Thursday, August 20, 2015

2015 College Football Preview: FCS

Never in the history of Division One college football has there been a program quite as dominant as North Dakota State, with the Bison having won four consecutive national titles. The deal is that the Bison could easily win a fifth title in as many seasons this year. Following is a conference by conference look at who will be on top of their game, and who will struggle to keep up.

All FCS Team
QB-KD Humphries, Murray State
QB-Vad Lee, James Madison
QB-John Robertson, Villanova
RB-Marshaun Coprich, Illinois State
RB-Chase Edmunds, Fordham
RB-Khairi Dickson, St. Francis
RB-De'Angelo Henderson, Coastal Carolina
WR-Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
WR-Jake Wieneke-South Dakota State
WR-Darrin Peterson, Liberty
WR-Madison Mangum, Idaho State

DL-Javon Hargrave, South Carolina State
DL-Derek Rivers, Youngstown State
DL-James Rentz, Sacred Heart
DL-Victor Ochi, Stony Brook
LB-Gabe Terry, Tennessee State
LB-Chinedu Ahanonu, Southern Utah
LB-Jonathon Jackson, Murray State
LB-Corey Magwood, Furman
DB-Dallas Jackson, Jacksonville
DB-Trey Morgan, Western Carolina
DB-Jamal Agnew, San Diego
DB-Alex Avant, Mercer

PK-Michael Schmadeke, Northern Iowa
P-Ben LeCompte, North Dakota State
KR-Jarrett Morgan, Valporaiso
PR-Antonio Hamilton, South Carolina State

FCS Preview


1. Coastal Carolina
2. Charleston Southern
3. Liberty
4. Monmouth
5. Presbyterian
6. Gardner-Webb
7. Kennesaw State

Coastal had an amazing run last season, winning 12 games and pushing as far as they have ever been in the postseason. There is no reason to think that the Chanticleers cannot win the league again, and really push deep into the playoffs. Alex Ross and De'Angelo Henderson drive the offense, and are All-America picks. CCU also boasts a deep and talented WR corps, and should have one of the best offenses in the nation. Defense should be solid as well, especially up front.
Charleston Southern won eight games, and barely missed out on the playoffs last season. They should make that move this season. Austin Brown returns at QB, and the line is stocked. If they can find a new RB who can dominate the run game, the Bucs could steal a Big South title. They get both Coastal and Liberty at home as well.
Liberty squeaked into the playoffs, but lost five games last fall. Josh Woodrum is back at QB, get Darrin Peterson and Dante Shells at WR, and get Desmond Rice back at RB as well DJ Abnar. The Flames are loaded, but the road trip to Charleston Southern will be hugely important. The defense has some holes.
Monmouth has finally moved fully into the Big South, and has some holes to fill at WR and QB on offense. A solid rushing attack could carry the day while the Hawks break in other skill set players. The defense could be solid as well, especially in the secondary.
Gardner-Webb has never gotten on track in the Big South, and they should filter towards the bottom of the league once again. Tyrell Maxwell is back at QB, and will have to carry both the passing and rushing games. The defense could be improved, but will likely get buried by a slow developing offense.
Kennesaw State is breaking in a brand new football program, and so will more than likely fall to the bottom for the conference in year one. Brian Bohannon is coach number one after working at Georgia Tech, so the option is coming to town. Want to win early with not a ton of talent? The option offense is our friend. Citadel transfer Trey White will trigger the offense out of camp.

Projected Playoff Teams: Coastal Carolina, Charleston Southern


1. Eastern Washington
2. Montana State
3. Idaho State
4. Montana
5. Cal Poly
6. Northern Arizona
7. Southern Utah
8. Sacramento State
9. UC-Davis
10. Weber State
11. North Dakota
12. Portland State
13. Northern Colorado

Eastern Washington loses Vernon Adams, but new QB Jordan West should step right up, especially when he has WR Cooper Kupp, an All-American selection, to throw the football to. Beau Baldwin is one of the best coaches in America, and knows how to keep the Eagles flying high. The defense had issues last fall, but could be much improved this season.
EWU will get a push from the Bobcats of Montana State and QB Dakota Prukop. Prukop is one of the best weapons this conference has at QB, and could be one of the best in the nation. Look for RB Gunnar Brekke to get an increased role this fall. Like EWU, Montana State had a defense that was a bit all over the place last fall. Look for that unit to improve as well, or else Prukop will have to increase scoring to keep the Cats winning. No pressure.
Mike Kramer led Idaho State out of the gutter last fall in his third season, and even though Justin Arias is gone at QB, there are enough weapons left over to drive the Bengals to push for the playoff spot they narrowly missed last fall. RB Xavier Finney should take over an offensive leadership position until the QB position is settled out. He's the best back in the league, so that's a good thing. Madison Mangum returns at WR as well, so the new QB will have some star power to toss the ball to.
One of my favorite D2 coaches in recent years, Bob Stitt, has left Colorado Mines and has landed at Montana. He landed the job over bringing back Bobby Hauck, and that could be an interesting direction, as Stitt has managed over some of the most explosive offenses in college football. The Grizzlies must settle on a QB, and it could take a season for Stitt to sort things out before getting Montana back to the top of the conference. One note of interest, Montana opens the season with North Dakota State. Ouch.
Cal Poly could be one of the surprise teams in the Big Sky this season. The Mustangs have option master Chris Brown back at QB, and he will be the key in pushing forward this fall after they just missed the playoffs last season. Cal Poly may just miss the playoffs again this fall, but they'll make it interesting.
Northern Arizona has seen their defense surpass their offense, but that could even out this season with Kyren Poe back at QB, and Dejzon Walker is back for him to throw to. Look for the Lumberjacks to push Cal Poly all season in the middle of the conference, but despite having a solid defense, NAU may not have enough overall talent to push back into the playoffs, a place they haven't been in a while.
Southern Utah fell hard after hitting the playoffs two seasons ago, and the road back to the top is a long one. Ammon Olson may have the firepower at QB to bring the Thunderbirds back somewhat, but SUU isn't ready to get back to the playoffs just yet. Look for them to finish better than last year, but come up just short.
Sacramento State was close to turning things around a couple of years ago, but failed to turn the corner, and now they seem to be floating back down once again. The Hornets are looking for stability at QB this fall to go along with Jordan Robinson at RB. If Robinson can improve and cross the 1000 yard mark, the Hornets could move up. If not, they could be worse.
UC-Davis could improve a great deal this fall under the air combo of QB Ben Scott and WR Ramon Vargas. Ron Gould is at a breaking point in year three, and must show the program is heading in the right direction, or he could be gone.
Weber State was in a rare situation where they got screwed over by John L. Smith as did Arkansas all in the same year. Weber State has not gotten over that situation yet, and the program is looking for signs of life right now. Jay Hill is trying to build a program, and is having to do it from scratch. Look for some improvement this season, but the real success is some time off.
North Dakota struggled madly on offense last fall, and has really fallen behind in state arch rival North Dakota State in so many ways. UND must find a way to figure a way to get talent in, and they have to find someone to play QB well enough to drive the program. The defense kept them in so many games, but every defense without a solid offense wears out over time. UND will be lucky to get back to five wins this fall.
Portland State has struggled for a decade now, and those struggles should continue under interim coach Bruce Barnum. Barnum will be hard pressed to secure the job full time after this fall, and the Vikings will be hard pressed to finish out of last place. Luckily, they are not the worst team in the league.
That honor goes to Northern Colorado, who could not stop a herd of girl scouts on defense last fall. Unfortunately, they could not much move the football with much consistency either. The Bears haven't had much success since joining the Big Sky, and that futility should continue for a while.

Projected Playoff Teams: Eastern Washington, Montana State, Idaho State, Montana


1. Villanova
2. New Hampshire
3. James Madison
4. William & Mary
5. Richmond
6. Delaware
7. Maine
8. Stony Brook
9. Towson
10. Albany
11. Rhode Island
12. Elon

Villanova brings back one of the best FCS QBs in the nation in John Robertson to drive what should be another run at a national title chase. Robertson finished just shy of 4000 total yards last season, and now he'll make a run at cracking that number as well. He tossed 35 TDs and just three picks in a magical season. Defensively, LB Don Cherry is a star, as is CB Jason Ceneus.
New Hampshire lost several players, off of a talented squad last fall, but coach Sean McDonnell is one of the more skilled coaches in FCS football. HE will likely put together another strong group behind QB Sean Goldrich to make another CAA title push. Consider UNH a shoe in for a playoff birth once again.
James Madison should have no issue getting back to the playoffs as long as Vad Lee is pulling the trigger at QB. The All-American selection should be back strong once again. As Lee goes, as do the Dukes heading into year two of the Everett Withers era as head coach.
William & Mary has had their fair share of offensive struggles for the last few seasons, but that could finally be behind them with the development of QB Steve Cluley. He has one heck of a RB behind him as well with Mikal Abdul-Saboor. The defense, which has carried the Tribe, will be just as good as they've been. The Tribe should be able to finally get by the corner and hit the playoffs this fall.
Richmond is loaded at RB, and is coming off a playoff season, but due to historical inconsistency, I am hedging that they won't get back this season. They can run the hell out of the football, as they have a three headed attack in Seth Fisher, Jacobi Green, and Jeremiah Hamlin, but can they pass when they get behind? That'll be the big question this fall.
Delaware is due to climb the mountain again after several years of having fallen off it. Jamie Jarmon comes in from playing minor league baseball to take over at QB, and could be the key to pushing the Blue Hens back up the pecking order. Are they ready to go back to the playoffs yet? Not this season, but those days are coming.
Maine, like Delaware, has been heading in the wrong direction lately, and head coach Jack Cosgrove has some work to do to figure out how to get the Black Bears back in winning order. Drew Belcher should be much improved as a QB as a sophomore, and that could really help an inept offense improve.
Stony Brook is still trying to get a footing after being a successful member of the Big South. The Sea Wolves have All-American selection DE Victor Ochi, but they need someone on offense to bring that level of success. Until they do, Chuck Priore's defenses may continue to be overworked, which leads to stifling losses.
It's hard to believe that Towson was in the national title game a couple of seasons ago. They have fallen off the map since then, and the fall continues this season for coach Rob Ambrose and staff. Darius Victor is a beast at RB, but there is so little else around him.
Albany is another sinking ship right now, and they will be depending on Penn State transfer DJ Crook to give them stability at QB this fall. The Great Danes may struggle for one season before likely jumping forward again next season. Right now, there's just not enough developed talent on hand.
Rhode Island has been a mess for the last 13 seasons. The Rams are still not one of the better teams in this league, and are outclassed in terms of talent and facilities, as well as commitment from the administration on improving those issues. The Rams couldn't score on themselves last fall, and that problem could continue while they sort out their QB issues.
Elon is having a tough time transitioning from the Southern Conference, where they were hardly a stellar power in the mix. They won just one game last fall, and the prospects for this season are just about as bleak.

Projected Playoff Teams: Villanova, New Hampshire, James Madison, William & Mary


1. Harvard
2. Dartmouth
3. Brown
4. Yale
5. Princeton
6. Penn
7. Cornell
8. Columbia

Scott Hosch stepped in at QB due to injury last fall, and took Harvard to another undefeated finish and Ivy League title. He has plenty of run support with Paul Stanton at RB, who is a big time threat whenever he touches the football. The receiving corps is loaded, so the offense shouldn't miss a beat. A talented and deep LB corps will anchor a defense that should be one of the better units in the FCS. How Tim Murphy hasn't been stolen by another program by now makes my head spin.
No team in Ivy play improved more than Dartmouth last season. The Big Green is loaded across the board coming into 2015, and may finally be in a place to compete for the Ivy title, and could be ready to really push Harvard. Dalyn Thomas and Kyle Bramble run the offense, and the defense has star power across the board. This could be a big year.
Brown is the next team on the comeback trail after some rough seasons. Marcus Fuller is ready for a breakout season at QB, after passing for over 2600 yards last fall. The defense, which was stout last fall, has several holes, but the offense looks ready to take over the leadership role  at last.
Yale had a big year last season, and did manage to push Harvard for a while. They lost several important players from that club, but Morgan Roberts is back at QB, and he is one of the best in the FCS. With so many other questions surrounding him, Yale could slide back just a bit this fall.
Princeton is stuck in the middle once again in 2015. The Tigers lost several key components on offense, and it's going to be hard to plug those holes early on. The defense may have to pick up the leadership role, as then starters return.
Penn has been sinking like a stone in recent seasons, and now are starting over under Ray Priore as head coach. The defense is stronger than the offense heading in, especially up front. QB Alex Torgorsen is back at QB, but he has little to work with.
Cornell is in a downward spiral lately, and the spiral continues this fall for the Big Red. It's going to be a tough go once again. It's so bad, that the only team they beat last season was Columbia, who finished winless in ten games last season. The Lions made a coaching change in the offense, with Al Bagnoli taking the reigns, but the Lions are likely to stay another year in the cellar.

Projected Playoff Teams: None


1. South Carolina State
2. North Carolina Central
3. North Carolina A&T
4. Bethune-Cookman
5. Morgan State
6. Norfolk State
7. Howard
8. Hampton
9. Florida A&M
10. Delaware State
11. Savannah State

South Carolina State is in prime position to take over as league champs in 2015 due to a big play defense, led by All-American selection Javon Hargrave and LB Darius Leonard. The Bulldogs are deep across the board, and could have one of the better units in FCS football. QB Adrian Kollock and Scoot Simmons should engineer some excitement on offense as well.
The Eagles of North Carolina Cental picked up a share of their first ever MEAC title last fall, and they look to push back in that range once again. Malcolm Bell is solid at QB, and has a good group of weapons to help him in Adrian Wilkins and Quentin Atkinson at WR.
Despite having great size, Tarik Cohen will be the motor behind the offense for North Carolina A&T, as the Aggies come off a nine win season last fall. The defense could be loaded up the middle of the field, and the Aggies are in prime position  to compete for a birth in the first ever Celebration Bowl.
Bethune-Cookman got hit hard by the departure of coach Brian Waters, but his top assistant, Terry Sims, stuck around to pick up the program. Sims should bring consistency to the Wildcats this season, and the offense is loaded with talent. The defense, however, lost nine starters, so there's some work to do heading into the season, which is why I have the Cats falling slightly.
Morgan State, long a struggling MEAC program, won seven games and shared the league title last fall. QB Moses Brown and RB Herb Walker are back once again to run the offense, and the Bears also get Lamont Brown III back after he missed all of last season.
Young QB Terrence Ervin should benefit from a coaching change at Norfolk State, as Latrell Scott comes over from Virginia State to take over after the Spartans won just four games last fall. The defense should be able to hold up until the offense gets used to the new fast paced offense.
Howard won a surprising five games last season, but finding a new QB may hamper their efforts to improve on that this fall. The defense was full of holes last fall, and that will be an area of concern as well.
Hampton was plagued by turnover issues last fall, so Connell Maynor will be working on ball control and turnover prevention in camp. Virginia transfer David Watford takes over at QB, with Jerrell Antoine still in the mix. Whomever ends up with the job long term has a loaded group at receiver.
Florida A&M has slid in the last decade, and the slide continues, as a complete lack of talent has the Rattlers lined up to struggle once again.
Former FBS assistant Kenny Carter takes over after 23 years of playing second fiddle at Delaware State. The Hornets have some talent in the back seven on defense, and can run the ball somewhat, but Carter will have to build his program over the next few seasons.
Savannah State is an abject disaster, and is under NCAA sanctions as they come off a winless season. Another year of going winless is a real possibility.

Projected Playoff Teams: None
Celebration Bowl Participant: South Carolina State


1. North Dakota State
2. Illinois State
3. Youngstown State
4. Northern Iowa
5. South Dakota State
6. Indiana State
7. Southern Illinois
8. Western Illinois
9. Missouri State
10. South Dakota

Coming off of their fourth straight national title, North Dakota State still runs strong, and is a favorite to win a fifth. The Bison return QB Carson Wentz after rolling up over 3600 total yards. Zach Vraa returns as his top receiver, while King Frazier and Chase Morlock take over at RB, and they will run behind a talented veteran line. Defensively, the Bison returns more then enough talent to succeed despite some holes on the edge.
Illinois State had a magical season last fall, and if the Bison weren't around, they would likely have celebrated a national title last fall. Tre Roberson returns at QB, and is one of the best FCS QBs in the nation. He rolled up over 4200 yards of offense last season. Marshaun Coprich is one of the best backs in the nation as well, and rushed for over 2200 yards last fall, with 27 scores. The only issues on offense will be having to plug three open starting jobs on the line.
Youngstown State made a huge off-season splash by hiring deposed Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. Pelini, a Youngstown native, never won fewer than nine games in any of his seven seasons in Lincoln, and could be poised to bring YSU back to the Penguin glory years. Pelini will make great use of the Hunter Wells to Andrew Williams connection in the passing game, while Martin Ruiz returns at RB. The defense will be beefed up from recent seasons, so look for YSU to plug their way back to the postseason immediately.
Northern Iowa beat NDSU and Illinois State last season, and used that to spring into the playoffs. UNI has one of the best defenses in the conference, and that trait continues into this fall. Rutgers transfer Savon Higgins should be the latest solid Panther RB, but the draw back for them will be finding a new QB. Look for the Panthers to be a bubble playoff team when the brackets are being made.
South Dakota State needs to replace their top QB, RB, and WR from a year ago, but they do return all freshman WR Jake Weineke to the fold, and he could be one of the best WRs in the nation when all is said and done. Still, SDSU has too many holes to fill and lost too much production to be expected to make another playoff push this season. It could still happen, it just shouldn't be expected.
Indiana State was one of the most improved teams in America last fall, going from one win to eight in a single year. The Sycamores will be at their best defensively this season, and are led by LB Kendall Walker, and have excellent cover options in the secondary in Travis Starks and Alex Stowers, with a deep cover option in Mark Sewall. ISU, however, will need to find some key players on offense, which may keep them out of the playoffs this season.
Southern Illinois is starting to show improvements, but may step back a bit offensively this season with TE MyCole Pruitt and RB Malcolm Agnew both being gone. Mark Ianotti is back at QB, but he will be seeking new weapons in fall camp. David Elson comes onboard at DC to shore up that area for the Salukis.
Western Illinois returns a solid offensive corps in QB Trenton Norvell, WR Lance Lenoir, and RB Devon Moore, and the line is loaded. Where the Leathernecks fold is on defense, and the offense will have to score big time to make up for what they give up on the defensive side of the ball. This will be problematic as they get into the Valley Conference season. It could be a long season for WIU this fall.
Missouri State made a change after a 4-8 season, with the Bears moving on to former Missouri DC Dave Steckel. He will be relying heavily on RB Calan Crowder as there are few other pieces on the offense. The front seven on defense is a strong point and a major building block for this season. If the Bears can hold strong on defense, they could surprise a few people.
When South Dakota hired former Montana and Wyoming coach Joe Glenn, they never expected to be as bad as they are at this point. The heat is squarely on this fall, but the Coyotes are already in the hole with starting QB Kevin Earl likely out with an injury. It looks like this could be the end of the line for Glenn short of a miracle.
Projected Playoff Teams: North Dakota State, Illinois State, Youngstown State, Northern Iowa


1. Sacred Heart
2. Bryant
3. St. Francis
4. Duquesne
5. Wagner
6. Central Connecticut State
7. Robert Morris

Sacred Heart made their first playoff appearance last season, and they look primed to be back there again as the Pioneers return some significant talent from a team that largely controlled the league defensively last season. On offense, RJ Noel is back at QB, and WR Moses Webb should step up at WR to have a breakout season.
No team came closer to knocking SHU out of the top spot than the Bulldogs of Bryant last season, as they finished 8-3 overall. QB Dalton Easton is back at QB to lead things, and Has Chad Ward back to toss the ball to. Ricardo McCray picked up 14 TDs last season as a receiver and runner, and is back as well. Bryant could be in position to pull an upset and win the conference title this fall.
St. Francis returns one of the best backs in the nation in Khairi Dickson. He may be one of the best players in the nation hands down. The Red Flash was one of the more improved teams in the nation last fall, but could have been better. Some have them winning the league this season, however, I still don't feel like the complete package is there yet. SFU will make a push, but may come up just shy of the top.
Dillon Buechel is back at QB for the Dukes of Duquesne but they have to figure out some of the issues that kepth them to just six wins last fall. Chris King is back at WR, and is one of the better receiver options in the NEC after wrapping up 1127 yards receiving last fall. Eight starters return on defense, so Duquesne could be in a position to push St. Francis for third. At this point, however, it looks like they slide in just behind.
Walt Hameline has retired at Wagner, so 2015 will be a year of transition after Hameline roamed the sidelines for 34 years. OC Jason Houghtaling takes over. Deciding on a starting QB, and reintegrating WR Anthony Carrington into the system after a missed season will be paramount to success. The defense should be solid in the front seven, but the Seahawks must prove themselves across the board.
Central Connecticut State will be loaded on defense, as eight starters return, but they have absolutely zero identified big play talent on offense, and that will make for a long Blue Devil season in New Britain. If CCSU repeats their three wins from last season, that would be a success as far as I am concerned.
Youth was a major concern for Robert Morris last fall, and the Colonials suffered through a one win season as a result. Those youngsters are a year more experienced this fall, but they are still far behind their competition. If some of those players use that experience the right way, there is no reason to say that they couldn't pass CCSU, but they won't go much farther this fall.
Projected Playoff Teams: Sacred Heart


1. Jacksonville State
2. Eastern Kentucky
3. UT-Martin
4. Tennessee State
5. Eastern Illinois
6. Tennessee Tech
7. SE Missouri State
8. Murray State
9. Austin Peay

Despite the loss of DaMarcus James at RB for Jacksonville State, the Gamecocks are still loaded at the position. Eli Jenkins is back at QB as well, so there should be no fall off from a record setting offensive season. Devaunte Sigler returns from winning the OVC defensive MVP award, and should lead the defense. Look for UAB transfer Joseph Roberts to contribute immediately, and look for big contributions from LaMichael Fleming, an Alabama transfer as well.
Eastern Kentucky started off hot, but cooled toward the end of the year, and the Colonels failed to win the conference title. The key on offense will be RB Dy'Shawn Mobley, who rushed for 1491 yards last season. The line is loaded, and eight starters return on defense. EKU will push Jacksonville State for certain, and a playoff birth looks likely.
UT-Martin will boast one of the better defenses in the OVC this fall, and will use that unit to cover for an offense that may be just a bit behind most. The Sky Hawks have played consistently enough that it looks as if they could challenge in a fringe way, but they may just miss out on a playoff birth this fall.
Tennessee State returns only six total starters, but will be getting an influx of FBS transfers this season, and those transfers are talented enough to step right in and provide an impact. The Tigers are a bit of a tweener team this fall, meaning they could go either way, up or down. Right now, I see them falling right in the middle.
Eastern Illinois returns Jalen Whitlow at QB, and he could open up the offense for the Panthers this fall. He scored 27 total TDs last season, and EIU could rise from this spot to as high as third. Look for a breakout season from Shepard Little at RB.
Tennessee Tech is on the verge of turning the corner, and they could do so this season if all the pieces fall together. They return 17 total starters, which could be the platform for a revival. The Eagles will ride an improving defense to try to pull ahead this fall after finishing 4-4 in OVC play last season.
SE Missouri State needs for WR Paul McRoberts to stay on the field. When healthy, he's one of the more explosive options at WR in the country, but he missed five games last fall. The issue is finding players around him on offense, and finding a defense that can tighten up this fall.
Murray State is getting stuck with yet another coaching change, and those changes have had a negative effect over the last few seasons, and the Racers are sinking like a stone. They should get more consistency this time, as they promoted from within with OC Mitch Stewart taking over. KD Humphries is an All American selection heading into the season after he passed for 3483 yards and 27 TDs last season. The Racers have talent, but they need consistency, and that has been a huge problem, especially on defense.
Austin Peay is basically just outclassed across the board in the OVC. The offense was abysmal last fall, and that was an area of recruiting need in the off season. The defense was not at all any better, but there is a chance that another season can bring more experience, and hence would bring improvement. There's only one way to go after a 1-11 season last fall.
Projected Playoff Teams: Jacksonville State, Eastern Kentucky


1. Bucknell
2. Fordham
3. Colgate
4. Lafayette
5. Holy Cross
6. Lehigh
7. Georgetown

One of the biggest upsets that I am predicting in college football this season comes in the Patriot League, with Bucknell picked to win the league title over Fordham. If RJ Nitti can stay healthy at QB, and if CJ Williams can have a breakthrough season at RB, the Bison could be the best team in the league when it all sorts out in the fall.
Fordham is the easy pick to win the league, but having zero experience at QB and having only one starter back on defense is why I'm backing off on the Rams this fall, despite the return of Chase Edmonds at RB, who rushed for 1838 yards and 23 TDs last fall. With no QB experience, teams will be tempted to load up to stop Edmonds.
Colgate had the best team rushing offense in the league last fall, and the Red Raiders look to continue that trend once again this fall, especially with a suspect passing offense to rely on. There are several candidates for breakout seasons on defense, so Colgate could make a strong push this fall.
An unstable QB situation, and the loss of their leading rusher should keep Lafayette squarely in the middle once again this fall. The Leopards use two QBs, neither of which being special, and that is an anchor as far as I am concerned. Finding one reliable player would work best.
Holy Cross is an improving program, and the Crusaders could ride QB Peter Pujals, who passed for 2353 yards last season. He also rushed for 705 yards, so he is a player to watch in Patriot League play this season. Improving the defense will be key.
Lehigh is sinking, and the Mountain Hawks will be trying to stay out of the basement this fall. QB Nick Shafinsky returns and will throw to Tory Pelletier, so the offense should be ok if they can find a viable rushing attack. The defense is a letdown, and that trend could continue this season, unless someone breaks out.
Georgetown is at the bottom once again, but changes coaches as Rob Sgarlata takes over this fall. Jo'El Kimpela will be the focus on offense at RB, and has talent, but he has little around him to work off of. The defense loses Alec May, but DB Ettian Scott is solid in the secondary and could be a star.
Projected Playoff Teams: Bucknell, Fordham


1. San Diego
2. Dayton
3. Drake
4. Campbell
5. Stetson
6. Morehead State
7. Butler
8. Marist
9. Valporaiso
10. Davidson
Jacksonville* (Ineligible for conference title, playoff birth)

The biggest disappointment this fall for this league is the ineligibility for Jacksonville to get a playoff birth in QB Kade Bell's senior season. The coach's son has been a big time player for the Dolphins during his tenure as starting QB, and not being eligible to win the title and hit the playoffs running will be a major letdown. Impermissible benefits based on scholarship rules were the major factor in the ban this fall.
With JU out of the way, San Diego steps up to the front of the line. The Toreros will look for a breakout season from RB Jonah Hodges to lead the way, as a chuck of production is gone at QB and WR.
Connor Kacor will be back at RB to lead the way for challenger Dayton this fall. Kascor rushed for 1115 yards and 14 TDs, and should be one of the better backs in the league this fall. DE Nate Sudnick leads the way on defense, and the secondary is one of the better units in the country.
Drake is seeking improvement from their QB Andy Rice, as he tossed just as many picks (11) as TDs last fall. On defense, MLB John Hugenin is the class of the league, and the secondary is loaded. The Bulldogs will pull an upset or two this fall.
The Camels of Campbell are rising in the conference this season. The Camels have a three headed monster at RB heading into the fall, and should pound teams into submission. Kameron Bryant will start at QB after transferring over from Appalachian State.
Stetson is still a young program, but is a team on the rise, and one to watch as they continue to build forward. Ryan Tetler is continuing to develop at QB after tossing 17 TDs, and the defense should be loaded with talent this season. For the Hatters to step up, they just have to gain more experience. If someone finished higher than projections in this conference this season, Stetson would be my team to watch.
Austin Gahafer returns as one of the better QBs in the country for Morehead State, but that defense was an absolute mess last fall. A change took place at DC, and that's just the start of trying to stop the bleeding. Give the Eagles a year to figure it out before improvement is expected.
Matt Schiltz is back at QB for Butler after his season was cut short due to injury last fall. He could help Butler improve from a season where there was little talent in important places. Special teams will be an area of strength for Butler, but a talent upgrade is needed.
Marist was a mess on offense last fall, and was in fact the worst offense in the conference. Still, the Red Foxes won four games in league play, which was encouraging. The defense picked up the pace, but had a tendency to wear out at times with the offense coming up so short. That could be an issue once again this fall.
Valporaiso made huge strides last season to win four games, and if you have followed the plight of Crusader football, then you know how huge that was. Valpo is seeking a new QB, and will struggle to find playmakers on offense, but the defense has a viable star in LB Alex Green.
Davidson has struggled to find a direction for the program, and the Wildcats won just a single game last season to claim the basement. They likely stay at the bottom once again, as they have failed to win a PFL game for two seasons. They do boast one star in WR William Morris, the receiving leader in the league.
Projected Playoff Teams: San Diego


1. Chattanooga
2. Western Carolina
3. Wofford
4. Samford
5. Mercer
6. Furman
7. The Citadel
8. VMI
East Tennessee State* (Ineligible)

Chattanooga made their first trip to the playoffs in 30 years last season, and the Mocs look primed to return once again behind the play of QB Jacob Huesman, who passed for 2731 yards to go with his 1009 yards rushing and 37 total scores. Huesman, and All-American selection, should be the best QB in FCS football this fall. He has nothing but skill around him, and so the Mocs should find no trouble winning the league again. The defense has a few holes, but not enough to be of major concern.
Western Carolina narrowly missed a playoff birth last fall, and like Chattanooga, they've seemed to find their glory days from the 1980s once again. QB Troy Mitchell returns at QB after passing for 2541 yards, and will be the key to a massively experienced offense. There are a couple of choice holes on defense, but nine starters return. Look for the Catamounts to get back to the playoffs this fall.
Wofford is loaded in the backfield, and the option should be back to full form behind FB Lorenzo Long, who scored 15 times last fall. Defensively, nobody defends against the run better than the Terriers. Will the offense be strong enough to offset the high powered attacks of Chattanooga and WCU? That's the question.
Samford has a new coach in town in former Murray State coach Chris Hatcher. Hatcher, a bit of a mercenary who jumps from job to job often, brings some credibility to a program that has struggled to reach elite levels in the SoCon or the OVC back in the day. Michael Eubank returns at QB after passing for 2136 yards, and he should blow up this fall in Hatcher's up tempo offense. Karel Hamilton should blow up at WR as well. RB Denzel Williams scored 16 times last season and is looking for more.
A young Mercer football program was in every game last fall, and the Bears look to turn a corner this fall. All 22 starters return, and Bobby Lamb has them ready to shock some people in this conference this fall. Alex Lakes returns at RB after rushing for 17 TDs last fall, and he will be the focal point of the offense.
Furman was derailed by injuries last fall, and they have to find answers to that problem this season. Reese Hannon will make his major appearance as the starting QB a year late after he busted his ankle in game one last fall. He has a bevy of talent to throw to, so the offense should be in go mode. The LB corps should be a strength for the Paladins, if they can stay on the field long enough to have an effect.
The Citadel showed some flashes last season, and won five games. The Bulldogs have lots of parts on offense, but they need someone to step up and lead and be a star. Mike Houston is still building the program, so I would say that they are a team to watch moving forward. Look for a major push in 2016.
VMI has made a change at head coach, having let go of veteran coach Sparky Woods and replacing him with Virginia OL Coach Scott Wachenheim. He'll have his work cut out for him, but does have super sophomore Al Webb at QB. It's a start for the Keydets, who have been bad for a very long time.
East Tennessee State makes their return to college football this season, but will not be eleigible for the conference title until next season. Former North Carolina Coach Carl Torbush is in charge of this program as they play an independent schedule this fall.
Projected Playoff Teams: Chattanooga, Western Carolina


1. Sam Houston State
2. Stephen F. Austin
3. SE Louisiana
4. Lamar
5. Central Arkansas
6. McNeese State
7. Abilene Christian
8. Northwestern State
9. Incarnate Word
10. Houston Baptist
11. Nicholls State

Sam Houston State looks primed to return to the top of the SLC in 2015. Jared Johnson is back at QB, but was slowed by off-season shoulder surgery in spring ball, as was Don King III. Jeremiah Briscoe, a UAB transfer, also fits in the mix. WR LaDarius Brown is in great shape to have a huge season. DE PJ Hall will anchor the defense for the Bearkats.
Stephen F. Austin should make a return to the postseason as well this fall, as QB Zach Conque, son of the coach, returns after passing for 2733 yards. Aaron Thomas is another breakout candidate this season for the Lumberjacks.
SE Louisiana must find a QB to replace Bryan Bennett in order to push back into a playoff bid, and they may not make it back this season. The defense may be ahead of the offense in terms of experience this season, but the Lions won't be missing from contention for long.
Lamar shocked everyone last fall by winning eight games, and should take another progressive step this fall. Look for Stephen F. Austin transfer Joe Minden to step into the starting QB role this fall, but JC transfer Carson Earp may have a say as well. The Cardinals have a strong list of FBS transfers coming in as well.
Central Arkansas looks to take a step back this fall with the departure of QB Ryan Howard and WR Dezmin Lewis. Look for 2015 to be a bit of a restocking season, rather than rebuilding.
McNeese State came very close to beating Nebraska last fall, but then skidded to a 6-5 finish. The Cowboys have 16 total starters returning this season, and the message is about finishing games.
Peter McKenzie is the focal point for Abilene Christian this season. The Wildcat QB passed for 3084 yards and 22 TDs last season. ACU is only in year three of FCS membership, so the program is still building. Major success doesn't seem to far away.
There are a ton of holes this fall on defense for Northwestern State, and the offense must find a new QB for a team that won six games last fall. The Demons may just take a step back this season while they fill their spots.
There is some good news for Incarnate Word as far as talent is concerned this season. COrey Lee anchors the line on defense, while Padyn Giebler leads the LB corps. Kobie Douglas is one of the better CBs on FCS football. TE Cole Wick is a solid talent on offense, and Trent Brittain is back after missing almost all of last season. An improvement on their 2-9 record is a good possibility.
The Huskies of Houston Baptist are all in on former Florida QB Max Staver this fall, but are only in year two of their existence as a program. Slow development of this program is likely.
HBU will still be better than Nicholls State this fall, even as the Colonels make a coaching change to Tim Rebowe, a former UL-Lafayette assistant. Former USC interim Ed Orgeron was approached, and was in talks for the job, but eventually decided against it. RB Michael Henry and QB Tuskani Figaro bring hope to avoid another winless season.
Projected Playoff Teams: Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin


1. Southern
2. Grambling State
3. Prairie View
4. Texas Southern
5. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

1. Alcorn State
2. Alabama State
3. Jackson State
4. Alabama A&M
5. Mississippi Valley State

Southern was very young last fall, but it worked for the Jaguars as they won the SWAC West title. Lenard Tillery was a beast at RB, while Austin Howard will be back as a sophomore at QB to pass to Willie Quinn, who caught 62 passes last fall. Eight starter return on defense as well, making it likely that Southern repeats.
Grambling State made amazing strides last season to win seven games, and should fit right in at second in the West once more. Jonathon Williams is back at QB after a huge season,and gets all his favorite weapons back as well.
Heishma Northern is gone at Prairie View, and Willie Simmons comes over from his post as OC at Alcorn State to take over. RB Johnta Hebert will be the focal point of the offense after the loss of QB Jerry Lovelock. Former South Carolina WR Shaq Roland should be a huge addition this fall.
After a red hot start last fall, Texas Southern fell completely apart to finish at 5-6. The Tigers are largely rebuilding on offense, so the slide looks to continue.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff looks strong on defense, with ten starters returning for the Golden Lions this fall. There are tools on offense, but the QB situation is a mystery heading into the fall, and someone needs to step up and be a star on offense.
John Gibbs, Junior is back at QB for Alcorn State after passing for 2400 yards and rushing for just over 1000. He scored 32 total TDs, and is again the center of an offense that averaged 49.4 points per game. The Braves are in prime position to take the league once again, even with Southern being so strong in the West.
Reggie Barlow was mysteriously fired at Alabama State after a seven win season, and Brian Jenkins came over from Bethune-Cookman to take over after a successful run there. Jenkins will depend on JC transfers to kick start the 2015 campaign, so they will likely finish a distant second to Alcorn State in the West.
LeMontez Ivy is one of the better FCS QBs, but he has little to work with at Jackson State, and the Tigers are a firm middle tier team in the SWAC as of now. Dan Williams should be his top target this season.
Alabama A&M adds JC transfer De'Angelo Ballard at QB, but the Bulldogs are looking for options everywhere else. There are tools to use, but someone has to be ready to step up and lead. The defense is young and developing.
Mississippi Valley State loses 19 starters from a two win season last fall, but this may be addition by subtraction.
Projected Playoff Teams: None
Projected Celebration Bowl Participant: Alcorn State

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