By: John Harris
We’re nearing the mid-point for some teams in the college season and, as usual, the pre-season script has been scrapped and it’s nothing but improvisation from here on out. Set against expectations, there are some teams that have shocked us all.
Pre-season rankings are based on speculation and projections and we all make them. Of course, as I state every year, they’re the predictions sure to go wrong. Take one top 25 matchup this weekend.
Northwestern at Michigan. The Wildcats will travel to Ann Arbor undefeated and ranked 13th in the nation. What did most experts think about Northwestern prior to the season?
Athlon’s had them 58th in the nation to start the year with a projected 6-6 record. Win Saturday, tall task though it may be, and the Wildcats would hit the six win mark. In game six. Heck, ESPN had them 68th prior to the season.
Michigan, following the lead of its new head coach Jim Harbaugh, has rebounded from a 24-17 opening night loss to Utah and won four in a row. The Wolverines are 18th in the nation, up from being ranked 34th in the pre-season.
Speaking of the Utes, they’re fifth in the nation, awaiting a visit from No. 23 Cal on Saturday night. Neither team was ranked to start the year but one will be 5-0 (Utah) or 6-0 (Cal) when the clock hits all zeroes on Saturday evening.
Tom Herman’s Houston Cougars are 4-0, receiving votes in the polls and tied for first in the AAC West. They were ranked 70th by ESPN to start the season.
There have been others – Florida, Texas A&M and Memphis to name a few – to keep an eye on that have also exceeded early season expectations.
For all of the positive surprises in college football, the clock may strike midnight before long. The Wolverines have Michigan State in a couple of weeks and Ohio State at the end of the season. No. 23 Cal faces a Pac-12 murderer’s row, starting with Utah on Saturday.
Regardless, some programs’ early noise-making has gotten the attention of the nation at large. Even if that didn’t happen at the outset of the season.