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Schedule and Odds
Connecticut had one of the worst offenses in the country last season and yet still made it to a bowl game, losing to Marshall 16-10. That was made possible by a defense that led the conference in more than one category. With a good amount of starters returning on both sides of the ball, the Huskies should improve their record for the third straight year under head coach Bob Diaco.
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Their offense was miserable for most of last year, scoring 17.2 points per game and closing the season with just 13 points total in their final two games. To improve, quarterback Bryant Shirreffs needs to do more. Shirreffs was at the head of last year's problems, totaling just 9 TDs and 8 INTs, completing 60.2% of his passes. He did provide 503 yards on the ground, so there were some positives to take away for him.
UConn will want to continue that running trend again in 2016 starting with running back Arkeel Newsome, who totaled 792 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Newsome was also one of their better receivers with 45 catches for 465 yards. Top wide out Noel Thomas (54 receptions, 719 yards) returns as well, so Shirreffs doesn't have many excuses for not improving this year.
To help in both phases, the line returns four starters and needs to improve after UConn only averaged 3.4 yards per carry as a team.
The good news for the Huskies is once again on the defensive side where they allowed just 19.5 points per game and return multiple all-conference candidates from that squad. To make things even better for this unit going forward is that most of their studs are juniors.
Starting on the line, Foley Fatukasi is a beast at tackle and Luke Carrezola was just as effective at end. Linebacker remains solid with Junior Joseph the returning experience, but the Huskies also added Florida State transfer E.J. Levenberry to the mix. The secondary has plenty of talent as well with corner Jamar Summers hoping to build on last year's eight interceptions.
The defense should get out to a good start again with Maine on the schedule and then get Navy, who will be with a lot of new faces in the offensive backfield, including quarterback. UConn's non-conference slate is also pretty workable with weaker ACC teams all presenting winnable games. Granted, that doesn't mean this offense will be able to score on them. Road tests at Houston and USF will also give the Huskies some tough AAC games.
Just because of defense alone, Connecticut should be able to reach six wins, much like they did a year ago. But if the offense can improve, the Huskies could give the expected AAC East favorites a run for their money, especially with home games against Temple and Cincinnati. This team is going in the right direction under Diaco, but can the offense take the next step?
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2016 Connecticut Huskies Football Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Maine
Sept. 10 at Navy
Sept. 17 vs. Virginia
Sept. 24 vs. Syracuse
Sept. 29 at Houston
Oct. 8 vs. Cincinnati
Oct. 15 at South Florida
Oct. 22 vs. UCF
Oct. 29 at East Carolina
Nov. 4 vs. Temple
Nov. 19 at Boston College
Nov. 26 vs. Tulane
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