list of games to look at that week.

San Diego State (Mountain West)

Vegas has this team set at over/under 8.5 total wins for 2016, but they are on my list as one of the surprise teams.  I mentioned them in a previous blog post/podcast on the top 10 college football experienced defenses as the Aztecs return 75.38% of their defense from a season ago.  They have a real shot of establishing themselves as a mid major power and I am going to love backing this team in 2016 if I can find value.  They were a Mountain West best +185.9 net yards per game last year and return All-Conference players at every level of the defense.  A defense that runs the 3-3-5 which is a very key detail when you handicap this team.  They sacrifice size for speed and deception and if a team is not used to seeing 3-3-5, particularly an inexperienced QB.  Then it’s time to back San Diego State.

Key Game: This is easy it’s week 2 against California they will be under dogs and this will be their shot to go undefeated and seek some revenge for their 35-7 loss last year that took a 3 weeks to get over.  I am giving them a good shot at pulling that upset and expect them to be 3 point under dogs.  If they get the upset I’m calling for them to get upset the next week when they travel to Northern Illinois where they could be favored following that type of upset.

Cincinnati (AAC) 

Vegas says 6.5 wins, I say over that total for sure.  I really like this Cincinnati team and it is the first time I am talking about them this pre-season.  This was a team that was extremely unlucky last year.  They had three close games, and collapsed at the end of the year.  There are some toss up games on the schedule, but I love the fact that they return their 5 star QB Gunner Kiel, but Hayden Moore is going to get the nod at QB.  He will be behind two 2nd team All-AAC offensive lineman in Deyshawn Bond and Ryan Leahy.  The offense will be just fine despite having to replace some offensive weapons at WR.

The defense which was a concern a year ago can only get better as they return 82% of their production from a year ago.  This team has to start forcing turnovers they were -19 in TO margin last year, but -5.7 in adjusted turnover margin when we take luck out of it.  I’m expecting a turn around and it appears like they may only be under dogs in 3 or 4 games.  Getting to 7 or 8 wins is easily achievable, and the AAC is up for grabs if they can beat Houston in week 3 at home where I am predicting they have a 50-50 shot at winning.