Monthly Archives: August 2013

Newest FBS Members May Impact Sun Belt pt 2

Earlier I wrote about the fledgling South Alabama Jaguars and the possible spoiler role they could play in the Sun Belt conference in the 2013 season. They aren’t the only new kid on the FBS block though. In 2012 the Texas State Bobcats made the jump from the FCS and competed in the now defunct WAC conference and this year will join fellow newcomers South Alabama and Georgia State in the Sun Belt.

The Bobcats of Texas State though enter the 2013 season with expectations a little higher, and reasonably so.

Andy Erickson and the Bobcats shocked Houston a year ago, and this year Dennis Franchione and his squad look to continue climbing the totem poll  in Texas

Andy Erickson and the Bobcats shocked Houston a year ago, and this year Dennis Franchione and his squad look to continue climbing the totem pole in Texas

It starts with none other than former TCU and Alabama head coach Dennis Franchione. Gary Patterson may receive the love and adoration at TCU, but let’s not forget that it was Franchione who laid the groundwork for the Horned Frogs ascension into the upper reaches of college football, and ultimately a place in the Big 12 conference.

The groundwork laid at TCU is a large part Franchione is a perfect fit for Texas State. He’s used to swooping in under the heavy hitters that recruit the talent rich state of Texas and picking up the best of the leftovers, and the best of what went overlooked.

We all know the state of Texas is rich in high school football talent, and if a few of the smaller schools can snatch some of it up, the chance is there for a quick turnaround and rise to prominence. TCU, Baylor, Houston, and SMU have all risen from obscurity and ashes in the past 20 years to now being members of AQ conferences with dreams of playing in a BCS bowl. Three of the four have finished in the top 25 in recent years, and SMU has gone from 2-22  in 2007 and 2008 to just 23 losses in the 4 years since, with four consecutive bowl trips. Texas State looks to follow in those footsteps.

Just last season the Bobcats went to Houston and trounced the Cougars 30-13. They also lost by just 13 to Nevada, and 11 to San Jose State, though they were outgained by very wide margins in both games. They fell by merely a touchdown to 19th ranked Louisiana Tech  and won their final two games of the season in finishing 4-8.

Overall, it wouldn’t seem all that much to get overly excited about, but remember, that was their first year as an FBS team.

The 2013 Bobcats should be a better version than 2012 squad, and also plays a more forgiving schedule.

They do lose quarterback Shaun Rutheford and tailback Marcus Curry, both dynamic playmakers, and the majority of their rushing attack a season ago.

However, Franchione feels comfortable turning the reins over to Tyler Arndt, who was recruited by TCU, Missouri and Arizona among others. The hope is Arndt can deliver on the promise he offered as one of the program’s top signees.

It’s tailback though where Franchione feels his replacement will be an upgrade. In house, the Bobcats are expecting Terrence Franks to return to his form as a freshmen when he ran for 863 yards, as opposed to last seasons disappointing 269 yard campaign, though he did tack on five scores.

Beyond just the hopeful return to form by Franks though is JUCO C.J. Best, who following spring practice was atop the depth chart, and true freshmen Jamel James, a sought after running back with great size and strength.

Together, that trio of backs will run behind an offensive line with four starters back from a team that averaged 5.2 yard per carry a season ago. Six times a year ago they topped 150 yards rushing, and with the vast majority of the offensive line back, figure to potentially improve upon those numbers in 2013.

Leading receivers Andy Erickson and Isaiah Battle also return to the mix after combing for over 900 yards a season ago to help aid the passing game in keeping defenses honest. But there’s no secret here, the ability to run the football will make or break this team, and they have the linemen and stable of backs to do just that.

Defensively they lost three of their top four tacklers, but return 5-12, so they don’t have to replace much on defense. The secondary returns intact, and his talented, and the defensive line will be among the very best in the conference.  They will also add in former Colroado State linebacker Michael Orakpo.

All told, the Bobcats will be exceptionally strong on both sides of the line. Generally in football, teams who have the edge on both the offensive and defensive line win football games.

The home schedule offers six winnable football games, with conference tilts with pre-season favorites Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky rating as the toughest tests they’ll face in San Marcos. On the road, Idaho, Troy and, yes, even Southern Miss, all present as winnable games. Not that Arkansas State and Louisiana can’t be won, but realistically speaking, those three offer the best chances.

Getting ULM and Western Kentucky both at home offers the Bobcats a chance to play a major role in the conference title race. The Bobcats open conference play with games against the Louisiana schools in back to back weeks, with home games against Georgia State and South Alabama immediately following. A victory over either of the Louisiana schools could leave them 3-1 in conference play before their end of the year stretch with Arkansas State and Troy on the road sandwiching the visit by Western Kentucky.

While I don’t anticipate them winning the conference crown, the possibility of entering that final trio of games 3-1 in the Sun Belt, and potentially 6-3 overall could leave them without a lot to play for in those final three games. A trip to the postseason included, meaning they won’t just be playing spoiler down the stretch.

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Newest FBS Members May Impact Sun Belt pt 1

No, this is not about my local Georgia State Panthers, they’re not about to surprise anyone. Unfortunately, the Georgia Dome, while fielding a winner on Sundays, will likely be host the home team recieving several lopsided beat downs on Saturdays this fall.

Rather, a couple of the other newest members to the highest level of college football may look to surprise in the Sun Belt Conference this fall. And by surprise, I’m not sure I just mean play the spoiler role when it comes to ruining another teams run at the conference title and likely spot in New Orleans on the first day of of Bowl Season.

Last year South Alabama competed at the FBS level for the first time, having spent three years as an FCS team and going 23-4 in those three years, albeit as an independent and not facing a very difficult schedule.

The Jaguars won only two games a year ago, but were surprisingly competitive in many of their defeats. They were underdogs by 30 points or more to North Carolina State and Mississippi State, but lost by 24 points or less in both contests, while only being outgained by 79 yards in the two games combined. It may not seem like much, but for a young program like South Alabama, it was a very positive sign.

They fell by only 7 to an Arkansas State team that won 10 games and won the conference a year ago, and were also fairly competitive against both Louisiana and Louisiana-Monroe, two Sun Belt teams who combined to win 17 games.

Oh, there were bad points in the year as well, such as gaining only 166 yards in a 23-7 loss at Hawaii and downing Nicholls State by only a 9-3 count. But overall, the year would likely be deemed a success by Joey Jones, the only head coach the program has known.

With 17 starters (9 on offense, 8 on defense) the Jaguars should be able to build on their competitiveness of a year ago. Enough to possibly get to .500 or even make a bowl game? Playing in the postseason may be a bit of a reach, but in a day and age of parity where seemingly 6 or 7 plays make the difference in 8-4 and 4-8, it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities.

The Jaguars bring back four starters on the offensive life, and center Ucambre Williams started five games last season before being lost for the year to injury. The Jaguars topped 100 yards rushing in 9 of 12 games last season, and averaged 147 yards a game on the ground in conference play. Demetre Baker, a former Georgia signee and Kendall Houston both return in the backfield and continued improvement should be expected.

Their four leading receivers from a season ago are also all back, including Jereme’ Jones and Corey Betesda. Jones is the possession guy, while Betesda averaged over 15 yards per catch in 2012. Ross Metheny is back for his senior year at quarterback and should build over his 2012 season. The signs were there during Metheny’s first two years at Virginia, and were a reason he was a decent rated recruit coming out of high school.

The Jaguar offense shouldn’t have to make incredible leaps this season though, because the defense should be solid. South Alabama was -12 in turnovers last year, contributing to the near 30 points a game they allowed, despite yielding just 383 yards per game.

They return 9 of their top 12 tacklers from a year ago, with 5 of the front 7 being back, and just one starter missing from the secondary. They have awards canidates at all three levels of the defense, and Alex Page (DE), Enrique Williams, and Tyrell Pearson (CB) will be among the best players in the conference at their respective positions.

Page is the start of the defenisve line after having six sacks a season ago, but may not be the key to the defensive front. Cesare Johnson will be the anchor their 3-4, and some around Mobile will tell you tell you he has the potential to play on Sundays. If he starts tapping into that potential this season, the linebackers will be the beneficiaries of his efforts.

As mentioned, the secondary loses only one starter, but the hope is that JUCO transfer Steffon Fuller may be able to fill that void, and join a secondary that included Pearson and safety Terrel Brigham who had 71 tackles and defended 7 passes as a sophomore a year ago.

South Alabama isn’t going to win 10 games this season, that just won’t happen. But odds are good they won’t lose 10 either. The fact of the matter is, they’re still probably not quite ready to make a bowl game either. However, the three favorites (Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Western Kentucky) in the conference all must come to Mobile. And while that doesn’t bode well for a good record, it does mean, in many ways the conference title will go through Mobile. There is a strong possibility that the Jaguars trip up one of those three, and whichever one they defeat, they deal a serious blow to their hopes of winning the conference.

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