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College Football Preview: Welcome to the FBS

Last year FBS football welcomed in four new teams to their ranks: UMass, UTSA, South Alabama and Texas State. UTSA and Texas State rode the weak WAC to 8-4 and 4-8 marks, while UMass and South Alabama struggled to 1-11 records. This year, the FBS will once more bring in a number of new schools including Georgia State and Old Dominion. Here is a quick look at what to expect from the two newest FBS members in 2013:

Old Dominion logo
Old Dominion: The Monarchs enter FBS football after an 11-2 campaign that including a FCS playoff win. The Monarchs will be an independent this year before a move to the Conference USA in 2014. They have five games against FBS opponents this year but have an offense that can pull off some upsets. Junior quarterback Taylor Heinicke had over 5,000 yards and 44 touchdowns last year. He has plenty of top targets back including Larry Pinkard and Blair Roberts and also has a quality back in Tyree Lee who had 8 touchdowns a year ago. The offense averaged 548.2 yards per game last year but that was against FCS opponents, not teams like UNC, Pitt and Maryland. The defense is solid and has some playmakers like linebacker John Darr. The university from Norfolk, Virginia who began play in 2009 has the talent to surprise some people.
Georgia State logo

Georgia State: The Panthers will also begin play in FBS football in the Sun Belt Conference, which luckily for them, was weakened by the departure of a number of teams to Conference USA. Georgia State, who began playing football in 2010 went 1-10 last year and things won't be much easier this year. Senior receiver Albert Wilson gives the offense and former Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski, the offensive coordinator, something to work with. The QB position is up in the air as head coach Trent Miles must decide between a number of candidates including sophomore Ben McLane, Ronnie Bell and Clay Chastain. McLane started 9 of the Panthers' 11 games last year as a redshirt freshman but struggled with accuracy on all types of throws. Bell gives the Panthers a more mobile option. GSU will play Alabama on October 5th and that will certainly show how far the program has to go. Though the Atlanta area and around are rich with talent and Georgia State should soon become respectable.

Quick Predictions of Second-Year Teams
South Alabama- After a 2-11 first year in the Sun Belt, coach Joey Jones has his work cut out for him. He has senior QB Ross Metheny to work with but must replace safety B.J. Scott who recorded 84 tackles last season. If the Jaguars turn the ball over less there should be improvement across the board. The good news is that the addition of Georgia State gives South Alabama a team they can beat inside the conference.

UMass- The Minutemen's offense was one of the worst in the nation a year ago as UMass only managed 12.7 points per game last year. Expect improvement in Charley Molnar's second year as senior tight end Rob Branchflower gives QB Mike Wegzyn a proven target. The Minutemen must also get more pressure on the quarterback. UMass appears to be improved as well but contention seems a while awa.

UTSA- UTSA went 8-4 last year but makes the move from the now-defunct WAC to the Conference USA. The Roadrunners have proven playmakers on offense including senior QB Eric Soza and junior receiver Kam Jones. The defense also has a lot of talent headed by junior safety Triston Wade and senior linebacker Stephen Kurfehs. A move to a tougher conference will be tough and it may hard for UTSA to escape the West cellar.

Texas State- The Bobcats will make a jump from the WAC to the Sun Belt but will have to do it without dual threat quarterback Shaun Rutherford, who graduated. Senior Tyler Arndt is the leading candidate to replace Rutherford but isn't as much of a game-changer. Brian Orakpo's little brother Michael Orakpo gives the Bobcats a solid linebacker.

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