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2011 CFN First Look Rankings - No. 51 to 76
Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 17, 2011


2009 was okay and 2010 was surprising, but the 2011 season should truly be something special with a ton of returning talent, plenty of veteran teams, and a few new conference configurations to throw into the mix. So where do the teams rank before the recruiting season and spring sessions kick in? Check out the CFN First Look Ranking of all 120 teams.



CFN 2011 First Look Rankings

No. 51 to No. 75
 

2010 CFN Final Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20

2011 CFN First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20

It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and the teams coming back, before Signing Day and spring ball, where does everyone stand? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2011. The 2010 CFN Final Ranking is based on the season the team had. The 2011 First Look Ranking is based on how good the teams appear to be at the moment.

75. Virginia
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 93
2010 Record: 4-8
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 69
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 3-9
2009 Final Ranking: 107
2008 Final Ranking: 58

It might be a bit much to call Virginia the ACC sleeper, but yeah, Mike London's team might be the surprise team of the 2011 ACC. Eight starters are back from an offense that showed good sparks of life, and with four starters returning up front, the new starting quarterback, either Ross Metheny or Michael Rocco, should get time to work. The defensive front seven will be strong right away, and the losses on the rest of the D aren't irreplaceable.

74. Houston     
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 81
2010 Record: 5-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 57
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 9-3
2009 Final Ranking: 18
2008 Final Ranking: 41

Welcome back, Case Keenum. After getting a sixth year of eligibility, Keenum should make the Cougar offense sing again even with a few key losses including WR James Cleveland. The defense gets seven starters back, but three starters are gone from the secondary. In Conference USA, the defensive backs have to be tight; expect some wild shootouts.

73. Indiana     
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 88
2010 Record: 5-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 70
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 5-7
2009 Final Ranking: T99.
2008 Final Ranking: 105

Gone is Ben Chappell, but new head coach Kevin Wilson has Edward Wright-Baker at quarterback and a fabulous receiving corps led by Tandon Doss and Demarlo Belcher. Four starters are back on the offensive front, while he defense gets most of the key starters back including three players on the defensive line. The Hoosiers might not be all that great, but they'll put points on the board.

72. UCF
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 32
2010 Record: 11-3
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 85
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 8-5
2009 Final Ranking: 53
2008 Final Ranking: 98
2008 Final Score: 3.18

The defending Conference USA champs should be good, but they lose too much off the defense, including end Bruce Miller, to repeat. Josh Robinson will be one of the nation's top corners, and the offense gets eight starters back with QB Jeff Godfrey and RB Latavius Murray forming a dangerous backfield. Helping the cause will be the return of 2009 star back, Brynn Harvey, after missing all of last year hurt.

71. Vanderbilt
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 111
2010 Record: 2-10
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 64
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 1-11
2009 Final Ranking: 106
2008 Final Ranking: 43

New head coach James Franklin is being a bit cryptic about what his styles will be on both sides of the ball, but he has players to work with. Vandy won't be the best team in the SEC, but it'll be the most experience with 21 starters returning including ten on offense. Can Larry Smith be the type of quarterback who can carry an offense, and will the backs produce behind a veteran line? This will be one of the league's peskiest teams, and it'll come up with a few stunning wins.

70. South Florida   
2010 CFN Final Ranking: T48.
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 41
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 8-4
2009 Final Ranking: 50
2008 Final Ranking: 44 

South Florida had among the worst offenses in America last year, and now it has to try to rebuild with seven starters gone. B.J. Daniels is a nice quarterback to work around, but he and the Bulls have to count on a ton of inexperienced prospects to shine right away. The defense should be fantastic with a little bit of time, especially in the secondary. 

69. Louisville    
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 43
2010 Record: 7-6
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 72
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 3-9
2009 Final Ranking: 86
2008 Final Ranking: 94

Charlie Strong might have turned things around last year, but he'll have his work cut out for him with just three starters back on offense and five gone from the strong, nasty defense. The defensive tackles, Brandon Dunn and Roy Philon, should grow into something special, while the safeties have the potential to be great. None of it will matter if skill players don't show up right away this offseason.
 
68. Rutgers 
2010 CFN Score: 73
2010 Record: 4-8
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 37
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 7-5
2009 Final Ranking: 32
2008 Final Ranking: 38

Was 2010 an aberration? It might have been, but head coach Greg Schiano has to get more out of his defense even though just five starters are back. The miserable offense of last year gets nine starters back and needs Chas Dodd to take command of the attack right away. The line has to be night and day better, and it should be with four starters back.

67. Nevada    
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 9
2010 Record: 13-1
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 61
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 9-4
2009 Final Ranking: 51
2008 Final Ranking: 62

So is it the system or is it the parts? Gone is QB Colin Kaepernick, the phenomenal triggerman for the attack, and Vai Taua is done, too. However, Mike Ball is a good-looking back and Rishard Matthews will be one of the WAC's top receivers. The defense didn't come up with a stop against anyone's passing game, but three starters are back in the secondary.   

66. Southern Miss 
2010 CFN Final Ranking: T46.
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 73
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 7-5
2009 Final Ranking: 58
2008 Final Ranking: 51

At the very least, USM will be on the short list of early Conference USA favorites with QB Austin Davis leading a loaded offense with nine starters returning. That doesn't even count WR DeAndre Brown, who left early for the NFL. The defense might be the best in the league if two new defensive tackles can be found and if the secondary can be retooled a bit.

65. Georgia Tech 
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 78
2010 Record: 6-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 40
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 8-4
2009 Final Ranking: 13
2008 Final Ranking: 22

Head coach Paul Johnson should have his guys in place by now, but there should be another year of transition after losing six starters from the defense, including safety Jarrard Tarrant, who left early for the NFL. The offense needs Tevin Washington to be the new option wizard, and most importantly, some new running back stars have to emerge. With OT Nick Claytor leaving early for the NFL, the O line might be a problem.
 
64. SMU     
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 61
2010 Record: 7-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 87
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 5-7
2009 Final Ranking: 61
2008 Final Ranking: 114

Longtime SMU fans, this might be the year you've waited decades for. Being back among the living is one thing, but winning the Conference USA title, and being good enough to hang with anyone on the schedule, is another. QB Kyle Padron leads a loaded offense that gets ten starters back, only losing star WR Aldrick Robinson. The defense gets back eight starters, and while the linebacking corps takes a hit, the front seven should be sound.

63. Cincinnati    
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 75
2010 Record: 4-8
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 42
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 8-4
2009 Final Ranking: 6
2008 Final Ranking: 21

Butch Jones might have far more success in his second year with all 11 starters returning on a defense that was full of sophomores last year. Despite losing a slew of starters, the offense should be dangerous with QB Zach Collaros and RB Isaiah Pead leading the way. The problem, though, will be an offensive line that loses three starters

62. Toledo  
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 68
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 92
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 5-7
2009 Final Ranking: 91
2008 Final Ranking: 107

Toledo wasn't good at much of anything in 2010 other than winning. This year's team, though, should be a true challenger for the MAC title with 19 starters returning including WR Eric Page and all the skill players. A few good starters are gone off the offensive line, and LB Archie Donald is done from the defense, but the bowl team from last year is loaded.

61. Colorado     
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 80
2010 Record: 5-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 50
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 7-5
2009 Final Ranking: T99.
2008 Final Ranking: 76

With plenty of experience returning, new head coach Jon Embree enters Pac 12 play with one of the stronger Buff teams in years. However, there's still a talent gap that needs a few recruiting cycles to fill. The spotlight will be on QB Tyler Hansen to see if he can hang on to the job, but the defense should be decent if the veteran front four can control games early on. Rodney Stewart will be one of the Pac 10's better backs.

60. Kentucky    
2010 CFN Ranking: 70
2010 Record: 6-7
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 46
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 6-6
2009 Final Ranking: 55
2008 Final Ranking: 57

Joker Phillips gets back eight starters on defense including LB Danny Trevathan, who should've been in the All-America mix last year will get his due this season. The offense, though, will be a work in progress hoping that QB Morgan Newton looks better than he did in the bowl game, while RB Derrick Locke is gone as is do-it-all receiver Randall Cobb, who left early for the NFL. The offensive line gets four starters back.

59. Purdue    
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 79
2010 Record: 4-8
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 49
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 6-6
2009 Final Ranking: 71
2008 Final Ranking: 85

Is this the year Purdue finally catches a break? After seemingly every star offensive player getting hurt, now there's experience returning with QB Rob Henry being thrown to the first over the second half of last year working behind a line that gets four starters back. All-America DE Ryan Kerrigan is gone off the defensive front, but nine starters are back including the entire secondary and a group of tackles that were way too young last year, but are big and promising coming into this season.

58. Connecticut (8-5)  
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 8-5
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 36
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 7-5
2009 Final Ranking: 36
2008 Final Ranking: 48

Randy Edsall might be gone, and there still might not be any semblance of a passing game, but there are some very, very nice pieces to work with. Nine starters are back on defense including the entire front four and the whole secondary, but losing linebackers Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson isn't a plus. RB Jordan Todman is gone off the offense as is QB Zach Frazer. The O will need tuning up.

57. Northern Illinois
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 25
2010 Record: 11-3
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 76
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 9-3
2009 Final Ranking: 68
2008 Final Ranking: 74

Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren has a ton of work to do with a defense that loses seven starters, including end Jake Coffman and linebacker Alex Kube. However, NIU should have a devastating offense with nine returning starters including QB Chandler Harnish, who might be the preseason MAC player of the year, and all five starters up front. Good luck, though, quickly replacing RB Chad Spann.

56. Pitt   
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 30
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 17
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 10-2
2009 Final Ranking: 14
2008 Final Ranking: 13

Can Todd Graham get the Panthers over the hump? He might have had a chance had RB Dion Lewis and WR Jonathan Baldwin not turned pro early on, but Ray Graham is a good-looking back and QB Tino Sunseri is ... Ray Graham is a good-looking back. The defense should be terrific with a linebacking corps that should be among the best in the Big East.

55. Navy 
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 39
2010 Record: 9-4
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 74
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 9-3
2009 Final Ranking: 26
2008 Final Ranking: 42

It's all about Kriss Proctor. He's not the passer that Ricky Dobbs was, but if he can run the attack efficiently, with eight starters returning, Navy will be Navy again. Six starters are gone from the defense including LB Tyler Simmons and a chunk of the defensive front, but the biggest pain will be losing Rover Wyatt Middleton from the secondary.

54. Washington
2010 CFN Final Ranking: T46.
2010 Record: 7-6
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 35
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 4-8
2009 Final Ranking: 63
2008 Final Ranking: 119

Is it possible to be better without Jake Locker? With eight starters back on defense, it's possible that the Huskies win low scoring battles for a while until Keith Prince or Nick Montana gets the hang of the attack. Chris Polk should be one of the Pac 10's top running backs and WR Jermaine Kearse, while inconsistent, has the potential to be special.

53. UCLA  
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 90
2010 Record: 4-8
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 6-6
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 51
2009 Final Ranking: 59
2008 Final Ranking: 101

The desperation should be palpable as Rick Neuheisel tries to finally generate some semblance of an offense. The defense would've been an absolute bear if LB Akeem Ayers and safety Rahim Moore hadn't gone off to the NFL, but it should still be strong with eight starters coming back. Seven starters return on offense, but all that matters is if the quarterback play and the passing game can be stronger. RB Johnathan Franklin will try to carry the attack for a while ... again.

52. North Carolina    
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 53
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 13
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 9-3
2009 Final Ranking: 31
2008 Final Ranking: 26

This might be the type of team that becomes dangerous as the year goes on. The plus from all the suspensions in 2010 is the experience brought in to 2011, but still, the Tar Heels have to replace five starters on defense and QB T.J. Yates and five starters off the offense. The defensive front seven should be a brick wall by the middle of the season with six young returning starters still jelling.

51. Michigan State    
2010 CFN Final Ranking: 11
2010 Record: 11-2
2010 CFN Preseason Rank: 31
CFN 2010 Preseason Prediction: 9-3
2009 Final Ranking: 66
2008 Final Ranking: 28

That was fun while it lasted. It's not like the Spartans are going to fall off the map, and QB Kirk Cousins should keep the offense from collapsing, but the offensive line will need a little while to pave the way for a great looking group of backs. The defense loses linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon and needs work in the secondary. The D line should grow to be terrific in time.

2011 CFN First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20