Our official Way-Too-Early 2016 College Football Preseason Poll identifies several unsurprising contenders for next season, including the two teams who squared off in this past Monday's National Championship Game (Clemson, Alabama).
However, this article isn't about the expected championship threats. This is about the under-the-radar squads who're just a few big breaks from announcing themselves as College Football Playoff-worthy. Here's our list of the 4 Unranked Teams Who Could Be Surprise 2017 College Football Playoff Contenders.
Auburn has a number of factors in their corner for the 2016 regular season. Firstly, they play their first five games at home -- giving them ample opportunity to streak out of the gates and get some momentum before huge road games against Georgia and Alabama down the road. A loss against Clemson on September 3rd wouldn't ding them TOO much if they recover nicely, and a win over the consensus #1 team in the nation would vault their CFP stock into the stratosphere.
The defense will be improved with Carl Lawson returning for a full season, the running game looks stacked and there's a fantastic recruiting class coming in. We could be in for a low expectations, big results kind of run if they get some September/October momentum going.
Mark Richt is the man now on South Beach, and he's inheriting a squad that won four of its last five (and five of seven) regular season games to finish with eight wins -- a stunning feat considering how dead the program looked before Al Golden was let go.
QB Brad Kaaya survived and thrived under pressure in 2015, emerging as the unquestioned leader of the team while once against showing major flashes of elite talent and utter explosiveness as a big-play threat. A big year from Kaaya and a step up by a talented, young front seven should be enough to enter The U into the ACC conversation, if not the College Football Playoff hunt.
Washington State's 9-4 record in 2015 stands as the best season for the program in more than a decade, and the up-trending Cougars will have an experienced football team next season with eight offensive starters and six defensive starters returning.
There's also QB Luke Falk -- an under-the-radar Heisman contender who can outduel any quarterback in the nation on an average day. WSU is going to be an explosive offensive force, and they've got the depth on both sides of the ball to step up in what'll be a wide-open Pac-12.
Nebraska lost four games this past season in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime. Never have we seen a team so snake-bitten by a series of late bounces quite like the Huskers were. Things are looking up, though, as the 2016 recruiting class looks strong and there's a buzz in the air after NU reeled off 30 straight points and posted a 196-1 rushing yard advantage in their Foster Farms Bowl win over a very good UCLA squad.
Mike Riley is a quarterback's dream coach, and Tommy Armstrong's 10-carry, 76-yard rushing performance in the bowl win may be a sign of Riley loosening up the playbook with Armstrong next season.
The talent is here, and the Huskers are just a turn of fortune (and a dark horse Heisman campaign by Armstrong) from being a legit contender. Their thrilling win over CFP entrant Michigan State this year is proof positive that the pieces are there.Back to the NCAA Newsfeed