2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 51 to 60

Posted Aug 20, 2012

2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 51 to 60 - In the Bowl Hunt

Preview 2012 - Rankings

In The Bowl Hunt - No. 51 to 60

See something we've missed or has changed since originally posted? E-mail Us

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 
 - CFN Preseason Rankings 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007  

- Suggestions or something we missed? Let us know
- Follow us ... @ColFootballNews 

Download the FREE 2012 CFN Preseason iMagazine.
Go to the app store and download the free Fox Sports Next app for the iPad and click on CFN 2012 Preview.

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.

60. Oregon State Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: The evolution of Mannion. After suffering through growing pains in 2011 as a rookie, the hope around the program is that sophomore QB Sean Mannion can begin walking erect this fall. He has a world of physical ability, and received an impressive vote of confidence by being named the first sophomore team captain in school history. However, he has to start making better decisions in the passing game, and limiting his forced throws. Only then will he be able to maximize a collection of receivers who have a chance to be especially dangerous in 2012.

What to watch for on defense: The ends to provide the spark on defense. The Beavers are ecstatic about the potential of their two sophomore defensive ends, Scott Crichton and Dylan Wynn. Crichton was a revelation as a rookie, leading the team with 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and six forced fumbles. Wynn got better as his debut progressed, recovering five fumbles, and bringing non-stop energy to the pass rush. With both a little bigger and wiser in Year 2, Oregon State is going to visit constant heat upon opposing quarterbacks this fall.

59. Ole Miss Preview
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The offensive backfield has to come together. No, a team doesn't need an elite offense to win in the SEC, but Ole Miss has to have a functional one and that starts with finding the right mix at quarterback and for the ground game. The coaching staff will adapt to the personnel, but it would ideally like to use the spread offense in some form with some dual-threat mobility at quarterback and a line that can do just enough to open the holes needed for the speedy backs. First, though, a starting quarterback has to emerge. Barry Brunetti has the experience, but it's pure-passing JUCO transfer Bo Wallace who might have the edge on the starting gig when the year kicks off. Jeff Scott is a talented back with NFL upside as a specialist, but he's not a workhorse and the backup situation is sketchy.

What to watch for on defense: Will Ole Miss really run a 4-1-6? The problem is that the defensive weakness is on the line while the depth and talent might be in the back seven with a strong linebacking corps and a potentially fantastic secondary. Even so, until linebacker D.J. Shackelford is back from his knee issues the Stinger position will be likely be manned by the corner-sized Aaron Garbutt. There will be plenty of playing around with the alignment, but nothing is going to work unless a pass rusher emerges up front and the tackles are far stronger against the better running teams.

58. Penn State Preview
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Recevier

What to watch for on offense: Desperation at running back. The offense was going to be Silas Redd, Silas Redd and more Silas Redd. Despite so many losses from a line that was a rock last year and led the Big Ten in pass protection, it's going to be fine with a little bit of time. Adam Gress appears ready to step up and left tackle and Donovan Smith should be the truth over the next few years on the right side. The passing game isn't going to suddenly blow up, so with Redd gone that O line has to blast away for someone to carry the mail at least 20 times a game. Until a steady quarterback emerges – if a steady quarterback emerges – the opportunities will be there.

What to watch for on defense: Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson.  Defensive coordinator Ted Roof will revolve everything around his phenomenal group of linebackers that will be all over the field and should swarm for tackle after tackle. The secondary won't be awful once the coaching staff decides on the right combination, and the line will be great in the middle and dangerous on the end if Pete Massaro can stay healthy, but the linebacking corps will clean up any messes.

57. Arizona Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Secondary

What to watch for on offense: A lot more from the ground game. Arizona threw the ball 577 times in 2011. That will not happen again this year. Rich Rodriguez's spread-option is a ground-friendly attack, one that will lean on the running game to set up the pass. The coach prefers his quarterback to be nimble and multi-dimensional, much the way Pat White and Denard Robinson were for him at West Virginia and Michigan, respectively. His newest pupil behind center will be Matt Scott, a fifth-year senior who just might be a good match for the new attack.

What to watch for on defense: The fate of the pass rush. A year ago, Arizona was woefully inept at getting pressure, sacking the quarterback 10 times in 12 games. An overnight turnaround appears unlikely. The ‘Cats are light on speed and disruption up front, sporting a line that's typified by lumbering tweeners between tackles and ends. Junior Justin Washington is a possible exception, though he needs to find a way to play the way he did as a rookie in 2010. If Washington fails to rebound, the defensive backfield will be left naked for a second consecutive season.

56. Iowa Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The Greg Davis offense will speed things up a few paces. The Hawkeyes were never exactly slow and stodgy under offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe, but they'll now get moving with a much quicker pace and a little more pop and explosion. The Iowa offense won't exactly start winging the ball all over the yard and in a perfect world it'll be balanced, but it'll want to control the tempo and will want to keep defenses on their heels. Having a veteran quarterback in James Vandenberg will help that, but he'll need time behind an offensive line that needs a little bit of work.

What to watch for on defense: It's going to get moving. Norm Parker did a good job with the defense for over a decade and was Kirk Ferentz's trusted right hand man, but the pass rush was all but non-existent last year and the big plays were few and far between. The days of Parker's conservative defense might not be completely gone, but the Hawkeyes are going to be far more aggressive and look to do far more to create big plays. New defensive coordinator Phil Parker isn't going to exactly send the house to get into the backfield, but he's going to unleash the dogs a little bit more and he'll send players into the backfield from a variety of angles and directions.

55. Connecticut Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Sorting out the mess behind center. Again. For the second straight offseason, the Connecticut quarterback competition looks like a primary race to determine who runs for president. Five Huskies threw their hats in the ring in April, and five remain in contention as fall camp approaches. While anything is possible, it looks as if junior-college transfer Chandler Whitmer has built some traction, while inconsistent incumbent Johnny McEntee desperately tries to cling to the job he held for all 12 games of last season.

What to watch for on defense: The return to form of DE Jesse Joseph and CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Both players were eyeing monster junior seasons in 2011. Both players missed their mark because of injuries. And now that they're in their final years of eligibility, the pair shares a ton of motivation to fulfill expectations this fall. Now that Joseph and Wreh-Wilson are healthy again, it'll be as if Connecticut is adding two free agents, with All-Big East ceilings and the potential to continue playing on Sundays.

54. Cincinnati Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: The battle for carries. The moment of silence for graduating RB Isaiah Pead has long passed. The Bearcats must now move on to the business of regrouping in the running game, especially with an inexperienced quarterback taking the reigns as well. George Winn is the veteran and the frontrunner heading into summer, but it'll be worth keeping a close watch on the challenge of sophomore Jameel Poteat. The blue-chip signee from the 2011 class may lack experience, but has a far higher ceiling than anyone on the roster, which is going to make for an interesting battle for reps in August and beyond.

What to watch for on defense: The new men in the middle. The Bearcats will be easier to run on in 2012, an inescapable fact. However, tackles Camaron Beard and Jordan Stepp, and middle linebacker are determined to make sure that decline is not as precipitous as anticipated. Beard and Stepp are actually talented linemen, who might not look so out of place this fall if Derek Wolfe and John Hughes weren't their predecessors. The heir apparent to JK Schaffer at linebacker, Solomon Tentman, is a wild card. He has the talent and the solid spring behind him to flourish, but has also had a history of knee problems.

53. Pitt Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Back
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Quarterback

What to watch for on offense: Is Ray okay? The Panthers clearly want to run the ball more under Paul Chryst, so getting All-Big Eat RB Ray Graham back to full strength is a top priority leading up to the opener. When he suffered a season-ending knee injury last Oct. 26, only one other back in America had rushed more yards. The staff has been thrilled with the play so far of sophomore Isaac Bennett, one of the stars of the spring. However, with a physical philosophy on the way, the team is going to need more than just one capable runner to shoulder the load on the ground.

What to watch for on defense: The end all and be all. The Panthers were No. 3 nationally in sacks a year ago, but even approaching that lofty standing will require one or more defensive ends to step up in the new 4-3. Sophomores Bryan Murphy and T.J. Clemmings have plenty of upside potential, but both players will be trying to shake off rust after sitting out all of 2011. And senior Shayne Hale has been missing in action for far longer than one season. DT Aaron Donald will get plenty of attention from opposing guards and centers, but Pitt needs its once-heralded ends to create a little chaos off the edge as well.

52. Miami Preview
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Wide Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The identity of the starting quarterback. The staff is truly looking at a toss-up involving the transfer, sophomore Ryan Williams, and the holdover, junior Stephen Morris. Williams played well up until the spring game, and received most of the first-team reps, because Morris was limited following surgery. Now that both are expected at full strength in August, Miami is bracing for a protracted competition behind center for the second consecutive summer. Morris took a backseat to Jacory Harris in 2011, and will be looking even his record in these battles once he returns to action.

What to watch for on defense: That chick is hot. Now that LB Sean Spence, last season's only defensive all-star, is a Pittsburgh Steeler, Miami is in the market for the next generation of playmakers. Sophomore LB Denzel Perryman is one of them. So, too, is DE Anthony Chickillo. Just a little over a year removed from high school, he's already operating like one of the Hurricanes' two or three best defensive players. He darted out of the gate as a rookie, starting nine games and making a team-high five sacks. With a full season of training and preparation, he's capable of blossoming into one of the ACC's top pass rushers.

51. Vanderbilt Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Linebacker, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: Can the quarterback play be steady and efficient? Zac Stacy, Warren Norman and the running backs should be excellent. The line has the potential to be rock-solid with a slew of good veterans and lots of versatile options. Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd are SEC-quality receives who should make the passing game go. It's all there in place for the Commodores to come up with its best offensive season in a long, long time, but it'll only happen if Jordan Rodgers can be more consistent. The former JUCO transfer was supposed to make a big impact right away, and he did becoming the team's passing leader with 1,524 yards and nine touchdowns. However, he threw ten picks and only completed 50% of his passes and finished up the season completing just 4-of-14 passes before getting pulled in the bowl loss to Cincinnati. Wyoming transfer Austin Carta-Samuels might be considered the main man for next year, but if he might be thrown into the mix if Rodgers doesn't bring the production each and every week.

What to watch for on defense: Can the defense replace four irreplaceable parts? Gone is Tim Fugger, the team's top pass rusher. Gone is Chris Marve, the team's leading tackler and the leader of the nation's 18th ranked defense. Gone are defensive backs Sean Richardson and Casey Hayward, two big-time playmakers who were the key parts to a secondary that finished ninth in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Chase Garnham might be able to fill in Marve's stats moving from outside linebacker to the middle, but he needs to show he's ready to be the leader. Walker May has terrific pass rushing skills, but now he has to prove he can be steady at one end. Trey Wilson has good potential as a No. 1 corner and Kenny Ladler, Eric Samuels and Javon Marshall are promising safeties, but they're going to have to deal with a tougher schedule facing a few more decent passing teams.