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Teams Having Great Seasons That No One Is Talking About

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The top ten of the AP Poll and the Playoff Committee might be all that the casual fan cares about this days now that we’re in the playoff era, but college football is filled with dozens of storylines all season long.

There are teams that come out of nowhere and rise to ranked status while others quietly take baby steps to build their program for the coming years. This season had its fair share of disappointments, but there are also several surprise teams that seemingly nobody is talking about.

From ranked underdogs to rising powerhouses, here are the top four under the radar college football programs that are quietly having great seasons.

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Washington State

It might be a bit of a stretch to label the eighth-ranked team in the nation as under the radar, but seemingly nobody is talking about Washington State. The PAC-12 is a bit of a dumpster fire this season—to put it nicely—but the Cougars have taken advantage by swiftly dominating the conference.

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The loss of Luke Falk hasn’t done any damage to the team’s offense and current quarterback Gardner Minshew has arguably been a huge improvement at the position. Through week 12, he has 4,325 passing yards, 36 touchdown passes, and a total QBR of 75.9 during his 11 games. He has done all of this without much of a running game too. He is also coming off of a game in which he threw 437 yards and seven touchdowns against Arizona.

Mike Leach’s squad has two quality wins over ranked opponents—Stanford and Oregon—as well as other notable victories over the likes of Utah and Colorado. The team’s only loss was a week 4 thriller at USC that could have gone to overtime had the Trojans not pulled off a wild blocked field goal at the end of regulation.

The Cougars are the PAC-12’s only shot at the college football playoff this season and arguably the conferences only top-tier program in 2018.

Pittsburgh

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Pittsburgh won’t sniff anywhere close to playoff status and they likely won’t be ranked baring a shocking surprise … yet somehow the Panthers find themselves contending for the ACC. Even with four losses on their schedule, they managed to clinch the ACC Coastal this week with a blowout win over Wake Forest.

Quarterback Kenny Pickett hasn’t played well, but in the team’s notable wins, he hasn’t had to do much of anything. The Panthers have ridden their strong run game which has racked up a whopping 2,723 rushing yards over 11 games. Qadree Ollison has already cracked the 1,000 yard mark and Darrin Hall is likely to reach that milestone before the season ends.

It would still take a miracle for this team to upset Clemson in the ACC title game, but let’s not gloss over the fact that they could actually be playing in the ACC title game over Miami and Virginia Tech.

Northwestern

It has been a very weird year for the Big Ten as a whole, but the western division has been particularly head-scratching. Wisconsin came into the season looking like a legitimate playoff threat with Iowa trailing not too far behind, yet it’s Northwestern who will represent the west in the Big Ten Championship.

The Wildcats got off to a brutal 1-3 start with losses to Duke and Akron of all teams, but they have since rebounded by winning five of their next six games, with that one loss being a close game against No. 4 Notre Dame.

Northwestern has pulled out several shocking upsets, including wins over ranked Michigan State, Iowa, and Wisconsin teams. They also gave Michigan all they could handle in a close 20-17 loss back in week four.

They will either get another crack at the Wolverines or a showdown with the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship and sit as the No. 22 in the nation.

Utah

The Utah Utes rank 19th in the nation and will likely be playing in the PAC-12 championship game two weeks from now. Two of their three defeats came at the hand of ranked Washington and Washington State teams.

They dominated USC in primetime and kept high profile Oregon and Stanford teams in check for 60 minutes. Quarterback Tyler Huntley has had a quiet but efficient season as the team’s quarterback while Zack Moss is having a fantastic season as the team’s leading rusher.

This Utes squad doesn’t have a lot of flash, but they’re winning big games and contending for a conference championship. What more can a fan ask for from a three-loss team?

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