For the 13th straight summer, I invested time researching each FBS college football team to serve as the foundation for my college football handicapping in the fall and winter. What initially began as basic notetaking on some fundamental details for each team has become an arduous and detailed process for each team that derives from the reading and studying of multiple sources. Each FBS team takes about 30 minutes to an hour of preparation time. To help document this work while crystallizing my thoughts for each team, I am providing a summary of each team highlighted by a critical question that will go a long way in their success or failure. Part Three includes many of the teams that made their season debuts in September. . BAYLOR: Was winning the Big 12 Championship in 2021 a fluke? After taking a step back with a 6-7 record after losing their final four games last year after a 30-15 loss to Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl last season, this is a critical season in assessing the culture of this program in the fourth season under head coach Dave Aranda. The Bears finished with an 11-3 record in his first season before falling to 2-7 during the COVID-impacted 2020 campaign. They did outgain their Big 12 rivals by +24 YPG. Yet Aranda’s stamp should be on the defensive side of the ball after previously serving as the defensive coordinator at LSU — and there seems to be a disconnect between his schemes with the Tigers and the game plans now with the Bears. With 12 starters back including junior quarterback Blake Shapen, another down season would place Aranda’s tenure in jeopardy. BYU: Will the Cougars have the physicality on their roster to sustain a full season of Power-Five conference play? Head coach Kalani Sitake’s team begins their first season in the Big 12 with 15 starters back from last year’s team that finished 8-5. They closed out the year by winning four games in a row culminating in a 24-23 victory against SMU in the New Mexico Bowl. Only five of their games were against Power-Five conference opponents or Notre Dame last year — and they went 2-3 in those five contests. Depth is a big concern for the roster — and they only return two starters apiece on the offensive and defensive lines. CINCINNATI: Did former head coach Luke Fickell leave this program at just the right time? After six seasons coaching the Bearcats, Fickell took the head coaching job at Wisconsin. The Cincinnati brass turned to Scott Satterfield who had four up-and-down seasons at Louisville where he often seemed to have one foot out the door with his battles with their administration. Only nine starters are back from last year’s group that finished 9-4 after a 24-7 loss against the Cardinals in the Fenway Bowl in Satterfield’s last game coaching for Louisville. Now the Bearcats make their debut in a Power Five conference with their move from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12. CLEMSON: After making the College Football Playoffs in six straight years, Clemson has lost three games in each of the last two seasons. Was this program temporarily propped up by two great coordinators while getting lucky with two generational talents at quarterback in Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence? Both offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and defensive coordinator Brent Venables left the program after the 2021-22 season to become head coaches elsewhere. Head coach Dabo Swinney seemed to point the finger at D.J. Uiagalelei as the source of the problem when he benched him for freshman Cade Klubnik in the ACC Championship Game. But Klubnik was shaky in the Orange Bowl against a suspect Tennessee defense by throwing two interceptions and failing to execute on numerous occasions in the red zone. Swinney brought in Garrett Riley to implement the Air Raid offense he installed as the offensive coordinator for TCU last year — and the defense remains loaded with blue-chip talent destined for the NFL. But the secret sauce may be gone and it’s not as simple an explanation as Uiagelelei let them down the last two years. COASTAL CAROLINA: After 30 victories in the previous three seasons, will this program experience a drop-off after Jamey Caldwell took the head coaching job at Liberty? The cupboard is not empty with 30 seniors or super sixth-year seniors returning led by quarterback Grayson McCall, the three-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. But despite their 6-2 conference record, the Chanticleers got outgained by -20 Yards-Per-Game against Sun Belt opponents. North Carolina State offensive coordinator Tim Beck got tapped as their new head coach — but this team will go as far as their defense can play well. Six starters return to a unit switching to a 4-3 formation after ranking 110th in the FBS by allowing 31.8 Points-Per-Game and 101st in the nation by giving up 418.0 Yards-Per-Game. This team won all five of their games decided by one scoring possession — and that will be difficult to come close to replicating if the defense does not improve. COLORADO: Can head coach Deion Sanders' massive transfer portal reset rebuild both lines simultaneously with all the influx of skill-position talent on both sides of the ball? Sanders brought with him several players from his Jackson State squad including his son, Shedeur Sanders, at quarterback and two-way cornerback/wide receiver Travis Hunter who was the number one recruit in the 2021 class. With at least 33 transfer players and another 19 freshmen signings, the Buffaloes have seen an 80% turnover in the roster from a team that finished 1-11 last year. After losing 21 of 26 games, the program can only go up under Sanders’ guidance. But the grunt work is in the trenches. Their offensive line has 44 career starts and is small for a Power Five program. The defensive line is dependent on transfers with no starters back and is also on the small side. Depth is also an issue — especially on the offensive and defensive lines. DUKE: Is it too easy and misguided to disregard the Blue Devils simply because they thrived on a soft schedule last season? They only played four teams with a winning record — and just two of their nine victories were against FBS programs with a winning record. And while their +16 net turnover margin helped them out tremendously, the Regression Gods are likely to make their presence known this year with their actual net turnover rate coming closer to their expected net turnover rate again. But all four of the Blue Devils' losses were by eight points or less. They have a future NFLer at quarterback in junior Riley Leonard who passed for 2967 yards last year and added 699 yards on the ground. He has his three starting wide receivers and his starting tight end back from last year. And while I do not expect this team to enjoy another +16 net turnover margin, forcing turnovers is a skill — Duke had 10 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries for head coach Mike Elko who has eight starters back on that side of the ball in his second season with the program.FLORIDA STATE: Are the glory days back for the Seminoles in the fourth season under head coach Mike Norvel? They led the ACC by outgaining their opponents by +164.6 net YPG — and 11 All-ACC players are back from that group that won their final six games. The defense returns six of the top seven tacklers that ranked 14th in the nation by holding their opponents to 321.8 total YPG. Norvell is also hitting the transfer portal well with 11 new players coming into the program — and I like the way he is integrating these players with the foundation of his team. Norvell committed to getting younger players on the field in the first three years with the program — and those juniors and seniors now form the core of this team. Senior quarterback Jordan Travis is an intriguing NFL prospect. He was initially a run-first dual-threat option under center who has made great strides in improving his passing game. He passed for 3214 yards last year while being graded the top offensive player in the ACC by Pro Football Focus. Of particular note is his decision-making as he had only five interceptions with only 1.9% of his snaps under center resulted in a turnover-worthy play. Depth remains an issue for this team that is still rebuilding after four straight losing seasons. Has this program turned just a corner — or all of the corners — necessary to return to College Football Playoff contention?FRESNO STATE: Can the Bulldogs come close to replacing the production that Jake Haener provided them at quarterback the last three seasons? Junior Logan Fife had five starts last year when Haener got injured early in the season. Head coach Jeff Tedford also brought sophomore Mike Keene from Central Florida in the transfer portal. Only four starters on the offensive line return for the entire offensive unit that ranked 51st and 52nd in the nation by scoring 30.6 PPG and averaging 402.8 YPG. Five of the top six targets in the passing game must be replaced along with running back Jordan Mims who rushed for 1370 yards with 18 rushing touchdowns last year. GEORGIA SOUTHERN: Can head coach Clay Helton get his defense under control after they ranked 128th in the nation by giving up 487.7 Yards-Per-Game? The Eagles replace eight of their top-ten tacklers along with nine of the 12 players who logged in 300 or more snaps — but that might be addition by subtraction. Helton’s team was 4-4 in games decided by one-scoring possession despite going up at least 30 points in four of those contests. Despite ranking 18th in the nation by generating 465.9 YPG, they still got outgained by 83 YPG in the Sun Belt because of their porous defense. GEORGIA STATE: After three straight winning seasons, the Panthers dropped to 4-8 last year. Is this team trending in the wrong direction in the seventh-year under head coach Shawn Elliott — or were they simply snake-bit by losing all five of their games decided by seven points or less by a combined 18 points? One-third of the roster has turned over either from transfers or exhausted eligibility — but senior dual-threat quarterback Darren Grainger is back after rushing for 908 non-sacking rushing yards and tossing 19 touchdown passes with only four interceptions.ILLINOIS: How close can the Fighting Illini get to replicating the performance of their defense that led the nation by holding their opponents to 12.8 PPG and ranked third in the FBS by allowing only 273.5 YPG? Second-year head coach Bret Bielema has already made this program the new Wisconsin (especially with the sacrilege of the Badgers moving to an Air Raid offense this season). He loses four defensive backs who got drafted into the NFL — along with running back Chase Brown who led Power Five teams in rushing. Some red flags exist. After holding their first nine opponents to just 232 YPG, their last four opponents generated 367 YPG against them. It will be difficult to repeat their +15 net turnover margin which was the third-best mark in the FBS. But bringing Bielema’s smash-mouth football to Champagne improved the scoring by +4.1 PPG — and they outgained their conference opponents by +75 net YPG, the fourth-best mark in the Big Ten. All four of their conference losses were by one scoring possession — and ten All-Big performers return to the roster. IOWA: Can the Hawkeyes develop an even mid-level offensive attack? They scored only 17.7 Points-Per-Game and generated just 251.5 total Yards-Per-Game last season, ranking 122nd and 129th in the nation. Head coach Kirk Ferentz, in his 25th year with the program, may be forced to abandon nepotism if things do not improve this year with his son, Brian, only renewed on a one-year contract to continue as the offensive coordinator with the stipulations being the team has to register at least seven wins while generating 25.5 PPG. The senior Ferentz turned to Michigan for help by bringing senior quarterback Cade McNamara and senior tight end Erick All as transfers to help jumpstart the offense. But there are reasons why both players were not first-stringers for the Wolverines last year. The Iowa defense should once again be thought with 10 of the 16 players who logged at least 200 snaps returning. They were second in the nation by allowing only 13.3 PPG and 270.8 YPG. But Ferentz’s style of play on offense helps the defense — so significant changes on offense could disrupt the formula on defense. KANSAS: How high is the ceiling for the Jayhawks after they snapped their 14-year bowl drought in a wild 55-53 loss to Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl? Third-year head coach Lance Leipold had ten starters back on offense along with over 90% of their production from that group ranked 20th in the nation by scoring 35.6 PPG. Junior quarterback Jalon Daniels ranked second in the nation in Total QBR despite missing four games with a separated shoulder. But can they stop anyone after ranking 126th in the nation by surrendering 469.4 YPG with their last four opponents scoring 43 PPG against them? Leipold is relying on the transfer portal to fill a defensive line that does not return any of their four starters — but he seems to be winning in the transfer window wars and bringing in more talent into Lawrence than what he is losing. LSU: Are the Tigers a bit overvalued right now coming off a fortunate opening season under head coach Brian Kelly that concluded with their 63-7 blowout victory against Purdue in their bowl game that was severely undermanned due to the roster exodus after the Boilermakers' head coach left the program. Despite posting a 6-2 record in SEC play that was headlined by a signature victory against Alabama, LSU got outgained by -5.0 Yards-Per-Game against conference opponents. They benefited from +2 net close wins decided by one scoring possession — so they were close to being an 8-6 team which correlates with their net yardage numbers. The Tigers had a big play problem on both sides of the ball. While ranking sixth in overall Success Rate on offense, they fell to 101st in Marginal Explosiveness. On defense, LSU ranked 20th in Opponent Success Rate Allowed but fell to 50th in Opponent Marginal Explosiveness Allowed. Their defense returns only nine of the 18 players who logged in at least 200 snaps — and they lost seven defensive backs who got playing time last season. Kelly tried to fortify the back end with transfers — and perhaps he succeeded in upgrading the talent — but depth remains a problem. MIDDLE TENNESSEE: Will the Blue Raiders be a better team this season but fail to replicate or improve on their 8-5 record? Head coach Rick Stockstill’s team pulled off five upsets and benefited from a +12 net turnover margin which made up for a -44 net Yards-Per-Game mark in Conference USA play. The defense has eight starters back along with 12 of the 15 players who logged in at least 300 snaps. The offense has five starters back along with sophomore Nick Vattiato who was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2021 while earning MVP in the Bahamas Bowl before only playing in two games last season with senior Chase Cunningham returning from injury to reclaim the starting job. They did win five of their last six games including a 25-23 win against San Diego State in Hawai’i Bowl. MISSOURI: Will this team continue to underwhelm on offense under head coach Eli Drinkwitz? The former Appalachian State head coach was hired to install his innovative pro-style offense that featured multiple personnel groupings in a no-huddle attack. But the Tigers have not ranked higher than 59th in the FBS in scoring and 61st in total yardage in his first three seasons. Seven starters are back on offense from a unit that scored only 24.8 PPG and generated 369.8 YPG last year, ranking 85th and 81st in the nation. Drinkwitz is relinquishing the play-calling to his new offensive coordinator Kirby Moore who comes over after two seasons as the OC at Fresno State. NEVADA: Can second-year head coach Ken Wilson raise the floor as to what to expect from his defense? The former Oregon defensive coordinator inherited a dumpster fire last year after the Wolf Pack’s previous head coach Mike Norvell took many of the players with him when he bolted for the Colorado State job. Only 22% of the production from 2021 returned to Reno last season. But the Wolf Pack did hold eight of their opponents to just 23.3 PPG and 4.9 Yards-Per-Play with the potent offenses from Boise State, Fresno State, Air Force, and Incarnate Word being the outliers. Eight starters are back on that side of the ball. NOTRE DAME: Can the Fighting Irish compete for the College Football Playoff by repeating the power rushing attack they successfully deployed last season —and if not, is adding Sam Hartman at quarterback enough to transform the passing attack against elite competition? The Irish lost their first three games in the first three games under head coach Marcus Freeman last season with them only scoring 23.7 PPG and generating 5.6 Yards-Per-Play in their first six games. But after switching to a power-rushing attack, the Fighting Irish scored 38.7 PPG and averaged 6.2 YPP — and they returned two great starting tackles to serve as the foundation for this approach. Hartman offers the hope of a more sophisticated passing attack after passing for more than 300 YPG in the last two seasons for Wake Forest. But is there a true number-one wide receiver option from a unit that ranked sixth-to-last in receptions of 40 or more yards last year? OHIO STATE: Head coach Ryan Day has reached the College Football Playoff in three of the first four years under his leadership — but is his zeal to mold a team prepared for those potential games making the Buckeyes vulnerable against their biggest obstacle to winning a Big Ten Championship? Michigan has beaten them by 15 and 22 points in the last two seasons by controlling both sides of the line of scrimmage. Previous head coach Urban Meyer has subtly suggested that the program has gotten softer regarding their physicality with all the speed on the roster — and Day is certainly aware of this criticism. After four years of Justin Fields and C.J. Stroud under center, Day has to find a new quarterback this season amidst this challenge. And attention must be paid to their defense that allowed 87 combined points and a whopping 8.9 Yards-Per-Play in their last two games against the Wolverines and then Georgia in the playoff semifinals. OREGON: How close can head coach Dan Lanning get the Ducks’ defense to perform like his Georgia teams when he was their defensive coordinator from 2019-21? In his first year in Eugene, his defense ranked 74th and 70th in the FBS by allowing 27.4 PPG and 381.2 YPG. The deeper metrics were even more unkind with the Ducks’ defense ranking 99th in Opponent Success Rate Allowed and 108th in Opponent Finishing Drives Allowed. The pass rush generated only 18 sacks which was the lowest in school history. Their pass defense ranked 101st in the nation by allowing their opponents to average 256.4 passing YPG. There was a large gap between the physicality of the Ducks’ defense last year and what Lanning’s Georgia defenses brought to the table. But Oregon still outgained their Pac-12 opponents by +136 net YPG due to a dynamic offense that ranked 10th and 6th in the nation by scoring 38.8 PPG and generating 500.5 YPG. Fifth-year senior QB Bo Nix completed 71.9% of his passes while limiting his mistakes with only seven interceptions and taking just five sacks. OREGON STATE: Can the Beavers take the next step and challenge for a Pac-12 Championship? They won their final four games of the season including a 30-3 dominant win over Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl to complete a 10-3 campaign. But all three of their losses were in conference play where they finished a solid 6-3 — but they lost to both USC and Washington by a field goal and got thumped by Utah by a 42-16 score in Salt Lake City. Head coach Jonathan Smith has 13 starters back in his sixth year with the program — and he may have scored an upgrade at quarterback with D.J. Uigalelei transferring in from Clemson. The former five-star recruit had a 22-9 career record as a starter for the Tigers. PENN STATE: With two of the four College Football Playoff teams in their division in the Big Ten conference, can the Nittany Lions reach the elite level necessary to compete against Ohio State and Michigan? They have lost nine of their last 12 games against the traditional Big Two in the conference since 2017. Even worse, they are winless in their last ten games against top-ten opponents in the last six seasons under head coach James Franklin. The hope is that the team is ready to take this final step with the offense turning over to sophomore blue-chipper Drew Allar at quarterback after four years of the capable if unspectacular Sean Clifford under center. PURDUE: How will first-year head coach Ryan Walters mesh with his offensive coordinator Graham Harrell who will be installing an Air Raid offense he previously oversaw at West Virginia and USC? Walters previously served as the defensive coordinator at Missouri and then Illinois last year which were mostly defensive-oriented smash-mouth teams. Walters’ last season with Missouri was in the first season under Eliah Drinkwitz in 2020 when he installed a no-huddle attack — and that Mizzo team gave up 49.3 Points-Per-Game in their last three games. Walters was not retained the next season which allowed Bret Bielema to snatch him up when he took the Illinois head coaching job in 2021. SAM HOUSTON STATE: How much can be gleaned from the Bearkats 2022 season since head coach K.C. Keeler redshirted many of his key players since the program was ineligible to win a title in their last season before making the transition from the FCS to FBS this year? Sam Houston State won the FCS National Championship in the season that ended in the spring of 2021. Sixteen starters are back from last year’s team that posted a 5-4 record against exclusively FCS opponents. Keeler did bring in several transfers including sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell from North Texas who was once a blue-chip prospect for Arizona. TEMPLE: Can the Owls continue the progress they demonstrated in the second half of last season under first-year head coach Stan Drayton? After getting outgained by -105 net Yards-Per-Game in their first seven contests, they outgained their final five opponents by +29 YPG. But they still finished 3-9 last season after Drayton inherited a team gutted by transfers with the program turning to their sixth head coach in seven seasons after the disastrous Rod Carey era came to an end. Sixteen starters return from last year led by quarterback E.J. Warner, the son of the legendary NFL quarterback, but roster depth remains a significant challenge. TEXAS TECH: Is head coach Joey McGuire leading this program in the right direction — or was their 8-5 record simply the by-product of some overdue but temporary good fortune? The Red Raiders won three games in overtime to help them sweep all four of their games decided by one-scoring possession. After five straight losing seasons under head coaches Kliff Kingsbury and then Matt Wells, this program has had winning seasons in two straight years. McGuire has 17 starters and 15 sixth-year super seniors back from last year’s team that beat Ole Miss in the Texas Bowl by a 42-25 score. But can the talent level match the high-end rosters in the Big 12 conference? One of the appeals of McGuire was his ability to recruit Texas talent after his 13 seasons of coaching at the high school level in the state. Getting a full season out of the often-injured quarterback Tyler Slough would go a long way. The fifth-year senior was 5-0 as a starter last year before missing the final four games due to injury.TULSA: Will the Golden Hurricane be even worse on defense this season after ranking 116th and 98th in the FBS last year by allowing 33.1 Points-Per-Game and 414.2 total Yards-Per-Game? First-year head coach Kevin Wilson did not even hire a defensive coordinator until after spring practice. The Ohio State offensive coordinator for the last six seasons and former Indiana head coach from 2011-2016 eventually tapped UT-Martin defensive coordinator Chris Polizzi as his new DC — but there is a lot of work to do with a unit that lost six of their top eight tacklers from last year’s unit. Nine starters are back, including five on defense, from the team that finished 5-7. WESTERN KENTUCKY: How high is the ceiling for this program if they start winning more of their close games? The Hilltoppers have enjoyed 9-5 campaigns for two straight seasons despite posting a 2-7 record in games decided by one scoring possession. They led Conference USA by outgaining their opponents by +136 net Yards-Per-Game but Red Zone issues have held them back. They ranked 84th in the FBS last season with a touchdown rate of 58.3% with their Red Zone trips. On defense, they ranked 67th in the nation by allowing touchdowns in 60% of their opponent’s trips into the Red Zone. Eleven starters are back including senior quarterback Austin Reed who chose to not transfer away after leading the FBS with 4746 passing yards. Best of luck -- Frank.