Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 8/29/13

We’re positive that any of you could argue that your team is underrated , and you’re probably right. Here, we picked nine teams that we believe are flying under the radar while shedding some light on their potential seasons.  These are teams that are either looking to elevate themselves to the top of their conference after a solid year, or are looking to forget about last year and completely turn it around. The ranking next to the team is from a 26-124 ranking that CBSSports.com did. Feel free to comment the team that you think is most underrated heading into the season. Arkansas Razorbacks (75) 2012 was not the year of the pig, Arkansas football fans had to sit through quite a disappointing season as the Razorbacks bottomed out at second to last in the SEC west. A new coach in Bret Bielema was brought in to help guide Arkansas back to prominence. Bielema’s offensive style of smash-mouth football will favor the four options at running back. Starter Jonathan Williams (sophomore, 231 yards), highly-touted recruit Alex Collins, as well as Nate Holmes and Kody Walker whom could all make up for a powerful running core in the SEC, especially with experienced center Travis Swanson, and an offensive line on the rise. The 318-pound senior is a highly efficient pass protector, which should only help Arkansas’ new starting QB. Another sophomore, Brandon Allen could do a lot to damage while controlling the Razorback offense, and should give Bielema someone to count on. Unfortunately on the other side of the ball, Arkansas’ secondary is still weak with only a few bright spots on the roster. But Arkansas’ defensive line is another story, defensive end Chris Smith (senior) provides the pressure, he collected 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. The Razorbacks have some hope going into 2013, a new coach with the ability to take advantage of Arkansas’ massive offensive line, and a defensive line that could aid a struggling secondary hoping to prove itself. Look for Arkansas to turn a few heads in the 2013 SEC season and return to a respectable bowl game come late December-January. Ball State Cardinals (39) I’m not sure who “we” is, but we haven’t been this excited for Ball State football since Nate Davis. Granted we weren’t that excited, but in all seriousness Ball State has the potential to go undefeated this season. Coming off of a strong 9-4 season, the Cardinals return star quarterback Keith Wenning, 1,400-yard rusher Jahwan Edwards, and all of their key receivers including 1,000-yard receiver Willie Snead and senior tight end Zane Fakes. Although the MAC has powerful offenses in Kent State, Northern Illinois, and Ohio, it’s Ball State’s offense that will be the most effective and consistent as long as Wenning, who is fresh off of a left knee surgery, remains healthy. Last season their defense let up 462 yards per game as people ran and threw all over them, which really shows how impressive their offense was. This season, they return their major defensive contributors including DE Jonathan Newsome who finished with 8.5 sacks last season, and CB Eric Patterson who had a team-leading 61 tackles, nine passes broken up, and two picks. Of course that won’t be enough against the MAC, and they’ll need a lot of players, especially their younger guys, to step up. I would expect improvements on their 462 yards per game as the team picks up momentum throughout the season, they should be 5-0 heading into their first test against Virginia. Buffalo Bulls (94) A 4-8 record won’t get you very much recognition, but with Buffalo returning their key stars, they will certainly spark some trouble in the MAC. Their offense will be carried by senior running back Branden Oliver, a serious candidate who could lead the nation in rushing yards. The real question mark is on starting QB Alex Zordich, who will luckily have star receiver Alex Nuetz as his main weapon. Of course we all hate using “ifs,” but if Zordich limits his turnovers and Oliver stays healthy, Buffalo will hurt MAC defenses. Defensively, Buffalo is led by the best linebacker in the conference in Khalil Mack. With Mack and defensive end Colby Way, there won’t be a problem supplying pressure. The Bulls will also host a strong secondary which will hopefully buy their defensive line even more time. With two very tough games against Ohio State and Baylor to start the season, the Bulls will be more than prepared heading into conference play. Cincinnati Bearcats (30) Cincinnati is coming off of a 10-3 season in 2012 with solid wins against Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and a 48-34 bowl win against an underrated Duke team. They also had a strong performance against 16th ranked Louisville in a 34-31 OT loss. Their defense returns several starters and has some transfers and freshman the defensive coaches are excited about. Linebackers Greg Blair and especially Jeff Luc are poised for breakout seasons. Senior quarterback Munchie Legaux hopes to emerge as the talented player he has the potential to be. He finished 2012 with 1,716 passing yards and 13 touchdowns with 335 yards rushing and four touchdowns. However, the quarterback situation is not final. Senior Brandon Kay finished 2012 with 1,298 passing yards and 10 touchdowns with 306 yards on the ground and two scores. The starting quarterback position is still up for grabs but the competition should help improve both seniors. Under new head coach Tommy Tuberville, expect either or both quarterbacks to have success this season. Tuberville, despite his controversial departure from Texas Tech, is an offensive guru whose spread offense has been very productive in his eighteen years as a head coach. Anthony McClung is the only returning receiver who made a real impact last season, but Tuberville and his coaching staff can and will turn this into a great offense filled with weapons. In the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference, the Bearcats’ schedule is favorable. Their best opportunities come against Purdue, Illinois, and ninth ranked Louisville to finish the season. If they can sneak past the two Big Ten match-ups, Cincinnati could win 11 games this season. Louisiana Monroe (59) The Warhawks started their season with a bang last year, besting then eighth ranked Arkansas 34-31 in OT. The following week they fell to Auburn 31-28, also in OT. And in week three they just barely lost a shootout to Baylor, 47-42. Despite the losses, these were strong performances in an above average non-conference schedule, and that team will now play with a chip on its shoulder. Senior quarterback Kolton Browning returns after a productive junior season where he totaled 3,049 yards passing and added 488 yards rushing with seven touchdowns. His 29 passing touchdowns were the most in the Sun Belt. Running backs Jyruss Edwards and Monterrell Washington return in the backfield for their senior seasons as well. ULM lost its top receivers from last season but look for senior Tavarese Maye to step in as Browning’s number one receiver in a young receiving core. The Warhawks also return a number of starters on defense in a conference more known for its offenses. With 2012 Sun Belt Coach of the Year, Todd Berry entering his fourth season in Monroe, the 2013 Warhawks are all players he and his coaching staff recruited. With key matchups against no. 16 Oklahoma, Wake Forest, and Baylor, they have another decent non-conference schedule. They should win 10 games en route to a Sun Belt title. Mississippi State (42) The SEC is filled with stars and marque names on pretty much every team, yet Mississippi State’s key players do not get nearly the attention they deserve. Senior quarterback Tyler Russell, who threw for 2,897 yards and 24 touchdowns, is arguably the most underrated leader in the conference. He’ll hand the ball off to 1,000-yard rusher LaDarius Perkins, who is poised for a big season behind a strong offensive line led by OG Gabe Jackson and OT Blaine Clausell Jr. There’s no denying they’re very strong offensively, but the team will be energized by a defense led by linebacker Benadrick McKinney, a name that everybody will know by the end of the season. After losing major players to the NFL, they’re secondary could struggle against SEC quarterbacks and larger receivers, but if they can get pressure from their athletic front seven, they’re set. Miss St. will most likely face at least four top-15 teams, and those teams better not sleep on these Bulldogs. Washington Huskies (45) Look out for the Washington Huskies in 2013. Head coach Steve Sarkisian returns for his fifth year with a full roster of his recruits. Coming off of a disappointing 7-6 record in 2012, Washington looks to bounce back in a big way this year. Despite the record, they had nice wins against 8th ranked Stanford and 7th ranked Oregon State. Coach Justin Wilcox took over the defense last season, helping the Huskies’ rise to 31st nationally in total defense, 75 places higher than a year before. All Pac-12 in 2012, junior linebacker John Timu is expected to be the star of this defense after switching to the middle. Washington’s offense could be one of the Pac-12′s best this year. Kieth Price returns for his senior year after a disappointing junior season. Price displayed his potential as a sophomore, finishing with 3,063 yards, 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Those stats regressed last season where he had 2,728 with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. However, this offense as a whole is ready for a prolific 2013 season. Price may be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country and he will have the luxury of Bishop Sankey in his backfield. The All Pac-12 honorable mention running back had 1,439 yards rushing last season with 16 touchdowns and is ready to attack the conference once again. Price’s number one target in Kasen Williams returns for his junior year as does dynamic tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. Somebody to watch for is, true freshman receiver John Ross, who has a lot of hype around him. The speedster has already drawn comparisons to Oregon’s star De’Anthony Thomas. The schedule is as hard as ever, they open the season at home with Boise State, later travel to no. 4 Stanford, at home against no. 3 Oregon, and also play at UCLA and Oregon State. Don’t be surprised if Washington takes at least two of these critical games and flirts with 10 wins in 2013. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (66) WKU has finally earned some recognition, of course it’s because the hiring of Bobby Petrino, but that’s still great because it would be a shame if this team was ignored. The star of the team is stud running back Antonio Andrews, who ran for 1,684 yards while receiving 432 yards and totaling 14 touchdowns. He’s a special player and another candidate to lead the nation in rushing. The question mark is with junior starting quarterback Brandon Doughty, who only has 25 passes to his name. He’ll look to make a star out of wide out and number one target Willie McNeal. The defense is led by future NFL linebacker Andrew Jackson, he lived up to his presidential name last season and registered 122 tackles and 17.5 tackles for loss. Watch out for the Hilltoppers to create a lot of turnovers as their secondary is the strongest in the Sun Belt, they return both of their starting safeties and two solid corners. Last season their top sack-leader totaled 3.5, this season they think they have an improved line that can step up and get after the quarterback. WKU starts off the season with two SEC games against Kentucky and Tennessee, don’t be surprised if Petrino’s Hilltoppers knock one off. Wyoming Cowboys (102) Wyoming went 4-8 last year, but should flirt with Bowl Game berth in 2013. The Cowboys will be led by the most underrated quarterback in the Mountain West, Brett Smith. Last season the junior threw for 2,832 yards, 27 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He’ll have sufficient receivers to throw to in Robert Herron, Dominic Rufran, and Jalen Claiborne who combined for 18 touchdowns. It’ll be hard not to improve defensively, as last season they severely struggled ranking 99th with 33.4 points per game. Luckily they return their key contributors on the defensive line and secondary. They had serious problems attacking the quarterback, but the defensive line is much more experienced and stronger this season. Overall their defense is surprisingly big and athletic, and it wouldn’t be shocking if they pulled off a 180. Quickly looking at their schedule I couldn’t imagine Wyoming losing more than six games, and going back to my first sentence, by theory, that would have them flirting with that berth.

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