2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 61 to 70
Kansas RB James Sims
Kansas RB James Sims
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 12, 2013


2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 61 to 70 - Searching For A Bowl


Preview 2013 - Rankings

Searching For A Bowl - No. 61 to 70

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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.

70. California
Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Running Back

Offense: With the arrival of inventive head coach Sonny Dykes and coordinator Tony Franklin comes a spread attack that features a lot of power running and play-action passing out of shotgun formations. Cal is going to be up-tempo, looking to dictate the pace of the game. Welcome to the new Bear Raid offense in Berkeley. Does the program have the personnel to adequately impersonate Dykes’ Louisiana Tech squad, which led the FBS in scoring in 2012? Not quite. The quarterbacks are green, with redshirt freshman Zach Kline the favorite to be at the controls in September. There’s a lot to like about the skill position players, such as RB Brendan Bigelow and an exciting corps of receivers led by Bryce Treggs, but they must remain healthy. Operating out of the shotgun will give the quarterbacks an extra second or two to survey the field and find the open man. Good thing, too, since the retooled O-line had all kinds of problems protecting the pocket last year.

Defense: The big news on defense this year is that under the direction of coordinator Andy Buh, the Bears are shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-3 alignment. For Cal, it means that a number of last season’s outside linebackers, like Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett, are moving down a level to defensive end. It also means there’s a greater need for tackles Deandre Coleman, Mustafa Jalil and Vili Moala to rise up and shut down the gaps that were exploited with such regularity in 2012. The program harbors talent. It often does. But somehow, last fall’s results need to be reversed. Cal was clueless down the stretch, allowing 121 points in just the final two games. The D is better than it looked a year ago. It’ll be up to Buh and his assistants to prove it with a reworked unit breaking in three new starters in the secondary.

69. Kansas
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Quarterback
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Defensive Line

Offense: The running game couldn’t have been more of a pleasant surprise in the first season under Charlie Weis, with James Sims and company rumbling for 2,540 yards and 19 touchdowns even though everyone knew what was coming. The passing game couldn’t have been more of a stunning disaster, finishing dead last in the nation in passing efficiency with just seven touchdown passes and 13 picks. Fortunately, help is on the way with former BYU superstar recruit Jake Heaps set to take over at quarterback and with several good new receivers coming into the mix to play right away. The offensive line might need some retooling, but three JUCO transfers will help in the transition to pave the way for Sims and one of the Big 12’s best stables of backs.

Defense: JUCO, JUCO, JUCO. After a disastrous 2012 season allowing 482 yards and 36 points per game and doing nothing with the pass rush, the defense needed to undergo an overhaul. The secondary needs the most work after losing all four starters – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – and now it’s up to a few big corners from the JUCO ranks to hold up right away under fire. Chris Martin is a special defensive end prospect and Marquel Combs could be an anchor after spending their last few seasons prepping and the lower level, and the linebacking corps is getting a little instant help, too. Ben Heeney is a nice middle linebacker to work around, and there are just enough veterans from last season to not have to start from scratch, but any and all improvements have to come from the newcomers.

68. Iowa State
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Defensive Line

Offense: The Cyclones haven’t been able to keep up the pace with the other Big 12 offenses over the years – they just don’t have the firepower or the talent – but they’ve been effective enough at times to get by. Consistency is always an issue, and finding one thing that works is a problem, but it’s a surprising attack once in a while. This season the key should be an overhauled receiving corps that loses the top three targets. However, Ernst Brun and the tight ends are a positive, and quarterback Sam Richardson is an emerging dual threat star. James White and the deep stable of backs are experienced, ultra-quick and talented, but they all need more room to work behind a veteran line that should be good if injuries don’t strike. There’s potential a wideout, but it could take a little while to come together for an offense that finished second-to-last in the Big 12 in yards, points and rushing.

Defense: Everyone struggles in the Big 12 defensively when the top offenses start to get rolling, but the Cyclones need to start doing more to take over games. It will start with the pass rush that completely and totally disappeared over the second half of last year, but needs to find someone from the outside who can get to the quarterback on a regular basis. The secondary might be better than the stats, needing help from the line to get to the quarterback. The safety situation might be the strength of the defense, and the corner rotation should be strong with a little bit of time. The big focus, though, will be at linebacker with Jake Knott and A.J. Klein gone. Fortunately, there are talented prospects returning who’ll put up big numbers.

67. San Diego State
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Secondary

Offense: New offensive coordinator Bob Toledo should add a little more pop to an attack that all but eliminated the passing game at times over the second half of the year, but was dominant on the ground. Adam Muema returns in the backfield and should have another All-America-caliber season behind a good line with a nice base of veterans returning. Adam Dingwell took over the starting quarterback job over the second half of last season and did a decent job, but he threw a few too many picks and didn’t involve the receiving corps enough. Star tight end Gavin Escobar is gone, but wideouts Colin Lockett and Ezell Ruffin should be far more explosive in the new-look offense that will emphasize more downfield passing

Defense: Rocky Long is one whale of a defensive coach. The head man took over the coordinator job a few years ago, and the results came through last season leading the Mountain West against the run and allowing a paltry 369 total yards per game. The front six of the 3-3-5 alignment should be terrific with everyone returning to the smallish, athletic front three and Jake Fely and Derek Largent two devastating pass rushing linebackers. The safeties will be a strength with Nat Berhe one of the league’s best hitters, but the cornerback situation is a question mark with untested, smallish options working around King Holder. The whole will be better than the sum, but it's an athletic whole.

66. Houston
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Linebacker

Offense: Don’t expect major changes in philosophy now that Doug Meacham has been lured away from Oklahoma State, where he was the passing game coordinator of one of college football’s most potent aerial attacks. Meacham was brought aboard by head coach Tony Levine to tweak and fine-tune a system that has the parts for success, but just lacks the execution. A year ago, for instance, Houston was 15th nationally in total offense, yet only 38th in total scoring. The problems? The Cougars turned the ball over way too much, and persistently stalled in the red zone. The fulcrum for the system will be junior QB David Piland, whose No. 88 pass efficiency rating will get him benched if he doesn’t improve this fall. The supporting cast will not be a problem. Houston harbors terrific skill players, such as RB Charles Sims and WR Deontay Greenberry, and a stout O-line losing just one starter. The Cougs are close to being really, really explosive again, but first need to start paying better attention to detail.

Defense: After a stint with the Houston Texans, David Gibbs is heading back to college in an effort to fix the Cougars defense. Houston has athletes. Plenty of them. What it lacks is the toughness and the size to contain quality offenses. A year ago, the program ranked 115th nationally in total D and 107th in points allowed, creating a need for a veteran like Gibbs. The coordinator plans to simplify the schemes, putting the defenders in a position to think less and react more. The 2013 edition will be breaking in a bunch of new starters, needing to replace three defensive linemen and all-star LB Phillip Steward and CB D.J. Hayden. While the Cougars rely on their playmakers, such as LB Derrick Mathews, CB Zach McMillian and FS Trevon Stewart, they’ll remain vulnerable to physical American Athletic Conference teams running right at them. There are high hopes this fall for LB Trevon Randle, who began his career at LSU as a four-star recruit.

65. Pitt
Relative Strengths: Secondary, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Quarterback

Offense: The Panthers are riddled with questions marks and uncertainty on offense entering 2013. But hey, at least they’ve got a full season of experience running head coach Paul Chryst’s physical and balanced pro-style system. Pitt will have plenty of new faces in key places this season. Likely starting QB Tom Savage hasn’t played a game in three years. Isaac Bennett is the new feature back now that star-in-waiting Rushel Shell opted to leave the school at the end of March. And the troubled O-line is undergoing an extreme makeover. The closest thing to stability on this side of the ball can be found on the receiving corps, where WR Devin Street and TE J.P. Holtz have All-ACC trajectories. Unless Savage morphs into an NFL-caliber distributor, the Panthers are likely to struggle to move the ball consistently in their new league.

Defense: A new year, another coordinator. The Panthers have endured a revolving door on the defensive staff lately, with Matt House being the latest to earn an internal promotion. House won’t change much, and shouldn’t have to with a group that returns nine starters. Pitt will clearly be led by the D in its first season in the ACC, leaning on a unit that’s especially capable up the middle and in the defensive backfield. It’ll be difficult to throw on a group that has Jason Hendricks at free safety and Lafayette Pitts and K’Waun Williams at cornerback; even tougher when DT Aaron Donald is harassing the quarterback. However, if the Panthers are going to duplicate last year’s efforts in a tougher league, they’ll need the linebackers to remain healthy and the defensive ends to make some noise. Ends accounted for just six sacks in 2012.

64. Connecticut
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Quarterback

Offense: The UConn offense needs a miracle worker. It’ll settle for a new coordinator, T.J. Weist. Weist brings from Cincinnati a fast-paced offense that wants to dictate the tempo of a game. Sounds encouraging, does he have the right personnel to carry out his plans? The Huskies have had one of the country’s most vanilla offenses for years, averaging less than 18 points a game in 2012. While just about everyone is back, it remains to be seen if that’s good news or a harbinger of business as usual in East Hartford. RB Lyle McCombs is the unit’s most dependable performer, though his ceiling gets capped by a poor supporting cast. QB Chandler Whitmer threw nearly twice as many picks as touchdowns last year, and the O-line is among the league’s worst. Geremy Davis and Shakim Phillips are underrated starting wide receivers, but they’ll only go as far as Whitmer’s right arm and questionable decision-making will allow them. Like his predecessors, Weist is taking a bike into drag race this fall.

Defense: New coordinator, same mandate to get after the other guys in an attacking style. Hank Hughes replaces Don Brown, and inherits a depleted D that lost four of last season’s five All-Big East performers to graduation. The lone returner, LB Yawin Smallwood, is an elite talent, but his supporting cast certainly isn’t what it was a year ago. The Huskies are in the market for new playmakers, guys who can create turnovers, while helping offset the loss of sacks left by the departures of DE Trevardo Williams and LB Sio Moore. Looking to provide a lift up front is DE Jesse Joseph, who missed most of last season to an Achilles injury. Productive former S Byron Jones has moved to cornerback to bolster a position that’s going to miss Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz. Otherwise, Hughes is in charge of plenty of youth and try-hard types looking to carve out their own niche within the perennially underrated UConn defense.

63. Maryland
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Offensive Line

Offense: The Maryland offense was feeble in 2012. The program is about to learn just how much of its futility was attributable to misfortune. The Terps were besieged by knee injuries to the quarterbacks, forcing them to eventually move rookie LB Shawn Petty under center. It was an impossible set of circumstances. But those quarterbacks are on the mend, including fifth-year senior C.J. Brown, who is uniquely qualified to run Mike Locksley’s zone-read system. Is he, though, skilled enough to take advantage of Maryland’s brightest assets, its wide receivers? Brown has modest arm strength, which could get exposed when emerging stars Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are running fly patterns through opposing defenses. The staff is optimistic about the future of its young triplets in the backfield, sophomores Brandon Ross, Wes Brown and Albert Reid. However, all three will fail to maximize their sizable potential unless a perennially weak offensive line can perform an about-face following successive years of blatant ineffectiveness in the trenches.

Defense: Last year, the Terps had a first-year coordinator, Brian Stewart, and a veteran-laden D. This year, the script has been flipped, with Stewart beginning his second year at the helm of a defense that desperately needs some leadership and direction on the two-deep. Maryland must replace six starters, four of whom earned at least All-ACC honorable mention. DE Joe Vellano and LB Demetrius Hartsfield, in particular, have left behind gaping holes. Stewart’s unit is a little understaffed just about everywhere except cornerback, where Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson form a solid tandem. The defense looks as if it’ll be especially vulnerable early on in the front seven. Basically, this team will be stronger on the interior, with NT Darius Kilgo and inside linebackers Cole Farrand and L.A Goree, than it will be on the fringes. If opponents want to really test the Terps in 2013, they’re likely to do it outside of the tackles.

62. Duke
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Secondary

Offense: Duke continues to surge forward on offense for head coach David Cutcliffe and coordinator Kurt Roper. Don’t expect much of a regression just because the pitch-and-catch combo of Sean Renfree to Conner Vernon is gone. Yeah, 2013 brings new challenges for the offense, but the Devils feel as if they’re equipped to rebuild. Renfree was steady, but multi-dimensional successor Anthony Boone might have even more potential at quarterback over his final two years. And Jamison Crowder has already proven that he has go-to guy qualities. Factor in an improving O-line that returns four starters and ranked fourth in the ACC in sacks allowed, and it’s easy to see why Duke expects to continue rolling through the air. Running the ball remains a struggle in Durham, though modest gains have been achieved. The Devils will ditch a workhorse for a committee that includes Juwan Thompson, Josh Snead and Jela Duncan.

Defense: Saying that the Duke D will struggle is like suggesting that Duke basketball will contend for a spot in next March’s NCAA Tournament. It’s sort of elementary. The Blue Devils return five full-timers from a unit that was predictably feeble in 2012; they ranked 105th nationally in total defense, giving up at least 40 points to six of their final seven opponents. Hope in 2013 is scarce. Yeah, the Kenny Anunike D-line is littered with veterans, and CB Ross Cockrell is a returning All-ACC first-teamer. But Duke will again have problems at the point of attack, a reality that immediately impacts both the run and pass defense. A year ago, the Devils gave up five yards a carry, while ranking last nationally in yards per completion. The availability of S Jeremy Cash and the returns from injury of LB Kelby Brown and NG Jamal Bruce will help, though not so much that Duke avoids being a second-tier ACC defense.

61. Boston College
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Defensive Line

Offense: The revolving door at offensive coordinator continues to spin, with Ryan Day the latest coach to take the job. He has a little edge in that he was on staff from 2007-11, and knows many of the upperclassmen rather well. Of course, that also means Day knows the lengths to which he must go to turn around the attack. Boston College sported one of the country’s worst offenses in 2012, failing to produce more than 23 points in any of its final seven games. The new regime wants to cultivate a more physical brand of football that sets up the pass with a blue-collar ground game. The focal points will be fourth-year starting QB Chase Rettig, RB Andre Williams and WR Alex Amidon, all seniors—and all with the potential to deliver their best seasons to date. Where the Eagles will continue to struggle is with its lack of depth at the skill positions and its lack of talent in the trenches. If BC is ever going to channel its former bully persona, it’ll have to get back to birthing big and nasty linemen that use Beantown as a launching pad to the NFL.

Defense: New defensive coordinator Don Brown has a direct approach to his new team—you’re Eagles, now start acting like it by soaring all over the field. Brown wants his kids to attack, a particularly poignant message for a defense that’s been anemic in the pass rush for years. In fact, BC was 120th nationally in sacks in 2012, and hasn’t finished higher than 90th since 2008. Back from last year’s disappointing unit are eight of the top nine tacklers, so experience and a veteran presence in the huddle won’t be an issue. The strength of the 2013 edition will be the linebackers, which house all-star candidates Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto and up-and-comer Steven Daniels. The secondary is mediocre at this stage of the offseason, and will only go as far as the pass rush allows it. If the Eagles get as much support as they received a year ago, six sacks, there aren’t many defensive backfields in America capable of holding up on an island for that long.

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