Five under-the-radar teams for the 2015 season?

Price1Practices have begun and the talking season is finally over. A long summer continues but the hitting and popping of shoulder pads has started to echo across the still student-less campuses.

The coaches preseason Top-25 poll was released last week and it contained a few head scratchers as well as a couple of teams that could make some noise in 2015.

In no particular order, here’s five unranked teams that I think are under-the-radar squads heading into the upcoming season:

N.C. State
I’m still puzzled by Louisville being predicted to finish third, just ahead of the Wolfpack in the ACC’s Coastal Division at this summer’s ACC Media Day. Head coach Dave Doeren might be completely fine with it, as it takes some pressure of an improving team that finished 8-5 last season. In a league full of outstanding quarterbacks, Jacoby Brissett is no slouch and the Pack have basically their entire offensive line back. Defensively, former Hillcrest star Mike Rose is one of eight starters returning and the Pack will be at worst 5-2 when Clemson visits Raleigh for a very tricky game on Halloween.

West Virginia
It seems like ages ago that Dana Holgorsen’s team was hanging 70 points on Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl because three years is a long time in the football world. The Big 12 is being dominated by early-season talk centered on CFB Playoff favorite TCU as well as Baylor, leaving the rest of the league behind. WVU will it field its best defense since the offensive-minded Holgorsen took over in Morgantown and according to him “potentially the best that I’ve had potentially since I started coaching 20-some years ago.” In a league where defense is an afterthought, the Mountaineers have a difference maker on that side of the ball.

Memphis
Yep, this one will excite Sturg just a bit. He’s the biggest fan of head coach Justin Fuente east of the Mississippi River that isn’t a blue-blooded Tiger fan and considers the Memphis head coach next to the Nick Saban category of elite. I’m far from that type of fan, but Fuente has done a fantastic job at a job considered one of the nation’s toughest. The Tigers don’t play in a Power Five conference, but Fuente spurned several big opportunities for another run at Memphis despite questions on defense.

South Carolina
So what you will about this pick, but we all know the Head Ball Coach is at his best when being counted out. Outside of Spurrier’s late-July blowup thanks to a column in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, it’s been a fairly quiet spring and summer in Columbia. While Georgia is the favorite in the SEC East, it’s not out of the question that the Gamecocks could finish right behind the Bulldogs. Spurrier has vowed Carolina will be better on defense with new coordinator Jon Hoke taking over. And having possibly the SEC’s most electric all-around player in Pharaoh Cooper gives USC big-play ability all over the field.

Mississippi State
Staying in the SEC, are the Bulldogs really the worst team in the Western Division? Somebody had to be picked to finish seventh in the SEC West. Despite attrition to the NFL Draft, don’t laugh if Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs challenge the top of the division because anything that happens in the West won’t be a bit surprising this season. Dak Prescott is the best signal caller in the league and is experienced in the most raucous road environments.

Others: Penn State, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh

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