2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 21 to 30
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
Posted Aug 12, 2013

2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 21 to 30 - Potential Stars

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Potential Stars - No. 21 to 30

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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.

30. North Carolina
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Running Back

Offense: Carolina delivered one of its best offensive seasons in school history in its first year running head coach Larry Fedora's up-tempo, no-huddle spread. How potent might the Heels be now that they've had a full year to digest all of the nuances of the system? After ranking No. 8 nationally in scoring, Carolina has its sights set on even bigger aspirations. It returns triggerman Bryn Renner, one of the country's most efficient quarterbacks. Renner will no longer have the support of RB Giovani Bernard or three-fifths of his starting line, including All-American G Jonathan Cooper. However, the Heels have recruited very well in recent years, so there's no shortage of precocious players waiting in the wings. WR Quinshad Davis is a budding star, and the tight ends are as deep as any in the ACC. The line, while adapting to new faces, is strong in the foundation with all-league candidates James Hurst at left tackle and Russell Bodine at center.

Defense: Carolina's unique 4-2-5 defense performed sporadically, at best, in 2012; now it has to regroup without the services of its two best players, DT Sylvester Williams and LB Kevin Reddick. The Tar Heels are going to be challenged up the middle this fall, and capable on the outside. Teams that run the ball up the gut later this year will see noticeably more room than a year ago. However, throwing on Carolina could be a challenge. The Heels have one of the ACC's better pass rushers, DE Kareem Martin, and a Tre Boston-led secondary that returns four savvy and physical starters. If another outside rusher, like ‘Bandit' Norkeithus Otis, emerges, look out. The task for the D will be to shore up a run defense that is going to be vulnerable in the fall. The linebackers are unproven, and the interior of the line is short on elite stoppers.

29. Washington
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Secondary

Offense: In an attempt to reverse last season's tepid offensive results, the Huskies want to rev up the tempo and pick up the pace this season. The objective is simple—put QB Keith Price in a position to think less and react more as the pilot of the offense. Price suffered a major regression in 2012, part his doing and partially the result of poor protection. The encouraging news is that he's surrounded by outstanding skill position talent, and he's the same guy who performed at an All-Pac-12 level just two years ago. Helping him get out of a funk will be a dynamite collection of skill position players that includes RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams and star TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. However, the fate of the offense rests squarely on the shoulders of the blockers, a unit that had all kinds of problems keeping the pocket clean last fall. RT Ben Riva and LG Dexter Charles have anchor potential, but the group as a whole needs to stay healthy and improve their fundamentals.

Defense: Expectations are soaring for the Washington D entering 2013. Thank you, Justin Wilcox. Wilcox became the new coordinator last year, promptly transforming a team that finished 106th nationally in total defense to one that ranked 31st. It was a remarkable job for an upwardly-mobile assistant who'll continue to mix up his looks in order to keep offenses on their toes. And best of all, after using a gaggle of sophomores, just about everyone is back. In fact, of the seven Huskies to earn at least honorable mention All-Pac-12, only CB Desmond Trufant has graduated. U-Dub has budding talent at each level, such as NT Danny Shelton, LB Shaq Thompson and CB Marcus Peters. The key, though, will be for the D-line to generate more of a push this fall. Last year's unit lacked consistency, a big reason why the defense ranked No. 10 in the league in sacks and yards per carry yielded. There's cautious optimism that Wilcox might be the caretaker of the best Huskies' defense in over a decade.

28. Oregon State
Relative Strengths: Secondary, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Receiver

Offense: Cody Vaz or Sean Mannion? It's the question that'll dominate the football chatter around Corvallis for the next couple of months. Both veteran quarterbacks played last year, to mixed reviews, and neither was able to padlock the job in the spring. The closely-watched competition continues in August. Whoever gets the ball from Mike Riley will spend most of his fall looking for superstar WR Brandin Cooks, and handing the ball off to downhill runners Storm Woods and Terron Ward. The Beavers will again be balanced this season, keeping defenses on their heels with a mix of the run and the pass. They might also be salty at the point of attack for a change as well. Four starters return to the O-line, led by C Isaac Seumalo, LT Michael Philipp an RG Grant Enger. Oregon State is loaded with potential and physicality in the trenches, but now needs to block with more consistency in order to unleash the team's best skill position players.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Mark Banker and his Beavers helped initiate a complete defensive turnaround in 2012. Now they'd like to maintain that high level of play for the upcoming season. Oregon State went from 89th nationally in scoring D in 2011 to 22nd a year ago, properly leveraging all of its veteran talent. The 2013 edition welcomes back seven quality starters, such as all-league DE Scott Crichton and CB Rashaad Reynolds, and borderline all-stars in LB Michael Doctor and FS Ryan Murphy. There's enough talent and leadership for the Beavers to remain very feisty, though shoring up the middle of the D and replacing ball-hawking CB Jordan Poyer must be addressed in August. Oregon State will unveil new starters at defensive tackle, likely a pair of JUCO transfers, and at middle linebacker. Reynolds' partner in the secondary has yet to be decided, with underrated senior Sean Martin holding a razor-thin margin on another JUCO newcomer, Steven Nelson.

27. Arizona State
Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Receiver

Offense: Backfield? Check. Everywhere else? Check back at the end of the season. The Sun Devils offense was terrific a year ago, cranking out 464 balanced yards and 38 points per game. And with the returns of underrated QB Taylor Kelly and versatile backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster, expectations will again be very high for the attack. In fact, even more will be expected from the unit now that Kelly is entering his second season as the starter. However, ASU isn't without an offseason to-do list, the likes of which will become particularly poignant when facing Wisconsin, Stanford, USC, Notre Dame and UCLA. If this program is going to keep the pedal on the floor, and capture the Pac-12 South, it needs to develop pass-catching playmakers besides H-back Chris Coyle and plug holes in pass protection. Kelly was outstanding in 2012, but he'll raise the bar two notches higher with a little more support. To help address the issues, the Devils have moved starting G Jamil Douglas outside to right tackle, and they're bringing in a trio of JUCO receivers signed to contribute right away.

Defense: Then-rookie coordinator Paul Randolph used different looks last season, mixing his formations and personnel to fit the situation. And it largely worked. The Sun Devils were one of the Pac-12's top defenses of 2012, ranking No. 2 in total D. However, there were too many breakdowns late in the year, especially when the other guys committed to the run; Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State, USC and Arizona each hung at least 34 points on Arizona State. The program will begin this season with one of the nastiest and most aggressive D-lines in the league, if not the country, a unit bolstered by All-American candidates Will Sutton and Carl Bradford. The Devils are going to make a ton of plays in the backfield, but can they improve against the run? While LB Chris Young, S Alden Darby and CB Osahon Irabor are fixtures in the back seven, ASU needs LB Steffon Martin and the two new starters in the defensive backfield to step up and have a more profound impact when the opposition goes back to basics.

26. Louisville
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Defensive Line

Offense: As long as Teddy Bridgewater is healthy and calling out signals, Louisville's offense will be in very capable hands. The junior is one of the nation's premier quarterbacks, a steady-handed winner who has yet to even approach his full potential. Helping him get there in 2013 will be a deep and athletic collection of receivers that goes three-deep with weapons. Not only do three of last year's top four pass-catchers return, led by playmaker extraordinaire DeVante Parker, but Tennessee transfer Matt Milton, Florida transfers Gerald Christian and Robert Clark and five-star recruit James Quick are competing for reps as well. Always aiming for balance, the staff hopes to have leading rusher Senorise Perry back from an ACL injury in time for the opener. No matter when he returns, bruising 226-pound Dominique Brown is going to be a key part of the rotation. And the Aug. 2 addition of former Auburn star Michael Dyer could turn this once sore spot into a potential strength. The weakest link of the attack will again be the O-line. The unit isn't bad, but it isn't special either, and will play this year with a new center and left tackle.

Defense: Louisville should have been better on defense in 2012. And head coach Charlie Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford know it. The Cards weren't horrible, but they did drop from 17th nationally in scoring D to 36th a year ago. Plus, there were a few too many breakdowns, such as in the 45-26 loss to Syracuse. Little what this group did last year was satisfactory to a taskmaster, such as Strong, from finishing last in Big East sacks to picking off only 11 balls. The encouraging news is that just about everyone is back, and they're all eager to write a new chapter in 2013. The Cardinals will be led by a veteran D-line, LB Preston Brown and the dynamite safety tandem of Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith. After playing it a little safe a year ago, Bedford might want to take a few more chances with his linebackers and his safeties. The program has enough athletes, and has recruited well enough to be a risk-taker from time to time.

25. Mississippi State
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Secondary

Offense: Offensive coordinator Les Koenning has the skill and talent to work with to take the attack even further after a nice season. Cranking out 382 yards and 29.5 points per game might not seem like much, but in the SEC world the overall numbers were down-the-middle solid. The emergence of quarterback Tyler Russell took the passing game to another level, and he was helped by an improved line that did a nice job last year and welcomes back four starters including All-America-caliber guard Gabe Jackson. LaDarius Perkins leads a nice group of running backs that should shine behind the veteran line, but work needs to be done with a receiving corps that has to replace everyone. Tight end Malcolm Johnson should become a more dangerous factor, but the new starting receivers will be fine, too, with a little bit of time.

Defense: Get into the backfield and do nasty things. That's the demand from defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to his D that's full of veterans who struggled to get to the quarterback on a regular basis. This is a strong, athletic defense that should be able to use the front seven to swarm, and there's no excuse to not be better against the run with a great rotation up front. The secondary might be a bit of a concern after losing Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, and that's where the improved pass rush will hopefully kick in.

24. Missouri
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Secondary

Offense: The offense has a few different things happening at once. Missouri was at its best over the years in the Big 12 when the passing game was efficient and fast. However, injuries on the line and at quarterback – and a severe case of SECitis – became a problem with no consistency, no efficiency and not enough physical play. The call has gone out for the team to be tougher, and it'll start for offensive coordinator Josh Henson to get more out of a veteran line. Four starters are back, but it's not built to line up and blast away on anyone. The backfield should be better with a healthy James Franklin fighting for the starting quarterback job, and star running back Henry Josey back after spending more than a year off rehabbing a knee injury. The strength is a loaded receiving corps with a host of NFL-looking targets led by Dorial Green-Beckham.

Defense: Speed and athleticism aren't going to be a problem with quickness all across the board, but can the Tigers hold up against the power teams? The problem last year was a line that failed to get to the quarterback enough and didn't hold up against the powerful ground attacks. A massive disappointment, the secondary got ripped apart late in the year allowing over 1,200 yards with nine scores in the final three games, but corner E.J. Gaines leads a fast group that should be in for a better season if the line can start generating a pass rush. Sheldon Richardson is gone from the interior, but the ends should be terrific and the linebackers can fly. Getting around the ball will never be a problem, but it's time to get more physical.

23. Nebraska
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Linebacker

Offense: The offense that was so devastating and consistent on the ground should be even better with the return of quarterback Taylor Martinez and a strong group of backs led by the ultra-quick Ameer Abdulah and the strong Imani Cross. Not the typical Husker attack, Martinez has grown into a stronger passer, and he has the receiving corps to take advantage of his skills with Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa and Jamal Turner forming a terrific trio. Tight end is a slight concern after losing Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed, but Jake Long should be good with more attention. The line has a good foundation starting with all-star candidate Spencer Long at guard, but it needs to be a bit more consistent in pass protection.

Defense: The defense was hit-or-miss last season, and while most of the world remembers the meltdown against the Wisconsin running game and the disaster against the Georgia passing attack to close down the year, things weren't all that bad. However, it's going to take some work to revamp a defensive front that loses all the starting linebackers and needs to find a pass rush from the outside. It'll be a work in progress at linebacker, but the ends should be fine with a little bit of time. The tackles aren't huge, but they're quick; now they have to start getting into the backfield. The secondary is the biggest strength with too many good corners to know what to do with. There are holes at safety, but finding veteran defensive backs to fill the void shouldn't be much of an issue.

22. Ole Miss
Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Secondary

Offense: The offense that was trying to put the pieces together in Hugh Freeze's first year should be far sharper and more explosive with eight starters returning along with a slew of terrific new recruits for offensive coordinators Matt Luke and Dan Werner to play around with. The quarterback situation that was a bit of a question mark going into last season should be settled with Bo Wallace at the helm, but he has to cut down on his interceptions and needs more time to work behind a leaky line. The offensive front gets back four starters, but it has to be far better in pass protection. Jeff Scott leads a lightning-fast group of young and talented runners, while Donte Moncrief should be an All-SEC talent in a receiving corps that gets everyone back.

Defense: Why did Ole Miss go from 2-10 to 7-6? The defense made a night-and-day improvement with a massive turnaround in the pass rush and with more production against the run going from last in the SEC to allowing almost 100 fewer yards per game. Defensive coordinators Jason Jones and Dave Wommack bring the heat with a smallish line full of speedsters able to fly into the backfield from all spots. End C.J. Johnson leads a loaded line, but the tackles are a bit light. Denzel Nkemdiche and Mike Marry head a brilliant group of linebackers who can pop. The secondary gets back everyone of note, but the pass defense has to be stronger against the deep plays considering the pass rush will do the job up front.

21. Michigan
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Offensive Line

Offense: The production will be fine, but this is a stepping-stone season to what should be a phenomenal 2014. However, now the coaching staff gets to do what it wants. It's not like anyone was crying about having Denard Robinson at quarterback, but the coaching staff had to adjust to a style it didn't really want to run. With Devin Gardner taking over late in the season, he started to show what the Michigan offense could potentially do. The passing game should be even crisper and more dangerous, even with a slightly above-average receiving corps that should be decent, but not elite. The running game depends on several X factors including the health of Fitzgerald Toussaint and the emergence of true freshman Derrick Green working behind a promising line that needs to revamp the interior.

Defense: After the disasters in the Rich Rodriguez era, getting good defensive production is never taken for granted. Coordinator Greg Mattison has done a nice job, but it's going to take some patience and some work to make a decent D a lot better with top pass rusher Jake Ryan hurting with a torn ACL and with few true superstars to rely on right away. The talent is there, but it's in the form of underclassmen who need time and seasoning. For this year, there's a nice base to work around with a potentially strong rotation on the ends around a good tackle pair in Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black. The secondary will be decent statistically, but it only finished fifth in the nation against the pass because there weren't many offenses on the slate that could throw. Overall this will be a very good, very sound defense that needs to force more turnovers and has to find more disruptive parts, but it could get exposed by a hot offense. On the plus side, the future is tremendous after a phenomenal recruiting class to build on an already exceptional base of young talent.

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