CFN 2013 First Look Rankings
No. 11 to 20
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.
11. Oklahoma (10-3)
Things keep on humming along. Another good recruiting class is expected to come in, there's good talent in place, and the expectations will be Big 12 title or bust again. Is there enough to make a run for the BCS championship? That will depend on a few key replacements.
Blake Bell gets to make the transition from the Belldozer into the next great Sooner passer. At 6-6 and 254 pounds, he has the size, and now he's about to show why he's more than a bigger Collin Klein. He'll lose a few weapons, but Trey Metoyer has the skills to be a superstar target and Jalen Saunders is a potential No. 1 receiver. The biggest plus is a line that went through a slew of major lumps last year after suffering injury after injury. Now there's depth and talent led by Gabe Ikard, one of the nation's best centers.
The defense will have to survive without tackling machine Tony Jefferson at safety and linebacker Tom Wort in the middle, but the big problem early on will be in the middle of the line with the depth lacking and starters Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland gone. Top pass rusher Chuka Ndulue is back, but he's going to need lots of help in what should be an interesting offseason. The special teams lose a few key parts with punter Tress Way and punt returner Justin Brown done.
12. Florida State (12-2)
Yeah, 2012 was a tremendous success with an ACC title and an Orange Bowl win, but it still felt a bit empty. Gagging against NC State and losing at home to Florida put a damper on things, and getting Northern Illinois in the Orange was a bit of a disappointment. However, there's enough talent returning to hope for even more, even though a second straight conference title and another Orange Bowl win would be a success.
Can Clint Trickett be the man? The junior-to-be has a little success, but he has some huge quarterback shoes to fill with E.J. Manuel gone. Fortunately, he's surrounded by weapons with eight starters coming back to the nation's 19th best offense. The loss of top running back Chris Thompson to a torn ACL allowed Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. to get plenty of action to be ready to roll behind a line that returns four starters, but loses right tackle Menelik Watson early to the NFL. Receiver Rashad Greene is a rising star leading a corps that gets everyone back.
The defense that finished second in the nation and first in pass efficiency defense take a huge hit losing end Bjoern Werner and corner Xavier Rhodes early to the NFL. All four starters are gone up front, and superstar Brandon Jenkins, who missed the year hurt, chose to not take a medical redshirt and is gone to the next level. Also gone are linebackers Vince Williams and Nick Moody, meaning Christian Jones Telvin Smith have to shine. Kicker Dustin Hopkins was a weapon; he'll be missed.
13. Clemson (11-2)
Can the Tigers build off of their phenomenal comeback bowl win over LSU? Clemson might not have won the ACC title like it did in 2011, but in some ways it turned out to be a more successful season to set the tone what should be a whale of a 2013.
The decision of quarterback Tajh Boyd to return for his senior season instantly jacked up the expectations, Star receiver DeAndre Hopkins is gone early to the NFL, but Sammy Watkins returns following a disappointing sophomore year. If he returns to freshman form, the Tiger passing attack should be devastating. Top back Andre Ellington is gone, but four starters return up front to pave the way for Roderick McDowell and D.J. Howard.
Six starters return on defense, but leading tackler Jonathan Willard is gone along with safety Rashard Hall and corner Xavier Brewer. The hope for Vic Beasley to take on a bigger role up front after leading the team in sacks, while the tackles are set with Grady Jarrett, Josh Watson and DeShawun Williams forming a great young trio to work around. Linebackers Spencer Shuey and Quandon Christian are solid. Chandler Catanzaro will be among the nation's top kickers.
14. UCLA (9-5)
It was a terrific stepping-stone first year for Jim Mora, but now the starving Bruin fans want more success. Now there's hope and promise with a terrific recruiting class coming in and some dynamic returning players on both sides of the ball. The goal of going to a third straight Pac-12 title game won't be enough – the team should be good enough to get to the Rose Bowl.
The emergence of running back Johnathan Franklin was one of the biggest keys to the team's success, finishing ninth in the nation in rushing, and now it'll be up to Jordan James to handle more of the rushing workload. The passing attack will be the star with Brett Hundley quickly emerging as a special talent to revolve the offense around. Top receiver Shaq Evans will be featured even more with the loss of tight end Joseph Fauria and outside target Jerry Johnson. The O line might have been a disaster in pass protection, but three freshmen got the call up front. With four starters returning, the production should be there.
The defense has room for improvement, but the pass rush that became one of the bright spots should be terrific again with outside linebacker Anthony Barr and end Cassius Marsh leading the way. It's a deep line with lots and lots of size, while the linebacking corps should be a rock helped by the return of leading tackler Eric Kendricks. Only one starter – free safety Tevin McDonald – is back in the secondary. Veteran punter Jeff Locke will be missed.
15. Michigan State (7-6)
Let's try this again. The Spartans had all the pieces in place to finally get over the hump and get to the Rose Bowl, but close loss after close loss – losing five games by four points or fewer – it might not take a whole bunch of tweaking to be the team it was supposed to be last year. Everyone will be talking about Ohio State and Michigan, but MSU has every reason to believe it can win the conference title.
Running back Le'Veon Bell and tight end Dion Sims each left early for the NFL, and guard Chris McDonald is gone, but everyone else is back. Now the experience has to translate into production with quarterback Andrew Maxwell needing to be far more efficient – MSU finished last in the conference in passing efficiency – and he needs his receivers to be able to hang on to the ball. The big key will be replacing Bell, needing Nick Hill and/or Jeremy Langford to stand up and shine this offseason.
The defense loses William Gholston early to the NFL, and despite a few inconsistencies, corner Johnny Adams will be tough to replace. However, eight starters are back on the Big Ten's leader in total defense, scoring defense, run defense and pass efficiency defense – there won't be a drop-off, if any. Kicker Dan Conroy is a loss, but punter Mike Sadler will be a major positive for a team that could be the big storyline of the Big Ten season.
16. Washington (7-6)
Slowly but surely, Steve Sarkisian is building up the talent level with another great recruiting class coming in to build on the good recent hauls. This year, the Huskies have the firepower and the experience to make an honest run for the North title with 19 starters returning, and that's not counting punter and placekicker Travis Coons twice.
The offense was a major disappointment as quarterback Keith Price didn't have the next-level season Dawg fans were hoping for, but he's back for his third year as the main man, surrounded by nine other starters including bowl star Bishop Sankey at running back. Center Drew Schaefer is gone from the line, but everyone else is back – now they have to be far better in pass protection. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is one of the nation's top tight end, and Kasen Williams is a good-looking receiver who'll get more work.
The defense was the worst in the Pac-12 in tackles for loss, but Josh Shirley should be among the league's most dangerous ends and linebacker John Timu will be among the top tacklers. It was a young D last season with seven underclassmen playing key roles and now with more experience the results should be far different. Coons is a decent all-around kicker, but he hasn't proven to be an elite one.
17. Wisconsin (8-6)
Can Gary Andersen make it four Rose Bowls in a row, and can he possibly win one? It might not seem like it after the three defeats in Pasadena, but this has been a special time for a Wisconsin program that won the first two Big Ten championships and has found ways to get the job done when it has had to – at least before making the trip to California. The problem is that Ohio State is back and kicking, and Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska aren't going away.
As always, the Badgers will run the ball and run it well. Montee Ball is off to the NFL, but James White and Melvin Gordon can handle the load behind another massive line. Center Travis Frederick is leaving early for the next level and tackle Ricky Wagner is done, but three starters are back. Receiver Jared Abbrederis needs help from Jordan Fredrick, Kenzel Doe and Chase Hammond to get more from the passing game, and they need better quarterback play. Curt Phillips is gone after stepping in to right the ship, and this offseason will be a battle between Joel Stave and Danny O'Brien to be the main man.
The defense was the best in the Bret Bielema era, and it could be even better. Leader Mike Taylor is gone at linebacker, but Chris Borland is a big hitter in the middle and Ethan Armstrong is solid on the outside. All four starters are back up front along with nice backups for the rotation. The secondary is the problem with three starters gone and only free safety Dezmen Southward returning.
18. Stanford (12-2)
There's no way that David Shaw can keep the success going after a few tremendous years, can he? There are some key parts that need to be replaced – especially at tight end – but after winning eight straight games, the Pac-12 title and the Rose Bowl, the expectations are high to continue being a player in the conference chase.
The defense that led the nation in sacks and was second in tackles for loss gets back linebacker Trent Murphy and tough guy tackler Shayne Skov to get into the backfield once again on a regular basis, but playmaker Chase Thomas is done and corner Terrence Brown took off early for the NFL. Just about everyone else is back including end Ben Gardner and safeties Jordan Richards and Ed Reynolds. In all, depending on the alignment, as many as nine starters are back – the Cardinal D will be dominant.
Unlike last year, the offense has the quarterback situation settled going into the season with Kevin Hogan firmly entrenched as the main man. Massive tight ends Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz each took off early for the big leagues, and workhorse running back Stepfan Taylor needs to be replaced, but four starters are back on a line that should be among the best in the Pac-12. The passing game will be the early concern with the departure of starting receivers Drew Terrell and Jamal-Rashad Patterson, along with the tight ends.
19. Michigan (8-5)
It seems like the Wolverines have been a year away for a while now, and they might be a year away once again. Brady Hoke has done a whale of a job recruiting, and he could end up with the No. 1 class of 2013, but for this year, there are massive holes that need to be filled on both sides of the ball.
The emergence of Devin Gardner as the starting quarterback late in the year answers what looked like might be a huge question mark early in the season, but he needs more playmakers to work with. Receiver Jeremy Gallon is a start, but running back Fitzgerald Toussaint needs to be healthy and back to form. The coaching staff is going heavy on top linemen in the recruiting class, but the interior of the front five needs an overhaul. On the plus side, the Wolverines caught a gigantic break when Taylor Lewan chose to return for one more year.
The defense that became such a rock against the pass loses end Craig Roh and tackle Will Campbell, but three starters return to the secondary and Jake Ryan will be on the linebacker All-America short list. Hoke has built up the depth and there are decent options across the board, but more playmakers have to fill in around Ryan.
20. Nebraska (10-4)
Just forget about the last two games. The embarrassment against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship and the loss to Georgia in the bowl shouldn't overshadow the tremendous things the Huskers did in a thrilling season. The problem is that the program doesn't seem to be getting back to the days of being dominant on a national scale, but getting back to the Big Ten championship might be enough.
The offense that found a passing game with the improvement of Taylor Martinez should keep on rolling with nine starters potentially returning depending on the formation. Rex Burkhead is gone, but Ameer Abdullah proved last season that he could handle the work when needed. Four starters are back on the offensive front, and Kenny Bell is growing into one of the Big Ten's more dangerous receivers.
The defense has to do a ton of hole patching with seven starters gone from a group that finished fourth in the nation against the pass. Safeties Damion Stafford and P.J. Smith are gone, but all the corners are back. The linebacking corps is the biggest problem with the entire starting linebacking corps gone. Chase Rome found a bigger role late in the season at tackle and Jason Ankrah has to shine on one end. One of the team's biggest losses, though, is do-it-all kicker Brett Maher.