Tuck: Look Out For The Cornhuskers
Schedule is sometimes everything. Schools like Mississippi State, Rutgers, Louisville, and Ohio road easier opening schedules to higher rankings last season. None of them started ranked, but they kept winning until they were recognized. It doesn't necessarily make you better, but it could build momentum to a better than expected season and gain you some national attention.
Here are 6 schools to keep an eye on this year.
Nebraska...could start 8-0. The Huskers open up with 5 straight home games, the toughest of which is a rematch with UCLA. Then go on the road against Purdue and Minnesota, back home for a tough home game against Northwestern. They won't be an underdog until November 9 at Michigan. If they win that, they could go 12-0 to the Big Ten Title game.
Missouri...could start 5-0. 3 of the first 4 games at home, with a road game at Indiana in there. A trip to Vandy could trip them up, but win that and they are going to Georgia at 5-0 October 12.
Cincinnati...could start 9-0. It's possible the Bearcats won't be underdogs until a final home game of the season against Louisville, and if they are 11-0 then they could be favored in that game as well. The last three games of the year project to be the most difficult starting on November 16 with a game at Rutgers, followed by a game at Houston, before closing with the Cardinals.
Oregon State...could start 7-0. The Beavers have a heavily back-loaded schedule. They open with home games against Eastern Washington and Hawaii, followed by two tricky road trips to Utah and San Diego State. After that, they get arguably the 3 worst schools in the Pac-12, Colorado, Washington State, and Cal. Things heat up with final five games: Stanford, USC, at Arizona State, Washington, and Oregon.
Baylor...could start 7-0. The Bears only play 3 games in the first 5 weeks and they are all at home against Wofford, Buffalo, and Louisiana-Monroe. Once into conference they play their 4 easier games which could get them to 7 wins. Starting November 7 after a bye they finish with a brutal stretch of Oklahoma, Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, at TCU, and Texas.
Indiana...could start 6-0. The Hoosiers haven't won more than 6 games since 2007! However they managed 4 wins last year and had 4 very close losses. This season they start with 5 straight home games against Indiana State, Navy, Bowling Green, Missouri, and Penn State. They play next at Michigan State, and the following week at Michigan. They get Minnesota, Illinois, and Purdue at home in 3 of their final 5 games though, and I think they'll be one of the great stories this season.