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6/19 Roundtable - The Most Underrated Teams
Kansas QB Todd Reesing
Kansas QB Todd Reesing
Posted Jun 18, 2009

Who are the most underrated teams going into the season? It's the Friday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

June 19

The Most Underrated Team Will Be ... ?

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
June 18 The most overrated team will be ... ?
June 17 The sleeper national title teams
June 16 Do 40 Times Really Matter?
June 15 Does college football need a Rooney Rule?
June 12 Should Alabama vacate wins?
June 11 Should college football players be paid?
June 10 Is the recruiting hype too much?
June 9 If you were starting an NFL team ...
June 8 Where would you take over as head coach?
June 5 Who does the least with the most?
June 4 Who does the most with the least?
June 3 The star players of September
June 2 The star teams of September
June 1 The coach you'd want for one game
May 28 Should the Big Ten expand, and if so, then what team should be added?
May 27 Should the Pac 10 expand? If so, then what two teams should be added?
May 26 Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
May 25 Heisman race sleepers 
May 22 2009's most interesting teams

May 21 Is Tebow the best QB ever?
May 20 When should preseason polls come out?
May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
May 18 No BCS, No Weis?

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: The most underrated team will be ... ?

Technically, can I say USC? When doing preseason rankings, most magazines and "analysts" get lazy and assume that if a team loses a few stars, it's going to take a dive. USC replaces NFL players with other NFL players, and it'll do it again this year.  A token No. 4 in most rankings, USC is probably the second best team in America behind Florida with the best offensive line and the best secondary in America. Everyone of note is back at running back and receiver, while the linebacking corps reloaded and the D line should be strong. Throw in the excellent Aaron Corp/Matt Barkley quarterback situation, and four might be too low in most polls.

On more of a sleeper level, Kansas is a team to watch out for with an offense that no one's going to stop. Todd Reesing has a perfect command of the attack and he has the receivers that'll pick everyone apart. The defensive line is just good enough to help the cause against the top-shelf Big 12 attacks.

Overall, my top five underrated (actually, more like unnoticed) teams are ...

1. Kansas

2. Michigan - If Tate Forcier is the real deal at quarterback, there could be a night-and-day difference after last year's disaster.

3. San Jose State - This is going to be the WAC's most annoying team. No one will take the Spartans seriously, but there will be several upsets thanks to the best defense in the league, outside of Boise State, and an improved offense with the league's best receiving corps.

4. Vanderbilt - The defensive front seven can hang with anyone in the SEC, while the offense will be far better than last year when it did absolutely nothing. Myron Lewis deserves to be in the discussion of the nation's best corners.

5. Toledo - The Rockets aren't going to play any defense right away, but the offense is about to be jump-started. It could be the most effective in the MAC and good enough to be a major pain in non-conference play.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: The most underrated team will be ... ?

North Carolina State. Yes, I’m an unabashed disciple in the church of Tom O’Brien, but I believe in the guy’s ability to build a winner. I saw it in action at Boston College, and I believe we’re seeing it again in Raleigh. Yeah, the guy’s a rotary phone in an iPhone world, but his conservative blueprint for success still works. And now, he’s got a quarterback to carry his program to another level.

The key is Russell Wilson, the precocious second-year dual-threat, who ignited the program in 2008 and finished as a most unlikely All-ACC first team quarterback. If he can stay healthy, a big concern, he’s got that certain quality that just spawns good things. It was evident throughout the second half of the season, when the Wolfpack kept getting better as the year progressed and won four straight as an underdog.

With a little bit of wind at its back and O’Brien settling into his third season on campus, NC State is about to roll from a 6-7 program to a Top 25 team. If it can handle South Carolina on opening night, look out. The Pack is liable to get hot and finish with nine or ten wins and an Atlantic Division crown.

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: The most underrated team will be ... ?

Axing Paul Pasqualoni turned out to be a bad move for the Orange and their then-unrealistic fan base. Now that the Greg Robinson years have hopefully made the locals appreciate what they had in Pasqualoni, the Syracuse program--fresh off its appropriately-administered penance--can start anew in upstate New York.
First-year head coach Doug Marrone is a school alum, for one thing--that never hurts when the face of the program has to sell his school or motivate players in various settings. More than his SU ties, however, Marrone brings NFL savvy and a fertile mind to a team whose offense has had all the strength of a pop gun in recent seasons. If Syracuse can split September home dates against Big Ten schools Minnesota and Northwestern, the Orange will immediately acquire an upward trajectory, and likely carry positive momentum through much, if not all, of their 2009 campaign

Jon Miller, Publisher,

Q: The most underrated team will be ... ?

:I really like how things are setting up for Illinois this year. Their schedule is not unkind, getting many of their big games at home and things are spread out for them week to week during the conference season. They were set to play at Iowa, but miss the Hawkeyes for two years. Late November non-conference games against Cincinnati and Fresno State are a bit of a head scratcher, but both are winnable games. A nine or even ten win season for a talent laden Illini team is not out of the question.

Baylor is another team to keep an eye on. They have one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the country in Robert Griffin, plus they return nine starters on both sides of the ball. Making it to a bowl game would be a big accomplishment for Art Briles and the Baylor program and I believe that goal is within reach.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher,

Q: The most underrated team will be ... ?

A: I have to bring up Georgia, because I’ve mentioned them in similar answers before and they’re definitely better than people are giving them credit for, but I think they have a ceiling.  And again, Cal is a legit darkhorse.  Then there’s Utah who returns seven starters to a defense that absolutely smothered Alabama last year.

But the most underrated team could very well be LSU.  The Tigers look like a fair bet to open the season outside, or right at, the top 15.  Yeah they just suffered through their worst season since 2002, and the defense lost some playmakers, but this team is still stacked.  Top five recruiting classes have become almost boring in Baton Rouge considering they’ve had one nearly every year since Nick Saban arrived.  So the talent will always be there.

The last time LSU finished with an 8-5 mark just they won the national title the following year.  I’m not ready to believe they can pull off another championship, but they could be an 11 win team.  Getting the Florida game in Death Valley is huge, and even though the Magnolia Bowl will be played in Oxford, Ole Miss isn’t exactly a feared team down in Baton Rouge.

But the biggest reasons that LSU will return to elite status are the quarterback situation and the arrival of John Chavis.  The Tigers are a full year removed from the Ryan Perriloux catastrophe, Jordan Jefferson has a strong hold on the starting spot, and perhaps most importantly Jarrett Lee won’t sniff any meaningful snaps.  Then there’s Chavis.  The guy is an 18-year veteran of the SEC, and he fielded some pretty sharp defenses at Tennessee.  But I’m not sure even his best Vols units are on the same level as the talent he inherits at LSU.  Even if Chavis wasn’t a legend, having one clear-cut defensive coordinator is a gorgeous site for a team that just suffered through the calamities of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Tigers have posted top ten recruiting classes nearly every year for the last decade.  One bad season shouldn’t have so many so down on the Tigers.  They’ll be back. 




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Kevin Carden, Publisher,

Which program is getting no attention today, but will by the end of September?

A: For me this is an easy one, Pete Carroll is the man for the job. Hollywood’s leading man has won 85% of his games in eight seasons at USC, so I’ll gladly take those odds. The knock on USC has been that they have lost to lesser teams like Stanford and UCLA in the past, but when it comes down to a big game with all the hoopla and pressure, Pete Carroll’s teams always come ready to play, boasting a 32-7 record against AP Top 25 teams.

In seven BCS bowl games, which are as big a stage as there is in college football, Carroll has a very impressive 6-1 record with his only loss coming against Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl with a legendary performance by Vince Young. And the Trojans just don’t win big games; they usually dominate, with all six BCS bowl wins coming by 14-plus points. 

The genius in Carroll’s preparation is that everything from encouraging fans to attend the open practices, to the hard-hitting intensity, it’s all designed to have his players perform in high pressure situations.