USA TODAY Sports' Paul Myerberg counts down to the start of the college football season team by team from No. 128 to No. 1.

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The philosophical changes seen at Texas State since the end of the last season illustrate two points:

One, that 6-6 isn't good enough. The Bobcats hit .500 in the program's first season as a full-fledged member of the Football Bowl Subdivision, but only two of those wins came in Sun Belt Conference play – against Georgia State, the worst program in the FBS, and South Alabama.

A third win came against Idaho, likewise among the nation's weakest teams; a fourth came at Southern Mississippi, a solid program then scuffling through one of the longest losing streaks in history; a fifth came against Prairie View A&M.

SPRING FOOTBALL: Sun Belt

Two, that the window for Dennis Franchione to reclaim his winning ways – both at Texas State, where he served once before, and nearly throughout his coaching career – is slowly closing. Franchione had to be frustrated by the way the Bobcats limped into the offseason, for one: Texas State lost its last three to end the regular season, dropping each by 14 or more points.

So changes are coming, and it's on the roster to get on the same page. Offensively, Franchione spent the offseason analyzing hurry-up, no-huddle schemes across the country, eventually settling on a quick-paced system he hopes lifts this offense out of the doldrums. On defense, new coordinator John Thompson – formerly of Arkansas State – has installed a more aggressive, read-and-react, fly-to-the-football scheme, one the staff hopes fits well with the returning personnel.

These are the sort of drastic changes that could quickly alter Texas State's trajectory, pushing this year's Bobcats out of the bottom half of the Sun Belt and into the championship conversation. They could also go in the other direction: this could backfire.

LAST YEAR'S PREDICTION:

This team should end with four wins, but I have a suspicion that three will come at home against Prairie View A&M, Georgia State and South Alabama. I'll cover my bases by saying there's room for more: Texas State could be a huge nuisance in the Sun Belt if the secondary jells and the offense finds its balance. But that's not a safe bet: Texas State is still learning on the job on the FBS level.

2013 RECAP:

In a nutshell: That the Bobcats sputtered to the finish line propelled Franchione to overhaul the team's general philosophies. It wasn't a pretty close: Texas State lost to Arkansas State, Western Kentucky and Troy by a combined 62 points; if you add losses to Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe and Texas Tech, the Bobcats' six defeats came by a combined 119 points – just shy of three touchdowns per contest. So there's work to be done, obviously. Not to say there weren't bright spots. Texas State beat a pair of FBS teams during non-conference play in Southern Mississippi and Wyoming, for example, and impressed in a 33-31 victory against South Alabama. All things considered, it was a fine FBS debut. Texas State just wants more.

COUNTDOWN: Complete list (so far)

High point: Topping South Alabama. Beating Wyoming was also nice, though the Cowboys were playing out the string under a lame-duck coaching staff.

Low point: The three-game losing streak to end the year. With last season as our guide, it's clear the Bobcats remain a step behind the Sun Belt's best.

Tidbit: Franchione enters 2014 with 203 career victories, the fourth-most of any active FBS coach. He trails Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer (266 wins), South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (219) and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly (208). Of his 203 career wins, 13 came during Franchione's earlier two-year run at Texas State – then known as Southwest Texas State – from 1990-91. Ninety of Franchione's wins came below the FBS level: 14 victories at Southwestern College (1981-82), 53 at his alma mater, Pittsburg State (1985-89), and those 13 with the Bobcats. Let's also recall that Franchione was once the coach at Alabama. Did you forget?

Tidbit (coaching edition): Texas State will have a new defensive coordinator, as noted. Thompson replaces Craig Naivar, who left to join Kentucky as Mark Stoops' safeties coach and special teams coordinator. One funny thing: Naivar's departure was unexpected, I guess, since the Bobcats had to postpone spring ball nearly three weeks until Franchione hired Thompson as his defensive successor. The other change comes up front, where longtime FBS assistant Brad Bedell – also from Arkansas State – replaces Gordy Shaw, who spent one season with the Bobcats before assuming the same position at Houston.

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Father-son baseball combinations

1. Bobby and Barry Bonds
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4. Cecil and Prince Fielder
5. Buddy and David Bell

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Offense: The shift in offensive philosophy was needed: Texas State's attack sputtered throughout last season, taking a step back in the running game – as was to be expected – while failing to find any rhythm through the air. Moving forward, the run-game foundation will continue to play an enormous role in the Bobcats' offense; at the same time, perhaps a more up-tempo feel will open things up for sophomore quarterback Tyler Jones (1,130 yards), the unquestioned starter coming out of spring drills. Not that he's anywhere near a finished product: Jones needs to fully grasp the system, for one, and he'll need additional time to simply develop into a more polished, competent and consistent passer. But the staff likes his makeup, not to mention his physical gifts, and I imagine the Bobcats' change in philosophy will ultimately benefit the offense as a whole and its quarterback. Look for more production, but let's temper any optimism by stating the obvious: Jones needs time.

But he'll have some help. Jones is an adequate runner, if not overly dangerous; his legs will still be an asset in the new hurry-up system, if used correctly. The Bobcats' running game will continue to ride through a trio of backs: Robert Lowe (945 yards) and Chris Nutall (477 yards), both juniors, and senior Terrence Franks (201 yards). If no one back pops – no offense to Lowe, who'll produce yardage – the group as a whole is solid: Texas State should cobble together a top-60 running game as a group, especially if the new style wears down Sun Belt defenses and a pretty experienced offensive line takes a step forward. Oh, and what if the Bobcats locate a passing game? Never say never, but you could paint a picture of a much-improved offense.

The offensive front is fine. Is it particularly good? Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. But the Bobcats have enough in the tank to potentially redshirt all four incoming linemen, adding depth and potential for the foreseeable future. Don't look for substantial changes, outside of a competition to replace tackle Devin Baker. One option is junior Jackson Costello, who brings three career starts into 2014; another is sophomore Ryan Melton, a 340-pound monster who could team with all-conference junior Adrian Bellard – 345 pounds, depending on the most recent meal – to give Texas State plus-size line bookends. Bellard's the star of the group, but whether the Bobcats control the line of scrimmage depends more on interior starters Charlie Will Tuttle, Matt Freeman and Zach Crawford. Depth is adequate, and far from the biggest concern – that'd be conditioning, since these big boys will need to play with speed and tempo in the new system.

Defense: Thompson's 4-2-5 defense stresses size and flexibility up front and speed, athleticism and multiplicity along the back end. More than anything, it demands aggressiveness: Texas State wants its ends to burst off the line, its tackles to clog lanes, its linebackers to roam in space and its defensive backs – particularly the safeties – to harass receivers while sticking their noses in run support. With a nice crop of linebackers in place, the key for Texas State will be the defensive front; a solid pass rush and block-occupying interior will help bail out a secondary seemingly lacking in the pieces needed to fully adapt to Thompson's new scheme.

JUCO help is on the way. The Bobcats signed six JUCO transfers along the defensive line in February, with three headed for tackle and three for the outside. Whether all six will contribute is questionable; it's more likely that three or four either start or provide quality snaps in reserve right from the start. The two-deep remained unsettled while the Bobcats awaited the new arrivals: Michael Odiari (30 tackles), Marcus Dallas, Kris Petersen and Thomas Evans at end, for example, while Dallas McClarty and Justin Booth anchored the inside. The tackle pair, both sophomores, must be ready to go regardless of any potential assistance from the JUCO ranks; likewise with Odiari and Dallas, with the former locked into a starting role. With no idea as to what Texas State might get from the newcomers – including a few freshmen – this group is a total unknown. It's also a question mark.

As is the secondary. The 4-2-5 isn't new to Texas State, though Thompson has altered the way the Bobcats approach the defensive side of the ball. Take the secondary, for example: Thompson wants his defensive backs to attack the football, a mindset that could play well, given the athleticism seen at safety and cornerback, but could also lead to a slew of big plays if the pass rush doesn't upset timing. Two positions are secure: Craig Mager (44 tackles) will down the fort at one cornerback spot, as he's done since stepping on campus, and senior Colby Targun (54 tackles) is the answer at one of the three safety positions. And the rest? David Mims II should join Mager at cornerback, barring a surprise push from an unknown holdover, while Thompson has upward of seven potential contributors at safety – Germod Williams, Damani Alexcee, Demetrius Woodard, Trey Garrett and Donta Clanton, to name a few. The latter threesome are former JUCO transfers coming off redshirt seasons, so there's always the chance that one or two question marks develop nicely after a full season and offseason spent learning the ropes. An honest moment: I really don't know how Texas State's secondary is going to shake out. With all due modesty, I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

At least this is true: Texas State's linebackers are awesome. One, senior Michael Orakpo (71 tackles, 10.0 for loss), is a total disrupter and an easy all-conference pick, in my mind. His running mate, David Mayo (89 tackles), fits exactly what Thompson and the Bobcats are looking for – he can play in space, attack the lanes and run with targets in the intermediate passing game, so Mayo's a weapon. There's also some promising depth in reserve – Stephen Smith and Jerrid Jeter-Gilmon produce when given the opportunity – so the Bobcats won't struggle either flexing into a three-linebacker set or adding a fifth rusher, should that be in Thompson's plans. On a defense loaded with concerns, Texas State can feel secure in this group's ability to make waves.

Special teams: Three very nice pieces: Brandon Smith in the return game, Jason Dann at kicker and Will Johnson as the punter and kickoff specialists. Two issues: Smith won't get help from Andy Erickson, who excelled on punt returns, and the Bobcats must get more on kickoff coverage. Johnson puts most kickoffs into the end zone, to be fair.

POSITION(S) TO WATCH:

Wide receivers: Smith (22 receptions for 241 yards) is also the most dangerous target on a receiver corps rebuilding without two of last season's three leading pass-catchers. The Bobcats will help from a younger core: one, this offense needs the balance provided by an effective passing game; two, Jones needs to build a better rapport with his receivers; and three, the new quick-quick style will demand depth at receiver, which would allow the Bobcats to roll out different personnel groupings without giving the defense ample time to catch its breath. The building blocks are Smith, tight end Bradley Miller (24 for 311) and senior Ben Ijah. From there, keep an eye on the young guys. One, redshirt freshman Brice Gunter, worked his way into the first-team grouping during spring ball. Another redshirt freshman, Demun Mercer, has the size to fit behind Ijah as the Bobcats' bigger receiver. What I see: Texas State can flex out Miller and play Ryan Cardin at tight end; use Smith in the slot, replacing Isaiah Battle; and free up Gunter, Ijah and Mercer to play both on and off the line of scrimmage, which could create potential mismatches over the middle and downfield. There's some talent here, most of it young, and the Bobcats will need to be creative.

GAME(S) TO WATCH:

Louisiana-Monroe: The non-conference stretch of Navy, Illinois and Tulsa will provide a good barometer for where the Bobcats stand – since a win in any of the three games would suggest that this team has embraced the offseason changes. A victory against one of the three would also suggest that Texas State has what it takes to finish in the top three or four in the Sun Belt. Louisiana-Lafayette's going to be a monster, but the Bobcats can set a solid tone for the conference season by winning at Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 25.

SEASON BREAKDOWN & PREDICTION:

In a nutshell: The changes seen at Texas State will ultimately be of enormous benefit both on offense, where the up-tempo takes hold, and on defense, where Thompson's scheme – if not different in basic theory – should play well with the Bobcats' talent base. You can see the general idea: Franchione wants to add explosiveness to a moribund offense and danger to a defense that broke during the final stages of last season. All Texas State needs know is time to properly install the fundamentals and mentality inherent to each scheme; the offense and defense need to get on the same page, providing balance to a team that has struggled locating consistency as a member of the FBS.

When it comes to 2014, there should be more than a few hiccups. On offense, the Bobcats lack experience at wide receiver and should not expect more than subtle progression at quarterback. Could Jones become the answer in this system? There's no question. But he's still growing – this is totally obvious – while surrounded by more than a few question marks; the biggest is Texas State's dearth of reliable options in the passing game. The good news is the ground attack, which is as deep as any you'll find in the Sun Belt and productive enough to potentially lead the Bobcats through some early growing pains – and you have to think the offense will be at its best in November, which would be a great sign.

The bigger concern is the defense. The front four is an unknown space while the Bobcats wait to see what they'll get from the JUCO transfers. What if they're a hit? Then the defense could mount a solid run defense and an aggressive pass rush, and the latter would mean the world to a questionable secondary. What you see on defense is a cross-your-fingers, hope-for-the-best mindset: Texas State could be steady, but only if Thompson gets the line in order and the players coming off redshirt seasons leap forward as first-time contributors. That may be asking too much. If the changes will benefit Texas State in the long run, I wonder if the Bobcats are ready to build on last season's six-win finish and again reach bowl eligibility. For now, this looks like a team that will handle the weaklings – Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Idaho, Georgia State and the like – but struggle producing against the viable opponents on its schedule.

Dream season: The Bobcats grab hold of the philosophical changes and leap to 9-3, tying Louisiana-Lafayette for the Sun Belt championship.

Nightmare season: Texas State takes a step back, dropping from six wins to 3-9.

UP NEXT:

Who's No. 90? This team's coach was named as his state's football player of the year as a high school senior.

RANKING EVERY FBS TEAM FOR 2014

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