Every college football season, teams from every conference surprise the nation with not only a one-game performance but their performance over an entire season. From the Power Five to the Group of Five, these teams pull off upsets, spoil seasons, and sometimes spark s new era for their program.
Here are the five teams that college football fans should keep an eye on this upcoming season. They might even shake up the College Football Playoff picture.
South Carolina Gamecocks
The South Carolina Gamecocks started off 2022 slow with a 1-2 record but finished strong, winning seven of their last nine regular season games with back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, Tennessee and Clemson, and fell just short of beating Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl, losing 45-38. Heading into Shane Beamer's third season as the Gamecocks' head coach, there is a different buzz surrounding their program.
Led by quarterback Spencer Rattler, South Carolina has a demanding schedule with their usual SEC conference games sandwiched between North Carolina and Clemson. Most have the Gamecocks winning seven to eight games, but do not be surprised if South Carolina secures their first 10-win season since 2013.
Oregon State Beavers
The talk of the Pac-12 is headlined by USC, Washington, Utah, and Oregon but there is one more team who could find themselves in the conference title game if they continue on the same path they have been on the last two years, and that is the Oregon State Beavers.
In 2021, the Beavers finished with their first winning season since 2007, and in 2022, they followed it up with a 10-win season, their first since 2006. The Beavers' biggest concern has been the play at quarterback. Thee Beavers staring quarterbacks threw just 16 touchdowns to 13 interceptions this past season, but with Clemson transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei taking the reins of the offense, Oregon State could be vying for another 10-win season and a shot at a conference title.
From 2016-2019, the Wisconsin Badgers had nine 10-win seasons, seven bowl wins, and three conference titles. However, across the last three seasons, the Badgers have not been as dominant, going 20-14 and finishing with a winning record in conference play in just one of those seasons.
However, the Badgers are entering a new era as head coach Luke Fickell takes over to get Wisconsin back on track. Fickell gets 11 starters back (5 offense, 6 defense) and brings in a handful of transfers including SMU-transfer quarterback Tanner Mordecai to start off his tenure with the Badgers. With the Big Ten West top-heavy and wide open, the Badgers may not need a rebuilding year to get back into the Big Ten title game.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Joey McGuire era at Texas Tech got off to an up-and-down start, going 2-4 against ranked opponents but finishing the 2022 season with four straight wins including their bowl victory against Ole Miss.
Quarterback Tyler Shough leads a team that returns 14 starters and has high expectations of themselves to win a Big 12 championship. The Red Raiders face a tough road schedule in conference play with trips to play West Virginia, Baylor and Texas through the course of the season, but their biggest test comes in Week 2 when they host the Oregon Ducks. A win would be monumental for this program, but a good performance, win or lose, could show just how far this Red Raiders team can go in 2023.
Fresno State Bulldogs
In the Group of Five, the Fresno State Bulldogs could emerge as the at-large bid to grab a birth in a New Year's Six bowl game. The 2022 Mountain West champion got off to a slow start last year, going 1-4 in their first five games, but ended the season on a nine-game win streak, including their conference title game win and their LA Bowl win over Washington State.
The Bulldogs offense has a balanced attack, but their strong point is their defense, which was one of the best in college football in 2022. The Bulldogs should win almost all of their conference games and find themselves vying for another conference title, but wins over Purdue and Arizona State on the road in Weeks One and Four could project the Bulldogs into the New Year's Six Bowl slot for the Group of Five.
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