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1. Mario Cristobal, Florida International. He’s signed through 2017, but Cristobal has done wonders with the Golden Panthers. A Sun Belt title would only enhance his appeal to a bigger program.

2. Charlie Strong, Louisville. The Cardinals have made back-to-back bowl games under Strong, who has plenty of SEC experience from his time at Florida. A BCS bid would further boost his stock.

3. Gary Andersen, Utah State. The Aggies broke through to a bowl game for the first time in 14 years last fall. If Utah State follows that up with a WAC title, Andersen could be a desired commodity.

4. Dave Christensen, Wyoming. The former Missouri assistant’s work in Laramie is impressive even if his record (18-20) isn’t overwhelming. The Cowboys should be solid again this year.

5. Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette. Hudspeth inherited a 3-9 team and promptly went 9-4 to lead the Ragin Cajuns to their first bowl berth. An encore would certainly warrant a higher-profile gig.

6. Todd Graham, Arizona State. Because one-year coaching stops are standard operating procedure for a man who seems to have family in every hamlet in the country.


1. Boise State at Michigan State, Aug. 31. The Bronco barometer will be tested in the first game of the season — again. Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia have all fallen to Boise in openers since 2009.

2. Alabama vs. Michigan in Arlington, Texas, Sept. 1. There’s no topping the brand names in this one. Denard Robinson against the Crimson Tide defense should be a riveting matchup.

3. Washington at Louisiana State, Sept. 8. The Tigers’ opening stretch isn’t as brutal as last year, but they could be tested by Steve Sarkisian’s Huskies in Death Valley.

4. Notre Dame at Oklahoma, Oct. 27. The Fighting Irish visit Norman for the first time since 1966 to contest an intersectional series that’s been played only nine times.

5. South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 24. The best part might not even be the game if the Gamecocks triumph. Just think about Steve Spurrier savoring South Carolina’s first four-game winning streak against Clemson since 1951-54.

6. Notre Dame at Southern California, Nov. 24. The Trojans could (and probably should) have the Pac-12 South locked up before Thanksgiving weekend. But could the Fighting Irish spoil USC’s national title hopes?


1. Alabama at Louisiana State, Nov. 3. It’s just a rematch of last year’s national title game, and it could have a big say in determining if one of these teams will get back there this season.

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