Potential turnarounds to the FCS playoffs
(STATS) - One-quarter of last year's FCS playoff field - six teams - were coming off losing records in 2014.
Sometimes it takes a tweak, sometimes a major overhaul, but The Citadel, Colgate, Eastern Illinois, Portland State, Southern Utah and Western Illinois all found a way to make a difference last season.
More teams figure to follow a similar script this year. Here are five which could challenge for playoff berths after finishing in the red last season:
Delaware (4-7) - The one-time CAA Football power hasn't been to the playoffs since its national championship game loss in 2010. Two easy nonconference games against Delaware State and at Lafayette should lead to a good start, and fourth-year coach Dave Brock hopes a veteran squad can take it from there. Sophomore quarterback Joe Walker seeks to have command of a position that defines Blue Hens football, but was subpar last year.
Montana State (5-6) - Nobody's talking about the Bobcats, which basically never happens, and an element of surprise never hurts a team. First-year coach Jeff Choate wasn't around for last year's struggles, so he only knows MSU as being a Big Sky power. A few of the Bobcats' conference losses were quite winnable. Junior college quarterback transfer Tyler Bruggman needs to keep the offense high-powered. New defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak took on a struggling unit, which boasts terrific linebacker Mac Bignell.
Stephen F. Austin (4-7) - The Lumberjacks collapsed early last season, losing their first five games, and they face some more tough games to start this season. But they have a chance to get on a roll behind Southland preseason quarterback Zach Conque, the son of coach Clint Conque. The skills positions are particularly deep. The Lumberjacks were in the playoffs just two years ago.
Wofford (5-6) - A dark horse will emerge in the Southern Conference - Mercer is another possibility - but the Terriers have a lot of experienced players after suffering through an injury-plagued season a year ago. Senior quarterback Evan Jacks has made at least five starts in each of his first three seasons and their triple option will be among the national leaders in rushing. But veteran coach Mike Ayers needs improvement on defense.
Youngstown State (5-6) - Many thought the Missouri Valley squad would get back to the playoffs in coach Bo Pelini's first season last year, but the Penguins took a step backward, losing a number of close games. Running backs Jody Webb and Martin Ruiz form a strong 1-2 offensive punch, and defensive end Derek Rivers and free safety LeRoy Alexander keep the defense strong against the pass. YSU is tough at home and should do well over those six games as it seeks its first playoff berth since 2006.