2013 UConn football's 10 things to know: The fruits of not wanting to be terrible

David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

With a hopeless offense and a fierce defensive front seven, UConn was basically a poor man's Rutgers last season. But like Rutgers, the Huskies have to hope the offense improves enough to offset some defensive regression coming down the pike. For more on the Huskies, visit The UConn Blog.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Perfectly Average, part 3

Over the course of the 2013 preview series (123 down, two to go!), I've predictably come across a few themes to revisit from time to time. One is the battle for the title of Most Perfectly Average Program.

Washington has put together a sterling c.v. through the years; outside of a bad outlier in 2008, the Huskies have ranked between 50th and 70th in six of the last seven years. NC State's certainly a stalwart competitor in this weight class as well, having posted rankings between 58th and 65th in six of seven years. Now that's average!

But a new contender has emerged of late and is putting together some spectacularly average numbers.

Randy Edsall caught lightning in a bottle at UConn for a bit, ranking 32nd, 29th, and 34th from 2007-09. His 2007-08 offenses were good to very good, as were his 2007 and 2009 defenses. The Huskies faded quite a bit in 2010, however -- a strange thing to say about a team that shared the conference title and went to the Fiesta Bowl -- falling to 63rd. In 2011, Paul Pasqualoni's first team was 54th. His second was 61st in 2012.

Actual F/+ ratings for UConn over the last three seasons: minus-1.4 percent, 1.4 percent, and 0.0 percent. That's … that's perfectly average.

The Pasqualoni hire basically screamed, "We just don't want to be terrible." Pasqualoni hadn't been at the helm of a truly good college football team since 2001; he went 16-20 in his last three years at Syracuse, then spent a while as an assistant in the professional ranks. And to his credit, he has indeed fielded two UConn teams that were most certainly not terrible. But they weren't good either. They've basically been a worse Rutgers.

2. The problem is pretty obvious

Husky defenses have been mostly stellar under the leadership of the 64-year-old home-stater, but offense has been optional. The Huskies have won 73 percent of their games in the last two years when they score at least 23 points (national scoring average in college football last year: 28 points), but they've only done so 11 times in 24 games.

UConn ranked 81st in Off. F/+ in Edsall's last season, but that ranking has fallen to 96th and 107th in the Pasqualoni era. (Can you call two years an era?) To fix the offense's woes, Pasqualoni has now turned to T.J. Weist, who has good programs (grad assistant at Alabama and Michigan, 1988-93) and good titles (offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky, 2003-06) on his résumé. Weist spent the last three seasons as Cincinnati's receivers coach under Butch Jones.

Thus far, most quotes from Weist focus on execution, energy, and detail over system change ("It's somewhat of a different offense. … I just added some stuff to it."). SB Nation's The UConn Blog went into a bit more detail here:

In response, Weist has, as told by players, simplified their approach. In addition, he’s taken terminology from the old playbook and put it in his own for this upcoming season. The team is going to take a fewer amount of concepts and practice them at a higher rate to become more proficient, instead spending their time sampling many styles of play. […]

I’d bet you season tickets for the next decade that outside of the spread style he favors, one of the biggest reasons Weist was hired by Pasqualoni was because of his past experience teaching pro-style concepts. Yes, he’s been coaching in a spread system for longer than a decade and that’s all we’ve heard about. But, it wasn’t always like that. […]

This system is not the lightning-fast spread offense you see at Oregon. It is not the pass-happy Air Raid attack used throughout the Big 12. Weist’s spread is also most definitely is not the run-first spread used by the old national title Florida teams and new Urban Meyer-led squads at Ohio State.

This is a refined, slightly altered version of the original one-back spread that really took flight in the late-'90s thanks to coaches like Dennis Erickson and Noel Mazzone. Yet, through the years and all types of variations made by coaches everywhere, the core concepts remain relatively the same.

Yes, he has some spread experience in his past, and when an offense is this bad, complete change might make you feel good, but considering the personnel is almost exactly the same from last year's young squad, perhaps this is okay for now. Or perhaps there just isn't enough talent. I lean toward the latter, but we'll find out soon enough.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 5-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 61
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
30-Aug Massachusetts 37-0 W 20.7 - (-3.4) W
8-Sep N.C. State 7-10 L 16.8 - 15.1 W
15-Sep at Maryland 24-21 W 18.9 - 19.5 L
22-Sep at Western Michigan 24-30 L 27.6 - 17.6 W
29-Sep Buffalo 24-17 W 30.0 - 23.0 W
6-Oct at Rutgers 3-19 L 21.2 - 26.3 L
13-Oct Temple 14-17 L 15.2 - 19.5 L
19-Oct at Syracuse 10-40 L 21.6 - 32.3 L
3-Nov at South Florida 6-13 L 17.8 - 20.4 L
9-Nov Pittsburgh 24-17 W 31.8 - 26.6 W
24-Nov at Louisville 23-20 W 15.1 - 16.3 L
1-Dec Cincinnati 17-34 L 20.4 - 25.0 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 17.8 121 19.8 19
Adj. Points Per Game 21.4 115 19.8 10

3. Win at Louisville, lose at home to Temple

Really, the 2012 season didn't make much sense. That UConn was able to lose at home to Temple and win at Louisville certainly spelled that out pretty clearly, but the stats just make things more confusing. For five weeks, UConn was actually a pretty good team; the offense was still bad, but the defense was nearly untouchable. But even while playing well overall, the Huskies still figured out how to lose to a pretty bad WMU team while outgaining the Broncos by 90 yards. A couple of months later, UConn beat Louisville while getting outgained by 160 yards.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): UConn 22.8, Opponent 14.4 (plus-8.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 7 games): Opponent 23.8, UConn 20.4 (minus-3.4)

Actually, let's just move on. These numbers aren't going to make sense no matter how long we look at them.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 113 118 120 113
RUSHING 121 123 124 120
PASSING 66 92 86 97
Standard Downs 121 124 115
Passing Downs 88 60 98
Redzone 74 67 80
Q1 Rk 106 1st Down Rk 120
Q2 Rk 65 2nd Down Rk 74
Q3 Rk 123 3rd Down Rk 109
Q4 Rk 111

4. Better game plans would be a start

T.J. Weist isn't exactly trying to install an Air Raid offense here. He seems to understand that UConn isn't going to draw much blue-chip offensive talent (and that there isn't a wealth of spread receivers in the northeast), and he has focused most of his efforts on sharpness and execution. That's fine. But if he can put together better game plans and coax better early execution out of the Huskies, that will certainly be a good first step toward improvement. Connecticut ranked 121st in Standard Downs S&P+, 123rd in Rushing S&P+, 120th in first-down S&P+, and 106th in first-quarter S&P+. Thanks to a pretty solid Chandler Whitmer-to-Geremy Davis combination, the Huskies were actually occasionally able to dig out of second- or third-and-long holes. But they were basically just forfeiting first downs, unable to move the ball forward on the ground and unable to find a reliable second weapon to do damage alongside Davis.

Be it better execution on the ground, frequent use of the slot receiver (probably junior Deshon Foxx), or anything else, UConn simply has to do a better job of stealing yards on standard downs. If Weist can uncover more second-and-5s and fewer second-and-10s, things will fall into place pretty quickly. But I'm not completely sure how he might do that.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Chandler Whitmer 6'1, 193 Jr. **** (5.8) 208 361 2,664 57.6% 9 16 33 8.4% 6.2
Johnny McEntee


10 25 99 40.0% 1 2 0 0.0% 4.0
Scott McCummings 6'3, 257 Jr. ** (5.4) 1 2 2 50.0% 0 0 0 0.0% 1.0
Casey Cochran 6'1, 226 RSFr. *** (5.7)






Tim Boyle 6'4, 216 Fr. *** (5.7)






Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Lyle McCombs RB 5'8, 175 Jr. ** (5.3) 243 860 3.5 3.1 6 -30.8
Scott McCummings QB 6'3, 257 Jr. ** (5.4) 39 132 3.4 5.4 2 -4.6
Max DeLorenzo RB 6'0, 207 So. ** (5.4) 36 119 3.3 5.2 0 -7.0
Chandler Whitmer QB 6'1, 193 Jr. **** (5.8) 30 60 2.0 3.4 0 -10.3
Martin Hyppolite FB 6'0, 217 Sr. ** (5.2) 19 69 3.6 22.2 1 -0.9
Nick Williams WR 10 40 4.0 4.2 1 -0.7

5. You can't be 5'8, 175 with no explosiveness

Jordan Todman … Donald Brown … if you remember the name of a former UConn offensive star, you're probably remembering a running back. Just thinking about the talent of the region, it's probably easier to build a competent offense around the run in the Northeast. Instead, UConn had the second-worst run game in the country last season. That's unfathomable.

What's more unfathomable is that UConn had the second-worst run game in the country despite decent line stats. The Huskies ranked 37th in Adj. Line Yards despite a banged up, shuffled line, seemingly creating a few opportunities for running back Lyle McCombs. (Pass blocking was a different story.) Either that was a statistical mirage, or McCombs failed to do anything with the chances.

We know that McCombs had a pretty bad 2012 campaign for a number of reasons, but even in 2011, as he was rushing for 1,151 yards and seven scores as a freshman, his highlight yardage was only 4.4 yards per opportunity. (Quick primer: highlight yardage basically documents the yards you get when the line gets you at least five yards downfield. Though it's obviously a generalization, the line is given credit for the first five yards of a run and given half-credit for the next five.) Anything under 5.0 is pretty bad on the highlight scale, and while McCombs has been impressively durable in his career thus far (22.5 carries per game, only one missed game in two years), his stats give the impression of a Le'Veon Bell-style runner. Bell has five inches and 70 pounds on McCombs.

It appears McCombs and backup Max DeLorenzo are the go-to backs again this year; DeLorenzo showed at least a hint of explosiveness as a freshman, but if the run game is going to improve, it will probably be because of play-calling and the exploits of a healthy, experienced line. Six players with starting experience return (77 career starts), and they're big. These six average 6'5, 312 pounds, and with some semblance of continuity, they could crack into the top-30 in run blocking. They'll just need a back who helps them out.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Geremy Davis WR 6'3, 215 Jr. *** (5.5) 71 44 613 62.0% 8.6 19.8% 52.1% 8.6 79.9
Shakim Phillips WR 6'2, 209 Jr. **** (5.8) 57 32 399 56.1% 7.0 15.9% 40.4% 7.0 52.0
Michael Smith WR 52 31 407 59.6% 7.8 14.5% 55.8% 7.9 53.1
Nick Williams WR 51 30 334 58.8% 6.5 14.2% 41.2% 6.9 43.5
Ryan Griffin TE 48 29 484 60.4% 10.1 13.4% 52.1% 10.5 63.1
Lyle McCombs RB 5'8, 175 Jr. ** (5.3) 38 24 230 63.2% 6.1 10.6% 50.0% 6.6 30.0
John Delahunt TE 24 18 223 75.0% 9.3 6.7% 54.2% 9.3 29.1
Michael Osiecki FB 5 3 32 60.0% 6.4 1.4% 80.0% 7.0 4.2
Martin Hyppolite FB 6'0, 217 Sr. ** (5.2) 5 1 10 20.0% 2.0 1.4% 0.0% 1.3 1.3
Spencer Parker TE 6'4, 228 Sr. NR








Deshon Foxx WR 5'10, 172 Jr. ** (5.4)








Kamal Abrams WR 5'11, 186 Jr. ** (5.4)








Sean McQuillan TE 6'4, 237 So. *** (5.6)








Dhameer Bradley WR 5'9, 168 Fr. *** (5.7)








Brian Lemelle WR 5'10, 160 Fr. *** (5.6)








6. Find complements for Davis

Chandler Whitmer, a former star recruit and Illinois transfer, was doomed by plenty of his own mistakes in 2012; he took far too many sacks, even on standard downs, and his interception rate (4.4 percent) was about twice as high as it should be. Still, like McCombs, he was only a sophomore. And when he was making the right reads (in the right amount of time), he was able to find a nice connection with Geremy Davis (another 2012 sophomore) and a pair of pretty solid tight ends -- Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt combined for 9.8 yards per target on about six targets per game. But both tight ends are gone, as are No. 3 and No. 4 targets Michael Smith and Nick Williams.

Sean McQuillan and Spencer Parker actually have a pretty high bar to clear at tight end, but beyond BC transfer Shakim Phillips, there is next to no experience at the receiver position. Guys like Foxx and Kamal Abrams aren't exactly replacing All-Americans, but they're still unknowns. Whitmer needs some high-percentage weapons to go alongside Davis, wherever they may come from.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 78.6 2.16 2.43 27.6% 73.1% 22.8% 74.1 7.3% 9.3%
Rank 37 34 84 47 104 86 106 114 104
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Adam Masters RG 30 career starts
Kevin Friend RT 6'6, 317 Sr. ** (5.1) 25 career starts
Steve Greene LG 6'5, 308 Sr. *** (5.6) 20 career starts
Jimmy Bennett LT 6'9, 307 Sr. *** (5.7) 15 career starts
Tyler Bullock C 6'4, 316 Sr. ** (5.1) 8 career starts
Gus Cruz RG 6'4, 309 Jr. ** (5.0) 5 career starts
Alex Mateas C 6'4, 315 Jr. NR 4 career starts
Bryan Paull C 6'4, 304 Jr. *** (5.5)
Xavier Hemingway RT 6'5, 273 So. *** (5.6)
Dalton Gifford LT 6'5, 309 So. *** (5.5)
Tyler Samra LG 6'2, 299 So. ** (5.4)
Zach Rugg LG 6'5, 301 RSFr. *** (5.5)
Kyle Schafenacker RG 6'3, 290 Fr. *** (5.6)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 9 18 18 21
RUSHING 7 10 13 11
PASSING 36 30 26 34
Standard Downs 6 9 7
Passing Downs 51 49 53
Redzone 67 59 76
Q1 Rk 11 1st Down Rk 5
Q2 Rk 23 2nd Down Rk 70
Q3 Rk 21 3rd Down Rk 26
Q4 Rk 32

7. System vs. talent

The improvement was immediate. Pasqualoni and new defensive coordinator Don Brown inherited a UConn defense that had fallen to 58th in Def. F/+ in 2009 and 50th in 2010, and engineered a surge right back into the top 30, where the Huskies had resided in both 2007 and 2008. The 2012 defense was every bit as good on standard downs as its offense was bad, constantly slicing into the backfield to stop the run, generating a solid pass rush, and swarming with one of the nation's linebacking corps. Despite an offense that was, at its best, almost a touchdown worse than average, the defense got the Huskies to within a single game of bowl eligibility.

How much of this solid defensive play was due to talent Pasqualoni inherited, how much was due to Don Brown, and how much was due to Pasqualoni himself? If the answer to the last question is "quite a bit," then the UConn defense should remain pretty strong in 2013.

But the more heavily you lean on the first two factors there, the more question marks emerge. Because two-thirds of UConn's stellar linebacking corps, along with the two leading tacklers on the line (and both starting cornerbacks, for that matter) are gone. And so is Brown, having been lured away by the seductive Steve Addazio at Boston College.

Hank Hughes takes over for Brown in the D.C. role, one he held for Edsall a few years back (before staying on staff as assistant head coach when Pasqualoni came aboard), so continuity won't be a huge problem there. Still, the more you think individual talent matters (both in coaching and on the field), the more you might doubt this year's defense.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 121.9 2.30 2.30 30.7% 63.3% 28.1% 128.2 7.3% 8.2%
Rank 6 2 11 6 37 2 23 9 36
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Ryan Wirth DT 12 36.0 5.5% 10 3.5 0 0 1 1
Trevardo Williams DE 12 32.0 4.9% 13.5 11.5 0 0 1 0
Shamar Stephen DT 6'5, 313 Sr. ** (4.9) 10 20.0 3.1% 2 0 0 4 0 0
Angelo Pruitt DE 6'3, 297 Jr. ** (5.2) 12 19.5 3.0% 4 1 0 1 0 1
Tim Willman DE 6'4, 267 Sr. ** (5.3) 12 16.0 2.5% 8 3 0 0 0 0
Jesse Joseph DE 6'3, 262 Sr. ** (5.0) 3 8.5 1.3% 1.5 1 0 0 0 0
Julian Campenni DT 6'0, 298 So. ** (5.3) 10 7.5 1.2% 2.5 1 0 0 0 0
B.J. McBryde DE 6'5, 318 Jr. ** (5.2) 10 4.5 0.7% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Elijah Norris DE 6'3, 238 So. ** (5.4) 7 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Reuben Frank DE 6'3, 246 Jr. *** (5.6)






Mikal Myers DT 6'0, 295 RSFr. *** (5.5)






Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Yawin Smallwood ILB 6'4, 236 Jr. *** (5.5) 12 89.5 13.8% 15 4 0 4 2 1
Jory Johnson ILB 12 66.0 10.2% 6.5 0 0 3 2 1
Sio Moore OLB 12 58.5 9.0% 15.5 8 0 11 0 1
Brandon Steg ILB 6'2, 228 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 7.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Jefferson Ashiru OLB 6'2, 233 So. *** (5.6) 9 7.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Marquise Vann ILB 6'0, 232 So. *** (5.5) 10 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Ryan Donohue ILB 6'0, 239 Sr. *** (5.5) 5 3.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Graham Stewart
(2011 Florida)
OLB 6'2, 236 So. **** (5.8) 12 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0

8. Loads of potential, minimal experience

Pasqualoni still has some strong pieces -- inside linebacker Yawin Smallwood is one of the best in America, end Tim Willman has potential as a strong pass rusher, Florida transfer Graham Stewart has a pedigree and has evidently thrived in fall practice (yes, against the UConn offense, but still) -- but he has fewer of them than he did a year ago. At least, he has fewer known entities. Last year's starting linebackers accounted for 91 percent of the unit's tackles; Brandon Steg, Jefferson Ahiru, Marquise Vann, and Ryan Donohue combined to log less than one-fourth the number of tackles as Smallwood.

Meanwhile, after tackle Jesse Joseph tore his Achilles, UConn played basically five linemen. Some coaches just don't use their bench much -- UCF's George O'Leary, to name one -- so we don't know if these starter-heavy minutes came because of philosophy or fear of the second string. We know that he had a similarly small rotation in 2011, and after losing two starting tackles, the 2012 line got even better. So there's hope for players like Donohue, Steg, Willman, etc.; it just comes with a leap of faith.

(By the way, this complete lack of bench play might explain why UConn's defense, though still pretty good late in games, got worse as the game progressed.)

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Byron Jones CB 6'1, 191 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 64.0 9.9% 1.5 0 1 2 0 0
Dwayne Gratz CB 12 44.5 6.9% 3.5 0 3 11 1 0
Ty-Meer Brown S 6'0, 201 Jr. ** (5.3) 12 41.0 6.3% 0.5 0 1 4 0 0
Blidi Wreh-Wilson CB 11 39.0 6.0% 0 0 1 9 0 0
Taylor Mack CB 5'9, 175 Sr. *** (5.5) 12 22.5 3.5% 1 0 0 4 0 0
Andrew Adams S 6'0, 199 So. ** (5.4) 10 17.5 2.7% 2 0 0 4 0 1
Wilbert Lee S 6'1, 207 So. ** (5.4) 11 6.5 1.0% 0 0 0 1 0 0
David Kenney S 11 4.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
David Stevenson CB 5'9, 170 So. *** (5.5)
Jhavon Williams CB 5'11, 191 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Ellis Marder CB 6'1, 195 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Obi Melifonwu S 6'4, 208 RSFr. *** (5.5)






9. The stats didn't add up

Blidi Wreh-Wilson missed five games in two years, but he had one of the better ratios of passes defensed to tackles made that you're going to find. He picked off three passes and broke up 16 more (stone hands) while recording 69 tackles, which means, as always, that he was either great at preventing his man from catching the ball or bad at tackling his man. Regardless, Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz, another active cornerback (eight tackles for loss, 21 passes defensed), are both gone, and that seems like a bad thing. But I'm wondering if some new blood might not be a bad thing; despite superb on-ball defensive numbers and a top 25 pass rush, UConn was still just 51st in Passing Downs S&P+; the Huskies had one of the best standard downs defenses in the country but suffered quite a few breakdowns on second- and third-and-long.

Safety Byron Jones has moved to corner, and senior corner Taylor Mack got decent experience last year (a whopping six defensive backs saw serious minutes!), so the cornerbacks unit isn't exactly starting over. But young (and big) safety Obi Melifonwu appears to have solidified a starting spot alongside Ty-Meer Brown, and young corners Jhavon Williams and Ellis Marder have also shoved their way into a potential rotation role (to the extent that Pasqualoni actually uses a rotation). This might not be a bad thing.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Cole Wagner 6'3, 211 Sr. 78 40.5 8 18 25 55.1%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Chad Christen 6'1, 188 Sr. 43 62.5 16 37.2%
Bobby Puyol 5'10, 176 So. 4 53.5 0 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Chad Christen 6'1, 188 Sr. 22-22 12-14 85.7% 2-7 28.6%
Bobby Puyol 5'10, 176 So. 2-2 0-0 0.0% 1-1 100.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Nick Williams KR 24 20.4 0
Taylor Mack KR 5'9, 175 Sr. 6 16.3 0
Nick Williams PR 21 12.0 2
Taylor Mack PR 5'9, 175 Sr. 1 21.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 45
Net Punting 84
Net Kickoffs 70
Touchback Pct 73
Field Goal Pct 74
Kick Returns Avg 96
Punt Returns Avg 18

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
29-Aug Towson NR
14-Sep Maryland 83
21-Sep Michigan 28
28-Sep at Buffalo 97
12-Oct South Florida 67
19-Oct at Cincinnati 26
26-Oct at Central Florida 55
8-Nov Louisville 31
16-Nov at SMU 91
23-Nov at Temple 64
30-Nov Rutgers 48
7-Dec Memphis 116
Five-Year F/+ Rk 43
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 73
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -14 / -3.2
TO Luck/Game -4.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (8, 5)
Yds/Pt Margin** +2.3

10. It's not as dire as it may seem

As good as the defense was in 2012, it was almost a lot more successful. The Huskies defensed a solid 64 passes last year but somehow picked off only six of them. Typically about 21 percent of your defensed passes result in interceptions; for UConn, it was under nine percent. The Huskies also only recovered 41 percent of all fumbles, meaning that they had some of the worst turnovers luck in the country, losing almost five points per game to bad bounces in a season that saw them lose four games by a touchdown or less. Despite the wretched offense, UConn wasn't far away from being about as successful as Rutgers, basically.

Like Rutgers, however, the Huskies now have to hope that said wretched offense improves enough to offset potential defensive regression. Pasqualoni has a track record for good defense, but he really does have to replace a lot of talent, particularly at linebacker and on the coaching staff. If T.J. Weist can pull off a magic act, maybe that doesn't matter. But that's an enormous if.

For what it's worth, the schedule should help in UConn's quest to get back to a bowl, even with the question marks. At least five home games are winnable, and both Michigan and Louisville have just enough issues that I'm sure UConn fans can talk themselves into having a chance there too. (Hey, they did take down the Cardinals last year...)

If the Huskies go just 4-3 at home and take down Buffalo and either SMU or Temple on the road, that's six wins. I have no faith in the offense, and I think I'm justified in that, but I do think the schedule caters to six wins. We'll set the bar there. And that will feel like improvement even if it really isn't.

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