Power 5 Conference Sleeper Teams

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I’ve picked 5 teams (one from each Power Conference) that I feel can be sleepers this season. 


One of the best parts of the college football season is trying to figure out which teams have the potential to be “sleepers.” Picking those teams gives you bragging rights!

So here we go!

ACC: N.C State 

The Wolfpack finished last season with a 7-5 record, including an Independence Bowl victory over Vanderbilt. The season included a 7-point road loss to eventual national champion, Clemson, and a 4-point home loss to FSU. Either game could have easily gone the other way.

Ryan Finley (photo, NSCU Athletics)

This season the Wolfpack should be dominant on defense with 9 starters returning. Their D-line has the potential to be one of the best–not only in the ACC but in the entire nation. On offense, the Pack has to find a replacement at RB, but Boise State transfer, Ryan Finley, returns for his second season at QB.

The schedule is not kind to N.C State early-on. There’s an opening week game against South Carolina and a trip to Tallahassee soon thereafter. The good news is that NCSU gets to play Clemson and Louisville at home later in the year.

The good news is that NCSU gets to play Clemson and Louisville at home later in the year.

Bold Prediction: N.C State finishes in the top two of the ACC Atlantic this year–ahead of Clemson and Louisville.

Big Ten: Minnesota 

P.J. Fleck (photo, Detroit Sports Nation)

Minnesota finished last year with a 9-4 record, including a Holiday Bowl victory against Washington St. But that strong record wasn’t enough for HC Tracy Claeys to keep his job (off-field reasons).

The Gophers made a switch and brought in the STRONG personality of P.J Fleck, who led Western Michigan to an undefeated regular season last year.

In order to live up to being a “sleeper,” Fleck has to find a quarterback. But UM is solid at RB with Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. These two young men could become the best 1-2 punch in the league.

Bold Prediction: Wisconsin is the clear favorite to win the BIG 10 West but, after the Badgers, the division is wide open. The Gophers will host the Badgers in a game that will give UM a chance to win the division.

BIG 12: Kansas St.

The ageless Bill Snyder (77 years old) led the Wildcats to another successful campaign last year. The Wildcats went 9-4 overall with a Texas Bowl victory over Texas A&M.

KSU’s Bill Snyder (photo, FootballScoop),

The Wildcats will be led again this year by dual-threat QB, Jesse Ertz. Last year Ertz rushed for over 1,000 yds. and 12 touchdowns. Overall the Wildcats ran for over 200 yards a game.

Look for Snyder to continue using that formula in order to control the clock and grind out wins.

Doing that will be even more important this year because of defensive losses. It will take time for the newcomers to gel, but there’s talent on that side of the ball.

The schedule is fairly friendly because the Wildcats play Oklahoma, West Virginia, and TCU all at home. A trip to Stillwater against Oklahoma St. will be tricky, though.

Bold Prediction: The Oklahoma schools are clear favorites to win this league, but K-State will defeat one of those two to be in the mix to qualify for the BIG 12 conference title game.

PAC 12: UCLA 

Last year was supposed to THE YEAR for the Bruins–the year to win the PAC 12 South and the PAC-12 championship, too.

UCLA’s Josh Rosen (photo, PAC12.com)

Well, twelve games later, the Bruins were 4-8, and for the life of me, I don’t know how Coach Mora survived that finish. Some would say that the team was just so beat-up by injuries. QB Josh Rosen missed time along with several other key players. But, still….

2017 is a new season, however, and this should be a huge bounce-back year. Josh Rosen is back and healthy. He’ll operate behind an O-line that returns four starters, including All PAC-12 first team senior, Scott Quessenberry.

The defense should be playing with a chip on its shoulder. The defense was supposed to carry the team last year, but the squad simply didn’t perform. The linebacker and secondary positions should be solid. And if the front four can create a pass rush, this unit will be dangerous.

Bold Prediction: The Bruins have three extremely tough road games–Stanford, Washington, and USC. The Bruins will win two of those games. 

SEC: Auburn

I know, I know. A pre-season Top 20 shouldn’t qualify as a sleeper time. But let’s put AU in that category for one reason–Alabama.

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn (photo, AU Athletics),

Head coach Gus Malzahn has the chance to have a scary good offense this season. The Tigers welcome Baylor quarterback transfer, Jarrett Stidham. Stidham comes from a pass-happy offense to a more balanced approach that will feature the run-game.

Kamryn Pettway was the leading rusher in yards-per-game in the league last year. He’s complemented by Kerryon Johnson. Johnson is not only a dynamic runner, but he’s also a threat catching passes.

The defense will likely take a small step back after losing several key players to the NFL. But if the offense is as strong as it should be, then one step back shouldn’t be that noticeable.

Bold Prediction: Auburn will win at Clemson in Week 2 and go into a three-game league road stretch–at LSU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M–with a 6-0 record. They’ll win two of those game, setting up a rivalry showdown with Alabama. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the Tigers will beat the Crimson Tide and, with that, qualify for the College Football Playoff. (Whew!)

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About Brian Trapani

Brian Trapani was born and raised in Central New Jersey and now lives in Monmouth County. As a kid, he played different sports but had a special love for baseball. Brian played the game through college. He got immediately into coaching after graduating and has been coaching in some capacity for the last 15 years. Brian currently coaches a middle school baseball team at a small school down the Jersey Shore. He also works as a Special Education Teacher. Beyond coaching, Brian loves all sports. He’ll watch any game at any time. His favorites are baseball (of course) and football. He also loves sharing his passion for sports through writing. Brian appreciates any and all feedback about his sportswriting, whether it’s positive or negative. Happy reading, sports fans! (Oh, almost forgot…. Brian is also a proud first-time uncle and godfather to a beautiful 7-month baby girl. :)



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