Here is the Sac State Hornets football team for 2013, at a glance. Their 2012 record: 6-5 overall, 4-4 in the Big Sky Conference.
Holding the line: The Hornets had a solid running game last season, ranking sixth in the Big Sky Conference with 163.3 yards per game, but there's still room for improvement. The Hornets' front five look to make headway under a new line coach (former Seattle Seahawks assistant Bill Laveroni) - the third in four seasons - and two new starters in Massachusetts transfer John Wallace and Oregon State transfer Derek Nielsen joining holdovers Tyler Worthley, Aleksandar Milanovic and Lars Hanson.
Immediate help needed: Coach Marshall Sperbeck will depend heavily on Sacramento-area underclass players, including true freshmen, to make contributions at several key positions this season. Redshirt freshman tight end Cole Hikutini (Pleasant Grove) and freshman linebacker Russell Smith (Del Oro) are scheduled to start in Thursday's season opener at San Jose State. Freshman linebacker Cole Hannum (Nevada Union) and freshman defensive back Marcus Green (Franklin) are expected to see plenty of playing time as backups.
Turnover a new leaf: The Hornets ranked 12th in conference turnover margin with minus-10 last season. They made four fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions while losing 11 fumbles and throwing 13 interceptions.
Causeway Classic vs. UC Davis, Nov. 23, 3:30 p.m., Hornet Stadium: It's the 60th annual meeting, and the Hornets hope to end the Aggies' recent dominance. UC Davis has won the past three and 11 of the last 13 in the series. Could this season finale have playoff implications?
Northern Arizona, Oct. 12, 6:05 p.m., Hornet Stadium: The Lumberjacks are in the top half of the Big Sky coaches' and media polls. With this year's Football Championship Subdivision playoffs expanded from 20 to 24 teams, this could prove to be a pivotal game for both teams.
Montana, Nov. 2, 1:05 p.m., Hornet Stadium: While still formidable with 18 Big Sky titles, Montana hasn't won a conference championship since 2009. The Grizzlies didn't play Sac State last season after losing to the Hornets in 2011. It was Sac State's first win in 17 meetings with Montana.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Todd Davis, linebacker, 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, senior: Second-team All-Big Sky Conference selectee is the Hornets' defensive leader. He had 103 tackles last season and 96 in 2011, both team highs.
Ezekiel Graham, running back, 5-9, 170, senior: The community college transfer and all-conference honorable mention could be dominant after leading the Hornets in rushing (861 yards), finishing second in receiving (40 catches, 406 yards) and tying for the team lead in touchdowns (seven).
Morris Norrise, wide receiver, 6-2, 180, senior: All-Big Sky preseason selection and 2012 second-team pick is a playmaker and favorite target of quarterback Garrett Safron. He led the team in receiving last season with 60 catches for 777 yards and seven touchdowns.
Osagie Odiase, cornerback, 6-0, 175, senior: The lockdown defender, an all-conference second-team selection last year, led the Hornets in interceptions with three and pass breakups with eight and was second in solo tackles with 47.
Tyler Worthley, right guard, 6-3, 330, senior: A preseason all-conference selection and returning second-teamer helped lead an offensive line that allowed only 17 sacks last season. He has started 33 consecutive games.
GOING TO GAMES
Tickets: Season tickets are $50 to $89 (Hornet Club $139 to $349). West grandstand pregame general admission $15-$20; game-day $18-$22. East grandstand pregame general admission $12-$15; game day $15-$20. Children 12 and younger are free. For information, call (916) 278-2222 or visit www.hornetsports.com.
Parking: Free in lots 7, 8 and 9 adjacent to the stadium.