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    NCAA Football Preview - Texas State Bobcats

    12:15 PM, Aug 23, 2013   |    comments
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    Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -

    2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Texas State became integrated into the FBS for the 2012 campaign, and in its only season as a member of the Western Athletic Conference, it finished 4-8 overall and 2-4 in league play.

    The Bobcats' campaign got off to a fantastic start as they went on the road and defeated Houston, 30-13. They moved to 2-1 a few weeks later following a 41-37 triumph over Stephen F. Austin, but from there the squad fell into a tailspin, losing seven of the next eight contests before closing the season out with a 66-28 thrashing of New Mexico State on Dec. 1.

    Texas State has moved to the Sun Belt Conference, and with its transition to the FBS complete, the team will be eligible for the league title and bowl eligibility this season.

    2013 ANALYSIS:

    OFFENSE: Texas State benefited from playing in the high-flying WAC last year, although both its scoring (28.6 ppg) and total offensive numbers (379.8 ppg) were rather modest.

    The Bobcats' biggest asset in 2012 was senior quarterback Shaun Rutherford (.645 completion percentage, 2,137 yards, 15 TDs, five INTs), and now Tyler Arndt grabs the reins under center. Arndt hopes to have more success than he did in limited action last season when he completed fewer than 40 percent of his throws (22-of-56) with one touchdown and three interceptions.

    Fortunately for Arndt, plenty of experienced receivers are back to help him out, with Andy Erickson (39 rec, 482 yards, three TDs), Isaiah Battle (28 rec, 315 yards, three TDs) and Brandon Smith (21 rec, 226 yards, two TDs) all bringing starting experience.

    The top returning rusher is Tim Gay, who gained 279 yards on just 27 carries as a freshman (10.3 ypc). Robert Lowe, Chris Nutall and Terrance Franks will also compete for carries.

    DEFENSE: The defense had a difficult time stopping anyone a season ago, allowing 33.5 ppg on 484.8 ypg, but the return of six starters on that side of the ball should help improve things in 2013.

    The Bobcats had a difficult time getting to the quarterback last year, piling just up just 12 sacks in 12 games. The return of Blake McColloch and Jordan Norfleet will help, but the duo combined for just two sacks.

    The team was much more effective forcing turnovers with 26 (14 interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries). Safety Craig Mager (48 tackles, four INTs) is a bona fide playmaker in the secondary.

    David Mayo is the lone returning starter at linebacker and he tallied 41 tackles in just seven games last season.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: Will Johnson serves as both the placekicker and punter a year after connecting on 12-of-17 of his field goal attempt and averaging 41.0 yards per punt.

    Jafus Gaines is an explosive kickoff returner, putting up 808 yards on 28 returns (28.9 avg). Erickson is equally dynamic on punt returns, running back 17 for 284 yards (16.7 per).

    OUTLOOK: Although Texas State's inaugural campaign wasn't always smooth, it exceeded most expectations by winning four games, and now that that's in the past, head coach Dennis Franchione is anxious to start looking to the future.

    "Last year was our first year in the FBS ... I would characterize it as being more hopeful than anything," Franchione said. "Now that we've got that year under our belt, I think we're more of a hungry team than a hopeful team."

    As a team that can put up solid point totals while giving up its fair share to opposing teams, Texas State should be able to fit right in in the Sun Belt, but with question marks at quarterback, it seems unlikely the squad will be in contention for the conference crown. A record comparable to its 2012 mark seems more realistic.

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