In the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), sometimes you need to walk before you can run. While national champion Clemson and perennial title contender Alabama will simply reload in 2019, dozens of other programs are simply looking to improve upon a miserable 2018 season. Here are a handful of teams that have the best chance at dramatic turnarounds in 2019.

The Cornhuskers have been ailing for years, but Scott Frost showed his impact in Year 1 as Nebraska went 4-2 over its final six games in 2018. Frost broke in then true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez last year. He had some difficulties, primarily from a leg injury, that caused the Huskers to start the season 0-6. Over the last six games, Martinez accounted for 16 touchdowns and is a star in the making.

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Frost and Nebraska benefit in 2019 from a schedule that avoids Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State in crossover play. The Cornhuskers also have the luxury of facing Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Wisconsin at home. This could be a big 2019 for Nebraska.

TCU (7-6)
The Horned Frogs fell to 7-6 on the heels of an 11-3 season in 2017. Head coach Gary Patterson and TCU suffered through a 2018 campaign full of injuries. Somehow, the Frogs managed to make the Cheez-It Bowl with what Patterson called his “duct tape group.” What Patterson must find is a capable quarterback to run the offense. Mike Collins has some experience and Justin Rogers was a big-time recruit, but the offense could wind up in the hands of incoming 4-star freshman Max Duggan.

Once again, TCU will replace some key players on defense. It won’t matter. In each of the Horned Frogs seven seasons in the Big 12, the TCU defense has ranked in the top three in most defensive statistical categories. With the right quarterback, TCU could be looking at a fifth bowl win in six years.

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There’s really nowhere to go but up for the Tar Heels. New head coach Mack Brown, back for his second stint in Chapel Hill, has been there and done that with the Tar Heels. North Carolina was 1-6 in games decided by one possession. The losses were the combination of some bad luck and poor coaching decisions. The other problem in North Carolina is defense. The Tar Heels were 106th in the nation in scoring defense and 93rd in yards allowed per game. Brown is no stranger to playing defense nor is he to the Tar Heels, who will improve in 2019.

The Golden Gophers were oh-so-close in 2018. If head coach P.J. Fleck can get his team to win games they are supposed to and pull a stunner or two, Minnesota will be in for a great 2019. Fleck returns nine starters on offense and seven on defense. When he was at Western Michigan, the Broncos put up back-to-back 8-5 seasons in Years 2 and 3 before the 13-1 campaign in 2016.

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Minnesota might be a year early and Fleck can thank the schedule. The Gophers do not play Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State. They open the season with FCS South Dakota State, then Fresno State and Georgia Southern. Minnesota’s first five games in the Big Ten? Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland. It is entirely possible that Fleck’s Gophers have seven or eight wins by November.

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