CFN 2013 First Look Rankings
No. 41 to 50
2013 CFN First Look Rankings
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- Based On Opinion ... CFN 2012
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It might seem way too early, but considering the
returning starters and all the other factors before
Signing Day and spring ball, where does everyone
stand? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for
2013. The First Look Ranking is based on how good
the teams appear to be at the moment.
41. Texas Tech (8-5)
How much fun will the Kliff Kingsbury era be? The fan base is charged up to have one of its heroes at the helm – the faithful never really took to Tommy Tuberville – and the team has enough pieces in place to be better, especially on defense.
Of course, all eyes are going to be on the offense to see what Kingsbury will do with the nation's No. 2 air show, but the defense could be the bigger surprise after making a huge leap up in production to finish second in the Big 12 behind TCU in yards allowed. The production fell off the table in the second half of the season, but eight starters return including the entire front four that has to be far better at getting into the backfield. However, two of the lost starters are safeties D.J. Johnson and Cody Davis, two of the best in the league at the position.
The offense now turns to Michael Brewer, a Texas high school passing star who saw a little bit of time last season and should be ready to hit the ground running. He's not a big passer, but he's smart and accurate. The line has to replace three starters including both tackles, but the receiving corps is loaded despite losing Darrin Moore. Eric Ward and Kenny Williams will be statistical superstars.
42. Cincinnati (10-3)
Is Tommy Tuberville ready to produce? He has some big shoes to fill considering Brian Kelly and Butch Jones made winning a habit, but the Big East is easier and the team is talented enough to get into the BCS.
The offense that led the league in scoring and rushing gets back seven starters, but loses tough runner George Winn. The quarterback situation is going to be a fight with Brandon Kay gone. Munchie Legaux will fight for his old job with Patrick Coyne, with the winner getting a solid receiving corps to work with. The line gets all five starters back after a brilliant 2012.
The defense finished 14th in the nation in scoring D, despite giving up 388 yards per game, and now it's going to take some rebuilding with seven starters gone including both ends and top tackler Greg Blair at middle linebacker. Four key players are gone in the secondary, but corner Deven Drane is back on one side.
43. Penn State (8-4)
Yes, they're still playing football in Happy Valley, but the focus and spotlight after an emotional and wild 2012 football season won't be there. Can Bill O'Brien pull off another winning season? It all depends on the development of the depth, but the starters will be strong enough to play with anyone in the league.
The first step will be to find a quarterback to replace Matt McGloin after his shockingly outstanding year. Steven Bench was the key backup at the end of the season, but Nittany Lion fans will be counting the minutes until superstar recruit Christian Hackenberg takes over the job. Talk about pressure; Hackenberg might be the most talented passer at PSU since Kerry Collins, and he'll be expected to shine from Day One. Three starters are gone from the line, including guard John Urschel and tackle Mike Farrell, but there's talent returning led by rising star receiver Allen Robinson. Can Zach Zwinak go from being a surprise leading rusher to even more of a workhorse? There are several options to keep him fresh.
The defense loses Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges from the linebacking corps, but Glenn Carson is a good one in the middle and Mike Hull is a playmaker on the outside. Jordan Hill is gone from his spot as the anchor up front. But DaQuan Jones is a big body who can hold up against the run. Three starters are back in the secondary with only cornerback Stephon Morris gone.
44. Arkansas (4-8)
Could the loss of Bobby Petrino really have been that big a deal? Apparently so for a team that didn't have much of a direction, couldn't stop screwing up, and was horrendous defensively, especially against the pass. Bret Bielema is coming in looking to turn things back around right away, and while the expectations won't be at national-title-or-bust level like they were before the Petrino fiasco, the Hogs are supposed to be factors again.
Don't expect the Wisconsin running game right away after finishing 104th in the nation last year. Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis are gone, meaning Jonathan Williams will get fed the ball right away behind a decent-looking line that returns four key blockers. Also gone is quarterback Tyler Wilson, putting the spotlight on Brandon Allen to keep the passing attack rolling despite the loss of No. 1 receiver Cobi Hamilton.
The defense should be the strength, especially against the run after allowing just 124 yards per game last season. Five starters return on the defensive front seven, and the young secondary that was toasted time and again throughout last season gets everyone of note back. The loss of punter Dylan Breeding will be felt.
45. Auburn (3-9)
Last year at this time, Auburn was an up-and-coming team going through a few growing pains, but hopeful that all the top young recruits were going to rise up in a hurry. And now Gus Malzahn is the head coach.
The offense can't be an worse after finishing last in the SEC in yards and second-to-last in scoring thanks to a line that was disastrous in pass protection and didn't generate enough of a push for the speedy backs. The raw talent is there thanks to a few great recruiting classes, but everyone has to stay healthy and everyone has to gel after finishing last season starting four freshmen and a sophomore. The receiving corps has to be better and the starting quarterback situation has to be settled in spring ball. If nothing else, Tre Mason is a good back to hand off to.
The defense also needs a big boost after finishing last in the SEC against the run and getting torched by anyone with an offense. Pass rusher Corey Lemonier is gone early to the NFL, but depending on the formation, as many as nine starters return. Losing star tackler Daren Bates will hurt, but the secondary has upside and the defensive line should be tougher.
46. Mississippi State (8-5)
Can Dan Mullen's team show up against the stronger teams? 8-5 was nice, but the best win, technically, came against Middle Tennessee – the only team the Bulldogs beat that finished with a winning record. The big concern is that Ole Miss is quickly improving, and Arkansas and Auburn won't stay down for long. This might be a turning point season, needing to rise up and show that there's hope to potentially challenge for the division title.
The offense fizzled over the second half of the year against the better teams, and now it needs to get more out of the passing game and quarterback Tyler Russell, who was good, but not great. The receiving corps loses just about everyone of note, but Ladarius Perkins is a terrific back who should be in for a big year behind a line that welcomes back four starters.
The defense that was a rock against the run at times needs to generate more of a pass rush after finishing last in the SEC in sacks. Preston Smith was part of the rotation on the end, and now he should see more of a role even though Denico Autry and Kaleb Eulls are back on their starting spots on the outside. Top tackler Cameron Lawrence is gone, but the linebacking corps will be a plus. It'll need to be with the fantastic secondary losing three starters including future NFL mainstays, Johnthan Banks, Nickoe Whitley and Darius Slay.
47. West Virginia (7-6)
Now it's time to see just how strong the Dana Holgorsen system is. The offense will continue to put up big numbers, but it can't help but take a step back after losing Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, and two offensive linemen.
Can Paul Millard be the answer to take over for Smith? The jury is out, on whether or not he can put it all together and be consistent, while 6-5, 225-pound redshirt freshman Ford Childress might be the one who turns into the team's newest star. Out of all the issues on offense, the line should be fine and Andrew Buie shouldn't have a problem cranking out big rushing yards with Austin's flash gone to the next level.
The defense will be under just as hot a spotlight after a disastrous season, finishing last in the Big 12 in scoring defense and pass efficiency D. Only five starters return, but Karl Joseph is a rising star at safety and should be a good piece for the rest of the secondary to work around. Overall, the defense has to be a lot tougher and far more consistent after being ripped to shreds time and again, giving up 30 points or more in nine games.
48. NC State (7-6)
2012 was when everything was supposed to come together for the Wolfpack, but that didn't happen, Tom O'Brien is gone, and Dave Doeren is in. Does the former Northern Illinois head man have the pieces in place to do what he'd like? It's going to be a bit of a rebuilding season, but the defense should be a plus from the start.
The Wolfpack finished second in the ACC in tackles for loss and fourth in sacks led by end Darryl Cato-Bishop. He's back along with interior playmaking tackle T.Y. McGill. In all, three starters return on the defensive front to go along with both outside linebackers. Ball-hawking corner David Amerson is gone early to the NFL and leading tacklers Earl Wolff and Brandon Bishop are done.
With bombing quarterback Mike Glennon in the pros, the running game has to start carrying more of the weight. Shadrach Thornton will be the main back to go along with solid backup Tony Creecy, but who'll take over for Glennon? Manny Stocker is a good-looking passer, but Doeren is going to want to open up the competition. Quintin Payton goes from being a solid target to the No. 1 man with Tobias Palmer gone.
49. Fresno State (9-4)
A disastrous loss to SMU in the Hawaii Bowl should only serve as motivation for a team that turned things around in a big hurry in Tim DeRuyter's first season, and as soon as quarterback Derek Carr announced he was coming back for his senior year, the expectations became Mountain West title or bust. The return of Carr should help ease the pain of losing workhorse running back Robbie Rouse and most of the top backups. Davante Adams is one of the nation's best young receivers leading a potentially devastating corps. Three starters return up front, but center Richard Helepiko and left guard Matt Hunt are done. The defense gets eight starters back from a group that finished second in the nation in pass defense and ninth in sacks. Unfortunately, ball-hawking safety Phillip Thomas is one of the losses, as is big-tackling linebacker Travis Brown. Tyeler Davison, Nikko Motta, Andy Jennings and Todd Hunt form a nice rotation for the front three that needs to be stronger against the run.
50. Tennessee (5-7)
This could've been one of the hot teams of the 2013 season if all the parts to the passing game returned for new head coach Butch Jones to work with. It would've been nice if quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson were around to sling it around, but they're not, and life has to go on. The O line that finished fifth in the nation and first in the SEC in sacks allowed gets back four starters to try to protect likely new starting quarterback Justin Worley. Running back Rajion Neal will be a good one if he gets a little room to move, but several receivers have to step up to make up for the loss of all the stars.
The defense was a disaster, finishing last in the SEC in yards and points allowed, and it'll all start with a secondary that got torched on a weekly basis. Three starters return, and it would be a huge help if the pass rush could do more, even though Darrington Sentimore left early for the NFL. A.J. Johnson is one of the SEC's new superstar linebackers, and free safety Byron Moore is a keeper who'll play a big role in the rebuilding job.