CFN 2013 First Look Rankings
No. 21 to 30
2013 CFN First Look Rankings
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Past CFN First Look Rankings
CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason Rankings By Conference
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- Based On Opinion ... CFN 2012
FINAL Rankings, Top 25
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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.
21. Ole Miss (7-6)
The overall talent might not be in place for Hugh Freeze to win the loaded SEC West, but his Rebels might have just enough to come really, really close. After a great rebound year with impressive wins over Mississippi State and Pitt to close things out. Now the sky’s the limit for one of the nation’s most experienced teams. For good and bad, the NFL talent wasn’t there to leave early compared to other SEC teams, but that’s going to change.
Nine starters are back on each side of the ball, starting with quarterback Bo Wallace leading an offense that started to find its groove late in the year. Jeff Scott is a solid back, Donte Moncrief is a dangerous target, and the line should be better with four starters returning and as much depth as it’s had in several years.
The defense was among the best in the nation at getting into the backfield, leading the SEC and finishing fourth in tackles for loss. Ends C.J. Johnson and Cameron Whigham should camp out in opposing backfields, while Mike Marry and Denzel Nkemdiche form one of the league’s best linebacking tandems. Depending on the formation, nine starters are back on the D, with everyone back in a secondary that struggled considering all the help from the front line.
22. Notre Dame (12-1)
BCS championship appearances will come on a regular basis now, right? Not quite. Brian Kelly is improving the talent level by leaps and bounds, but it’s still going to take a little while to revamp a team that relied so heavily on veterans and seniors last season. However, there are plenty of great young talents – helped by a terrific recruiting class – to expect another great year and at least another run to a BCS game.
The offense has to replace just about every key star of note, but the one area that’s stocked deep is quarterback. All the options are back, but it’s still Everett Golson’s team to run until further notice. Will George Atkinson III play a bigger role for the running game? He’ll have to, but it could be tough to find room to move behind a retooled interior of the line that loses center Braxston Cave and guard Mike Golic. Tyler Eifert is off to the next level, but Ben Koyack has the look of the next great Irish tight end to take take some of the heat off of No. 1 receiver TJ Jones.
The defense should once again be a rock despite the loss of Manti Te’o and end Kapron Lewis-Moore. The secondary that had to undergo so many changes on the fly should be more settled with corners Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell coming into the year as veterans who’ll know what they’re doing. The combination of linemen Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt should be as good as any in the nation.
23. USC (7-6)
Call 2012 the regression to the mean. The Trojans weren’t as good as many thought in 2011, and they weren’t as bad as they seemed last year – losing Matt Barkley was a big deal – and now everyone gets to see 1) if Lane Kiffin can guide the team through adversity, again, and 2) if the fan base will be patient enough to get through another year or two until the terrific recruiting classes can start to mature.
Can Max Wittek play? The 6-4, 235-pounder has all the tools and all the talent to be the next great USC quarterback, and he has Marqise Lee to throw to, but he needs to be a lot better than he was against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech to close out the year. The offensive line should be terrific with four starters returning – only losing center Khaled Holmes – and Silas Redd should bust out and be an All-America caliber back. In all, nine offensive starters are back from the bowl loss, and there should be more consistency if the depth can be counted on.
Eight starters are back on the defensive side with three starters returning to a front line that finished fourth in the nation in sacks. Dion Bailey is a terrific linebacker and Lamar Dawson is a potential killer in the middle, but the defense has to be much, much more physical and far stronger against the run. Safeties T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling are gone, but corners Nickell Robey and Josh Shaw are back.
24. Oklahoma State (8-5)
2012 was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and the youth and inexperience showed at times in close losses to Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor, but the firepower was still there for the nation’s third-ranked scoring offense. This season, watch out.
The Cowboys have some big decisions to make, particularly at quarterback with Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt all proving last season they could play. The won’t have Joseph Randle to hand off to, but Josh Stewart and Blake Jackson are emerging as one of the Big 12’s most dangerous receiving tandems. The line loses guard Lane Taylor, but three starters are back along with enough good options to play around with the lineup.
The defense that has been such a problem at times under Mike Gundy actually took a big step forward last year, finishing in the middle of the conference pack. Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey are sound veteran linebackers, while Shamiel Gary will be one of the Big 12’s top-tackling defensive backs in a promising secondary. While the team is improving and should be stronger, it’ll have a hard time replacing Quinn Sharp, the nation’s best all-around kicker.
25. Miami (7-5)
Miami, this is the year to actually take the chances that are there – don’t give back this one. With ten starters returning to each side of the ball, Al Golden has an experienced team that should know what it’s doing. The defense has to be far, far stronger and the offense more consistency, but the pieces are there to challenge for the ACC title.
The offense rolled by the end of the year, putting up 162 points in the final four games hanging 40 on both Virginia and South Florida and 52 on Duke. The passing attack was deadly and the ground game found its groove. Running back Mike James is the only loss, but his absence should only open up more chances for lightning bolt leading rusher, Duke Johnson. Stephen Morris started to take the offense by the horns, and he should be in for a huge year working behind Seantrel Henderson at a strong line that should gel into one of the ACC’s best. Phillip Dorsett will be the No. 1 target in a deep receiving corps.
Can the defense tackle anyone? Dead last in the ACC total defense and run defense, and with no pass rush whatsoever, there’s lots and lots of work to do. Corner Brandon McGee is the only loss, and while there are some question marks about whether or not everyone can play, only two players are gone off the three-deep depth chart. Linebacker Denzel Perryman will likely be among the team’s leading tacklers again, while end Anthony Chickillo should be the top pass rusher.
26. Northwestern (10-3)
The Wildcats won ten games and finally came up with a bowl victory, but the season was even better than that. There but for two big pass plays against Nebraska and Michigan went a possible shot at the Big Ten championship, but still, it really was a great year for a program that keeps finding ways to produce under Pat Fitzgerald. The talent is there to potentially do even more.
Eight starters are back on offense, highlighted by the combination of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian at quarterback. Venric Mark never quite got his due as a jack-of-all-trades running back, but that should change this year as he becomes the likely signature star of a rising team. All the receivers are back, and all the top runners return, including Colter, but the line needs some retooling with three starters gone.
The defense needs more from the secondary, and that should come with Ibraheim Campbell a lock for all-star honors at safety and both corners Daniel Jones and Nick VanHoose coming back. The pass rush could stand to be a little bit better up front with Quentin Williams gone on the end. Damien Proby is a big tackling force in the middle, while Chi Chi Ariguzo is a promising strongside defender who should once again be one of the team’s leaders in tackles for loss. Kicker Jeff Budzeim is a rock.
27. Kansas State (11-2)
Okay, this has been a fun ride and an interesting resurgence, but enough is enough, right? Maybe not.
Collin Klein is gone, but Daniel Sams and Sam Johnson are interesting options to fight for the starting quarterback job. John Hubert will be even more involved in a workhorse role behind a terrific O line that welcomes back all five starters. The passing game might take a bit of a hit, and losing tight end Travis Tannahill hurts, but the running game will work like usual.
Snyder always finds ways to fill in the gaps on defense, but he’ll have to do more work than normal with the entire front seven – including linebacker Arthur Brown – gone. The safeties should be solid – Ty Zimmerman is an all-star lock – but corners Allen Chapman and Nigel Malone are gone. Tyler Lockett will be one of the nation’s premier kick and punt returners again, but kicker Anthony Cantele and punter Ryan Doerr have to be replaced.
28. North Carolina (8-4)
Larry Fedora put together a nice year considering the team wasn’t eligible for anything, and now it’s time to shine again. With a whopper of a recruiting class coming in to go along with a veteran team, the future is bright for a Tar Heel program still trying to fight through its probation. If eligible, it would’ve played for the ACC title last season, and now it should be ready to battle for the Coastal and a shot at the championship.
With all-star running back Giovani Bernard leaving early for the NFL, the offense will revolve even more around quarterback Bryn Renner, who’ll be on showcase for pro scouts all year. The receiving corps needs Sean Tapley and Quinshad Davis to do more with the loss of Erik Highsmith, while it’ll be up to the combination of A.J. Blue and one of the nation’s top kickoff returners, Romar Morris, to make up for the loss of Bernard. Guard Jonathan Cooper is almost certainly going to be a first round draft pick, and big right tackle Travis Bond is gone, but James Hurst is back at left tackle to lead an excellent line.
The defense that was so good at getting into the backfield has to replace middle linebacker Kevin Reddick and end Dion Guy, but Kareem Martin returns at one end and Tim Jackson is back on the nose. The entire secondary is back led by free safety Tre Boston and corners Jabari Price and Darin Rankin.
29. Arizona State (8-5)
Todd Graham put together a terrific first season with three wins to close things out including a 62-28 stomping of Navy in the bowl and a rivalry victory over Arizona. The offense finished second in the Pac-12 in scoring, while the defense led the nation in tackles for loss and was second in sacks.
Eight starters return to the balanced offense, led by rising star quarterback Taylor Kelly along with Michael Eubank, who saw his share of time and should be more than ready if needed. Running back Cameron Marshall is gone, but Marion Grice ended up leading the team in rushing and turned into a nice receiver. Leading target Chris Coyle is back in an H-back role, but wide outs Rashad Ross and Jamal Miles have to be replaced.
Will Sutton, a terror of a defensive tackle, put off the NFL for another year, and the rest of the defensive line is back including pass rusher Carl Bradford on the outside. Leading tackler Brandon Magee is done, but the rest of the linebacking corps is back. Corner Oshahon Irabor and safety Alden Darby will anchor a pass defense that led the Pac-12 and finished third in the nation. The Pac-12 leading punting game loses Josh Hubner.
30. Arizona (8-5)
The first year under Rich Rodriguez was a success winning eight times and finishing off with a thrilling bowl victory over Nevada. The offense worked, the defense didn’t, and now it’s going to take a little more work to become just consistent enough to make some more noise in the Pac-12 South. Being loaded with experience should help the cause.
The defense that was the fifth-worst in college football and sixth-worst in pass defense took its lumps, but there’s a chance to make a big jump up with all 11 starters back on defense. Not only are all the No. 1s returning, so are all the twos led by pass rusher Marquis Flowers on the strongside while middle linebacker Jake Fischer should be among the Pac-12’s top tacklers.
Of course, it’s all about the offense, and the spotlight will be on the nation’s leading rusher, Ka’Deem Carey. The quarterback situation has to be settled after losing Matt Scott, but Austin Hill is a top target to help make B.J. Denker or Richard Morrison shine. Three starters – including tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele – are back.