Coach: Dennis Franchione (36-34, entering fifth season; 210–126–2 overall)
2014 record: 7-5 overall, 5-3 Sun Belt; tied for fourth in Sun Belt
Look back: Texas State has made a swift transition from the Football Championship Subdivision level, improving from 4-8 during its first FBS season in 2012 to 7-5 in 2014. The team passed the lower end of the Sun Belt and recorded a big 37-34 overtime nonconference victory at Tulsa, but the Bobcats couldn’t keep up with Georgia Southern, which earned the Sun Belt title during its first season at the FBS level.
Offensive starters returning: 7
Offensive starters lost: 4
Defensive starters returning: 5
Defensive starters lost: 6
Key losses: OL Collin Fissell, OL Matt Freeman, WR Ben Ijah, TE Bradley Miller, OL Charlie Will Tuttle, CB Craig Mager, LB David Mayo, LB Michael Odiari, DL Kris Petersen, FS Colby Targun, S Germod Williams
Top returnees: QB Tyler Jones, OL Adrian Bellard, WR C. J. Best, WR Jafus Gaines, RB Robert Lowe, OL Ryan Melton, OL Felix Romero, WR Brandon Smith, DL Mershad Dillon, DL Dallas McClart, LB Trey McGowan, CB David Mims II, S Aaron Shaw
Strengths: Veteran coach Dennis Franchione, who previously led New Mexico, TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M programs, used a potent rushing attack to help drive the offense’s success last season. The Bobcats ranked No. 18 nationally rushing offense (238.5 ypg) and No. 31 in scoring (33.8 ppg).
Starting running back Robert Lowe returns to anchor the offense after recording 1,091 yards and 12 touchdown. He had a 5.9 yards per carry average. Tyler Jones, who was steady at quarterback, returns after going 246-of-376 passing for 2,670 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season.
On the defensive side, David Mims II was a first-team All-Sun Belt selection who ranked second in the league with five interceptions. He also recorded 48 tackles.
Weaknesses: It’s unclear whether the rushing attack will be able to perform at the same high following the departure of three offensive linemen in Collin Fissell, Charlie Will Tuttle and Matt Freeman.
Tight Bradley Miller also will be missed after leading the team last season with 44 catches for 431 yards.
The biggest hits, however, were on the defense. Linebacker David Mayo, who inspired teammates with his relentless intensity, was selected in the NFL draft. Mayo was the Sun Belt defensive player of the year who ranked third nationally in tackles (154) last season.
Despite Mayo’s efforts, the defense didn’t exactly shine in the trenches. Texas State ranked No. 100 nationally in rushing defense (202.8 rushing yards allowed per game) and No.73 in scoring defense (27.7 points allowed per game).
Outlook: Texas State will look to build on ending last season with back-to-back wins and continue the development process under Franchione’s watch. The schedule is favorable, but the Bobcats must improve on defense to clinch the first FBS bowl bid in school history.
Sept. 5 at FSU
Sept. 12 Prairie View A&M
Sept. 19 Southern Miss
Sept. 26 at Houston
Oct. 10 at UL-Lafayette
Oct. 24 South Alabama
Oct. 29 at Georgia Southern
Nov. 7 New Mexico State
Nov. 14 Georgia State
Nov. 19 UL-Monroe
Nov. 28 at Idaho
Dec. 5 at Arkansas State
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com