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Old Dominion was one win away from making a bowl game last year and finished with a disappointing loss at home to Florida Atlantic by two points, a team that had three wins on the year. The Monarchs had a nice schedule, but couldn't capitalize on it. With a similar schedule in 2016, six wins will be on the table for them yet again.
However, their quarterback is still undecided, similar to last season. David Washington (58.4% completion, 8 TDs, 3 INTs) took over for Shuler Bentley (52% completion, 12 TDs, 6 INTs) halfway through the year, but tore his ACL after a few starts. Those two will again compete for the starting gig in the first game, but it probably won't be a cemented thing all year. This offense is built through its running game, but when the defense gives up so many points, it's hard for that to work.
Either way, Ray Lawry (1,136 yards, 11 TDs) takes the lead in the backfield along with Jeremy Cox (369 yards). They compose one of the better backfield duos in the conference, so that should help things. What won't help are the two freshmen expected to start at both tackle spots. The interior returns, but new tackles could provide some learning curves.
The top receivers are all back for ODU with Zach Pascal (68 receptions, 970 yards, 8 TDs), Jonathan Duhart (47 receptions, 636 yards, 8 TDs) and Marques Little (221 yards). After both tight ends, Melvin Vaughn and Adam Swann, got hurt last year, expect them to be used more as well.
But to reach that six-win mark, it's vital that the defense improves after allowing 35.8 points per game. Giving up that many points to teams like FAU, FIU, Charlotte and UTSA wasn't great. They return plenty of talent, though, so improvement must be made.
Top sackers Oshane Ximines and Bunmi Rotimi return to go with nose tackle Rashaad Coward. Linebacker looks good as well with three senior starters, most notably T.J. Ricks, who led the conference in tackles a year ago. The secondary has a lot of young pieces, but return three starters from last year's group led by corners Aaron Young and Brandon Addison. The players are there for the defense, and it'll be important for them to take that extra step.
The Monarchs should finish with two non-conference wins again with likely losses in road games at App. State and NC State on the schedule. That makes the magic number four wins in Conference USA play. It's definitely a possibility with home games against UTSA and FIU standing out, as well as road tests at Charlotte and FAU. Without wins in those games, the Monarchs will need to find an upset on the schedule, something they didn't come close to a year ago. Back-to-back home games against Marshall and Southern Miss fit that bill.
Old Dominion's over/under at 5Dimes is at 6 wins with the under a surprising -265 in July. But as stated above, the schedule is there for six wins and a bowl appearance. The Monarchs were extremely young last year and reached five wins. Six wins is definitely a possibility this time around.
2016 Old Dominion Monarchs Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Hampton
Sept. 10 at Appalachian State
Sept. 17 at NC State
Sept. 24 vs. UTSA
Oct. 1 at Charlotte
Oct. 8 vs. Massachusetts
Oct. 22 at Western Kentucky
Oct. 29 at UTEP
Nov. 5 vs. Marshall
Nov. 12 vs. Southern Miss
Nov. 19 at Florida Atlantic
Nov. 26 vs. Florida International
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