Below is a list of teams with pretty unimpressive class rankings.
They rarely sniff a 4 star player and in some cases they have rosters made up almost entirely of kids that some of the recruiting services haven’t even heard of. I like to think of these programs as overachievers. In many ways they represent the little guy. They might not be a powerhouse but they can generally hold their own and occasionally they show up and take out Goliath.
These teams are fun to discuss and many fans often do. The topic of "how the hell does Team X win 10 games with a bunch of 2 stars and Weis can’t win 8 with top 10 classes" has come up more than a few times in the last few years on the ND message boards, and I’m sure there are plenty of other fan bases asking the same question.
It isn’t always 100% clear what exactly it is that makes them successful. Is it superior coaching and player development? Is it the offensive system? Do they just simply play a horrendously weak schedule? For all of these teams the answer is probably some combination thereof.
Regardless there are many arguments and talking points that you can take back to the water cooler or the bar. The list really speaks for itself but I’ll make a couple of comments on each team anyway. If you want to peruse the full list that I’ve been using for this series of posts you can find it HERE or just scroll down and review the entire thing. I also just mentioned the teams here that really jump out at me personally. If there is someone else that you think deserves mention don’t hesitate to bring it up in the comments.
Texas Tech 39.0
Mike Leach really did wonders with the Red Raider program. I still think his firing and all the drama surrounding it was suspect as all hell but it is what it is. Craig James elevates his chooch status by more than a few notches, the Pirate heads to Key West and Tommy Tuberville of all people takes over. My takeaway here is that Leach made Tech relevant for the first time in their history with a program that routinely gets out recruited by Texas, Texas A&M;, Oklahoma and even LSU in its home state. The Leach offense was a great equalizer and if Tubs can keep that going and shore up the defense a bit Tech fans might be back to slinging tortillas in short order.
Georgia Tech 42.6
Florida State, Miami, Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia Tech were all covered in earlier installments of this series of posts. They all have more talented rosters than Georgia Tech but the Jackets are the reigning ACC Champs. The Paul Johnson offense is no joke and the Jackets will remain a factor as long as he’s there.
I couldn’t decide whether to list Iowa or not. How good they are is pretty debatable but since they made a decent run in the Big Ten this year despite having significantly less talent on hand than Ohio State, Michigan & Penn State I thought it was worth a mention. Ferentz is pretty solid.
Oregon State 49.6
Look at Mike Riley. He played for the Pac 10 title with this team last year and he might do it again this season. Riley seems to get overshadowed by Jeff Tedford sometimes in the Pac 10 coaching discussion but I would take Riley in two seconds over Tedford. While Tedford tends to underachieve Riley overachieves.
The Utes have received a lot of attention in the last few years and it is well deserved. They play good football out there and it hasn’t dropped off much since Urban Meyer left town.
Here is another Utah school that tends to show up every year despite having relatively mediocre talent. The Cougars do tend to have older players that have already completed their Mormon missions so there are generally zero discipline issues with these guys. They are well coached and bring it every week.
Check it out three Mountain West schools in a row. Coincidence? Gary Patterson does a great job at TCU and it will be interesting to see where they land when the Superconference realignment starts to take shape in the next few years. I still think they will end up in a watered down Big 12 but we’ll see. As for right now the Frogs looked like it was their 1st time at the dance in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl but now that they have been to the show they might be primed to win a BCS game.
Brian Kelly owned the Big East with the least talented team in the conference. Now he’s at ND with one of the most talented rosters in the country. The next and last post in this series will be a much longer version of those first two sentences. Can Cincy keep rolling now that Kelly is in South Bend?
Boise State 76.0
The Broncos are knocking on the door of being perennially serious. I suppose you could argue that they already are. Chris Peterson and his staff take undersized kids that can run and flat get after your ass. The Broncos are well coached but it doesn’t hurt that they generally only have 1-2 games per season that are really challenging. It will be very interesting to see if they get any real looks from the big conferences when the realignment goes down. I’m thinking they’ll still get left out because outside of football they don’t bring much to the table. Then again they do rock the Smurf turf. It turns my TV on.
The Cougs are kind of flying just off the radar under Kevin Sumlin. They still have a little way to go but CUSA will bust the BCS at some point and with Skip Holtz leaving ECU the door is open for Houston to capitalize.
Air Force 109.8
These last two programs are the ultimate over achievers. Discipline check. Guts check. Competitiveness, like you can’t even comprehend. The Falcons are well coached but they can’t win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy because of the guys bringing up the rear.
Look at Navy coming in at a ranking of 117.6 and nobody wants a piece of these guys. They have been dominant against the other academies winning the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy seven straight years. They have upset my Fighting Irish twice in the last three years, most recently sealing the fate of Charlie Weis. They have gone bowling and won against much more talented teams from BCS Conferences. They also have one of the best fan bases I have ever been around. The Mids are the ultimate overachievers and their offense is no joke. They probably are not going to knock off any of the teams with "Elite" talent but everyone else needs to be very careful with these guys. They are the college football equivalent of Prince playing basketball against Charlie Murphy’s crew minus the post game pancakes. "You just might get embarrassed."
I will wrap this series up in the next few days by talking at length about how I think all of this plays into the beginning of the Brian Kelly tenure in South Bend.