UC's D, TCU's O and other big surprises 

November, 25, 2009

Last week I did a top 10 disappointments list. Here's another look: the top 10 surprises of college football in 2009.

1. The defense of the Cincinnati Bearcats:

They had to replace 10 starters, had a new coordinator coming in (Bob Diaco) and switched from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4, but the Bearcats have still been very formidable. In fact, they lead the nation in tackles for loss, are third in sacks and 16th in scoring defense. They've also done a good job containing some very dangerous offensive players, limiting Oregon State's Quizz Rodgers to 73 yards on 20 carries, Fresno's Ryan Mathews (the nation's leading rusher) to no runs longer than 11 yards and 3.8 yards per carry (yes, he did have 145 total on the ground in that game), and Noel Devine to 88 yards on 25 carries.

2. The Idaho Vandals program:

They were picked to finish ninth by the WAC coaches, but instead the team -- that had gone 3-21 the past two seasons -- was bowl eligible by mid-October. The Vandals, 7-4, have a good shot at winning eight games this season as they host 3-8 Utah State this weekend. They are 4-0 in games decided by four points or less. This is all despite being 107th in turnover margin and 111th in pass efficiency defense.