As promised, an ACC team today.
And a Big East team.
And a Big Ten team.
Meanwhile, the countdown is almost out of Sun Belt teams.
Moving ahead with things ...
80. CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Quarterback Dan LeFevour threw for 12,905 yards in four seasons as the Chippewas' starters --- nearly twice as many as the next closest passer in school history .
He won't be the only guy departing after Central Michigan's fourth straight bowl appearance, but he's easily the most notable. The MAC isn't necessarily the most difficult league, but the Chippewas will certainly have less margin for error than in the past.
As for how programs replace a career passing leader, here's a glance at how it's worked out for schools coming off 10-win seasons since 2000 (includes, school, record and former QB). The Chippewas were 12-2 last season:
2000: Marshall, 8-5 (Chad Pennington)
2001: Boise State, 8-4 (Bart Hendricks)
2001: Florida State, 8-4 (Chris Weinke)
2001: Oklahoma, 11-2 (Josh Heupel)
2002: Texas, 11-2 (Major Applewhite)
2003: Miami, 11-2 (Ken Dorsey)
2003: Southern California, 12-1 (Carson Palmer)
2003: Washington State, 10-3 (Jason Gesser)
2004: Boise State, 11-1 (Ryan Dinwiddie)
2004: Miami (Ohio), 8-5 (Ben Roethlisberger)
2004: Mississippi, 4-7 (Eli Manning)
2005: Georgia, 10-3 (David Greene)
2005: Oklahoma, 8-5 (Jason White)
2005: Virginia Tech, 11-2 (Bryan Randall)
2006: Alabama, 6-7 (Brodie Croyle)
2007: Florida, 9-4 (Chris Leak)
2007: Houston, 8-5 (Kevin Kolb)
2007: Notre Dame, 3-9 (Brady Quinn)
2008: Tulsa, 11-3 (Paul Smith)
2009: Alabama, 14-0 (John Parker Wilson)
2009: Ball State, 2-10 (Nate Davis)
2009: Missouri, 8-5 (Chase Daniel)
2009: Rice, 2-10 (Chase Clement)
2009: Texas Tech, 9-4 (Graham Harrell)
The 2010 group also includes Texas (Colt McCoy).
Overall, 24 teams have faced the same predicament as Central Michigan does this year. Ten went ahead and won 10 games again. Half as many had losing records. Ball State and Rice might have stumbled last year, but here's guessing the Chippewas enjoy a plenty respectable fall in 2010.
The Trojans lost a bunch on offense, and even more on defense.
That's OK --- sort of --- since Troy did all sorts of wonderful things through the air when on offense and pretty much nothing good defending the pass while on defense last year.
This is a particularly consistent team, rolling up eight-win seasons in four straight years. The Trojans are also 18-2 at home in that stretch.
Alas, Troy doesn't get Sun Belt favorite Middle Tennessee on its own field. That's why the Trojans land behind the Blue Raiders --- but be assured these are the two best teams in the conference by quite a bit.
Historically speaking, few things are as doomed as a Virginia football coach's first season.
Back in 1929, Earl Abell's first bunch of Cavaliers got off to a 4-1 start, a stretch capped Oct. 26 with a 32-7 rout of St. John's.
Three days later, the stock market crashed. And while that has absolutely nothing to do with the historical arc of Virginia football, it's still fun to point out the Cavaliers stumbled to an 0-2-2 finish that season after Wall Street collapsed and no first-year coaching has enjoyed a winning record since then.
You can look it up:
1931: Fred Dawson, 1-7-2
1934: Gus Tebell, 3-6
1937: Frank Murray, 2-7
1946: Art Guepe, 4-4-1
1953: Ned McDonald, 1-8
1956: Ben Martin, 4-6
1958: Richard Voris, 1-9
1961: Bill Elias, 4-6
1965: George Blackburn, 5-5
1971: Don Lawrence, 3-8
1974: Sonny Randle, 4-7
1976: Dick Bestwick, 2-9
1982: George Welsh, 2-9
2001: Al Groh, 5-7
This is not to say Mike London won't eventually be successful. It's not even to suggest the Cavaliers won't improve from last year's miserable 3-9 experience; Lord Groh left the defense stocked well enough with decent players and the Hoos get a pair of teams from the former Division I-AA plus Eastern Michigan and Maryland --- all in Charlottesville.
But the final year of the Marc Verica Experience (and whatever the heck else Virginia cobbles together on offense) won't be especially easy, and a winning record would be a monumental achievement. Expect London to join his 14 immediate predecessors in not enjoying a particularly successful debut season.
In the not-too-recent past, the Orange were doomed before they even took the field simply because of the man donning the head coach's headset each game.
Handed a real coach (albeit one with a team filled with his predecessor's players) last year, Syracuse improved to 4-8, and if only for a little luck against Minnesota and Louisville could have slipped into the the International Bowl.
Alas, a caravan of Orange fans --- no doubt bored with Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph toying with the likes of St. Bonaventure or Canisius during the holiday season --- will not be getting their passports in order for an early-winter trek across the border. And not just because the International Bowl no longer exists.
Thanks to some late scheduling juggling --- Virginia Tech vanished, replaced (eventually) by Colgate --- Syracuse was left with a pair of opponents from the former Division I-AA. The only other BCS conference schools in the same boat are Arizona State and Virginia. As a result, Syracuse must win seven games to become bowl eligible (assuming the Orange sweeps Maine and Colgate).
It's not that different a situation; Syracuse wasn't beating Virginia Tech, anyway. But a leap of three victories is still quite a bit for a rebuilding team, which remains a year away from pushing its way into the middle of the Big East.
The message for Hoosiers football fans, as usual, is get ready for noon kickoffs. Unsurprisingly, Indiana will almost surely continue to be a staple of the Big Ten Network's early games.
The good thing for the Hoosiers is about as favorable a nonconference schedule as anyone could cobble together. Indiana gets Towson, a pair of Sun Belt teams (Arkansas State and Western Kentucky) and Akron, and harbors a serious chance of running the table outside the league.
Sadly, the Hoosiers miss Minnesota this season and must travel to Illinois and Purdue. They'll play Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State in succession in the second half of the season (the latter in a "home" game in Landover, Md.) before wrapping up against Purdue.
Indiana gave up 34.2 points a game to those five to close out last year, and the Hoosiers' defense probably won't be much better this time around. If Indiana is to return to the postseason after a two-year hiatus, it'll be on quarterback Ben Chappell and a solid group of receivers to pull it off.