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Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Two teams likely to surprise in 2011

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Stop me if you've heard this one before ...

Boston College will be better than most people think.

Get used to hearing this one ...

Duke won.

Here's a look at one team in each division most likely to surprise you this year:

Boston College: The only reason the Eagles are considered a "surprise" is because they're again going to be overshadowed by the likes of Florida State and Clemson. While the Eagles don't match those programs in the recruiting world, they can compensate for it with their work ethic, discipline and a few other intangibles they've got going for them. BC returns its statistical leaders from 2010 in rushing, passing, receiving, tackles, sacks and interceptions -- the only program in the ACC that can make that claim. Kevin Rogers was a great hire as offensive coordinator, and BC's defense is traditionally one of the best in the league. They've got the Noles at home on a Thursday night in November, but what could hurt the Eagles is the fact that four of the final six games are on the road. Yikes. If they can take care of business at home against FSU and NC State, though -- surprise.

Duke: No, I don't expect to win the Coastal Division or suddenly morph into a top-tier team. I do, however, expect significant progress in Year 4 under David Cutcliffe just as one would expect it under any head coach of any program entering his fourth season. There's no reason Duke shouldn't be able to beat FIU on the road and no reason it shouldn't be expected to win that game. It's time for Duke to take the next step and become bowl eligible, and in order to do that, the Blue Devils are going to have to beat somebody they're "not supposed to." They'll be able to do that because they've got one of the better quarterbacks in the conference and a group of talented, proven receivers. It won't happen, though, if the defense continues to be so friendly and the running game doesn't evolve. If first-year defensive line coach Rick Petri can make the kind of impact he has at other programs -- surprise.