2011 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 31 to 40
Auburn RB Michael Dyer
Auburn RB Michael Dyer
Posted Aug 4, 2011

Preview 2011 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 31 to 40 ... Fringe Top 25 Teams

Preview 2011 - Preseason Rankings

Fringe Top 25 Teams - No. 31 to 40

2011 CFN Preseason Rankings  
Preview 2011 | 1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50
51 to 60 | 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120 
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There's one very important distinction in the CFN preseason rankings: these are based on how good the teams are going into the season and NOT how they're going to finish. Some teams have easier schedules than others, some get tougher road games and some will need a little bit of time to jell meaning they might be better than their final record might indicate. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 120.

40. Pitt Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 

Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Special Teams

What to watch for on offense: A Cam-do attitude. In the old offense, 5-7, 170-pound junior Cameron Saddler was, well, a nice special teams player. In the new attack, he looks as if he was handcrafted to be a do-it-all weapon. To understand Saddler's potential over the next two years, take a look at what Tulsa's Damaris Johnson accomplished with this staff coaching him. The similarly sized and speedy Hurricane playmaker led the nation in all-purpose yards in 2010, catching 57 passes, rushing for 560 yards, and returning a punt and a kick for six. Saddler won't be that prolific, but he'll be utilized plenty more than before Todd Graham arrived.

What to watch for on defense: Pressure. Getting into the backfield is the basis of what coordinator Keith Patterson wants to do with the Panthers. It'll be about getting some of the program's better athletes on the field and imploring them to make things happen—the kinds of things that result in turnovers and tackles for minus yards. While this philosophy could result in a few more blown coverages and big plays for the other team, the hope is that it'll be worth the risk if Patterson's teams continue to pile up the takeaways.

39. Kentucky Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Running Back

What to watch for on offense: The offensive line. The UK front five came up with a strong 2010, even though the offense didn't exactly show it. The Cats finished second in the SEC in sacks allowed, and the line did a nice job of opening up the needed holes for Derrick Locke and the ground game. Considering the relatively immobile Mike Hartline was under center, the play of the line was a must. Four starters return, but five players with key starting time are back. With a banger like future NFL right guard Larry Warford anchoring things, the makings are there for the Cats to have the SEC's best line With QB Morgan Newton still figuring out what he's doing, and with so much turnover at the skill spots, the line has to be special and has to play up to expectations.

What to watch for on defense: More of a 4-2-5 alignment. The Wildcats will go with a typical 4-3 on a regular basis, but defensive coordinators Steve Brown and Rick Minter will get extremely creative. Last year, Anthony Mosley spent most of the season working as a fifth defensive back to get his lightning speed and range on the field. While this proved costly from time to time against the better running teams – the Cats finished 85th in the nation and 11th in the SEC against the run – the pass defense was 14th in the nation and was solid throughout. Kentucky might not always be stout, but the D will be really, really fast. It would be a big help, though, if there was some semblance of a pass rush.
38. Boston College Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Defensive Line

What to look for offense: More help for Montel. Over the last three seasons, Montel Harris has been a one-man gang in the running game, toting it an average of 25 times a game. He's been durable, but an occasional breather would be good for everyone. Enter Andre Williams, the unrivaled future at the position in Boston. In his debut out of Parkland (Penn.) High School, he rushed for 461 yards and a couple of scores on 95 carries. More important, he stepped up when Harris missed the regular season finale, obliterating Syracuse for 185 yards on the ground. Harris' job is safe, but the staff now has a reason to give him more blows throughout the year.

What to look for on defense: The fate of the pass rush. For all of the good that the defense fashioned a year ago, leading the ACC it total D, it came without much help from the pass rush. The Eagles ranked 90th nationally in sacks, getting to the quarterback more than twice in a game just one time. The program needs an about-face from a defensive line that's replacing three starters. It all begins with rising end Max Holloway, who had 14 stops for loss a year ago. It'll be worth paying special attention to the interior guys, Kaleb Ramsey, Dillon Quinn, and Conor O'Neal, who have a tailwind and a lot of upside potential.

37. Ole Miss Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths:
Offensive Line, Special Teams
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Secondary

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Nathan Stanley appeared to be ready to go from key backup to the No. 1 guy, but he wasn't the right fit and took off for SE Louisiana. Randall Mackey might be the No. 1, but West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti is No. 1A on the depth chart in the fight for the spot. Mackey is the stronger passing option, but Brunetti is a bit like last year's starter, Jeremiah Masoli, and is the type of baller that Houston Nutt likes. The passing game was mediocre last year, finishing 82nd in yards and 81st in efficiency, and while the job will mostly involve handing the ball off, more pop is needed down the field.

What to watch for on defense: The return of Kentrell Lockett. The 6-5, 248-pound pass rusher got a sixth year of eligibility after getting knocked out last year with a bad knee injury, and he should be a huge help for a defense that finished 20th in the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. With Wayne Dorsey back on the other side, the front four should provide the pressure needed to help out a revamped secondary that finished 103rd in the nation last year and 109th in pass efficiency defense.

36. Tennessee Preview
Offense | Defense Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Linebacker, Special Teams

What to watch for on offense: The emergence of the offensive line. The front five was a major sore spot last season giving up sack after sack and failing to do anything consistently right for the running game. The immobile, indecisive quarterbacks didn't help the cause, but starting a few true freshmen and using seven different combinations led to a rocky season. There could be a night-and-day difference with the green players of last year now talented veterans with tremendous upside. Four sophomores will start, Notre Dame transfer Alex Bullard is eligible to add instant depth on the interior, and freshman Marcus Jackson is a rising star at left guard. The biggest weakness of last year should become a strength.

What to watch for on defense: A fluid linebacking corps. It's not like the Vols are asking for linebackers from the student body to fill in the gaps, but this isn't the best group the defense has had. Veteran Herman Lathers is a player, and Austin Johnson and Daryl Vereen will be fine, but it would be nice if a next-level star emerges right away as a leader and an anchor. It's possible that true freshman A.J. Johnson becomes that guy right away, with the 6-3, 245-pound size and the talent to quickly become special. Even if the newcomers take the first year off, there might be plenty of movement to find the right combination.

35. West Virginia Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses: Linebacker, Running Back

What to watch for on offense: Geno goes back to school. Even after delivering a terrific debut as the starting quarterback, in a sense it'll be back to the drawing board for Geno Smith. More than anyone, he has to fully digest and understand Dana Holgorsen's new system before Marshall visits on Sept. 3. That means understanding the playbook, knowing his reads, and adjusting to different timing. It'll a tall order, but the junior is more than just a good athlete; he also has it under the helmet, which will be especially beneficial this offseason.

What to watch for on defense: Nose job. One of the many concerns on defense is at nose tackle, where someone needs to replace all-star Chris Neild. As if the situation wasn't pressing enough already, projected starter Jorge Wright was suspended indefinitely in early May after being charged with marijuana possession and carrying an unlicensed gun. Now, the Mountaineers are fortunate to have veteran Josh Taylor in the on-deck circle, but if Wright's suspension isn't lifted before September, West Virginia will have a bona fide crisis in the middle of the line.

34. Mississippi State Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Linebacker, Receiver

What to watch for on offense: The left tackle situation. Green Bay, enjoy Derek Sherrod. MSU is loaded at running back, with Vick Ballard leading a dangerous group, and the quarterback combination of Chris Relf and Tyler Russell has the potential to be as good as any in the SEC. The receiving corps gets everyone back, there will be more work for the tight ends, and the line is going to be good and sound at four spots, but … the left tackle job will be the concern of the offseason. James Carmon is a massive 6-7, 330-pound former defensive lineman who made the move over to the other side during Gator Bowl drills. He has the size and he has just enough athleticism to get by at tackle, but he's trying to figure out what he's doing and needs every second of every practice to start to get all the subtle nuances. 6-7, 295-pound redshirt freshman Blaine Clausell has potential, but he has to get bulkier and didn't do enough this offseason to push Carmon aside in the position battle.

What to watch for on defense: The linebacking situation. Chris White led the team with 110 tackles with six sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. K.J. Wright finished second on the team with 98 tackles with three sacks, eight tackles for loss, and a team-leading nine broken up passes. Emmanuel Gatling chipped in with 45 tackles. All three are gone, and while the coaches have done a good job of recruiting, it mostly has to make do with holdovers from the previous coaching staff. The tackles and stats will be there for new starting trio, and Chris Hughes looks like a keeper at one outside spot, but unless the big plays start happening in the backfield early on, the defense is going to take a big step back.

33. California Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Isi does it. Over the past decade, the Bears have had few problems birthing 1,000-yard backs. Marshawn Lynch, J.J. Arrington, and Justin Forsett all did apprentice work in Berkeley. This fall, though, presents a thorny challenge after Shane Vereen opted to forego his final season of eligibility. In his wake is junior Isi Sofele, a 5-7, 188-pounder bucking to go from a change-of-pace to a starring role. An effective complement over the past two years, he'll need to prove he can shoulder the load in a banged up backfield, especially as Cal attempts to break in a new quarterback as well.

What to watch for on defense: Cattouse on the loose. After flirting on the fringe of notoriety the past two years, senior safety Sean Cattouse is poised to shed his anonymity. An athletic 6-2, 213-pounder, he packs the wallop of a linebacker, yet still does a nice job of playing centerfield in coverage. With NFL scouts watching closely and an opportunity to take his game to the next level in 2012, he's set to play with a carrot hanging in front of him throughout the year.

32. Auburn Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Linebacker, Quarterback

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Barrett Trotter was expected to be more than fine, and then No. 2 came along and stole the show. Now Trotter goes from being a strong prospect to the guy who has to do the impossible, but he gets a huge break with the return of Gus Malzahn, who's getting paid extremely well to stick around for the foreseeable future. The Malzahn offense has put up big numbers everywhere he's been, and while he's not going to get the running production out of Trotter he enjoyed with Newton, the passing game should still be efficient and dangerous. Freshman Clint Moseley will also get a long look but he, like Trotter, didn't exactly set the world on fire this offseason. True freshman Kiehl Frazier is on the way to provide a huge push.

What to watch for on defense: The pass defense. Defense wins championships … whatever. Auburn won the national title despite getting picked clean by anyone who could throw the ball overhand. The pass defense gave up an SEC-worst 259 yards per game, allowing 25 touchdown passes and getting lit up by Oregon's Darron Thomas, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Alabama's Greg McElroy, and just about everyone else on the slate. Like everywhere else on the 2010 Tigers, the secondary needs to undergo a talent overhaul, but free safety Neiko Thorpe is a decent veteran and there are several versatile defensive backs to fill out the other three spots. On the plus side, the secondary can't be worse.

31. Penn State Preview
Offense | Defense Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The ongoing quarterback situation. Rob Bolden has the talent and has the upside, but he didn't get too much of a break last season and he played like the freshman that he was. He has the potential to be terrific, but that requires the patience that this veteran team probably won't have. Matt McGloin became a national folk hero for a stretch when he came in and bombed away in a few key wins to turn the season around, but there's a ceiling on what he can do. Will Bolden scream about transferring if the coaching staff goes with McGloin? What about big, talented redshirt freshman Paul Jones? There are several different options to think about, the coaching staff will go with one, and it'll stick with it no matter what.

What to watch for on defense: The return of Linebacker U. Along with the quarterback situation, the linebacking corps had to undergo the biggest overhaul last year losing Navarro Bowman, Sean Lee, and Josh Hull. It was a rocky year, and there weren't enough big plays being made, but there were some positive moments at all three spots. This season is when it should all come together as Michael Mauti should put up All-Big Ten numbers and should be a breakout star if he can stay healthy. Nate Stupar will put up big numbers on the outside again, but he'll be pushed by Khairi Fortt, one of the stars of the offseason. Gerald Hodges is destined to finish among the team's top three in tackles, and Mike Hull is an undersized but promising backup for the outside.

2011 CFN Preseason Rankings  
Preview 2011 | 1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50
51 to 60 | 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120