#44 Cal Poly FCS Football 2014 Preview

Cal Poly Mustangs

Overall Rank: #44
#7 Big Sky

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The Cal Poly Mustangs were a disappointing 6-6 last season but were a couple of late losses against Montana and Northern Arizona from being 8-4, which would have likely been good enough to qualify for the FCS playoffs last season. They won the Big Sky Championship in 2012 and made the playoffs. With other Cal Poly athletic programs like men's soccer, men's and women's basketball and baseball all having success in the 2013-14  athletic season, there is some pressure for the football team to have similar success as in 2012. A seemingly soft schedule in 2014 could help them accomplish that goal.

2013 Record: 6-6, 5-3
2013 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Tim Walsh (32-25 at Cal Poly, 149-107 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Saga Tuitele
Defensive Coordinator: Josh Brown

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kristaan Ivory, RB, 1,113 yards
Passing: Chris Brown, QB, 836 yards
Receiving: Willie Tucker, WR, 312 yards
Tackles: Nick Dzubnar, LB, 112
Sacks: Nick Leyden, DL, 4.0
Interceptions: Karlton Dennis, DB, 2; Jordan Williams, DB, 2

Other Key Returnees: LB Cameron Ontko, RB Brandon Howe, WR Chris Nicholls

Key Losses: DT Sullivan Grosz, DB Alex Hubbard, P Paul Hundley, LB Johnny Millard, RB Cole Stanford, FB Akaninyene Umoh, K Bobby Zalud

Most of the key players return at the skill positions for the Mustangs from an offense that averaged 28.5 points per game and 443.7 total yards per game last season. Chris Brown and Dano Graves split the snaps last year, but Brown was much more impressive. They split the snaps again in the spring game. Both are dual threat quarterbacks and might be more dangerous with their legs. Either way, Cal Poly will run first and passing is an afterthought. The Mustangs rushed for 309 yards per game last season. Kristaan Ivory is one of the top running backs in the Big Sky. He is also dangerous catching passes out of the backfield. Junior running back Brandon Howe rushed for 271 yards and three touchdowns.

While the running game is key for Cal Poly, they still have to throw the ball sometimes. Cal Poly caught a break after leading returning receiver Willie Tucker re-enrolled after trying to transfer to an FBS school for his senior year. He looks to be the go-to receiver with the loss of Cole Stanford to graduation. Chris Nicholls will also get a lot of targets and also had three rushing touchdowns last year. He also returns punts and kicks for the Mustangs. Receiver could be a weakness because there isn't much depth after Tucker, Nicholls and the running backs. While stars such as linebackers Nick Dzunbar and Cameron Ontko and defensive lineman Nick Leyden return, the Mustangs must replace NFL quality talent in defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz, linebacker Johnny Millard and defensive back Alex Hubbard. There is bound to be a drop off in quality from a defense that allowed 21.6 points and 360 yards per game last season.

The Bottom Line:
Cal Poly has a relatively soft schedule. The only FBS school on the schedule is the season opener at New Mexico State on August 28th, and Cal Poly has a good chance to pull off the upset of a bottom tier FBS school even on the road. Compare that to last year when the Mustangs had road games at Fresno State and Colorado State who both went to FBS bowl games last season. Cal Poly also avoids prohibitive Big Sky favorite Eastern Washington. Road games against South Dakota State and Northern Arizona will be tough, as will a home game against Montana. However, a 9-3 record and an FCS playoff berth is a very realistic goal for the Mustangs.

Projected Postseason: None

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 309.1 (1st in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 134.5 (115, 13)
Total Offense: 443.6 (23, 4)
Scoring Offense: 28.5 (46, 5)
Rushing Defense: 128.4 (24, 1)
Pass Defense: 231.6 (78, 6)
Total Defense: 360.0 (37, 3)
Scoring Defense: 21.6 (15, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.3 (43, 5)
Sacks: 1.50 (97, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 0.50 (2, 1)


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