I have been looking at our opponents for next year, specifically the out of conference, but also the conference opponents a little bit. We have struggled against some mediocre teams this year, and a huge portion of that is on coaching, but our team is also still on the youngish side. That is to say, a lot of key players will be returning next year, and the replacements for those that are leaving at least appear solid.
Here is some of the stuff I found regarding our opponents.
1. Eastern Kentucky is an FCS team, who went 9-4 last year and lost to Indiana State in the playoffs. They have played one quality opponent this year, and they were rolled 35-0 (vs. NC State). This should be a W.
2. Cincinnati Bearcats. I initially thought this was going to be a sure loss, until I looked at their roster. The bearcats are losing receivers 1-5 on their depth chart, both of their starting tackles, and their number 2 RB. These are massive losses to a team that makes its name on offense. They looked mediocre last year and are already looking mediocre this year. This is a possible W.
3. Nevada Wolfpack. This is a Mountain West conference team that has been competitive with its peers but has been blown out by the Power 5 opponents it has faced. Regardless, if this coaching staff has any ability, this should be a W.
4. We start conference play vs Maryland. They are an absolute dumpster fire of a football team right now, and their situation won't be getting too much better next year. They have no QBs on the roster worth anything, and have been blown out by bad football teams this year.
5. Illinois: who knows what happens here, perhaps they continue to stay in this rut with a new coaching staff. Or maybe not.
The way I see it, if this coaching staff is to prove that they are competent, they need to start out next year at least 4-1, preferably 5-0. That sounds like I am asking for a lot, but the start of the 2016 season should be baby soft for a power 5 football program. I have been very harsh on this staff this year, and I will fully admit that for the time being I have lost faith in them. But if there was ever a time for this staff to break out, 2016 would be the year. Because the next year, our first 5 are:
1. Louisville Cardinals at Lucas Oil.
2. Ohio Bobcats at Ross-Ade (the same Ohio Bobcats that beat down Marshall and nearly beat Minnesota this year)
3. Missouri Tigers, at Missouri. Yes, those tigers, from the SEC.
4. Michigan Wolverines, at Ross-Ade.
5. Minnesota, at Ross-Ade.
We might legitimately start 2017 0-5 at the current rate of progress with this team. 2016 is the last hope for this coaching staff, from there on out our OOCs are going to be really hard