Predicting next season: football’s 5 most overlooked teams

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The college football season is right around the corner, and anticipation is starting to build.

Now everybody wants to give their two cents on who’s going to win which conferences and which team is going to be the dark horse this year. I for one can’t get enough of these predictions, no matter how off-base they may be. With that, I’m going to join in on the fun and give you my five teams that are being overlooked that could do some special things this year.

*1. Virginia Tech Hokies (11-3 Last season)*

It’s hard to call the Hokies a team under the radar considering they went to a BCS bowl game last year (but got crushed by Andrew Luck and Stanford). But what concerns a lot of people in Blacksburg is that Tyrod Taylor is gone. I see the team making a smooth transition to sophomore Logan Thomas, who head coach Frank Beamer is very high on and is a true dual-threat quarterback. The defense, particularly the secondary, is loaded with depth and talent led by Jayron Hosley. The schedule is very workable, getting Clemson, Miami, Boston College and North Carolina all at home, so anything less than another BCS bowl game is unacceptable.

*2. Texas A&M Aggies (9-4)*

Oklahoma and Texas have traditionally been the two teams that come to mind in conversation about the Big 12. While Oklahoma should run the table in the conference, Texas A&M really intrigues me. The toughest game for the Aggies is against the Sooners on the road, but they luck out in getting both Oklahoma State and Texas at home. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 6-1 down the stretch last season and was extremely efficient. Texas A&M will be tested early, though, opening with SMU, a team dangerous with its offensive capabilities.

*3. Arizona State Sun Devils (6-6)*

I really like Dennis Erickson, so my bias may be creeping in here, but I expect good things from the Sun Devils. Last year they played Wisconsin tight at Camp Randall and lost by one thanks to a missed extra point. Bad luck like that followed Arizona State all of last year, but proved it could compete in what many thought was a rebuilding year. The Sun Devils have seven home games and away games at Utah and Oregon. With 15 returning starters and what they were able to do with their talent last year, it’s hard not to be at least intrigued by the Sun Devils.

*4. Whoever wins Conference-USA*

I’m on the record for saying that, besides the Mountain West, this is the best non-automatic qualifying conference in the country. Year after year these teams prove they can put up points with anybody, and that’s exactly what I expect this year. I tend to think Houston will come out on top with viable Heisman candidate Case Keenum’s ability to destroy defenses with his arm. He set the FBS record with 5,671 yards in season two years ago before missing most of last season due to injury. Tulsa, meanwhile, has 18 returning starters and one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country in G.J. Kinne.

I would say SMU probably has the best coaching with June Jones and talent led by quarterback Kyle Padron, but the Mustangs’ schedule is absolutely brutal. I see Padron and that offense spoiling another team’s season because they can score with the best of them. Another great bet is Southern Mississippi because of its perfect schedule. It’s very plausible that if the Golden Eagles can make the conference championship game and win it, they’ll be undefeated going into bowl season.

*5. BYU Cougars (7-6)*

In my eyes, BYU is very similar to Texas A&M. This is a team that struggled early, but quarterback Jake Heaps, like many of his teammates, improved dramatically as the season progressed. The Cougars scored at least 40 points four times in its final five games last season, with the exception being in a one-point loss to Utah. Away games at Mississippi, Texas, Oregon State, TCU and Hawaii will all be hard, but I think this team is going to be a lot of fun to watch.

_Greg is a senior in Media. Follow him on Twitter @thegregzeck._