2012 CFN First Look Rankings - No. 26 to 50

Posted Jan 19, 2012

The first look at the rankings for the 2012 college football season. ... No. 26 to 50

CFN 2012 First Look Rankings

No. 26 to No. 50

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.

50. Northwestern (6-7)

Is Kain Colter ready to be the full-time quarterback without Dan Persa done? He'll be the star of the running game, but help is on the way with top recruits Malin Jones and Traveon Henry ready to help out Treyvon Green. The real star on the way is linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo, but the corps is already going to be the team's biggest strength with three promising young starters returning. They need to shine with three starters gone from the secondary and both starting tackles done. The O line needs to give Colter time to work with top targets Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore both finished, but Demetrius Fields has the look of a go-to receiver.

49. UCLA (6-8)

New head coach Jim Mora is putting together a terrific recruiting class, but first he has to find a way to generate more production on both sides of the ball from a team that got to the Pac-12 title game. Is QB Kevin Prince ready to become more productive? There are other options to play around with this offseason, but the offense will end up needing RB Johnathan Franklin to carry the load again. Three starters are back up front, but No. 1 target Nelson Rosario is done are most of last year's key receivers. The old regime did a good job recruiting for the defensive front, and now it's time for Owamagbe Odighizuwa to live up to is prep billing in a rotation on the end. Both starting tackles are gone as are both outside linebackers, but leading tackler Patrick Larimore returns in the middle and all four starters are back in the secondary. Jeff Locke will be in the mix for All-America punting honors.

48. Purdue (7-6)

Shockingly, QB Robert Marve got another year of eligibility, but the offense should still be Caleb TerBush's to fly. The 1-2 rushing punch of Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers should be among the Big Ten's most productive if the line can replace three starters. Leading receiver Justin Siller is gone, but Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross are promising. The defense caught a huge break when DT Kawann Short chose to return for one more year to anchor a defensive front that should be the best in the Danny Hope era. The secondary loses both safeties but gets back top corner Ricardo Allen. Raheem Mostert led the nation in kickoff returns.

47. South Florida (5-7)

What's next after the awful 1-7 run after such a strong start? The defense was among the best in America at getting into the backfield, and the run defense was terrific. The front seven will once again be outstanding with Ryne Giddens back at one end and the entire linebacking corps returning including leading tackler DeDe Lattimore. The secondary loses FS Jerrell Young and CB Quenton Washington, but it should still be a good year for the pass defense thanks to the pass rush. QB B.J. Daniels is a crusty veteran who has to be consistent, and he'll get the chance to shine with a good line coming back and all his weapons returning. RB Darrell Scott bolted a year early for the NFL, but Demetris Murray can pick up the slack.

46. Cincinnati (10-3)

The Bearcats came up with a ten-win rebound season under Butch Jones, but now it could be rebuilding time again with QB Zach Collaros, RB Isaiah Pead, and DT Derek Wolfe three heart-and-soul players who need to be replaced. One of the nation's top run defenses loses leading tackler J.K. Schaffer and has to replace both starting tackles. Three starters return to the secondary, Walter Stewart is a rising star, and SS Drew Frey can hit. The offense needs Munchie Legaux to play as well as his name working behind a retooled line that has to replace three starters. D.J. Woods is done, but the rest of the receiving corps returns, while George Winn, Jameel Poteat, and Ralph David Abernathy will all try to replace Pead, the Big East Offensive Player of the Year.

45. Washington (7-6)

The coaching staff is undergoing a bit of an overhaul after the ugly second half of the season – allowing 31 points or more in five of the last six games and giving up 65 to Stanford and 67 to Baylor – but the offense should be solid. RB Chris Polk took off early to the NFL, but QB Keith Price outplayed Robert Griffin in the Alamo Bowl and proved he's ready to be a national star. He loses top targets Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, but Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams are promising. The line only loses two regulars, while the D has to replace four starters including leading tackler Cort Dennison and corner Quinton Richardson. Top pass rusher Josh Shirley should shine with an expanded role.

44. Penn State (9-4)

Forgetting about the baggage and the problems the program will be dealing with over the next several years, Bill O'Brien's team has a major, major problem on the field – it needs a quarterback. Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden both had issues throughout the season, but the offense will have RB Silas Redd to count on. The line has to replace four starters, leading receiver Derek Moye is done, and the depth at running back is questionable. Defensively, the line loses all-star tackle Devon Still and pass rusher Jack Crawford, but the linebacking corps should be terrific with Gerald Hodges ready to break out on a national scale. All four starters have to be replaced in the secondary.

43. Texas Tech (5-7)

Are the Red Raiders going to be able to overcome the nightmarish end to the 2011 season? QB Seth Doege is a veteran who struggled to keep the chains moving, but he's a good talent who could be far better if the receivers can help him out a bit more. All the top targets return except for Adam James – that Adam James – with Eric Ward looking like a star in the making. RB DeAndre Washington showed flashes, and now he'll get more chances behind a nice-looking line that gets three starters back. The defense was the biggest problem, finishing 114th in the nation in 117th in scoring. Experience won't be an issue with ten starters returning – only losing end Scott Smith – but the pass rush has to be better and the linebackers have to be better factors.

42. North Carolina (7-6)

New head coach Larry Fedora doesn't have the jaw-dropping talent to work with across the board the program has enjoyed for the last few years, but he has a few great players to start with. QB Bryn Renner and RB Giovani Bernard are terrific, and they should get time to work behind a good-looking line with four starters returning. Top receiver Dwight Jones is gone, but Eric Highsmith is ready to be a No. 1. Star end Quinton Coples is gone off the line, as is tackle Tydreke Powell and leading tackler Zach Brown, but there's a nice base of six good starters to build around. T.J. Thorpe should be one of the nation's top kickoff returners.

41. Virginia (8-5)

The excitement is building under Mike London with a breakthrough season and a few good recruiting classes to work around. QB Michael Rocco and RB Perry Jones provide the offensive leadership working behind a terrific line that gets three starters back. WR Kris Burd is done, but the other top receivers and TE Colter Phillips return. The defense has some retooling to do up front, and three starters are gone in the secondary, but unlike previous seasons, the depth should shine through with several good young players waiting in the wings. The kicking game wasn't special, but it still needs to find replacements for PK Robert Randolph and P Jimmy Howell.

40. Louisiana Tech (8-4)

After winning the WAC – and no one noticing – the Bulldogs should be even stronger with QB Nick Isham more experienced and ready to do more behind a line that gets four starters back. RB Lennon Creer is done, but the receiving corps is loaded to finally make the passing game rock like it's supposed to under Sonny Dykes. The WAC's top run defense loses both ends, but the biggest problem will be replacing linebacker Adrien Cole in the middle. The secondary should be among the best in the WAC with three good starters returning.

39. Mississippi State (7-6)

There are too many big replacements to hope to get back to the 2010 production, but the talent is there to improve on a disappointing 2011. The defense loses top tackle Fletcher Cox off the line, and both safeties have to be replaced, but six starters are back and the production shouldn't drop off too much. Offensively, the passing game has to be better and that means QB Tyler Russell has to live up to his prep hype. All the top receivers are seniors, and they'll have to take over the offense with RB Vick Ballard and three offensive linemen done.

38. Illinois (7-6)

New head coach Tim Beckman isn't exactly making a great first impression after having problems filling out his coaching staff, but he has a good team in place to work with. Star end Whitney Mercilus is gone to the NFL, but three starters are back on the line and big-time tackler Jonathan Brown leads a strong linebacking corps. The secondary gets three starters back and shouldn't have too big a problem replacing corner Tavon Wilson. The offense starts with QB Nathan Scheelhaase, but he needs to find a new No. 1 target with A.J. Jenkins gone. Donovonn Young will get the first look to handle the running game, working behind a line that loses tackle Jeff Allen but should be strong with a little bit of tweaking.

37. Stanford (11-2)

You don't get better by losing the No. 1 pick in the draft and a be-all-end-all quarterback prospect like Andrew Luck, but Jim Harbaugh recruited well before leaving for the pros leaving good young players in place ready to wage an interesting battle to fill the enormous void. The bigger problem could be on the offensive line where left tackle Jonathan Martin and right guard David DeCastro took off early and could be top 15 overall draft picks. The defensive front seven is full of veterans, but the secondary loses four starters and the offense doesn't have enough playmaking receivers to take the heat off underappreciated running back Stepfan Taylor.

36. Boise State (12-1)

Is it time to doubt Boise State now that Kellen Moore is finally gone? The Broncos aren't off to the Big East until next year, and they'll need the year to rebuild and reload with Joe Southwick and Grant Hedrick battling to take over for Moore. The running game also takes a hit with Doug Martin and D.J. Harper done, while star tackle Nate Potter and two other starters up front are gone. Only one starter – corner Lee Hightower – is back on defense.

35. Kansas State (10-3)

What can Bill Snyder do for an encore? After nearly getting to the BCS by winning close game after close game, the team needs to find more offensive weapons and has to be even stronger on defense. Collin Klein will get the hype as one of college football's best running quarterbacks, but he'll have a patchwork line in front of him. John Hubert is a quick back who should do even more, while Brodrick Smith and Chris Harper are big targets who should do more as Klein expands the passing attack. The D has to find a playmaker in the secondary to replace Tysyn Hartman and corner David Garrett, but Nigel Malone should be among the nation's top defensive backs. Arthur Brown is a terrific linebacker to build around, but three starters are gone off the front seven.

34. BYU (10-3)

Can the Cougars take things to another level after a terrific 10-3 season? A lot of the projections depend on who's leaving for Church missions, but one player sticking around is QB Riley Nelson, who took the starting job by the horns midway through last year and was so good that Jake Heaps ended up transferring to Kansas. Three starters are gone off the O line including bruising tackle Matt Reynolds, but Cody Hoffman and the receiving corps is in place and the running backs are just promising enough to keep the production going. The defense that finished 13th in the nation gets back just about everyone of note – again, with the exception of those leaving for missions – including Kyle Van Noy, who should be among the nation's most productive all-around linebackers. The one big loss is in the secondary where FS Travis Uale will be missed, but Daniel Sorensen is a rising star at the KAT position.

33. Tennessee (5-7)

Can Tennessee ever get out its mediocre rut? Tyler Bray might be the best quarterback in the conference, and he could blow up if receivers Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter can stay healthy. The offense line struggled in the running game, but it started four underclassmen and now gets all five starters back. Tauren Poole was a talented running back who never got room to move, and now he's done. The defense that finished 27th in the nation loses leading tackler Austin Johnson in the middle, but all four starters return to a terrific secondary and the line gets enough pieces back to be better. However, finding more of a pass rush would be nice.

32. California (7-6)

Can the Bears take another step forward under head coach Jeff Tedford? The offense needs QB Zach Maynard to be more effective and more consistent, but Keenan Allen should be one of the nation's top receivers and Isi Sofele is a special back who should roll at will behind a terrific-looking line. The defense led the Pac-12, but leader Mychal Kendricks is gone from the middle and D.J. Holt will be missed at one of the other linebacker spots. Safeties Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell are done, as is end Trevor Guyton, but there's good depth and solid reserves ready to play bigger roles. The team's biggest loss could be Bryan Anger, one of the nation's best punting weapons over the last few years.

31. UCF (5-7)

The Knights couldn't seem to come up with a clutch win even with the nation's ninth-best defense and an offense that ranked among the best in the league. Eight starters are back on defense, but star corner Josh Robinson bolted early for the NFL. All the top pass rushers return and leading tackler FS Kemail Ishmael is back. QB Jeff Godfrey should be steadier with two years under his belt, while RB Brynn Harvey should be among Conference USA's top players with four starters up front to run behind. The teams' top two receivers, Quincy McDuffie and J.J. Worton, return. Rannell Hall and Quincy McDuffie will be among the nation's top kick returners, and Worton is a terrific punt returner.

30. Clemson (10-4)

How fast can the Tigers get over the atomic wedgie applied by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl? The offensive talent is undeniable with the pitch-catch combination of Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins one of the best in college football. However, the offensive line has to undergo an overhaul and tight end Dwayne Allen is about to become a millionaire at the next level. The defensive front has even more issues with tackle Brandon Thompson one of three starters gone, but almost everyone in the back seven returns. The recruiting has been stellar and the athleticism and skill is in place across the board to be in the hunt for the ACC title, but the league is going to be stronger as a whole.

29. Rutgers (9-4)

Playmaking receiver Mohamed Sanu took off early for the NFL, but the real problem could be a line that struggled last year and now loses the interior. Mark Harrison has to become a go-to target and Jawan Jamison will have to carry even more of the rushing workload, but the offense won't improve unless QB Chas Dodd becomes more efficient and more effective. The defense that dominated so much last year needs LB Khaseem Greene to come back healthy after the nasty leg injury suffered in the bowl game. Only three starters are gone from a D that led the Big East in most of the major categories, but top interior pass rusher Justin Francis is gone as is end Manny Abreu and FS David Rowe. If Greene can make it back, this should once again be one of the nation's nastiest run defenses.

28. Louisville (7-6)

The defense that was such a surprise is loaded and should be among the nation's best. The line that was so good at getting into the backfield gets three starters back after finishing tenth in the nation against the run, and that doesn't include pass rushing terror Marcus Smith on the end. Leading tackler Dexter Heyman has to be replaced, but the linebacking corps is sound on the outside and the secondary should be out of this world with all four starters returning. The offense is all about the maturation and improvement of QB Teddy Bridgewater, who got his feet wet last year and showed maturity beyond his years. RB Victor Anderson is done, but bulky back Dominique Brown returns and should be a power runner to work behind. Micahlee Harris is a strong inside receiver who should shine as Bridgewater's safety valve. The line struggled in pass protection, but four starters return.

27. NC State (8-5)

After closing out the season winning four of the final five games, the needle is pointing up with enough veterans coming back to expect a possible run at ten wins. The line struggled in pass protection, but four starters are back to pave the way for James Washington and a running game that might be better. QB Mike Glennon started to come into his own, and he needs to be terrific with new starting receivers – led by Tobias Palmer - taking over for T.J. Graham and Jay Smith. The defense that led the ACC in sacks loses Terrell Manning a year early for the NFL and has to replace Audie Cole in the middle, but the entire secondary returns and the ends should be terrific with Darryl Cato-Bishop ready to do more in the rotation.

26. Texas A&M (7-6)

The Kevin Sumlin era could get off to a rocky start. Going off to the SEC West isn't exactly a way to rebuild, and losing a ton of firepower won't help with QB Ryan Tannehill, WR Jeff Fuller, and RB Cyrus Gray all off to the NFL. Christine Michael has to prove he can stay healthy enough to carry the rushing workload behind a great-looking line that gets all five starters back. The defense that was such a rock against the run and led the nation in sacks gets six starters back on the front seven including Sean Porter and Damontre Moore on the outside. The pass rush has to continue to be tremendous with three starters gone from the secondary. 

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