The 2016 college football regular season has all but ended. Earlier, we looked at the 10 most disappointing teams of 2016. Here are the 10 most surprising.
Colorado Buffaloes: We were high on Colorado before the season. “High on Colorado” then meant you thought the Buffaloes would reach a bowl game. Colorado was in the discussion with Kansas for worst Power 5 program when Mike McIntyre took over. Having them in the Top 10 and in the mix for a conference and possibly a national title is outstanding.
Penn State Nittany Lions: Penn State looked like it could be in trouble in the preseason. Multiple assistants bailed. James Franklin looked like he could be on the hot seat after two September losses. But, PSU got the offense rolling, took their chance against Ohio State at home, and won eight straight to win the B1G East. Incredible turn of events.
USC Trojans: Clay Helton looked like he could be one-and-done after ugly initial losses. But, the Trojans recovered with freshman QB Sam Darnold and won eight straight to finish up 9-3. They beat Colorado. They beat Washington by double-digits in Seattle. USC won’t reach the playoff. But, they are a team that may have scared some people if they get in.
Kentucky Wildcats: This season was “bowl or bust” for Mark Stoops. Kentucky’s bowl chances looked busted after losing to Southern Methodist and getting blown out by Florida. But, the Wildcats gutted out four SEC wins. They upset Louisville to close the season. Not a bad finish at 7-5.
Auburn Tigers: Will Muschamp left. Gus Malzhan entered the season with nine losses in his last 11 SEC games. For some, it was a question of how long Malzahn would survive the season. But, the Tiger defense was excellent. The offense got it going on occasion. A solid 8-4 with losses to two playoff teams away from home is nothing to sniff at.
Vanderbilt Commodores: Anchor down. Let’s say before the season I told you Vanderbilt would reach a bowl game, would beat Tennessee and Ole Miss by multiple scores, would win in Athens, and would not be beaten by 10 points in a conference game. The video below sums it up well.
— Derek Mason’s Vest (@DerekMasonsVest) November 29, 2016
South Carolina Gamecocks: The Gamecocks were a mess in 2015. The QB situation was uncertain. The roster was depleted. SC lost its best defender, linebacker Skai Moore, for the season. Will Muschamp was not a hire that drew rave reviews. South Carolina upset Tennessee, cobbled together enough wins to reach bowl play and, at least in conference play, were a tough out for just about everyone.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Wake Forest is going to a bowl game. That’s incredible, compared to where things looked under Dave Clawson the previous two years. The Demon Deacons entered the season 2-14 in the ACC. They had scored three points combined in regulation during those two ACC wins.
Eastern Michigan Eagles: Eastern Michigan faculty and students wanted to drop the football program. The biggest moments for the program this decade were Ron English getting fired and the infamous cinder block debacle. Chris Creighton was 2-21 vs. FBS entering his third season. The Eagles went 7-5, beat a good Wyoming team, and they are going to a bowl game, in the Bahamas.
Old Dominion Monarchs: Old Dominion started its football program in 2009. The Monarchs became fully bowl eligible in FBS in 2015. They went 9-3, losing Conference USA East to Western Kentucky on the head-to-head result. They too will be attending a bowl game in the Bahamas.