Monday, July 25, 2016

2016 All-Bilo Preseason Conference Teams: Mid American Conference

The MAC should be one of the toughest outs in the nation once again in 2016, with Western Michigan on the cusp of what could be a special season. Matt Campbell is gone at Toledo, so that situation bears watching, and what of upstarts like Ohio and Central Michigan? Could they push the old guard out? The league is fairly wide open outside of WMU, so look for a wild race to the finish. Here is my preseason All-Bilo team for the MAC:

QB: Cooper Rush, Central Michigan
QB: Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
QB: Riley Neal, Ball State
RB: Joel Buagnon, Northern Illinois
RB: Kareem Hunt, Toledo
RB: Terry Swanson, Toledo
RB: Jamauri Bigan, Western Michigan
WR: Corey Davis, Western Michigan
WR: Roger Lewis, Bowling Green
WR: Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois
WR: Gehrig Dieter, Bowling Green
TE: Cody Tuttle, Eastern Michigan
TE: Sam Browning, Eastern Michigan
PK: Christian Hagan, Northern Illinois

DL: JT Jones, Miami (Ohio)
DL: Jamal Marcus, Akron
DL: Terence Waugh, Kent State
DL: Tarell Basham, Ohio
LB: Caleb Bailey, Western Michigan
LB: Brandon Berry, Buffalo
LB: Austin Valdez, Bowling Green
LB: Trenton Greene, Bowling Green
DB: Shawun Lurry, Northern Illinois
DB: Demetrius Monday, Kent State
DB: Darius Phillips, Western Michigan
DB: Boise Ross, Buffalo
P: Joseph Davidson, Bowling Green

KR: Aregeros Turner, Northern Illinois
PR: Corey Jones, Toledo

Coach of the Year (West): Frank Solich, Ohio
Coach of the Year (East): PJ Fleck, Western Michigan

Projected Conference Champion: Western Michigan

2016 All-Bilo Preseason Conference Teams: Conference USA

Some heavy talents from the 2015 season are gone for 2016, so there is room to grow across the league. There have been some changes in the coaching staff areas as well, but in some ways, that could be a good thing. UTSA, Tulane, and Southern Miss all have new coaches coming on board this fall, and with new blood taking over leadership positions on the field, look for some surprises this season. Here is my preseason All-Bilo team for CUSA in 2016:

QB: Nick Mullins, Southern Mississippi
QB: Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
QB: Chase Litton, Marshall
RB: Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
RB: Anthony Wales, Western Kentucky
RB: Jarveon Williams, UTSA
RB: Ito Smith, Southern Mississippi
WR: Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
WR: Richie James, Middle Tennessee
WR: Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
WR: Zach Pascal, Old Dominion
TE: Terry Pettis, Middle Tennessee
TE: Hayden Plinke, UTEP
PK: Jonathon Barnes, Louisiana Tech

DL: Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
DL: Trey Hendrickson, FAU
DL: Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte
DL: Gary Thompson, Marshall
LB: Alvin Jones, UTEP
LB: TJ McCollum, Western Kentucky
LB: TJ Ricks, Old Dominion
LB: D'Nerius Antoine, Southern Mississippi
DB: Jeremy Cutrer, Middle Tennessee
DB: Corey Tindal, Marshall
DB: Cornell Armstrong, Southern Mississippi
DB: Brandon Addison, Old Dominion
P: Dalton Schomp, FAU

KR: Kylen Towner, Western Kentucky
PR: Derrick Dick, UTSA

Coach of the Year: Jay Hopson, Southern Mississippi

Projected Conference Champion: Southern Mississippi

2016 All-Bilo Pre-Season Conference Teams: Big 12

This has been one crazy off-season for the Big 12, and I don't think that the nuttiness is at an end. There is renewed talk of expansion, but also renewed rumors involving teams leaving. One thing is for certain, either the league will expand, or implode. We are down to those two options now. We also had controversy like none other at Baylor, and that wreck is still taking shape as to how the Bears will look in the coming years after a sexual assault scandal gutted the athletic department from the inside out. The good news is that in a little over a month, we will finally get to start talking football in the Big 12. Here are my All-Bilo preseason selections for 2016 for the Big 12 Conference:

QB: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
QB: Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech
QB: Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
RB: Mike Warren, Iowa State
RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
RB: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
RB: Johnny Jefferson, Baylor
WR: James Washington, Oklahoma State
WR: Allen Lazard, Iowa State
WR: Shelton Gibson, West Virginia
WR: KD Cannon, Baylor
TE: Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
TE: Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma State
PK: Clayton Hatfield, Texas Tech

DL: Jordan Willis, Kansas State
DL: Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia
DL: Demond Tucker, Iowa State
DL: Josh Carraway, TCU
LB: Taylor Young, Baylor
LB: Travin Howard, TCU
LB: Jordan Burton, Oklahoma State
LB: Chad Whitener, Oklahoma State
DB: Tevin Madison, Texas Tech
DB: Nigel Bethel II, Texas Tech
DB: Brian Peavy, Iowa State
DB: Dylan Haines, Texas
P: Austin Seibert, Oklahoma State

KR: KaVontae Turpin, TCU
PR: KaVontae Turpin, TCU

Coach of the Year: Jim Grobe, Baylor

Projected Conference Champion: Oklahoma Sooners

Sunday, July 24, 2016

2016 Pre-Season All-Bilo Conference Teams: Big 10

The Big 10 could be loaded in the top half of the league in 2016, despite what some may think. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa all have aspirations of being top 10 programs, and Minnesota, Nebraska, and Penn State are all looking to make a move. Anything can happen once again in the Big 10. Here is our All-Bilo Pre-Season Conference Team...

QB: CJ Beathard, Iowa
QB: Wes Lunt, Illinois
QB: JT Barrett, Ohio State
RB: Justin Jackson, Northwestern
RB: Saquon Barkley, Penn State
RB: Devine Redding, Indiana
RB: Markell Jones, Purdue
WR: Chris Godwin, Penn State
WR: Simmie Cobbs, Jr., Indiana
WR: Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska
WR: Ricky Jones, Indiana
TE: Jake Butt, Michigan
TE: Brandon Lingen, Minnesota
PK: Griffin Oakes, Indiana

DL: Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
DL: Jake Repogle, Purdue
DL: Malik McDowell, Michigan State
DL: Galen Robinson, Purdue
LB: Anthony Walker, Northwestern
LB: Dawuane Smoot, Illinois
LB: Josey Jewell, Iowa
LB: Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
DB: Desmond King, Iowa
DB: Rashard Fant, Indiana
DB: Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
DB: Matthew Harris, Northwestern
P: Cameron Johnston, Ohio State
(Sam Foltz was slated to be our Punter for this team, but was tragically killed in a car accident)

KR: Solomon Vault, Northwestern
PR: William Likely, Maryland

Coach of the Year (East Division): Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Coach of the Year (West Division): Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Projected Conference Champion: Iowa Hawkeyes

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Big 12 Expansion: Who Makes Sense, Who Doesn't

New came out of Big 12 Media Days this week that expansion was back on deck with the conference after many months of will they or won't they. As of today, we know certain things that are concrete about the subject matter, and we know that most of the mess is purely liquid at this point.
I have decided to take my own look at potential Big 12 candidates (as many others already have with varying degrees of lunacy and sanity), and I will look at who seems like a fit, and who does not. Here we go into the madness that is Big 12 Expansion talk...

What Makes Sense

BYU In For All Sports
BYU has been the one concrete thing in Big 12 expansion talks this week. They have made an official overture, and presented two distinct scenarios for joining. The first scenario is BYU joining in all sports. I don't see any other option making sense, as the conference is a power player in every sport offered by the NCAA. BYU is a solid offering in football, would be competitive right away, and brings both financial success and a huge following into play. You never have to worry about empty venues in Provo. I will speak about scenario two in a bit.

Houston...and make it quick
The Cougars are as much a no brainer as anything I have ever seen when it comes to bringing in new blood. Of course, the Texas schools are now fearful of a rising power on the gulf coast joining their midst, because Houston could win right now. They have a top flight coach (Tom Herman), and brand new football stadium, and one of the top four populations in the nation for TV market shares. There is absolutely nothing to hate about Houston here, and everything to love...from the perspective of an outsider, of course.

Memphis...before the program falls again
The Tigers have been slowly rising under the guidance of now departed Justin Fuente (a former Big 12 assistant). The football program is not the laughing stock that they used to be, and Big 12 money would certainly help keep the needle pointed in the right direction. Memphis basketball has been varying degrees of solid for decades now, and they have former Big 12 head coach Tubby Smith running the show now. Is Memphis as strong as BYU and Houston? No, but they do bring their own money source into play with FedEx firmly behind them as a corporate master.

SMU...Bare with me
SMU brings virtually nothing into play as far as football success. Buth they do make a hell of a lot more sense than say, I don't know, West Virginia maybe? The tools are in place to bring together a stronger football program a few years from now, but nothing was ever built overnight, at least not if it was done the right way. Regionally, you have a natural rivalry fit with TCU anyway, and travel costs are kept down. SMU also is not exactly lacking funding either.

Notre Dame...It's time to make a choice for the Irish
Of course the Irish already have a deal in all sports but football with the ACC, and the buy out there would be hefty. The Irish also have a partial deal with the ACC in football that has Notre Dame playing six games per year against ACC schools. They also have long term deals with Stanford and USC, and don't forget Purdue, and other regional rivalries against Michigan State and Michigan that come and go. If you ask me, the Irish have become spread too thin while playing all sides of the fence, and they really should rally their resources into one spot. Why not the Big 12? There would absolutely have to be mutual interest here.

Makes Moderate Sense

Cincinnati, but for not great reasons
UC would bring into play what would be one of the smallest football stadiums in the conference in Nippert Stadium. Facilities aren't the best, and for bigger games, they would have to move to where the Bengals play. The following for UC football is not exactly overwhelming, and they don't create much buzz nationally. What they would bring is a natural rivalry geographically with West Virginia.

USF...For perceived market share
USF is getting better under Willie Taggert, but again, the buzz around such an addition would be minimal nationally, at best. The fan base is tepid at best, and they don't have their own stadium, which is something that would have to be remedied. THe only draw here is that sources have said that the league is dying to get into the Florida market, where several schools in conference already recruit. is king
Louisville has been an ideological target for the conference for years as an expansion candidate. If the conference had made that jump while the Cardinals were still in the Big East, this would make more sense. Louisville is still a fine target for the Big 12, but they are about to seriously get paid in a new ACC/ESPN TV contract, with a new network in tow. Of course I know that these conference networks have been failures more often than not, but as long as ESPN is still willing to spend money they hardly have like a bunch of drunk wildebeests, take that money and keep on trucking. The only Louisville ends up in the Big 12 is if the cash value of a new Big 12 TV deal is even better than what the ACC is about to get, and if someone can find the cash to get Louisville out of what will be an exorbitant ACC buy out. Still, I like this idea.

Nebraska...return of the Corn King!
Yeah, it would be a better fit for Nebraska to go back home, but would the members of the league want them back after Nebraska nearly destroyed the conference in the first place when they left for the Big 10? The other issue is that Texas is still in the conference, and Nebraska hates Texas. Texas is, after all, why the Huskers left the league in the first place, as the Husker folks felt that the conference had given Texas complete favored child status over all other. Hey, they were right, because everyone else who left, left for the same reason. Nebraska is getting paid in the Big 10, even if they are not the perfect fit. On paper, I would love to see them go home, but in reality, I see this as pure media speculation.

Colorado...Another wayward child returning?
This has been another media favorite this week, but it actually makes a bit more sense than Nebraska at this point, even if having them back in the fold gives a huge rivalry reunion effort, and brings two more charter members a seat at the table. The issue here is that Colorado has been awful in the PAC-12. They cannot win a damned thing in football. Why would the Big 12 want the PAC-12's garbage? The other issue is that Colorado had already left the conference in the lurch once. Would the Big 12 take another shot on them? That is hard to say. Colorado hasn't been a good fit in the PAC-12, not only because they can't win, but because conference fans all around the league never wanted them in the first place. Most wanted BYU. Nobody would sob tears of distress over the Buffs leaving the Far West, but I am not sure of the actual reality behind this. One other thing...If the ACC deal passes through, and the Big 12 gets it together to work around the Longhorn network and form a new conference network (fat chance there), the PAC-12 would have the worst conference TV deal among the Power 5 conference. We'll let that hang for a while.

Like a Wookiee living with Ewoks on Endor, this does not make sense

U Conn...Really?
The Husky football program brings nothing to the table. There isn't a huge amount of cash flow involved. The TV market is one that gives not a damn about college football, and is moderately sized anyway. Travel costs would be prohibitive. Nothing about U Conn makes sense here, which makes me wonder why I continually see them pop up as a candidate.

Tulane...Words cannot express my confusion
Tulane brings nothing in football, and brings nothing in basketball. They have a brand new football stadium, but little else, despite making a solid hire this past off-season in Willie Fritz. The money situation at Tulane has always been questionable, and stability is not exactly something that goes hand in hand with this program. All of this is true, yet this name also pops up.

UCF...Not even the favorite team of students on campus
UCF is a large commuter school. Most students on camous don't care about the program. They have a relatively new stadium, but attendance isn't awesome. The program has hit rock bottom in recent years, and there is no telling where it will go under Scott Frost. All of this rings true, and add to these facts that people in Central Florida are ALL GATOR FANS, and there you have my reasoning as to why UCF would be a disastrous add on for the Big 12, despite their inherent need to get into the Florida market.

BYU...In football only
This is the second BYU scenario that we talked about when opening this piece. I am not even really certain as to why BYU would even offer this up? The buy out from the West Coast Conference could not possibly be all that outrageous, so I am sure that the Big 12 could pony up if need be. Why in the world the Big 12 would take this offer is beyond me, so again the question has to be asked as to why it was ever offered in the first place?

Rice...Because, Rice
First of all, the enrollment size of this private Houston university is incredibly small, and would be, by far the smallest enrollment in the conference. Rice is not exactly a hot topic school for membership, but if we have to talk about Tulane, than why not Rice? Rice would never really be able to compete in the conference, so there is no reason to even seriously consider them, but someone will, I am certain.

Colorado State...Huh?
OK, they are better than they used to be. Is not that enough to get into a Power 5 Conference? I don't think so. Again, Colorado State is not a national buzz worthy addition. I can see it if Colorado returned, maybe, but this is really a reach when there are so many obvious choices that should be made first. Other than having a new stadium to play in, Colorado State brings not much of anything to the party for my consideration.

Boise State...Because nobody else wants their low academic standards
This program would be a perfect fit for the PAC-12, but the academic standards at Boise State are not up to par, and that is keeping the door shut. The Broncos have been trying to kick down the door for years, but until they shore up that issue, it may be a no go. They Big 12 could sniff in their direction, but they are really outside of the footprint, and it would maybe be a jump that they may not be up for at this point. Remember, anybody can beat Oklahoma once.

UNLV...For no real reason other than the promise of a stadium that may not ever be built
The UNLV name has been bandied about in Big 12 conversations, but much like Boise State, UNLV's academic standards are a huge road block for many. That is what is holding them out of consideration for PAC-12 membership. They are also being packaged up with a potential stadium deal with the Raiders, but those negotiations have largely been sloppy, to say the least. The cost of this new palace has now soared to $2.4 billion as of latest estimates. Compare that to the new stadium that the Vikings will inhabit in Minnesota at $1.1 billion, and you see where this is going. Let us also not forget that the UNLV football program, while showing signs of long term promise under Tony Sanchez, has long been a laughing stock, and it becomes almost impossible to see UNLV going anywhere anytime soon.

UCLA...Because Rick Neuheisel was obviously drunk when he brought this up
Here's the thing. Rick Neuheisel has very few sources of information in Westwood these days. That is obvious when he brought up on his radio show this week that UCLA would not shock him by reaching out to the Big 12 during this process. UCLA just generated millions of dollars in their own revenue from an apparel deal in recent months, so money is not a problem. They have added all sorts of financial benfactors in recent years as well, so again, booster money isn't an issue either. I understand that the PAC-12 network has been an abject disaster, but I do not see UCLA splitting from USC and the conference that they have called home in its many names since the beginning of time for a short game gain in the Big 12. This is ridiculous.

Utah...Because they want so badly to be joined up with BYU again (#Sarcasm)
The Utes are another program that has been brought up in this mess, and again, make zero sense as potential candidates. If BYU is going to the Big 12, and it looks like they are one way or the other, there would be no interest on the part of Utah to join them there. Utah has been going to great lengths get far away from BYU on every level, including orchestrating a campaign to keep them out of the PAC-12, despite what the overall conference fan base wants to see happen. Utah will go nowhere near any conference where BYU lands, they are fitting into the PAC-12 tapestry nicely, and have shown no overt interest in leaving.

Hope this clears a few things up, but remember, like all things Big 12, this is purely speculation. We should know more in the coming months whether the conference moves to 12 teams, moves to 14 teams, or stalls out on this project yet again.
One also has to consider that some teams may actually choose to leave before any of this could even happen. Oklahoma is now a candidate to join the SEC, Big 10, and PAC-12, and would likely take Oklahoma State with them. Texas is also all over the place on what they want to see happen, but we  all know that their first option is staying in the conference, as long as they are allowed to rule above all others and they always have a chance to stick it financially up the asses of their conference brethren. That would be just fine by them, as it always has been.
Good luck to all, and let the grovelling begin...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

2016 All-Bilo Pre-Season Conference Teams: Atlantic Coast Conferece

The ACC is in a transition year with so many schools losing some huge production to graduation or early entry. There are opportunities for schools to overcome Clemson and Florida State as power brokers, but they have to follow through. The window is now. Here is a look at the players that I believe will have a say in what happens over the course of the coming season in the ACC...

QB: Deshaun Watson, Clemson
QB: Brad Kayya, Miami
QB: Nate Peterman, Pittsburgh
RB: Dalvin Cook, Florida State
RB: Wayne Gallman, Clemson
RB: Elijah Hood, North Carolina
RB: Qadree Ellison, Pittsburgh
WR: Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech
WR: Travis Rudolph, Florida State
WR; Jamari Staples, Louisville
WR: Stacy Coley, Miami
TE: Cam Serigne, Wake Forest
TE: Jaylen Samuels, NC State
PK: Nick Weiler, North Carolina

DL: DeMarcus Walker (DE), Florida State
DL: Harold Landry (DE), Boston College
DL: Bradley Chubb (DE), NC State
DL: Mikey Bart (DE), North Carolina
LB: Devonte Fields, Louisville
LB: Matt Milano, Boston College
LB: Micah Kiser, Virginia
LB: Keith Kelsey, Louisville
DB: Cordrea Tankersley (CB), Clemson
DB: MJ Stewart (CB), North Carolina
DB: Brad Watson (CB), Wake Forest
DB: Des Lawrence (CB), North Carolina
P: Nicholas Conte, Virginia

PR: Brisly Estime, Syracuse
KR: DeVon Edwards, Duke

Coach of the Year (Atlantic Division): Larry Fedora, North Carolina
Coach of the Year (Coastal Division): Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Projected Conference Champion: Clemson Tigers

2016 All-Bilo Pre-Season Teams: American Athletic Conference

It should be a competitive season in the AAC in 2016. Several stars are back to possibly make this the best potential season in the young history of this conference. Here are our pre-season All-Bilo 2016 picks for the AAC:

QB: Greg Ward, Jr, Houston
QB: Dane Evans, Tulsa
QB: Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
RB: Marlon Mack, USF
RB: Jahad Thomas, Temple
RB: D'Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
RB: Mike Boone, Cincinnati
WR: Isaiah Jones, East Carolina
WR: Josh Atkinson, Tulsa
WR: Courtland Sutton, SMU
WR: Rodney Adams, USF
TE: Alec Bloom, U Conn
TE: Jeremiah Gaines, SMU
PK: Jake Elliott, Memphis

DL: Tanzel Smart (DT), Tulane
DL: Haason Reddick (DE), Temple
DL: Folorunso Fatukasi (DT), U Conn
DL: Justin Lawler (DE), SMU
LB: Steven Taylor, Houston
LB: Matt Linscott, Tulsa
LB: Trent Martin, Tulsa
LB: Nico Marley, Tulane
DB: Jamar Summers (CB), U Conn
DB: Shaquill Griffin (CB), UCF
DB: Kerwin Thomas (CB), Tulsa
DB: Sean Chandler (CB), Temple
P: Caleb Houston, UCF

PR: Sean Chandler, Temple
KR: Brandon Wilson, Houston

Coach of the Year (East Division): Willie Taggert, USF
Coach of the Year (West Division): Tom Herman, Houston

Projected League Champion: Houston Cougars

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2016 Pre-Season FCS Top 25

Our PRS rankings work much the same as explained in my earlier piece tonight regarding the FBS Top 25. Those rankings will also be released after the first full week of the season. This, again, is based on my projections of team schedules, and is based on how I believe these teams will fare against said schedules in 2016.

1. North Dakota State...Cannot bet against the 5 time defending champs.
2. Eastern Washington...Cooper Kupp is one of best WRs to ever play FCS football.
3. Jacksonville State...Gamecocks could easily meet NDSU again for FCS title.
4. Sam Houston State...BearKats finding a new level under KC Keeler.
5. Charleston Southern...Bucs play NDSU in FCS Kickoff Classic. Jamey Chadwell is a great coach.
6, Fordham...Joe Moorhead has moved on as coach, but talent still flows for Rams.
7. Richmond...Spiders could turn a corner in 2016. Best in loaded CAA.
8. Montana...Bob Stitt was perfect hire last year, and could take Griz to Big Sky glory in 2016.
9. Chattanooga...Finding a replacement for Huesman at QB is only issue for talented Mocs.
10. McNeese State...Cowboys could push Sam Houston State for SLC title.
11. William & Mary...Tribe is in position to push Richmond in CAA.
12. North Carolina A&T...Aggies are in golden age for program right now.
13. Northern Arizona...Jacks may be behind Montana and EWU, but are still loaded.
14. Northern Iowa...Panthers rising in loaded Missouri Valley Conference.
15. South Dakota State...Jackrabbits are primed to finish in top 3 in Missouri Valley.
16. Colgate...Red Raiders biding time in Patriot League behind Fordham.
17. Duquesne...Dukes are class of weak Northeast, need signature wins out of league.
18, Grambling State...Tigers are in position to push Alcorn State for SWAC title.
19. San Diego...Toreros could be class of loaded upper half in Pioneer League.
20. North Dakota...Sioux are rising threat in loaded Big Sky.
21. Penn...Quakers ready to move ahead of pack in Ivy League.
22. Alcorn State...Fred McNair takes over program on the rise.
23. North Carolina Central...Eagles trying to push rival A&T in MEAC, has talent to do it.
24. Dayton...Flyers are neck and neck with San Diego for Pioneer favorite role.
25. Harvard...Crimson not ready to play dead for Penn in Ivy title chase. 

Honorbale Mention: Dartmouth, Jacksonville

2016 Pre-Season College Football Top 25

I do not normally release a top 25 poll before any given season. Our rankings on this site are not standard polls as we are used to, but are based on a series of performance indicators. Our Power Ranking System (PRS) rankings are not released until after the first full week of games are played. What I am putting out here is simply a top 25 based on my schedule projections that I have been releasing over the last few months. Here are what I perceive to be the top 25 teams in the nation heading into the season based on their schedules, and the how I project these teams to fare against said schedules...let the debate begin.

1. Alabama...Can't bet against Saban and company, no matter the QB situation.
2. Notre Dame...Schedule sets up perfectly, but can the Irish execute against it?
3. Clemson...Still one of the best teams in the nation, and a playoff hopeful.
4. Iowa...Best team in watered down Big 10, schedule sets up well for them.
5. LSU...Still great on defense, but offense may keep them out of playoff.
6. Houston...Only loss could come against Oklahoma, but can be unbeaten by winning that one.
7. Baylor...Weaker schedule out of conference, but off-field issues could effect this outcome. 
8. Washington State...Could be one of Leach's best teams ever. 
9. Boise State...They keep winning, and ranking is deserved.
10. Florida State...Still good, but not as good at QB as in past years.
11. Oklahoma...Sooners could be higher at end of season, but schedule is tough.
12. Michigan...Harbaugh is building a monster in Ann Arbor, could be higher at the end.
13. Stanford...Could be a step back year for Shaw, but he's so good.
14. North Carolina...Tar Heels are primed to be ACC dark horse.
15. Oklahoma State...Cowboys could be most underrated team in loaded top half of Big 12. 
16. TCU...Could pick right up with Kenny Hill at QB. 
17. Michigan State...Top 4 Big 10 teams are separated by fractions of points.
18. Ohio State...Feeling a step back coming up, still one of the best in the country.
19. Oregon...Dakota Prukop will be the deciding factor if he can be as good as he was in FCS.
20. Tennessee...Still not entirely sold on Vols, but SEC East is pretty bad right now.
21. Western Michigan...If they can upset Northwestern in opener, sky is the limit.
22. Southern Mississippi...One of best of Group of 5, Jay Hopson was excellent hire.
23. UCLA...Evolution of Josh Rosen, overall team health is at question here.
24. Northwestern...Could be a dark horse team nobody is looking for in Big 10.
25. Georgia...New coach in Kirby Smart, much needed new direction. Bad division helps them.

Honorable Mention: Ohio, Toledo, San Diego State, Appalachian State, Cincinnati, Temple, Northern Illinois, Air Force, Arizona, Georgia Southern

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

SWAC 2016 Preview

The SWAC is will once again forego FCS playoff participation for a birth in the second annual Celebration Bowl, which creates a matchup against the champion of the MEAC, the other FCS HBCU conference. Alcorn State is once again the odds on favorite to head back to the bowl, but look out for Grambling, which could make a move as Jay Hopson has moved on as head coach at Alcorn State. Brian Jenkins should also have Alabama State in a position to give a good push as well. Don't be shocked by some surprises along the way, as that is a trademark of SWAC football. Here is a look at the conference for 2016.

Projected Order of Finish

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

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

Alcorn State Braves
Jay Hopson used a solid four year run in which he brought the Braves back from the abyss to elevate himself to an instate promotion and raise at Southern Mississippi. Now Alcorn will have to keep from tumbling back into the abyss under new head coach Fred McNair.
Lenorris Footman is back at QB and will start as a junior in 2016. He passed for 1106 yards last season with 14 TDs and 4 picks, but largely shred time with John Gibbs, who has moved on. Footman must imrove upon his completion percentage, which was a whoppingly low 43.5%.
Darryan Ragsdale is gone at RB, so Footman is the leading returning rusher with 1023 yards and 11 TDs. Marquis Warford and Arron Baker should get first crack at taking the open RB job in camp. Tavres Johnson and Darius Dean are both back as sophomores as well, and could push for time.
Warford was also the team's leading receiver last fall, and the next two leading receivers have graduated. Jaborian McKenzie, Charles Hughes, and Brandon Campbell all have opportunities here, among others.
The defense should be in solid shape with good players returning all over the field. The line is loaded with Stacey Garner and Michael Brooks at DE, LB is set with Darien Anderson and Michael Hurns, and the secondary, despite losing Anthony Johnson, brings back Eric Foster in a leadership role.
Projected Win Total: 9

Eastern Division
Alabama State Hornets
Spring practice was reinstated after a loss of that right due to low APR scores. Brian Jenkins was brought in from Bethune-Cookman to improve this program on and off the field, and he has the needle pointed in the right direction. Jenkins is one of the more underrated coaches in the nation, and he should have the Hornets pushing for the top spot in the East in short order.
Ellis Richardson, who got some good experience last season, steps in at QB this fall as a sophomore. He passed for 739 yards in nine games, and tossed 6 TDs to 3 INTs. I am projecting him to improve on his 58.3% completion ratio, and he could end up being one of the better QBs in the conference by the end of the year.
Khalid Thomas is back as the leading rusher from a year ago, and could push the 1000 yard mark this fall. He ran for 720 yards last season, and scored 5 times. Richardson is also a solid runner, and rushed for 8 TDs last fall. Look for sophomore Alex Anderson to once again be the primary number two back.
Joshua Davis and Jamir Hannah are both back after leading the Hornets in receiving a year ago, although they combined for just 44 receptions and 6 scores. Brandon Barnes, DeMario Bell, Austin Beamus, and Wyndell Archie should add depth.
LB Kourtney Berry was the SWAC defender of the year last season after racking up 130 tackles, and leads a deep and experienced defense that should see marked improvement this fall.
Projected Win Total: 7

Jackson State Tigers
Former Mississippi State assistant Tony Hughes takes over at Jackson State after the Tigers hit a low mark with just 3 wins last fall. Expect some dividends early, but a building process is in order.
A positive comes at QB right away, as La Montiez Ivy is back after passing for 2199 yards and 15 TDs to 8 picks. He did complete 60.6% of his passes last fall, and should get better this season. Jorian Marikawa is back as the primary backup.
The Tigers have some returning talent at RB, but someone needs to step up and be a star for the Tigers to move forward this fall. Robert Johnson led the team in rushing last fall, but had just 409 yards and failed to reach 100 carries. Joshua Bates returns as a senior as well, but rushed for just 193 yards, and never scored in 2015.
Devin Fosselman, the leading receiver with 58-872-5, has moved on. Daniel Williams does return, and put up a line of 54-802-7, and will step into the lead role. Will Golston will be the first receiver to get a crack at the open starting job this fall, but there is little depth to speak of after that.
The defense was a bit of a mess last fall, so Hughes has brought in a huge group of newcomers who all expect to have some impact immediately.
Projected Win Total: 4

Alabama A&M Bulldogs
It's win now or else for Bulldog coach James Spady, one of a list of FCS coaches on the hot seat entering 2016.
Tootie Ballard is back as the starting QBM but he has not been what anyone could call special up to this point. He passed for 1516 yards and 9 TDs, while throwing just 3 picks, but he completed just 44.7% of his passes as a junior. That number should be much hugher at this stage of his development.  He also is not a great runner by any means, as he rushed for just 340 yards and an additional 4 scores.
Harvey Harris is back at RB, but rushed for just 449 yards on 109 carries. He also scored just 4 times last season. There is very little depth behind him, so the job appears safe, for now.
The good news is that the receiving corps returns intact, led by Tevin McKenzie and Devone Johnson, and so serves a core building block for this offense.
Bryan Brower is back at LB to lead the defense, but this unit was victimized more times than not last season, so improvement is a must.
Projected Win Total: 3

Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils
The home of Jerry Rice has not been the same in years, and it looks like a trip back to the Eastern Division basement once again for the formerly proud Delta Devils.
QB play was a mess, but it usually is with one win football teams. Expect an open camp battle between Ruban Thurston and Slade Jarman, who both played last season, but neither did enough to stake any claims to the job.
Star power and depth are lacking at RB as well, as Thomas Stokes returns after rushing for just 442 yards and one score last season. If anyone can come up from the ranks and push him, it would likely be welcomed.
Terrence Barron and Joshua Banks are both back at WR, but combined for just 42 receptions and 2 TDs last season, which was probably more of an effect from bad QB play than anything else. Booker Chambers is getting a ton of notice as well, but more for his kick return skills than his receiving skills (15 receptions last season).
Ladrelin Cheatam is back to lead the defense at MLB, but the star on defense is S Marquis Green, who led the league with 7 picks as a freshman,
Projected Win Total: 1

 Western Division
Grambling State Tigers
Grambling football is back with a vengeance after some dark times just a few years ago. With an explosive play maker back at QB, look for GSU to push Alcorn State for a Celebration Bowl bid this season.
That exploxive QB is none other than Johnathon Williams, who passed for 3135 yards and 37 TDs. His only area of extreme concern will be turnovers, as he did manage to toss 18 picks last fall. If that number could drop, he may be a candidate for FCS QB of the Year honors.
The running game is in good hands as two solid backs return in  Martez Carter (876 yards) and Jestin Kelly (720 yards). They combined to rush for 13 scores last season, and Williams is a solid runner as well.
Chad Williams racked up 1012 yards receiving last fall, and returns for his junior season. He added 10 TDs to the mix to be one of the top receivers returning in FCS football in 2016. Chester Rogers also returns after catching 46 passes for 707 yards and 6 TDs. Verlon Hunter is the primary number three receiver in this offense, and also returns. Junior Dominique Leake also returns to add depth.
The defense will once again depend on LB Arkez Cooper and S Guy Stallworth to lead the way.
Projected Win Total: 9

Southern Jaguars
The Jaguars return a pretty good QB in their own right this fall in junior Austin Howard, who passed for 16 TDs to just 4 picks last season. He added 2292 passing yards, and completed an impressive 65.4% of his passes. He could be underrated this fall, which works to his advantage.
The run game returns a star in Lenard Tillery, who rushed for a solid 1211 yards last season and scored 14 times. He is one of the best returning backs in the nation. Tillery averaged 6.1 yards every time he ran the ball in 2015. With Malcolm Crockett gone as the primary backup, look for John West, Deonte Shorts, and Herbert Edwards all to battle for backup work in camp.
There are some losses in the receiving corps, and that is what sets the Jaguars apart from Grambling this fall. Willie Quinn, last season's leader, is gone, as are Mike Jones and Montrell Jones, which will effect depth. Randall Menard will have to step up into a larger role after catching just 27 passes last fall. Nico Talbert will have first crack at replacing Quinn, but will see some push from Dillon Beard and others.
LB Aaron Tiller is a leader on defense, and had 10 sacks last fall. Kentavious Preston and Roshaud Turner also return to give the Jaguars one of the most impressive LB units in FCS football. Danny Johnson is back to lead the secondary as well.
Southern did not have spring practice after posting low APR scores.
Projected Win Total: 6

Prairie View A&M Panthers
Trey Green is yet another solid QB in the Western Division after passing for 2614 yards and 21 TDs to just 3 INTs last fall. He could use some accuracy help at times, and I expect a bump with his 58.8% completion ratio this fall.
Where the Panthers fall short in 2016 may be with the run game, as both leading rushers from last season are gone. No back on the current roster ran the ball more than 9 times last season. In short, the RB position is wide open heading into camp.
The WR corps has suffered losses as well, as two of the top three leading receivers from last season have moved on. Khadarel Hodge is back after catching 28 passes, and was the number two last fall. Someone from a group that includes Nick Pitre, Raymond Jackson, Anthony Wiltz, Andrew Michael III, and Rayshaun Givens needs to step up and claim some work.
DeVohn Reed and Marquice O'Leary are back on defense, and despite winning 9 games last season, this unit was prone to occasional implosions. This will be worth watching in 2016.
Projected Win Total: 5

Texas Southern Tigers
Former Pittsburgh coach Mike Haywood has his second chance in waiting as he inherits the Texas Southern job. If he can win here, he may use it as a spring board to show he is ready to get back into the big time after some personal issues forced him out for some time.
Averion Hurts has returned at QB after passing for 997 yards and 14 TDs to just 3 picks, but he has to get better when it comes to completing his passes, as 53.2% on completions will not move the needle. There is virtually nobody behind him, so he has to be the man this year.
There is experience back at RB, but the Tigers need someone between Darrell Robinson and Brad Woodard to step up and be a star. Robinson rushed just 88 times last fall for 533 yards in 10 games, while Woodard ran the ball just 71 times in 9 games.
Derrick Griffin is the best TE/WR combo package in the nation, and also plays basketball. He scored 11 times last season on 36 catches for 709 yards, and could have an even bigger impact this fall. Malik Cross is gone, so Larry Clark III has to step into a bigger role after catching 24 passes last fall. Tracy Johnson and Austin Watts add depth.
The Tigers gave up buckets of points last fall, so improvement by this group will be huge if it can be found. Jamal Lucas and Zack Bamijoko are back at LB and Archie Rice leads the secondary.
Projected Win Total: 2

Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions
Former Howard QB legend and OC Ted White has come on as OC to rebuild an offense that has lost their way in recent seasons. A new spread attack is being installed, so look for some bumps along the way during the construction period.
Brandon Duncan was a little bit all over the place last fall, but is looking for consistency in 2016 after passing for 1027 yards and 8 TDs to 8 picks last season. He completed just 53.7% of his passes, and needs a rebuild in his outlook at the position.
The Lions need a star at RB, and they have few options here. Brian Handley completed his senior season, and so it is up to KeShawn Williams and Marcus Terrell to compete with Dante McDonald and Draylon Willis, and Nolan Sorensen for work.
Willie Young will be looking for a breakout season in the new offense after catching 49 passes last season for 584 yards. John Hawkins, who caught 30 passes, returns as well as the seoncd option in the passing game. Cody Swain and Patrick Rowland should see more work in the new offense this fall.
The defense gave up less than 20 points only once all last season, and will also need a rebuild. LB Willie Dunacn returns after a 118 tackle performance, but the rest of the defense is thin, and could be a major liability.
Projected Win Total: 1

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Southland Conference 2016 Preview

When breaking down the SLC for 2016, it is apparent that there three very considerable challengers for the crown in Sam Houston State, McNeese State, and on an outside shot, Central Arkansas. McNeese State is in it despite losing coach Matt Viator to UL-Monroe in the off season, but DC Lance Guidry remains as the new head coach, so nothing should change very much at all. Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word are still ineligible for the league crown, as they are still in transition from D2. Watch out for risers in Lamar and Nicholls State, but neither appears ready to challenge the top spot in the conference just yet. The team on a downward decline this season? That has to be SE Louisiana, who never did manage to find a replacement at QB after Brian Bennett graduated after the 2014 campaign.

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

Sam Houston State Bearkats
The Bearkats may be in worse shape at QB after losing Jerrod Johnson as a grad transfer to UTSA, but they have UAB transfer Jeremiah Briscoe coming back, and there is no drop off there. Briscoe passed for 1883 yards and 14 TDs last season while sharing the workload with Johnson. He is set for a huge season.
Corey Avery rushed for 1483 yards and 15 TDs last season, and is set to return at RB, giving the Kats a massively successful pass/run combo offense. Jalen Overstreet rushed for 821 yards as the backup, and Remus Bulmer is expected to see an increased workload as a sophomore as well.
Gerald Thomas and LaDarius Brown are both gone at receiver, but leading receiver Yedidah Lewis is back after catching 71 passes for 994 yards and seven TDs. Davion Davis and Grant Finney should both step up into bigger roles this season.
Defensively, the Kats are loaded. The line is bolstered by the return of Jacobi Hunter, Sione Latu, Mouf Adebo, and unit leader PJ Hall.
Projected Win Total: 10

McNeese State Cowboys
Daniel Sams is gone from an up and down 2015 campaign. Grant Ashcraft is the likely replacement, and is a big kid with a huge arm. He completed 9 of 12 passes last fall, and the coaches are high on him coming into the season.
Sams was the leading rusher, but not all is lost, as RB Ryan Ross returns after rushing for 891 yards and nine TDs last fall.He should pass the 1000 yard mark this season as a junior without any trouble at all. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry in 2015. David Hamm is now the primary backup, while Khalil Thomas, Marshall Harmon, and Benjamin Jones all will compete for increased work. MOre good news comes in the returnof the leading rusher from 2014, Dylan Long, who missed last season with an injury.
Kent Shelby and Tavrious Batiste both return as juniors, and were the two leading receivers last fall. That will be good news for Ashcraft. Where the issue is for the Cowboys is depth, as there is little experience to go on down the depth chart.
Brian Hine returns on defense after missing last season at DE. With Guidry in charge, look for another huge effort from the defense in the chase for an SLC crown in 2016.
Projected Win Total: 9

Central Arkansas Bears
Hayden Hildebrand passed for 1707 yards and 12 TDs in eight games last fall, and will return as the starting QB of the Bears in 2016. Look for an increase in his numbers across the board if he can play the entire season.
Leading rusher Blake Veasley has moved on. Look for junior Dominique Thomas (601 yards) to take on the lead job, with Jeff Anderson, Kelton Warren, and JaTavious Wilson to all push for the number two job.
Desmond Smith returns as the leading receiver after catching 67 balls last season for 817 yards. Wilson, who rushed 24 times last fall, caught 49 passes for 536 yards. Jacquez McMillan and Jose Moore could also push for a bigger role.
The defense started to stall towards the end of last season, and that could be an issue that could prevent UCA from pushing for the league title. The other major issue is that the line on both offense and defense was decimated by graduation.
Projected Win Total: 7

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
Zach Conque is back at QB for the Jacks after passing for 1933 yards and 16 TDs last season. He has to improve upon his completion rate of 58.4% to move the offense forward, but otherwise, he is capable of being one of the best QBs in this league. Hunter Taylor should be back as the primary backup.
Loren Easly is back at RB after leading the team with 759 yards rushing in 10 games as a freshman. Joshawa West is also back as the primary backup, as he ran for 617 yards. They both combined to rush for just five TDs last fall, so that number is something that we must look for as an area of concern. Jacolby Whitaker could also push for more playing time this fall.
The top five receivers all return, led by Aaron Piper and his 44 receptions. De'Quann Ruffin, Robert Sylvester, Justice Liggins, and Judah Jones all returns as well to give the Jacks one of the deeper receiving corps in the league.
The line could be an issue, as three starters departed after last season. Former BYU head coach Gary Crowton was hired in the off season to run the offense.
The defense was rather leaky last season, and teams basically scored at will at times. If that issue is not resolved, there could be problems once again.
Projected Win Total: 7

Lamar Cardinals
Lamar may have the best weapon n FCS football in RB Kade Harrington, who rushed for 2092 yards and 21 TDs last season. His presence as a senior will be even more important in 2016, as the Cardinals will be breaking in a new QB.
Carson Earp will likely be the guy stepping in at QB this fall. The senior tossed a respectable seven TDs to just two picks, but only completed 53.8% of his passes, which is an area of concern. He did manage to rush for 320 yards, making him a solid threat in the system, which will keep defenses honest.
Emmitt Raleigh, Keegan Mitchell, and Emmanuel Atoyebi will vye for plaing time behind Harrington at RB in camp.
The top two receivers from last season are gone in Reggie Begelton and Devonn Brown. Harrington is now the leading returning receiver, which is very bad news. Michael Handy is the most experienced receiver coming back ,and he caught just 19 passes last season.
The defense got blown up last season, giving up 30.4 points per game, and their best player, DE Larance Hale was kicked off the team just before spring ball. That alone could be an anchor that could keep the Cardinals down this fall.
Projected Win Total: 6

Northwestern State Demons
The Demons have been fighting their way up from the bottom for a few seasons now, but the project of resurrection is not quite complete. It may not get a lot better this season either.
The Demons lose QB Stephen Rivers, which leaves JD Almond and Joel Blumenthal to compete for the job in fall camp. They are the only QBs returning with experience, other than FBS grad transfer Brooks Haack, who started eight games for UL-Lafayette last season.
De'Mard Lorens is back at RB after rushing for 820 yards last season. He scored 11 times and may be a focal point of this offense, especially early on. Daniel Taylor has departed, leaving Chris Jones to pick up more work as the now primary backup. There is very limited, but virtually no experience after that at RB.
Leading receiver Ed Eagan is gone, taking his 58 receptions with him. Shakeir Ryan returns and will have to step up as a senior. Tuff McClain and Bobby Chan-Chan will have to pick up the tempo in fall camp as they fight for playing time. Again, experience and depth are at issue here.
The defense is in rebuild mode, and will be relying on JC transfers and freshmen in key positions heading into camp.
Projected Win Total: 5

Southeastern Louisiana Lions
SLU never could settle on a replacement at QB after the departure of Brian Bennett after the 2014 season, and there is still no general idea as to who to lean on now. D'Shaie Landor is the weak favorite, but was just awful at times last season. He passed for 1223 yards, but completed just 50.3% of his passes, and the offense sank around him in games that I watched last fall. Donovan Isom and Justin Alo should be given every chance to push him, but neither player showed much last season. Landor was also hurt much of last season, but that leaves an open door. Someone has to take this job and run with it, and nobody has.
The Lions also struggled to find a star at RB. Julius Maraclin is the only returning back out of the top three rushers from last season, and was the leader with just 590 yards and a paltry three rushing scores. Eugene Bathea will try to push into the number two job, but he did little to impress last season.
Brandon Acker and William French were the top two receivers from last season, but combined to catch just 45 passes, and combined for an even worse two receiving TDs. Again, depth and experience behind them is really a huge issue.
Defensively, the Lions must replace their biggest star in DB Harlan Miller, and again, depth and experience are at issue.
Projected Win Total: 4

Nicholls State Colonels
In my opening paragraph, I gave this program props for being a rising group. It doesn't take much when you were one of the worst programs in the nation for years. Any movement outside of the basement is big progress, and NSU is making some moves.
The Colonels must get better play from the QB position, where the only experienced player back is Tuskani Figaro, who passed for just 925 yards with four TDs and six picks last fall. He will be a senior this fall, and he must improve, as there is nothing behind him.
The RB position has been decimated by graduation, as the top four rushers have all departed. Finding anyone to step into the job will be a huge task in camp.
CJ Bates led the team with just 28 receptions last fall, and Terry Lucas, the only other player to clear 20 receptions, is gone. Damion Jeanpierre and Jarrell Rogers are the favorites to step into bigger roles, but could get pushed by Stephen Lebouef and Josh Singleton.
Consistency will be an issue on defense once again, and if more can be found, NIcholls may push forward one more step this fall. Just don't count on miracles.
Projected Win Total: 3

Incarnate Word Cardinals
IWU is still transitioning from D2 football, and cannot be eligible for the conference title in 2016. Don't worry about that, however, as the Cardinals are simply trying to find their way right now.
Trent Brittain returns after passing for 2254 yards, but he had a terrible TD/INT ratio of 9/13. Thatis not getting it done, nor was his 52% completion ratio. He has to be the guy for now, as there is virtually zero returning experience behind him.
The Cardinals need a star to step up in the run game, and right now, they don't have one. Junior Sessions is the leading returning rusher with 484 yards, and Broderick Reeves lines up as the primary backup option. It is possible that Dorland Fields finds his way as a sophomore, and pushes for more work.
Kody Edwards and JOrdan Hicks both return as the leading receivers from 2015, but Cole Wick and Clint Killough are both gone. Look for Jamari Gilbert to press for more catches this fall, but experience after that is limited.
IWU had one of the best defenses in the country last season, but they lose their heart in LB Mike Tavarres, who has departed.
Projected Win Total: 3

Abilene Christian Wildcats
ACU had a good run going in D2, but like IWU, they are ineligible for the league title in 2016. Also like IWU, that wasn't going to be an issue anyway.
Parker McKenzie did a solid job at QB last season, as he passed for 1855 yards and 14 TDs, and he completed 65% of his passes. If ACU is to find improvement, he will have to be a driving force in 2016. Dallas Sealey returns as the primary backup.
De'Andre Brown returns after leading the Wildcats with 735 yards rushing last fall. He socred just five times. Primary backup Herschel Sims is gone, however, leaving the door open for Adrian Duncan or Cody Ennis to pick up more work.
Cedric Gilbert and Jonathon Epps, the two leading receivers from last fall, are both gone. Carl Whitley and Kalin Sadler are back, and will try to push for starting jobs, but they are the most experienced receivers in the group, and yet combined for just 47 receptions last fall. There is no real experience behind them, leaving the corps as thin as any in the nation.
Jabari Butler is back at CB after picking off six passes last fall as a freshman, and LB Sam Denmark led the league with 138 tackles last fall. They give the defense some hope.
Projected Win Total: 2

Houston Baptist Huskies
HBU is still a very young football program, and is still trying to grow as such. Max Staver is back at QB, but is coming off a 5/9 TD to pick ratio. He is trying to stave off Tony Dawson once camp begins. Dawson tossed just one TD to seven picks last fall.
Terrance Peters, BJ Kelly, and Larry Day all return after being the top three rushers from last fall, but nobody saw more than 92 carries. Someone needs to carry the load for HBU to push to the next level.
D'Angelo Wallace, Ethan Fry, Wesley Lewis, and Ricardo Barnett were the only receivers to break double digit marks for catches, but they combined for just 79 between the four of them last fall. That has got to change as well.
HBU could not keep a group of girl scouts from scoring last season on defense, and that is another area where development will be monitored.
Projected Win Total: 0

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Southern Conference 2016 Preview

The SoCon is no longer the power conference that it once was in FCS football. Defections of such power programs such as Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, and even Marshall if you want to go back that far, have decimated the ranks, making the conference a watered down shell of its former self. With that in mind, league births in the playoffs will be down once again, but there are still a couple of teams that may be able to do some damage. Overall, this is one of the most difficult leagues to project, because national projections are completely all over the place and scattered after league favorite Chattanooga.

Projected Order of Finish
1. Chattanooga
2. The Citadel
3. Western Carolina
4. Mercer
5. Wofford
6. Samford
7. Furman
8. VMI
9. East Tennessee State

Chattanooga Mocs
The biggest concern on offense will come down to who replaces Jacob Huesman at QB in 2016. It looks like there will be a pair of juniors battling into fall camp in Alejandro Bennifield and Alphonso Stewart. They combined to attempt just nine passes in 2015.
Derrick Craine set a school record last season with 1251 rushing yards, and may become a focal point of the offense early on as the passing game gels without Huesman. Craine carried the ball 230 times last season, and scored 13 TDs, so he can handle a heavy workload. Huesman was also a load in the rushing game, running for 1244 yards last season, so look for backup RB Richardre Bagley to get more work this fall. Of the two battling for QB, Bennifield has the more extensive rushing resume from the QB position. Sophomore Alex Trotter carried just 20 times last fall, but could also see increased playing time.
The good news for the new QBs is that the entire receiving corps returns intact in 2016, led by CJ Board, Xavier Borishade, James Stovall, and Wil Young.
Corey Levin, the nations best OL in FCS football, returns to lead what could be a very solid rushing attack.
The Mocs also took a huge loss on defense, as the heart of the middle departs in LB AJ Hampton. Keionta Davis will take a leadership role on the line, and recorded 13.5 sacks last fall. Nakevion Leslie is back at LB, and recorded 86 tackles last season, so there should be little drop off. Lucas Webb returned two picks for scores last season, giving the secondary a solid anchor.
Projected Win Total: 9

The Citadel Bulldogs
Citadel may have taken the biggest hit in the conference as Mike Houston departed as head coach to take over at James Madison. Citadel had their best season since 1992, and OC Brent Thompson stayed behind to take over. This may create a seamless transition process, but that will remain to be seen.
QB Dominique Allen returns at QB, but like Citadel QBs of the past, he is more a runner than a passer in the Bulldog triple option scheme. He did pass for 871 yards last fall, but his 4/6 TD to INT ratio needs improvement. He also only completed 51.5% of his passes a year ago. He did, however, lead the team in rushing with 953 yards and 13 TDs on the year.
The top three rushers behind Allen all return this fall, so the run game should see no drop off at all. Tyler Renew rushed for 839 yards, Cam Jackson added 751, and Isaiah Smith went for 563. Vinny Miller is gone after a productive senior season, but depth is plentiful with Evan McField and Reggie Williams both slated to return as well.
Jorian Jordan is the only receiver in the top four from last season returning, and he caught just 11 passes on the year.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are in very good shape with seven starters returning, led by DB Dee Delaney, who recorded 46 tackles, and added five picks.
Projected Win Total: 7

Western Carolina Catamounts
The Cats also have an issue at QB, much like Chattanooga, as replacing Troy Mitchell will be conern number one. Wes Holcombe is the odds on favorite to win the job, with sophomore JOrdan Mathis pushing him as the backup.
RB Detrez Newsome will be an important piece of the offense with a new passing game being put into place early on. He rushed for 1109 yards with 9 TDs last season, averaging 100.8 yards per game. Corey Holloway is back as the backup, but the Catamounts lose some depth with the loss of Darius Ramsey, and Mitchell was the second leading rusher as well.
Leading receiver Karnorris Benson has moved on after a 43 catch campaign, but Steffon Hill returns, as does TE Tyler Sexton. Spearman Robinson is a huge component to the offense, but must stay healthy after his season was cut short at just 8 games last fall.
The defense was sharp in some games last fall, but fell apart in others. If the Cats are to finish this high, consistency on defense must become a center point.
There are many questions for WCU in 2016, but there is also a good deal of talent returning. If all pieces come together, they finish in the top three of the league. Of not, a drop could hit. This squad is loaded with questions.
Projected Win Total: 6

Mercer Bears
For still being a relatively new program in FCS football, the Bears have become a threat on any given Saturday, and could be a year away from making a bigger push towards a SoCon title.
It all starts with QB John Russ, a senior. Russ passed for 2141 yards last fall with 18 TDs to just three picks. An area of improvement will need to come in accuracy, where Russ completed just over 58% of his passes last fall.
The run game returns as healthy as ever, as the top four rushers, not including Russ, all return. Tee Mitchell heads the group after rushing for 949 yards and five TDs last season. Alex Lakes, Payton Usher, and Tanner Brumby all return as well.
The receiving corps is loaded, as the unit returns intact. Avery Ward led the team with 40 receptions last fall and he scored six times. Sam Walker, Robert Brown, Jimmie Robinson, Marquise Irvin, Chandler Curtis, and Josh Jones all caught 10 or more passes last season, and they all return to the fold.
The entire defense returns minus CB Alex Avant, and the Bears led the league in scoring defense last fall. All of that together means that the Bears could likely push both The Citadel and Western Carolina, and could even push league favorite Chattanooga, The only issue is whether or not the Bears can win the close games, which was a real issue last season.
Projected Win Total: 6

Wofford Terriers
Wofford is yet another team in this muddled top half of the SoCon that could make some noise, or float out of a playoff scenario. Either thing can totally happen in 2016.
Evan Jacks is back as the trigger man for the triple option offense after rushing for 675 yards last season, and adding 524 yards passing as an afterthought. He would love to increase his total one passing TD from last season, and would like to push into double didgits on his rushing TDs from his seven of last season.
Lorenzo Long leads the rushing attack from his FB position. Long rushed for 969 yards last fall, and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Ray Smith is gone after averaging 5.3 yards per carry, and that could effect depth. Look for Nick Colvin, Chase Nelson, and Hunter Windham to pick up the pace.
RJ Nelson is the only receiver to pass into double digit receptions last season (14) and he will return.
The biggest issue with Wofford, and why I have them here in the standings is a lack of a dependable defense. The Terriers got roughed up to a tune of 27.7 points per game last fall, and with an option offense that does not pass well, that cannot happen again for Woffrd to have any success in pushing up the standings. Miles Brown returns to the middle of the D line, and it all starts at point of attack.
Projected Win Total: 5

Samford Bulldogs
Devlin Hodges replaced Michael Eubank at QB last fall, and he returns as the starter as Eubank has graduated after being available for just six games last season. Hodges played in eight games, and looks like one of the better starting QBs in the league in 2016. He passed for 2230 yards last fall, completed 69.4% of his passes, and tossed 12 TDs to six picks. He will likely work on the 2/1 TD to pick ratio this season, and that improvement could push the Bulldogs quite a way this season.
Every back that saw double digit carries last fall returns, giving the Bulldogs a solid and deep group at RB, even if it lacks a single star. Denzell Williams leads the way after running up 518 yards and eight TDs last fall. K'Rondis Larry, Jake Wilks, Kelvin McKnight, and Roland Williams all return.
The receiving corps is in solid shape as well, as the top five receivers return from last season. Karel Hamilton led the group with 75 receptions, and he was followed by Emmanuel Obajimi (54-826) and McKnight (57-616). Devon Schmitt and Andrew Harris add depth.
Where Samford falls short, just like Wofford, is on defense. THe Bulldogs were ravaged by the run last fall, giving up over 220 yards per game. FS Jeremy Blount is the leader on defense, but he will need help from his front seven.
Projected Win Total: 5

Furman Paladins
Furman was victimized as far as being able to run the ball last season, and finished as the worst rushing team in the SoCon in 2015. Making mattrs worse is a thin offensive line, and no clear answer at QB.
Reese Hannon returns as the favorite to hold onto the QB job, but played in just nine games last fall. He tossed just six TDs and also added 6 picks, and completed just 55.3% of his passing attempts. PJ Blazejowski played in six games, but fared no better. In short, the passing game could be a mess.
The run game produced not one runner who went for more than 375 yards, and that was Antonio Wilcox. Tristin Luke ran for 371, but there is little experience or depth after that. The RB corps was young last fall, but they look no better coming into camp this season than last. Ernie Cane, who led the team with six rushing TDs last season, is gone.
Andrej Suttles returns as the leading receiver from last season, which is good news for the developing situation at QB. He caught 43 passes for 621 yards last fall. Jordan Snellings, the number two last fall, is gone. Logan McCarter, who caught just 20 passes last fall, will have to step up, as will Dincan Fletcher and Chad Scott.
As bad as Samford was against the run last fall, Furman was worse. The Paladins gave up 222.3 yards rushing per game last season, and that is a huge area of concern once again.
Projected Win Total: 3

VMI Keydets
Scott Wachenheim enters year two at the head of one of the traditionally worst programs in FCS football. Some small gains were made last season, so it's all about continued development in year two.
Al Cobb showed huge flashes at times at QB, but still has got to learn how not to turn the football over through the air after passing for 14 TDs to a whopping 18 picks. He did pass for 2736 yards last season, and he also managed to complete 61.2% of his passes. With some work, he could be a star in the making, but the turnovers have to reduce greatly.
The run game was rather anemic last fall, but it could be hurt worse after the loss of leading rusher Derrick Zigler (476 yards). Dane Forlines, Dontae Mauck, Matthew Nicholson, and Brice Tucker have to come together to form a solid unit to assist the passing game.
Aaron Sanders is back as the leading receiver from last year after catching 84 passes for 892 yards.He would definitely like to see more than two TD receptions, however. Rushers Forlines and Mauck were the next two in line in catching balls last fall, so another front line receiver must step up.
Defensively, VMI still liked to give up chunks of points last season, so again, it is all about development this fall.
Projected Win Total: 2

East Tennessee State Buccaneers
ETSU is back in the SoCon after a long layoff in which the Bucs didn't field a program from 2003-2014. They won two games as an independent last fall, and now through themselves back into the fire of their old conference home.
Austin Herink is back as a sophomore at QB, and is still learning. He passed for just 1261 yards last season, with six TDs and five picks. Nick Sexton is back as the primary backup after playing in eight games. He passed for just one TD to seven picks.
JaJuan Stinson is looking for improvement as well at RB. He rushed for a team leading 586 yards and five TDs last season. With some help, he could break out this fall. Fallon Lee, Cory Colder and Tony Drew all return behind him.
The good news about a new program, is that you have all young players, and all of that depth develops together. Dalton Ponchillia, Hunter Wike, Demetrius Anthony, Chad Pritchard, and Drake Powell all caught at least 10 or more passes, capped by Ponchillia's 31 last fall.
Dylan Weigel, a LB, is a star in the making after racking up 127 total tackles last fall. The main issue is that the Bucs gave up points by the bucket last fall, a trait of a young program.
Projected Win Total: 2

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Pioneer Football League 2016 Preview

The PFL has been owned by Dayton, Jacksonville, and San Diego in recent years, and despite some changes here and there, that seems to be the case heading into the 2016 season as well. One team is making a chase this fall, and that could be Morehead State, which has been on a steady rise.
Another case for consistency could be made for how bad Valporaiso has been in league play, but they may actually break ranks and not be as bad as they have been, as they could be surpassed in the land of terrible by Stetson and Davidson.

Projected Order of Finish
1. San Diego
2. Dayton
3. Jacksonville
4. Morehead State
5. Butler
6. Campbell
7. Drake
8. Marist
9. Valporaiso
10. Stetson
11. Davidson

San Diego Toreros
USD just missed the playoffs last season by virtue of a one point loss to Dayton, but the Toreros are trying to put it behind them and take the title outright in 2016.
Anthony Lawrence is back at QB after passing for 2392 yards and 23 TDs against just six picks last season. He averaged 8.1 yards per attempt, and completed 63.7% of his passes, a number that is sure to rise in 2016.
Leading rusher Jereke Armstrong also returns after rushing for 662 yards last fall. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry, while scoring seven TDs. He would like to see his work load get somewhat heavier this fall, and he seems capable of handling it. Blake Martin, Jonah Hedges, and Chris Willson will be competing to take over the carries from the graduated Dallas Kessman.
The top five receivers (including Armstrong) all return in 2016, led by Brian Riley (782 yards) and Ross Dwelley (54 receptions).
Jonathon Peterman is the star of the defense at DE after picking up 16 TFLs last fall.
Projected Win Total: 10

Dayton Flyers
Alex Jeske was just a freshman at QB, so I am looking for improvements on his 1/1 TD to pick ratio (11/11). He passed for 2052 yards last fall, but completed just 59.3% of his passes. If Dayton is to take over the top spot once again and find a second consecutive playoff birth, the work starts there.
Tucker Yinger is back at RB, and will also be just a sophomore after rushing for 731 yards last fall. He'd like to see more  than three TDs, I am sure. Jack Adams and Jared Ruffing are competing for carries behind Yinger.
Leading receiver Cody Stuart is gone, but every other receiver who caught a pass last season returns, giving the Flyers one of the deepest receiving units in college football. Jack Euritt and Tyler Tumpane are the leaders there.
Jack Crain picked up 105 tackles last fall, and will lead the defense with CB Christian Searles (5 picks) will lead the defense.
Projected Win Total: 9

Jacksonville Dolphins
Big changes are in store at JU heading into 2016. Head Coach Kerwin Bell resigned in a huff over the administration's stance on scholarships and is now the coach at D2 Valdosta State. His son, and all league QB Kade Bell, has graduated. Ian Shields has been hired from Lenoir-Rhyne, where he went 17-6 the last two seasons.
Ryan Wells has the first crack at replacing Bell at QB, and was strong in limited action last season, including having ownership of an 8/1 TD to INT ratio.
Ulysses Bryant is back at RB after rushing for 763 yards last fall, but more may be needed from him in 2016, especially when it comes to his rushing TD total of just four. Jamal Adjamah returns as the primary number two back.
Andy Jones and his 60 receptions have moved on. Damien Strange is now the top receiver, and Brian Burnett, Pernell Rattray, Austin Leach, and Emoni Williams will all be vying for the spot left open by Jones.
LB Grady Redding is back to lead the defense after collecting 100 tackles last season, and will get plenty of help from DB Terrence Bryant.
Projected Win Total: 8

Morehead State Eagles
Austin Gahafer returns after passing for 3244 yards and 24 TDs last season, and may be a catalyst for the Eagles having a shot to slip past Jacksonville for 3rd this season.
Jake Raymond also returns at WR, giving Gahafer a top tier target after a 72 reception campaign in 2015. The receiving corps does lose their top two receivers, however, in Justin Cornwall and Tanner Napier.
Darius Pritchett, Christian Robinson and Joby Embrey will all step up into larger roles in the receiving game this fall.The run game is secondary in the offense, and the top two rushers combined to run for just 816 yards. Rob Harden, the leading rusher, is gone, so look for Brent Holman and Ryan Watkins to carry the load. Holman was almost neck and neck with Harden in rushing yards, so there should be no drop off there.
The defense gave up 30 or more points four times last fall, and that could have been the difference between their seven wins, and a run for a league title.
Projected Win Total: 6

Butler Bulldogs
Matt Schiltz has moved on at QB, so finding a replacement is job number one in fall camp for the Bulldogs. That also effects the run game, as Schiltz also, by far, led the team in rushing. Malcolm Weaver looks like the next in line, but that is no sure bet after he completed just 6/15 passes last fall.
The run game will need to find a back that can step up and lead the team in rushing. John Hall, Duvante Lane, and Anthony Scaccia are all options, but are all limited in production.
Danny Cotter is back at WR, but Marquese Martin-Hayes is gone. Guy DiBalsamo and Brandon Collins are line to get some major work, but depth is thin here.
The Bulldogs look set on defense, and that side of the football will be what keeps Butler in games this fall. Sean Horan and Ethan Brunhofer will both return at LB to lead the unit.
Projected Win Total: 5

Campbell Fighting Camels
The first task for the Camels is finding a new QB to replace the erratic Kameron Bryant, who threw more picks (16) than TD passes last season (12). David Salmon is the only passer returning with any game experience, as he completed just 7/15 passes in a backup role in 2015.
Senior RB De'Shawn Jones led the league in rushing with 1079 yards and 8 TDs las fall. Jared Joyner will be the primary backup at RB, but could get pushed somewhat by Austin Fleming and Angelo Crawford-Reid in fall camp.
There were no real standouts at WR last season, but leading receiver Aaron Blackmon (453 yards) returns as a sophomore. Andre Davis led the team in actual receptions (30), but has moved on. Damon Simmons and Trey Sanders are the next options in line,  but really need to step up production.
LB Jack Ryan (66 tackles) and CB Chris Beaty (3 INTs) return to lead a defense that has suffered some serious personnel losses.
Projected Win Total: 6

Drake Bulldogs
A  common theme in the PFL this season is replacing QBs, and Drake is not immune to this issue in 2016. Andy Rice has moved on, but Cody Thibault attempted 105 passes last fall, and should step right in as a senior. He must turn around his abysmal 4/6 TD to INT ratio, and must find accuracy after completing just 44.3% of his passes last fall.
Conley Wilkins led the team with 834 yards rushing, and scored nine times on the ground last fall, and he returns. He will have to carry the load for a bit while the passing game develops. Depth at RB took a hit with the loss of Gary Scott, Jr, but Brock Reichardt is back and got some decent time in last season. Tyler Updegraff should push him for playing time.
The top three receivers are back in Eric Saubert, Keegan Gallery, and Zach Ziabis. Andrew Yarwood, AJ Spitz, and Grant Menard are also back to give the Bulldogs a deep group at receiver.
On defense, the loss of John Hugunin will be huge, but DE Mike Marrin is back after leading the league in sacks last season.
Projected Win Total: 6

Marist Red Foxes
QB Mike White returns after passing for 2564 yards last fall. His major issues are that his TD/INT ratio is a dead even 10/10. That has got to improve, as does his passing completion percentage of 51.8%.
Marcellus Calhoun returns at RB, but his production was moderate, at best. Garrett Clay has moved on, so look for Leon Cummings to fill in as the primary number two. There is virtually no depth after that.
Justin Christian picked up 826 receiving yards as a freshman last fall, and will return to lead the group. Matt Tralli picked up 56 receptions last season, but has moved on. Lawrence Dickens, Joe Jordan and Malik Simmons will all battle to replace him in camp.
LB Jimmy Braun and CB Cameron Gibson should be the leaders on defense after several key losses to the group after last season.
Projected Win Total: 3

Valporaiso Crusaders
Both Ryan Clarke and Dalton Stokes played at QB last season, but both went down with injuries. The Crusaders will hit the reset button by having them battle it out in camp for the starting job. Clarke has a slight edge based on production from last season.
Jake Hutson and Brandon Hall both departed after last season at RB, and neither of them shook the ground much. Legend Choudhry, Jarrett Morgan, and Grayson Bastin are the next three options in line, but whomever wins the carries will have to far outpace their predecessors.
Eight of the top nine receivers return, led by Jean Rene and Frank Catrine, so the passing game should see some marked improvement.
The Crusaders are loaded in the secondary with the return of Kellen Hughes and Joey Diaz-Martinez, as the two combined for seven picks last fall. JJ Nunes joins them after collecting 76 tackles. Kye Hall leads the LB unit heading into camp.
Projected Win Total: 3

Stetson Hatters
Ryan Tentler returns at QB, but he had a horrible season in which he tossed just 6 TDs to 11 INTs in 265 passing attempts. He has one of the lowest TD to pass attempts percentage in the nation. Colin McGovern returns as a sophomore, and could push him for the job.
Cole Mazza returns as the leading RB, but rushed for just 277 yards last fall. This unit will need some serious help if this team is to get out of the PFL basement. Arkee Brown and AJ Washington will push for playing time.
Ja'Vonta Swinton and Darius McGriff will both return to lead an anemic receiving group.
Donald Payne, a safety, is a legitimate NFL prospect. He collected 126 tackles, 16 TFLs, and two picks last fall. Eric Martin joins him to form a solid secondary. DE Davion Belk is a disruptive edge rusher, and will lead from the front this season.
Projected Win Total: 2

Davidson Wildcats
Davidson had not won a league game in three years before beating Stetson in the finale last fall. Expect the Wildcats to remain in the basement, however, as they have made few strides to show improvement is coming.
Taylor MItchell returns at QB as a junior, and did manage an even 10/10 TD to INT ratio, but he has a long way to go. John Cook is back as his primary backup.
Jeffrey Keil is back as the starting RB, and managed to lead the team in rushing despite running just 90 times last fall. He will have to seriously increase the workload in 2016 if the Cats have any hopes of moving the needle. Depth at the position is a myth.
Top receiver William Morris is gone. Cam Cheuveront, Nick Wheeler, and Derek Jones are the only other receivers who collected a double digit reception number last fall, and all return.
DB Ben Powell is a bright spot on defense, and led the team with 623 return yards on special teams in 2015.
Projected Win Total: 1