Great unknowns: Last year, the Owls converted three field goals. Two of them were in the last game. You can't play like that. Yet at the moment the situation still appears to be somewhat unresolved. So we'll see. The offensive line has a bunch of new starters, so that's obviously worth monitoring. And the team had three interceptions. Again, numbers like those make it almost impossible to succeed. The good news is, it'll be almost impossible for them to be that bad again.
It all comes down to: Can they grow from last year's experience, and win at least some of the close games that they were unable to finish off? At least at the start, this remains a process. Common sense would suggest that there should be a few more wins out there, just because. But until they show otherwise, there's hardly any guarantees.
Circle the dates: Hard to pick one or two that stand out, when all you're really trying to do is make a run at getting bowl eligible. But they can't afford to lose any games that, on paper, they shouldn't, which happened a few times a year ago (see Fordham and Idaho).
Number crunching: They lost five times by seven points or less, including three on late, long passes. They also lost twice after leading by 21. And another that was a two-point game until the closing minute. What that all means I'm not sure, except the rest of the food chain doesn't care much about almost.
Prognosis: It wouldn't be going out on a limb to say the Owls are going to be improved. The question is by how much, since the goal is to go bowling for the first time since 2011. The non-conference schedule looks to be more challenging, and they went 1-3 last year. In the AAC, Louisville, Rutgers and SMU have been replaced by East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane. There's a chance they could be 3-2 or even 4-1. Then they have a six-game stretch from mid-October through November in which they might be favored only once. So I'm thinking 5-7, which won't be everything they want. Still, it would be a much-needed move in the proper direction. And that's got to be something.
- Mike Kern