Trying to figure out those college football teams that may take a step back in 2019 is not easy. We’re not talking complete decline.
Perhaps a couple wins fewer, or being less competitive than they have last season or in recent years. Here’s a look at our potential college football teams that may take a step back in 2019.
Some would say Duke’s potential decline began with last season’s 3-5 record in the ACC. The Blue Devils did finish on a high note with a decisive bowl win over Temple to finish 8-5.
Losing first-round pick in quarterback Daniel Jones is a blow, and the Blue Devils have to find some go-to receiving options. The offensive line should be OK, and defensively, the health of star defensive back Mark Gilbert will be key in determining how well that unit fares.
Having Alabama and Notre Dame on the schedule doesn’t help Duke from being one of those college football teams that may take a step back in 2019.
While 2018’s 10-win season was something special, 2019 could be one of the program’s most important. Defensive star Josh Allen and offensive standout in running back Benny Snell are gone, plus more talent on both sides of the ball.
The Wildcats get Florida and Missouri at home, but still must go to Georgia and Mississippi State. Their season-opener against Toledo won’t be a breeze, either.
So now, it’s about how well coach Mark Stoops has Kentucky ready to compete and not take a significant step back in the program’s progression.
The Bulldogs’ run of nine consecutive seasons with a bowl appearance may not end, but a third straight year with at least eight wins could be a challenge.
A lot will depend on how much improvement we see from the Mississippi State offense, which failed to reach double-digit points in four games last season. Those came against Kentucky, Alabama, LSU and Florida.
There is talent returning from a defense that held seven opponents to 10 or fewer points in 2018, but it can’t be relied on to be the difference more often than not this year.
North Carolina State
Despite losing quarterback Ryan Finley and 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Gallaspy, the cupboard is not empty at N.C. State. It just seems hard to believe the Wolfpack can muster nine wins for a third consecutive season.
The key will be how well N.C. State plays on defense, where it returns seven starters. But, one that yielded more than 50 points twice in 2018 – most notably 52-13 to Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl.
All that said, a sixth straight bowl appearance is likely.
It’s great to see Neal Brown get his chance at a Power Five school after guiding Troy to three straight seasons of at least 10 wins.
That’s the good news.
The bad, the Mountaineers are a program in transition. The high-potent aerial attack led by Will Grier, David Sills V and Gary Jennings Jr. is in the past, and even those guys underachieved with an 8-4 mark last year.
There are plenty of questions surrounding the team when it comes to just how much of a transition and rebuild the program is amid. Road games at Missouri, Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State and TCU will make it tough for the Mountaineers to generate five wins.