Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Patriot League 2016 Preview

Fordham has had more success over the last few years than they have had since the Vince Lombardi era. The Rams have largely taken over in a league once dominated by the likes of Lehigh and Lafayette, but the years of Lafayette being competitive have been long gone. While Fordham and Colgate rise, Lafayette sinks to the bottom, and Lehigh gets stuck in the middle. Expect more of the same in 2016.

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

Fordham Rams
Joe Moorhead has moved on as coach of the Rams, and he was largely the architect of the rise of the program. OC Andrew Breiner takes over as OC, so don't expect a huge philosophical swing as far as the way things have been done here.
Kevin Anderson passed for 3183 yards last fall with 32 TDs, and he returns to trigger the offense. The weapon that may be even more important is RB Chase Edmonds, one of the best in FCS football. Edmonds rushed for 1648 yards last fall, and scored 20 rushing TDs. Depth is plentiful at both QB and RB, so expect more prolific fireworks from this backfield in 2016.
Phazahn Odom is gone at WR, but the Rams bring back the next three best receivers in Robbie Cantelli, Corey Caddle, and Austin Longi.
Four starters are back on the line as well, which will allow the Rams to expect to have one of the best offenses in the game this season.
The defense was rather weak last fall, and needs some improvement if the Rams are to move deeper into the playoffs, but playoffs are an absolute for this football team, barring a rash of injuries.
Projected Win Total: 10

Colgate Red Raiders
Jake Melville passed for over 2500 yards last fall, and limited his INTs to just two, all while also rushing for 1073 yards and 11 TDs. He was the driving force behind a run that saw the Raiders get into the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.
Adding to the run game will be the return of RB James Holland, who rushed for 16 scores last season on 732 yards. Demetrius Russell is gone, so expect more opportunities for John Wilkins.
Four of Five leading receivers from last fall return, including receiving leader John Maddaluna III, who caught 62 passes. .
The defense is led by LB Kyle Diener, who led the Patriot League with 129 tackles last fall. Pat Afriyie will make things interesting off the edge at DE, as he picked up 17.5 TFLs last season.
Projected Win Total: 8

Holy Cross Crusaders
Peter Pujals may very well be the best returning QB in the Patriot League in 2016. He passed for 3195 yards and 28 TDs. His main goal in 2016 will be to find more accuracy after completing just 59.1% of his passes last season.
The Crusaders never did settle on one back last fall, but both of their top rushers return in Gabe Guild and Diquan Walker.
Brandon Flaherty returns in 2016 after catching 106 passes for 1082 yards and 12 TDs last season. He is the best receiver overall in the conference. Kalif Raymond, who caught 72 passes last fall, is gone. Jake Wieczorek, Richie DeNicola, Darrius Lacy, and Blaise Bell will try to fill that void.
The defense was murder against the run at times last fall, but the unit overall will have to show more consistency if the Crusaders are to push forward and steal a spot or two in the standings this fall.
Projected Win Total: 6

Lehigh Mountain Hawks
Improvement for Lehigh in 2016 will have to start at the QB spot, as Nick Shafinsky passed for 15 TDs last fall, but also tossed 10 picks. That number has to change to the better for Lehigh to have any shot of overtaking Fordham or Colgate, or to have any shot of holding off Holy Cross. Shafinsky passed for 2279 yards, and completed 66.7% of his passes, so the tools are there.
Dominik Bragalone was a huge hit as a freshman last season as he rushed for 1008 yards, and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. He rushed for seven TDs, and Shafinsky added another 11 to give the Hawks a solid ground game in the red zone. Micco Brisker and Nana Amankwah-Ayeh add depth.
The receiving corps should take another step forward, as four of the top five receivers return from a year ago, led by Troy Pelletier and his 78 receptions for 831 yards, and he scored eight times as well.
LB Colton Caslow returns to a defense that was ripped often last season, giving up 49 or more points four times. If Lehigh is to make a move into a playoff spot, that cannot happen again. That being said, I do not think that Lehigh has enough in the tank to make that challenge this season.
Projected Win Total: 4

Bucknell Bison
The offense was an anchor to this team sailing off into the sunset of success last fall. Bucknell only scored over 20 points twice last fall, leaving the league's best defense in the lurch every single week.
RJ Nitti returns at QB, and passed for 2477 yards last season, but he only connected on 13 TDs, while giving up 10 picks. That is a problem, and his accuracy was reflected by a poor number of 56.2% completions.
Matt DelMauro is gone at RB, but CJ Williams will return. He rushed for 534 yards, but never once touched the end zone rushing. Joey DeFloria and Omar Garcia will be competing for carries in camp.
Will Carter led the team with 60 receptions last fall, and returns. Bobby Kaslander has moved on, but Andrew Owers, Alan Butler, and Marcus Adamilola all return as sophomores.
The defense is led in the middle of the front seven by all PL DT Ben Schumaker, who racked up 13.5 TFLs last fall. Bryan Marine is a ball hawk at Safety after picking off four passes a year ago.
Projected Win Total: 4

Georgetown Hoyas
The Hoyas could have easily won seven games last year instead of four, but winning close games is something that this program has got to learn how to do.
Kyle Nolan is gone at QB, so look for seniors Tim Barnes and Patrick Finnigan to get a long look in camp.They combined to attempt 23 passes in 2015.
Jo'el Kimpela is also gone at RB. Isaac Ellsworth and Alex Valles, both juniors this fall, will get the first look at replacing him. Depth is thin here.
Leading receiver Jake DiCicco is also gone, as are his 60 receptions from last fall. Justin Hill and Matthew Buckman will vye for starting jobs, while, Brandon Williams and Luke Morris look to push their way up the depth chart as well.
The Hoyas are all set in the middle of the defense, as LBs Daniel Yankovich and Leo Loughrey return after combining for 171 tackles last fall.
Projected Win Total: 3

Lafayette Leopards
2015 was as close to rick bottom as this program could have gotten, finishing just 1-10. There is nowhere left to go but back up. The Leopards scored fewer than 10 points seven times last season, and that is why they are where they are.
Drew Reed is back at QB after passing for 2008 yards and 11 TDs, but he also tossed 10 picks last fall. He did manage to complete 64.6% of his passes, so he does have tools to work with.Blake Searfoss could push him in fall camp.
DeSean Brown rushed for 580 yards, and just five scores last season. Getting the run game going will be his main job, as the next two rushers failed to score at all. Those backs, CJ Amill and Kyle Mayfield, are both slated to be back.
The top six pass catchers from last season all return, led by Matt Mrazek and Joey Chenowith.
As bad as the offense was last season, the defense was just as horrid. LB Brandon Bryant is a rising star on an otherwise lagging unit after making 114 tackles last fall.
Projected Win Total: 1

Next Up: Pioneer Football League

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ohio Valley Conference 2016 Preview

The OVC had a team in the FCS final for the first time in 34 years last fall, and that could happen once again in 2016. Jacksonville State made it to the end last season before falling to North Dakota State in the championship game. There are a total of four teams that could push for playoff births this season, as Jacksonville State, Eastern Illinois, UT-Martin, and Eastern Kentucky are all looking to make a move.

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

Jacksonville State Gamecocks
The Gamecocks won 13 games last season, and they look set as the odds on favorite to repeat as OVC champs in 2016.
Eli Jenkins, the QB last season, may or may not be available, as he was arrested for an alleged domestic assault in the off-season. If he cannot overcome that issue, and if a shoulder surgery that took place during the off-season is an issue as well, there could be a problem. Dalton Ethridge is the only QB returning that took snaps last season, and he is a sophomore.
Josh Barge returns at WR after catching 92 passes and scoring 11 times last fall, so whomever the QB is as we head into the schedule, that will be a plus for him. Ruben Gonzalez and and Markis Merrill are both gone at WR, so look for Dalton Screws and Anthony Johnson, both seniors, to try to fill that void.
The major issue on offense, outside of the QB situation, will be at RB, where the top four rushers outside of Jenkins are all gone. Josh Clemons, a Kentucky transfer, could be the new back.
The strength of this team could be on defense, where LaMichael Fleming could be coming back for a 6th year after injruies have largely been an issue for him. Darius Jackson is one of the best DEs in the nation.
Projected Win Total: 10

Eastern Illinois Panthers
The Panthers also have issues and questions at QB, and it looks as if they will turn the job over to one of two transfers. Look for either FIU transfer Bud Martin, or Syracuse transfer Mitch Kimble to be taking over the reins.
The rushing attack looks solid, as Devin Church, a former Illinois transfer, returns after rushing for 9 TDs last fall. Another transfer, this time from Arkansas in Korliss Marshall, will add to the depth at the RB spot this fall. He sat out last season. Malik Harrison will be conpteting for time as a junior as well this season.
The top five receivers return from last season, but it was the RB Church who led the team with 36 receptions. That may have to change if the Panthers are to push through and take the league away from JSU.
DT Dino Fonti is gone, so that leaves a void in the middle of the line on defense. LB Seth McDonald will take over the leadership reins on a unit that gave up only 19.8 points per game in OVC play, but returns only four starters.
Projected Win Total: 7

Eastern Kentucky Colonels
EKU severely under performed last fall, and the Colonels made a change at the top. Former Tennessee assistant Mark Elder is now in charge of pushing this program forward as the school expores FBS options.
Bennie Coney is back at QB after passing for 2471 yards and 23 TDs last season. He will see some competition in camp, however, as former Missouri starter and resident head case Maty Mauk will be joining the team for fall camp.
Ethan Thomas is back at RB for his sophomore year, but he was the leading rusher for EKU last fall with just 498 yards. That number will have to jump significantly if the Colonels are to push for a playoff spot this fall. With the issues at JSU and EIU, EKU could push through both, but they have to improve the run game first. Adam Lane returns as the primary backup.
The Colonels return only one of their top four receivers from last season, and that would be Devin Borders, who caught just 37 passes a year ago.
Projected Win Total: 7

Tennessee-Martin Sky Hawks
UTM made real progress last season in winning seven games, and with some breaks, they too could push through the crowd to get their first ever playoff bid in 2016. Their issues are the same as the other teams in the heap at the top, departures on offense.
Jarod Neal is gone at QB. Look for a pair of transfers to be in the mix to take the job in Florida State transfer Troy Cook and Marshall transfer Ginnar Holcombe. Cook attempted 16 passes for the Hawks last fall.
Ladevin Fair and Najee Ray, both seniors will compete in camp to take over the vacant starting job at RB as well. They combined for 111 carries last fall, so both will have lots of opportunities to play.
Caylon Weathers returns as a junior at WR after catching 62 passes for 726 yards last fall. After Weathers, depth is thin, at best.
The strength on defense is the front line, as Arkansas transfer Anthony Brown will join Damani Taylor as forces to move through in the trenches.
Projected Win Total: 6

Murray State Racers
The Racers really fell short last season with just three wins, but they return some considerable talent, and could also make a push, but they have questions as well.
One such question will not be at QB, as KD Humphries, one of the best FCS QBs in the country, returns at the helm of the offense. He passed for 3778 yards last season.
Jesse Blackburn is back at WR after catching 48 passes last fall, but the top three receivers are all gone, and four of the top five are gone in total. Jordon Gandy and Mitch Stults should be given some opportunities in camp.
Roman Clay could easily surpass his 916 yard season from last year. He also rushed for 11 TDs, another total that he could eclipse. Nick Tyler could also see increased numbers as the backup.
The Key for the Racers improving in 2016 will be shoring up the defense, which gave up 30 or more points six times in league play in 2015.
Projected Win Total: 5

Southeast Missouri State Red Hawks
The Hawks do not have much of a question at QB, but they will be looking for further development out of young QB Dante Vandeven. He had an uneven freshman campaign, but did pass for 1568 yards in nine games, with 11 TDs. He needs the passing yardage and TD numbers to grow.
Tremane McCullough is back at RB after rushing for 1028 yards last fall, but the one area where the Hawks need more from him is in rushing TDs, where he scored just five times last fall. Tay Bender and Brendan Stewart should provide depth.
Darrius Darden-Box will be expected to step up at receiver this fall, as the top two receivers have departed.
LB Roper Garrett, a senior, led the OVC in tackles last season, and will be expected to lead the defense.
Projected Win Total: 4

Tennessee State Tigers
The Tigers could push forward from a disappointing 2015, but to do so, they must learn to win close games, something they were unable to do last fall.
O'Shay Ackerman-Carter and Ronald Butler will likely have some competition in fall camp, and both had plenty of work last season. Look for Ackerman-Carter to open camp with th edge, as he showed solid flashes as a freshman last season.
Whomever wins that job will have one of the better receivers in the nation to pass to in Patrick Smith, who piled up 996 yards and 10 TDs last fall. Chris Sanders-McCollum and Isaiah Jeffries-Freeman should both be in line for big seasons as well.
Erick Evans is back as a junior, and should be in line to be the starter at RB, but this is an area that struggled last fall.
A common theme in the conference, the strength of the Tiger defense is up front, led by DE Ebenezer Ogundeko.
Projected Win Total: 4

Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles
Watson Brown has retired after a largely unsuccessful reign as head coach of the Eagle program. Former Temple OC Marcus Satterfield brings new blood and a fresh approach that were badly needed.
Jared Davis returns at QB, but he was not solid last fall, and I believe he could be pushed by other returnees in Colby Brown and Ty Jobe.
The RB position is a bit of a mess right now, with no depth to speak of. Dorian Carter is back as a sophomore, but he carried just 48 times last season.
Brock McCoin and Krys Cates are both back at WR, but they need to find a QB to get the back out to them.
Projected Win Total: 2

Austin Peay Governors
Largely one of the worst teams in FCS football, Austin Peay looks to settle back into the bottom of the OVC once again. They have not won a game in 16 tries.
Will Healy will be the latest coach to try to raise this wreck from the bottom of FCS football after a stint as an assistant at Chattanooga.
The Govs will be starting over at QB, as Timarious Mitchell, Darrien Boone, and Nolan chowbay are all locked into a camp battle for the starting job.
Kendall Morris is back as a sophomore at RB after rushing for 695 yards and 5 TDs last season. Julian Franklin adds limited depth.
Every single receiver who caught a pass last fall returns, so there is an area to build off of. Jared Beard and Wesley Thomas are the best of the bunch.
The defense largely has to be rebuilt after giving up less than 30 points just three times all of last season.
Projected Win Total: 0

Next Up: Patriot League

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Northeast Conference 2016 Preview

One thing is for certain once again in 2016, picking this league is tough, and whichever pre-season polls you look at, they all vary wildly from one to another. Duquesne and St. Francis duked it out last season until the final game, with Duquesne pulling out the win and the auto bid to the playoffs. These two teams, plus Sacred Heart make up a trio of teams this season at the top, and any one of them could take the title.

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

Duquesne Dukes
The Dukes made their first ever playoff trip last second, and came up just short of upsetting William & Mary to make it into the second round in a 52-49 loss. Look for a veteran team to make another push this time around.
Dillon Buechel returns at QB after passing for 24 TDs last fall, and he leads a veteran offense that includes RB Rafiq Douglas, who just missed 1000 yards last fall. The line is loaded with talent, including all-conference pick Ben Huss. The Dukes do lose their top two receiving threats, so someone will have to step up from a group that includes three seniors vying for playing time in Reggie McKnight, Kevin Enright, and Bobby Gustine. Sophomore Nehari Crawford may be the best of the group.
Defensively, the Dukes return six starters, with the best of the lot being senior LB Christian Kuntz. Nathan Stone should make plays when Kuntz is getting targeted from his LB spot.
Projected Win Total: 8

St. Francis Red Flash
A 10 point loss to Duquesne is all that seperated this team from a playoff birth last fall. They should get down to that game once again this season for a shot at winning the NEC title.
The Flash was a surprise in 2015, as they picked up their first winning season in 23 years. The core of the team returns, including Zack Drayer at QB. Drayer will need to put up better TD/INT ratio numbers this fall, as 15/9 was not quite strong enough. Khari Dickson is gone at RB, so look for Marcus Bagley to take over there after rushing for 626 yards last season as the backup.
Where the Red Flash falls on offense is at WR, as the top four receivers have moved on. The good news is that the line returns intact.
The defense returns eight starters, led by DB Lorenzo Jerome, a 1st team all conference pick.
Projected Win Total: 7

Sacred Heart Pioneers
It all starts with RJ Noel back at QB this fall for the Pioneers. He passed for 19 TDs last fall, and if he can drop that INT number from 9, the Pioneers may be able to pass St. Francis in the standings to battle Duquesne for the NEC title.
The two headed rushing attack of Ose Imeokparia and Nate Chavious returns as well to give a balanced attack on offense. The top three receivers are gone, including Tyler Dube, so look for the group of Andrew O'Neill, Byron Barney, Brandon Robertson, and Cole Duncan to try to compensate. That group is lacking experience, so this will be an important positional focus in fall camp.
The good news is that the line brings back four starters.
The defense is fairly stacked this fall, led by DE Ryan Cottrell, who was a second team conference pick last fall.
Projected Win Total: 7

Bryant Bulldogs
Bryant knocked off both Duquesne and St. Francis last season, but they need to amp up their overall production if they are to make a turn on the corner this fall.
Dalton Easton could be the best QB in the conference, but he needs to cut down on his 13 picks from last fall. He did, however, toss 22 TDs. You just cannot afford to turn the ball over more than once per game as he did last fall.
The top two rushers are gone from last season, so look for senior Ryan Black to step up and compete for the top job in fall camp. There isn't much for experience behind him.
Chad Ward is gone at WR, as is number three receiver John Lavin. Taylor Barthelette will likely step into the top WR spot this fall. Jose DePadua, Matt Sewall, and Hunter Taute will all be looking to make a mark in camp.
Patrick Kenney (LB) and Charles Wingate (DB) both return this season on defense, but the Bulldogs need to find eight new starters in all.
Projected Win Total: 6

Central Connecticut State Blue Devils
Expectations for the Devils are all over the place from middle of the pack to dead last, depending on who you talk to in 2016.
The problem here is that the Devils are expected to stick with their two QB rotation again this fall, and that is never a workable thing long term. Jacob Dolegala and Tavion Pauldo are both back, and both are still just Sophomores.
Cameron Nash is back at RB after rushing for 676 yards, but he will need to produce more yards in this system if the Devils have a chance to finish as high as 5th.
Not one receiver caught more than 22 passes last season, but the top five pass catchers all return, so look for some development there.
There is talent on defense, where DT Chris Tinkham, LB Asia Bolling, and CB Jevon Elmore were all-league picks last season.
Projected Win Total: 3

Robert Morris Colonials
RMU was once the toast of this league, but lately, they have been just toast. Look for development at QB for Mathew Barr, because he can't be nearly as bad as he was last season where he tossed just 5 TDs to 13 picks. He is the guy again, because there is nobody else.
Cole Blake and Rameses Owens are both back at RB, but they will have to rush for more than a combined 6 TDs to help out Barr in the Red Zone.
Kyle Buss is back at WR, and he is a true star in the making after racking up 742 yards receiving. He would like to see more than 2 TD catches in 2016, I am sure.
The defense is solid, and all four members of the secondary return.Marcelis Branch and Andy Smigiera lead the way there.
Projected Win Total: 3

Wagner Seahawks
The Hawks were cannon fodder last season, playing big paycheck games against FBS opponents on a more than regular basis than they were prepared for. AJ Long, a Syracuse transfer, is expected to step in at QB, but Chris Andrews will battle for the job in camp. Look for Alex Thompson to get into the competition as well.
Andre Yevchinecz is back at WR, while Washington State transfer Randall May looks to get the start as well.
Otis Wright is gone at RB, so look for Matthias McKinnon, a sophomore, to get first crack at the starting job.
The back seven looks to be improved for the Seahawks in 2016. Najee Hill and Randall May are decent at LB, while the secondary returns three starters as well.
Projected Win Total: 2

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Missouri Valley Conference 2016 Preview

Arguably the most dominant conference in FCS football, the Missouri Valley COnference touts the most dominant FCS program ever in five time defending champion North Dakota State. The Bison could be slightly more vulnerable without Carson Wentz this time around, but do not count on it. NDSU will be bringing the big guns out once again. Here is our Missouri Valley Conference 2016 preview:

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

North Dakota State Bison
There has never been anything like Bison football. NDSU has won 10 national titles between D2 and FCS since 1983, and they have won five straight currently. If by some act of the cosmos they win again, they get their 11th. Nobody has ever had this kind of run before.
Even with Carson Wentz gone (#2 pick of the Philadelphia Eagles), there is no reason to be concerned. Easton Stick is the starter now, and he is ready to handle this job. The line is loaded, and will be led by Zack Johnson at OG. The RB stable is as depp as it has ever been with King Frazier, Chase Morlock, and Bruce Anderson all returning.
Nick DeLuca became a star in the Montana loss last season, and is back to lead the defense from the middle at LB., and Nate Tanguay joins Greg Menard up front to give the Bison one of the most formidable fronts in the nation. If the Bison can plug holes in the secondary, there is no reason to see why they will not be in the thick of title chase number six this fall.
Projected Win Total: 9

Northern Iowa Panthers
The Panthers are giving chase to NDSU, but they may fall just short in the conference race. That being said, UNI is plenty stocked to head into the FCS playoffs this fall.
Aaron Bailey is set at QB, and came on strong late in the year in 2015. He will be a huge dual threat to stop in conference play. He will be joined by the massive Tyvis Smith, who may be the best single back in the league. The line will be loaded as well, so the UNI ground game will be alive and well as it carries UNI to the playoffs.
UNI is also loaded on the defensive front. Karter Schult is a sack machine, and will be teamed with Preston Woods who will collapse the pocket from the inside. Like NDSU, UNI is looking for help in the secondary, where they need to replace every piece.
Projected Win Total: 8

South Dakota State Jack Rabbits
If not for NDSU and UNI in front of them, SDSU may very well be the kind of team that could win a conference like this. As that is said, the Rabbits will likely push the top two teams this season.
Whomever wins the outright QB job between Zach Lujan and Taryn Christion will have a premier receiver to work with in Jake Wieneke, who is right up there with Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington as being the best receivers in the nation. The top four rushers from 2015 all return as well.
Cole Langer is a beast in the middle of the line for SDSU, and will be the leader of the defense heading into fall camp. There are missing pieces at LB and at CB, but if those problems can be solved early, the Jack Rabbits are heading to the playoffs once again.
Projected Win Total: 8

Illinois State RedBirds
The Birds have been flying high as of late, but they are headinginto 2016 missing some pieces that got them to the top over the last few years.
There will be a new QB, and that should be sophomore Jake Kolbe, who must learn how to lead this team early on. There will also be a new RB this fall. Diminutive Jamal Towns should share the load there with George Moreira, but there is no one back that will carry the load as Marshaun Coprich did.
Kolbe will get familiar with WR Anthony Warrum early on, and if a stable can form behind him, the offense should be just fine, as the line returns with solid talent.
DT Dalton Keene and LB Alejandro Rivera are the lone pieces coming back in the front seven, so starters and depth must be found. The secondary was young last season, so there should be more experience and depth to be found there this fall.
Projected Win Total: 7

Western Illinois Leathernecks
Bob Nielson left WIU as a state budget crisis prevented him from receiving a contract extension in a timely manner, and so Richmond OC Charlie Fisher takes over. Trenton Norvell returns at QB, but must increase his TD to INT ratio (13/8) to keep the Leathernecks moving towards another playoff birth. Lance Lenoir is his top returning receiver, and the top eight receivers from last year all return in total.
Nikko Watson is gone at RB, so look for Steve McShane and Devon Moore to battle for the job heading into the fall.
The LB corps is solid, and will be led by Brett Taylor. This unit should be the heart of a deep and talented defense this fall.
The only thing standing in the way of another playoff birth? The schedule is daunting to say the least.
Projected Win Total: 6

Youngstown State Penguins
Things have not been the same since the Penguins were the best team in this division in the 90s. Bo Pelini was brought on to much fanfare to get the tide turned, and he found it tough going last fall in his first season. He will still need a little more time before the program is back on track and playoff bound.
Hunter Wells has the number one job at QB, for now. JC transfer Trent Hosick, a former Missouri commit, will push him, and could supplant Wells for the job.
Martin Ruiz and Jody Webb share the RB job, and will likely carry the offense until the passing game gets sorted out. Notre Dame transfer Will Mahone is an off-field nightmare who is trying to get himself straightened out at YSU. If he can do so remains to be seen, but if he does, he starts at WR.
The defense is led by bull rush DE Derek Rivers, an NFL prospect, and by the best secondary in the nation.
Projected Win Total: 6

Indiana State Sycamores
There are few programs that have shown the kinds of inconsistency this program has had over the last decade. They have been great, and they have been flat out awful. There has been very little gray area when it comes to this.
It looks like bad news out the gate, as QB Matt Adam has fallen short of academic qualification, and will miss the entire 2016 season while getting his grades straight. That is a huge hit for a team that is not very loaded on offense to start out. The other four QBs returning this fall had 20 attempts between them last season.
The five top rushers from last season (minus Adam) all return, so the running game, led by Roland Genesy, will have to move the ball while the QB issues get right in camp.
Robert Tanyan will return at WR, and he is a good one.
The defense could not stop the pass last season, but they do have one of the best LBs in FCS football in Jameer Thurmon.
Projected Win Total: 5

South Dakota Coyotes
Coaching legend Joe Glenn has retired at USD, and his career ended with more of a thud at USD than many had hoped for. Former Western Illinois coach Bob Nielson is now on board after taking the Leathernecks to the playoffs last fall.
QB Ryan Seager returns and is looking for a breakout season. Trevor Bouma is back at RB, and led the backs with 6 rushing TDs, but the yardage guy is sophomore Michael Fredrick.
Riley Donovan is expected to have a huge role at WR after playing in just one game last fall. Only two of the other four top WRs return this fall, led by Brandt Van Roekel.
The defense will be full of holes as the Coyotes head into camp, and will be a primary reason why USD will not be among the competitors for a playoff birth clubs for the league this fall.
Projected Win Total: 2

Southern Illinois Salukis
SIU is yet another formerly proud program fallen on hard times in recent years in the MVC.
The Salukis had a quality QB in Mark Ianotti last season, and still they failed to win more than three games. Now he is gone. Former Saluki player Nick Hill is back as head coach, and his first order of business will be to find a QB that can help this team win some football games.
Daquan Isom is back at RB, and will start. The problem is that Ianotti was also the leading rusher. There is some depth and experience behind Isom, but he should be the guy carrying the load of the carries. Billy Reed and Jimmy Jones are back at WR to take some pressure off of the new QB.
Chase Allen is the heart of the defense at MLB as the Salukis transition back to a 4-3 defense. Minnesota transfer Craig James should add support at CB. In any eventuality, the defense must simply improve.
Projected Win Total: 2

Missouri State Bears
The Bears have fallen on some seriously hard times as of late, and the hurt looks to continue in 2016.
The Bears scored a miserable 9.1 points per game in MVC play last fall, a number that is just unacceptable. Former Missouri assistant Dave Steckel must find some pieces to help turn the ship around, but as of now, there is no rudder to work with.
Look for Steckel to build his offense around RB Calan Crowder, but Jason Randall could even push him. Either way, neither back could start for one of the better teams in this conference.
Brodie Lambert is back at QB, but he was terrible last fall, with a TD to INT ratio of 3/11. Breck Ruddick could push him, but he didn't fare much better last fall, completing barely 50% of his pass attempts.
Malik Earl is the leading receiver from last fall, but he caught just 31 passes in a season where the offense was in complete implosion.
Defensively, the Bears gave up 48.9 points per game in league play, and is every bit the mess that the offense is. Look for LB Dylan Cole to be a leader on that unit once again, but as good as he can be, he cannot play all 11 positions on the field. Help is needed, which is the understatement of all time.
Projected Win Total: 1

Next Up: Northeast Conference

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

MEAC 2016 Preview

The MEAC is as strong as it has ever been entering 2016, with as many as four teams that could realistically take the league title and play in the second Heritage Bowl. That honor went to North Carolina A&T last fall, and they will strive to win the league once again. Expect pressure from North Carolina Central, Bethune-Cookman, and South Carolina State, all powers in their own rights. Here is my look at the MEAC in 2016:

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

North Carolina A&T Aggies
Handing the ball to Tarik Cohen should be the only thing that matters for the Aggies in 2016. Of course, as we all know, yo have to be able to balance your offense out, but COhen is on pace to be named to his 3rd consecutive MEAC Offensive MVP award. He is just 643 yards away from becoming the MEAC all time leading rusher. Cohen will be very important early on as the Aggies look for a new QB. WHomever that is will have weapons at receiver in Khris Gardin and Caleb Gabriel will be joining Denzel Keyes as returning starters. Cohen will have a monster to run behind as well in all conference OT Brandon Parker.
NT Marquis Ragland will anchor the line for one of the best defenses in FCS football, which will be key in letting the offense loose.
Projected Win Total: 9

North Carolina Central Eagles
The Eagles picked up a share of the MEAC title last fall, but fell short of taking the Heritage Bowl bid. Malcolm Bell will have to have a big season if they are to steal the title from the Aggies in 2016. Bell returns at QB, and the key to his improvement will be at WR, where injuries effected WRs Quentin Atkinson and Khalil Stinson last fall. If they can stay on the field, expect the Eagle offense to soar. Dorrel McClain returns as a sophomore, and was named MEAC freshman of the year last fall. All of the pieces are in place, now they just have to shake the injury bug.
CB Mike JOnes is the star on defense, but he missed 8 games as well last fall. If he can stay on the field, the unit overall is strong. He just needs to lead the way.
Projected Win Total: 8

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats
Terry Sims took over as head coach last season, and the Wildcats did not miss a beat, finishing with 9 wins and a share of the league title.
Larry Brihm has already been handed the job at QB, and he is solid enough to keep the high powered offensive attack moving. A big season will be needed at RB from Michael JOnes, who rushed for 8 TDs last season, but only rushed for 562 yards overall. Jawill Davis is back at WR as well, with another year of starting experience under his belt. He will be key.
Defense may be the reason why the Cats come up a little short this fall, as the front seven is full of holes. A strong secondary will have to pick up the pace for the rest of the unit until the group can gel as a whole.
Projected Win Total: 7

South Carolina State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs were the king of close losses in 2015, and that will be a key area to work on in camp heading into the 2016 season. Caleb York returns at QB, but he needs new weapons to come out of the pack, as there are losses all over the place. Dondre Lewis-Freeman and Justin Taylor should carry the load at RB, with Adrian Kollock, Dondre Brown, and Trey Samuel all vying for carries. Someone out of this group needs to emerge as a leader.
Lynard Jamison, Mykal Moody, and Quon Caldwell all need to move up the ladder in the receiving game and make an impact immediately.
Javon Hargrave is gone now, and that leaves the defensive leadership mantle in the lap of LB Darius Leonard.
Projected Win Total: 7

Norfolk State Spartans
Greg Hankerson is one of the better QBs in the league, and returns to try to move the Spartans forward in the standings. His main target  will be WR Marcus Taylor, but he needs to step up big as three receivers have departed. The main rushing threat returns in Gerard Johnson, and he needs a breakout season. Daniel Oladimeji returns to lead an improving offensive line.
The Spartan defense is loaded with nine players who gained starting experience a year ago.Chris Lee is the star up front after recording 6 sacks last season, but he will also have to up his production if the Spartans have any hope of clawing their way into the top 4 of the league.
Projected Win Total: 5

Hampton Pirates
Jaylian Williamson returns at QB after missing 2015, and has a top flight receiver coming back in Twarn Mixson, who caught 59 balls for 1029 yards and 7 scores. The line is in full rebuild mode, and several freshmen could see time there this fall. Christopher Dukes and Dwayne Garrett are back at RB, but someone has to step up big this season, which may be tough given the nature of the rebuild up front.
The defense has an issue much the same, as help is needed all over the field, especially up front. The goal this fall is just to get better, somehow, some way.
Projected Win Total: 5

Morgan State Bears
Lee Hull left as coach to take a job on the Indianapolis Colts staff. Fred Ferrier, the former OC, takes over a program in need of an identity.
Herb Walker looks to be eligible once again at RB, and he would be a shot in the arm for a struggling football team. Junior Orlando Johnson also returns at RB, giving the Bears depth there. The first major issue, however, will be finding a QB, where nobody has any real experience at all returning.
Defensively, Morgan State is in decent shape, with 7 starters returning. They will be led by LB Greg Gibson and DL Dalonte Jenifer.
Predicted Win Total: 4

Delaware State Hornets
The Hornets may be in shape to make a move after yet another terrible season in 2015. They have finally found a QB in Kobie Lane, and he has his two best receivers back as well in Aris Scott and Malik Golson. If they can find a run game worth anything this fall, they could be a threat rising from the bottom of the league.
The defense has some stars rising in DL Gabriel Sherrod, LB Rashawn Barrett, and LB Malik Harris. Any improvement is something, and this program could see some solid improvements this fall.
Predicted Win Total: 2

Howard Bison
Kalen Johnson is back at QB, but if the line does not show marked progress, it won't matter who is under center. There is extreme youth at RB with sophomores RicQuaz Brannon and Donnell Pleasant leading the way, but neither was much of a factor last fall. HOward could wind up using two sophomores at WR this season as well in Jalen Avery, Guy Lemonier, and Robert Mercer should also be in line for more time as a senior, but he caught just 15 passes last fall.
Craig Johnson is back to lead the defense, and the LB corps should be decent with the return of Devin Rollins and Jalen Day. Travon Hunt and Jalen Day lead the way in the secondary.
Predicted Win Total: 2

Florida A&M Rattlers
This program used to be the power in the MEAC, and now they are the cellar dwellers. Academic issues with APR scores killed the program, as they were prohibited from having a spring program. There are plenty of returnees to go around, but this team is largely a mess.
Carson Royal has the edge at QB heading into camp, but will be pushed by Kenneth Coleman. Both saw extensive time last season.
No returning RB had over 100 carries last season, so experience is thin, at best. Gerald Hearns leads the pack, but could get pushed by Hans Supre, or any number of others who really have no experience whatsoever.
WRs Montavious Williams and Brandon Norwood, both juniors this fall, show promise, so there is a bright spot.
Seven starters are back on defense, but nobody really stands out, so expect an influx of JC transfers to pick away at jobs all over the place.
Predicted Win Total: 2

Savannah State Tigers
It is beyond me as to why this program even still fields a division one program. There are not enough words to convey how bad this program is from top to bottom. Maybe this will do it...head coach Earnest Wilson bailed to take a D2 job at Elizabeth City State. Erik Raeburn was hired from Wabash, a D3 program, to take over.
Just like Florida A&M, Savannah State had incredibly poor APR scores, and therefore spring football was cancelled. If you can't even pick up your academics, the whole thing is lost.
Predicted Win Total: 0

2016 Coaching Hot Seat Meter: AAC

It's only June, but we already have a pretty good idea of who may or may not be coaching for their lives this season. In this feature, I take a good look at every FBS head football coach, and grade out whether their seats are reasonably cool, or scorching hot in 2016, and we begin with the AAC.

American Athletic Conference
Matt Ruhle, Temple
Seat Temp: Ice Cold
There is no way that Ruhle will be going anywhere this season. He cannot, however, allow the Owls to slide back into oblivion. He is 18-20 in his 4th season, but the program is in an upward trajectory.

Willie Taggert, USF
Seat Temp: Cool
A year ago, I felt that Taggert had no idea where the program was headed. He was 6-18 overall heading into last season, but the tide turned, and he took the Bulls to a bowl after going 8-4. He has to keep the needle moving, as he is just 14-23 heading into season 4.

Tommy Tubberville, Cincinnati
Seat Temp: Room temperature and warming
UC was supposed to run away with the AAC last fall, only to finish 7-5, and then the Bearcats lost to San Diego State in the Hawaii Bowl. Tubberville has not gotten the program performing to their talent, and that is a bad thing. Another under performing season, and we could be having a different conversation.

Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina
Seat Temp: 1st season cool
Montgomery was hired away from Duke to replace the popular Ruffin McNeil. Honestly, I was not a fan of the hire, nor were many ECU fans at the time. He has to seel himself and bring ECU back to the top of the pack in short order to gain the trust of Pirate Nation.

Bob Diaco, U Conn
Seat Temp: Ice Cold
Diaco is just 8-17 heading into year 3 in Storrs, but 6 of those wins came in 2015. The Huskies have moved forward a great deal since Diaco took over, and if this trend continues, there is nothing to worry about.

Scott Frost, UCF
Seat Temp: 1st Year Cool
Frost was on many lists last off season, and UCF finally landed a guy who has a frosty resume on offense. UCF usually was not terrible on defense under George O'Leary, but many UCF teams under him could not be called fun to watch. Imagine who Frost can recruit in the state of Florida, where speed has long been king.

Tom Herman, Houston
Seat Temp: Couldn't get colder
Herman is considered to be the best coach in the Group of Five right now. His Cougars could be so good in 2016, that they will likely crash the NY6 bowls, and could even be good enough to crash the final 4. Houston shelled out big bucks to keep him, and he doesn't want to go anywhere.

Mike Norvell, Memphis
Seat Temp: 1st year cold
I was not exactly over the moon with this hire, but Norvell has the offensive pedigree that the Tigers wanted to bring in after Justin Fuente left for Virginia Tech. I am not sure that Norvell is up to the task of keeping Memphis football relevant long term, but we will have to see.

Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
Seat Temp: Icy
Coach Ken is a fixture at Navy, especially after turning down a dream gig at BYU this off season. Nobody thought he would come back for more work at Navy, but here he is. He is the best coach in Navy history at this point.

Phillip Montgomery, Tulsa
Seat Temp: Very cold indeed
Montgomery has turned the fortunes of Tulsa football in the right direction after just one season. Tulsa went bowling in his first season, but fell to Virginia Tech to finish at 6-7. The Golden Hurricane will be better in season two.

Chad Morris, SMU
Seat Temp: Relatively cool
Nobody has been expecting any miracles at long suffering SMU, and Chad Morris gave them none in his first season, with the Mustangs finishing 2-10. Morris was a coach with a huge offensive pedigree,but he has to prove that he can build something in Dallas, and the chips are stacked against him.

Willie Fritz, Tulane
Seat Temp: 1st year cool
Never, ever bet against Willie Fritz. This man is a huge winner, and has won everywhere he has ever been. He breathed life back into a stumbling Georgia Southern program, and he largely put Sam Houston State on the map before that. This man can flat out coach, and he is exactly what Tulane needed. His impact should be felt immediately.

Next Up: 2016 Coaching Hot Seat Meter: ACC

Monday, June 13, 2016

Ivy League 2016 Preview

Not even Harvard can win the Ivy League title every season, right? The Crimson have been tough to dethrone, but Penn shared the title last fall, and they look poised to push through to win it outright in 2016. Of course, the Quakers must get through Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth, all also in the hunt this fall. Here is our Ivy League Preview for 2016:

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

Penn Quakers
The combo pack of QB Alek Torgersen and WR Justin Watson returns for business, which is one of the solid reasons why the Quakers will be competing for the league title in 2016. Torgersen is one of the most accurate passers in the conference, while Watson picked up 7.4 receptions per game, and scored 9 times last fall. If Penn can get a running game going, they could win outright, or a share of their 18th league title.
Penn loses Ivy League Defender of the Year Tyler Drake, but Donald Panciello should step right into that role at LB in 2016. If Penn is to get back to the top and stay there, the defense must improve overall. The Quakers gave up over 21 points most Saturdays last fall, and winning shootouts every week can get exhausting.
Predicted Win Total: 8

Harvard Crimson
A key to the Crimson taking another league title will be in replacing their star QB Scott Hosch, as he has moved on. Tom Stewart and Joe Viviano will compete for the job heading into fall camp. Of course, the news gets a little darker when it comes to finding a replacement at RB as well. The good news is that sophomore Justice Shelton-Mosley will be back at WR, and he is one of the better utility players in the league.
Luke Hutton must step up at LB to fill the gap as the Crimson lost every starter from last year's unit. Sean Ahern is a star in the secondary. Harvard gave up just 13 points per game last season, but with so many holes to fill, that may not be tenable this fall. That being said, it's just very hard to bet against Tim Murphy's teams.
Predicted Win Total: 8

Dartmouth Big Green
Dartmouth had their best season in years in 2015, and they are looking to push past both Penn and Harvard to win it all this fall. The problem is, like Harvard, they suffered huge graduation losses. They must find a new QB and two new starters at WR just for starters. If the offense is going to get moving this season, RB Ryder Stone will have to improve his game greatly, and up his total from 8 rushing TDs a year ago. There is some experience at WR returning in Houston Brown and Jon Marc Carrier, while Bruce Dixon IV is the favorite at QB heading into camp.
The defense was decimated with losses after last season. Folarin Orimolade received some experience last year, but now he has to lead. Lucas Bavaro also returns to help out. This unit forced 32 turnovers in 10 games last season. They may not repeat that with so many losses, but there is still talent here.
Predicted Win Total: 8

Yale Bulldogs
Yale continues the them of finding replacement parts, especially at QB. The good news is that RB Deshawn Salter will return after rushing for 7 TDs last season. He will be relied on a bit more in 2016, especially early in the season. If Bo Hines can remain on the field and be healthy this fall, he could be a much added weapon on the outside.
Yale should be strong on defense this fall. DT Copache Taylor returns to anchor the middle of the line, and demands double teams. Darius Manora will anchor the LB unit, while Spencer Rymiszewski is the star of the secondary. All three were all league selections last season.
With all of their injury issues last fall, combined with graduation losses, Yale could slip to second tier status this fall unless answers are found early.
Predicted Win Total: 6

Princeton Tigers
If you are looking for a dark horse in the league in 2016, the Tigers could be that group. They finished with 413 yards per game of offense last year, and the tools return to repeat that ability. QB John Lovett can do many things, and is more than a dual threat. Joe Rhattigan is also back at RB, but will have to be more of a work horse this season after rushing for 68 yards per game last fall. Princeton must find a decent group of receivers to improve their passing game, but they have all sorts of ways to hurt you with this offense.
S Dorian Williams and LB Luke Catarius are both back to lead the defense, and DT Henry Schlossberg is back to anchor the line. The defensive unit needs to find some consistency, and if they can get that done, Princeton could be a team to watch. If they can't, the middle of the pack awaits.
Predicted Win Total: 6

Brown Bears
Alexander Jette is one of the better receivers in FCS football, and he will have to be the guy this fall, as the Bears look  for replacements everywhere else on an offense that really piled it on last season. He is the leader by default until a QB and RB are found, and they also need to replace WR Troy Doles.
DE Richard Jarvis is the star on defense, but there are heavy losses in this unit as well. Whatever replacements are found, if the offensive firepower is to have any chance, this unit cannot afford to give up over 30 points per game again.
Predicted Win Total: 5

Columbia Lions
The Lions may just get out of the Ivy League cellar this fall, but they still won't be great. Keith Brady and Christian Conway are the stars on defense, and the unit as a whole is not too bad off. They managed to snapt their 24 game losing streak last season, but they may have to settle for small steps this fall.
Predicted Win Total: 2

Cornell Big Red
Luke Hagy was the lone weapon on offense worth talking about last season. He is gone. Robert Samborn will have to take on a bigger role on offense at QB, and that means having a better TD to INT ratio than 12/10.Nobody had more than 26 receptions last season, which is another issue facing the Big Red. Cornell may have to go to a committee approach at RB in a group consisting of Jake Jatis, Josh Sweet, and Jack Gellatly.
The defense was all over the place last fall, and they gave up more than 40 points three times on the way to a one win season. It's going to be a tall order to see things getting any better this season
Predicted Win Total: 1

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Colonial Athletic Association 2016 Preview

The CAA was long one of the more dominant conferences in FCS college football, but like all things, re-alignment has changed a few things here as well. There are still powers, to be sure, and the Colonial could still be a force as to how many of its members are given births in the FCS playoffs in 2016.

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

Richmond Spiders
Richmond poses one of the best offenses in the nation in 2016 behind QB Kyle Lauletta, but he will have a new OC to work with in John Garrett, who's brother is Dallas Cowboys HC Jason Garrett. Lauletta's top receiver is back in Brian Brown, who averaged over 111 yards per game receiving last season. The bad news on offense is that the Spiders lost their top two RBs in Jacobi Green and Seth Fisher. Teams may lay back in coverage and force Richmond to win with the run.
Defensively, Bob Trott has moved on to James Madison as DC, so Chris Cosh takes over there. He has two of the most productive defenders in the league in LB Omar Howard and S David Jones.
I could very well see the Spiders finishing 9-2 this season, with losses falling to Virginia and William & Mary, both on the road.

William & Mary Tribe
Jimmy Laycock may have had his best offense in his 36 years with the Tribe last season. Kendall Anderson stepped up at RB due to injury, and he exploded onto the scene with 1418 yards, and he returns for a full go in 2016. Steve Cluley, who passed for over 2700 yards last fall, also returns at QB, and WR DeVonte Dedmon (8 TDs) also returns to give W&M one of the most balanced offenses in FCS football. Also returning is PK NIck Dorka, one of the best kickers in the game, as he hit 21 FGs last season.
The defense may take a slight step back this season, as the Tribe loses two of their top playmakers in DeAndre Houston-Carson and LB Luke Rhodes. That being said, there was plenty of depth last season, so it's just a matter of finding people to step up into those leadership roles this fall.
The Tribe likely goes 9-2 this fall.

New Hampshire Wildcats
UNH has now been to the FCS playoffs 12 straight seasons, but this may be one of their toughest years yet, as, shockingly, QB U has no identified starting QB yet heading into fall camp. That's a very strange turn of events for HC Sean McDonnell.
Adam Riese, a senior, has the most experience, but sophomore Trevor Knight is pushing him into camp.
Dalton Crossan rushed for 885 yards last fall, but he may need an explosive breakout season to take the pressure off of the incoming QB. He did manage to rush for 16 scores last fall, so a huge season is possible.
There is nothing missing on defense heading into the season, and that will be key as the offense develops. Casey DeAndrade is a star in the secondary, and also returns punts, and will be joined by Patrick Mensah in a deep secondary. Cam Shorey leads one of the best defensive fronts in the nation.
I project a 7-4 finish for the Wildcats

James Madison Dukes
Had JMU maintained some pieces, I would have moved them ahead of UNH. Gone are head coach Everett Withers (Texas State), and QB Vad Lee.
The good news is that Mike Houston was hired from The Citadel to replace Withers. Houston made the Bulldogs a winner in two years, and that is something I have never seen in my lifetime, and that is considerable. Houston, who coached a triple option at Citadel, will stick with the spread offense at JMU, as that is what the Dukes are built for.
Brian Schor will attempt to take over for Lee, and he has considerable experience from when Lee was injured. He passed for 7 TDs last fall to just one pick in four starts.
Both RBs return in Cardon Johnson and Khalid Abdullah, so expect more run from the offense early on in the season.
JMU may have the best LB corps in FCS football with Andrew Ankah, Gage Steele, and Kyle Hawkins all returning in 2016. The secondary is strong as well, giving the back 7 some room to work as the new staff tries to figure out what was ailing the D line last fall.
Look for the Dukes to push for 7 wins this season.

Andy Talley is cashing it in as HC of the Wildcats this fall after 31 years on the job. Offensive Line coach Mark Ferrente is the coach in waiting, and is no inexperienced rookie, as he has been on the staff for 29 seasons. Zach Bednarczyk will return to start at QB after building up experience last fall after John Robertson went down to injury. He received all-rookie honors, but must improve his passing ability, as he is a dual threat QB. He passed for 1396 yards last season, and could be due for a breakout season. He will be key to Villanova breaking out of a playoff free slump.
Defense will lead the way again. Austin Calitro and Corey Majors are the stars back at LB, and the powerful line is led by Tanoh Kpassagnon. If the secondary can find some stars as well, this unit could be one of the best in the league, and nationally.
The schedule is not overly daunting, so the Wildcats could be a dark horse team to move up as high as 3rd in 2016 with 7 or 8 wins.

Towson Tigers
The Tigers are another team that could be better than advertised in 2016, but some key pieces must come together.
Towson has one of the best RBs in FCS football in Darius Victor, but he has to be better in 2016 than he was last fall when he rushed for 1021 yards.
The offense may be helped immensely when former 4 star QB Morgan Mahalak, a transfer from Oregon, arrives on campus. His versatility takes pressure off of Victor, and the offense could really pick up pace, which is a must this fall.
Towson has no issue on defense, especially up front. Zain Harps Upshur will lead a talented line, while the LB corps is loaded with the return of LBs Jordan Mynett, Eric Handy, and Chris Tedder.
Towson could win 7 games this fall, but as I wait to see how the new QB effects the unit overall, I am going with 6 wins outright.

Stony Brook Sea Waolves
Stony Brook held teams to just 15.7 points per game last fall, but the offense averaged just 17.3 points per game. That has to change to get the Wolves into the upper half of this conference.
Stacey Bedell is back at RB, and must show that he can maintain his health after missing 8 games last season. SBU must find a way to move the football through the air consistently as well, or else they are doomed to miss the playoffs once again. Ray Bolden may be small in stature, but he is a talented receiver. Building the passing game around him may be the way to go, but others must step up.
Aaron Thompson and Ousmane Camara are both back on the line on defense, but gone is CAA Defensive MVP Victor Ochi. Tyrice Beverrette is back to lead a strong secondary. Pieces must be found at LB, and a replacement must be found for Ochi.
I see a 5-6 finish on the horizon, and that is optimistic.

Delaware Blue Hens
Delaware finished with just 67 yards passing per game last season, and if you would like to find a culprit for why they won just four games, that is it. Due to the lack of firepower through the air, UD also averaged just 14.9 points per game.
One key is that the line will be strong and deep this fall, and that will be a key for getting RB Thomas Jefferson moving. He is due for a huge breakout season, but only of a QB can be found who can move the ball, otherwise, opposing defenses will load up with 8 men in the box and force Delaware to go to the air to win games.
The defense is solid, having given up only 20.5 points per game last season, but if the offense cannot get it in gear, the defense will certainly burn out at some point.
Blaine Woodson (line) and Charles Bell (LB) will give the Hens power up front, while Bilal Nichols and Justin Watson provide support in the secondary.
The Hens may improve to 5 wins this season, but that is where it caps.

Elon Phoenix
Elon is another CAA school that struggled to score last season, finishing with a 13.4 point average per game.
Elon used a two QB system with Connor Christiansen and Daniel Thompson last fall. That does not work, ever, so finding a go to guy from day one will be key. If they don't, nothing changes.
Elon finished dead last in the CAA in rushing, so apparently, nothing on that side of the ball seems to be working. Improving a thin and weak line is key.
The back seven on defense is solid, which is the good news. Corey Mitchell and John Silas are active play makers at LB, and the secondary is solid with the return of. Chris Blair and Adrian McClendon.
Elon has the ability to match the four wins from last season.

Albany Great Danes
Albany must get better production from QB DJ Crook in 2016. He passed for only 8 TDs last fall, but also tossed 8 picks, That number must change, as must his passing total of 1168 yards. WR Zee Roberson must up his production as the leading receiver as well.
Albany finished dead last in total defense in the CAA last season by giving up over 410 yards per game. There is, however, talent to build on. Julian Cox (LB) is a star in the making, but he needs help. Rayshan Clark (S), Malachi Hoskins (LB) and DaSharnte Thompson (LB) should be the foundation for that building.
I am calling for a 3-8 finish.

Maine Black Bears
29 year old Joe Harasymiak is now in charge at Maine after long time coach Jack Cosgrove retired after last season. He is the youngest coach in D1 football now. Sorry Matt Campbell.
Maine must start by finding a QB for an anemic offense that scored just under 15 points per game last season. Dan Collins and Drew Belcher will both be battling in camp. The winner will have quality receivers in Micah Wright and Jordan Dunn, but a quality run game must be found.
Patrick Ricard is a star on the defensive line, but he could be neutralized by double teams this fall if the Bears don't find other play makers up front.
Getting back to three wins this season against a brutal schedule will be an accomplishment.

Rhode Island Rams
URI has been a mess since I lived there over 13 years ago. The facilities are a mess (most high schools can field comparable facilities for football). It is obvious that the school is not taking this program seriously enough.
Jim Fleming hit the recruiting trail hard, and hauled in 29 first year players, but that is only a beginning to a massive building process that must take place if URI is to find relevance in this league. Remember, just a few short seasons ago, URI almost bolted for the Northeast Conference so that they would have to field even less financial responsibility for the program (less scholarships).
Harold Cooper, the QB, was also the leading rusher last fall, and that is a huge problem. He should get some help from Sam Benjamin and Harold Buckner, a pair of transfer WRs.
Adam Parker (LB) is a star on defense, but he has no help.
It is possible that the Rams could finish 0-11 this fall, as they would have to scrap for any win whatsoever.

Next Up: Ivy League

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Big South 2016 Preview

The Big South is shrinking faster than the shorelines on an Atlantic Ocean beach these days. Coastal Carolina announced last summer that they are bolting for the "greener" pastures of FBS and the Sun Belt, leaving the league with just six members, barely enough to hang on to their auto bid to the playoffs. Here's my look at the Big South Conference as we head into the 2016 season:

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Charleston Southern
2. Liberty
3. Monmouth
4. Kennesaw State
5. Gardner-Webb
6. Presbyterian

Charleston Southern
The Buccaneers are coached by rising star Jamey Chadwell, and every season moving forward that they are able to retain him is another win for the program.
Darius Hammond is back at RB and will return kicks for the Bucs again in 2016, and that is huge, as he will be relied on to carry the load while CSU breaks in a new QB after the departure of Austin Brown. Mike Holloway and Ben Robinson also return in the backfield, giving the Bucs the deepest group in the league. The line is deep and talented, so the offense should keep on rolling.
The defense lost stars in LB Aaron Brown and CB Malcolm Jackson, but there is enough depth and talent to make an easy transition.
The QB should be Kyle Copeland, but the battle will carry over into camp.

The Flames fell short in every way last season, and staff changes were made to compensate. Turner Gill will absolutely be on the hot seat heading into his 5th season, as he has failed to turn the corner in a very winnable conference.
Gill will have to replace his QB and top receiver for starters, and also loses one of the most reliable kickers in the nation in John Lunsford.
Liberty also loses their best defender on the edge in Chima Uzowihe.
With all of these losses, Liberty still has enough to finish in 2nd ahead of the pack, but Monmouth and Kennesaw State are knocking on the door.

Even though the Hawks finished 5-6, they struck fear into the rest of the league last fall. The line looks better this fall, and that should help RB Lavon Chaney develop as well. Cody Williams took his lumps as a freshman QB last fall, and should be better this season as well. He gets WR Darren Ambush back as his top target, which should help.
DE Darnell Leslie and CB Mike Bastile are the stars on defense.

Kennesaw State
The Owls are only in their second season playing college football, but they fit right in in year one, and could push for more this season.
Trey White is the trigger man in the triple option offense, and the Owls averaged just under 300 yards rushing per game. He needs more development from his weapons on offense, and will have to improve on his passing skills, all things in the works in fall camp.
There is no doubt that the Owls can beat anyone in this league right now, but they just need consistency.

The Bulldogs averaged just 12.8 points per game in 2015, and that trend looks to continue as they look for pieces to help them improve. The best player on offense is TE Mike Estes, and that's probably not a good thing as there really is no dependable QB to get the ball to him.
At the end of the day, it has been 13 years since the Bulldogs had a winning record, and that won't change soon.

Darrell Bridges at RB is the lone bright spot on what was otherwise one of the worst offenses in the nation last fall. There is no passing game to speak of, and the overall schedule is brutal. The Blue Hose had a winning record just two seasons ago, but that feels a long way off now.

Next Up: Colonial Athletic Association

Monday, June 6, 2016

Big Sky 2016 Preview

The Big Sky seems to be down a bit these days, with the conference not getting into the FCS quarterfinals for the first time in 10 years. A few schools hope to change that tune in 2016. Here is our Big Sky Breakdown for 2016:

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

Eastern Washington
The Eagles wasted Cooper Cupp last season, having missed the playoffs completely after a 6-5 finish. That's likely not to happen again, as Cupp returns along with QB Jordan West, giving the Eagles possibly the best QB/WR combo in the nation. West tossed 30 TD passes last season. EWU returns possibly one of the strongest defensive lines in the nation as well. In all, EWU returns 54 lettermen from a team that knew they under performed a year ago.
The schedule is brutal early, as the Eagles must travel to Washington  and North Dakota State, before coming home to take on another playoff hopeful in Northern Iowa. The Eagles finish up the opening month with another road trip to rising Northern Arizona. If the Eagles can get through that gauntlet, they should have enough left to win the league.

Depending on who you talk to, some have Montana ahead of Eastern Washington, and who's to say that's wrong? The Grizzlies only deficiency in this argument is that they lost a solid senior class, and they aren't as experienced top to bottom heading into 2016 as EWU is.
Bob Stitt proved to be a solid hire in year one, taking the Grizzlies back to the playoffs, and largely taking UM out of their scandal plagued last couple of seasons.
He returns QB Brady Gustafson, but he has to remain healthy after missing 6 games last season. If he can do that, the plan is for Makena Simis to move to WR after he played QB in relief last fall.
On defense, Tyrone Holmes is gone at DE, but Caleb Kidder could be the star in 2016.
The schedule is certainly easier than what EWU is facing, and if you look at the slate from start to finish, an 8-3 run is probably what you should expect.

Northern Arizona
NAU missed the playoffs at 7-4 last fall, and were one of the first teams out. They aim to not let that happen again in 2016. NAU may have a pass/catch combo that rivals EWU in sophomore QB Case Cookus and WR Emmanuel Butler. Cookus is pushing West for all-conference QB honors this season. He was the national freshman QB of the year.
The Lumberjacks averaged over 50 points per game in a run to close the season, and that scoring ability should be on full display once again.
8-3 is a safe assumption for NAU in 2016, and that would be enough to get into the playoffs.

North Dakota
The Fighting Sioux finished with 7 wins last season, and like NAU, it wasn't enough to push into a playoff bid. They hope to be a bubble team come selection time this November.
LB Brian Labat and S Cole Reyes lead a defense that returns 9 starters, and Keaton Studsrud returns at QB. Look for the big star to be RB John Santiago, who rushed for 1459 yards as a freshman.
It's not outside of the realm of possibility that UND also finishes with as many as 8 wins with a fairly easy conference schedule.

Portland State
The Vikings used wins over Washington State and North Texas to propel into the playoffs last season, but can they do it again?
CB Xavier Coleman returns after an all conference season, but the defense was decimated by graduation after last season. The Vikings also lost LB AJ Schlatter, along with OT Kyle Smith to horrible tragedy after last season. That may be a driving force in getting the current crop to win for their fallen teammates.
Bruce Barnum was named FCS coach of the year, and was given the job full time after serving as interim coach last season.
Look for PSU to max out at 7 wins in 2016, which will put them on the playoff bubble.

Weber State
Jay Hill pushed Weber State to a point nobody saw them getting to in 2015, and the formerly hapless Wildcats finished 6-5.
Weber State is solid at the skill spots on offense, with QB Jadrian Clark, WR Cameron Livingston, and RBs Eric Wilkes and Treshawn Garrett all returning.
The Cats had the conference's best defense last season, and is bolstered by the return of LB Emmett Tela, who missed last fall with an injury.
Weber State could improve to 7 wins this season, but will max out there.

Southern Utah
The Thunder Birds came out of nowhere to win the conference last season, but don't expect any miracles this time around. Coach Ed Lamb moved on, and Demario Warren was promoted from DC to take over the program, but the losses from last season are deep, too deep to expect much in 2016.
I am projecting a 4-7 season.

Montana State
Gone is head coach Rob Ashe, and in is former Washington assistant Jeff Choate. Also gone is QB Dakota Prukop, who moved on to Oregon as a graduate transfer.
The run game could be leaned on this season, as both Chad Newell and Gunnar Brekke return. The new QB will also have two credible WRs to throw to in Mitchell Herbert and Justin Paige.
The defense needs some work, as the unit gave up big points last fall.
After a 5-6 season a year ago, MSU could step back before they step up again. I project 4 wins.

Northern Colorado
The Bears picked up their first winning record as a member of FCS football last season with a 6-5 run. I don't see a return to that mark in 2016.
Jacob Knipp was OK at times last season, but will have to improve. He gets WRs Hakeem Deggs and Ellis Onic II back, and that should help matters. The defense was largely a mess last season, and if that does not shore up some in 2016, the Bears will have no shot at returning to the 6 win mark.
I project a 5 win mark overall.

Cal Poly
Poly still relies on the triple option, and they excel at running the football. The problem is that when you are behind as often as they are, you have to throw the football, and they cannot.
QB Chris Brown is gone, and he was the catalyst to running the option. Kori Garcia will try to step up and take up some slack. Joe Protheroe also returns at RB. Dano Graves will get first crack at taking over at QB.
I expect a 3-8 record this fall.

Sacramento State
The Hornets need a QB, and will have to rely on the run game until they can find one. Jordan Robinson should expect to hit the 1000 yard mark after running for 809 yards in 2015. Kolney Cassel, Daniel Kniffin, and Nate Katteringham are reported to be in a battle heading into fall camp.
The staff was shaken up during the off season, but this program is heading in the wrong direction.
I project a 3-8 season.

Idaho State
Two years ago, the Bengals were a rising power. Before they got off the ground, however, they sank back into the depths of the abyss. Tanner Gueller was one of the few promising leads last season at QB, and will start once again, but graduation losses were tremendous. They can't seem to move the football effectively, and the defense was swiss cheese.
I project what could be a 1-10 season for the Bengals.

UC Davis
The Aggies have been spending a lot of time in the cellar of the Big Sky ranks. Expect that trend to continue in 2016.
UCD returns 8 starters on defense, but that unit had their issues last fall, and may not be a lot better this season. Numbers do not always mean improvement. Ben Scott is back at QB, and Manusamoa Luuga returns as well, but he was a one man show on offense last season. Help for him must be found.
As with Idaho State, I project only one win in 2016.

Next: Big South

Sunday, June 5, 2016

U Mass Minutemen 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We wrap up our entire FBS Schedule Breakdown Tour for 2016 in Amherst, Mass:

9/3 at Florida
9/10 Boston College (at Foxboro)
9/17 FIU
9/24 Mississippi State (at Foxboro)
10/1 Tulane (at Foxboro)
10/8 at Old Dominion
10/15 Louisiana Tech (at Foxboro)
10/22 at South Carolina
10/29 Wagner
11/5 at Troy
11/19 at BYU
11/26 at Hawaii

Notes: U Mass is no longer a member of the MAC, having been invited to leave as they would not commit to the league in all sports. They head back to the ranks of Independents for now, as they ponder their football future.
The September slate is a meat grinder, with losses lining up against Florida, Boston College, FIU, and Mississippi State.
October is only slightly better. The Minutemen lose games against Tulane, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech, and South Carolina, but they should grab a win over the Seahawks of Wagner.
There are only 3 games in November, but they are all road trips, and losses to Troy, BYU, and Hawaii should all basically be a known factor.
Overall Projected Record: 1-11

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We now move on to a visit with Touchdown Jesus and Notre Dame:

9/4 at Texas
9/10 Nevada
9/17 Michigan State
9/24 Duke
10/1 Syracuse (at East Rutherford, NJ)
10/8 at NC State
10/15 Stanford
10/29 Miami
11/5 Navy (at Jacksonville, FL)
11/12 Army (at San Antonio)
11/19 Virginia Tech
11/26 at USC

Notes: The Fighting Irish should find a strong start awaiting, as they should line up well to beat Texas, Nevada, Michigan State, and Duke.
The wins continue into October, as Notre Dame should beat Syracuse and NC State, and then follow with wins over Stanford and Miami at home to close out the month 8-0.
November is also a forgiving month for Notre Dame, as they should beat Navy, army, Virginia Tech, and then head into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the annual USC game with a Final 4 birth on the line.
Overall Projected Record: 12-0

BYU Cougars 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We move on now to Provo, and the BYU Cougars:

9/3 Arizona (at Glendale, AZ)
9/10 at Utah
9/17 UCLA
9/24 West Virginia (at Landover, MD)
9/30 Toledo
10/8 at Michigan State
10/14 Mississippi State
10/20 at Boise State
11/5 at Cincinnati
11/12 Southern Utah
11/19 U Mass
11/26 Utah State

Notes: September is a tough month for the Cougars and new coach Kilani Sitake. They likely fall to Arizona, Utah, and UCLA to open, before beating West Virginia in yet another useless neutral site contest.
BYU rebounds in October, with wins over Toledo and Mississippi State, but still losses await with Michigan State and Boise State. BYU could be 3-5 heading into the final month.
The good news is that the Cougars could finish very strong in the final month, with wins coming over Cincinnati, Southern Utah, U Mass, and Utah State.
Overall Projected Record: 7-5

Army Cadets 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We now head into Independents country, and take our schedule breakdown tour to the scenic campus at West Point, one of the most stunning college football environments in the nation:

9/2 at Temple
9/10 Rice
9/17 at UTEP
9/24 at Buffalo
10/8 at Duke
10/15 Lafayette
10/22 North Texas
10/29 at Wake Forest
11/5 Air Force
11/12 Notre Dame (at San Antonio)
11/19 Morgan State
12/10 Navy (at Philadelphia)

Notes: Army has a rough September slate that has losses to Temple, Rice, and UTEP marked, and the Buffalo game is a toss up. I will give the edge to Buffalo, making an 0-4 start probable.
Army loses to Duke to start October in their 3rd straight road game. They finally start getting some wins against teams like Lafayette and North Texas, but a loss to Wake Forest follows.
November/December is unkind to the Cadets, as they likely only project to beat Morgan State, with losses coming to Air Force, Notre Dame, and Navy.
Overall Projected Record: 3-9

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We wrap up our Sun Belt schedule breakdown tour in Monroe, Louisiana, where dark times are ahead:

9/3 Southern
9/10 at Oklahoma
9/17 at Georgia Southern
10/1 at Auburn
10/8 Idaho
10/15 Texas State
10/22 at New Mexico
10/29 at Arkansas State
11/5 South Alabama
11/12 at Georgia State
11/19 at Appalachian State
12/3 UL-Lafayette

Notes: ULM will not be very good this season. They did, however, hire an outstanding coach in Matt Viator, so things will be looking up in a couple of years, It will take some work to get there,.
The September schedule contains only 3 games, but they are brutal. After a win over FCS member Southern, big losses should be expected against Oklahoma and Georgia Southern.
October opens horribly, with a likely loss at Auburn, but what makes things worse is that they also could fall to Idaho, New Mexico, and Arkansas State. The Texas State game is a toss up, but I am going edge to ULM here. They finish October at 2-6.
The November/December slate is crushing, with likely losses to South Alabama, Georgia State, Appalachian State, and UL-Lafayette.
Overall Projected Record: 2-10

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We move on to Lafayette, Louisiana for our next stop on the Sun Belt schedule breakdown tour:

9/3 Boise State
9/10 McNeese State
9/17 South Alabama
9/24 at Tulane
10/1 at New Mexico State
10/12 Appalachian State
10/22 at Texas State
11/5 Idaho
11/12 at Georgia Southern
11/19 at Georgia
11/26 Arkansas State
12/3 at UL-Monroe

Notes: September is a rough start for ULL, with likely losses to Boise State, South Alabama, and Tulane. They will get a likely win over FCS member McNeese State, but they start out at 1-3, which will be relevant at the end of the season.
October brings opportunity, but the Cajuns only play 3 games in the middle month. They get wins over Texas State and New Mexico State, but they also pick up loss number four against Appalachian State at home.
November/December is make ot break to get ULL back into bowl contention. They pick up wins over Idaho and ULM, but losses to Georgia Southern, Georgia, and Arkansas State kill their bowling dreams.
Overall Projected Record: 5-7

Troy Trojans 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We move on now to Troy, Alabama:

9/3 Austin Peay
9/10 at Clemson
9/17 at Southern Miss
9/24 New Mexico State
10/1 at Idaho
10/15 Georgia State
10/20 at South Alabama
11/5 U Mass
11/12 Appalachian State
11/17 Arkansas State
11/26 at Texas State
12/3 at Georgia Southern

Notes: September is brutal with losses coming to Clemson and Southern Miss, but I do see wins against FCS member Austin Peay and New Mexico State in the Sun Belt opener.
I project a win over Idaho, but there are potential losses to Georgia State and South Alabama to round out October, a month in which the Trojans play just 3 games.
In November/December, the Trojans will need to get 3 wins to have a shot at a bowl bid. They get one against U Mass, and one against Texas State, but fall short with losses to Appalachian State, Arkansas State, and Georgia Southern.
Overall Projected Record: 5-7

Texas State Bobcats 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We move on now to San Marcos, Texas, where Everett Withers will try to fix an ailing Bobcats program:

9/3 at Ohio
9/17 at Arkansas
9/24 Houston
10/1 Incarnate Word
10/8 at Georgia State
10/15 at UL-Monroe
10/22 UL-Lafayette
11/5 at Appalachian State
11/12 Idaho
11/19 at New Mexico State
11/26 Troy
12/3 Arkansas State

Notes: The Cats will only play 3 games in September, and will drop them all against Ohio, Arkansas, and Houston.
October opens with a win against FCS member Incarnate Word, but will feature losses to Georgia State, ULM, and ULL. The Bobcats enter November at 1-6.
Texas State plays 5 games in NOvember/December. They lose to Appalachian State, New MExico State, Troy, and Arkansas State. They will, however, likely pull out a home win over Idaho.
Overall Projected Record: 2-10

South Alabama Jaguars 2016 Schedule Breakdown

Our schedule breakdown tour now moves on to Mobile, Alabama:

9/3 at Mississippi State
9/10 Georgia Southern
9/17 at UL-Lafayette
9/24 Nicholls State
10/1 San Diego State
10/15 at Arkansas State
10/20 Troy
10/29 Georgia State
11/5 at UL-Monroe
11/19 at LSU
11/26 at Idaho
12/3 New Mexico State

Notes: September is going to have a rough start to it, with losses to Mississippi State and Georgia Southern, but the month should end well, with wins over UL-Lafayette and Nicholls State saving the month from disaster.
October is going to be a mixed bag, with losses to San Diego State and Arkansas State, but again, USA finishes strong in the month with wins over Troy and Georgia State, both coming at home.
The November/December slate will be instrumental in getting the Jaguars bowling after missing out last fall. I project wins over ULM, Idaho, and NMSU, but a loss at LSU.
Overall Projected Record: 7-5

New Mexico State Aggies 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We continue on our Sun Belt tour to Las Cruces, the land of eternal football losing:

9/3 at UTEP
9/10 New Mexico
9/17 at Kentucky
9/24 at Troy
10/1 UL-Lafayette
10/15 at Idaho
10/22 Georgia Southern
10/29 at Texas A&M
11/12 at Arkansas State
11/19 Texas State
11/26 Appalachian State
12/3 at South Alabama

Notes: The brutality continues for the Aggies, as they should open the season with a zero win September. I project losses to UTEP, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Troy. It gets worse in October, as I cannot clearly see a path to a win there either. I project losses to UL-Lafayette, Idaho, Georgia Southern, and Texas A&M.
November and December could bring slight relief with a win over Texas State at home, but losses against Arkansas State, Appalachian State, and South Alabama should bury the Aggies deeply, and should have them in search of a new coach.
Overall Projected Record: 1-11

Idaho Vandals 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We move on to the final days of Sun Belt membership for the Idaho Vandals with our 2016 schedule breakdown tour:

9/1 Montana State
9/10 at Washington
9/17 at Washington State
9/24 at UNLV
10/1 Troy
10/8 at UL-Monroe
10/15 New Mexico State
10/22 at Appalachian State
11/5 at UL-Lafayette
11/12 at Texas State
11/26 South Alabama
12/3 Georgia State

Notes: The Vandals should open the season with a win against a down Montana State club at home. They then go on 3 straight road trips, and lose them all to Washington, Washington State, and UNLV.
In October, I see a loss to Troy, and a loss to UL-Monroe, but a win at home over New Mexico State. They lose their final game of the month to Appalachian State on the road.
Idaho likely goes winless in November and December against UL-Lafayette, Texas State, South Alabama, and Georgia State.
Overall Projected Record: 2-10

Georgia State Panthers 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We move on to Atlanta as we continue our Sun Belt scheduling tour:

9/2 Ball State
9/10 at Air Force
9/17 at Wisconsin
10/1 at Appalachian State
10/8 Texas State
10/15 at Troy
10/22 UT-Martin
10/29 at South Alabama
11/3 Arkansas State
11/12 UL-Monroe
11/19 Georgia Southern
12/3 at Idaho

Notes: Don't expect a return to a bowl for the Panthers in 2016 without Nick Arbuckle at QB. The Panthers could beat Ball State in the opener, but then they have 3 straight road games, all losses to Air Force, Wisconsin, and Appalachian State to begin October.
October continues on with possible wins against Texas State and Troy, and should conclude with a win over FCS member Tennessee-Martin. I will, however, project a loss at South Alabama.
November will lay it all out for the Panthers. I project a loss to Arkansas State, and one to Georgia Southern. I project wins over UL-Monroe and Idaho, but that may not be enough for another bowl, and there could be a slip or two along the way.
Overall Projected Record: 6-6 (very tentative)

Georgia Southern Eagles 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We move on to Statesboro, Georgia for our next Sun Belt stop on the schedule breakdown tour:

9/3 Savannah State W
9/10 at South Alabama W
9/17 UL-Monroe W
9/24 at Western Michigan L
10/5 at Arkansas State W
10/15 at Georgia Tech L
10/22 at New Mexico State W
10/27 Appalachian State W
11/5 at Ole Miss L
11/12 UL-Lafayette W
11/19 at Georgia State W
12/3 Troy W

Notes: September should get things rolling for the Eagles, as I project wins against Savannah State, South Alabama and UL-Monroe, before what should be a tight road loss to Western Michigan.
October looks much the same, as I project wins over Arkansas State, New Mexico State, and Appalachian State, but I do project a loss on the road to Georgia Tech.
November is absolutely a copy of the first two months. I project an opening loss to Ole Miss, but a finish with a 3 game win streak against UL-Lafayette, Georgia State, and Troy.
Overall Projected Record: 9-3

Arkansas State Red Wolves 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We move on in the Sun Belt to Jonesboro, Arkansas:

9/3 Toledo
9/10 at Auburn
9/17 at Utah State
9/24 Central Arkansas
10/5 Georgia Southern
10/15 South Alabama
10/29 UL-Monroe
11/3 at Georgia State
11/12 New Mexico State
11/17 at Troy
11/26 at UL-Lafayette
12/3 at Texas State

Notes: September is going to be a tough road to travel for ASU. They will likely lose their first 3 games against Toledo, Auburn, and Utah State, before they beat FCS member Central Arkansas at home.
October is a funky month because of ESPN's ludicrous mid-week scheduling. Arkansas State very well could lose to Georgia Southern, play and defeat South Alabama 10 days later, take two weeks to play again against UL-Monroe, and likely get that win. In all, the Wolves play just 3 games in all of the month of October. They will enter November with a likely 3-4 record.
November is funky as well. The Wolves will beat Georgia State, play and beat New Mexico State 9 days later, play and beat Troy 5 days after that, then they wait 9 days to get a win over UL-Lafayette, before beating Texas State in December.
Overall Projected Record: 8-4

Appalachian State Mountaineers 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We begin the Sun Belt schedule breakdown tour in Boone, NC:

9/3 at Tennessee
9/10 Old Dominion
9/17 Miami
9/24 at Akron
10/1 Georgia State
10/12 at UL-Lafayette
10/22 Idaho
10/27 at Georgia Southern
11/5 Texas State
11/12 at Troy
11/19 UL-Monroe
11/26 at New Mexico State

Notes: After starting the season with a likely road loss at Tennessee, ASU finishes strong with wins over Old Dominion, an upset of Miami at home, and at Akron.
October is a strange slate. They start the month with a win over Georgia State, but then don't play for 11 days, a game in which they should win over UL-Lafayette. They, again, don't play for 10 days, when they should beat Idaho, but then play their toughest conference game just 5 days after that, where they could fall victim to Georgia Southern.
November is a breeze for the Mountaineers, as they should coast to wins over Texas State, Troy, UL-Monroe, and New Mexico State.
Overall Projected Record: 10-2

Texas A&M Aggies 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We wrap up our SEC schedule breakdown tour in College Station:

9/3 UCLA
9/10 Prairie View
9/17 at Auburn
9/24 Arkansas (at Arlington, TX)
10/1 at South Carolina
10/8 Tennessee
10/22 at Alabama
10/29 New Mexico State
11/5 at Mississippi State
11/12 Ole Miss
11/19 UTSA
11/24 LSU

Notes: The Aggies may start out strong in September with possible wins over UCLA and (a stupidly scheduled game against) Prairie View, but they end the month on a down turn with losses to Auburn and Arkansas.
The Aggies, again, start out OK in October with a win at South Carolina, and at home against Tennessee, but they follow with a loss to Alabama. Their cupcake non con scheduling works out, as they close the month with a win over hapless New Mexico State. That should park the Aggies at 5-3 heading into November.
The Aggies will be bowling after beating Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and UTSA in November before losing to LSU in the finale. Will it all be enough to save Kevin Sumlin's job?
Overall Projected Record: 8-4

Mississippi State Bulldogs 2016 Schedule Breakdown

The schedule breakdown tour for the SEC moves on to Mississippi State, where it's OK for a guy who beats a woman to be enrolled because everyone deserves another chance, or so says AD Scott Stricklin, who also stated that 5 seconds of bad behavior shouldn't keep a kid from attending school, (especially if he plays football):

9/3 South Alabama
9/10 South Carolina
9/17 at LSU
9/24 U Mass (at Foxboro)
10/8 Auburn
10/15 at BYU
10/22 at Kentucky
10/29 Samford
11/5 Texas A&M
11/12 at Alabama
11/19 Arkansas
11/26 at Ole Miss

Notes: I have an absolute disdain for this program now, due to the Jeffrey Simmons issue, but here is my breakdown anyway.
They beat South Alabama, South Carolina, and U Mass in September, but get clubbed by LSU. A 3-1 start.
They likely fall to Auburn, BYU, and Kentucky in October, before playing their annual cupcake fest against Samford. They finish the month at 4-4.
November brings the ceiling down, as the Bulldogs fall to Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas, and Ole Miss.
Overall Projected Record: 4-8, and Jeffrey Simmons can keep his woman beating self at home for the holidays. 

Ole Miss Rebels 2016 Schedule Breakdown

The SEC tour continues in Oxford:

9/5 Florida State (at Orlando)
9/10 Wofford
9/17 Alabama
9/24 Georgia
10/1 Memphis
10/15 at Arkansas
10/22 at LSU
10/29 Auburn
11/5 Georgia Southern
11/12 at Texas A&M
11/19 at Vanderbilt
11/26 Mississippi State

Notes: The Rebels are hard to project, as it is unknown how the off-field issues this off-season will affect the program.
Everything at face value, I project it as follows:
I see a loss to open against Florida State on Labor Day, followed by a win against Wofford just 5 days later. The Rebels lose to Alabama, but beat Georgia the following week to start 2-2.
In October, the Rebels should get wins over Memphis and Auburn, but will fall to Arkansas and LSU, both on the road. Ole Miss is 4-4 heading into November.
In the final month, the Rebels make somewhat of a push. They get wins over Georgia Southern, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State, but will likely fall at Texas A&M.
Overall Projected Record: 7-5

LSU Tigers 2016 Schedule Breakdown

We continue our schedule tour of the SEC with a trip to Baton Rouge:

9/3 Wisconsin (at Green Bay)
9/10 Jacksonville State
9/17 Mississippi State
9/24 at Auburn
10/1 Missouri
10/8 at Florida
10/15 Southern Mississippi
10/22 Ole Miss
11/5 Alabama
11/12 at Arkansas
11/19 South Alabama
11/24 at Texas A&M

Notes: The road trip to Green Bay is a tough one to open, but LSU comes away with the win at Lambeau. They follow that with easy September wins against Jacksonville State, Mississippi State, and Auburn.
October is a bit tougher than September, but again, I don't see the Tigers falling. They should pick up wins over Missouri, Florida, Southern Miss, and Ole Miss.
The undefeated 2016 run will likelt end at home in November, as the Tigers will likely fall against Alabama in Tiger Stadium. They should, however, finish the final month with wins over Arkansas, South Alabama, and Texas A&M.
Fun Fact: LSU plays 3 different Mississippi based schools in 2016, but all come at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.
Overall Projected Record: 11-1