NCAAF
August 25, 2020
BY Bryan Zarpentine

Underrated: College Football Teams That Are Totally Ranked Too Low

With just three of the five power conferences set to play college football this fall, the AP preseason Top 25 poll feels somewhat incomplete. The Big Ten, Pac-12, MAC, and Mountain West won’t be playing in the fall, but voters were still allowed to include teams from those conferences. As a result, six Big Ten teams and three Pac-12 teams that won’t be playing in 2020 are included in this year's initial ranking. In a way, that makes it even easier to pick out the teams that are a little underrated and ranked too low heading into what we hope will be the start of the season.

Here are the college football teams we think are ranked way too low heading into the 2020 season. 

Don't miss our five most overrated college football teams in 2020.

Louisville Cardinals (Unranked)

If you include the teams receiving votes, Louisville ranked 31st in the preseason AP poll. That seems a tad low for the Cardinals, who have top 25 potential. Granted, there were some ups and downs in 2019, Louisville still surpassed most expectations in Scott Satterfield’s first season. 

The former Appalachian State head coach turned the dumpster fire that was Louisville’s 2018 team into a program that finished second behind Clemson in the ACC Atlantic and looked awfully impressive in their bowl win over Mississippi State to close out the season.

The personnel on the Louisville offense turned out to be a perfect fit for Satterfield’s scheme. With dual-threat quarterback Micale Cunningham and running back Javian Hawkins, the Cards have a ton of speed on offense. The undersized Hawkins rushed for over 1,500 yards as a freshman last year. There is also some serious talent at wide receiver with Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick.

Even with lingering concerns about the defense, the Cardinals are poised to score enough points to keep pace with every team on their schedule. They also avoid Clemson on this year’s adjusted schedule, giving Louisville a shot to win every game this year.

Miami Hurricanes (Unranked)

The Hurricanes are another team on the outside of the AP Top 25, and that's probably because the Hurricanes didn’t exactly close out the 2019 season in a promising way. Miami lost three straight games to Florida International, Duke and Louisiana Tech to finish the year. On the other hand, they also beat Virginia, Florida State and Louisville during the season, so all is not lost.

The reason why the Hurricanes are underrated at the moment is they solved their quarterback quandary by snagging Houston transfer D’Eriq King. 

King is the best quarterback at Miami in a looong time. He has a nice contingent of skill players around him and his mobility will help make up for an atrocious offensive line that can’t get much worse in 2020.

Although they'll miss potential top-five pick Gregory Rousseau, Manny Diaz's defense should have a group that’s aggressive and able to create turnovers. The Miami defense will also benefit from a little more support from the offense. The Hurricanes don’t exactly have an easy schedule, but with King at the helm, they’ll have a chance to surprise some skeptics in 2020.

Iowa State Cyclones (No. 23)

Based on name and reputation, it’s easy to understand why voters would be reluctant to vote Iowa State any higher than No. 23. But the Cyclones deserve a little respect. Matt Campbell has done an amazing job over the last four years, surviving a 3-9 campaign in his first season and taking the Cyclones to bowl games in each of the last three years. 

This year, the Cyclones are poised to reach another level and become a top 15 caliber team, and perhaps earn a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. 

Brock Purdy could be one of the best quarterbacks in the country with nearly two years of experience under his belt. There is also a lot of optimism for the offensive line and running game behind the fast and shifty Breece Hall, who averaged over 100 yards per game in his eight starts last year.

The kicker is that Iowa State could be the best defensive team in the Big 12 this year with nine starters returning. Campbell always has a solid defense, but that unit could take the Cyclones to new horizons in 2020.

Texas Longhorns (No. 14)

Coming off a modest 8-5 season, being ranked No. 14 might be a little generous for Texas. However, it’s actually a little too low with all the talent the Longhorns have returning to Texas. In case you forgot, two of Texas' losses last season were one-possession games against LSU and Oklahoma, two teams that went to the College Football Playoff. The Longhorns also finished 2019 by crushing a Utah team that was painfully close to the CFP.

It all starts with Sam Ehlinger. He’s been overlooked heading into the season because Texas finished 8-5 last year, but he's a special quarterback who's got a ton of experience. 

The Longhorns will likely win a game or two they shouldn’t this season just because they have Ehlinger to carry them over the finish line. Meanwhile, Texas returns a majority of its defensive starters. The Longhorns were a little young on that side of the ball last season. With a year of experience under their belts, that unit should be ready to take a big step forward in a conference that lacks quality defenses.

Auburn Tigers (No. 11)

Most teams would love to be ranked No. 11 in AP's preseason poll. But that’s not good enough for Gus Malzahn’s Auburn, nor should it be. The Tigers were 9-4 last year, including one-score losses to LSU and Georgia. In fact, all of Auburn’s losses were close games against ranked opponents. They didn’t receive nearly enough credit as they deserved, and that has carried over to the preseason poll this year.

Quarterback Bo Nix was pushed into the fire as a true freshman last year and held his own. After facing some elite teams, he’ll be better prepared to shine against SEC teams in 2020. Plus, with Seth Williams, Anthony Schwartz and Eli Stove, few quarterbacks will have a better receiving trio at their disposal.

On defense, there's plenty of talent remaining for the Tigers, especially in the front-seven, where games are won and lost in the SEC. With fans in the stands being questionable at best, Auburn catches a break by playing Georgia and Alabama on the road, making their schedule a little easier than expected, leaving the door open for the Tigers to be a top-five team and a serious contender in the SEC West.

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