2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 41 to 50

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 20, 2012


2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 41 to 50 - Mid-Level Bowl Teams


Preview 2012 - Rankings

Mid-Level Bowlers - No. 41 to 50

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

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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.

50. Baylor Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: The running game. The overall numbers aren’t going to be as good as they were last season, but it’ll still be an effective attack. Of course the Baylor offense will still put up video game stats through the air with a great receiving corps for Nick Florence to work with, but the ground game could be just as dangerous and even more effective at times from the running backs. Griffin ran for 699 yards and ten scores, but that’s not Florence’s game. Fortunately, Jarred Salubi is a speed back who can do a little of everything. Lache Seastrunk was a star recruit for Oregon and would’ve put up LaMichael James-like stats had he still been with the Ducks, and now he’ll blow up for the Bears.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary will be better. To be fair to last year’s defense, it had to deal with great offense after great offense throwing to keep up the pace with the Baylor offense. Even so, giving up 291 yards per game through the air and 36 touchdowns was still awful. Kansas threw for 108 yards because it was Kansas, and Oklahoma State threw for 274 yards because the ground game went nuts ripping off 327 yards, but the Bears allowed 325 passing yards or more in six of the final eight games with three 400+ yard outings and a 398-yard game against Texas Tech. All five starters are back to the 4-2-5 alignment and there should be a decent rotation in some spots. The production will be better; it can’t be any worse.

49. Maryland Preview
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive Line

What to look for on offense: The impact of the rookies. The Terrapins signed three blue-chip skill position players in February, symbols of the new climate Randy Edsall is attempting to foster in College Park. WR Stefon Diggs and running backs Albert Reid and Wes Brown are building block-type talents, but how much will their talent affect the depth chart in 2012? Rest assured that no one on the staff is installing limits, especially since Maryland is searching for a new feature back, and is more steady than spectacular in the receiving corps.

What to look for on defense: The front seven to dominate … if healthy. Assuming all of the team’s linemen and linebackers are available and at full strength in 2012, Maryland will be home to a downright nasty front wall. It has everything, from speed and tenacity to experience and depth. DE Joe Vellano will set the tone with his relentless passion, but will get plenty of support from linebackers Kenny Tate, Demetrius Hartsfield and Darin Drakeford. If the Terrapins are unable to make a quantum leap against the run versus last season, mark it down as a major lost opportunity for this program.

48. Iowa State Preview
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Despite losing top pass catcher Darius Reynolds, the receiving corps has the potential to be terrific. The backfield is deep with various good options, especially if Shontrelle Johnson is back from a neck injury, working behind a decent line that should be solid with three starters returning. Now the key will be the quarterback situation with Oklahoma State hero Jared Barnett and talented Steele Jantz battling it out for the job. Each has proven worthy of getting time, but it would be nice if one could step forward and be head-and-shoulders better. However, there will likely be a controversy throughout the year.

What to watch for on defense: Will there ever be a pass rush? The Cyclones were dead last in the conference and 115th in the nation in sacks in 2010 after finishing 111th in the nation in sacks in 2009, 94th in 2008 and 88th in 2007. Last year they were 106th after coming up with a mere 17 sacks to go along with 56 tackles for loss. There are a few interesting prospects on the end with Roosevelt Maggitt coming back from a knee injury and the 6-7 David Irving looking to be a factor, but there isn’t anyone who’ll be a sure-thing terror into the backfield. The secondary has upside and the linebacking corps is great, but it won’t matter too much if there isn’t more pressure behind the line.

47. Texas Tech Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: The running back health. The passing game will be the Texas Tech passing game. Seth Doege is a good bomber who should be more consistent and more solid, and the receiving corps will be terrific with Eric Ward, Alex Torres and Darrin Moore all terrific. Is anyone going to be healthy enough to run the ball? Eric Stephens is the team’s best back, but he suffered a dislocated knee that seems to be taking its time to heal. DeAndre Washington is also trying to come back from a knee injury. SaDale Foster is a nice-looking new option who can do a little of everything, but the running game could really use a few more options with Stephens and Washington needing to be able to go.

What to watch for on defense: The 4-3. Nothing has really worked over the last several years for the Red Raider defense. It has been able to get into the backfield from time to time, but it hasn’t done anything to stop the run. It’s all about the health of the key players after being devastated over the last two seasons. With a huge drop-off from the ones to the twos, and not enough depth across the board, forming a good rotation and keeping everyone fresh has been an issue. This year, new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman will be a bit more traditional. The pass defense will always have problem – it’s the Big 12 – but the front seven has to be more physical. Kaufman’s first job will be to toughen things up on the line to start establishing a tone early on. Unless everyone is healthy, that’s far easier said than done.

46. Arizona State Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Run Devils. The three competing quarterbacks, Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank and Taylor Kelly, have combined to throw just seven career passes. The receiving corps is being retooled. It should come as no surprise that Arizona State plans to leverage its impressive depth in the backfield. Yeah, 1,000-yarder Cameron Marshall is the headliner, but he could go on strike, and this ground game would still deliver. Assertive James Morrison is coming off a solid spring, and Kyle Middlebrooks and Deantre Lewis bring an element of flash to the attack. Heck, JUCO transfer Marion Grice and true freshman D.J. Foster have enough talent to steal carries right away.

What to watch for on defense: Arizona State to be tougher up the middle than expected. Yeah, there are a number of changes on defense, including the loss of middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict. However, the Devils feel as if they can regroup on the fly. With Corey Adams at the nose and Will Sutton at tackle, the team boasts a pair of players with the first-step quickness to get consistent penetration. The newcomer at linebacker is former junior-college transfer Kipeli Koniseti. He’s not Burfict, but that might not be all bad. He has the size to play the position, and a lot more discipline and want-to than his predecessor.

45. Virginia Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Defensive Line

What to look for on offense: An expanded playbook for Michael Rocco. The staff brought the then-sophomore along slowly in 2011, but now feels that he’s ready to expand his horizons as the leader of the Cavaliers offense. Both his retention of the attack and his overall development have been noticed by a set of coaches that feels he’s poised for a breakthrough junior campaign. Rocco will also need to assume more of a leadership role in the huddle now that he has a full year as the starter in the rear view mirror.

What to look for on defense: A Hill of a finale. While DT Will Hill has yet to fulfill expectations through his first three seasons, all signs point to him delivering before his time runs out. One of the Cavaliers’ four team captains has always possessed the raw skills to be a factor on the inside, but just hasn’t been able to put it all together for one reason or another. However, he’s coming off a solid offseason—on and off the field—and has been asked to become one of the catalysts for a front wall replacing three starters. Hill is positioned to go from anonymous to all-star in his final year of eligibility.

44. Rutgers Preview
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Defensive Back
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The Jawan and Savon Show. Considering the erratic behavior of the passing game, and the loss of star WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers will be resigned to put a little more weight on the ground troops in 2012. The complementary backs, sophomores Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins have ample talent, but need a lot more help from the blockers than they received a year ago. The Scarlet Knights ranked 117th nationally at just 2.7 yards a carry, a feeble level of output that absolutely has to improve this fall.

What to watch for on defense: The end game. The Scarlet Knights D promises to be oppressive this season. The lone concern? Who is going to create the pressure off the edge? Heck, who is going to start? At one spot, juniors Michael Larrow and Marcus Thompson are battling for playing time. At the other, seniors—and converted linebackers—Ka’Lial Glaud and Marvin Booker are locked in a very tight competition. Since the quartet has just five career sacks between them, it’s imperative that at least one becomes an antagonist, an agitator who keeps the defense from having to overuse the blitz.

43. Boston College Preview
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Defensive Backs
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Wide Receiver

What to look for on offense: The backs to be fresh. Sure, it would have been nice to have all-time leading rusher Montel Harris around to take a victory lap, but no one on the Heights is panicking over his dismissal. The Eagles have what they feel are three quality runners capable of shouldering the load. Rolandan Finch, last year’s leading rusher, and Tahj Kimble, this year’s spring standout, are locked in a tight battle for the starting job. Andre Williams is an outstanding No. 3, a bruiser who can be deployed for short-yardage duty. The trio might not produce a 1,000-yard rusher in 2012, but collectively, they’ll form a physical and productive ground game by committee.

What to look for on defense: The tackles to dominate. Remember when B.J. Raji and Ron Brace were still amateurs in Chestnut Hill? Okay, so the 2012 edition won’t be quite that surly, but it will be difficult to penetrate from the inside. Kaleb Ramsey has been granted a medical hardship after missing all of last season, and will join 312-pound Dillon Quinn to give BC a rugged tandem of seniors on the interior. Not to be forgotten, backups Dominic Appiah and Max Ricci started games as rookies last fall, and redshirt freshman Connor Wujciak is coming on fast. Boston College is going to be both deep and talented at tackle, good news for a run defense that slipped in 2011.

42. Washington Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: Kasen the joint. Of course the Huskies were disappointed to see receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar graduate, but second-year sophomore Kasen Williams is going to be better than both … maybe as early as this fall. One of the nation’s top recruits of 2011 played like it in his first season out of high school, catching 36 passes for 427 yards and six scores off the bench. At 6-2 and 216 pounds, with the burst to elevate high into the air, he has the natural skills to beat defensive backs in so many different ways. QB Keith Price is looking for partners as he begins his trip into the national lexicon. Williams shapes up as one of his preferred passengers on the 2012 journey.

What to watch for on defense: Shirley’s temple. Sophomore Josh Shirley has found a home at U-Dub after initially failing to launch at UCLA. He’s also turning the position of rush end into his own personal religion. A natural for a role that asks its defenders to be fast-twitch athletes, with an insatiable appetite for the backfield, the 6-3, 235-pound menace is bucking to build on last season’s team-high 8.5 sacks. Shirley is a menacing presence off the edge, exactly what first-year coordinator Justin Wilcox is looking for in his kids. If Hau’oli Jamora can bounce back from last fall’s knee injury, and play the way he did in 2010, Washington will boast one of the Pac-12’s most intimidating bookends.

41. Purdue Preview
Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: The running backs. Purdue is much, much better when it can the running game is working going 5-0 last season when rushing for 200 yards or more. A lot of the production will come from the mobile quarterbacks, with Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve and Rob Henry all able to take off at any time and produce, but the more the backs can produce, the better. The problem is that leading rusher Ralph Bolden is trying to get back to normal after a second knee injury, but Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt are two of the teams quickest players and can hit the home run from anywhere on the field. Behind a good line full of veterans, it’s possible the Purdue ground game could average close to 200 yards per game.

What to watch for on defense: The starting 11. The depth is lacking and there are some question marks at safety, weakside linebacker and one end spot, but if the starting 11 can stay healthy, Purdue should be able to hold its own with just about everyone on the slate. The defensive line has the potential to be truly special if Ryan Russell is the pass rusher everyone expects him to become, and tackling isn’t an issue for the feisty veteran back seven. This won’t be a brick wall of a D and it’ll probably get flattened by Wisconsin and Michigan again, but it should also be more consistent if, and it’s a huge if, injuries don’t strike.