This is the companion article to last week’s “2015 CFB Top 10 Overrated Teams.” Today, we switch gears & give you a thumbnail sketch of 15 teams I feel may provide great betting value this FB season.
By this time in the year seemingly every website and every CFB handicapper has formulated a list of this year’s underrated CFB teams. Unfortunately, this is a highly subjective list, filled with personal opinions with firm lines yet to be set on the opening week of play and August training camp still to occur. Much can happen between now and when the ball goes in the air in early September.
Based on the work I have done to date, with still much to come, this is my opening list of 2015 CFB TOP 15 UNDERRATED college football teams. For now, let’s focus on a group of 15 teams, who, based on their performance of recent seasons and particularly last season may be UNDERRRATED in the eyes of the public and the linemaker. The teams are in alphabetical order with a brief thumbnail sketch following each team.
Akron (Tommy Bowden, 2 years)
Very quietly, Bowden is resurrecting a program that was 2-22 SU in 2011 and 2012. Surprisingly, he is doing it with defense. Since Bowden arrived, the defense has dropped from 39 to 36 to 29 to 23 PPG. More high-profile transfers, and a plethora of Florida players, are on their way. But, the key may well be 13 projected senior starters. Yet, with a finish of 1-5 SU and 1-7 ATS, no one figures to notice.
Ball St. (Pete Lembo, 4 years)
Look for the bounce from Ball! In his first 3 years, Lembo went from 6 to 9 to 10 wins with a 17-7 SU record in the MAC. A 5-7 SU log in 2015 has this team on a mission with 17 returning starters.
Colorado (Mike MacIntyre, 2 years)
This year is critical for MacIntrye, if he is to remain in Boulder. The Buffs have had a 200 club DEFENSE the last 3 years. But with 16 returning starters in MacIntyre’s 3rd year, they should be ready to make a move with a 4-0 SU jump from the gate. Competing with the powers that are the PAC 12 South is a far different story. But, remember, we are interested only in their ATS record. It should be a good one.
UConn (Bob Diaco, 1 year)
It has been ugly in Storrs of late regardless of conference affiliation. Last year, in the AAC, the Huskies went 2-10 SU, 2-9 ATS, including a 0-4 SU ATS finish. A -13 net TO margin indicates a turnaround, as does the addition of veteran OC Verducci to improve an offense that averaged just 15 PPG and 278 YPG. Mush!
Florida Int’l (Ron Turner, 2 years)
Time for the Panthers to prowl, at least ATS, after moving from 1-11 SU, 4-7 ATS to 4-8 SU, 6-4 ATS! That record could have been far better. Witness the fact they were outscored just 25 to 23 (compared to 37-10 the previous year). Four losses by 3 or less points were the difference between winning and losing. Now, with 15 returning starters in his 3rd year, look for FIU to continue their upward move!
Mid-Tenn St. (Rick Stockstill, 9 years)
Mid-Tenn St. dipped to 6-6 SU last season, after a 16-9 SU run the previous 2 years (yet, they are still 17-7 SU in conference play in that timeframe). Look for the bounce back (with the help of an easier schedule), after a 1-3 SU, 0-4 ATS finish led to the demise. With 16 returning starters and the return of a balanced, explosive offense that was a 200 Club Member, look for this team to return to their winning ways and challenge for CUSA East superiority.
Northwestern (Pat Fitzgerald, 9 years)
It appears as if veteran experience could well lead these Cats to the winning side of the ledger in 2015. Yet, they may fly under the radar, as many will dismiss the mediocre number of 14 returning starters. You should focus instead on some serious senior leadership and a team that has 76% of their lettermen returning.
Ohio (Frank Solich, 10 years)
The Bobcats have been mired in mediocrity the last 2 years under veteran mentor, Frank Solich. The offense has dipped precipitously from 32 to 27 to 20 points. This year, look for the rebound as one of the most veteran coaching staffs in the country takes 17 returning starters and molds them into a MAC East challenger.
Oregon St. (Gary Anderson, 0 years)
This is a reach! First year HC Anderson inherits a bare cupboard with 2 returning starters to a defense that allowed over 30 points and over 400 yards each of the previous 2 seasons. As a result, the Beavers will be flying way under the radar in Anderson’s first year. His work at Utah St. and Wisconsin, however, speaks volumes. Do not be surprised if Beaver pelts rise to a premium, following their 2-8 ATS season of last and low expectations.
Pitt (Pat Narduzzi, 0 years)
Here is another highly respected 1st year coach, whom I believe can create a rapid turnaround with the Pitt program that has either 6 or 7 wins each of the last 4 seasons and is just 8-14 ATS the last two. Off season conditioning and spring practices were more brutal than ever for the Panthers. Like “old school” football? That’s what Narduzzi, former DC at Michigan St., will bring with 16 returning starters, an intense defense and a smash-mouth ground game behind RB Connor.
San Jose St. (Ron Caragher, 2 years)
Call here is that the Spartans reached the nadir of their discontent with a 3-9 SU, 2-9 ATS season of last, including a 0-6 SA finish. Look for a huge improvement on offense from a team who missed their departed signal caller, Fales, last year and now brings aboard veteran OC Borges to rebuild the attack. Should be lots of value with the Spartans this season!
SMU (Chad Morris, 0 years)
Last year, former HC June Jones tossed the towel after 9 days, leaving the Ponies without direction. The result was a 1-11 SU season in which they were outscored 41-11 and outgained 499-269. A -14 net TO margin combines with 16 returning starters and MOST IMPORTANTLY 1st HC Chad Morris, the offensive guru of Clemson. We will once again see the Ponies prance their way onto the winning side of the ATS ledger.
Texas (Charlie Strong, 1 year)
This one is a bit obvious because of the big reps of the Texas program and respected 2nd year HC Strong. Yet, there is little doubt the Longhorns will bounce following a rare 6-7 SU losing season. Strong is a defensive mastermind, who in only his 2nd season, may field the best defense in the Big 12. That in itself is a reason to expect great improvement.
Texas Tech (Kliff Kingsbury, 2 years)
Losing seasons do not sit well on the plains of West Texas, where there is little to do in the fall other than root for TTRR. Former Red Raider QB Kingsbury has much to prove in his 3rd year at the helm of his alma mater. He will be greatly aided by a vastly experienced team with 16 returning starters, a pair of experienced QBs and a very potent offense, which has averaged 372 PYPG in the Kingsbury era. Main reason for improvement may well be the addition of new DC Gibbs, whose job it will be to improve a 200 Club defense in each of the last 2 years under KK.
Washington St. (Mike Leach, 3 years)
Leach has been a winner at every school he has coached EXCEPT Washington St. Last year, he had the No. 1 passing offense in the nation at 480 YPG, but could run for just 40/2.0. Dialing down the schedule will help, as will the fact there figures to be a bounce from the -17 TO margin of last year. Final go round for Leach? Whose seat will get very hot should he be sub .500 after the Oregon St. game in mid-October.