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Bowling Green State, Indiana, Miami (FL), Texas, UTSA
There are five teams who return more starters—19—than any other programs in the FBS this season, and a couple of these programs can use all of the help available. Miami had the best conference finish last season, ending in a tie for the ACC's Coastal Division title (but due to sanctions, did not participate in the postseason). Texas had the best overall record at 9-4, but was third in the Big 12 behind both Kansas State and Oklahoma (both of which defeated the Longhorns in 2012).
Miami is emerging from the sanctions following the Nevin Shapiro scandal, and the Hurricanes are hoping to at the very least match last season's Coastal Division title performance.
The real strength for the Canes in 2013 will be on offense where nearly every starter from 2012 returns. Despite wideout Devon Johnson, Miami will field the same offense as last season, and the chemistry developed over all of last season—not to mention spring ball and fall camp—should have Miami fans excited.
UTSA was 8-4 last season, it's first season as an FBS program (meaning the Roadrunners weren't bowl-eligible). But before anyone gets too excited about the chances for a repeat performance, it's important to look at what eight teams UTSA defeated last season. Among the eight wins were three FCS programs, a Division II program and two programs also in their first FBS season (South Alabama and Texas State). The other two were Idaho and New Mexico State.
Even with 19 returning starters, UTSA will be hard pressed to win anywhere near that number of contests in 2013. Even with starting quarterback Eric Soza and starting running back David Glasco returning, the Roadrunners are woefully underpowered on offense; UTSA averaged just 390 offensive yards and 29.1 points per game last season, fourth in the lowly WAC, and that was with four non-FBS programs on the schedule.
In 2013, UTSA moves to Conference USA and will face a grand total of zero FCS programs. Instead, the Roadrunners will replace those games with matchups against UTEP, Houston, Arizona and Oklahoma State. Even with the new-found FBS experience on the roster, four wins would be an impressive feat for UTSA in 2013.
Indiana has long been a program seen as a Big Ten doormat. Let's face it: Bloomington is a basketball town. But with head coach Kevin Wilson finally enjoying a little roster stability, a bowl game isn't completely out of the picture for the Hoosiers this season.
The team was 4-8 last season, but took Ball State, Michigan State, Ohio State and Navy to the wire, losing those four games by a combined 10 points. We've already mentioned how much difference experience can make late in games; when that experience comes in the form of the Big Ten's leading returning passer in quarterback Cameron Coffman, defenses will need to bring their A-games to keep the Hoosiers in check this year.
Texas might finally be able to return to form this season with an offense that has thus far struggled to find its footing in Big 12 play. The conference's sixth-best offensive attack returns 10 starters for 2013, including four offensive linemen and at least one starter at every skill position. David Ash is the prohibitive favorite to start under center, but Case McCoy is still hanging around, ready to step in at a moment's notice. The only real question mark for Texas's offense is at tight end; we'll probably see more of the same at the position—which means more blocking than catching the football.
The defense is also in pretty good shape, at least for a Big 12 program. The defensive line will be unchanged, while the secondary returns three starters. The much maligned linebacking corps from 2012 doesn't return a single starter, but depending on how many Longhorns fans you talk to, that might not be such a bad thing.
If everything works out as planned for Mack Brown, the Longhorns should see their season boil down to a few critical dates: October 12 (Oklahoma), October 26 (at TCU) and November 9 (at West Virginia). Avenging any two of those three conference losses from 2012 will put Texas in the middle of a conference title and BCS hunt.