• 2012 record: 4-8, 4-4 C-USA
• How it looks: Justin Fuente enters his second season as head coach as the Tigers make the move to the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East). They ended 2012 on a strong note, winning their last three games for the program’s best record since 2008. Quarterback Jacob Karam set a school record by completing almost 65 percent of his passes with only three inteceptions, but he is facing competition from redshirt freshman Paxton Lynch. With five offensive linemen who started last season, the quarterback should have solid protection, and Martin Ifedi — who led the team with 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss — will head a solid defensive unit. The Tigers return eight starters on both offense and defense but will face tougher competition in the AAC than they saw in Conference USA. Being in the same conference as longtime rival Louisville (if just for one season) should excite the Memphis fans, but facing the likes of Duke and Cincinnati will make it hard for the Tigers to build on the momentum from last season’s strong finish.
Sept. 7 vs. Duke, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Middle Tennessee, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 vs. Arkansas State, TBA
Oct. 5 vs. UCF*, TBA
Oct. 12 at Houston*, noon
Oct. 19 vs. SMU*, TBA
Oct. 30 vs. Cincinnati*, 8 p.m.
Nov. 9 vs. UT-Martin, TBA
Nov. 16 at USF*, TBA
Nov. 23 at Louisville*, TBA
Nov. 30 vs. Temple*, TBA
Dec. 7 at Connecticut*, TBA
• 2012 record: 8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt
• How it looks: Things are looking up in Murfreesboro after a 2012 season in which the Blue Raiders beat Georgia Tech and Memphis, and now the program is making the move to Conference USA. Coach Rick Stockstill got things back on track after a tough 2011 campaign, as the Raiders won an FBS-school-record five road games last season. Senior quarterback Logan Kilgore is back after throwing for 2,571 yards and 16 touchdowns, and freshman Austin Grammer looks like the likely No. 2 QB. Former South Pittsburg standout Jiajuan Finnell is likely to start at defensive end on a fairly experienced unit. The summer had some off-the-field troubles, however, and Stockstill dismissed three players from the team after they were caught on video in an incident in which a woman was choked.
Aug. 29 vs. Western Carolina, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 at North Carolina, 12:29 p.m.
Sept. 14 vs. Memphis, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Florida Atlantic*, noon
Sept. 27 at BYU, 9 p.m.
Oct. 5 vs. East Carolina*, TBA
Oct. 12 at North Texas*, TBA
Oct. 24 vs. Marshall*, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 at UAB*, 1 p.m.
Nov. 9 vs. Florida International*, 4 p.m.
Nov. 23 at Southern Miss*, 3:30 p.m.
Nov. 30 vs. UTEP*, TBA
• 2012 record: 8-3, 4-3 OVC
• How it looks: Coach Rod Reed continued to build the program last season, but the Tigers lost three of their last four games and will try to recapture their early-season form as the 2013 season kics off. There are question marks at quarterback, however, after Reed suspended junior Mike German following a felony vandalism charge that later was dropped. German also was academically ineligible for spring practice, and he remained off the team as of mid-August. Losing him would hurt the Tigers after he threw for 2,751 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, and Reed would have to turn to junior college transfer Lamar McKnight or freshman Ronald Butler. Former East Hamilton kicker Cameron Carter joins TSU this season after starting for three years for the Hurricanes and being ranked in the top 10 by prokicker.com.
Sept. 1 vs. Bethune-Cookman (at LP Field), 8 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Florida A&M, 2 p.m.
Sept. 14 vs. Jackson State (at Memphis), 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Tennessee Tech*, 8 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Central State, 3 p.m.
Oct. 5 vs. SE Missouri State (at LP Field)*, 7 p.m.
Oct 12 at Jacksonville State*, 4 p.m.
Oct. 19 at UT-Martin*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. Eastern Illiniois (at LP Field)*, 5 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Eastern Kentucky*, 1 p.m.
Nov. 9 vs. Austin Peay (at Hale Stadium)*, 3 p.m.
Nov. 16 vs. Murray State (at LP Field)*, 3 p.m.
• 2012 record: 3-8, 1-7 OVC
• How it looks: Former Calhoun standout Tre Lamb is still in Cookeville, but he won’t be suiting up for the Golden Eagles anymore. A year after his injury-shortened senior season, Lamb is the new quarterbacks coach on Watson Brown’s staff, and he’ll try to help Darian Stone turn around a Tech program that struggled with injuries last season. Stone started the final four games, averaging 188 passing yards and 124 rushing yards per game. Donn Landholm is also new to the staff as the team’s defensive coordinator, and he should have free safety Marty Jones back in the starting lineup after Jones missed most of the last two seasons with injuries.
Aug. 29 vs. Cumberland, 8 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Wisconsin, noon
Sept. 14 at Hampton, 6 p.m.
Sept. 21 vs. Tennessee State*, 8 p.m.
Sept. 28 vs. Indiana State, 8 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Murray State*, 4 p.m.
Oct. 10 vs. UT-Martin*, 8 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Eastern Kentucky*, 3 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. Jacksonville State*, 2:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Eastern Illinois*, 1 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Southeast Missouri State*, 2 p.m.
Nov. 23 vs. Austin Peay*, 3:30 p.m.
• 2012 record: 2-9, 1-7 OVC
• How it looks: Kirby Cannon takes over as head coach after a tough 2012 season at Austin Peay, and the early part of the 2013 schedule doesn’t make things any easier. The Governors open at SEC schools Tennessee and Vanderbilt before making trips to UT-Chattanooga, Ohio and Eastern Kentucky. The good news is that the team has seven offensive and nine defensive starters returning, so experience won’t be an issue. Running back Tim Phillips and safety Leron Eaddy followed Cannon to Clarksville from Central Michigan, where Cannon was secondary coach for the previous three seasons. Phillips in particular could have a big impact after running back Reco Williams was declared academically ineligible in mid-August. At receiver, former Ooltewah star Mikhail Creech returns for his sophomore season and could break into the starting lineup. As a freshman, Creech played in 10 of the Govs’ 11 games, making 10 catches for 136 yards and two scores. Former Red Bank player Malcom Goines returns as a starter on the defensive line after making 19 tackles in 2012.
Aug. 31 at Tennessee, 6 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 at UTC, 6 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Ohio, 2 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Eastern Kentucky*, 6 p.m.
Oct. 10 vs. Eastern Illinois*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Murray State*, 4 p.m.
Oct. 26 vs. UT-Martin*, 5 p.m.
Nov. 2 vs. Jacksonville State*, 2 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Tennessee State*, 3 p.m.
Nov. 16 vs. Southeast Missouri State*, 2 p.m.
Nov. 23 at Tennessee Tech*, 2:30 p.m.
• 2012 record: 8-3, 6-2 OVC
• How it looks: Coach Jason Simpson is coming off a solid 8-3 season in 2012 — including a win over Memphis — and the Skyhawks will be looking for more success in 2013. But UT-Martin lost a lot of the offense, and now Jarod Neal and Tyler Rice are competing to succeed Derek Carr at quarterback. In addition, the Skyhawks lost their top two running backs. There still will be some experience, with four returning offensive linemen and receiver Jeremy Butler back. Linebacker Ben Johnson returns after averaging almost 12 tackles a game last season, and defensive lineman DJ Roberts is back after recording 11.5 tackles for loss in 2012, but gone is lineman Montori Hughes, who was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL draft. He was the first UT-Martin player drafted since Fred Thomas in 1996.
Aug. 29 at UTC, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Boise State, 3 p.m.
Sept. 14 vs. Central Arkansas, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Southeast Missouri*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 vs. Jacksonville State*, 3 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Tennessee Tech*, 8 p.m.
Oct. 19 vs. Tennessee State*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Austin Peay*, 5 p.m.
Nov. 2 vs. Murray State*, 2 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Memphis, 4:30 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Eastern Kentucky*, 1 p.m.
Nov. 23 vs. Eastern Illinois*, 2 p.m.
Jefferson City, Tenn., NCAA Div. II
• 2012 record: 9-3, 5-2 SAC, lost to eventual national champion Valdosta State in the playoffs’ second round
• How it looks: In Ken Sparks’ 34th year as the Eagles’ head coach (he’s the active wins leader in college football at 308-83-2), they were picked to win the South Atlantic Conference with four preseason offensive all-league first-team selections — running back Brandon Baker, offensive linemen Alex Taylor and Robby Ignagni and kicker Curt Duncan — and running back Tyron Douglas and lineman Lucas Mathis joining defenders Sean Rawson, Jaycob Coleman and Javaris Neal on the second team. Baker, Carson-Newman led the nation last year with 378 rushing yards per game and 52 rushing touchdowns.
Sept. 5 Wayne State, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Colorado Mines, 2 p.m.
Sept. 21 Brevard*, 1 p.m.
Sept. 28 Catawba*, 1 p.m
Oct. 5 at Mars Hill*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Shorter, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 Tusculum*, 3 p.m
Oct. 26 at North Greenville, 2:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Lenoir-Rhyne*, 2 p.m.
Nov. 9 Newberry*, 1 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Wingate*, 1:30 p.m.
Greeneville, Tenn., NCAA Div. II
• 2012 record: 2-9, 1-6 SAC
• How it looks: Frankie DeBusk’s Pioneers averaged 23.3 points a game last year but gave up 36.2, and they were picked to finish sixth in the eight-team South Atlantic Conference this season. They do have 15 returning starters, including the leader on each side of the ball — preseason 245-pound All-American Brian Alexander at linebacker and fellow senior All-SAC first-teamer Bo Cordell at quarterback. Cordell passed for 3,244 yards last year and will be the all-time DII leader with 2,388 this season. Preseason second-team All-SAC Pioneers are sophomore receiver Justin Houston from Bradley Central, tight end Wesley Powell, offensive lineman David Davis and defensive back Kaytron Becton.
Sept. 5 College of Faith, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 Elizabeth City St., 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 at North Greenville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 Lenoir-Rhyne*, 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 Catawba*, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Newberry*, 4 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Carson-Newman*, 3 p.m.
Oct. 26 Wingate*, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 at UNC Pembroke, 3:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Brevard*, 1 p.m.
Nov. 16 Mars Hill*, 1:30 p.m.
Rome, Ga., NCAA Div. II
• 2012 record: 6-5, 2-3 Gulf South
• How it looks: Coach Phil Jones’ eight-year-old program did well in its first year of DII competition, closing with two wins in one of the toughest leagues in the nation, but has a tough early half of this season. The Hawks open at a Division I school and also play longtime powers Valdosta State, North Alabama and Carson-Newman by mid-October. But their promising GSC introduction boosted recruiting, and their returners include the league’s leading rusher in senior Bradley Moon (1,021 yards and nine TDs), and a junior quarterback, Eric Dodson, who ran for 571 yards and 10 TDs in addition to throwing for 972 yards and six scores. Defensive end Laynce Sanders had 8.5 sacks as a freshman.
Sept. 7 at Charleston Southern, 11 a.m.
Sept. 12 Mars Hill, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Valdosta State*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 West Georgia*, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 North Alabama*, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 Carson-Newman, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Florida Tech*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 24 Delta State*, 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Clark Atlanta, 6 p.m.
Nov. 9 at West Alabama*, 8 p.m.
Nov. 14 at Point University, 7 p.m.
Sewanee, Tenn., NCAA Div. III
• 2012 record: 3-7, 1-3 SAA
• How it looks: Coach Tommy Laurendine has eight starters back on offense, including senior quarterback Curtis Johnson, and six on defense, but the Tigers must determine who’s punting and place-kicking. The offensive line is particularly strong with all five starters back and newcomers Riley Malone and Jacob Matthews pushing for time, and linebacker Dave McKeithen and defensive backs De’Nard Ford and Quentin Jones are proven leaders in the stop unit. Brandon Campbell is another experienced linebacker after being the SAA newcomer of the year in 2012, and Taylor Graham is expected to be a plus at cornerback. Chaz Powell and Stephen Jackson are returning receivers.
Sept. 7 DePauw, 2 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Willamette, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 Maryville, 2 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Washington & Lee, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 Birmingham-Southern*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 12 Rhodes*, 2 p.m
Oct. 19 at Centre*, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 Millsaps*, 2:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Berry*, 2 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Hendrix*, 1 p.m.
Mt. Berry, Ga., NCAA Div. III
• 2012 record: This is first season
• How it looks: As defensive coordinator and strength coach, Tony Kunczewski helped LaGrange College take its football team to the NCAA Division III playoffs in the program’s third year, and now he’s heading another Georgia school’s attempt to work similar quick magic. Having to share Barron Stadium in Rome with Shorter, the Vikings will play three home games at The Darlington Schools. The Berry roster is loaded with former tri-state area standouts but has players from Florida and New Jersey to Washington state. One of the late additions was former Chattooga quarterback and defensive back Nathan Schuster, who redshirted last year at Georgia State.
Sept. 7 Maryville, 6 p.m.
Sept. 15 LaGrange JV, 2 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Mercer, 6 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Rhodes*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Washington (Mo.), 2 p.m.
Oct. 12 Centre*, 1 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Hendrix*, 2 p.m.
Oct. 26 Birmingham-Southern*, 1 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Millsaps*, 2 p.m.
Nov. 9 Sewanee*, 2 p.m.
Maryville, Tenn., NCAA Div. III
• 2012 record: 6-4, 5-2 USA South
• How it looks: Coach Mike Rader’s Fighting Scots won their last three games in his first season last year and were league tri-champions, and with 18 returning starters they were picked to finish fourth in the nine-team USA South Athletic Conference in 2013. There are 10 starters back on offense, including 101-yards-per-game running back Travis Fielder, who scored nine touchdowns in nine games, and receivers Ed Johnson and Blake Williams, who caught 33 and 29 passes for 457 and 325 yards. Quarterback Evan Pittenger got his chance as a freshman and was 73-for-137 for 741 yards with seven touchdowns. Senior linebacker Dylan Wolfenbarger averaged 13.6 tackles a game in 2012, and
Sept. 7 at Berry, 6 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Emory & Henry, 2 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Sewanee, 2 p.m.
Sept. 28 Methodist, 2 p.m.
Oct. 5 Averett, 1:30 p.m
Oct. 12 at LaGrange, 1 p.m
Oct. 19 at Christopher Newport, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26 Ferrum, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 Greensboro College, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Huntingdon, 2 p.m.
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...