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With Tom Herman, it quickly became obvious that the biggest question would be how long Houston would be able to keep him in town. After 22 wins over two seasons, Texas made the question moot by plucking him to lead its program.
After a national search, the Cougars went in-house and elevated offensive coordinator Major Applewhite. Good call.
However, Houston must replace do-everything quarterback Greg Ward Jr., likely with Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen. Is he ready to shoulder the load?
The Cougars trade Oklahoma and Louisville for Arizona and Texas Tech but must travel to South Florida and Temple.
Predicted record: 8-4
After a 5-7 mark in 2016, Nevada made a solid hire by bringing respected assistant Jay Norvell into town.
The Wolf Pack returns 14 starters but must travel to Northwestern and Washington State, as well as Boise State and San Diego State.
There is potential here but moving up the Mountain West ranks could be difficult.
Predicted record: 4-8
San Jose State
San Jose State is one of college football’s toughest outposts. Ron Caragher got the Spartans bowl-eligible in two of his four seasons, but ultimately going 19-30 overall couldn’t save him.
Oregon State receivers coach and former SJSU assistant Brent Brennan was named as head coach.
The Spartans return 15 starters, but facing South Florida and road trips to Texas and Utah in the first month is tough. A road trip to BYU and facing San Jose State and Wyoming in the final month of the season doesn’t help, either.
Predicted record: 3-10
Charlie Strong never got things rolling at Texas, but he found a soft landing spot at South Florida following Willie Taggart’s departure to Oregon.
The Bulls return 16 starters, led by multi-talented quarterback Quinton Flowers, and they should be the clear favorite in the AAC.
The toughest nonconference game is Illinois, with Temple and Houston at home. Strong has the pieces in place for a great start.
Predicted record: 11-1
Matt Rhule set a high bar for his replacement at Temple with consecutive 10-win seasons.
Geoff Collins is a capable replacement with a solid track record as Florida and Mississippi State defensive coordinator, but he could face a tough task in his debut season.
The Owls return just 10 starters from 2016, and they open the season with Notre Dame in a schedule that also includes a road trip to South Florida and visits from Houston, Central Florida and Navy.
Predicted record: 6-6
Western Kentucky has become something of a launching pad for coaches. Willie Taggart, Bobby Petrino and now Jeff Brohm have all left the Hilltoppers behind for Power Five jobs, but the Hilltoppers keep reloading, hiring Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Sanford.
Sanford returns only 10 starters (four on offense), but one of them is quarterback Mike White, who threw for 4,363 yards with 37 touchdowns against seven interceptions.
Nonconference games against Illinois and Vanderbilt could be tough, but WKU will again be a factor in Conference USA.
Predicted record: 9-3
2016 was a dream year for Western Michigan. The Broncos finished 13-1 and made the Cotton Bowl, but they saw P.J. Fleck leave for Minnesota in the offseason.
New coach Tim Lester inherits 13 starters, but only five on offense, and potent passer-receiver duo Zach Terrell and Corey Davis are gone, too.
It certainly doesn’t help to start the season at Southern California and Michigan State and close it at Northern Illinois and Toledo. A regression is coming.
Predicted record: 7-5