The big 2014 South Alabama football preview: Jaguars have risen quickly

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Surprise! South Alabama was actually quite salty last year, but some close-game struggles probably kept you from noticing. Regardless, the Jaguars could very well be a Sun Belt contender in just their third FBS season.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. One of these things ... not like the others ...

The middle of the F/+ rankings give us a look at the most average of average in college football -- the decent BCS teams in a conference full of better-than-decent squads, the successful mid-majors who separated themselves from the scrap heap, etc. You've got Minnesota, Indiana, Northwestern, Penn State, and Illinois from the Big Ten, all between 55th and 71st. You've got Ball State, Northern Illinois, and Toledo from the MAC, all between 57th and 62nd. You've got Pittsburgh, Maryland and Boston College from the ACC, and you've got Rice, Tulane, and UTSA from Conference USA. Major-conference teams hovering around .500 and mid-majors hovering around eight wins -- that's what you'd expect from the pudgy middle of the Football Bowl Subdivision.

You've also got South Alabama at 68th, just ahead of Illinois and Tennessee, ahead of C-USA champion Rice, and just behind teams like Maryland, BC, and Cincinnati. USA went 4-3 in the Sun Belt, a conference lower than C-USA on the totem pole, and finished 6-6 overall.

You might remember when the Jaguars nearly beat Tennessee in late-September, but that's probably the only time you noticed them. They lost to Southern Utah and Texas State and got whipped by Navy. They reached 6-6 in just their second season in FBS, which is an accomplishment in and of itself, but how in the world did they get to 68th? That's the territory of teams that managed to frequently look solid but never look too good.

For starters, USA mastered the art of the close loss. The Jaguars went 2-5 in one-possession games; they were closer to 10-2 than 3-9. They were two or three plays away from a run at the Sun Belt title. (The Sun Belt co-champions, by the way, ranked 86th and 90th.)

Outliers exist, and perhaps USA's inclusion this high on the list was an accident; the Jaguars did get a bit of an artificial bump in whipping a UL-Lafayette squad that was without star quarterback Terrance Broadway, after all. But that was only a minor bump, and the Jaguars spent most of the season hovering between 60th and 80th. This was a legitimately decent team.

One of the things F/+ is pretty good at is picking up on budding programs before the eyeball does. Texas A&M and Notre Dame each ranked much higher than it seemed they should have in 2011, then broke through in 2012. Michigan State was 15th in 2012 while finishing just 7-6, ahead of 10-win teams like Nebraska, Boise State, Clemson, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Northwestern; the Spartans broke through in a major way in 2013. Perhaps South Alabama is the mid-major example of such a team ready to make much louder noise in a short amount of time?

Perhaps. But the Jaguars must replace quite a few key members of the 2013 squad before a breakthrough can occur.

2. So now what?

Quarterback Ross Metheny, who passed for 2,600 yards and rushed for more than 700 (not including sacks) is gone, but just about everybody else of note returns on the offensive side of the ball. The major areas of concern come on the defense, where a fast, active and undersized front seven must replace six of nine on the line and four of six at linebacker.

Head coach Joey Jones, an Alabama alum, has attempted to follow the Mini-Alabama model pretty closely. Defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer was Nick Saban's director of player development in Tuscaloosa from 2010-12. Their combined résumé is based on strong, proven techniques.

Those techniques will get tested in 2014. If the defense is up to the challenge, the Jaguars could be a serious Sun Belt contender and could pose quite the challenge to Mississippi State in Mobile on September 13. Just as likely, however, is a step backwards on defense and a year of stagnation overall.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-6 | Adj. Record: 6-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 68
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
29-Aug Southern Utah N/A 21-22 L 21.1 - 27.4 L
7-Sep at Tulane 70 41-39 W 41.4 - 35.3 W
14-Sep Western Kentucky 77 31-24 W 36.5 - 25.3 W
28-Sep at Tennessee 72 24-31 L 18.8 - 39.3 L
5-Oct at Troy 105 33-34 L 30.8 - 29.8 W -1.7
19-Oct Kent State 106 38-21 W 33.7 - 35.4 L -0.8
26-Oct at Texas State 107 31-33 L 33.7 - 33.7 W -2.0
2-Nov Arkansas State 90 16-17 L 24.5 - 25.6 L -4.4
16-Nov at Navy 58 14-42 L 18.5 - 36.6 L -4.0
23-Nov UL-Monroe 109 36-14 W 31.4 - 22.0 W -2.3
30-Nov at Georgia State 121 38-17 W 28.8 - 31.4 L -2.5
7-Dec UL-Lafayette 86 30-8 W 24.5 - 6.7 W +1.1
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +0.7% 57 -3.5% 80 +0.0% 70
Points Per Game 29.4 62 25.2 54
Adj. Points Per Game 28.6 61 29.0 75

3. They weren't unlucky

Obviously, the story could be different in specific games, but USA was not a team doomed by poor turnovers luck. That is sometimes the cause of poor close-game records, but for the season, as you see at the bottom of this post, the Jaguars were plus-1.1 points per game in terms of turnover luck.

Regardless, aside from the Navy initiation (welcome to FBS; it's time for you to get cut-blocked into oblivion), they were constantly competitive. The 2013 season was a great sign for the program's future, even if it didn't result in a bowl.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.21 35 IsoPPP+ 101.3 53
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 43.7% 61 Succ. Rt. + 96.6 72
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.8 49 Def. FP+ 102.4 30
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.2 73 Redzone S&P+ 88.0 103
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.0 ACTUAL 13 -4.0
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 50 71 73 70
RUSHING 60 87 91 67
PASSING 43 59 47 65
Standard Downs 63 69 49
Passing Downs 76 73 71
Q1 Rk 62 1st Down Rk 66
Q2 Rk 98 2nd Down Rk 91
Q3 Rk 105 3rd Down Rk 92
Q4 Rk 30

4. Finish

What might have hurt South Alabama as much as anything in close games was a simple inability to finish drives in the end zone. The Jaguars were 71st in terms of overall Off. S&P+, but they ranked just 103rd in Redzone S&P+ and averaged a below-average 4.2 points per trip inside the 40 against below-average competition. They settled for 1.9 field goals per game (only 13 teams averaged more per contest), and in five tight losses, they averaged just 4.0 points per trip and settled for nine field goals, missing four. One of the only things worse than settling for field goals is missing them. USA's failure to turn opportunities into points doomed them.

That can be rectified with an experienced offense and a place-kicker (Aleem Sunanon) who is no longer a freshman. But that will require the Jaguars to figure out a proper starting quarterback first.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Ross Metheny 201 324 2622 15 7 62.0% 13 3.9% 7.4
Brandon Bridge 6'5, 220 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 29 66 398 1 2 43.9% 4 5.7% 5.1
Trey Fetner 6'0, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0 1 0 0 0 0.0% 0 0.0% 0.0
Brett Sheehan 6'3, 175 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)








5. Metheny was a lifeline

A former three-star signee for the Virginia Cavaliers, Ross Metheny took the South Alabama starting job around the beginning of conference play in 2012 and struggled through some growing pains (a 55 percent completion rate, 12 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, a sack rate nearing seven percent), but he was ready for (mid-major) stardom as a senior, passing for about 220 yards per game and rushing for about another 60 more. He cut his interception and sack rates almost in half, he led the Jaguars to a No. 57 finish in Off. F/+ (even with the drive-finishing issues) ... and then he was gone.

Metheny is basically the only starter not returning for USA in 2014, but quarterbacks are of course rather important. Metheny's solid efficiency keyed the Jaguars' attack, and there isn't an obvious successor. Alcorn State transfer Brandon Bridge challenged Metheny for the starting role in August but came up short, then completed only 44 percent of his passes when given the opportunity; he was used as part of a rotation in September for getting hurt, which perhaps suggests that he is the assumed starter. Still, his stat line was mixed.

Junior Trey Fetner has been used in a Wildcat role at times, and it will be interesting to see if these two are used in a dual role, or if Bridge, Fetner, or even redshirt freshman Brett Sheehan can win the job outright.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Jay Jones RB 5'9, 190 Sr. NR 143 737 5 5.2 4.4 41.3%
Ross Metheny QB


119 720 10 6.1 4.9 47.1%
Kendall Houston RB 5'10, 220 Sr. NR 66 207 6 3.1 1.7 31.8%
Cris Dinham RB 5'10, 210 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 57 234 2 4.1 4.4 35.1%
Brandon Bridge QB 6'5, 220 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 33 209 1 6.3 9.0 39.4%
Terrance Timmons RB 5'7, 180 Jr. NR 16 83 0 5.2 4.1 50.0%
Julien Valentin RB


14 43 0 3.1 2.1 28.6%
Trey Fetner QB 6'0, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 6 20 1 3.3 3.0 33.3%
T.J. Glover WR 5'9, 170 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 4 6 0 1.5 3.0 25.0%
Kaleb Blanchard RB 6'0, 200 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)





Xavier Johnson RB 5'11, 170 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)




Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Shavarez Smith WR-Z 6'1, 200 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 85 50 928 58.8% 23.4% 62.8% 10.9 294 11.7 127.5
Jereme Jones WR-A 5'8, 165 Sr. 2 stars (5.1) 69 40 458 58.0% 19.0% 57.4% 6.6 -53 7.0 62.9
Wes Saxton TE 6'4, 240 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 69 50 635 72.5% 19.0% 63.6% 9.2 64 9.4 87.2
Danny Woodson WR 6'1, 210 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 38 26 439 68.4% 10.4% 50.0% 11.6 134 11.9 60.3
Bryant Lavender WR-X 37 23 265 62.2% 10.2% 40.0% 7.2 -19 7.0 36.4
Jay Jones RB 5'9, 190 Sr. NR 27 18 135 66.7% 7.4% 59.3% 5.0 -79 5.0 18.5
Cris Dinham RB 5'10, 210 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 7 6 35 85.7% 1.9% 28.6% 5.0 -29 4.2 4.8
Corey Waldon WR-X 6 2 26 33.3% 1.6% 0.0% 4.3 -10 1.7 3.6
Jake Howton WR 6'1, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 6 4 27 66.7% 1.6% 33.3% 4.5 -21 7.3 3.7
Rush Hendricks TE 6'3, 235 Sr. NR 5 2 4 40.0% 1.4% 100.0% 0.8 -28 0.7 0.5
T.J. Glover WR-A 5'9, 170 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 5 4 13 80.0% 1.4% 100.0% 2.6 -31 1.5 1.8
Kendall Houston RB 5'10, 220 Sr. NR 4 2 8 50.0% 1.1% 0.0% 2.0 -20 1.8 1.1
Ryan Onkka TE 6'4, 240 Sr. NR 3 1 2 33.3% 0.8% 100.0% 0.7 -16 0.4 0.3
Davin Hawkins TE 6'2, 230 Sr. NR 2 2 45 100.0% 0.5% 100.0% 22.5 25 12.5 6.2
Dejon Funderburk WR 5'11, 160 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)









Caleb Alves WR 6'3, 175 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)









Claude Garrett WR 6'3, 215 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)









Braedon Bowman TE 6'4, 210 Jr. NR









6. Inheriting riches

If the quarterback situation is resolved, there might not be another obvious, unanswered question for this offense. The top three rushers all return, as do the top four pass targets and five linemen with extensive starting experience.

The run game could still stand to improve a bit; short-yardage execution was woeful (USA was 126th in Power Success Rate, which certainly helps to explain the Jaguars' drive-finishing issues), and none of the returning leading rushers showed much in the way of explosiveness. Jay Jones was efficient, getting at least five yards downfield on over 40 percent of his carries, but if Kaleb Blanchard, the gem of the 2013 recruiting class, is ready, he could pretty easily surpass Kendall Houston and Cris Dinham for playing time.

It's difficult to find too many weaknesses with the receiving corps, however. Shavarez Smith is one of the best home run threats in the mid-major ranks, while tight end Wes Saxton and Danny Woodson II, a former Alabama signee, make for a hell of a possession duo. The offensive tackles are both returning all-conference performers as well. This offense is ready to roll ... as long as there's a quarterback around to drive.

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 94.6 3.02 2.75 40.2% 45.2% 21.9% 115.0 4.4% 4.1%
Rank 89 54 109 58 126 106 51 59 23
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Chris May RT 6'5, 290 Jr. NR 19 1st All-SBC
Ucambre Williams LT 6'2, 290 Sr. NR 17 2nd All-SBC
Melvin Meggs RT 6'3, 310 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 32
Shaun Artz RG 6'5, 295 Sr. NR 23
Drew Dearman LG 6'3, 310 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 22
Matt Calcagnini C


12
Darius McKeller LT 6'6, 325 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Shane Doty LG 6'4, 290 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Joseph Scelfo C 6'1, 290 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Steven Foster RG 6'3, 310 So. 2 stars 0
Daniel Aust RT 6'2, 280 So. 2 stars 0
Curtis Williams OL 6'4, 285 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.13 57 IsoPPP+ 92.9 101
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 42.0% 54 Succ. Rt. + 94.2 79
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.4 67 Def. FP+ 100.5 55
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.1 62 Redzone S&P+ 96.0 74
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.4 ACTUAL 18.0 -1.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 51 91 79 98
RUSHING 56 89 74 69
PASSING 56 88 95 118
Standard Downs 75 71 70
Passing Downs 102 104 113
Q1 Rk 59 1st Down Rk 79
Q2 Rk 96 2nd Down Rk 112
Q3 Rk 79 3rd Down Rk 45
Q4 Rk 112

7. ATTAAAAACK

On a play-for-play basis, South Alabama's defense wasn't particularly great in 2013, but it was certainly active. The Jaguars gave up a few too many big plays and allowed at least 5.7 yards per play seven times in 12 games; they ALSO finished fourth in Adj. Sack Rate and 18th in the Havoc stat referenced above (percentage of plays with a tackle for loss, forced fumble or pass defensed). If you can't beat an offense on most plays, make the most of the wins you get.

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 91 3.22 3.67 39.7% 71.4% 15.5% 166.4 8.7% 10.8%
Rank 101 99 102 70 90 106 4 2 6
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Alex Page DE 12 37.5 5.4% 14.0 7.5 1 2 0 0
Romelle Jones NT 11 30.0 4.3% 13.0 7.0 0 0 1 0
Pat Moore JACK 12 26.0 3.7% 14.0 6.0 0 4 2 0
Jesse Kelley NT 5'10, 270 Sr. NR 12 25.5 3.7% 6.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Jerome McClain NT 6'3, 275 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 22.5 3.2% 4.5 3.0 0 0 0 0
Montavious Williams NT 11 19.0 2.7% 4.5 4.0 0 1 0 0
Theo Rich JACK 6'2, 270 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 9 13.5 1.9% 2.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Ceasare Johnson DE 4 4.0 0.6% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Randon Carnathan DT 2 2.5 0.4% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
DeMarion Harper DT 6'3, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)
Theo Rich DE 6'2, 270 Sr. 2 stars (5.2)
Bryson Johnson DT 6'3, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)







Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Enrique Williams MIKE


12 74.5 10.7% 7.5 1.0 0 2 2 0
Maleki Harris SAM 6'1, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 11 46.0 6.6% 8.5 2.5 1 7 0 0
Bryson James MIKE


11 23.0 3.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Clifton Crews SAM


11 22.5 3.2% 4.5 3.0 0 3 0 0
Desmond LaVelle MIKE 5'11, 235 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 8 18.5 2.7% 2.0 1.0 0 1 0 0
David Hawkins OLB


3 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Cordivido Grice ILB 6'0, 215 Jr. NR 3 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jimmie Gipson III OLB 6'0, 255 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Demarius Rancifer ILB 6'4, 205 Jr. NR






8. Attaaaaack?

USA's front seven specialized in making plays in 2013. Three linemen recorded at least 13 tackles for loss, and six others in the front seven had at least 4.5. The Jaguars tried to come at you from every direction, and it worked more often than not.

The problem: Of the nine players with at least 4.5 TFLs, only three return. The three prolific linemen (Alex Page, Romelle Jones, Pat Moore)? All gone. Leading tackler Enrique Williams? Gone.

All is not lost. Maleki Harris is a wrecking ball in both pass coverage and near the line, and nose tackles Jesse Kelley and Jerome McClain were just as prolific as Jones on a per-opportunity basis. And players like Theo Rich and Desmond LaVelle made a play or two in backup roles. So perhaps the play-making will be equal to last year's, and if the new starters can also avoid getting pushed around quite as much, maybe that's a fair trade.

But this is a severe test of South Alabama's depth, and FBS newcomers don't tend to pass those tests. (Newcomers also don't tend to rank in the top 70 in Year 2. South Alabama did.)

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Qudarius Ford CB 5'8, 170 Sr. NR 12 63.5 9.1% 0.5 0 2 6 0 0
Terrell Brigham FS 6'0, 190 Sr. NR 12 54.5 7.8% 0.5 0 0 2 1 0
Montell Garner CB 6'1, 185 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 47.5 6.8% 3 0 3 5 0 0
Charles Watson SS


11 36.0 5.2% 0 0 1 3 1 0
Roman Buchanan SS 6'2, 200 So. 2 stars (5.4) 12 29.0 4.2% 0 0 1 3 0 0
Antonio Carter CB 5'8, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 9 21.5 3.1% 0 0 0 5 0 0
E.J. May CB 5'10, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 9 18.0 2.6% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Tyrell Pearson CB


6 10.0 1.4% 0 0 2 1 0 0
Steffon Fuller FS 6'4, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 6 8.5 1.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Steven Fuller S 6'4, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 4 5.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Devon Earl S 5'10, 175 So. 2 stars (5.4) 4 5.0 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Charles Harris S


4 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
DeMarrion Buford-Hughes S 6'5, 210 Jr. NR 3 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Alonzo Long S 5'10, 200 Sr. NR 3 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nigel Green DB 6'1, 160 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Marice Fluellen DB 5'10, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Malcolm Buggs DB 5'9, 195 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Darian Mills DB 5'11, 160 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

9. Plugging leaks

USA's defensive front was certainly pushed around at times, but the biggest issue for the Jaguars came in allowing big pass plays. If the pass rush didn't get to opposing quarterbacks, there were probably receivers open downfield.

With six of the top seven tacklers in the secondary (and nine of 10) returning, experience won't be an issue. Talent, however? The jury's still out on that one. Corners Qudarius Ford and Montell Garner did at least make a few plays to go with the ones they gave up (16 passes defensed, 3.5 tackles for loss), but the safeties didn't do much of anything besides making tackles 20 yards downfield. Three-star JUCO transfer Nigel Green will be asked to make an immediate impact, and three of the most highly-touted freshman signees in the 2014 class are defensive backs. There's potential for an immediate talent infusion here, but we'll see how quickly it can make a difference.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Scott Garber 51 40.7 3 16 16 62.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Aleem Sunanon 5'7, 185 So. 44 54.7 5 0 11.4%
Brandon McKee 6'1, 175 So. 29 51.8 0 1 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Aleem Sunanon 5'7, 185 So. 37-39 10-13 76.9% 8-10 80.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
T.J. Glover KR 5'9, 170 Sr. 23 25.0 0
Terrance Timmons KR 5'7, 180 Jr. 2 7.5 0
T.J. Glover PR 5'9, 170 Sr. 14 6.4 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 70
Field Goal Efficiency 37
Punt Return Efficiency 61
Kick Return Efficiency 59
Punt Efficiency 100
Kickoff Efficiency 76
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 101

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
6-Sep at Kent State 102
13-Sep Mississippi State 29
22-Nov at South Carolina 4
28-Nov Navy 67
TBD Georgia Southern NR
TBD Georgia State 125
TBD Texas State 114
TBD Troy 111
TBD at Appalachian State NR
TBD at Arkansas State 84
TBD at Idaho 120
TBD at UL-Lafayette 79
Five-Year F/+ Rk -13.6% (97)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 114
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 5 / 2.4
TO Luck/Game +1.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 15 (10, 5)

10. The schedule will help

The Jaguars are already the No. 3 FBS program in the state of Alabama.

Just because you were underrated one year obviously doesn't mean you're guaranteed to thrive the next. If the reasons for South Alabama's top-70 finish are now all gone, there's nothing saying the Jaguars won't fall back to 90th or worse.

USA has a decent chance of avoiding that fate, though. The quarterback and rush end positions are concerns, but Ross Metheny wasn't exactly infallible, and the backup linemen really did make some plays when given the opportunity. I don't know if I see a top-70 finish happening again, but ... top 80? 85? Why not?

A ranking of 85th or better would easily place South Alabama among the top two or three in the Sun Belt, but the schedule is rough. USA avoids ULM, but trips to Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette might preclude a Sun Belt title run. Plus, the non-conference slate features two SEC opponents and another bout with Navy, which drubbed the Jaguars last year.

Joey Jones is building something impressive rather quickly in Mobile, but it's hard to say for sure that South Alabama will end up finishing too much better than it did last year. But the Jaguars are already the No. 3 FBS program in the state of Alabama; that's impressive in and of itself.

More from SB Nation college football:

The blue-chip ratio: Is your team championship-ready?

The NCAA hurry-up proposal is doomed: How it would’ve changed 2013

How to build a roster for six popular college schemes

Mizzou students defend against Westboro Baptist protest

College football news | Bill Connelly’s 128-team countdown has begun

Long CFB reads | How Ryan Perrilloux completely disappeared

In This Article

Teams
Players
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.