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Picking the Big 12: Week Four. Also, Southland and Southern Conference previews.

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Wherein we check in on one Daniel Sams.

Yes, #Life, we're still paying attention.
Yes, #Life, we're still paying attention.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Lead

Week four of the Big 12 schedule sees the end of non-conference play and the beginning of Big 12 action. Only one of the five games on the slate had the slightest bit of contradiction amongst our staff.

Rice at BAYLOR (2pm, FSN regional)

"Why does Rice play Bay--" Oh, sorry. We've already done that joke. Rice is no longer a "bad" team, and in fact they've acquitted themselves fairly well in C-USA. But they're no match for Baylor, and our staff has this across the board.

KANSAS at Rutgers (TBA)

If Kansas was even remotely a credible threat to be sort of maybe decent, we might have had some people pick them here. But they're on the road against a bowl team from last year, so nobody's that dumb.

Oklahoma State at Texas (TBA)

Derek and Bracket think Charlie Strong will have things put together by the end of September. Either that, or they're not buying into any Oklahoma State hype. Either way, they're going against the grain and picking Texas, while the rest of the staff is hanging their ten-gallon hat on the Cowboys.

Texas Christian at Texas Tech (TBA)

Yeah, nobody's taking Tech here. That would be silly.

Maryland at WEST VIRGINIA (TBA)

This, now... this was a surprise. Not a single staffer thinks Maryland is going to get past West Virginia here. I personally struggled before making this pick, so I figured at least a few people would take the Terps. NEWP. Clean sweep.

And because they're idle in week four, K-State finally falls out of first place. BOO.

BotC's Projected Big 12 Standings after Week Four
Oklahoma State 4-0 (1-0)
TCU 4-0 (1-0)
Baylor 3-0 (0-0)
Kansas State 3-0 (0-0)
Oklahoma 3-0 (0-0)
West Virginia 3-0 (0-0)
Iowa State 2-1 (0-0)
Kansas 0-3 (0-0)
Texas 2-2 (0-1)
Texas Tech 2-2 (0-1)

Southland Conference Preview

2014 Standings and Info
SCHOOL LOCATION SLC OVERALL
14 Southeastern Louisiana University Lions Hammond LA 7-1 9-4
6 Sam Houston State University Bearkats Huntsville TX 7-1 11-5
rv Lamar University Cardinals Beaumont TX 5-3 8-4
rv Stephen F. Austin University Lumberjacks Nacogdoches TX 5-3 8-5
University of Central Arkansas Bears Conway AR 5-3 6-6
McNeese State University Cowboys Lake Charles LA 4-4 6-5
Abilene Christian University Wildcats Abilene TX 4-4 6-6
Northwestern State University Demons Natchitoches LA 4-4 6-6
University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals San Antonio TX 2-6 2-9
Houston Baptist University Huskies Houston TX 1-7 2-9
Nicholls State University Colonels Thibodeaux LA 0-8 0-12

The Southland, where it seems like every talented player who washes out of a Big 12 school ends up. You're going to see a few of those names in a bit.

Last year's season had a wild finish, with a chance of a six-way tie still totally in play with two weeks left in the season. But the Lions and Bearkats took care of business during the penultimate week while a couple of potential challengers stumbled. The conference landed three playoff bids as the two co-champs earned nods along with Stephen F. Austin. For the Lions and Jacks, that was a short-lived experience although SELA had the misfortune of drawing San Houston in the first round. The Bearkats, on the other hand, weren't stopped until they ran into a herd of Bison in the semifinals.

Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word remain ineligible for the conference title this year, but Houston Baptist is now finished with their transition process. (Not that it matters.)

The Southland conducts a preseason poll of the coaches and the SIDs, but they aren't combined. Both parties picked Sam Houston State to repeat, but the coaches followed the Bearkats with SELA, McNeese, SFA, Northwestern, and UCA while the SIDS went SFA, SELA, McNeese, UCA, and Northwestern. Both polls agreed on the final five places. When you combine the two polls, which is something you can do since the total available points are identical, the order is as we have the teams listed below. By conference rule, any member of the 2014 All-SLC first- or second-teams who returns for 2015 automatically received a preseason nod.

Sam Houston State

All-SLC Selections (total, gone/returning): 15 (2/13)

Preseason All-SLC Selections: 13

Key losses: RB Keshawn Hill (1,150 yards/18 TD), DB Michael Wade (120 tackles/18 PD)

Key returnees (italics indicate first-team preseason selections): QB Jared Johnson (3,054 yards, 21 TD/12 INT; 998/6 rushing), RBs Jalen Overstreet (729/7) and Donovan Williams (658/9), WRs LaDarius Brown (807/7) and Yedidiah Louis (803/1), OLs Donald Jackson III, Brandon DeWitt, and Bridge Blount, DLs P.J. Hall (24 TFL/10.5 sacks), Mouf Adebo (11.5 TFL), and Jacobi Hunter, LBs Myke Chatman and Tristan Eche (108 T/11.5 TFL), DBs Trenier Orr (4 INT/30 PD) and Mikel Everette (4 INT/32 PD), K Luc Swimberghe (18-21 FGs/67-69 PATs), P Lachlan Edwards (44.1 avg)

Incoming FBS transfers: QB Jonathan Briscoe (UAB), RB Cory Avery (Kansas), WR Blake Webb (Oklahoma State), OLs Sam Hardy (Wyoming) and Tyler Tezeno (West Virginia), DL Codie Brooks (UTSA), LB Hunter Brown (West Virginia), DBs Michael Jacob (Louisiana Tech) and Duran Workman (Washington/Nevada)

Whew. That's a lot of returning talent from a team that came a game away from the national championship. And naturally, some of these guys are FBS-caliber. You probably recognize Overstreet (Texas) and Brown (TCU). You might remember that Chatman was a Baylor signee. Hunter transferred in from Cal, and Orr from Cincinnati. And the Bearkats really aren't losing much. They're in prime position to be dominant this year, and perhaps make a return to the Division I Championship Game in January.

Southeastern Louisiana

All-SLC Selections: 15 (8/7)

Preseason All-SLC Selections: 7

Key losses: QB Bryan Bennett (2,357, 18/8; 669/15 rushing), RBs Kody Sutton (630/6) and Rasheed Harrell (413/6), WR Devante Scott (1,064/5), OL Jonathan Braddock, DL Jacob Newman, LBs Isiah Corbett (12 TFL/4 INT) and Drew Misita (87 T/9.5 TFL), DB Tyler Stoddard (91 T), K Ryan Adams (16-18 FGs/60-62 PATs)

Key returnees: WR Jeff Smiley (601/7), OL Joe Graves, DL A.J. Bowen, LB Herbert Harris, DBs Harlan Miller, Denzel Thompson (4 INT/20 PD), Micah Eugene (65 T), Jordan Batiste, and Derrick Raymond (17 PD), KR Xavier Roberson (30.8 avg)

Incoming transfers: QB Donovan Isom (Utah), WRs Chris Briggs (Southern Mississippi) and Kaylan Richardson (Louisiana-Lafayette), OL Taylor Gadbois (Miami), DB Will Hines (Arkansas)

Bennett, an Oregon transfer who claimed the SLC Offensive Player of the Year award last fall, has graduated, leaving a big hole; he was also the team's leading rusher. That will probably leave more carries for Wyoming transfer Sutton. Louisiana-Lafayette transfer D'Shaie Landor (151, 18/8), the only returning quarterback actually listed as one on the roster, has the inside track for the starting job this fall. The secondary will be a beast; the two first-team preseason picks are original Lion signings, while Eugene (LSU) and Batiste (Tulane) earned second-team preseason nods after transferring in last year. Raymond was also an LSU transfer, as was fellow DB J.Q. Sandolph. They'll need to be, as Eugene is the leading returning tackler. The front seven will be an issue, but then they were an issue last year too, and it didn't stop the Lions. Replacing Bennett is a higher priority problem.

Stephen F. Austin

All-SLC Selections: 13 (5/8)

Preseason All-SLC Selections: 4

Key losses: All-American RB Gus Johnson (1,683/23), WRs Tyler Boyd (743/4) and D.J. Ward (566/3), DL Ishmiah Miles (14 TFL), LB Colin Garrett (100 T), DB Keavon Madison (26 PD)

Key returnees: QB Zach Conque (2,733, 15/9; 626/13 rushing), WR/PR Aaron Thomas (694/2), OLs Anthony Pullins, Byron Williams, and Terran Vaughn, DLs Lance Skyler (6 sacks), Donald Bryant, and Kedrick Harrison (12.5 TFL), LB Justin Owens (80 T), DB Patrick Martin

Incoming FBS transfers: QB Jake Gnacinski (Army), WR Judah Jones (Kansas State), TE Lucas Askew (Texas State), OL Devonte Jones (Baylor), DL Anthony Lee (UTSA), DB Germod Williams (Texas State)

The Lumberjacks actually lose quite a bit, and the losses hurt. Nobody left on the roster other than former UTSA signee Conque ran for 200 yards last year. Losing their top two receivers is a depth problem more than a playmaker problem, as Thomas will pick up some slack. But the defense lost their best player in each unit, as former Jayhawk Garrett and former Baylor Bear Bryant depart. And as for losing Johnson? Well, he was only the league's player of the year last year. Clint Conque has rebuilt this program well in a short time, but can he reload it?

McNeese State

All-SLC Selections: 12 (5/7)

Preseason All-SLC Selections: 4

Key losses: QB Tyler Bolling (990, 6/3), WR Jereon McGilvery (433/2), OL Antoine Everett, DLs Kevin Dorn and Everett Eliefsen, DB Aaron Sam

Key returnees: QB Daniel Sams (624, 7/4; 711/2 rushing), RB Ryan Ross (599/7), OL Quentin Marsh, DL Brian Hine, LBs Wallace Scott and Bo Brown, DBs Brent Spikes (83 T/4 INT), Dominique Hill, and Gabe Hammer

Incoming FBS transfers: OL Matt Wilson (Texas Tech), DL Isaiah Golden (Texas A&M)

Sams, the team's leading rusher last year, hopes to step in and replace Bolling, but he's been pushed hard in camp by a trio of sophomores: Joe Lissard, Shane McCarley, and Grant Ashcraft. (Reports from the spring hinted Sams might be slipping down the depth chart, but in fall camp he has been working with the first team.) The key for McNeese is that they really are a run-first team. Defensively, you can't tell a lot from looking up above. Spikes was the team's leading tackler, which is usually a big red flag, but the Cowboys only gave up 330 yards of offense per game last year. They are built to stop the run, and do it so effectively that merely decent pass defense (218/game) works for them. A couple of other noteworthy transfers already on the roster last year: WR David Bush and DB Jermaine Antoine (both from TCU). As always, McNeese will be in the mix.

Central Arkansas

All-SLC Selections: 12 (6/6)

Preseason All-SLC Selections: 6

Key losses: QB Ryan Howard 2,369, 23/9), RB Willie Matthews (740/12), WR Dezmin Lewis (945/9), OL Cole Caruthers, LB Blake Childress (89 T/10 TFL)

Key returnees: RBs Dominque Thomas (340/5) and Blake Veasley (334/5), WRs Desmond Smith (616/7) and Courtney Whitehead (503/4), OL Kyle Stouffer, DL Jonathan Woodard (18.5 TFL/10 sacks), LBs George Odum (76 T) and Ricky Wyatt (74 T/16.5 TFL), DBs Dillon Winfrey and Bobby Watkins, KR Jatavious Wilson (24.8/1 TD)

Incoming FBS transfers: WR Brandon Cox (Arkansas State), DB Brandon Porter (San Diego State)

The Bears lost their number-one at all three key skill positions offensively. Senior Taylor Reed (880, 7/2), via Memphis and Arkansas, likely succeeds Howard under center. But sophomore Hayden Hildebrand is there if needed. Veasley, another former Memphis Tiger, will probably split carries with Thomas. Smith is already a solid known quantity on the flank; Whitehead, a former Air Force Falcon, will try to provide a solid alternative. The defense is solid, anchored by two fine linebackers and SLC Defensive Player of the Year Woodard. Watkins, like Whitehead, transferred from Air Force.

Northwestern State

All-SLC Selections: 12 (8/4)

Preseason All-SLC Selections: 4

Key losses: QB Zach Adkins (2,821, 29/14), RB Garrett Atzenweiler (739/10), WR Cody Jones (353/6), LB Marion Chapman (119 T), DB Imoan Claiborne

Key returnees: RB De'Mard Llorens (429/3), WR/RS Ed Eagan (908/6), WR Tuff McClain (430/4), OL Pace Murphy, DL Leroy Armstrong, DB Adam Jones (85 T/5 INT)

Incoming FBS transfers: QB Stephen Rivers (LSU/Vanderbilt), WR Glenn Irons (Nebraska), DLs Darrien Batiste (Louisiana-Lafayette) and Diontre Thomas (Louisiana-Monroe)

The Demons also have to replace their quarterback. They've brought in graduate transfer Rivers, who's eligible right away, to compete with junior Daniel Hazlewood (4 attempts last year). Regardless of who's in charge of the huddle, Eagan will be in charge of making things happen. Defensively, the Demons are pretty soft; the team only recorded 15 sacks last year and gave up nearly 5,000 yards of offense. Luckily for them, they actually outgained opponents by 14 yards last year. But without solid play at quarterback and some help at running back, that may not be a repeatable feat.

Abilene Christian

All-SLC Selections: 15 (6/9)

Preseason All-SLC Selections: 8

Key losses: FB Noah Cheshler, WR Demarcus Thompson (650/2), DL Nick Richardson (16.5 TFL/9 sacks), LB Justin Stephens (84 T), DBs Justin Stewart (95 T) and Angel Lopez (86 T)

Key returnees: QB Parker McKenzie (3,084, 22/9), RB De'Andre Brown (962/9), WR Cedric Gilbert (667/7), TE Jamie Walker, OLs Codey Funk and Riley Mayfield, LB Sam Denmark (77 T), K Nik Grau (14-17 FG/46-47 PATs), PR Jonathan Epps

Incoming FBS transfers: WR Cedric Dale (Purdue), DLs Frank Kee (TCU) and Dewan Edmonson (UTEP), DB Cordell Dorsey (Baylor)

Two years in a row now, Abilene Christian has come a play away from knocking off an FBS team. You might think about trying to catch that ACU-Fresno State game on September 3. The offense, which broke 50 points three times and 35 six, is in really good shape, with Thompson being a loss the Wildcats can work around. The defense, on the other hand, is in trouble. ACU gave up over 5,000 yards last year with Richardson and Stephens, and the reson Stewart and Lopez led the team in tackles is that Richardson and Stephens didn't have much help up front. Finishing .500 again might be pushing it.

Lamar

All-SLC Selections: 11 (

Preseason All-SLC Selections:

Key losses: QB Caleb Berry (3,709, 33/13), WR Mark Roberts (1,157/13), DL Joe Okafor (6 sacks), LB Anthony Beard (12 TFL)

Key returnees: RBs Kade Harrington (740/11) and Carl Harris (668/6), WRs Reggie Begelton (860/6) and Devonn Brown (392/3), OLs Juston Brock and Bret Treadway, DL Omar Tebo, LB Ronnie Jones (99 T/11.5 TFL), DBs Xavier Bethany (98 T) and Seth Ellis (19 PD)

Incoming FBS transfers: WRs Brendan Langley (Georgia) and Trenton Swinton (Navy), OLs Cody Elenz (Idaho) and Matthew Oubre (Louisiana-Monroe), LB Cameron Hampton (Texas)

The lightning strike combo of Berry and Roberts is gone. Senior Joe Minden and JUCO transfer Carson Earp are fighting over Berry's job. Brown, a former Fresno State signee, will pair with Begelton to give the winner someone to throw to. At running back, former Memphis transfer Harris filled in well when Harrington went down with an injury; both will likely get lots of carries this fall. Defensively, Lamar isn't in a bad way. The defense only gave up 354 per game last year. But against really good teams, they had a tendency to allow the scoreboard to spin.

Incarnate Word

All-SLC Selections: 5 (1/4)

Preseason All-SLC Selections: 2

Key losses: RB Junior Sessions (462/4), WR Casey Jennings (486/1)

Key returnees: TE Cole Wick (350/2), DL Corey Lee (14.5 TFL), LB Padyn Giebler (76 T), DB Kobie Douglas (20 PD)

Incoming FBS transfers: none

Incarnate Word played two teams worse than themselves last year. They won easily. The problem was the other nine games, when they were trounced. Three quarterbacks saw significant action last year for the Cardinals, and all return: seniors Jordan Scelfo and Taylor Woods and sophomore Breylann McCollum. They combined for 1,837 yards, 10 TDs, and 17 INTs. Only McCollum completed over half his passes, and that atatement would be inaccurate if one completion hadn't been. Nobody on the roster had 250 yards on the ground last year. Neither did any wideout; Wick was the best receiver last year who's back in 2015. Defensively, each unit has one individual playmaker who's pretty good, but that's it.

Understand, UIW has only been playing football for a few years, and they made the decision to move up to Division I right after they'd started trying to build a Division II program. So the infrastructure is somewhat in chaos, and nobody can really be blamed. But that doesn't mean we have to pretend the team's any good.

Nicholls State

All-SLC Selections: 7 (4/3)

Preseason All-SLC Selections: 1

Key losses: QBs Beaux Hebert (1,090, 6/4) and Kale Henderson (882, 3/6), WR Demon Bolt (499/2), AP Keenan Canty (1,456/4), LB Davin Bovie (108 T), DB Byron Cobb (17 PD)

Key returnees: RBs Michael Henry (1,005/6) and Tobias Lofton (434/4), OL Chris Bordelon, DB B.T. Sanders

Incoming FBS transfers: WRs C.J. Bates and Jarrell Rogers (both Louisiana-Lafayette), Charles Henderson (Utah), and Daijuan Stewart (SMU), OL Jonah Austin (LSU), DB Jeff Hall (Colorado), K Chris Scambria (LSU)

The Colonels won the Southland in 2005. Since then they have gone 26-73 with only one 6-5 season to interrupt all the failure, and they've lost 15 in a row. Because I can't let this pass, you should know that the last time we saw Chris Scambria, he was hitting a walk-off homer to beat Louisiana-Lafayette in the Super Regionals for LSU. What a world we live in.

Houston Baptist

All-SLC Selections: 5 (1/4)

Preseason All-SLC Selections: 1

Key losses: TE Kenneth Bibbins (354/5)

Key returnees: QB Jonathan Fleming (1,051, 11/10), RBs B.J. Kelly (735/3) and Larry Day (341/4), LB Garrett Dolan (82 T), DB Eric Amoako, P Christian Guzman

Houston Baptist started football later than Incarnate Word, but is eligible for NCAA action now because they moved to Division I from the NAIA before UIW moved up from Division II. Bibbins, who transferred from Houston to help the Huskies get their program off the ground, was the only player to crack the 200-yard mark receiving. Fleming, a senior this year, lost the job mid-season to sophomore Ka'Darius Baker (366, 1/7), and it's probably an open competition between those two and anyone else who wants to try and chuck the ball around. It's not a good football team, and that should be no surprise. These things take time.

Game of the Year

The Southland only plays eight conference games and has eleven teams. Sam Houston and Southeastern dodge one another this season, so we'll direct your attention to NRG Stadium in Houston on October 3 when the Bearkats play their annual deathmatch against Stephen F. Austin.

Southern Conference Preview

2014 Standings and Info
SCHOOL LOCATION SOCON OVERALL
8 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs Chattanooga TN 7-0 10-4
rv Samford University Bulldogs Homewood AL 5-2 7-4
Western Carolina University Catamounts Cullowhee NC 5-2 7-5
Wofford College Terriers Spartanburg SC 4-3 6-5
The Citadel Bulldogs Charleston SC 3-4 5-7
Furman University Paladins Greenville SC 2-5 3-9
Mercer University Bears Macon GA 1-6 6-6
Virginia Military Institute Keydets Lexington VA 1-6 2-10

Technically, the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers are members of the conference as well effective this season. However, with this being the Bucs' first year of play since restarting the football program, they're playing as an independent and essentially playing an exhibition schedule, so we're not going to concern ourselves with them here. But hey, welcome back!

Appalachian State and Georgia Southern departed last year, which would have left the south's most venerable conference in dire straits. But replacements were at hand as another team returned to the SoCon after a brief exile as VMI rejoined the league alongside new members Mercer, who'd had a fairly successful first year as a non-scholarship program before deciding to go all-in last year. Didn't work out too well for either of them, and the conference as a whole truly suffered last year with the exception of Chattanooga.

The Mocs are the near-unanimous choice to repeat by both the coaches and media, with the sole exception being one of the 30 media voters who instead picked Western Carolina. (UTC coach Russ Huesman voted for Samford.) While those lone first place votes weren't the difference themselves, they did signify the lone difference between the two polls, as the coaches tabbed Samford for second place while the media chose the Catamounts. The remaining five spots were identical in both polls, with Wofford a clear fourth, Furman edging Mercer for fifth in the coaches poll and easily beating them in the media ballot. The Citadel was seventh, and VMI was a very distant last.

While only the coaches select the preseason All-SoCon squad, both the coaches and media select All-SoCon teams at the end of the year. Any player named to either squad will be considered All-SoCon here. The coaches also name an all-freshman team; we're not counting those.

Tennessee-Chattanooga

All-SoCon selections: 17 (7/10)

Preseason selections: 12

Key losses: RB Keon Williams (1,037/14), WR Tommy Hudson (614/6; 2 PR/TD), TE Faysal Shafaat (413/5), DLs Derrick Lott (14 TFL) and All-American Davis Tull (18 TFL/10.5 sacks), LB Muhasibi Wakeel (112 T), P Nick Pollard

Key returnees: QB Jacob Huesman (2,731, 23/8; 1009/14 rushing), RB Derrick Craine (466/4), WR C.J. Board (507/2), OLs Corey Lewis, Jacob Revis, and Synjen Hensen, DLs Keionta Davis (10.5 TFL) and Josh Freeman, LB Nakevion Leslie (12 TFL), DBs Dee Virgin (22 PD), Lucas Webb (5 INT), and Cedric Nettles, K Henrique Ribiero (16-22 FG/60-62 PAT)

Incoming FBS transfers: WR Drae Bowles (Tennessee), TE Steve Pickren (UAB), OL Hunter Kennedy (UAB), LB Justin King (Tennessee)

The Mocs swept in like a storm to fill the vacuum left behind when Appalachian State and Georgia Southern departed. Their losses are not insignificant, not least of which is SoCon Defensive Player of the Year Davis. but behind every player graduating there's someone ready to step right in to fill the gap. And of course the SoCon Offensive Player of the Year, Huesman, is back along with Jacobs Blocking Award recipient Levin. The door's been opened for a program which had long been knocking, and they're going to be a player for a long time to come now.

Western Carolina

All-SoCon selections: 13 (3/10)

Preseason selections: 8

Key losses: LB Christon Gill (111 T/12 TFL), DB Ace Clark, K Richard Sigmon (3-4 FG/43-43 PAT)

Key returnees: QB Troy Mitchell (2,541, 20/9; 555/6 rushing), RB Darius Ramsey (763/6), RB/KR Detrez Newsome (488/9; 26.5 avg/1 TD), WRs Spearman Robinson (571/11), Tenyon Robinson (643/1), and Karnorris Benson (519/5), OLs Jake Thornton and Josh Wineberg, DLs Caleb Hawkins (11 TFL) and Haiva Matungulu, LBs Sertonuse Harris and Daniel Riddle (74 T), DB Trey Morgan (6 INT, 20 PD)

Incoming FBS transfers: none

Gill is a loss, to be sure, but two solid linebackers return so the unit's not devastated. All the offensive weapons are back. The only real concern is the defensive line; Western Carolina only recorded 13 sacks last season. That's barely enough to make one All-American. Still, the Catamounts have the ammo to make a run at Chattanooga.

Samford

All-SoCon selections: 12 (4/8)

Preseason selections: 9

Key losses: OL Jordan Boatright, All-American DB Jaquiski Tartt, P Greg Peranich

Key returnees: QB Michael Eubank (2,136, 12/8), RB Denzel Williams (918/16), WR Karel Hamilton (877/6), TE Tony Philpot, OLs Gunnar Bromelow and Alec Hulmes, DL Michael Pierce, LB Justin Cooper (93 T), DBs James Bradberry and Jamerson Blount, K Warren Handrahan

Incoming FBS transfers: OL Hayden Naumann (UAB), LBs Derek Slaughter (UAB) and Aaron Harris (Southern Mississippi), DB Thomas DeGrange (Air Force)

Samford says farewell to retiring Auburn legend Pat Sullivan, the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner who's served as the Bulldogs' head coach since 2007. Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher, who's compiled a career record of 121-57 at Murray, Valdosta State, and Georgia Southern quickly accepted the job as Sullivan's replacement.

There's a ton of talent here, and a lot of it came from elsewhere. Eubank transferred from Arizona State, Pierce (the preseason pick for Defensive Player of the Year) from Tulane, Cooper from Texas Tech, and Bradberry from Arkansas State. And Samford was a logical beneficiary of the sudden and temporary shuttering of the UAB program, being local. Like Western Carolina, Samford's got a shot.

Wofford

All-SoCon selections: 5 (1/4)

Preseason selections: 8

Key losses: DL Tarek Odom (11 TFL), LB Kevin Thomas (66 T)

Key returnees: QBs Michael Weimer (309, 2/3) and Evan Jacks (399, 3/3; 450/5 rushing), RBs Lorenzo Long (930/15) and Ray Smith (601/3), RB/KR Will Gay (329/0), WR Will Irwin (289/2), OLs Anton Wahrby and T.J. Chamberlain, DL E.J. Speller, LBs Terrance Morris and Drake Michaelson, P Brian Sanders

Incoming FBS transfers: RB Ellis Pace (East Carolina)

When Appalachian State and Georgia Southern left, conventional wisdom was that Wofford would be the primary beneficiary. It didn't work out that way, and only a mild upset at Samford kept the Terriers above water. But most of the parts are back in the box this year, and although there's virtually no passing game that's also sort of a Wofford trademark. A run at the title? Unlikely. But the Terriers could sneak into the top three.

Furman

All-SoCon selections: 6 (1/5)

Preseason selections: 5

Key losses: RB Hank McCloud (541/5), DL Gary Wilkins (17.5 TFL/8 sacks)

Key returnees: QB P.J. Blazejowski (1,376, 9/7; 363/4 rushing), WRs Jordan Snellings (727/4) and Andrej Suttles (497/1), TE Duncan Fletcher (442/2), OL Joe Turner, DL John Mackey, LB Cory Magwood (123 T), DB Reggie Thomas (15 PD)

Incoming FBS transfers: none

Furman didn't sustain many losses, but they were big ones. No returning running back topped 210 yards, and losing Wilkins off the defensive line is like having a fifty and three fives in your pocket and misplacing the fifty. As it was, things fell apart in catastrophic fashion for the Paladins right around the end of September, and only a completely bizarre thrashing of Wofford near season's end kept Furman from riding a 10-game skid into 2015. The primary culprit was the defense, and losing Wilkins isn't going to make that better. Furman probably won't finish ahead of Mercer, and may plunge all the way to seventh.

Mercer

All-SoCon selections: 5 (0/5)

Preseason selections: 6

Key losses: WR J.T. Palmer (460/5)

Key returnees: QB John Russ (2,167, 19/10), RBs Alex Lakes (1,107/17) and Tee Mitchell (403/2), WR/RS Chandler Curtis (564/5; 24.6 avg/3 TDs on punts, 29.8 avg/1 TD on kickoffs), OL Wilson Heres, DL Austin Barrett, LB Tyler Ward (104 T), DB Alex Avent (35 PD), P Matt Shiel

Incoming FBS transfers: none

Honestly, it makes no sense. Furman fell apart; Mercer went 6-6, although admittedly the non-conference schedule was a joke. But the Bears are returning nearly every important part of the puzzle this fall. They only lost to Chattanooga by a touchdown and to Samford by a field goal. This team looked passably decent last year and now has another year of experience. It's probably not enough to sneak past Wofford, but to pick them behind Furman? Newp.

The Citadel

All-SoCon selections: 2 (0/2)

Preseason selections: 2

Key losses: QB Aaron Miller (932, 7/1; 1080/13 rushing), RB Jake Stenson (597/4), DL Justin Oxendine (10.5 TFL/7 sacks)

Key returnees: QB/RB Cam Jackson (no passing stats, 505/3 rushing), RB Tyler Renew (761/5), Isiaha Smith (no typo, 591/5), and Vinny Miller (466/2), OL Sam Frye, DL Mitchell Jeter (10.5 TFL/6 sacks), LB Tevin Floyd (90 T/9.5 TFL)

Incoming FBS transfers: none

Six. SIX guys ran for over 450 yards apiece. Two are gone, and one will shift from running back to... well, running quarterback, because this is The Citadel. That one appears to be Cam Jackson, listed on the roster now as a quarterback. Meanwhile, not one receiver had over 200 yards or 11 receptions last year. The defense gave up over 5,300 yards yet gave up less than 30 points a game. Bend-but-don't break, indeed. The Bulldogs will float around .500, will probably be better than Furman, and might even slide past Mercer.

Virginia Military

All-SoCon selections: 1 (1/0)

Preseason selections: 1

Key losses: RBs Deon Watts (502/5; 315/2 receiving) and Jabari Turner (424/7), WR Doug Burton (581/4), OL Andy Marcotte, LB Miller Williams (74 T)

Key returnees: QB Al Cobb (2,971, 20/10), WRs Aaron Sanders (901/4) and Dane Forlines (396/4), DB Damian Jones (18 PD), K Dillon Christopher

Incoming FBS transfers: none

Immediately after losing their season-ending contest against arch-rival The Citadel, VMI announced that Sparky Woods would not have his contract renewed. And it is at this point that I have to ask all K-State fans to close their eyes and pass over the next sentence. As his replacement, VMI hired Scott Wachenheim, who has spent the last several years as the offensive line coach at Virginia.

Okay, you can open your eyes now.

Cobb's a decent quarterback, Sanders is a good receiver, and the rest of the roster is bereft of talent. Same as it ever was for the Keydets, who've been staring up at their conference for years, no matter which conference we're talking about.

Game of the Year

On Halloween, Western Carolina invades Chattanooga. Samford will probably have something to say about matters, but the Catamounts may have a better chance to unseat the Mocs.

Tomorrow

We'll wander through week five of the Big 12 schedule, which includes four clear winners and one... not so much. And then we'll preview the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League and the formerly non-scholarship Patriot League.