As part of Football Preview Weekish, we've written more about UConn football than the world was probably ready to read. And if you read all 25 pieces, send in your proof of purchase for a free Randy Edsall decoder ring.
But, if you'll allow, I'd like to make a couple quick, last-minute big-picture points before tonight's kickoff:
- This year is a warm-up. Look at UConn's depth chart. Of the 47 names listed in the two-deep (not counting injured frosh Jimmy Bennett), just 10 are seniors. After this season, the Huskies will take major graduation hits on the offensive line and in the defensive secondary; luckily, these are two of the stronger areas of Randy Edsall's recruiting over the last few years. The O-line should be a strength of the 2010 team despite losing two of this year's opening-day starters. In the meantime, all the major skill players (QB, RB minus Dixon, WR) will be back and, unless the linebackers elect to try their hand in the pros after this season, six of the front seven will be back as well. No matter what wackiness happens in 2009, always consider it in the context of next season. I firmly believe 2010 will be UConn's first legitimate challenge for a BCS berth.
- A slight dip in talent, but more upside. For the first time since 2005, UConn did not get measurably better during the offseason. Losing four NFL draft picks will hurt, and it will cost the Huskies a game or two they would have won last year. At the same time, the freshmen classes of 2008 and 2009 are miles ahead of those from 2004 and 2005. If Edsall lives up to his reputation as a player-developer, then this youthful UConn team also has a chance to win a game or two it would have lost last year.
- This is probably a six/seven-win team. The 2007 team got rather lucky to win nine games; last year's Huskies were rather unlucky to only win eight. I don't think the gap between the 2009 team and the past two UConn teams is large enough to turn 9-4/8-5 into 4-8/5-7. But realistically, the schedule has far more potholes than it did in 2007; UNC, Baylor and Notre Dame are among the top five OOC opponents UConn has scheduled since Rentschler Field opened. Right now, on September 5, I'd be thrilled with a bowl season. Any bowl. Win more than six games against a schedule filled with toss-ups and it's a solid season, in my book.
- This is a turning-point season for UConn football. I get the sense that UConn fans are full of uneasy optimism; they're ready for the herculean effort it will take to push this program to the next level, and they have some faith that Edsall can do it. But to get to that next level, the Huskies can't squander the momentum like they did in 2005 (5-6) and 2006 (4-8).
Gun to my head, here's my season prediction:
Wins: Ohio, Rhode Island, Baylor, Louisville, Rutgers, Syracuse, South Florida
Losses: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Notre Dame
I think we're more likely to see a couple of the projected wins turned into losses, but I think the Huskies finish 7-5 and head to Birmingham. Then, they gear up for a run at the Big East title in 2010.