2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 61 to 70

Posted Aug 20, 2012

2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 61 to 70 - Searching For A Bowl

Preview 2012 - Rankings

Searching For A Bowl - No. 61 to 70

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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.

70. Washington State Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: Tuel time. Spring practice was supposed to be the scene of a tight quarterback battle between senior Jeff Tuel and sophomore Connor Halliday. And then the drills began. Tuel never looked back, instantly wowing the coaching staff with his physical ability and quick retention of the system's nuances. The injury-prone incumbent appears capable of flourishing as the triggerman of the Air Raid, using his final year as an opportunity to impress all-star balloters and pro scouts. He'll ample support from the skill positions , namely WR Marquess Wilson and RB Rickey Galvin.

What to watch for on defense: Fast and furious. The Cougars simply don't have the size or muscle to bully opponents in 2012, so they'll opt instead to attack with a cadre of undersized, frenetic athletes. New defensive coordinator Mike Breske wants his unit to close quickly and swarm tackle the man with the ball. He also plans on employing a 3-4 alignment designed to trade one big body up front with a safety-sized linebacker. Washington State hopes to set the tone on defense, even if it means getting burned deep on occasion.

69. Colorado Preview
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Defensive Back

What to look for offense: A new collection of go-to guys. Whether it's Connor Wood or Nick Hirschman behind center, he'll need to develop chemistry with a new set of players now that RB Rodney Stewart and WR Toney Clemons have graduated, and WR Paul Richardson has been lost to a knee injury. There's just no escaping the fact that the Buffs are going to be young, with underclassmen dominating the starting lineup. Sophomore Tony Jones, who plays as if he's channeling Stewart, has pulled ahead at running back. Redshirt freshman Nelson Spruce and sophomore Tyler McCulloch are the two receivers most likely to attempt to pick up the slack left by Richardson's season-ending mishap.

What to look for on defense: A breakout season for DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe. His junior year about to begin, Uzo-Diribe is on the verge of becoming a dangerous pass rusher for the Buffaloes. He's always had the requisite get-off and athleticism, but now he's got a little more bulk needed to better compete on an every down basis. Last fall, he finished second on the team with 5.5 sacks purely on a situational basis. This fall, he'll have an opportunity to double that number, while grabbing the attention of all-league voters and possibly pro scouts.

68. Fresno State Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: The maturation of the passing game. It's not like Fresno State needs to do more through the air finishing 31st in the nation in passing efficiency and averaging 273 yards per game with Derek Carr throwing 26 touchdown passes with nine picks. He can do even more. The loss of Jalen Saunders and Devon Wylie will hurt, but the next three top targets are back not including an excellent outlet in Rouse to rely on. The new offense will rely on Rouse to rip off big runs on a regular basis, but the potential is there for Carr to go from good to WOW if he can catch on to the reads and the timing right away. Both starting tackles are back to help keep him upright, and speed and athleticism isn't a problem in the receiving corps.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. Last year, Texas A&M led the nation in sacks averaging close to four per games and finished third in tackles for loss averaging eight per outing. In 2009, Fresno State had the second-worst pass rush in the nation but wasn't bad at coming up with tackles for loss. Even so, the goal was to start hitting the quarterback again, and the D did finishing ninth in the nation in sacks and 35th in tackles for loss. Last year the production wasn't there on a consistent basis, and while the pass rush wasn't bad, it wasn't exactly dominant. The goal for new defensive coordinator Nick Toth will be to crank out lots and lots of big hits and be more disruptive. There isn't a Von Miller or Sean Porter to rely on as a terror into the backfield, but Tristan Okpalaugo and Travis Brown can move.

67. Nevada Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Linebacker, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: Even more from the passing game. Cody Fajardo got whacked around a bit on the ground last year like Nevada quarterbacks always do, but he also showed good toughness throughout the second half of the season and proved he could wing it around a little bit, too. Enter new offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich, who famously stepped in and threw for a bazillion yards for Hawaii in the 2000s. He's not going to abandon the run or the Ault Pistol attack, but he will try to add more to the passing attack and Fajardo will be happy to oblige. With Brandon Wimberly back after missing all of last year recovering from a gunshot wound, and with tight end Zach Suffold healthy again after suffering a broken leg, the passing attack will work just fine.

What to watch for on defense: The veteran secondary. The pass rush needs to emerge from a few unlikely sources up front, and the linebacking corps needs time and a whole bunch of seasoning considering three seniors will be starting, but the secondary could be a rock. Everyone can tackle and everyone can move, and now it all has to combine with the experience of seven seniors and on JUCO transfer in the rotation to start making more plays. The interceptions have to start coming after losing top corner Isaiah Frey, while the entire secondary will have to make up for the lack of proven pass rusher up front.

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

What to watch for on offense: The quick development of the quarterback situation. The receiving corps is in place with La'Rod King leading a decent and potentially dangerous group of veterans. The running game shouldn't be bad with several backs in the rotation ready to do more. Now the Cats need a quarterback to rely on for the offense to start functioning again. Can Maxwell Smith show he's ready to become a franchise player to build around, or will Morgan Newton make one more push in his final season? Is true freshman Patrick Towles going to be in the equation? The Cats can't be mediocre under center again.

What to watch for on defense: Can the Cats finally come up with a pass rush? There hasn't been too much of one for a long, long time, and last season the defensive front didn't get into the backfield nearly enough. While the pass rush wasn't a total disaster, 20 sacks and 64 tackles for loss weren't enough to be disruptive. It's not like there's a who's who or passing games on the schedule to deal with, but Collins Ukwu and Alvin Dupree have to start making more things happen on the outside, and coming up with more tackles for loss on the inside would be nice. The defense has to be more dangerous and more of a factor.

65. Syracuse Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Star-Broyld. Looking for some pop on offense, especially in the running game, the coaching staff could turn to a rookie, who doesn't even have a set position yet. Ashton Broyld is technically a 6-4, 229-pound quarterback. However, since he's such a good athlete, and would be buried on the depth chart anyway, the Orange plan to employ his dual-threat skills in myriad different ways. He's listed third on the depth chart at running back, but will also take direct snaps in "Wildcat" looks, and even split out wide as a super-sized receiver.

What to watch for on defense: Pining for pressure. While coordinator Scott Shafer is all about dialing up pressure as much as feasibly possible, uncertainty at defensive end could force the coach to become creative. Yeah, he'll deploy his linebackers and safeties on seek-and-destroy missions, but how often will depend on the development of the ends. The Orange needs to replace both Mikhail Marinovich and first-round NFL Draft pick Chandler Jones, a daunting task. The three-man rotation will be comprised of a situational pass rusher, Brandon Sharpe, a rookie, Donnie Simmons, and a repurposed nose tackle, Deon Goggins. From the trio, Syracuse is hoping to mount an adequate pass rush.

64. Wake Forest Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Back
Relative Weaknesses: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line

What to look for on offense: Michael Campanaro to introduce himself to a much larger audience. The junior is about to become more than just the successor to Chris Givens as the Deacons' go-to receiver; he's ready to begin amassing a following outside of ACC country. Undersized, yet tough and fundamentally-sound, the 5-10, 190-pound has the skill set and desire to rank among the league's most productive pass-catchers in 2012. NFL scouts have already started showing some early interest, an indication that he looks a lot better on film than he does on paper.

What to look for on defense: The no-name linebackers to post some solid overall numbers in the fall. Yeah, Wake is going to be small and thin on the second level, but it'll also be very athletic, experienced and good for about 300 tackles among the four starters. There's going to be a nice blend of returning starters, such as Joey Ehrmann and Riley Haynes, and emerging stoppers, like Justin Jackson and Mike Olson, to believe that the unit might soar beyond its preseason expectations once the campaign hits its stride.

63. Northwestern Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The development of the offensive line. Kain Colter is one of the nation's most athletic quarterbacks returning as the team's leading passer, rusher and receiver, but it would be nice if he had more time to work. It would be even nicer if there was a steady push from the line for the running backs who were non-existent for long stretches last season. The line was ripped apart by the defensive front far too often this offseason, and after giving up a whopping 42 sacks, being more consistent and more productive is the key to the season. The basketball team should look into bringing in the 6-7, 310-pound Patrick Ward; 6-8, 295-pound Shane Mertz; and 6-8, 315-pound Neal Deiters as rebounders, but the football team needs them to start blocking someone first.

What to watch for on defense: Get … to … the … quarterback. Pass rush was a problem and concern going into last season, and it turned out to be worse than the coaching staff could've ever imagined. That should all change in a hurry with a slew of athletic options ready to step up and shine. Sophomore Tyler Scott is a nice-looking end with a big future and redshirt freshman Deonte Gibson has the potential to be a dominant sack artist if he doesn't win the starting job right away. Both starting defensive tackles are gone, but sophomore Chance Carter might be an upgrade with tremendous upside and interior pass rushing skills. However it happens, the secondary desperately needs as much help as possible and needs hurried quarterbacks.

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

What to watch for on offense: The wide receivers to duke it out for one more round in the summer. Everyone at Houston wants to see what the two-deep will look like in the fall, especially the coaching staff. Last year's top receivers have graduated, leaving the program with a hodgepodge of holdovers and newcomers. Someone is going to catch a lot of passes in this offense, but it remains to be seen if the chief beneficiary will be senior Ronnie Williams, junior Dewayne Peace, sophomore Daniel Spencer or even true freshman Deontay Greenberry.

What to watch for on defense: The development of the pass rush. Last year's sack total was inflated by the insanely productive year of outside linebacker Sammy Brown. However, now that Brown is trying his hand at the NFL, it remains to be seen whether the Cougars can mount a rush in a more traditional fashion. The defensive ends have plenty to prove, or else the program will once again be forced to unleash its better athletes on the blitz. Kelvin King and Zeke Riser are the steady veterans, but backups Lloyd Allen and Desmond Pulliam are wild cards who get their reps and opportunities.

61. Minnesota Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The maturation of the offensive line. The front five wasn't all that bad considering the offense sputtered and coughed for most of the season. The running game averaged a not-that-miserable 4.1 yards per carry and the pass protection wasn't awful considering Gray is a mobile quarterback allowing 22 sacks. But it was a stepping-stone season with freshmen Zac Epping and Tommy Olson being throw to the wolves. Now those two are veteran sophomores, while Olson's brother, Ed, is a great-looking junior who should shine at left tackle. If this group can hold its own early on and can control the tempo and the clock against Western Michigan and Syracuse, the chances will be there for a strong first half of the season allowing the skill players more time to improve.

What to watch for on defense: The defensive tackles. The Gopher back seven should become a plus after being changed around a bit with the return of corner Troy Stoudermire helping the cause and with the linebacking corps looking potentially solid. While ends D.L. Wilhite and Ben Perry didn't do enough last year, they're experienced and athletic. It's not going to be a killer of a defense, but the pieces are in place to be better if the tackles do their job. JUCO transfer Roland Johnson isn't huge, but at 6-1 and 295 pounds he's a fireplug who's built to get good leverage on the nose. Ra'Shede Hageman is a 6-6, 300-pound big body with a great frame who, like Johnson, can get behind the line. If these two are terrific, the rest of the defense should take a big step forward.