2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 81 to 90

Posted Aug 20, 2012

2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 81 to 90 - Not Awful, But ...

Preview 2012 - Rankings

Not Awful, But ... - No. 81 to 90

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2012 CFN Preseason Rankings  
Preview 2012 | 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 124 
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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 indicates. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 124.

90. Western Kentucky Preview
Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Receiver

What to watch for on offense: Who's going to run the ball? Rainey finished second in the nation in rushing and closed out his great career with 4,542 yards, 35 touchdowns and 80 catches for 682 yards and five scores. Coach Willie Taggart has no problems running his backs into the ground, but this year there should be more of a committee approach with a few nice options to play around with. True freshman Anthony Wales is the team's top recruit, and while he might not be built to handle the ball 30 times again, he's a top talent who could've been a key factor at several BCS schools. Antonio Andrews is a bigger back with a little bit of experience, while Keshawn Simpson is a 243-pound thumper who can bring it between the tackles. Taggart will go with the hot hand, but he'll make sure everyone stays fresh.

What to watch for on defense: How fast can the secondary come together? The Hilltoppers were mediocre against the pass last season despite the help of a great pass rush, but they get plenty of help with top transfer Jonathan Dowling, a transfer from Florida, ready to make a huge splash at safety. Kareem Peterson is a nice safety with big hitting ability, and Tyree Robinson should be one of the league's best corners. The starting foursome should be terrific, but now the pressure is on and the expectations are high to get much, much more.

89. San Diego State Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Special Teams

What to watch for on offense: Can the receiving corps carry the attack? Former defensive back Colin Lockett turned into a terrific No. 1 target last season and a dangerous deep threat, while Gavin Escobar is among the best pass-catching tight ends in America. Dylan Denso and Ezell Ruffin are big, talented targets, but the real excitement is over Brice Butler, the USC transfer who lit things up this offseason and looks like a potential star. With the quarterback situation in a bit of flux – Oregon State transfer Ryan Katz and big Adam Dingwell are fighting it out – and with the running backs trying to get healthy, the receivers will bridge the gap.

What to watch for on defense: The smallish defensive line. It didn't seem to matter too much last year in the 3-3-5 alignment, but can the linebacker-sized front three hold up against the Washington and Army running games early on? Sam Meredith is a good pass rusher, but at 250 pounds he's hardly a big nose tackle and he's already banged up with a shoulder injury. 275-pound Kenny Galea'i qualifies as the beef up front and it's going to take a regular rotation to keep everyone fresh or else Jake Fely and the linebacking corps will have to do lots of cleaning up.

88. Kent State
Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Will the Golden Flash offense finally start to work? After finishing second-to-last in the nation in yards and 114th in scoring offense with no passing game whatsoever and a ground attack that didn't go anywhere. Spencer Keith might be a veteran quarterback, but he's fighting hard to keep his job with former Nevada dual-threat option David Fisher providing a big push. Trayion Durham did a nice job trying to carry the running game as a true freshman with good power and workhorse potential, while Dri Archer provides the speed and flash if he can get a little room to move. Tyshon Goode is a big-play target who needs to start making more big plays – he needs better quarterback play and needs more help from the rest of the receiving corps. The line that failed to generate enough of a push gets three decent starters back led by All-MAC left tackle Brian Winters.

What to watch for on defense: Once again, the defense did what it could to pick up a floundering offense finishing 21st in the nation with an aggressive group that's great at getting into the backfield. Eight starters return with pass rushing terror Roosevelt Nix commanding double and triple teaming leaving several other options free. There are plenty of options among the rest of the front three, but it's the deep veteran linebacking corps that should get the biggest spotlight with Luke Batton in the middle and C.J. Malauulu as good and as active as any pair in the MAC. If the linebackers aren't the team's strongest unit it'll be a terrific secondary with three returning starters and veteran senior Norman Wolfe taking over the vacant corner job.

87. Western Michigan
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: The offense was unbelievable at times thanks to quarterback Alex Carder, a good leader and playmaker who directed one of college football's deadliest passing games. He's back but all of his top targets are gone including Jordan White, who caught 140 passes for 1,911 yards and 17 scores. The receiving corps will be a question mark, but the stable of running backs is deep and experienced. The line might not have any all-stars, but it's versatile and full of good veterans. The pieces are all there for another big season, but it'll all be up to Carder and how he can make everyone around him shine. He'll have to make the receiving corps better.

What to watch for on defense: The Western Michigan defense simply had to hold serve a few times so the offense could carry the attack. That was easier said than done as the production fell off the map over the second half of the season allowing 471 yards or more in each of the final five games. Beefing up the run defense is a must in the 4-2-5 alignment, but getting more from the pass rush would also be nice. The ends are quick and experienced, and now they have to be more disruptive. The linebackers have to be more active so the athletic defensive backs don't have to do everything again. Rover Johnnie Simon and corner Lewis Toler are two of the MAC's best, but they could use more help.

86. Duke Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Wide Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: Renfree or not, here he comes. The upcoming season will be the final one for QB Sean Renfree, the third-year starter who has been a microcosm for the program—he's made progress on the field, but has yet to put it all together. On the one hand, he threw for nearly 3,000 yards in 2011, while cutting down his picks, but on the other, he was tenth in ACC passing efficiency. It's put up or shut time for Renfree who needs to become a more productive and dangerous passer, for the sake of his team and for his future in the game.

What to watch for on defense: Safety first. In an attempt to get his 11 best athletes on the field at the same time, coordinator Jim Knowles is tinkering with the use of three safeties instead of three linebackers. The Blue Devils will employ a rover, a bandit and a strike, a trio of athletic, hard-hitting defenders designed to cover as much of the field as possible. While the run defense could be a little more susceptible, the pass D is expected to get a boost from an alignment that'll utilize five defensive backs instead of four.

85. Wyoming Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Back
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Will there be more help for quarterback Brett Smith? Alvester Alexander was a speedy back who took off early for the pros, and while there are other options waiting in the wings, it's not going to be easy to not let the star of the show get to operate as much as possible. He was able to fight though a thumb injury that required surgery, and while Colby Kirkegaard looks able to run the offense if needed, keeping the starter in one piece is a must. That means Ghaali Muhammad and Kody Sutton have to handle more of the rushing workload, and Smith has to learn how to get the ball out of his hands faster. He was good at not taking sacks, and he didn't make a slew of mistakes, but he used his mobility to get out of trouble rather than dump the ball off more often than not.

What to watch for on defense: Can the D stop anyone's running game? The line lost tough veterans Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton and will be without three of the top four tacklers. So how is one of the worst run defenses in college football supposed to be any better when it has to go against Texas, Toledo, Nevada, Air Force, Fresno State and Boise State before November? Last season the Cowboys gave up 300 rushing yards four times in six games – giving up 292 yards in one of the other games – and allowed 200 yards or more in nine of the 13 games. The linebacking corps should be okay with Oliver Schober and Korey Jones returning, but the line has to be far stronger.

84. FIU Preview
Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Running Back

What to watch for on offense: A faster offense under new coordinator Tim Cramsey. Everyone likes to hurry things up and everyone wants to control games, but Cramsey will be trying to get his offense to do it with a good receiving corps certain to help out new starting quarterback Jake Medlock and with a strong, versatile offensive line able to blast away for the ground game. Tempo, tempo, tempo will be the key to the attack that finished 82nd in the nation in yards and was a bit too inconsistent.

What to watch for on defense: The front seven. Everyone returns to a solid secondary that should be the best in the Sun Belt, but the defense all keys around a front seven that's active, aggressive and really, really good. In all 17 of the team's top 18 tacklers return, but it's Winston Fraser at linebacker and Tourek Williams on the end who'll set the tone for the rest of the veteran D. Isame Faciane and Jerrico Lee are two terrific tackles who'll be a nice part of the rotation, while Jordan Hunt and Kenneth Dillard are good outside linebackers who'll thrive around Fraser.

83. Louisiana Tech Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: The running backs. The passing game will be terrific with all the weapons at receiver and with a good quarterback situation, but the Bulldog offense hasn't been one dimensional under Sonny Dykes and it needs a running game. Lennon Creer is gone, and promising back Tyrone Duplessis was tragically lost to a heart attack this offseason. Hunter Lee is a former walk-on who took over for an injured Creer late in the season and was great, but he's not necessarily the type of back who can handle the ball 250 times; he needs running mates. Lyle Fitte is trying to come back from a knee injury, and Ray Holley has to get healthy after having injury issues of his own. On the plus side, the line is outstanding and will pave the way for anyone carrying the mail.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. The defense made night-and-day improvements last season partly because everyone was more aggressive and there were plenty of disruptive plays in the backfield. The tackles will do their job, but the ends will be a work in progress after Matt Broha and Christian Lacy's 16 combined sacks left. I.K. Enemkpali has to go from being a nice prospect to a great pass rusher on one side, and someone has to emerge – possibly Kendrick James – on the other side to get to the quarterback.

82. Ohio
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The offense might have some holes to fill, but it has a high-rising star under center in Tyler Tettleton, and ultra-efficient, ultra-effective dual-threat quarterback who should do a great job leading the balanced attack. Former Iowa State transfer Beau Blankenship was a decent part of the puzzle last season, but he should be the main man for the always-strong Bobcat ground game that needs some unknowns to boost up the depth. Donte Foster is an athletic receiver, but the corps takes a big hit losing top targets LaVon Brazill and Riley Dunlop and needs to find a few new starters. The interior of the line should be among the best in the conference with three good starters back, and the tackle situation should be solid with a little bit of time thanks to the expected emergence of Florida State transfer John Prior at left tackle.

What to watch for on defense: The defense was good enough to get by finishing fourth in the league and holding steady when it had to in close game after close game, but it was mediocre at getting into the backfield. Fortunately, eight starters return with end Tremayne Scott a great one to work the front seven around. Also helping the cause is a strong, deep group of veteran tackles who should be able to hold up well in the rotation. Leading tackler and heart-and-soul linebacker Noah Keller is gone, but Alphonso Lewis should take on a bigger role on the outside, and big-hitting Keith Moore should be a statistical superstar in the middle in place of Keller. The secondary is loaded with corner Travis Carrie coming off an all-star season and safety Gerald Moore certain to be in the mix for honors after finishing second on the team in tackles.

81. Northern Illinois
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: The dominant offense of last season that rolled at will behind quarterback Chandler Harnish and a superior line is long gone. New offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar won't change things too much, but he'll have a lot of reworking and retooling to do starting with a line that has just one set starter coming out of spring ball. The receiving corps could be the best in the MAC with Martel Moore and Perez Ashford a dangerous tandem, and the running backs will be fine with a solid, speedy rotation to keep everyone fresh. Jordan Lynch won't be Harnish, but he's good enough to get moving on the ground and utilize the great receiving corps. The offense will turn out to be fine, but it might take a little while to get there.

What to watch for on defense: The defense was okay, but not great considering Dave Doeren is a defensive coach and the staff is strong. The potential is there to be far stronger with a terrific pass rush from Sean Progar and Alan Baxter on the outside and an improved linebacking corps that welcomes back Devon Butler (gunshot wound) and Tyrone Clark (suspension) after missing all of 2011. The secondary that struggled with its consistency is deeper, more experienced, and better with Jimmie Ward one of the MAC's best free safeties and corner Rashaan Melvin a big, strong talent to close down one side.