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Phil Steele's top surprise teams for 2015

Editor's note: This article was adapted from Phil Steele's college football preview magazine, which is available here.

First, here is my prediction on how this year's preseason Associated Press top 10 will look (in order):

1. Ohio State, 2. TCU, 3. Alabama, 4. Baylor, 5. Oregon, 6. Michigan State, 7. USC, 8. Florida State, 9. Auburn, 10. Georgia

Since I think these teams will rank in the top 10, I won't use any of them in my picks for the top surprise teams. Here is my list of teams that could surprise in 2015:


1. Stanford Cardinal
Florida State was my top surprise team in 2013, and the Seminoles went on to win the national title. If any of the teams that I projected to be top 10 don't actually make it, they would jump to No. 1 in my list of surprise teams. I start with Stanford because it is a talented team, and if the Cardinal win the Pac-12 title, they would probably make the College Football Playoff, even with a loss. Stanford's offense was much better at the end of 2014, when it took the reins off quarterback Kevin Hogan. The Cardinal return one of the nation's best offensive lines. There was a lot of attrition on the defense, but coach David Shaw has done a great job upgrading on the recruiting trail, and Stanford ranks in my top units in all three areas. While it plays USC on the road, its other road games are vs. four teams that had losing records last season. The Cardinal have beaten Oregon in two of the last three seasons and get the Ducks at home. As long as they beat Oregon, they will get to the Pac-12 title game, which will open a lot of doors for them in the postseason.