(Editor’s note: You didn’t think I’d go through Best of Week without at least a little Vegas talk, did you? Handicapper Mike Hook of Pregame.com hits us up with some with some of his biggest surprise teams for the upcoming season, so manage your bankroll accordingly. Follow Mike on Twitter: @MikeHookWins.)
The 2011 college football season is only 65 days away, so below are five teams that will surprise – both good and bad – this year.
1. Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles are the class of the ACC, and they will show exactly that this season. Florida St. is 10/1 to win the BCS national championship this year. The Seminoles have a year under their belt regarding Jimbo Fisher coaching them. They finished 10-4 last year, and they will be better this year. Last year’s top 5 recruiting class will contribute this season, as will a few gems from this year’s heralded class. Florida St. has a strong running game, and a physical defense – two qualities in a championship team. Two of FSU’s three toughest games are at home, against Oklahoma and Miami. The Seminoles have a legitimate opportunity to win the BCS national championship this year.
2. San Diego State Aztecs
So many people think losing coach Brady Hoke to Michigan is the end all for the Aztecs. Those “experts” couldn’t be more wrong. While losing Hoke hurts a bit in recruiting, that doesn’t mean anything regarding this season. The Aztecs are a year older, and most importantly, they are now accustomed to winning. With the changes that have taken place in the Mountain West, the Aztecs are a team that can now compete for a conference championship. Quarterback Ryan Lindley is great, easily one of the most underrated players in the nation. This Aztecs defense is going to be better than last season. Of all the teams in the MWC, the San Diego St. Aztecs are the team to rise and surprise!
3. Auburn Tigers
The defending BCS champions are in for a major fall this year. Oddsmakers agree, as they have the Tigers listed at 100/1 to repeat as champions. Clearly Auburn will miss Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, as he literally was the Tigers’ offense last year. Perhaps even more important is the fact that Auburn will have a target on its chest in every game this year. With only seven starters returning, Auburn will struggle in the SEC.
4. Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans’ brutal schedule will be their demise this season. Road games at Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa make up arguably the hardest road schedule in the nation this year. After going 11-2 last year, MSU will be lucky to win 8 games this season. Oddsmakers have the Spartans at 50/1 to win the national championship, which is still too generous.
5. Connecticut Huskies
The Huskies won the Big East championship last year, and I hope fans savored every lasting memory, because they will have a precipitous fall this season. Losing its head coach and star running back Jordan Todman are critical blows to UConn. The Huskies’ two toughest Big East games are both on the road, at West Virginia and at Pittsburgh, in a span of three games. The Huskies will be far too one-dimensional this season. There is a reason the Big East champions aren’t even listed by oddsmakers to win the national championship this season.