Vanderbilt seemingly did the impossible in 2012-13 with back-to-back nine-win seasons to close out the James Franklin era. Derek Mason took over in 2014 and the Commodores tumbled to 3-9. It's a long climb back and a midseason stretch that has the team playing on the road five of six games won't help.
Tommy Tuberville has put together back-to-back nine-win seasons at Cincinnati, but the Bearcats lack a signature victory. The big problem in 2014 was the defense — or lack of defense. Cincinnati gave up 710 yards to Ohio State and finished 96th in total defense. That will have to change if Cincy is to make a move up.
Could be a make-or-break season for Purdue coach Darrell Hazell, who has won only four games in two seasons. The Boilermaker defense relied on several freshmen and sophomores last season and it showed down the stretch as the team lost its final six games. All of the starters in the offensive line return and that should give the team much-needed stability.
UCLA returns 17 of 22 starters, but one of the departures is a big one — quarterback Brett Hundley. The likely replacement is junior Jerry Neuheisel, the son of former Bruin Rick Neuheisel. If the younger Neuheisel can't handle the job, freshman Josh Rosen will take over. The schedule is challenging — UCLA is one of only three teams to have never played a Division I-AA opponent — and getting it done at quarterback will likely determine whether the team can put together a third consecutive 10-win season.