Ten College Football Sleepers For The Remainder Of The Season
College Football Sleepers
It’s an odd college football season. There’s a presumptive favorite in Tuscaloosa, an assumed challenger in Eugene and a bevy of programs hoping their one-loss record sits well with voters should either of those two stumble.
And the sleepers?
Usually these squads are at a tier beneath the elite. They’re middle of the road teams who might get hot for a season or finally cash in on a 5-star recruit.
In 2012 though, September defeats pushed high-profile schools to the back of the BCS line and hot seat talk overshadowed production. In mid-to-late October, as these teams creep toward the national conversation again, are they truly sleepers?
I believe so, partly because the Alabama Crimson Tide and Oregon Ducks are on a voters’ crash course and ruling a one-loss program out of the title chase six games in seems a little overkill. USC and Oklahoma carry cache. They aren’t sleepers in the normal sense but in this crazy, hard to pinpoint year of college football, the Trojans and Sooners qualify.
This list contains a few non-BCS squads as well. I’ve always wondered though if fans of perennial sleepers enjoy the status or fear the looming money-whip. Turn a sleeper into a contender and your coach is headed for a campus with a nicer golf course and more zeros in the paycheck. Was the Liberty Bowl victory worth it?
As much as reputation helps make a sleeper a dangerous foe, the wins trump all. Western Kentucky isn’t admired because Willie Taggart might receive an SEC offer this winter. They’re beloved for only losing to Alabama and LSU in the last calendar year.
And now, onto the countdown of the ten college football sleepers remaining in this 2012 season.
10. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
An opening week loss at the Iowa State Cyclones and the Golden Hurricane haven’t lost since. They’re laying waste to Conference USA and travel to Arkansas on November 3rd. Think the Razorback faithful want to see that loss at home?
9. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Not so much a sleeper anymore, Willie Taggart’s stingy squad is 5-1 with a Sun Belt game advantage on September darling Louisiana-Monroe. Every win increases their profile and ups the starting price of Taggart’s salary at his next school.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes
Is it possible that an offensive coordinator living off letting Vince Young do his own thing and a notoriously overpaid head coach might win a Big Ten division? The Hawkeyes already beat Michigan State with a trip to Michigan in late November the tell-tale matchup.
7. Penn State Nittany Lions
Quietly, Bill O’Brien’s rebuild in Happy Valley includes a 4-2 record and second place in the Big Ten Leaders division. Should they finish solely behind Ohio State, the Nittany Lions would qualify for the conference championship game. That, just the thought, is miraculous.
6. USC Trojans
Hovering near the top ten since their loss to Stanford, the Trojans won’t generate many headlines until November 3rd. If Lane Kiffin succeeds in knocking off Oregon, USC is right back in the thick of one-loss entrants to Miami. Beat them twice and they’re booking tickets.
5. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Fresh off a demolition of West Virginia, the Red Raiders are more than capable of throwing a wrench in an undefeated run for Kansas State. Tommy Tuberville’s team took a defeat from Oklahoma but there’s no reason, with that defense, Texas Tech can’t be considered a possibility for shared conference honors.
4. Michigan Wolverines
Left for dead following destruction at the hands of Nick Saban, Brady Hoke’s Wolverines are rebounding. By winning the Legends division and then claiming the Big Ten crown – even in an ineligible year for Ohio State – it gives credence to Michigan’s recruiting uptick.
3. Clemson Tigers
The Tigers need another Florida State loss in the Atlantic Division to bypass the Seminoles but at this point, would you rather bet on Jimbo Fisher? Clemson hosts Virginia Tech this weekend in a matchup that makes or breaks both programs in 2012.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
It speaks to the parity in college football that three teams on this sleeper list sport very real chances of winning their conferences. In Oklahoma, a loss to Kansas State stunted progress but demolitions of Texas Tech and Texas means Bob Stoops’ team is a West Virginia defeat of the Wildcats away from being tied for first. This isn’t the squad that struggled with UTEP any longer.
1. Oregon State Beavers
Ranked eighth in the country and known more for their In-N-Out exploits than on-field prowess. Mike Riley’s squad has overtaken USC as the only thing standing between Oregon and a fourth consecutive Pac 12 title.
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