East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery’s debut got off to a great start with back-to-back wins. Unfortunately that was followed by five straight losses as the Pirates would win only one more game and finished 3-9 and tied for last place in the American Athletic Conference East Division. The biggest culprit was a defense that couldn’t stop anyone, which necessitated a myriad of changes on that side of the ball.
A familiar face is back in Storrs, as Randy Edsall returns for his second stint as Connecticut’s head coach. Edsall left UConn for Maryland after leading the Huskies to a share of the Big East title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl in 2010 and the hope is he can get the program back to its winning ways as a member of the American Athletic Conference.
Tulane went 4-8 in head coach Willie Fritz’ first season and the Green Wave should be even better this fall now that everyone has had a full year together. This should especially be the case on offense, as Fritz is hoping for better execution of his complex attack, even if there is still some uncertainty as to which quarterback will be running it. The defense returns eight starters but must replace two of the best players in program history.
A 4-8 finish led to Tommy Tuberville resigning as Cincinnati’s head coach and the Bearcats hiring Luke Fickell as his replacement. Fickell worked under Jim Tressel and then Urban Meyer at Ohio State and is looking to re-energize a program that claimed a share of the American Athletic Conference championship just three seasons ago.
Ranking all 130 college football teams is no easy task, but with the first Saturday of action on Aug. 26 approaching quickly, it’s never too early to see how every FBS program stacks up for 2017. At the top, Alabama leads the way as Athlon’s projected national champion. The Crimson Tide lost to Clemson on the final play of last year’s title game, and even though both sides of the ball have a few holes to fill, coach Nick Saban’s program is still the team to beat. Ohio State is a close No.
SMU more than doubled its win total (from two to five) in head coach Chad Morris’ second season, but back-to-back losses at the end ruined a shot at a bowl game. The Mustangs are aiming for at least six wins this fall and the offense has a chance to be better than last year provided a consistent quarterback emerges and the offensive line comes together. The defense is the side of the ball that really needs to improve if the SMU wants to take another step forward under Morris.
It’s a new beginning for Temple, with former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins taking over as head coach for the departed Matt Rhule. But the changes go beyond the coaching staff, as only eight total starters return, resulting in plenty of question marks throughout the roster. The offense has some playmakers, but the quarterback position is completely up in the air. The secondary is basically intact, but the defense lost a first-round NFL Draft pick and several other key contributors.
Tulsa blew the doors off others’ expectations last season, going 10-3 in head coach Philip Montgomery’s second season. Unfortunately, a lot of firepower from one of the nation’s most productive offenses has to be replaced. The defense returns seven starters, but those that are gone were key contributors on a unit that fared better in 2016, but still gave up plenty of yards and points. Even though Tulsa will likely take a step or two back in the win column, a second straight bowl appearance is not out of the question.