The college football season is finally over, which gives us a chance to look ahead to next year.
And we’re not talking about the big boys.
On Tuesday, The Sports Network announced its early-early favorites in the Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern Washington (11-3 last year) is picked third, surrounded by some familiar company: No.1 North Dakota State, No.2 Illinois State and No. 4 Sam Houston State.
Even more interesting, here’s what they say about the Eagles:
“What quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. can accomplish as a senior is a scary thought. But the two-time runner-up for the Walter Payton Award and All-American wide receiver Cooper Kupp (pictured above) are going to have to keep scoring in bunches until the Eagles defense proves it is much improved. Allowing 59 points to Illinois State in the national quarterfinals left some doubt. The schedule is as difficult as ever for the three-time defending Big Sky champions, including Oregon, Northern Iowa, Idaho State and Montana on the road, and Montana State (as a non-conference matchup again) and Cal Poly at home.”
That’s hardly surprising, but the defense may still be an issue next year unless Eastern effectively replace five starters, including two of its best in linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and safety Tevin McDonald. On the other hand, I expect to see all those young defensive linemen emerge bigger and badder come spring.
TSN is right about the offense, which shouldn’t miss a beat despite the departure of running backs Quincy Forte and Mario Brown along with All-American right tackle Jake Rodgers.
And the schedule? It’s as tough as ever, especially when you consider the game at Northern Iowa, which seldom loses at home. On
the other hand, ISU must replace All-Big Sky quarterback Justin Arias.
And what about Montana? The Griz don’t even merit a mention in the TSN rankings.