Three weeks into the 2009 college football season, a theme has already developed: surprise. Once-elite major conference teams like Miami, Michigan and Auburn, relegated to the scrap heap of losing seasons (or at least the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl) in preseason publications, have taken strong steps forward.
But are any of these teams truly surprising? In Football Outsiders' preseason FEI projections, Auburn was 11th, Miami was 18th and Michigan was 20th. Using factors like experience and five-year history, it was possible to see these teams making pretty strong moves forward in 2009.
So who are the real surprises? Which teams' early play has not only been unexpected, but grounded in indicators of future success? To answer that, one must take trips to the Big East and Big 12 North.
To see which teams are true surprises, including two Big East and two Big 12 teams, and why they might continue to be contenders, you must be an ESPN Insider.