Last year, teams like Syracuse (10 wins) and Washington State (11 wins) surprised the college football nation by overachieving at a high level. Every year, there are teams who shockingly play much better than expected. Who will this years five surprise teams in college football be? Here are some teams to watch out for.

Five surprise teams

Air Force

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Air Force under Troy Calhoun has been an up and down program. Typically, after posting a down season or two, the Falcons bounce back with a big year. For example, most recently, after posting two losing seasons in a row in 2012 (6-7) and 2013 (2-10), they bounced back with 10 wins in 2014. They followed it up with eight, then 10 wins before two consecutive 5-7 seasons the last two years.

This year, the pieces are in place for another of Calhoun’s bounce-back seasons. The schedule does not do them any favors with 10 games in 10 weeks, including six on the road. However, they have 15 starters back, which is the most since 2014 when they went 10-3. This is the best overall team Air Force has had in years. Plus, with Boise State replacing their quarterback and Utah State also potentially down, this is the year to capitalize. Air Force is certainly one of the five surprise teams in college football to watch.

Last year: 5-7

2019 Prediction: 9-3


Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Certainly, Matt Rhule made a significant impact quickly, after taking over the program which was scandal-ridden, in 2017. The Bears went 1-11 in year one while following that up with a 7-6 campaign last season. That is impressive considering the negative stigma attached to the program after Art Briles was fired.

2019 promises to be a year of continued improvement with quarterback Charlie Brewer at the helm. Brewer is surrounded by weapons including Denzel Mims and Chris Platt at wide receiver. Additionally, the running back tandem of Trestan Ebner and JaMycal Hasty will be dangerous. The offensive line is solid and adds Clemson transfer Jake Fruhmorgen, who takes over the center position. Defensively, Baylor has a talented group which returns seven productive starters. Those include linebackers Clay Johnston and Blake Lynch. Chris Miller and Raleigh Texada lead an improved secondary unit. In addition to that, James Lynch anchors a deep defensive line, which also adds Texas A&M transfer, James Lockhart.

Winning 10 games is most definitely a possibility, making them one of the five surprise teams in 2019. If they do that, Baylor will also be a major player in the Big 12 race.

Last year: 7-6

2019 Prediction: 10-2


Five Surprise Teams
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Purdue has a lot of factors in their favor this year. First, the division is more open than it has ever been, despite several solid teams. Secondly, the defense should be one of the best Purdue has had in many years. The defense is clearly loaded with top-notch players like Lorenzo Neal and Markus Bailey along with Kenneth Major. Also, five-star freshmen defensive end George Karlaftis will be an impact player. In addition to that, they have a Heisman contender in do-it-all guy Rondale Moore along with another highly touted freshman receiver, David Bell.

With all of that said, Purdue’s success will hinge largely on a couple of key factors. One of those is junior quarterback Elijah Sindelar. Despite underwhelming thus far in his career, expect him to break out this year. Additionally, the offensive line only returns two starters, which is a concern. Despite the running game losing most of its productivity, expect Tario Fuller and Zander Horvath to fill in nicely. Jeff Brohm will overachieve with a manageable schedule and underrated talent. That makes them one of the five surprise teams in college football this year.

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Last year: 6-7

2019 Prediction: 9-3


Five Surprise Teams
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Undoubtedly, there are many questions with the Tennessee Vols this season. Will the offensive line improve with the addition of two five star offensive tackles? Also, what about the health concerns surrounding Trey Smith? How much improvement will we see from quarterback Jarrett Gurantano? Will Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings, and Josh Palmer become an elite wide receiver group? How will the running game look? Additionally, will the defense continue to improve considering the major step forward they took last year?

If everything comes together, Tennessee will be a dangerous team. The defensive line lacks depth, which is a concern, however, the defense should improve again. The Vols are deep at linebacker as well as talented in the secondary. In fact, the secondary could be one of the best in recent history for UT led by Alontae Taylor and Nigel Warrior. Another factor in Tennessee’s favor is the schedule. The non-conference offers very little resistance outside of possibly BYU. The SEC East, outside of Georgia and Florida, seems to be open unless you consider Missouri a threat.

Expect much improvement from the Vols in 2019. Do not be shocked to see this team win nine games, which makes them one of the five surprise teams.

Last year: 5-7

2019 Prediction: 8-4

Wake Forest

Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

If you are looking for this years Syracuse of last year in the ACC, Wake Forest is that team. There is certainly a lot to like about this Demon Deacon team. Let’s start off with quarterback Jamie Newman, who was recently named the starter. He filled in nicely for the injured Sam Hartman last season by throwing for nine touchdowns with only four interceptions in 141 attempts. Cade Carney is a 1,000 yard back. Former quarterback Kendall Hinton expects to have a bigger role at receiver. However, Sage Surratt and Scotty Washington are both breakout candidates for the Deacons. Additionally, the offensive line returns three starters.

On defense, Wake returns just five starters. However, due to injuries last year, they have experienced players back. They boast one of the better cornerback tandems in the country. In fact, Essang Bassey had 15 pass breakups while Amari Henderson had 10 in 2018. Beyond that, players like Carlos Basham and Justin Strnad make this a dangerous group. Expect Wake Forest to surprise people in the ACC and become the 2019 version of the 2018 Syracuse squad.

Last year: 7-6

2019 Prediction: 9-3

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– David Creekmur covers College Football and College Women’s Sports for Full Press Coverage. Like and follow on Twitter

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