By Bryan Zarpentine @BZarp on August 10, 2014
The preseason top 25 poll in college football has a profound lack of mid-major teams, with every team except Notre Dame being a part of a power conference. But as the season goes on, there’s bound to be some teams that come out of small conferences to surprise everyone, which always seems to be the case -- just look at Central Florida last year. Here are five mid-majors that will surprise everybody in 2014.
Navy rarely gets the credit they deserve for being such a consistent program, but the Midshipmen bring back a strong team this season that has a chance to push for 10 wins, which would be quite a feat for a service academy. More importantly, they're going to get home dates against a couple of the big boys of college football, Ohio State and Notre Dame, and if they can pull off a surprise in one of those games, they'll grab everyone's attention.
The Cougars won a respectable eight games last season, but with 17 starters back this season, including sophomore quarterback John O'Korn, Houston is poised to do big things in the AAC. Fans should expect Houston to score a lot of points this season, and if they can get past BYU the third week of the season, they have a chance to run the table and get to a marquee bowl the way UCF did last season.
The Sun Belt is slowly becoming a respectable league and Lafayette has been a big part of that. They've won nine games each of the last three seasons, including three bowl victories, and 2014 could be their breakout season. Before September ends, the Ragin' Cajuns will have games against Ole Miss and Boise State, and if they can find a win in one or both games, a team with such a catchy nickname will start to draw national attention.
The Bearcats no longer have Louisville to worry about, and they don't have UCF on the schedule, so this could be their year to win the AAC and head to a major bowl game for the first time since Brian Kelly left. They will finally get a chance to play in-state foe Ohio State, and a trip down to Miami to play the Hurricanes gives them another chance to make a statement and surprise some people.
Marshall isn't one of the better known mid-majors in college football, but that could change in 2014. The Thundering Herd won 10 games last year, including a win over ACC/Big 10 member Maryland in their bowl game, and with the return of star quarterback Rakeem Cato and a favorable schedule, Marshall is set up well to run the table and make a push for a spot in the top 25 and some national attention, while also winning a conference title.
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