2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 11 to 20
Michigan State LB Max Bullough
Michigan State LB Max Bullough
Posted Aug 12, 2013

2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 11 to 20 - BCS Contenders

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BCS Contenders - No. 11-20

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2013 CFN Preseason Rankings
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 125 
 - CFN Preseason Rankings 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007  
- Preview 2013 - All The Team & Conference Previews

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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 125.

20. TCU
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Linebacker

Offense: No, it’s not going to be an explosive attack that hangs punch-for-punch in shootouts against the elite teams, but that’s not going to be its job. The offense wasn’t bad considering it lost starting quarterback Casey Pachall early on to suspension and starting running back Waymon James to injury. The line that was mediocre and inconsistent gets three starters back, but it’s young and needs more work and seasoning; it’s not physical enough. However, the skill players should be terrific with Pachall back to battle with Trevone Boykin for the starting job, and with James returning to join a crowded backfield full of quick and talented runners. No. 1 target Josh Boyce will be missed, but it should be a consistent and decent group of midrange targets who’ll take turns being the main man.

Defense: The TCU defense slipped two years ago in the last year of playing in the Mountain West, so how was it going to do in its first season in the Big 12? No. 1. The Horned Frogs led the Big 12 in total defense and run defense, and wasn’t bad against the pass. Now comes the scary part – almost everyone is back. All five starters return in the secondary, including ball-hawking corner Jason Verrett, while Devonte Fields and Chucky Hunter are terrific linemen who’ll end up on the All-Big 12 team. In all, nine starters return to the 4-2-5 alignment, and while losing end Stansly Maponga and leading-tackler Kenny Cain at linebacker isn’t a plus, with nine starters returning, there’s no reason to expect any sort of a slip.

19. Notre Dame
Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Running Back, Receiver

Offense: The offense under coordinator Chuck Martin wasn’t all that explosive, but it was effective, clutch and worked just well enough to get by. There’s speed at running back, but losing Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood will be a problem unless a few new recruits can shine right away. The superstar freshmen are in the receiving corps and at tight end, but they’re going to need time to work their way in with a decent group of veterans led by No. 1 target T.J. Jones. The line will be a positive with Zack Martin and Christian Lombard back at tackle, and they’re going to need to be effective to keep Tommy Rees upright. There are decent quarterback options with Everett Golson suspended, but it’s Rees who’ll have to take his game to another level.

Defense: All of a sudden, the Irish defense did everything it was supposed to do and more, and now it could be even better despite the loss of Manti Te’o. The front three should be fantastic with Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt two All-America caliber linemen, while the linebacking corps won’t have any problems picking up the slack without No. 5 around with three returning starters and good options ready to fill in. The biggest difference could be the secondary that began last season devastated by injuries and other issues and now returns loaded with experience. No, this might be the nation’s No. 2 scoring D again, and it might start to struggle a wee bit more against the run, but it should be dominant at times.

18. Wisconsin
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Receiver

Offense: No, Wisconsin isn’t going to start running the Utah State read-option attack, and no, it’s not going to go into five-wide formations are start winging the ball all over the yard. New offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig knows how to run a pro-style offense from his time at San Diego State, and he has a good base of players to do what Wisconsin normally does. It all starts up front with yet another massive line that should be fine in time, but was a disappointment last year despite pacing the way for over 3,300 yards of rushing offense. Montee Ball is gone, but the combination of James White and Melvin Gordon should pick up the rushing slack, while the return of Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen provides two veteran targets for one of the five quarterback options to throw to. Joel Stave is the likely No. 1, but Curt Phillips and JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy will be deep in the hunt for the starting gig.

Defense: The six-loss season dimmed the strong season by a Badger defense that finished 15th in the nation, was great against the run, and 18th against the pass. It’s not like the D faced a who’s who of offensive juggernauts, but overall it was still a great year allowing more than 21 points just four times. It was good, but the new coaching staff is going to tinker to try making it better with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda switching things up to a 3-4. The result should be a brick wall of a front three with nose tackle Beau Allen anchoring a big, strong front. Chris Borland is back as part of a deep and talented linebacking corps that will get by just fine without Mike Taylor, while several great new replacements appear ready to step in and shine with three starters gone from the secondary.

17. Virginia Tech
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Offensive Line

Offense: Bryan Stinespring has been reassigned to the delight of Hokies fans. The job of turning around the offense now belongs to Scot Loeffler. Loeffler was brought aboard for a number of reasons, mainly to tinker with erratic QB Logan Thomas. But the remade staff has concerns that extend beyond a single player. Last year’s unit was toothless, ranking 81st nationally in scoring and total offense. Thomas was the focal point of the ineptitude, but the ground game also slumped and the O-line played poorly. Loeffler wants to spread the field this year, but schemes won’t matter if the holdovers don’t execute at a higher level. The line remains a question mark, especially at tackle, and there’s a serious power shortage at the skill positions. J.C. Coleman heads an anonymous backfield, and two of the most productive receivers in school history need to be replaced. The arrival of Loeffler as Stinespring’s replacement ought to help light a spark under an anemic Tech attack. Is it possible, though, that the program has had output problems lately because the personnel is only slightly better than average?

Defense: Losing just two starters from a defense that ranked No. 18 nationally in 2012 has Virginia Tech poised to once again stand among the FBS’ surliest and stingiest units. Coordinator Bud Foster is one of the best in the business, crafting attacking, fundamentally-sound groups that yield very little ground. The 2013 edition will be no exception. The Hokies are going to be especially tough to throw on, the byproduct of a terrific pass rush and a lockdown secondary. Up front, Tech will pressure the pocket from all angles with ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins and tackles Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy. The defensive backfield boasts just as much talent, though All-ACC CB Antone Exum is making his way back from an offseason ACL injury. The linebackers need someone to step up and provide a little support for tackling machine Jack Tyler. Tariq Edwards has the requisite talent to be that guy, but was never quite healthy enough to deliver a year ago. The Hokies are going to be dynamite once again this year on D.

16. Oklahoma State
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Special Teams

Offense: The pressure is on new offensive coordinator Mike Yurich to fill some very, very big shoes. Expect a lot more of the same, but even more four-wide sets to take advantage of all the receiver talent led by Josh Stewart and helped by the return of Tracy Moore. The line will be terrific again after the right combination is found, and the combination of running backs Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland should make up for the loss of Joseph Randle, but the key to the season will be the quarterback call. Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt all saw time last year and all got an equal shot at the gig, but Mike Gundy isn’t letting on who the No. 1 will be even with Lunt choosing to transfer. No matter what, there will be a quarterback controversy.

Defense: Get ready for the new and improved Oklahoma State defense. It hasn’t been as bad as the stats, but it’s time for the secondary to stop being a punching bag. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has put the call out to start bringing the heat from all sides, and that means more blitzing and a lot more attacking. Fortunately, there’s enough speed, quickness and experience to do just that. However, the stars could be at tackle, where Calvin Barnett and James Castleman should be rocks. Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey are two excellent linebackers to work around, while the safety tandem of Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary should be among the best in the Big 12. With the pass rush, the corners have to be able to handle themselves, and Justin Gilbert and the speedy Kevin Peterson need to make big plays.

15. South Carolina
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Receiver

Offense: The offense is more efficient and effective than dangerous and explosive, but there’s enough speed at receiver and enough quickness at running back to change that a bit. While Marcus Lattimore might have been an elite talent before getting hurt, the new rotation of running backs could combine to become more effective and more dangerous. There’s no questioning the speed and athleticism at receiver, but the consistency has to be there to help out the quarterbacks. Connor Shaw is the starter, but Dylan Thompson is No. 1A with the experience and talent to do even more in a rotation. The line is huge and experienced, but it’s not going to pass block against the quicker lines and has to start consistently playing up to its bulk.

Defense: There might be some key losses with linebackers Shaq Wilson and Reginald Bowens gone along with key playmakers DeVonte Holloman and D.J. Swearinger, but the defense that finished 11th in the nation and 13th in scoring defense is loaded again with tremendous athletes and lots and lots of speed. The spotlight is going to be on Jadeveon Clowney and his big campaign, but he’s not the only pass rusher on the front four. After leading the SEC in sacks, there should be more of the same with all the linemen able to get to the quarterback. The secondary will be a strength, helped by the return of corners Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree, but the linebacking corps needs to undergo a few changes and needs some of the great prospects to turn into steady producers.

14. Clemson
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Secondary

Offense: QB Tajh Boyd put off the NFL for another college season. Coordinator Chad Morris, the architect of the up-tempo, no-huddle attack, passed on offers to become a head coach. Life is good for the Clemson offense, though there are holes that still need to be filled before the opener with Georgia. The Tigers ranked in the top 10 nationally in total and scoring offense in 2012, averaging 512 yards and 41 points, respectively. However, three key members of Boyd’s supporting cast, RB Andre Ellington, WR DeAndre Hopkins and C Dalton Freeman, are now working toward NFL careers. In order to remain one of the country’s most potent and feared offenses, it’s incumbent upon the next generation of skill position players to step up. Senior Roderick McDowell is slated to take over at running back, earning a starting gig for the first time in his career. And budding receivers Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant need to absorb some heat from superstar Sammy Watkins, who’s aiming to recapture his Freshman All-American form of 2011.

Defense: After taking a much-needed step forward in Brent Venables’ first season as coordinator, Clemson is determined to further improve in 2013. The Tigers went from 81st in scoring D to a more respectable 48th a year ago. Now, even with personnel changes, especially in the secondary, the program expects to be better since the holdovers should have a tighter grasp on the system and the staff. Venables will be working with a bunch of familiar faces, yet no slam-dunk superstars. A bunch of Tigers, though, such as DE Vic Beasley, DT Grady Jarrett, LB Stephone Anthony and FS Travis Blanks, are closing in on hitting their lofty ceilings. The program continues to recruit extremely well, filling the pipeline with some of the Eastern Seaboards premier young talent. Clemson figures to be sound in the front seven after using so many underclassmen last season. However, the secondary is a worry for Venables and his assistants. Three regulars are gone from a group that gave up too many big plays through the air in 2012.

13. Michigan State
Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Quarterback

Offense: The Spartans won’t have Le’Veon Bell around to carry the offense anymore. The painfully inefficient passing game will have to start pulling its weight, and it’ll start with the receivers catching everything coming their way. On the plus side, all the top wideouts are back, and while the quarterback situation has to be settled, there’s plenty of talent and enough experience to expect more from an offense that finished last in the Big Ten and 112th in the nation in passing efficiency. Losing Bell hurts, but the rotation of smallish, quick backs could combine to do even more. The biggest positive is a line that should be among the best in the conference if everyone can stay healthy. With the return of tackle Fou Fonoti, technically, five starters are back for a unit that should be a force for the ground game.

Defense: The expectations were high after finishing sixth in the nation and first in the Big Ten in total defense, and the Spartans more than met them finishing fourth in the nation in total defense allowing just 274 yards per game. There wasn’t much of a pass rush, but the run D didn’t suffer a lick giving up just six scores and 1,282 yards – expect more of the same. Linebacker Max Bullough leads a nasty front seven that should continue to dominate against the ground attack, but a steady pass rusher has to emerge. The secondary is loaded with a good combination of experience and promise. The corner situation might be even stronger with the emergence of some great young prospects, while Isaiah Lewis and Kurtis Drummond form an all-star caliber safety tandem.

12. USC
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Offensive Line

Offense: It’s the start of a new era on offense for USC, as coordinator Clay Helton takes command of the offense, and as life after four-year starting QB Matt Barkley begins. While Helton has been promoted, it remains to be seen if he’ll take any of the play-calling duties away from head coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin is hoping to steal a page from the glory days of Trojans football by running the ball with authority and physicality. Barkley is one of just three starters that need to be replaced, including WR Robert Woods and C Khaled Holmes. The biggest storyline of the summer will be the battle to be Barkley’s heir apparent, likely either Cody Kessler or Max Wittek. The winner’s transition will be eased by the presence of Marqise Lee, the nation’s foremost wide receiver, and gifted tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer. Silas Redd is back for his second—and final—year at Troy, determined to become one of the Pac-12’s top backs. And while the line brings back four starters, experience alone won’t be enough in 2013. The staff is demanding that the blockers are more physical and forceful than in recent seasons.

Defense: Three games defined the 2012 season for the D, losses to Arizona, Oregon and UCLA, in which the opposition averaged 46 points. Change was unavoidable. Lane Kiffin shook up his staff in the offseason, replacing dad Monte at coordinator with Clancy Pendergast. Pendergast will be a seminal figure at Troy this year, as he attempts to maximize the returning talent, while managing ongoing issues pertaining to depth. The new coach, who knows his way around the Pac-12 from his days at Cal, has already turned the defense on its ear. The Trojans have spent the offseason digesting the intricacies of a 5-2 defense that will be far more aggressive than it was in recent years. The tackles are now ends, the ends are outside linebackers and two-year starting LB Dion Bailey is playing strong safety. Pendergast is methodically tinkering with all aspects of a unit that can no longer afford to underachieve. By design, USC figures to be very strong on the perimeter, encouraging news for slowing down spread attacks. Ends Leonard Williams and George Uko are big and quick, like predatory cats. And outside linebackers Morgan Breslin and Devon Kennard, who missed all of 2012 with an injury, are hybrids being asked to pounce from off the edge.

11. Ohio State
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Linebacker

Offense: It seems crazy that the Ohio State offense was 107th in the nation two years ago. More effective than dangerous, even after leading the Big Ten in scoring offense, the Buckeye attack should be far more explosive with so much firepower returning led by Heisman-favorite quarterback Braxton Miller. The backfield has a deep stable of running backs that should do even more behind a veteran line with four starters returning, with the goal being to take some of the rushing workload away from Miller to keep him fresh. The experience receiving corps has pop and explosion with Corey Brown and Devin Smith forming a potentially deadly tandem. But it all comes down to Miller, and offensive coordinator Tom Herman knows how to get big things out of a mobile quarterback.

Defense: The defense will be more than fine. Inconsistent last year, it has to undergo a major overhaul losing six starters in the front seven, but Ohio State being Ohio State has more than enough top talents waiting in the wings. However, the real stars are in the recruiting class with linebacker Mike Mitchell, end Joey Bosa and safety Vonn Bell among the best in the nation in their respective positions. Ryan Shazier is a special linebacker who’ll earn all-star honors, and the safety combination of C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant will be fine helping out top corner Bradley Roby, but the line has to perform with the spotlight on and Curtis Grant has to finally pay off at middle linebacker.

2013 CFN Preseason Rankings
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 125 
 - CFN Preseason Rankings 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007  
- Preview 2013 - All The Team & Conference Previews