2012 Pre-Preseason Rankings - No. 11 - 25
Florida DE Ronald Powell
Florida DE Ronald Powell
Posted Jan 19, 2012

The first look at the rankings for the 2012 college football season. No. 11 to 25

CFN 2012 First Look Rankings

No. 11 to No. 25

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

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

- CFN 2011 FINAL Rankings, Top  25

2012 CFN First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 24

- Follow us on Twitter ... ColFootballNews

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 2012. The First Look Ranking is based on how good the teams appear to be at the moment.

25. Nebraska (9-4)

Quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead return. Now the offense needs a third option. The O line loses three starters, and a wide receiver has to emerge, but as long as Martinez and Burkhead are healthy, the running game will work. The best offensive weapon could turn out to be kicker Brett Maher, possibly the Big Ten's best all-around kicker. The defense will be air-tight with five starters returning to the defensive front, but tackling machine linebacker Lavonte David is done and top corner Alfonzo Dennard is off to the NFL. There's good depth and a few nice options to fill in the gaps, but finding playmakers and stars early on will be a must.

24. Utah (8-5)

Utah closed out strong – one stunning hiccup against Colorado aside – and now it should be ready to be the team everyone was expecting. A lot depends on the health of QB Jordan Wynn, who's expected to be back for spring ball after missing most of last year with a shoulder problem. But even if he's 100%, can he show he's better than he was after getting banged up the first time around? RB John White will be the focal point of the attack with three good starters back up front to pave the way. Eight starters return on offense including all the top targets. Defensively, the excellent run defense will work around tackles Dave Kruger and Star Lotulelei, but leading tacklers Chaz Walker and Matt Martinez are gone from the linebacking corps. Three starters are back to a secondary that wasn't good enough considering the pass rush was strong all year long.

23. Auburn (8-5)

Is there life without offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and star running back Michael Dyer, who both took off to Arkansas State? Probably. Settling on a starting quarterback right away is a must, but Barrett Trotter is out of the mix after stunningly choosing to take off a year early. Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier will be in the mix for the starting job, and the need to find a consistent second offensive weapon to go along with running back Onterio McCalebb. The interior of the line returns intact, but the starting tackles are gone. The defense had to be rebuilt, but now it's more experienced with nine starters returning. It should be even more talented than the national title version.

22. Virginia Tech (11-3)

The Hokies have to do some reloading, but that's never been a problem for Frank Beamer. The biggest issue is an offensive line that loses four starters, while slippery-quick running back David Wilson is off early to the NFL. Also gone is Sugar Bowl star Danny Coale and fellow starting receiver Jarrett Boykin, but huge junior-to-be Logan Thomas is coming into his own as a quarterback and should be good enough to make everyone around him better. The defense is another story with no concerns with experience or returning starters. Pickoff artist Jayron Hosley is leaving early, leaving a void at one corner, but nine other starters are back from a very, very young group that finished tenth in the nation in total D. The line that started four underclassmen is loaded, while the linebacking corps should be special with a little bit of time.

21. Ohio State (6-7)

Urban Meyer's team might not have anything to play for this year – being ineligible for the Big Ten title and a bowl game – but there's still a ton of talent and plenty of excitement. Even after top recruiting class after top recruiting class under Jim Tressel, there's no one leaving early for the NFL, and the returning team is loaded with promise and potential … for 2013.

Braxton Miller will challenge Michigan's Denard Robinson for the honor of being the Big Ten's most thrilling player, and he'll get a year of experimenting and experience to be ready to be truly special in two years. Three starters are gone off the offensive line, while top receiver DeVier Posey and running back Dan Herron have to be replaced. On the other side, the line could be the best in the Big Ten, and linebacker Ryan Shazier appears to be a mortal lock for All-Big Ten honors. In all, ten starters could be back on defense, both kickers return, and of course, the coaching situation is a major positive. Now it'll all be up to motivation.

20. Oklahoma State (12-1)

The Cowboys aren't going to fall off the map, but they're going to take a step back after losing QB Brandon Weeden and two-time Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon. Clint Chelf will get the first look at quarterback, and he'll get a star back to in Joseph Randle to take the heat off. Tracy Moore and Isaiah Anderson have to shine in place of Blackmon. Losing three starters off the offensive line is a big deal, and Josh Cooper will be missed after thriving on the other side of Blackmon. The defense was better and more aggressive than it got credit for, and now it has to replace both ends and leader Markelle Martin, who might be the first strong safety taken in the draft. All three starting linebackers, and leading tackler Daytawion Lowe at free safety, return. Quinn Sharp will be in the hunt for both the Lou Groza and the Ray Guy awards.

19. Wisconsin (11-3)

The Badgers might win the Leaders by default with Ohio State not eligible for the Big Ten title and Penn State in trouble, but there's one big question. Is there another Russell Wilson out there?

Jon Budmayr has an elbow issue that's having a hard time healing, while Curt Phillips is a tremendously talented prospect who can't catch a break when it comes to knee injuries. The starting quarterback won't have to do too much passing with Heisman finalist Montee Ball returning to mount another assault on the record books. Center Peter Konz is leaving early for the NFL, but the line was just fine when he missed time during the year hurt; it'll once again be one of college football's best front fives. Chris Borland and Mike Taylor form one of America's best linebacking duos, but five starters are gone off a defense that needs more speed and athleticism.

18. Notre Dame (8-5)

Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. That's all that really matters this offseason with the choice of Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix one of the biggest keys to the 2012 campaign. The offense loses receiver Michael Floyd, but there's good potential returning at running back and receiver with T.J. Jones a great-looking target and Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick a strong 1-2 rushing combination. However, two starters return on the line. Again, though, the season won't go anywhere unless the quarterback play is stronger. The defense is more talented than it's been in years, helped mostly by the shocking return of linebacker Manti Te'o for one more season, but the secondary has to undergo a wholesale change. The defensive front has the potential to be fantastic is Aaron Lynch can build off his promising true freshman season, while the emergence of OLB Ishaq Williams would be a huge help to the front seven. The awful punting game could use a bigger season out of Ben Turk, and PK David Ruffer needs to be replaced.

17. Missouri (8-5)

The Tigers are off to the SEC East with a team good enough to make plenty of noise. The offensive line loses three starters, but Mizzou has become a factory for turning out steady front fives. Everything will revolve around dual-threat QB James Franklin with the hopes of star back Henry Josey to return healthy after suffering a bad knee injury. He's not a lock to come back this year, meaning Kendial Lawrence might have to carry the load. Tight end Michel Egnew is gone, but leading receiver T.J. Moe is back. The defense has a ton of work to do on the line, and strongside linebacker Luke Lambert is done, but the back seven is athletic and good prospects are ready for bigger roles up front.

16. Georgia Tech (8-5)

The second half of the season might have been a major disappointment after a 6-0 start – finishing 2-5 – but the team returns loaded and ready to do even more after finishing second in the nation in rushing. QB Tevin Washington is the near-perfect option playmaker, but he needs even more help from the backs with David Sims and Orwin Smith returning. The passing game was among the nation's most efficient, with Washington hitting on the deep plays when needed, but he's losing WR Stephen Hill a year early to the NFL. The line will be the best in the Paul Johnson era with all five starters returning. The defense that had a strong year gets eight starters back led by linebacker Julian Burnette and outside defender Jeremiah Attochu.

15. Michigan State (11-3)

Quarterback Kirk Cousins needs to be replaced and running back Edwin Baker curiously left early for the next-level. Making matters worse for the offense is the loss of receivers B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin, Keith Nichol, and both starting tight ends have to be replaced. On the plus side, four starters are back on the offensive line to pave the way for bruising running back Le'Veon Bell and protect likely new starting QB Andrew Maxwell.

It might take a while for the offense to come around, but the defense should be the best in the Mark Danotonio era. Anchor Jerel Worthy is gone from the defensive line, but William Gholston and Marcus Rush should form one of the Big Ten's best pass rushing tandems. The secondary is loaded with ball-hawkers SS Isaiah Lewis and corners Darqueze Dennard and Johnny Adams, and Chris Norman and Max Bullough headline a terrific-looking linebacking corps.

14. TCU (11-2)

TCU will be entering the Big 12 world with an offense built to keep up the pace with any high-octane passing game. Casey Pachall will be one of the league's most talented bombers, and his receivers Brandon Carter, Skye Dawson, and Josh Boyce are special. Throw in the running back trio of Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker, and Waymon James, and the attack should explode once the line jells. After taking a year off, the defense has the potential to be back up to TCU's normal standards with seven starters returning. The front four should be devastating, however, heart-and-soul linebacker Tank Carder is gone along with key safeties Johnny Fobbs and Tekerrein Cuba.

13. Florida (7-6)

There's no excuse. The talent level is every bit as strong as LSU's and Alabama's, and now it's time for everyone from the epic 2010 recruiting class to mature into shape. The defense should be truly special with ten starters returning including end Ronald Powell, a former top overall recruit with NFL upside. The key is improving an offense that didn't do much of anything last year and now will be without offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, quarterback John Brantley, and running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. The receivers and line, though, should be terrific. Again, there's no excuse, and this needs to be a big season with several players likely to bolt early for the NFL next year.

12. West Virginia (10-3)

Which West Virginia will show up … and which conference will it be in? Will it be the one that blew the doors off of Clemson in a jaw-dropping Orange Bowl win, or will it be the one that struggled in game after game against mediocre Big East teams? The offense should be unstoppable with quarterback Geno Smith a possible Heisman front-runner, and all the key skill weapons back at his disposal including RB Shawne Alston and WR Tavon Austin. The line has to replace two starters, but it should be fine with a little bit of time. The defense will be along for the ride, but it'll be loaded with experience with three starters back up front – but not top end Julian Miller – and two back at linebacker. Three starters return in the secondary only losing safety Eain Smith.

11. South Carolina (11-2)

Defensive end Devin Taylor decided to come back for his senior year to jack up the hype for what the USC with 2011 top recruit Jadeveon Clowney seemingly ready to blow up into superstardom on the other side. The defensive tackles have to be replaced, but the linebackers should help pick up the slack for a while and the secondary – even with the early loss of corner Stephon Gilmore to the NFL – should be a plus.

The key to the season is getting superstar running back Marcus Lattimore back and healthy. He's reportedly ahead of schedule on rehabbing his injured knee, but he can't be counted on right away. Quarterback Connor Shaw has to prove he can throw a forward pass on a regular basis, and he'll have to do it without Alshon Jeffery, who left for the NFL after being badly ignored throughout the 2011 season.

2012 CFN First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 24

- Follow us on Twitter ... ColFootballNews