What’s in store for UConn this season? A schedule filled with familiar foes and some new conference mates. A look at UConn’s opponents and how the Huskies have fared in the past:
South Florida, at UConn Oct. 12, Rentschler Field
2012 record: 3-9
Coach: Willie Taggart
Last meeting: 13-6 loss in 2012
Players to watch: QB Matt Floyd, QB Steven Bench, QB Bobby Eveld, RB Marcus Shaw, TE Sean Price, WR Andre Davis, C Austin Reiter, OL Quinterrius Eatmon, LB DeDe Lattimore, DT Luke Sager, DE Aaron Lynch, DE Ryne Giddins, S Mark Joyce.
The Skinny: The highly touted Taggart takes over for Skip Holtz after the Bulls struggled through a 1-6 Big East season. Taggart, who is from the Tampa area, is coming off two seven-win seasons at Western Kentucky and expectations are high at USF. Quarterback B.J. Daniels passed for 8,433 yards and rushed for 2,068 yards during his career, but he’s gone and Taggart must find a replacement. Penn State transfer Bench could be the best passer on the roster, and Davis has big-play potential at receiver. After two losing seasons, Taggart is expected to revive the program.
2012 record: 10-3
Coach: Tommy Tuberville
Last meeting: 34-17 loss in 2012
Players to watch: QB Brendon Kay, QB Munchie Legaux, OL Austen Bujnoch, OL Eric Lefeld, C Dan Sprague, OL Sam Longo, DT Jordan Stepp, LB Greg Blair, LB Jeff Luc, LB Nick Temple, CB Deven Drane, K Tony MIliano, KR/RB Ralph David Abernathy IV, PR Anthony McClung.
The Skinny: Tuberville comes from Texas Tech to replace Butch Jones, who left for Tennessee. He inherits a team that fell one game short of the Big East title and returns a solid core, although there are questions on defense and at quarterback. Kay and Legaux will compete for snaps this season, after Kay took the starting job last year. Cincinnati has won eight or more games in six of the past seven seasons, and the Bearcats figure to be a conference title contender this year.
2012 record: 10-4
Coach: George O’Leary
Players to watch: QB Blake Bortles, RB Storm Johnson, WR/PR J.J. Worton, WR Breshad Perriman, WR Jeff Godfrey, OL Jordan McCray, OL Justin McCray, LB Terrance Plummer, DL Thomas Niles, DE Deion Green, DT E.J. Dunston, OL Torrian Wilson, S Clayton Geathers.
The Skinny: The Knights are a team to watch in The American. Bortles, a junior, passed for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns with just seven interceptions in his first season as starter. With a group of pass catchers returning, the UCF offense could be potent. O’Leary, one of Randy Edsall’s coaching mentors, is in his 10th season at UCF and has built the foundation for a successful program at the former Conference USA school.
Louisville at UConn Nov. 8, Rentschler Field
2012 record: 11-2
Coach: Charlie Strong
Last meeting: 23-20 (3 OT) win in 2012
Players to watch: QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Dominique Brown, RB Senorise Perry, WR Damian Copeland, WR DeVante Parker, OL John Miller, OL Jake Smith, DE Marcus Smith, DT Brandon Dunn, LB Preston Brown, CB Terell Floyd, S Calvin Pryor, S Hakeem Smith, K John Wallace.
The Skinny: As the Cardinals begin their final year in the conference before officially joining the ACC, they are the overwhelming favorite to win the title. Louisville figures to be a top-10 team and has a Heisman Trophy candidate in Bridgewater, who passed for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. Louisville might have been in the national title picture last season if the Cardinals had not lost consecutive games to Syracuse and UConn after going 9-0. They wound up beating No. 3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl and were 13th in the final rankings.
SMU vs. UConn Nov. 16, Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas
2012 record: 7-6
Coach; June Jones
Last meeting: 31-30 loss in 1989
Players to watch: QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Traylon Shead, WR Jeremy Johnson, LB Stephon Sanders, LB Randall Joyner, CB Kenneth Acker, CB Chris Parks, S Jay Scott, S Daniel Roundtree.
The Skinny: Under Jones, the Mustangs have been to four consecutive bowl games, and the program that was gutted amid an NCAA scandal has seemingly been resurrected. But this year will be a challenge for Jones, whose team plays one of the toughest nonconference schedules (Texas Tech, Texas A&M, TCU) in the country. And Jones lost his best offensive player, fullback Zach Line (1,278 yards). A player to watch is Gilbert, who passed for 2,932 yards with 15 touchdowns but also threw 15 interceptions. The 6-4 Gilbert, son of former NFL quarterback Gale Gilbert, was one of the best high school players in the country when he was coming out of Austin, Texas, five years ago. He was at Texas from 2009-11 before losing the starting job and transferring to SMU.
Temple vs. UConn Nov. 23, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
2012 record: 4-7
Coach: Matt Rhule
Last meeting: 17-14 (OT) loss in 2012
Players to watch: H-back Chris Coyer, QB Connor Reilly, OL Cody Booth, WR Jalen Fitzpatrick, DL Levi Brown, DE Sean Daniels, LB Tyler Matakevich, LB Nate D. Smith, DB Abdul Smith, DB Anthony Robey.
The Skinny: Steve Addazio left Philadelphia for Boston College after two years at Temple, and Rhule, an assistant when Al Golden revived the program, returns as head coach after a season on Tom Coughlin’s staff with the Giants. The Owls were primarily a running team, with BC transfer Montel Harris (1,054 yards) leading the offense. But Harris is gone and Rhule is looking to pass more, so Reilly is the starting quarterback and last year’s QB, Coyer (946 years), moves to H-back. Temple returns the core of its defense, but it’s a defense that allowed 437.18 yards a game (90th in the country) and 31.18 points a game (86th). Matakevich, of Stratford (St. Joseph), is a standout linebacker.
Rutgers at UConn Nov. 30, Rentschler Field
2012 record: 9-4
Coach: Kyle Flood
Last meeting: 19-13 loss in 2012
Players to watch: QB Gary Nova, RB Savon Huggins, WR Brandon Coleman, C Betim Bujari, OL Antwan Lowery, OL Kaleb Johnson, DT Isaac Holmes, DE Jamil Merrell, DT Darius Hamilton, LB Kevin Snyder, LB Jamal Merrell, S Lorenzo Waters, KR Jeremy Deering.
The Skinny: Flood began his first season as coach with seven consecutive wins before losing four of six. This year, the Scarlet Knights are a lame-duck member of The American as they prepare to join the Big Ten in 2014. Rutgers lost seven starters off a defense that was among the best in the nation last season (14.15 points a game). The offense will only improve with more consistency from quarterback Nova, who threw 13 of his 16 interceptions in the final six games. Nova has a talented target in Coleman (43 receptions, 10 touchdowns).
Memphis, at UConn Dec. 7, Rentschler Field
2012 record: 4-8
Coach: Justin Fuente
Players to watch: QB Jacob Karam, RB Brandon Hayes, TE Alan Cross, OL Al Bond, OL Antonio Foster, DT Johnnie Farms, DE Martin Ifedi, LB Anthony Brown, LB Charles Harris, P Tom Hornsey, PR Keiwone Malone, DB/KR Bobby McCain.
The Skinny: The Tigers were 5-31 in three seasons before Fuente took over last year. So four victories — including three in a row to end the season — was considered a step in the right direction. Fuente, 36, is a former TCU assistant and is highly regarded throughout the industry, so the struggling program is in good hands. In Year 2 of Fuentes’ system, Memphis should be more competitive. Karam started all 12 games and produced 1,895 yards. He returns with an experienced offensive line, providing Memphis with some hope that the offense will produce points. There’s also experience on a defense that was 50th in the country (383.58 yards a game). And while they face a much tougher schedule this season, Memphis does enter the season with some momentum.
Towson at UConn Aug. 29, Rentschler Field
2012 record: 7-4
Coach: Rob Ambrose
Last meeting: 28-27 loss in 1993
Players to watch: RB Terrance West, QB Grant Enders, FB Emmanuel Holder, OL Randall Harris, OL Eric Pike, LB Monte Gaddis, CB Jordan Love, CB Tye Smith, DE Ryan Delaire.
The Skinny: Under Ambrose, Towson has held at least a share of the CAA title the past two years and is picked to finish second this year. The best returning player is West, a junior who has rushed for 2,340 yards and 44 touchdowns over the past two seasons and is the CAA preseason offensive player of the year. Delaire, of Windsor, is expected to start after transferring from UMass. The game will mark a return to Connecticut for Ambrose, an assistant under Randy Edsall at UConn.
Maryland at UConn Sept. 14, Rentschler Field
2012 record: 4-8
Coach: Randy Edsall
Last meeting: 24-21 win in 2012
Players to watch: QB C.J. Brown, WR/KR Stefon Diggs, LB Cole Farrand, DB Anthony Nixon, DB Dexter McDougle, DB Jeremiah Johnson.
The Skinny: It’s Edsall Bowl II. This time, the former UConn coach brings his team to his old home, as the Terps visit Rentschler Field. It hasn’t been a smooth transition for Edsall, who was forced to start 15 true freshmen last year. He lost two quarterbacks (Brown and Perry Hills) to ACL injuries, forcing him to start inexperienced Devin Burns. Maryland has reportedly done well on the recruiting trail and is returning some experienced, albeit young, talent. There might not be many wins in store this year, but the game in East Hartford promises to be fun.
Michigan at UConn Sept. 21, Rentschler Field
2012 record: 8-5
Coach: Brady Hoke
Last meeting: 30-10 loss in 2010
Players to watch: T Taylor Lewan, QB Devin Gardner, RB Fitz Toussaint, OL Ben Braden, OL Kyle Kalis, TE Devin Funchess, KR Dennis Norfleet, DE Frank Clark, WR Jeremy Gallon, WR Drew Dileo, WR Amara Darboh, LB Desmond Morgan, LB James Ross III, CB Blake Countess, K Brendan Gibbons.
The Skinny: Expectations are high for the Wolverines, who are among the top teams in the Big Ten and will be highly ranked nationally. Much of the enthusiasm is centered around Gardner, who took the starting job from Denard Robinson for the final five games last season and could be one of the most dynamic offensive players in the country. Gardner (1,219 yards, 11 touchdowns) had switched to wide receiver but returned to his natural position last year. With Toussaint as a running threat and a talented group of receivers led by Gallon, Michigan will score points. This will be a day to remember at Rentschler.
Buffalo vs. UConn Sept. 28, UB Stadium, Amherst, N.Y.
2012 record: 4-8
Coach: Jeff Quinn
Last meeting: 24-17 win in 2012
Players to watch: QB Joe Licata, QB Alex Zordich, RB Branden Oliver, WR Fred Lee, WR Alex Neutz, LB Lee Skinner, LB Khalil Mack, DB Derek Brim, DB Najja Johnson.
The Skinny: The Bulls return 17 starters, most notably Mack (94 tackles, eight sacks). Mack is perhaps the best player in the MAC and has the skill to be a bona fide NFL prospect. At quarterback, sophomore Licata inherited the starting job from Zordich and went 3-1 in the final four games. He passed for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns and breathed life into a team that was 1-7. And with leading receiver Neutz (65 receptions) and runner Oliver (821 yards), the Bulls have their nucleus back and should be better than last year.