ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC teams might dominate the preseason polls, but there still remain a number of non-Power 5 conference teams that are likely to make a serious run at postseason play. While some football fans may roll their eyes and begin the argument about how their favorite conference is better than the other conferences, these teams have powerful players, solid schedules and killer coaching staffs. So, this fall, these teams should not be ignored.
Coming off a 13-1 season, Houston remains poised for another impressive season. Led by playmaker quarterback Greg Ward Jr., a solid set of returners comes back to help the Cougars push their way up the rankings. However, the defense lost a number of starters and the team really needs more depth behind Ward. Still, even since head coach Tom Herman stepped foot on the field to shake up the team, Houston has developed into a program worth paying attention to. Right now, the team is poised to make a good run at another bowl game. However, if the Cougars can pull out a win in their season opener by upsetting Oklahoma, they may prove to some that they might be moving farther than a bowl game.
While Navy just lost Keenan Reynolds and most of its offense, the program is still a consistent one. Head coach Ken Miumatalolo looks to Tago Smith to fill Reynolds shoes, and while Navy is rebuilding its offense, the defense brings back six starters and prepares to take more direction from Dale Pehrson in his second year as the defensive coordinator. Last year, the Midshipmen finished with a record of 11-2, but this year, it is said that the team is trying to take on a more aggressive philosophy. So, as long as the offense steps up to replace the lost starters, this athletic group of players should form a team that looks to make a real campaign for a bowl game win.
Even with a record of 9-4 and an effort that was referred to as "lackluster" by many fans last fall, Boise State took home the Poinsettia Bowl trophy. This year, power players quarterback Brett Rypien, running back Jeremy McNichols and wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck return to try dominating the field. Still, critics believe that for this young team to do well this year, more effort needs to be put out on the field. They have the talent, but will they use it?
The skill guys getting a taste of the sled this afternoon! pic.twitter.com/DeeBL9sohr— Boise State Football (@BroncoSportsFB) August 10, 2016
With a whole new coaching staff, it is hard to know exactly want to expect from the Cougars this fall. The team is packed with experienced and gifted seniors. However, based on what observers have seen at camp, the new coaches seem to be experimenting with where to place these able players. So far, it looks as if there is plenty of talent in the backfield, and running back changes should be expected. All of that could turn out well for BYU, since the team is coming off a 9-4 season. With all the new changes, BYU fans could see the Cougars secure a bowl-game win this year.
Coming off a close-bowl game win and a 10-3 record last year, the Thundering Herd looks to make another run this fall. However, Marshall won’t make it there without facing some major challenges. With the need for depth on the defensive line and some help at the quarterback and linebacker positions, head coach Doc Holliday looks to a group of young players to lead the team. If Marshall can produce some big-time playmakers, it will probably impress football fans across the nation in this upcoming season.
Just because these teams are not part of the Power 5 does not mean their talent can be ignored this fall. While some of these teams will face more difficulty making their way to postseason play than others, it is still likely that you will see these teams knock a few Power 5 teams down in the rankings.