Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh is looking to take the Mustangs to the FCS playoffs for the third time under his watch in 2017.
Walsh bounced back after a disappointing 2015 campaign with a 7-5 record and a trip to the postseason last year. But he is looking for more after a first-round exit ended the team’s 2016 campaign.
2016 Cal Poly Football Season In Review
The Mustangs made the postseason off of the strength of their non-conference performance last year. Cal Poly knocked off two FCS teams that ended up making the postseason, San Diego and South Dakota State, and took FBS foe Nevada to overtime before falling short.
In conference play, the Mustangs took care of business against each inferior opponent and only lost to the top teams in the league. Setbacks at the hands of powerhouses like Eastern Washington, North Dakota and Weber State were not unexpected. However, it had to sting that the squad’s campaign ended with a postseason loss to a San Diego team that it had already defeated.
The offense runs the triple option and has a brute of a runner in Joe Protheroe, who is the first option as the team’s fullback and led the Big Sky in rushing in 2016. He only had one game with less than 90 yards on the ground and unsurprisingly earned all-conference honors.
Although the team ran the option, quarterback Dano Graves was no slouch when called upon to put the ball in the air. Graves completed 63.4 percent of his passes and averaged 9.7 yards per attempt while throwing 17 touchdowns against just four interceptions.
The defense was an issue all season for the Mustangs, though. They allowed an average of 32.8 points per game, which was one of the worst numbers for any team that made the postseason.
Cal Poly’s secondary was the primary culprit behind the poor showing. The team ranked 111th in the nation in pass defense and gave up 7.9 yards per passing attempt on average.
2017 Cal Poly Football Season Preview
Protheroe is back, which is very good news for the Mustangs. He is able to make defenders pay in short-yardage situations, and the fact that he doesn’t shy away from contact grinds defenses down over the course of a game.
Kyle Lewis will be the other runner in the backfield with Protheroe. He was second-string last season behind Kori Garcia, but he still saw plenty of action. He averaged 9.7 yards per carry and showed off his explosiveness often when given the chance.
There is one major question on offense, though. Graves is gone, so Cal Poly will have to find someone that is as talented as he was at running the ball.
Daniel Prieto transferred in from San Diego State to try to grab the starting job, but look for the nod to go to Khaleel Jenkins. Jenkins spent the last two seasons backing up Graves and will keep learning from him, as last year’s starter became the team’s quarterbacks coach in the offseason.
Defensively, this team has no option but to get better. The Mustangs return eight starters from 2016 and look to be much stronger in the secondary.
2017 Cal Poly Football Schedule
August 26: Cal Poly vs. Colgate
September 2: Cal Poly at San Jose State
September 9: Cal Poly at Northern Iowa
September 23: Cal Poly vs. Northern Arizona
September 30: Cal Poly at Idaho State
October 7: Cal Poly at Southern Utah
October 21: Cal Poly vs. Weber State
October 28: Cal Poly at UC Davis
November 4: Cal Poly vs. Portland State
November 11: Cal Poly vs. Sacramento State
November 18: Cal Poly at Northern Colorado
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
Cal Poly doesn’t take it easy in its non-conference schedule. The Mustangs have tough road games against Northern Iowa and San Jose State, and they host a contest versus Colgate.
The Big Sky slate breaks very favorably for this team, though. The Mustangs dodge two of the best teams in the conference, North Dakota and Eastern Washington, and get to face Weber State at home.
The Mustangs have a better chance than usual at knocking off a very good Weber State team. They have a bye the week before and face a weak UC Davis squad the following week. This is a great spot to go with Cal Poly in your FCS Pick ‘Em Contests.