Publish Date: 07/07/2018
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
Every year one team gets a chance to crash the big boy’s party on New Year’s Day and last year the Central Florida Knights did that with resounding success, beating top 10 ranked Auburn in the Peach Bowl. Who will it be this year? These teams are ranked in no particular order.1) Memphis Tigershttp://gty.im/848026682The Tigers were close to crashing through last year but lost a couple of games to Central Florida one close call and one blowout lose. If you didn’t know any better you would think losing a few studs including quarterback Riley Ferguson would put this team out of this conversation. But as Lee Corso would say, “not so fast!” Arizona State transfer Brady White is competing with David Moore for that role but most of the defense is returning, and the squad has the capability to handle their offensive losses. If either quarterback plays well the Tigers could very well be in the conversation once again.2) Marshall Thundering Herdhttp://gty.im/460061612A big part of the reason that I include the Thundering Herd on this list is graduate transfer quarterback Alex Thomson, who turned down larger schools like Tennessee to play at Marshall. He will lead what should be an explosive offense. With scheduled games at South Carolina and against N.C. State, they’ll have a chance to burnish their resume with wins over power conference opponents. Marshall enters with most of its top skill guys, most of its offensive line, and about nine defensive starters from last year’s eight-win team. They do have to replace some coaches but this could be a team to keep your eye on.3) University of Central Florida shttp://gty.im/900354372The Knights have had to replace a coach, but this still looks like a very good team on paper. The Knights will be led by returning quarterback McKenzie Milton will return to lead an offense that could be better than last year’s. The questions come on the defensive side of the ball where the Knights have lost 5 starters. New defensive coordinator Randy Shannon’s defense will hold the key to another New Year’s Peach Bowl for the Knights.4) Boise State Broncoshttp://gty.im/841973424It seems the Broncos are always in this conversation and this year will be no different as the Broncos look poised to make a serious run. The Broncos won the MWC last season and return a very experienced squad, led by senior quarterback Brett Rypien. The schedule non-conference wise is very soft, which will hurt when it comes to trying to get in the playoff conversation, but a New Year’s six bowl is squarely on the table for the Broncos.5) Florida Atlantic Owlshttp://gty.im/884532844The Owls have a high-profile coach in Lane Kiffin and they possess a brutal early schedule, with two early away games at Oklahoma and Central Florida. Sure you may look at those two games and think they will be out of the running, but those two games, especially at Oklahoma, give the Owls a chance to get into the playoff conversation. The Owls are a talented team that will be able to score on anybody, but to win at Oklahoma or Central Florida it is imperative that the defense plays well.6) Houston Cougarshttp://gty.im/615344076The question marks for the Cougars, unlike most of the teams on this list, comes on offense, not defense. The defense is anchored by one of the top defensive linemen in the country in Ed Oliver. On the other side of the ball, the Cougars have a lot of question marks, led by talented but erratic quarterback D’Eriq King. King has experience, and if he can find consistency, it could be a special year for the Cougars.7) Fresno State Bulldogshttp://gty.im/615254080The Bulldogs are fronted by quarterback Marcus McMaryion and a talented group of offensive players. Last year the Bulldogs were a ten-win team and they return most of the starters from that group. Look for Head Coach Jeff Tedford’s team to challenge in the Mountain West and maybe even more.8) Temple Owlshttp://gty.im/872224708With UCF and USF each losing key pieces from their brilliant 2017 teams, Temple could threaten both programs for the top spot in the Eastern Division. The Owls late-season surge last year came as Frank Nutile was inserted into the starting lineup at quarterback. Nutile is back in 2018, along with the team’s top two running backs and three starters up front. Collins has work to do on a defense that loses defensive backs Sean Chandler and Mike Jones, and must replace Sharif Finch, Jacob Martin and Julian Taylor in the trenches. Quincy Roche is a name to remember off the edge. As a true freshman last year he contributed 11.5 sacks.