The most anticipated season of the year for most may be the summer or even Christmas, but for some, its college football season. To celebrate the one month mark until the games begin on September 3rd, here is a rankings rundown of each team from 1-128.
1. Ohio State The Buckeyes enter the season as returning champions after defeating Alabama and Oregon in last years FBS Playoffs and as the easy choice for number one in the preseason rankings. While their three-headed monster at quarterback in JT Barrett, Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller dominate the headlines, its two other players that mean just as much if not more to the teams chance of success in 2015, running back Ezekiel Elliot (1,878 yards rushing/18 touchdowns) and the probable first defensive player taken off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft, lineman Joey Bosa, who last year recorded 13.5 sacks to go along with 7.5 tackles for loss. For the fourth straight year, college footballs best coach, Urban Meyer, will be leading the team. Since his arrival in 2012, Ohio State has gone 38-3, with an undefeated 24-0 record in Big 10 regular season games, and with the stacked team he has in 2015, it looks like it could be another championship year for the OSU in Columbus.
2. TCU Quarterback Trevone Boykin returns for his senior year as the Horned Frogs quarterback and is the current preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at 6-1 odds. Their offense ranked second in scoring (46.5 points per game) and fifth overall (533 yards per game) in the nation, while going 12-1 which produced an NCAA best 11-2 against the spread, with their only loss an epic 61-58 battle at Baylor. They would go on to average a winning margin of over 21 points per game against Big 12 Conference opponents and ended their season in style by demolishing Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, 42-3. They will need the offense to keep the pressure of their defense if they want to keep their spot near the top of the polls, as the D returns only five starters and will be missing six of their top seven tacklers from 2014, which they hope will have time to gel together for their final two games of the year, on the road against Oklahoma and at home against Baylor.
3. Alabama In the last six years, Alabama has gone an astounding 72-9 overall, with a 41-7 record in the SEC, and their only non-conference losses have come from back-to-back in the Sugar Bowl with losses to Oklahoma and Ohio State. Incredibly, the last time Alabama was an underdog in a game was against Florida in the SEC Championship game in 2009, one in which they dominated the Gators 32-13. This year the Tide return ten starters, with only three back on an offense that needs to replace its quarterback and top three receivers. Other than the returning Derrick Henry, Bama has almost no one else with any running back experience. Thankfully for Tide fans, Nick Saban is still their coach and its a bit easier to fill the holes left by departing players when you have highly rated recruiting classes each and every year like their team does. An opening weekend matchup against Wisconsin awaits them followed by a brutally tough SEC road schedule, but anything is possible in Tuscaloosa with Saban at the helm.
4. Baylor Eighteen starters from last years 11-2 team are back for the Bears, including nine on an offense that ranked first in the nation in total offense (581.5 yards per game) and first in scoring offense (48.2 points per game). While they did lose quarterback Bryce Petty to the NFL, they do return three players who had over 1,000 yards of offense last season; running back Shock Linwood (1,252 yards/16 touchdowns) along with wide receivers Corey Coleman (1,119 yards/11 touchdowns) and KD Cannon (1,030 yards/8 touchdowns). Baylor has won back-to-back Big 12 titles and a night after Thanksgiving matchup on the road against TCU will more than likely be the de facto conference title game. Last year, the four playoff spots did not include a Big 12 representative, which doesnt seem possible in 2015 with the strength of its top two teams this year.
5. Oregon Heisman winner Marcus Mariota is off to the NFL to start for the Tennessee Titans after leading the team to a 13-2 record and a spot in the BCS Championship game. Thanks to Mariotas decision making and pressure on a defense led by returning defensive end DeForest Buckner, the Ducks ranked first in the country in turnover margin at +23. Matching that and ranking third in overall offense will be nearly impossible to match, but with running back Royce Freeman returning after running for 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2014, it takes some pressure off quarterback transfer from Eastern Washington Vernon Adams (Or whoever gets the nod). If he can catch on to the offense early enough and start a get a rapport going with a very experienced wide receiving group, the sky is the limit for Oregon and Autzen Stadium will be rocking once again.
6. Michigan State Quarterback Connor has led the Spartans to a 24-3 record and back-to-back top five finishes the last two years. Despite inexperience at both running back and wide receiver (no back with over 21 carries, no receiver with more then 29 catches), he could make it three years in a row before going on to next years draft where he is sure to be a first round pick. They return dominance at both the offensive and defensive line, most notably DE Shilique Calhoun and offensive linemen Jack Allen and Jack Conklin. Last year the only two losses they suffered were against Ohio State and Oregon, who eventually played each other in the BCS National Championship Game. Both are on the schedule again this year, but with multiple NFL caliber players on both sides of the ball and underrated Mark Dantonio back for his ninth year at the helm, it wouldnt be a surprise to see the Spartans finish in the top five once again.
7. USC There are holes that need to be filled on both of sides of the ball for the Trojans, losing four of their top five wide receivers and their starting running back on offense, as well as the usual losses to the NFL on defense, none more important then defensive end Leonard Williams, who went sixth overall in the draft to the Jets. Star power remains in Los Angeles though for Southern Cal. On offense they return quarterback Cody Kessler, who threw for 3,826 yards last year to go along with an absurd 39-5 touchdown to interception ratio, and sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith, who looks like he could be next up on the list for great receivers at SC. On the other side of the ball, linebacker Sua Craven is back after leading the team in sacks, interceptions and tackles for loss last season. Steve Sarkisians second year as head coach could be the best one in a while for the Trojans, especially if he can satisfy the fans and end a three year streak to UCLA.
8. Auburn After a 3-9 down year in 2012, the Tigers brought in Gus Malzahn as head coach, and he has led the team to a 20-7 record since, with an SEC Championship and an appearance in the BCS title game. This year, Malzahn not only gets eight starters back on defense, including their top three tacklers and highly feared defensive end Carl Lawson, but he will now be joined by former Florida Gator head coach Will Muschamp, who was hired by Auburn to run their defense. Muschamp has always seemed better suited as a coordinator, so this may be a marriage made in heaven. The sixteenth rated offense in the FBS returns only four starters and will have to replace their starting quarterback, running back and two of their top three receivers. Junior Jeremy Johnson was impressive in limited duty as quarterback last season (so much so that he is currently fourth on the list of Heisman favorites) and hopes to form a strong connection with returning wideout Dhaquille Williams and the rest of the offense, especially when they end their season against Georgia and Alabama in their last three games.
9. FSU The poiison fruit of head coach Jimbo Fishers no consequences for terrible behavior continued to rot off the vine this offseason, as two more Florida State players were arrested for battery against women, both happening within a 24 hour span, Quarterback DeAndre Johnson and expected starting running back Dalvin Cook. Johnson was eventually punished and dismissed from the team, but only after a video was released clearly showing Johnson hitting a female patron at a bar. Cook has had previous run-ins with the law, including an assault case and another for not providing shelter to three dogs he chained together outside during a rain storm leaving them unable to move. As Dalvin is a highly regarded talent coming off a season in which he ran for 1000 yards, he has only been suspended, not thrown off the team, despite the states attorneys office having enough evidence to charge him for punching a woman multiple times in the face after becoming angry that she didnt want to give him her phone number, despite trying to persuade her by telling her with such sweet lines like they were football players, and could buy her in two years. As long as the coach allows criminal behavior to run rampant on his team with little to no consequences, this is what you can expect to continue under his guidance in Tallahassee.
10. Notre Dame A promising 6-0 start was ruined by a gutless offensive pass interference call in the final seconds at Florida State that cost the Irish the game, losing 31-27. Turnover machine Everett Golson transferred to FSU after the seasons end, which really doesnt affect things too much for the offense, except in terms of the depth chart, as sophomore Malik Zaire was the probable starter anyway in 2015 after Golsons continuous issues with giving the ball to the other team. With ten returning starters on defense and an offense that returns leading rusher Tarean Folston and wide receiver Will Fuller (1,094 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns last season). Worth mentioning are two wide receiver sons of professional athletes, Corey Robinson (son of NBA legend David Robinson) and Torii Hunter (son of the current Minnesota Twin outfield with the same name). You would never be able to tell from his volatile angry sideline demeanor, but Brian Kelly has had great success for Notre Dame in his five seasons since taking over after they got rid of the washed-up whale Weis. This is one of his most talented teams yet, and how they do in a three week stretch in October when they play at Clemson and against USC, followed by a season ending matchup against Stanford, will determine just how far they can rise.
11. Georgia Mark Richt and the Bulldogs are a perennially entertaining team to watch, but never seem to reach the full potential that their talent level dictates they should. In the past two years they have been underdogs only twice, but have only an 18-8 record to show for it, which includes two losses they suffered as double-digit favorites. This years team is loaded as usual, with sophomore Nick Chubb taking over for Todd Gurley after rushing for 1,547 yards and fourteen touchdowns in his absence due to injury last season. Last seasons 17th rated defense in the country returns six starters, including dominating linebacker Leonard Floyd who should help fill the gap left by a departing duo at the position who each had 110+ tackles a season ago and hopefully help his Bulldog team get to the SEC Title and earn a playoff spot.
12. LSU Fans in Baton Rouge had seen the team go 44-6 from 2010-2013, but last year the Tigers ended the season with a lackluster 8-5 record, winning only one of their last four games and finishing off the year unranked in the polls. Their defense wasnt the issue last season, as it ranked 9th in the country, the offense was the culprit. They ranked 114th in passing in 2014 and with further uncertainty at quarterback, will need their skill position players to step up even more so then before. They have a well-rounded group of wide receivers, most notably Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre, and promising sophomore running back Leonard Fournette, who last year set a freshman school record with 1,034 yards rushing. Whoever lands the starting quarterback job between Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings will certainly have the tools around them to succeed in the always loaded SEC West division, but will have to be more reliable with their on the field play if the Tigers are going to reach the playoffs.
13. Clemson After a 20 year streak of never hitting double-digit wins in a season, the Tigers have gone four years in a row hitting that mark, and have won three straight bowl games, all as an underdog. They return only three starters from last years stellar defense, and hope to offset the losses with a powerful offense led by sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson, who played proficiently well in eight games as a starter with a 14-2 touchdown to interception ratio before his season ended abruptly with a torn ACL. If Watson can continue to make a connection with a stacked wide receiving core led by Mike Williams and Artavis Scott and keep some of the pressure off of the defense, it should be another great year for head coach Dabo Swinney and the Clemson faithful.
14. UCLA Joel Rosen was one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks coming out of high school. He enrolled early for his freshman year to begin preparing as soon as possible. He is the only non-returning starter from the offense and will hope the offensive line can play better this year than it did last when it struggled to give his predecessor, Brett Hundley, enough time to work his magic on the field. The Pac 12s leading rusher with 1,575 yards, Paul Perkins, is also back and should be able to take enough pressure off to give Rosen enough time to grow into the position. It looks to be another strong year in Los Angeles for Jim Mora, who has done a great job in his three years since taking over as head coach after the disappointing Rick Neuheisel era, having gone 29-11 so far, which includes and impressive Pac-12 record of 18-9.
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15. Wisconsin Former Badger quarterback and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst inherits a strong team including a defense that ranked fourth in the FBS last season and returns a strong linebacking group led by Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert. Its always difficult to replace someone like running back Melvin Gordon, who ran for 2,587 yards and 32 touchdowns, but new starter Corey Clement should do well as he managed to put up 949 yards and 9 touchdowns despite playing second fiddle last season. Despite beginning the season against Alabama, Wisconsin has a favorable schedule and avoids the top four teams out of the Big 10s East division, including top ten Ohio State and Michigan State. If they can get more consistent play out of senior quarterback Joel Stave, the Badgers should be back in the Big 10 title game and competing for a playoff spot at the end of the year.
16. Stanford After four straight 11+ win seasons, the Cardinal stumbled a bit last year, ending the season with a 8-5 record, while going just 1-5 against ranked teams. Fifth year senior quarterback Kevin Hogan returns after coming on strong at the end of last season, when the team won their final three games of the year by at least twenty one points per game. The defense returns only four starters from a squad that ranked third in the nation, but a favorable schedule that includes only one difficult conference road game (USC in week 3) has head coach David Shaw confident that they can return to a BCS bowl and get back to playing for the Pac-12 title as they did in 2012 and 2013.
17. Mississippi In 2011, Ole Miss went 2-10 and then brought in Hugh Freeze as head coach. Since then, the team has increased their win total three straight years. Last season the team won their first seven games and reached as high as 3rd in the polls, but then went 2-4 to end the season, culminated by a blowout Peach Bowl loss to TCU 42-3. This year, the defense returns seven starters from a team that ranked first in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of only 16 points per game, which is even more impressive considering they play in the best conference in the country, the SEC. The offense gets nine back, and while they will miss Bo Wallace at quarterback, prolific wide receiver Laquon Treadwell returns after breaking his leg going into the end zone in the final seconds against Auburn during a play that has a huge part in their downfall at the end of last season. While they probably wont continue their win progression of the past three seasons, an easy non-conference slate should help the Rebels offset their never easy SEC schedule.
18. Oklahoma For some programs, eight wins in a season is a sign of success. Not for the Sooners, where last years 8 wins tied for the lowest the team has had since 1999. While the season did have its highlights, namely true freshman Samaje Perine running for an FBS record 427 yards against Kansas, it didnt end on a strong note, as they lost to in-state rival Oklahoma State the following week as a 21 point favorite and then got blown out in their bowl game against Clemson 40-6. With Perine returning and a dominant linebacking crew led by Eric Striker and Dominique Alexander back for the defense, but they will need to close the season better than last year, as they end 2015 with games against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State.
19. Georgia Tech The Yellow Jackets entered last season unranked, but finished the year up with an 11-3 record, ending the regular season by beating rival Georgia and stopping a five game losing streak against their in-state rival. Then, after narrowly losing to Florida State by two points in the ACC Championship, they earned a spot in a BCS bowl and dismantled #8 Mississippi State 49-34. This year they return only five starters from the number one ranked rushing offense in the country, but thankfully for the Yellow Jackets, Justin Thomas is back to lead the team after rushing for 1,086 yards and eight touchdowns to go along with eighteen touchdown passes. With a tough ACC schedule along with non-conference matchups against Notre Dame and Georgia, Thomas will need to perform even better in 2015 due to a strong lack of experience in the backfield.
20. Arizona State Todd Graham took over as head coach of the Sun Devils in 2012 after the Dennis Erickson era sputtered out and the team has gone 28-12 since, with an impressive 19-9 record in the Pac-12 Conference. This year they return sixteen starters and though they will miss departing quarterback Taylor Kelly, senior Mike Bercovici did well having to repeatedly sub in for Kelly last year due to injuries, much emphasis will be made to get the ball to multi-dimensional weapon DJ Foster, who in 2014 ran for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns while snagging 62 passes for 688 yards receiving and three TD’s. How quickly Bercovici can adapt will go a long way in showing if ASU can make it three years in a row with double digit wins on the season.
21. Arkansas Going into LSU late last season, things were going downhill fast for head coach Bret Bielema. His team had only produced a 4-5 record, after going 3-9 the previous season, and had just lost it’s thirteenth straight SEC conference game. The Razorbacks responded by shutting out LSU 17-0 and then the following week they again dominated, blanking #8 Ole Miss 30-0, before finally ending their season by crushing Texas 31-7 in the Texas Bowl. This year they return six starters on defense and nine starters on offense, including two 1100+ yard rushers (Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins) and an efficient quarterback (Brandon Allen) who threw for 20 touchdown passes compared to only five interceptions. If they can continue their momentum from last seasons strong finish, Bielema and the Backs should be able to take strong advantage of a weak non-conference schedule.
22. Boise State After a disappointing 8-5 season in 2013, Bryan Harsin took over as head coach and the team responded with a 12-2 season, highlighted by a nine game winning streak to end the year that included a Mountain West title and a Fiesta Bowl upset win over #12 Arizona. This year they return seventeen starters overall, including nine on offense, though they do have to replace their cornerstones, Grant Hedrick at quarterback and stud RB Jay Ajayi and his 2000+ yards and 32 touchdowns at running back. Despite those losses, they face just the 104th rated schedule in the country in 2015 and get to avoid playing the top three teams from their conferences Western Division. Expect to see Harsin and his Broncos back in a BCS bowl game in January.
23. Tennessee The Volunteers ended the 2007 season with a 10-4 record, but have been in a tailspin since, going just 40-47, with a disappointing 17-39 record in the SEC. To make matters worse, they have lost to their main rival, Florida, ten years in a row and have gone just 1-26 over the past five years against ranked teams. There is new hope in Knoxville though in 2015, as they team returns eighteen starters, including junior quarterback Josh Dobbs, who led the team to a 4-1 record in their final five games after taking over as starter. The defense is very strong all around and returns its leaders in tackles (linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin), sacks (linebacker Curt Maggit), tackles for loss (defensive end Derek Barnett) and all-SEC second team cornerback Cameron Sutton. This is definitely one of the better Vols team in recent years, but they will have to start making strides in-conference and beating quality (i.e. ranked) teams if they want to get back to the double-digit wins of years past.
24. Missouri After getting shutout by Georgia 34-0 in week 6, the Tigers were 4-2 and quarterback Maty Mauk was dealing with a nagging shoulder injury. The next week they went into the Swamp against the Gators and won going away 42-13, which sparked them onto a 6 game winning, all against SEC foes. They went on to lose to Alabama the SEC title game, but then won handily against Minnesota 33-17 in the Citrus Bowl. This year they get four offensive line starters back to protect a healthy Mauk at quarterback and Russell Hansborough at running back, who ran for 1,084 yards and ten touchdowns last year, despite splitting carries with now graduated Marcus Murphy. With Hansborough getting a full load of carries to show off his talent and a strong defense returning two linebackers that each had over 110+ tackles, Mizzou has a decent chance to make it three double digit seasons in a row and a possible fourth consecutive bowl win.
25. Arizona Rich Rodriguez is back for this fourth year as head coach for the Wildcats, having led them to a 26-14 record so far, including two bowl wins and a spot in the Pac-12 title game in 2013. This year they get their top three playmakers back on offense from 2014 – Sophomore quarterback Anu Solomon, who threw for 3,793 yards and 28 touchdowns, sophomore running back Nick Wilson, who ran for 1,375 yards and sixteen touchdown, and wide receiver Cayleb Jones, who caught 73 passes for 1,019 yards and nine scores. The defense returns the incredibly exciting to watch, linebacker Scooby Wright, who last year led the NCAA in tackles with 163 and TFL with 29, while also contributing fourteen sacks. He also led the NCAA in causing terrible jokes by game announcers, who every week would insist on bringing out and making the worst Scooby Doo references imaginable. You can probably look forward to hearing more of the same in 2015, but on a positive note, you will also see the same up-tempo style of play that has made Rich Rod and the Wildcats a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
26. Virginia Tech Fans in Blacksburg had enjoyed eight double-digit win seasons in a row before 2012. Since then, head coach Frank Beamer and the Hokies have gone just 22-17, with a disappointing 12-12 record in the ACC. They should see vast improvement this year, with eight returning starters on each side of the ball, including a defense that has future NFL talent all over it’s defensive line. Opposing receivers are expected to struggle against Kendall Fuller, the top ranked cornerback for next years draft. If returning quarterback Michael Brewer can play with more consistency and limit his turnovers, and the team can take advantage of an easier conference schedule where they avoid the top three teams out of the Atlantic division, Va. Tech could very well go from worst to first in their division and get back to the ACC title game and become bowl relevant for the first time since 2011.
27. Oklahoma State After injuries decimated their quarterback depth chart, the Cowboys were forced to un-redshirt freshman Mason Rudolph, who responded by leading the team to wins in their final two games, first a regular season ending upset as a 21 point underdog at Oklahoma 38-35, and then followed by 30-22 Cactus Bowl victory as a six point underdog against Washington. They also return eight starters on both sides of the ball, with the defensive side being led by the talented trio of cornerback Kevin Peterson, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and linebacker Ryan Simmons. An easy non-conference schedule should lead to a 3-0 start for Okie State, and with a favorable Big-12 lineup where they get all their toughest opponents at home in Stillwater, should help the Cowboys to a successful 2015, but how they finish in the last month with games against TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma will show what they are truly made of.
28. Texas A&M Quarterback Kenny Hill transferred to TCU after last years behavioral problem plagued season, leaving the team in the hands of Sophomore Kyle Allen. Allen responded nicely tossing nineteen touchdowns compared to only seven touchdowns the previous year. He will have a lot of options with a well rounded bunch of wide receivers. The defense will need to improve on last years output, which ranked 102nd in the country and last out of fourteen teams in the SEC. However, there is hope with eight returning starters including sophomore defensive end Myles Garret, who set a freshman conference record with 11.5 sacks last year. With sixteen returning starters overall and only three SEC road games, the Aggies should be in for another successful season and a fifth straight bowl game.
29. Utah Back to back 5-7 seasons in 2012-2013 had fans in Salt Lake City on edge, but a 9-4 record last season, which included a 45-10 bowl win against Colorado State, has them looking forward to the Utes fifth year as a member of the Pac-12 Conference. Running back Devontae Booker returns after rushing for over 1,500 yards and ten touchdowns last season, and this year will enjoy the same company as last, as four starters return from their offensive line that opened up plenty of holes for him in 2014. On defense, they will miss Nate Orchard and his 18.5 sacks, but return linebacker Jared Norris, who led the team with 116 tackles and 9 tackles for loss. It will be difficult to start the season with new coordinators on both offense and defense, but the Utes have a strong enough team to get past that and build on the momentum of last years nine win season.
30. Mississippi State Head coach Dan Mullen won well-deserved SEC head coach of the year honors in 2014 after leading the team to a 10-3 record and its first #1 ranking in the polls in school history, when they held the position for four weeks last season before losing to Alabama 25-20 in early November. Their season ended up with the team losing three of their last four games. This year, they return an SEC low seven starters, but Mullen is grateful that one of them is quarterback Dak Prescott, who passed on a chance to go to the NFL to come back and lead the Bulldogs to a sixth straight bowl game and an outside shot at the Heisman Trophy.
31. Penn State Ranked by most pundits as a top prospect for the 2016 NFL Draft, quarterback Christian Hackenburg returns for his junior year after leading an offense that struggled in 2014, thanks to questionable play by the offensive line that rippled through the entire offense, leading to struggles in the running game and Hackenburg to end up with more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (12). If the QB can get more time in the pocket to find leading wide receiver DeSean Hamilton, who finished last year as the Big Ten leader in receptions with 82, the team should continue to improve, also aided by the sanctions of their disgraceful behavior in the past being senselessly reduced by the NCAA last season as they seemingly forgot what the administration knowingly allowed to continue to happen on their campus.
32. Nebraska After going either 10-4 or 9-4 over the past six years, Bo Pelini was let go as head coach. He is replaced by Mike Riley, who brings his pro-style offense in from Oregon State, and will have a big hole to fill at running back with the departure of first round pick running back Ameer Abdullah and his 1,611 rushing yards/22 touchdowns. The Cornhuskers benefit from a weak conference road schedule. If Tommy Armstrong can adapt his skill set to the new offense, they should be able to continue their recent 9-10 wins per season streak.
33. Texas The Longhorns went under .500 for the second time in the past five years and the pressure is on head coach Charlie Strong to turn things around sooner than later. For that to happen, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes must play with much more consistency if the offense is going to be able to improve on last years numbers that ranked 110th in the country and essentially disappeared in the final two games of last season when they were outscored 17-79, including a twenty four point loss in their home state Texas Bowl. The defense has it’s issues too, as they return only five starters and lose six of their top seven tacklers from the year before. There is a lot of room for improvement and how Strong manages the team through these road blocks will determine their season.
34. Michigan Fans and alumni of Big Blue rejoiced when bumbling buffoon Brady Hoke was finally fired as head coach after going 12-14 over the past two seasons. The team scored a huge victory in hiring Jim Harbaugh as head coach, who left the NFL after alienating everyone who was part of the San Francisco 49ers over the past few seasons. He should instantly be able to help with the recent inconsistent play at the quarterback position, and in turn improve on their 112th rated offense and -16 turnover margin that ranked 121th in the country.
35. Louisville Since the departure of Teddy Bridgewater after the 2013 season, there has been massive unsettlement at the quarterback position for the Cardinals. This year they return three for the position who attempted at least 75 passes last season, but have only one wide receiver coming back who had over 10 catches in 2014. Personality-challenged head coach Bobby Petrino has only nine returning starters, but thankfully scored some decent transfers in the offseason who should help fill many of the holes left by departing players. The back half of the schedule is much easier than the first, which includes games against top 15 teams Auburn, Clemson and Florida State. The team will hope to gain cohesiveness as the year goes on and finish on a better note than the 37-14 whooping they got from Georgia in last seasons bowl game.
36. Miami Its been over a decade since the Hurricanes have been contenders in college football, but there is hope for this year and the future with a strong-young team, led by Sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya, who earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 2014 after throwing for 3,198 yards yards and 26 touchdowns. They did lose seven players to the NFL Draft, including running back Duke Johnsons 2000+ yards of total offense and linebacker Denzel Perryman (110 tackles), but they still return Kaaya and six defensive starters from a squad that ranked fourteenth overall in the country in total defense. The team is likely to play in their third straight bowl game and deserve to be called The U again.
37. West Virginia With the departure of wide receiver Kevin White, the number seven pick in last years NFL draft and quarterback Clint Trickett, the Mountaineers have some big shoes to fill on an offense that averaged 499.8 yards per game, which ranked twelfth in all of the FBS. Thankfully, their defense is looking much better, with nine returning starters including linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski and safety Karl Joseph, who combined for 195 tackles last year. More than anything, they will need to do a much better job protecting the ball on offense and causing turnovers on defense, as last they ranked a paltry 119th in the country in turnover margin.
38. BYU Last year started perfectly for the Cougars, running through September with a 4-0 record, including an impressive blowout win at Texas 41-7 and two straight wins against ranked teams (Houston and Virginia). Then in week five, disaster struck when “All Purpose” quarterback Taysom Hill got knocked out with a season ending injury after tearing multiple ligaments in his knee. The team went into a tailspin losing their next four games, but turned it around late in the year by winning their last four regular season games before losing a double overtime bowl battle against Memphis, 55-48. Four major things should determine how 2015 will go for the Cougars How effective Hill can be coming back from his devastating injury, how often he can get the ball to unheralded wide receiver Mitch Matthew, how much the only five returning starters on defense can improve on last seasons average points per game allowed of 37.1 (114th in the country), and how the team responds to a brutal early season schedule that includes Boise State and road games against Nebraska, UCLA and Michigan.
39. California Cal returns seventeen starters, including running back Daniel Lasco (1,115 yards rushing/14 touchdowns) and wide receiver Kenny Lawler (nine touchdowns/701 yards), but its top NFL QB prospect Jared Goff Jr. that has Golden Bear fans excited for 2015. More than anything, they will need their nine returning starters on defense to play significantly better than last year, when their defense ranked 121st in college football while allowing a massive 39.8 points per game. Sonny Dykes has stumbled out of the gate as Cals head coach, winning just six games in his first two years. Dykes will need to get all he can out of a team that will be losing a majority of it’s talent after the season.
40. N.C. State The Wolfpack were consistently inconsistent last year, going 4-0 to start the year, then 0-4, then 4-1 to end the season, including a bowl win against UCF. With the team returning a pair of seniors in quarterback Jacoby Brisset (23 to 5 touchdown to interception ratio) and running back Shadrach Thomas (907 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns), things are looking up for coach Dave Doeren in his third year with the team. For the squad to reach their full potential, the Wolfpack will need to improve their recent performances vs. ACC opponents, where they have gone 3-23 in their last 26 conference road games. At one point, they lost twelve conference games in a row during the last two seasons.
41. Minnesota Returning Big Ten coach of the year Jerry Kill will have his hands full this year, having to replace 6 starters, including running back David Cobb and Tight End Maxx Williams amongst others, on a team that ranked 103rd in total offense. The defense has seven starters back, but lose Damien Wilson, who led the team in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks. The Gophers have won eight games in each of the last two seasons, but an opening game against TCU and a tough Big 10 schedule will mean that quarterback Mitch Leidover will not only need to continue to effectively run the ball, but continue his progression as a passer.
42. Florida Jim McElwain enters his first season as head coach for the Gators, having replaced Will Muschamp, who went 11-14 over the last two seasons and always seemed to be in over his head. I believe he is more fit for a coordinator job than a head coach. Major questions abound on a offense that returns only four starters from a squad that ranked 93rd in the country and 12th out of 14 in the SEC. Thankfully for McElwain, the defense that ranked fifteenth in FBS last year returns seven starters, most notably future NFL first round pick, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Florida will need to build momentum with a manageable September schedule before entering the always tough SEC and ending their regular season against in-state rival Florida State.
43. Kansas State The Wildcats have gone an impressive 27-9 in the Big 12 and have been to five straight bowl games since the return of legendary coach Bill Snyder five years ago, who has earned a well deserved reputation of always getting the very best out of his players. Last year, K.State went 9-4, with their only regular season losses to Auburn, TCU and Baylor. In 2015, they have to replace their starting quarterback, running back and multiple wide receivers from last year, but do return the versatile FB/TE/RB Glenn Gronkowski, who had last years highlight of the season, a 62 yard touchdown at Oklahoma that sparked the team to a 31-30 road victory. They will enter the Big 12 season with their usual soft, September non-conference schedule with a 3-0 record, but Snyder will need to work his magic to fill the holes left by their departing offensive weapons.
44. Cincinnati Gunner Kiel was the number one rated quarterback out of high school when he signed on to play at Notre Dame, but soon after, he transferred to Cinci and now returns for his second year as the Bearcats signal caller. He will enjoy the benefit having his top six wide receivers back. Question marks remain on a defense though, which ranked 96th last year. With only five returning starters, there are plenty of holes to fill. But if Kiel, who has encountered significant durability issues in the past, can stay on the field and keep an offense moving that averaged over 37 points per game in last years 7-0 streak, it should be a successful year in the AAC for him and coach Tommy Tuberville.
45. North Carolina Ten starters return on offense for the Tar Heels, led by quarterback Marquise Williams, who last season threw for over 3,000 yards and twenty-one touchdowns while running for 788 yards and thirteen touchdowns. Williams gets his top four receivers back from the year before, most notably Ryan Switzer and Quinshad Davis. Former Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, who won a title with the Tigers in 2012, comes out of retirement to take over a defense that ranked 117th in 2014. Multiple NCAA investigations have certainly taken its toll on recruiting, but with the experience they are returning (seventeen starters overall), there will be no excuses if they cant improve on last seasons 6-7 record that saw their average loss end up being over twenty points per game.
46. Duke Quarterback Anthony Boone is gone after leading the team to a 19-8 record over the past two seasons, and not to be outdone, a 19-7-1 record against the spread. They will surely miss Boone and departing wide receiver/ACC record holder for receptions in a year (106) Jamison Crowder, but thankfully do return former NFL wide receiver Easy Ed McCaffreys son Max and improving running back Shaquille Powell. The Blue Devils have their traditionally weak non-conference schedule and avoid the top four teams out of the ACCs Atlantic Division, so they should be returning to their fourth consecutive bowl game where they will be looking to win their first postseason game since 1961.
47. Pittsburgh An exciting offense awaits Panther faithful this year, especially with two juniors who will be early picks in the NFL draft, wide receiver Tyler Boyd and running back James Conner. Boyd caught 78 passes for 1,261 yards and 8 touchdowns last year. Even an offseason DUI arrest hasnt kept him from being one of the top projected wide receivers for next years draft. Conner returns after breaking through with 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns, which earned him Offensive Player of the Year honors in the ACC. The team returns quarterback Chad Voytik, who took over in the second half of last year and led the team to an average of thirty points per game. Things are definitely looking up for Pat Narduzi, who unbelievably is the seventh head coach the team has had since 2010 when Dave Wannstedt was rocking his sweet mustache on the sidelines.
48. South Carolina After three straight top ten finishes, Spurrier and the Gamecocks crashed back to reality with a 7-6 record last year, which was the same amount of losses they had in those previous three seasons when they had a combined record of 33-6. Last year they struggled mightily against the run, ranking 105th. This year, they get eight starters back which could be a good or bad thing. Only time will tell. A gaping hole at quarterback is one of many issues on the offense that returns only four starters, one of which is the teams best player, wide receiver Pharoah Cooper, who returns for his junior season after racking up 1,136 yards and nine touchdowns receiving, along with two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns. Unfortunately for this squad, he cant play all eleven positions on offense, so others will need to step up if they want to get back to the success expected from Spurrier and his squad.
49. Texas Tech The last season and a half has not been kind to head coach Kliff Kingsbury. After ending the 2013 season on a 1-5 slide, the Red Raiders went 4-8 in 2014, with a Big-12 conference record of 2-7, which included five double-digit losses lowlighted by an 82-27 drubbing against TCU. Its easy to see how they were so bad, as their defense let up over 40 points a game and ranked 122nd in the country, along with a -13 turnover margin which ranked 116th. There is hope for optimism in Lubbock this year, as the team returns seventeen starters overall, including nine on an offense returning 1,100+ yard rusher DeAndre Washington and exciting sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who last started the last four games of the season and ended up with sixteen touchdowns passes, compared to only four interceptions. If they can play better in-conference (and there is a lot of room for improvement) Kingsbury should earn himself another year or two as head coach.
50. Iowa The Hawkeyes started last year with a 5-1 record but stumbled there after, going 2-5 to finish the year, including a 45-28 bowl loss against Tennessee. This year, they need to replace their starting quarterback, running back and leading receiver from 2014. They should start the season 4-0 with a manageable non-conference schedule in September, and as long as they continue their usual .500 play in the Big Ten, another bowl trip should be in the cards for Iowa.
51. Central Florida Head coach George OLeary returns for his twelfth season at UCF, the last three of which have been incredibly successful, with a record of 31-9 (22-2 in conference) which includes two bowl wins, most notably a 2013 Fiesta Bowl upset of Baylor 52-42 as a sixteen point underdog. This year, OLeary has his work cut out for him with just nine returning starters overall, including only four on a defense that loses it’s top five tacklers from 2014. Improving on last years win total of nine will be tough, especially with two early season road trips against Stanford and South Carolina, but with their veteran coachs guidance, they should still continue to find success in the American Athletic Conference.
52. Memphis After only ten wins in the previous four seasons, Memphis broke through with a 10-3 record in 2014, winning their last seven games, including a 55-48 double overtime thriller against BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl. 67 quarterback Paxton Lynch is back after throwing for over 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore, but its the defense who may run into problems as they lost their coordinator and return only three starters. A road game at Houston on November 14th should decide the American Athletic Conferences West division.
53. Utah State The last three seasons have been quite a run for the Aggies, going 30-11 overall and enjoying three straight bowl wins. Oft injured Chuckie Keeton returns for his senior season at quarterback, and hopes to stay on the field long enough to get the ball to leading wide receiver Hunter Sharp, who last year caught 66 passes for 939 yards and seven touchdowns. Their biggest hurdle will continue to be getting past Boise State in their division (Mountain West), who they have lost to twelve times in a row, including the last nine by average of over 34 points per game.
54. San Diego State 59 running back Donnel Pumphrey returns after an incredible sophomore season that saw him run for 1,867 yards and twenty touchdowns, including ten games where he topped the 100 yard mark. Former Kentucky starter Maxwell Smith transfers in at quarterback, and will need to provide balance in their pro style offense to prevent teams from stacking the box against Pumphrey. It will be imperative for the team to improve a passing offense that ranked 106th in the country last year. The Aztecs will surely need to get better on the road after going only 1-5 last year, especially with tough games at California and Penn State to start the year, but should be in for a strong year with D-Pump and a weak schedule, other than the early non-conference trips.
55. Marshall After four years as starter at quarterback, the unheralded Rakeem Cato ended his career in 2014 with a bang, leading the Thundering Herd to a 13-1 record and ending the year with a resounding 52-23 bowl win. It will be difficult to replace Cato in an offense that ranked second overall in the country, but thankfully senior running back Devon Johnson returns after rushing for 1,767 yards and scoring nineteen touchdowns last season. Their game the night after Thanksgiving at Western Kentucky, who handed Marshall their only loss last year, should decide who the Conference USA East champion will be and possibly propel the Herd to their second straight conference title.
56. Washington The Husky defense saw three of its players go in the first 25 picks of the 2015 NFL draft, and this year returns only four starters, three of which were defensive backs on a D that was ranked 120th against the pass in 2014. To make matters worse, expected starting quarterback Cyler Miles retired from football last month due to a consistent hip injury from a torn labrum he suffered in high school. Washington won nine games in 2013 and eight last year, but matching those win totals may be too tough of a task for a team so strongly lacking in experience and is going up against the fifth hardest schedule in the country.
57. Kentucky Mark Stoops, the third of the Brothers Stoops to become a NCAA head coach, has his work cut out for him in his third year in Lexington after a record of only 7-17 so far. Last year started well for the Wildcats, going 5-1 with their only loss a triple overtime thriller at Florida. Then they did a 180 and lost their last six games of the season. In the past three years, Kentucky has only two conference wins and only two victories past the mid-October mark, and those W’s were against non-FBS teams Samford and Alabama State. They will need to learn to finish if they are going to be anything more than a laughable after-thought when compared to their basketball program.
58. Louisiana Tech Running back Kenneth Dixon was the pilot of the Bulldogs offense last year, scoring 28 touchdowns with just under 1,700 yards of total offense. This year he will be joined by quarterback Jeff Driskel, who is transferring from Florida after initially being a prized recruit for the Gators. If La. Tech can continue their momentum from last season when they finished the year with five wins in their last six games, including a bowl win against Illinois, they should be able to match last years win total of nine and get back to the Conference USA title game.
59. Houston Ohio States Offensive Coordinator in 2014, Tom Herman, takes over as head coach after Tony Levine was surprisingly let go after back-to-back 8-5 seasons. He will have holes to fill at wide receiver, but thankfully has a returning starting quarterback and more importantly still has running back Kenneth Farrow, who last season ran for over 1,000 yards and scored fifteen touchdowns. They should be helped on the other side of the ball by a very strong defensive backfield, led by seniors William Jackson and Adrian Macdonald. Herman worked magic last year with Ohio States injury riddled quarterback situation and should find quality success down in Texas as well.
60. Colorado The Buffaloes have fallen on hard times of late, having won only fifteen games over the past five seasons, two conference games in the past three seasons and no bowl appearances since 2007. Playing in the Pac-12 South certainly wont help this year, as the conference could have five of their six teams ranked in the top 25 to start the season. There is hope for optimism in 2015 though, with the return of the great pass-catch combination of quarterback Sefo Liufau, who threw for 3,200 yards and 28 touchdowns last year and wide receiver Nelson Spruce, who hauled in 106 catches for 1,198 yards and twelve touchdowns.
61. Northwestern In 2012 the Wildcats went 10-3 and the ended the year with a strong Gator Bowl victory against Mississippi State, 34-20. Since then, they have had back-to-back disappointing 5-7 seasons, and will need running back Justin Jackson to be the focal point of their offense as he was as a true freshman last year, when he ran for 1,187 yards and ten touchdowns. They will be tested early with non-conference games against other smart schools, hosting Stanford in week one and going on the road against Duke in week three. How they navigate through the Big Ten will decide if they can get back to a bowl game after a two year absence.
62. Virginia Mike London is feeling the heat as the Cavaliers head coach, as his team has gone a measly 7-17 over the past two seasons with only two conference wins. It doesnt look like things will get any easier for him this year, with only nine returning starters and having to play the twelfth hardest schedule in the country, which includes non-conference games against UCLA, Notre Dame and Boise State in the first month of the season! With only one bowl trip in his five seasons leading the team and a bleak outlook for 2015, it looks like this could be Londons last in Charlottesville.
63. Boston College Eagle head coach Steve Addazio has a well deserved reputation for getting the best out of his players. He will need that ability “ten-fold” for his team to find success in 2015. The Eagles return just ten starters, including zero on the offensive line and the only quarterback with experience has thrown a total of eight passes in his career. They will need sophomore running back Jon Hillman to take over the offense and hopefully improve on his successful rookie season when he ran for 860 yards and 13 touchdowns. With a manageable schedule BC should find themselves back in a bowl game where they will attempt to end their recent five game postseason losing streak, four of the losses having been against un-ranked teams.
64. Rutgers The Scarlett Knights first season in the Big Ten was a successful one as they finished the year with eight wins, including a 40-21 bowl victory against North Carolina. This year they return only ten starters, the least amount in their conference, including a new quarterback, who will need to do his best to find returning wide receiver Leonte Carroo, who had over 1,000 yards receiving in 2014 along with ten touchdowns. They will probably struggle again in Big Ten play and matching last years conference record of 3-5 will be tough, but a cupcake non-conference schedule should help get Jerseys favorite college football team to their fifth bowl game in a row.
65. Toledo Running back Kareem Hunt returns to lead last years 12th in the nation rated rushing attack, when he ran for 1,631 yards and 16 touchdowns, including a 270+ yard and five touchdown performance in their GoDaddy bowl whooping of Arkansas State, 63-44. The defense was Jekyll and Hyde in 2014, ranking 14th against the rush and a putrid 123rd against the pass. They return all of their starting defensive backs from a year ago, who will have to improve on last years inability to do anything against the pass if the Rockets want to get back to their first MAC title game in over a decade.
66. Northern Illinois The last five seasons have been quite a run for the Huskies and their faithful fans, going 57-13 overall, enjoying five straight years with at least eleven wins, five MAC West titles, three conference championships and only two regular season conference losses. If they want to continue that high level of success this year, they will need returning quarterback Drew Hare to continue his strong play from 2014 when he ran for 900 yards and eight touchdowns while throwing for over 2,300 yards with eighteen touchdowns and only two interceptions. If that happens, NIU could be playing in their sixth consecutive MAC title game.
67. Bowling Green The Falcons have done surprisingly well of late, winning at least eight games in all of the past three seasons, along with two trips to their conference championship game. This year they face a couple obstacles, namely improving a defense that ranked 115th overall in the country and navigating a reasonably difficult early non-conference schedule that includes road trips to Tennessee, Maryland and Purdue. With ten returning starters on offense and a full year of experience under second year head coach Dino Babers system, Bowling Green should be able to offset their early hurdles and put together a decent season and make a probable return to a fourth straight bowl game.
68. Maryland Dual-threat quarterback CJ Brown has graduated, and how traditional passer Caleb Rowe does in replacing him should dictate the Terps season. He will have a chance to grow into the role with a weak, early non-conference schedule that should benefit their defense as well, which returns a meager four starters, only one of which is on their front seven. Theyve finished the past two years with consecutive 7-6 records and trips to a bowl game. How quickly their new starters can adapt will decide if they make the postseason for the third year in a row.
69. Washington State Mike Leach returns for his fourth year as head coach at Wazzu along with his 12-25 record, including 7-20 in the Pac-12. He could (and should!) be on the hot seat entering the season. The offense may be returning eight starters, but they will be hard pressed to replace the three they lost to graduation, school record holder in nearly every passing category, quarterback Connor Halliday, and wide receivers Vince Mayle and Isiah Myers, who last year combined for 184 catches, 21 touchdowns and over 2,400 yards of offense. They wont be able to match last years passing offense, which ranked first in the NCAA, but if sophomore quarterback Luke Falk can grow quickly behind an offensive line that returns all five of its starters, Cougar life may continue for Mike Leach.
70. Temple Nineteen starters return for the Owls, including ten from a defense that ranked 4th in the FBS in scoring last year, allowing only 17.5 points per game. They are led by linebacker Tyle Matakevich, who has recorded over 100 tackles in each of his first three seasons. After going thirty years in a row without a bowl berth, Temple was able to go to two in the last five years, and will need junior quarterback PJ Walker to protect the ball more and limit his turnovers with the help of a very experienced offensive line if they are going to continue the programs recent upswing and go Bowling again.
71. Illinois Head coach Tim Beckman has struggled in his first three years at Illinois, leading the team to a record of 12-25, including a 4-20 mark in the Big Ten. They will need to gain momentum early, as they have easy games in three of their first four matchups, which should help offset the loss of quarterback Wes Lunts best weapon on offense, wide receiver Mike Dudek, who had over 1,000 yards last season. He is out with a torn ACL and isn’t expected to return until mid October. If the team cant improve in conference, this could be Beckmans final year in Champaign.
72. Navy The Midshipman have won at least eight games in each of the past three seasons. This year, they join the American Athletic Conference after 100+ years as an Independent. They were hit hard by graduation (returning only four offensive starters), most notably at QB where they lose Keenan Reynolds, the NCAA all time leader for quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns in a career (64) and in a season (31). Despite the loss of Reynolds, an easy schedule should help propel Navy and their vaunted triple option attack to a strong year and start in their new conference.
73. Indiana The Hoosiers have been to one bowl game in the past 22 years. This season they will need Nate Sudfeld to return from a bad shoulder injury suffered last season and hope that UAB transfer Jordan Howard can replace 2,000 yard runner Tevin Coleman at running back to help fix an offense and boost life into a team that finished last season with one win in their last eight games. They will need their four returning starters on the offensive line to keep Sudfeld healthy, as things can only go up for a passing game that finished last year ranked a paltry 120th in the FBS.
74. Western Kentucky Brandon Doughty, the top fantasy college football quarterback in 2014, and easily the top ranked one for 2015, returns for WKU after throwing for 4,830 yards and 49 touchdowns last season. He is joined by running back Leon Allen, who had over 2,000 yards of total offense and sixteen touchdowns on the year. Its easy to see how the Hilltoppers ranked fourth in FBS in total offense, as they averaged over 44.4 points per game, which helped them end the season with a five game winning streak, including a 49-48 bowl victory against Central Michigan. They will need their nine returning starters to improve on a swiss cheese defense that ranked 120th in the nation in 2014 (allowed 39.9 points per game) if they want to have a shot at winning the Conference USA title.
75. East Carolina How the Pirates respond to change will determine their season in 2015, as they will have a new quarterback and offensive coordinator, and most importantly, try and find a way to replace the graduated wide receiver Justin Hardy, the FBS all time leader in receptions. Early season non-conference games against Florida and Virginia Tech will be difficult contests for ECU to win, so coach Ruffin McNeil will need his team to step up in conference play if they want to continue their recent success of a 26-11 record overr the last three seasons, and eight bowl game appearances in their last nine.
76. Oregon State Inexperience is a big factor for the Beavers in 2015, as their defense returns only two starters and they dont have a quarterback on the roster who has a single career pass attempt, as last years starter Sean Mannion was drafted in the third round of the NFL draft by the Rams. Their expected starter, Luke Del Rio, transferred to another college for the second time in three years. New head coach Gary Anderson comes over from Wisconsin to replace the departed Mike Riley and will need whoever takes over the reigns of the quarterback position to quickly adapt to the offense for the Beavs to have any chance in the Pac-12.
77. Appalachian State Last year was the Mountaineers first season in the FBS and they went a surprisingly successful 7-5. This year they are bowl eligible and return 20 starters including their quarterback, Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year Taylor Lamb. Despite playing Clemson in week two of the season, App. State has a good chance of improving on last years win total as they get all three of their main conference opponents at home: Georgia Southern, Arkansas State and UL Lafayette.
78. Georgia Southern Last year was an impressive debut into the FBS for the Eagles, as they finished with a record of 9-3 (8-4 against the spread), 8-0 in-conference and were ranked first nationally in rushing with 381 yards per game. This year they will continue to rely on the running game led by quarterback Kevin Ellison and running back Matt Breida. The talented RB is coming off a season with 1485 yards and seventeen touchdowns. It may be difficult to match last years success while working behind a rebuilt offensive line and going up against tougher non-conference schedule which includes games against Georgia and West Virginia. With the extra motivation of being bowl eligible for the first time in school history, we should be seeing a third team from the state of Georgia joining the Bulldogs and the Yellow Jackets come bowl season.
79. Iowa State The Cyclones participated in back-to-back bowl games in 2011 and 2012, but have since gone 5-19 overall since, including a crappy 2-16 in the Big-12. Their 2014 season was book-ended by a season opening, twenty point home loss to North Dakota State and a 52 point pummeling by TCU. This year, they are hoping that Big-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year Kamari Cotton-Moya can help turn around a squad that ranked dead last in total defense and improve on last years injury ravaged, two win terribleness.
80. Colorado State From early September to late November, the Rams won nine games in a row on their way to a 10-3 record. Wide receiver Rashard Higgins returns for his junior season after leading the nation in receiving touchdowns with seventeen and yardage with 1,750. He will be the clear focal point for an offense desperate for a leader after losing prolific running back Dee Hart and quarterback Garrett Grayson, who was picked by the Saints in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft. First year head coach Mike Bobo will need Graysons replacement, Nick Stevens, to quickly acclimate himself to the offense if Colorado State hopes to get to a third straight bowl game.
81. Vanderbilt After two consecutive 9-4 seasons and three straight bowl appearances, Vandy came plummeting back to reality and ended the season with a 3-9 record, while ranking 122nd in the country in total offense. In-conference, they were even worse, going 0-8 and scoring only nine touchdowns, easily ranking last of the fourteen teams in total offense. There is a glimmer of hope this year with eighteen returning starters, but questions at quarterback in the brutal SEC doesnt spell success for the Commodores in 2015.
82. Massachusetts The return of head coach Mark Whipple to the Minutemen football team in 2014 was an enormous step toward consistency and hopeful success as an FBS program. This years squad is without a doubt the best team UMass has had in team history. They return a total of eighteen starters (nine on offense, nine on defense) from a 3-9 team last year that should have had a much better record, losing six games by seven points or less as they consistently found ways to grasp defeat from the hands of victory. A high scoring offense, led by the connection of quarterback Blake Frohnapfel to future NFL receiver Tajae Sharpe, should light up scoreboards and make UMass an entertaining team to watch this year as they attempt to bring excitement back to college football in New England.
83. Purdue Tough times have hit West Lafayette in the past couple seasons, as the Boilermakers are only 4-20 in that span with just one conference win. They have also been a disaster after the first month of the year, losing ten straight to end their season in 2013 and six in a row to end last year. Other than their usual patsy game in the first month this year against Indiana State, Purdue will be hard pressed to win early on, with non-conference games against Marshall and Virginia Tech and two early road trips in the Big Ten against Michigan State and Wisconsin. When your kicking game is your strength, things arent looking up.
84. Western Michigan The Broncos had a big turnaround last year, going from 1-11 in 2013 to 8-5 in 2014, along with an even more impressive 10-3 record against the spread. The good news for 2015 is that they return sixteen starters, including nine on offense, feating QB Zach Terrell who threw for 3,433 and 26 touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions last year, wide receiver Corey Davis, who had caught 15 touchdowns and had 1408 yards of offense, and most importantly running back Jarvion Franklin, who earned Rookie of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year awards in the MAC in 2014 when he ran for 1,551 yards and 24 touchdowns. The bad news for Western Michigan is the beginning and end of their schedule, as they play Michigan State and Ohio State in the first month of the year and end the season against arguably the three best teams in the MAC, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois and Toledo. How they finish out the year should decide if they can make it back-to-back bowl appearances.
85. Arkansas State This will be year two under coach Blake Anderson, which is good news for stability, as he was the Red Wolves fifth head coach in five years entering last season, who despite the frequent changes were able to reach their fourth bowl in as many years. Their strength again will be an offense that returns nine starters, most importantly two seniors who had big year’s in 2014, quarterback Fredi Knighton, who accounted for over 4,000 yards of total offense, and running back Michael Gordon, who ran for 1,100 yards and thirteen touchdowns. They will start out 0-2 after traveling to USC and hosting Missouri to begin the year, and will need to find success within the Sun Belt if they want to make it five straight bowl games.
86. Air Force The Falcons record was a near palindrome in the past two years, as they went from 2-10 in 2013 to 10-3 in 2014. This year they face questions on both sides of the ball, especially at the quarterback position, which is critical for the Air Force option attack to be able to perform well. On the other side, the defense only returns four starters but thankfully for the team, one of them is strong safety Weston Steelhammer, who earned All-Mountain West honors last year, with six interceptions to go along with 61 tackles and three sacks. Matching last years ten wins is unlikely, but if the Falcons get solid play from their quarterback to go along with 1,000 yard running back Jacobi Owens and productive wide receiver Jalen Robinette, they should still have a solid season and get to a bowl game.
87. Syracuse The Orange offense revolves entirely around quarterback Terrell Hunt. When he got hurt in early October last year, it was essentially “over” for the Cuse. They struggled to a 3-9 record, including a dismal 1-9 in their last ten games. Hunt is back this year for his senior season and will hope to build a connection with emerging sophomore wide receiver Steve Ishmael. With only three returning starters on defense plus a new offensive system being put in place, Syracuse fans should expect the main battle to be against the next team, Wake Forest, for the basement of the ACC.
88. Wake Forest The Demon Deacons offense was anemic in 2014, ranking dead last in the FBS in total offense, scoring just 14.8 points per game and averaging less than 40 yards rushing per contest. It will be tough to find a victory within the ACC this year, but Wake has surprised before, winning five of their last six conference games an underdog, including a late season 6-3 (sleeper) win last year against Virginia Tech, who were 14 point favorites. Hopefully for the Deacons, their defense, which returns three players who had over 100 tackles each last season (linebackers Brandon Chubb and Marquel Lee along with defensive back Ryan Janvion), can keep their games close enough to help them sneak out another upset win or two.
89. Middle Tennessee State MTSU returns sixteen starters, eight on each side of the ball, most notably safety Kevin Byard and linebacker T.T. Barber, but it it’s the team’s offense where they drastically need things to change, namely with turnovers (they ranked 92nd in the country). Dual-threat quarterback Austin Grammer had nearly 3,000 yards of total offense last year, but down the stretch had a major issue with giveaways, which cant happen this year for MTSU if they plan on navigating a tough schedule that includes non-conference opponents Alabama, Vanderbilt and Illinois and road trips for their two toughest conference opponents, Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky.
90. Ohio The success of the Bobcats and head coach Frank Solich will come down to two players, who will both have to take over their side of the ball for Ohio to have a quality season; linebacker Jovon Johnson and running back A.J Ouellete. Johnson will have to lead his experienced linebacking core and hopefully offset the rest of a defense overflowing with question marks. While Ouellete, who came on strong at the end of last season after turnovers plagued the Bobcat backfield, will hope to improve on his 900+ yards of total offense and ten touchdowns and provide a spark to their offense and catapult the team forward to a successful season in the MAC.
91. UL Lafayette After going 3-9 in 2010, the Ragin Cajuns have rattled of four consecutive 9-win seasons and even more impressive, four straight bowl victories. This year, head coach Mark Hodgpeth will count on his running back whose name sounds like that of an Amish Irishman, Elijah McGuire, who last season was the teams leading rusher and receiver, ending the year with over 1700 yards of total offense and sixteen touchdowns. Their bowl win streak will seemingly rest on their ability to get the ball to McGuire early and often.
92. Fresno State FSU will rely heavily on running back Marteze Walker, who ran for 1368 yards and eleven touchdowns in 2014 despite being stuck in a spread offensive system that doesnt favor his talents. The Bulldogs had expected difficulty replacing quarterback great Derek Carr last season, but will need that inconsistency to be settled if they want to have a good chance of beating out a strong San Diego State team and win their third straight Mountain West division title.
93. Rice The Owls have surprised many over the past three seasons. Led by head coach David Baliff, the team has won 25 games, appeared in three straight bowl games and even won a conference championship. This year they will go as far as their offense can carry them, led by last years Hawaii Bowl MVP, quarterback Driphus Jackson and a ground and pound running game that features what many believe to be the best backfield in Conference USA.
94. Akron – Terry Bowden returns for his fourth season as coach in Akron and is hoping an influx in transfers can offset uncertainty on offense, most notably at the quarterback position. On the other side of the ball, linebacker Jatavis Brown is the leader of a strong defense that returns six starters and hopes to help power the Zips to a successful season aided by a favorable conference schedule.
95. Nevada The Wolfpack have had a surprisingly successful run over the past decade, having gone to a bowl game in ten of their last eleven seasons, thanks in large part to the two quarterbacks who led the team for eight of those, Colin Kapernick and Cody Fajardo. For Nevada to continue their bowl attendance success, it will be counting on a strong backfield and tough defensive front seven led by Ian Seau, nephew of former NFL stud Junior Seau, to carry the team and help take attention away to questions at the quarterback position.
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96. South Florida Coach Willie Taggert is just 6-18 in his first two years as head coach at USF and is feeling the heat. In 2015 he will look to a sophomore to run for the Bulls and help him hold onto his job for another year. Last year running back Marlon Mack won American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1041 yards and nine touchdowns. He hopes to help improve an offense that was 116th in the nation in scoring last season and lost four starting receivers to graduation if the team has any shot at making a bowl game for the first time in five years.
97. New Mexico Going into his fourth year as the Lobos head coach, Bob Davies is looking at another season of struggle. Their only hope is that running back Jhurell Pressley can improve on his 1,083 yards and twelve touchdowns rushing in 2014, and help to offset massive uncertainty at the quarterback position. The team will also need to improve on a defense that ranked 124th overall in the country last year and let up under 28 points only twice the entire season!
98. Texas State Dennis Franchione returns as head coach for the Bobcats after a successful 2014 season that saw his team go 9-3 against the spread (7-5 overall). The team returns key components for their up-tempo, high-scoring offense, quarterback Tyler Jones and running back Robert Lowe. Despite being bowl eligible, Texas State was not invited to play in any postseason action last year, and due to a difficult conference road schedule (not to mention starting the season at Florida State), they may have trouble gaining the eligibility again. Thanks to having a coach like Franchione though, the Texas State faithful will never count their team out.
99. San Jose State – Last season was a difficult one for the Spartans, going 3-9 both straight up and against the spread, but there is hope for the future in San Jose. They return six from a defense that ranked 1st in the country against the pass, which is no small accomplishment considering they play in the high scoring Mountain West Conference. SJSU is hoping that game management quarterback Joe Gray can connect with sure handed wide receiver Tyler Winton to gain some momentum to go along with their top notch recruiting class as they build toward a successful future.
100. Ball State – Replacing running back Jahwan Edwards will be tough for the Cardinals, but returning all ten other offensive starters, including a strong offensive line and most notably wide receiver Jordan Williams, should help lessen the blow. They will need their defense to play better than last year though, when they were mediocre at best and certainly cant afford to play the same in 2015 or it will be another season of struggling for David Lettermans alma mater.
101. UTEP The Miners improved mightily last year, going from a 2-10 record in 2013 to a 7-6 record and a bowl berth in 2014. This year their slow paced offense will rely heavily on running back Aaron Jones, who is coming off a season where he ran for over 1,300 yards and accounted for fourteen total touchdowns. Going behind an offensive line returning four starters should help Jones improve his stats even further, but the rest of the team will have to step up or else defenses will be able to load up the box to stop their one dimensional offense.
102. Kansas – Bloated blowhard Charlie Weis was let go as Kansas head coach four games into last season and they are now led by David Beaty, a recruitment specialist who brings a lot of energy along with his up tempo offense to a Jayhawk program desperate for any positive momentum. In the last four years, Kansas has only two conference wins, and thanks to the hole dug by Weis idiocy, its reasonable to believe they wont get a single win this year.
103. Tulane Last year was a brutal one for the Tulane offense, averaging a measly sixteen points per game, which ranked 121st in the country. Furthermore, The Green Wave have only two wins over the last two years during the months of November and December. If they cant figure out a way to close a season with any semblance of success, its going to be another long year for the Tulane faithful.
104. Wyoming The focal point of the Cowboy offense will be running back Shaun Wick, who had a strong first half of last season before injuries derailed him. Coach Craig Bahl, entering his second year as Wyoming head coach, after finding great success at North Dakota State, is hoping their strong rushing attack can help to keep the inexperienced defense (only four returning starters) off the field and limit the damage they may cause.
105. Central Michigan The Chippewas are led by three year starter at quarterback Cooper Rush, whose name brings back memories of quarterbacks Lance Harbor and Johnny Moxon from West Canaan High in Varsity Blues. More than ever before, Rush will have to step up this season, as CMU has gaping holes at RB and WR and will need Cooper to put the team on his back if they want to get back to a bowl game as they have in two of the past three seasons.
106. Tulsa After winning the Conference USA championship in 2012, the Golden Hurricane have fallen on hard times, winning just five games over the past two seasons. Head coach Phillip Montgomery, who had success with high powered offenses as offensive coordinator at Baylor and Houston, is hoping quarterback Dane Evans can adapt to his system sooner than later if Tulsa is going to have any chance of getting back to a conference title game as they last did in 2012.
107. Florida International FIU has started the last two seasons with early losses to Bethune-Cookman, but thankfully the Panthers can breathe easy going into 2015 as that juggernaut is no longer on their schedule. Sophomore quarterback Alex McGouch will need to get the ball to their best player, tight end Jonnu Smith, as much as possible if they plan on improving on last seasons win total of four.
108. UConn The Huskies were the NCAAs worst team against the spread last year, going a paltry 2-10 vs. the line, which matched their straight up record of 2-10. It’s never easy to win or cover games when you average 15.5 points per game and only reach the redzone 24 times the entire season. With questions at the quarterback position, Bob Diaco will need to pull out all the stops to succeed in his second year as head coach at Connecticut.
109. Buffalo The skill positions are in good shape for the Bulls this year, as they return multi-year starter Joe Licata at quarterback, Ron Willoughby at wide receiver, and most importantly, Anthone Taylor at running back. Taylor ran for over 1400 yards last year and hopes to continue his success and eventually join former Buffalo running backs James Starks and Branden Oliver in the NFL.
110. Old Dominion ODU was an incredible 6-6 in 2014, which gains such a strong adjective as it was their inaugural season as a member of the FBS. There are big shoes to fill this season though, as four year starter at quarterback Taylor Heinicke has graduated, but the Monarchs are hoping running back Ray Lawry, the Conference USA Rookie of the Year in 2014, can step up and carry the offense to another surprisingly successful season.
111. Kent State The Golden Flashes had a brutal preseason last year, with the tragic death of center Jason Bitsko and then losing starting running back Trayion Durham for the season due to injury. This affected them all season long, as they ended up with the 122nd rushing attack in the country and scored over twenty points only twice in twelve games. The return of Durham should help substantially, but he will need help from others if KSU has any chance of competing.
112. Florida Atlantic Last season the Owls had mass confusion within their offense, as they hired a new coach, but kept the old system in place that wasnt his style. Despite that, quarterback Jaquez Johnson was able to succeed and improve on his stats from the previous year. He will have to do even more this season to offset a defense that was a disaster against the run in 2014 and lost it’s three best defensive players to graduation.
113. South Alabama – No team benefited more from the UAB football program disbanding than South Alabama. They may enter the year with the fewest total returning starters (five) in all of the NCAA, but they were able to fill many holes with multiple UAB transfers, including their now starting quarterback Cody Clements. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Jaguars have a chance to compete and gain some momentum after losing five of their last six games to end the 2014 season.
114. SMU – Last season the Mustangs had only one win and lost by an average of over 30 points per game. Rookie head coach Chad Morris, who has previously been a staff member on the fast paced offenses of Clemson and Tulsa, is hoping that starting quarterback Matt Davis can continue his progress from last season after coming on strong in the second half to breathe life into a stale/dormant SMU offense.
115. Hawaii Once heralded head coach Norm Chow has a meager eight wins in his last three seasons as the leader of the Rainbows. His job future depends a lot on how USC quarterback transfer Max Wittek can quickly adjust to the Hawaii offense and attempt to lead the team back to their high scoring past when they had greats like Timmy Chang and Ashley Lelei. The defense was their strength last year, but with the defensive coordinator leaving for another job, Chow is going to have make some changes or he could be looking for Aloha from another team in 2016.
116. Southern Miss Since ending the 2011 season with a 12-2 record, the Golden Eagles have struggled mightily, going 4-32 with only two conference wins. Whoever wins the quarterback battle between incumbent Nick Mullens and TCU transfer Tyler Matthews will have to step up significantly if Southern Miss has any chance of righting their sinking ship.
117. North Texas With only one returning starter on their offensive line, wide receiver Carlos Harris (the top returning player in receiving yards in Conference USA) will need to step up big-time and stay healthy if the Mean Green are going to have any chance of getting back on the path to success after they ended last year with only two wins in their last eight games. The team has been to just one bowl game in the past decade.
118. UL Monroe Defensive Tackle Gerrand Johnson is a name we will hear called at next years NFL Draft. He leads a strong Warhawk defense going into this season. The issue is their offense, which strongly lacks experience at quarterback and running back, and desperately needs to improve on last years average of less than 70 yards per game rushing if they want to have any sort of chance at success in 2015.
119. Army West Point Triple Option guru Jeff Monken returns for his second year as head coach at Army after finding success at other schools (Navy, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern) who also run college footballs best offensive formation. With only four returning starters on defense and an even more anemic two returning starters on an offense that lost five of their top six rushers, it may be too steep of a climb for the Cadets to match last seasons win total of four.
120. Troy – Quarterback Brandon Silvers returns to lead the Trojoan spread offense after completing an NCAA freshman record 70.5% of his passes in 2014. It will be tough for Troy to capitalize on the momentum gained from ending last year with a 2-1 record though, as this season three of their first five games are out of conference road trips to NC State, Wisconsin and Mississippi State.
121. Idaho – The offseason brought good news for the Vandals, as sanctions against the team were lifted by the NCAA and they are now eligible for the postseason. The issue for the Vandals is that the playing of football itself has only brought bad news in recent years, as they have suffered through three straight single win seasons and have only five total wins in the last four years! Nearly anything will be an improvement for the team this year, and that could begin with the return of behaviorally troubled wide receiver Dezon Epps, who should help quarterback Matt Linehan (son of current Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan) immensely.
122. UNLV Excitement is brewing in Las Vegas, as the Running Rebels return Mountain West freshman of the year WR Devonte Boyd and Tony Sanchez takes over as head coach, the third different head honcho UNLV has had in the past seven seasons. Sanchez dominated high school football in the state of Nevada, winning five consecutive titles as head coach and has brought a much needed boost of energy to the program. He will need all the luck he can get, as the Rebels face a tough non-conference schedule and will need to look within conference to get notches in the win column.
123. Miami Ohio Last year the Redhawks ended a 22 game losing streak, which was really the only positive to take away from their season. This year they return only three starters on offense and have major issues at quarterback, with not one of their talent-limited pool of candidates stepping up during spring practices to take over the starting job. Miami will have to go with valedictorian of summer school strategy and go with whoever is the least terrible at the helm. Not usually a recipe for success!
124. Eastern Michigan Dual-threat sophomore quarterback Reginald Ball will surely be tested this season, as he attempts to succeed behind an offensive line returning only one starter. New Eagles coach, Chris Creighton, has rocketed up the college football coaching ladder in recent years, progressively working through the NAIA, Division III and FCS divisions and now hopes he can help bring success to a program that has only six wins over the last three years.
125. New Mexico State The Aggies are back for their second season of Sun Belt conference football, and head coach Doug Martin (not to be confused with the Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back who has been poisoning fantasy football backfields for the past two seasons) has his work cut out for him, attempting to improve a defense that was last in the country against the run in 2014. While they definitely lack in talent, New Mexico St. has home games against fellow conference cellar dwellers Troy, Idaho and Georgia State, which could help them match their whopping two wins per season theyve averaged over the last five years.
126. UTSA With only six returning starters coming back to a team that lost a whopping 36 seniors to graduation, this looks be the exact opposite of what head coach Larry Coker had when he led the greatest team in college football history, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, to a national championship. Conference USA is chock full of bad teams this year, so at least the Roadrunners have a chance to pull out a couple of wins regardless of who is left over from last years squad.
127. Georgia State Since joining the FBS in 2013, the Panthers are 0-20 versus their fellow 1A opponents, and have a record of 2-33 over the last three seasons with their only wins coming against Abilene Christian and URI (who? LOL). If the defense cant improve on last years average let up of over 43 points per game, it will be another long season for senior quarterback Nick dont call me Jon Arbuckle.
128. Charlotte This will be the 49ers first year in the FBS as they began their football program in 2013 and played as an independent in the FCS subdivision for the past two seasons. Led by running back Kalif Phillips, who last season accounted for twenty touchdowns, Charlotte will take their lumps adjusting to the upgrade in opponents, but could be worth looking at for a couple of over wagers for o/u season wins bets as their games averaged over 70 points per last season. Speaking of bets… Where are you placing your wagers this season? Does your bookie offer you -105 odds on sides and totals? No! Does your book pay you within 2 days of requesting a payout? No! Does he offer the largest wagering menu on the planet, including ALL sports? No! So why not dump him and start placing your wagers with the best bookie in the world? (No joke) Start reaping huge benefits TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be SO glad that you did!