Preparing for the offseason takes a great deal of research, so as I was looking at last year's standings , I was wondering if any of the losing teams from last year can make that leap and potentially make a bowl game in 2010?
For some schools the jump isn't that big. If they could just earn one or two more victories, they would be in line for one of the 35 postseason games .
A squad like Miami (Ohio) or Western Kentucky would need a complete turnaround, but here are five schools I think could get to 6 or 7 wins and make a bowl.
Note: Schools like Texas A&M that finished 6-7, weren't eligible for my list because they played in a bowl last year. This list is only for teams that had losing records and didn't make a bowl in 2009. Below is the team, plus its record from last season.
N.C. State (5-7): The offense is there with the return of quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receivers Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer, but the big question mark is the defense. The Wolfpack averaged 30.3 points per game last year, but also allowed 31.2 ppg and 361 yards a game. Not good. And with only three starters returning on defense we might be in for a lot of 34-31 games. But still, the out-of-conference schedule isn't too tough with Western Carolina, at UCF and Cincinnati at home. A bowl game should be in sight toward the end of the season when the Wolfpack have to play three of their last four on the road.
Colorado (3-9): The one that has to improve the most on my list, but with eight Big 12 bowl bids, the Buffaloes should be in line for one of them. With eight starters back on offense and seven on defense the Buffaloes better get to a bowl game of the folks in Boulder are not going to be happy. Quarterback Tyler Hansen looks like he might finally take over the starting role from Cody Hawkins. Rodney Stewart returns for his junior season and will be looking to improve on his 804 yards rushing from last year. Two very good receivers are back too, along with the entire offensive line. Defensively, seven starters are back, including cornerbacks Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith. The schedule doesn't do Colorado any favors as it plays at Colorado State, at California, Hawaii and Georgia to open the season. Then add in trips to Oklahoma and Nebraska and Colorado has one of the tougher schedules in the conference.
Washington (5-7): This one was easy. The Huskies should easily make a bowl this season and it would be a major disappointment if they didn't. Senior Jake Locker is back at quarterback and is on most people's radar as a possible No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Eight other starters are back on offense, including running back Chris Polk, who had 1,113 yards rushing as a freshman. A solid offensive line and good receivers should allow the Huskies to compete with anybody in the Pac-10. The defense is a little shaky (ranked 9th in the Pac-10 in points allowed with 26.7 ppg) and the key will be the secondary as Desmon Trufant, Adam Long and Nate Williams all return. I'm more concerned with the start of the schedule -- at BYU, Syracuse, Nebraska and at USC to start the year.
Purdue (5-7): All eyes will be on Miami transfer Robert Marve at quarterback. The kid has talent and will have a great wide receiver to throw to with the return of Keith Smith (91 catches). The Boilermakers biggest issue in the offseason will be the running game. Starting back Ralph Bolden tore his ACL in March and his return is slim, so the rushing attack falls on Al-Terek McBurse (known by fans as ATM). He is a very good kick returner, but can he handle the load of an entire season? On defense, the front seven is very strong and is led by DE Ryan Kerrigan. Seven wins shouldn't be that hard to get, especailly when they play Western Illinois, Ball State and Toledo in three of the first four. (Season opener is at Notre Dame).
Mississippi State (5-7): This is the year for Dan Mullen's crew to get back to its first bowl game since 2007. The Bulldogs were close last year, losing a heartbreaker to LSU (30-26), staying with Florida for three quarters before losing 29-19 and being tied with Houston at 17 until eventually losing 31-24. Four starters are back on the offensive line, so whoever wins the quarterback job in the fall Chris Relf or Tyler Russell should be protected. Defensively the Bulldogs should be better, especially with the return of DE Pernell McPhee. This team won't be competing for the SEC title, but I feel they can get to that 6-6 mark and make a lower-level bowl.