Just because Maryland’s football camp is underway, it doesn’t mean the countdown will cease. Well, not until its over, anyway. If that makes any sense at all. And the reality is, the countdown will continue for another two and a half weeks.
85. Temple. At pretty much any point in, oh, roughly the last 15 years, this would be absurdly high.
Not this time.
The Owls won’t remind anyone of Bud Wilkinson‘s mid-1950s Oklahoma teams, but they also won’t look much like a typical Temple team, either. Third-year coach Al Golden has done the impossible, making the Owls a reasonably competitive bunch in short order.
Temple is helped by its soft landing in the Mid-American Conference, a better fit competitively if not geographically than the Big East. Plus, the MAC isn’t likely to kick the Owls out any time soon.
OK, Temple wasn’t all that great offensively last year. Yet the Owls return 21 of 22 starters, and at some point that has to count for something.
This is not a misprint: Temple could go bowling for the first time since 1979.
84. Western Michigan. The boys in Kalamazoo took a step back last season, a year after an eight-win season. Sure, the Broncos poached Iowa late in the season on the road, but a 5-7 record was disappointing.
Yet like Temple, much of Bill Cubit‘s team returns intact. And that bodes well, especially since the Broncos finally have a team made up almost entirely of the fourth-year coach’s players.
Cubit inherited a one-win team in 2005, and Western can safely be considered at least a mid-pack MAC team. If the Broncos can cut down on turnovers (29 total last year), they’ll have a chance to get back to the postseason.
83. Florida Atlantic. Here’s a toast to Howard Schnellenberger, who has done the following in his 23-year coaching career (and let’s just ignore that one-year interlude at Oklahoma, shall we?):
* Matched Miami’s school record for victories in a season (nine) in his second year (1980).
* Helped Miami win its first national title in 1983. In less than two decades, that total would become five.
* Recorded a 10-1-1 season and Fiesta Bowl victory over Alabama in 1990 —- while at then-independent and unheralded Louisville. With a little help from Browning Nagle, Schnellenberger helped engineer the Cardinals’ first 10-win season and first bowl victory.
* Started the Florida Atlantic program from scratch, needing three years to get the Owls to the Division I-AA playoffs. Once in I-A, it took three years to collect a bowl victory.
82. Baylor. Sorry to be so coach-heavy today. But this is one spot where it makes sense to be. Art Briles takes over what might be a less rosy situation than the one David Cutcliffe inherits at Duke. At least Cutcliffe isn’t in the typically brutal half of an often-stacked league. Here’s a look at how Baylor’s fared over the last dozen seasons.
|| Big 12
|| B12 South
As you might guess, the Bears have finished XIIth in what is sometimes called the Big XII. Obviously, the Big 12 South isn’t a fun neighborhood (some teams called Oklahoma and Texas reside there), and Baylor rarely manages to climb out of its cellar.
So with that in mind, I say “Good luck, Mr. Briles.” You’re going to need it.
81. Wyoming. The Cowboys ranked last in the Mountain West in scoring offense, total offense, passing efficiency and turnover margin.
They also lost six of their last seven to turn what appeared to be a sure bowl season (with early wins against Virginia and Texas Christian) into a 5-7 muddle.
Thus, dramatically improving the offense and avoiding a freefall (a distinct possibility with Brigham Young, Bowling Green, New Mexico, Utah and Texas Christian lined up in a row at midseason) would be the most obvious ways for the Pokes to make progress. Given their ranking in the countdown, here’s betting they don’t entirely accomplish either goal.
—- Patrick Stevens