Last year Notre Dame started the season on the fringe of the top 25 in many polls, and outside the top 15 in every major poll. Which 3 teams are likely to start the season down the list of the top 25, but with a little luck can make the National Title Game?
Take a look at this composite preseason rankings list from collegefootballpoll.com.
Nobody that ranks in the top 10 is a darkhorse team. Here are your 3 darkhorse candidate.
Florida State Seminoles (13)
The Seminoles had more players drafted in this year’s NFL draft than other team in the country with 11. Guess what the Seminoles are still loaded. Jimbo Fisher has recruited well, and the talent level in Tallahassee is starting to approach what was there in the 1990s. There were significant losses like QB EJ Manuel and DE Bjoern Werner, but outside of possibly Clemson nobody in the ACC comes close to matching FSU in terms of talent.
This is why FSU is a darkhorse title contender. On paper they will likely be double digit favorites over every team on their schedule with the exception of road games at Clemson and Florida. The schedule is extremely manageable. If FSU can with at Clemson on October 19, they should be 11-0 heading to Florida. The soft start following a tricky road opener at Pittsburgh will allow new QB Jameis Winston to get acclimated to the FSU offense. Florida State will also need to avoid their disturbing tendency to lose a game or two a year when they are heavy favorites.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (17)
Ohio State is a the overwhelming favorite to win the Big 10, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers avoid playing them in the regular season. They also avoid playing Wisconsin. In fact when I look at the Cornhuskers schedule it might be more favorable than the Seminoles. There is a road game at Michigan on November 9, and a road game at Penn State on November 23. Those are the only two games, where the Cornhuskers might be underdogs. Of course there would be the Big 10 title game to still play.
There’s really isn’t any reason that Nebraska shouldn’t enter November 7-0. They return senior quarterback Taylor Martinez, who is one of the most dynamic players in the country. The also return 1000 rusher Ameer Abdullah and their top reciever Kenny Bell. This will be a very difficult offense to deal with. The defense can be inconsistent, finishing 58th in scoring last year. If that unit despite being young and inexperienced can come together, and not be liability, then Nebraska could be a real dangerous team.
Boise St. Broncos (19)
Boise St. again? Why not Boise St? The Bronco have gone a ridiculous 61-5 the last 5 years, beating everyone from Georgia and Virginia Tech to Oregon. This year Boise St. heads to Seattle to play the Washington Huskies. If the Broncos lose that game, any dreams of a National Title run are finished. That’s an absolute must win. Honestly scheduling Boise St. if your in a power 5 conference is risky at best and at worst an outright mistake.
This is how much I respect Boise St. In a given single game they can beat anyone in the country. There’s is no benefit to playing them. A win doesn’t gain you the respect it should, but a loss is just a another notch on the Broncos belt. After Washington, games at Fresno St. and BYU could provide tests. The Broncos have had the worst FG luck in college football the last few years. Boise St. has lost multiple games recently with missed FGs. Other than that black eye, the Broncos are poised for another 11+ win season. Senior QB Joe Southwick returns. Chris Peterson is one of the country’s best coaches, and the defense will be it’s normally stout self. Boise St. always seems to be in that darkhouse discussion and this year is no different.