What's the biggest surprise of college football season?

Michigan might hold up

Chris Dufresne

Los Angeles Times

This may sound strange, given that it struggled at home with an FCS opponent, but the biggest surprise has to be Michigan.

Almost everyone was predicting disaster for Rich Rodriguez in his third year, given the offseason problems and the fact his team lost seven of its last eight last year.

Consider this: Central Michigan received points in the preseason coaches poll but not Michigan. So the fact the Wolverines are 22nd in this week's coaches poll has to be acknowledged.

While Michigan started 4-0 last year before it collapsed, the difference is Denard Robinson. The stunning sophomore gives you reason to think Michigan might not wilt this year. The Wolverines should get to 5-0 with victories against Bowling Green and at Indiana. Then the real season starts, with games against Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State.

And then we'll find out if Michigan is a contender or a pretender.

Dukes KO a heavyweight

David Teel

Newport News

Daily Press

As a senior at James Madison in 1980, I saw the Dukes' first game against Virginia Tech. 'Twas respectable but not pretty, a 38-6, call-off-the-dogs whipping. Even as JMU morphed into a quality program, the occasional encounter with the Hokies was predictably lopsided. In 2003, the year before their I-AA national title, the Dukes lost to Virginia Tech 43-0. Aggregate score of their six games: 245-44.

So through these purple-tinted glasses, the shock of the season to date is JMU's 21-16 victory over then-No. 13 Virginia Tech, an outcome Dukes coach Mickey Matthews called bigger than the '04 playoff run. Moreover, the upset might cripple Boise State, which hoped a Labor Day conquest of the Hokies would propel it to the BCS title game.

ACC a perennial flop

Andrew Carter

Orlando Sentinel

The biggest surprise is how awful the Atlantic Coast Conference has been. Again.

Everyone knows the ACC's reputation has taken a hit in recent seasons with a bunch of solid teams but no great ones. This was supposed to be the year when the ACC established itself as a true power conference.

The league returned several very good quarterbacks. Florida State, Miami and North Carolina all seemed to be on the rise. Virginia Tech was supposed to be a top-10 team.

But the conference has fallen completely flat. It has lost each of its marquee out-of-conference games — LSU over North Carolina, Boise State over Virginia Tech, Oklahoma over Florida State, Ohio State over Miami — and once again has become a college football punch line — and punching bag.

Yet again, it seems nothing has changed.

Denard simply divine

Teddy Greenstein

Chicago Tribune

Before the season, two things were known about Michigan's Denard Robinson: He could run, and he didn't tie his shoes. Robinson wasn't even listed among the nation's top 25 quarterbacks by Lindy's (and others) because it wasn't clear he would start.

Look where he is now: at the top of every Heisman Trophy projection and completing 69.7 percent of his passes. The 502 total yards he produced against Notre Dame led one Michigan radio station to create a tribute song that might make Simon and Garfunkel cringe: "And here's to you, Denard Robinson. Rich Rod loves you more than you will know …"

With Robinson at the helm, Michigan just might finish in the top half of the Big Ten. That's a ways off from its tie for last place in 2009.

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