With the dawn of the 2013 season upon us, we’re starting a new daily feature on The Scoop – The Top Ten. Each day we’ll take one subject within the college football world – coaching, this weekend’s games, the news of the day or whatever seems most appropriate that day – and make a list out of it.
Today we’ll take a look at 10 staffs that will impress you throughout this season.
1. Washington State – The season-ending win over Washington was a great symbolic start to Mike Leach’s turnaround project at Wazzu, and a staff with Leach, Mastro, Yost, McGuire, Breske, Russell, etc… can’t stay down for long. With one season under their belt, and a roster that is beginning to look right, we expect more wins this season including a shocker or two.
2. Indiana – The Hooisers jumped three wins from year one to year two under Kevin Wilson, the talent level in Bloomington has risen considerably in that time, and this team is blessed with a load of experience returning. Indiana will likely be favored in five games this year, good coaching will help them make just its second bowl game since 1993.
3. North Carolina – Miami is the chosen rising-from-NCAA-sanctioned-ashes program of the ACC leading into this season, but it was Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels that topped Miami and finished atop the Coastal Division standings last year. Fedora has a very strong staff. There is no way this program doesn’t continue to strengthen.
4. Old Dominion – In their first year as a transitional FBS program, and just fifth as a football program, period, Bobby Wilder’s club isn’t soft-playing its move to the big time. Not with a schedule that includes East Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Idaho and North Carolina. We’re not sure how many of those games the Monarchs will win, but they’ll compete for all 720 minutes this season.
5. Tulsa – How many people realize the Golden Hurricane have won 10 or more games, and the Conference USA West Division title, four times in the last six seasons, including a league championship in year two under Bill Blankenship last season? This is a top-five non-BCS program year in and year out, and eventually someone outside of northeast Oklahoma will realize it.
6. Ball State – We’re calling it now, the MAC West title is on the line when Pete Lembo’s club visits Northern Illinois in a vintage MACtion showdown on Wednesday, Nov. 13. The Cardinals get Toledo and Kent State at home, and the rest of the conference slate went a combined 10-30 in league play last season. And oh by the way, Lembo has 10 winning seasons in a dozen years as a head coach, including a three-win jump from year one to year two at Ball State.
7. Fresno State – You’d be hard pressed to find a staff that did a better job pound-for-pound in year one than Fresno State’s, who managed to flip the Bulldogs record from 4-9 to 9-4 and claim a share of the Mountain West crown in their first year in the conference. Rutgers and Boise State come to Fresno early this season, beyond that there’s not a single game Tim DeRuyter’s bunch won’t be a touchdown-or-more favorite.
8. Northwestern – If you didn’t know it by now, the Wildcats were five minutes and change from being undefeated last season. If they play to their potential, they should be 4-0 with Ohio State coming to Evanston for a prime-time showdown. The bar has been raised for Pat Fitzgerald and company. We expect they’ll clear it.
9. Ohio – Now a full decade after his time at Nebraska, Frank Solich has led Ohio to 36 wins in the past four seasons, including the Bobcats’ first seven games in 2012 before their schedule got the better of them. Outside of the opener at Louisville, the 2013 slate features but two teams with winning records from last season, and not until mid-November. The Bobcats also return (seemingly) 10th-year quarterback Tyler Tettleton, also known as the MAC’s most decorated quarterback not named Jordan Lynch.
10. ULM – Look at it this way, is there any way Bob Stoops doesn’t have last year’s Arkansas game running through his mind with Todd Berry’s team coming to town on Saturday? Todd Berry has a very experienced team returning and they have bought into Berry’s system. This could be a very interesting season in Monroe.