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Nevada Football: 2017 Wolf Pack Preview and Prediction

The Wolf Pack rank No. 115 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Nevada Football: 2017 Wolf Pack Preview and Prediction

Nevada hired veteran offensive coordinator Jay Norvell as head coach following a 5-7 season that saw both sides of the ball struggle. Norvell’s impact on the Wolf Pack offense may not be instant with uncertainties at quarterback, a group of unproven receivers and significant question marks up front. But he does have one of the Mountain West’s top running backs to lean on. The defense features a little more on the experience side, but few proven playmakers and everyone will be adjusting to a new system.

Bowling Green Football: 2017 Falcons Preview and Prediction

The Falcons rank No. 114 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Bowling Green Football: 2017 Falcons Preview and Prediction

Even though Bowling Green went just 4-8 in head coach Mike Jinks first season, there are reasons to be optimistic about the Falcons. For starters, Bowling Green ended 2016 on a three-game winning streak with victories over MAC East foes. Secondly, several of the players who fueled the late run are back, namely on offense. If the line can come together, the Falcons could be dangerous on offense this fall.

FIU Football: 2017 Panthers Preview and Prediction

The Panthers rank No. 113 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
FIU Football: 2017 Panthers Preview and Prediction

For the first time since 2010, Butch Davis will return to the sidelines as FIU’s new head coach. The Panthers went 4-8 last season but did finish .500 in Conference USA games. Davis is a veteran coach who is returning to his Florida roots, and he’s inheriting a team that returns 15 starters. The offense has playmakers in place but the success to this unit will fall to an offensive line that hasn’t gotten the job done. The defense has plenty of experience in place, now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.

East Carolina Football: 2017 Pirates Preview and Prediction

The Pirates rank No. 112 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
East Carolina Football: 2017 Pirates Preview and Prediction

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.

Georgia Southern Football: 2017 Eagles Preview and Prediction

The Eagles rank No. 111 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Georgia Southern Football: 2017 Eagles Preview and Prediction

Georgia Southern went 5-7 in Tyson Summers’ debut as head coach, which was labeled a disappointment considering all the experience he inherited. Now all those players are gone, as the Eagles return just seven starters. A new offensive coordinator has practically a clean slate to work with, which may or may not be a good thing. The defense is really no better off, although there are a few veterans to build around.

Louisiana Football: 2017 Ragin’ Cajuns Preview and Prediction

The Ragin’ Cajuns rank No. 110 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Louisiana Football: 2017 Ragin’ Cajuns Preview and Prediction

Louisiana made yet another season-ending trip to the New Orleans Bowl despite having an offense that ranked near the bottom of the FBS in both yards and points per game. If the Ragin’ Cajuns want to get back to contending in the Sun Belt under head coach Mark Hudspeth like they did from 2011-14, it will need more production from the quarterback position and a backfield committee to fill the shoes of the program’s all-time leading rusher.

Akron Football: 2017 Zips Preview and Prediction

The Zips rank No. 109 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Akron Football: 2017 Zips Preview and Prediction

Akron went 5-7 last season but wasn't far off from playing in a bowl game contending for another winning record. Terry Bowden’s team came up short in large part because of an injury to its quarterback, an inability to run the ball and a defense that struggled in all aspects. Quarterback remains a bit of an uncertainty entering this season, but the potential is there for the Zips to be dangerous on offense. The defense is led by one of the best linebackers in the country but needs several others to emerge.

North Texas Football: 2017 Mean Green Preview and Prediction

The Mean Green rank No. 108 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
North Texas Football: 2017 Mean Green Preview and Prediction

North Texas improved its win total by four games going 5-8 in head coach Seth Littrell’s debut, and wound up in a bowl game thanks to the team’s APR scores. Now with a contract extension in hand, what do Littrell and the Mean Green have in mind for an encore? The offense continues to be a work in progress, especially the passing game, while the defense is hoping for more production from the line and linebackers in support of what should be a solid secondary.

Marshall Football: 2017 Thundering Herd Preview and Prediction

The Thundering Herd rank No. 107 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Marshall Football: 2017 Thundering Herd Preview and Prediction

After winning 33 games and going 3-0 in bowls from 2013-15, the bottom dropped out for Marshall as the Thundering Herd stumbled to 3-9 last season. A combination of injuries, a lack of offense and little defense saw Doc Holliday’s team put together its worst showing in his eight seasons at the helm. The key to a turnaround is how quickly the newcomers mix with the key holdovers. A rebound of some form should be expected but will it be enough to get Marshall back to a bowl game? 

 

Central Michigan Football: 2017 Chippewas Preview and Prediction

The Chippewas rank No. 106 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Central Michigan Football: 2017 Chippewas Preview and Prediction

Central Michigan struggled against MAC teams last season, as a 3-5 record in conference play resulted in a 6-7 finish. Head coach John Bonamego is hoping to turn things around this fall while leading the Chippewas to a third straight bowl game. A total of 15 starters are returning, but quarterback is a big question mark following the departure for four-year starter Cooper Rush.

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