3) PASSING HERD: With Rakeem Cato throwing the ball at Marshall, expect more video game-like numbers the offense. Cato led the FBS last year with 350 yards passing and 34 completions a game, along with a league-best 37 touchdowns. His career 66 percent completion rate is current the best in school history, ahead of Byron Leftwich or Chad Pennington. And Cato has his top receiver back in junior Tommy Shuler, who had a school-record 110 catches last season for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns.
4) SUNNY OUTLOOK?: Middle Tennessee, going into its 99th football season, was part of a three-way tie for second in the Sun Belt Conference last season. Florida Atlantic and FIU were both 2-6 in the Sun Belt, and the only team to finish below them in that league was South Alabama, a transitioning FBS team that wasn't even eligible for the league title. FIU lost eight starters on both sides of the ball, but Florida Atlantic has 15 starters back (seven on offense, eight on defense).
5) NOW FOR THE KICKER(S): Tulane kicker Cairo Santos made all 21 of his field goal attempts last season, including a 57-yarder that matched Rice's Chris Boswell for the longest in the conference. Boswell made an FBS-high six kicks of at least 50 yards last season and has 11 in his career. UAB's Ty Long was 14 of 17 with a 54-yarder. Half of the league's teams have returning kickers who made kicks of at least 51 yards. The others are UTSA's Sean Ianno, Southern Miss' Corey Acosta, Florida Atlantic's Mitch Anderson and East Carolina's Warren Harvey.
Predicted order of finish:
1. East Carolina
3. Middle Tennessee
5. Southern Miss
6. Florida Atlantic
3. Louisiana Tech
4. North Texas
Title game winner: East Carolina