College football season is over five months away, but it’s never too early to find potential sleepers for next year’s College Football Playoff.
CBS Sports writer Ben Kercheval discussed five college football teams who could contend for a playoff berth in 2017.
Kercheval listed BYU, Kansas State, Mississippi State, South Florida and Syracuse as his Cinderella teams for next season.
For BYU, Kercheval said the Cougars’ schedule is favorable enough for a run.
“That, by the way, is heavily front-loaded,” Kercheval wrote. “On Sept. 2, BYU plays LSU at a neutral-site game in Houston. The following week, it gets a home game against nemesis Utah. After that, it’s another home game vs. Wisconsin. October doesn’t let up much with back-to-back games against Boise State and at Mississippi State.”
Kercheval said a Big 12 title run would be the perfect end to Bill Snyder’s career next season.
“No one is sure what lies ahead for Snyder after the upcoming season, but a 10-win season and/or Big 12 championship — maybe with a playoff appearance to boot? — would be a hell of a story … and a storybook ending if Snyder did opt to step away from the game,” he wrote. “It’s not a stretch, either. The Wildcats have a young nucleus of players returning and the Big 12 title race is expected to be wide open.”
Nick Fitzgerald should be one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC next season, and his dual-threat ability makes Mississippi State an interesting team.
“However, Mississippi State has something many other unheralded SEC teams do not: a quarterback. And his name is Nick Fitzgerald,” he said. “There was a lot of inconsistency in his game as a first-year starter in 2016 but also a lot of promise. My gut feeling is MSU is still a year away from a more realistic run out of the West. However, with home games against LSU and Alabama, Dan Mullen’s team might get a big win to show the signs are there.”
South Florida lost coach Willie Taggart to Oregon, but new coach Charlie Strong inherited a very experienced team.
“We still need a Group of Five team to round out this list and the American Athletic Conference has become a hotbed for underdogs,” he wrote. “South Florida is already receiving buzz as a playoff hopeful and with good reason. This is a seasoned team with one of the better quarterbacks few people are talking about in Quinton Flowers. The schedule is more than doable with the toughest games on paper — vs. Temple, Houston, Tulsa and Illinois, the lone Power Five opponent — all at home. Plus, a big season would be a nice redemption story for first-year coach Charlie Strong after he was fired at Texas.”
The inclusion of Syracuse on this list was most surprising. The Orange went 4-8 last season, and they are in the same division as Florida State and Clemson. Here’s Kercheval’s take on the Orange:
“Cuse is placed in an awful division to make a Cinderella run. Clemson and Florida State every year? Are you serious? Still, coach Dino Babers showed in his first year that there was some potential left in this Northeastern program. The future is bright even after a 4-8 season. The two-deep was littered with freshmen and sophomores, and now they all have a year in Babers’ system under their belt. Quarterback Eric Dungey has some serious guts about him as well.”
Teams like Mississippi State and Syracuse are in very tough divisions, so it’s tough to imagine them being playoff-caliber teams. But BYU, Kansas State and South Florida all have the talent, coaches and schedules to potentially make a run next season.
(h/t CBS Sports)