The 2013 college football regular season is over. Earlier, we looked at the 10 most disappointing teams. Here, flipping the narrative, are the ten most surprising.
Auburn Tigers: The obvious choice. The Tigers won zero games in the SEC last year. They were 1,000 to 1 shots win the BCS title. They play for all the Tostitos on January 6th. Auburn’s renaissance is not that hard to explain. In 2012, the Tigers were 90th in yards/play. In 2013, they are ninth.
Duke Blue Devils: Duke is the worst football job in the power conferences. Reaching a bowl game last year was a coup. Winning 10 games for the first time in school history and beating both Miami and Virginia Tech in the same season is just silly. How they are getting it done, ranking 61st in yards/play offense, 62nd in yards/play defense and being average on third downs and turnover margin remains a mystery, but fair play to them.
Missouri Tigers: This should not have been as much of a surprise as it was. Missouri finished in the SRS top 20 four times in five years before a devastating injury run in 2012. Some predicted a bounce back year. No one predicted an 11-1 regular season and trip to the SEC title game. Hopefully, this results in a less sweaty Pinkel testimonial video.
Minnesota Golden Gophers: Jerry Kill’s steady rebuilding project came through in his third year. Minnesota had its first .500 B1G season since 2005. Beating Nebraska was the Gophers’ biggest win since Glen Mason beat Michigan that same season. That was despite Kill missing a significant portion of the season to cope with his epilepsy.
Buffalo Bulls: Jeff Quinn was a Broyles Award finalist as Brian Kelly’s OC in 2009. He took over the Buffalo job and, in 2013, finally got things rolling. The Bulls went 8-4, with two paycheck losses at Ohio State and at Baylor to open the season. Six of their MAC wins were by 27 points or more. The Bulls are going to just their second bowl game in school history.
Boston College Eagles: The Eagles went from 1-10 vs. FBS in 2012 to 6-5 in 2013 in their first year under Steve Addazio. They gave both Clemson and Florida State a scare. Running back Andre Williams rushed his way to the Heisman podium with more than 2000 yards. Football has returned to Chestnut Hill.
Washington State Cougars: Mike Leach faced a multiple-year rebuilding job and a culture in need of change. What you wanted to see in year two were flashes. The Cougars were hamstrung and inconsistent. They also went 6-0 ATS on the road and picked off two Top 25 SRS teams, USC and Arizona. 6-6 against the 8th toughest schedule in the country was a strong second-year effort.
Michigan State Spartans: The Spartans went 8-1 in one-score games in 2010 and 2011 and were overvalued. In 2012, they lost five B1G games by 10 points in regulation and were undervalued entering 2013. Many saw them competing for a B1G title. Few saw them posting the best statistical defense in the country and having one of the best B1G conference seasons of the modern era.
Iowa Hawkeyes: The Hawkeyes bounced back with their first five-win conference season since the 11-2 year in 2009. They beat Nebraska by 21 in Lincoln. Their only conference losses came against Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. It was a nice 8-4 season. No, this won’t result in an extension for Ferentz, though employment of a few more Ferentz family members may be in play.
Arizona State Sun Devils: The Sun Devils had promise. They also had a heinous schedule, which ended up being the nation’s second toughest behind Utah. Their neutral site loss to Notre Dame came after playing Wisconsin, Stanford and USC the three weeks previously. Five top 25 SRS wins, a 10-2 regular season, a trip to the Pac 12 title game and a fair bit of redemption for Todd Graham.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]