2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 101 to 110
Colorado State RB Donnell Alexander
Colorado State RB Donnell Alexander
Posted Aug 12, 2013

2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 101 to 110 - In For Tough Seasons

Preview 2013 - Rankings

In For Tough Years - No. 101-110

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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 
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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.
110. Texas State
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Defensive Line

Offense: The spread attack will undergo a little bit of a change. While there could still be a running quarterback under center, there should be more of a passing element with a strong receiving corps and a promising veteran passer in Tyler Arndt giving it a shot. All the top wide receivers are back and there's a good group of tight ends ready to do more. The line might not be a killer, but it'll be decent for the ground attack with a good veteran base to build around. As long as the deep group of speedy running backs are producing, the offense will move, but consistency is a huge problem.

Defense: The defense had a rough go under coordinator Craig Naivar, failing to generate any sort of a pass rush until the season finale and having a nightmare of a time getting off the field. The secondary was burned time and again, and the run defense failed to hold up against anyone who could generate a push. Fortunately, seven starters are back in the 4-2-5 alignment along with two phenomenal pickups in former TCU defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and former Colorado State linebacker Michael Orakpo. A slew of JUCO transfers need to help out at safety, while the pass rush has to be manufactured from several spots.

109. North Texas
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Defensive Line

Offense: North Texas needs tighter play from its quarterbacks, or else there'll be a change at the position for the first time in three years. Derek Thompson is the incumbent, but he was a microcosm for an offense that sputtered badly to put up points, and lacked efficiency. Enter Brock Berglund, the ballyhooed former Kansas recruit whose ceiling extends higher than anyone else in Denton. A tender hamstring limited him in the spring, but he'll be back to compete at full speed in the summer. The Mean Green should be able to run the ball successfully this year behind a deep backfield that houses Brandin Byrd and Antoinne Jimmerson and a vastly underrated O-line. The front wall returns four starters from a unit that yielded a nation's-low six sacks in 2012. The staff is ecstatic about the healthy return of jack-of-all trades WR Brelan Chancellor, the versatile playmaker who missed the second half of last year to injury.

Defense: The Mean Green is gauging its defensive progress in incremental steps. Yeah, the D still missed too tackles and gave up too many big plays last year, but it also yielded its fewest points since 2006. Coordinator John Skladany, no stranger to Conference USA, is determined to keep North Texas on the road to defensive recovery. The coach will be working with eight returning starters, none more impactful than LB Zach Orr and CB Zac Whitfield. In fact, the entire back seven appears as if it'll have a shot to be pretty feisty in 2013. It's in the front four that the Mean Green needs to turn the corner. The program is far too soft at the point of contact, triggering headaches for the pass rush and the run defense. North Texas needs to win the line of scrimmage, a goal complicated in the spring by the suspension of DT Richard Abbe and the ACL injury to DE Quenton Brown.

108. New Mexico
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Secondary

Offense: The offense desperately needed an identity, and it found one with a dangerous ground game that averaged over 300 yards per game and finished with close to 4,000 yards. Offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse is looking to make a committed effort to create some semblance of a passing game, but that could be a major problem with a mediocre receiving corps – to be kind – and with Cole Gautsche a running quarterback. There could be a rotation of quarterbacks to get the most production out of the spot, but no matter who's under center, the offense will revolve around running back Kasey Carrier and a terrific line that should be among the best in the Mountain West.

Defense: It's a good news, bad news situation. On the bad side, this was one of the nation's worst defenses with next to nothing working well. The secondary was ripped to shreds, there wasn't much of a pass rush and the run defense was way too soft. However, most of the players who couldn't get the job done are gone with a mere three starters returning. Defensive coordinator Jeff Mills has a ton of work to do, but things might not be that dire with a Dallas Bollema and a potentially solid linebacking corps to work around, and a decent front three that could be far better if someone can emerge on the nose. The secondary is a concern, but there's enough versatility to juggle around the lineup.

107. Buffalo
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Special Teams, Offensive Line

Offense: Injuries should be one of the only big concerns for offensive coordinator Alex Wood's attack. The right side of the line needs to find replacements, but that's not that big a problem; everyone else is back. The Bulls have a running quarterback in Alex Zordich and a passer in Joe Licata, and each has enough experience to produce. Branden Oliver, if he can stay healthy, can be one of the nation's most productive statistical backs, and he'll get room to move behind a big, veteran line. Alex Neutz is a true No. 1 receiver, and now he has more help around him with Devon Hughes and Cordero Dixon two emerging targets to take some of the heat off.

Defense: The defense turned into something fantastic under coordinator Lou Tepper, finishing second in the MAC and 37th in the nation allowing just 364 yards per game. The pass rush is phenomenal with all-star linebacker Khalil Mack a dominant force in the backfield and end Colby Way a bruiser who works his way to big plays. The entire two-deep is back in the secondary helped by two terrific corners in Najja Johnson and Cortney Lester who combined for nine of the team's 13 picks. Depth is an issue up front and finding a nose guard to replace Wyatt Cahill and end Steven Means could be tough, but overall this should be one of the league's top three defenses. Now this group has to start taking the ball away after coming up with just three recovered fumbles on the year.

106. Middle Tennessee
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Secondary

Offense: Coordinator Buster Faulkner took over the Middle Tennessee offense in 2012, ushering in unmistakable improvement. The Blue Raiders committed to the run, hung up more points and were less predictable than they were in 2011. The goal now will be to build on those results. The offense brings back most of last season's starters, save for a couple of key all-starters, WR Anthony Amos and C Micah James. Back at the controls will be veteran distributor Logan Kilgore, a reliable quarterback being asked to do a little more running in 2013. However, no Blue Raider will carry the ball more than sophomore Jordan Parker, the emerging star out of the backfield. James is the only departing offensive lineman from a unit that quietly ranked No. 2 in the county in sacks allowed. While the pieces are in place for Middle Tennessee to take another step forward on offense, it'll instead regress unless it can produce more touchdowns when reaching the red zone.

Defense: Middle Tennessee was a raider in name only on D last year. Murfreesboro was home to one of the country's worst defenses of 2012, a unit that was toothless despite participating in the Sun Belt Conference. Co-coordinators Tyrone Nix and Steve Ellis are staring at a to-do list as long as their arms. First and foremost, the Blue Raiders must find a way to generate a more consistent push in order to address an anemic pass rush and a feeble run defense. It's a tall order for a team that got shoved around last fall to finish 84th nationally against the run and 109th in sacks. And as is often the case, front seven issues can become the defensive backfield's problems as well; MTSU allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 67% of their passes. Hope comes by way of sophomore SS Kevin Byard who authored an auspicious, all-conference debut.

105. Memphis
Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Offensive Line

Offense: The offense, led by head coach Justin Fuente and coordinator Darrell Dickey, made modest strides in 2012. The goal is to further that trend this fall. Many of last season's starters return, including QB Jacob Karam who was a steadying influence in his first year removed from Texas Tech. The focal point, though, figures to be senior RB Brandon Hayes, the second-year JUCO transfer who wrapped up his debut with back-to-back 100-yard games. After lacking pop and the ability to stretch the field last fall, the Tigers are counting on fleet-footed receivers Keiwone Malone and Joe Craig of Alabama and Clemson, respectively, to provide occasional flashes of electricity. The program's biggest concern involves a mediocre O-line that's long on youth and short on anchors. The developing unit, more than any other, will get a crash course on life in a tougher league.

Defense: Coordinator Barry Odom was a sound hire by the coaching staff. And the numbers are there to back it up. In 2011, the year before the new staff took over, Memphis yielded 491 yards and 35 points per game. Last year? The numbers dipped to 383 yards and 30 points a week. It's not Alabama, but it certainly is progress. The improvement was fueled by an underrated front seven that returns virtually intact. The front three is Big East-ready, with DE Martin Ifedi pacing a group that's both deep and talented. The linebackers are blue-collar types who've played a lot of football, both in Conference USA and at the junior-college level. The Tigers are built right for a league that leans heavily on ground games. But that doesn't mean the secondary gets a free pass. The unit needs to create more big plays after giving up 25 touchdown passes, while picking off just eight.

104. Wyoming
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Secondary

Offense: The offense might not have gotten enough out of the running game, and the line was a bit rocky, but quarterback Brett Smith took his game to another level and the receiving corps was phenomenal. Top target Chris McNeill is gone, but everyone else of not is back for a passing attack that finished second in the Mountain West and should be even more efficient. Both starting tackles have to be replaced, but the JUCO transfers from last year – 6-9 Walker Madden and 6-7 Connor Rains – are massive replacements. The backs are quick and experienced, but they need to be more effective.

Defense: It was a struggle. The defensive front didn't do nearly enough to get to the quarterback, and everything trickled down from there with the secondary getting roasted on a regular basis and few key stops to change games around. With all the starting defensive backs returning, and with some good new prospects coming in, it should be a tighter group, but only if the front seven does its job. The lack of side in the linebacking corps is a problem, and the consistent pass rush has to be there for everything else to work. With a slew of JUCO transfers coming in, there's an influx of talent to help upgrade several spots, but overall, the Cowboys need defensive playmakers to emerge.

103. Colorado State
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Receiver

Offense: The offense needs to start being more consistent. The production wasn't bad against the mediocre to bad teams, but it failed against the decent Mountain West defenses with a good pass rush. The line gets back four starters but has to be far, far better at keeping linemen out of the backfield while generating a better push for the deep group of backs. The 1-2 punch of Donnell Alexander and Chris Nwoke could be the among the best in the league if they get a little bit of room to move, and it wouldn't be a bad thing if the passing game was more consistent. Conner Smith is a big passer with great upside, but Garrett Grayson is more mobile with good playmaking potential. The tight end situation is great, but the wideouts have to be more dangerous.

Defense: Ram fans have to be sick of the word potential, especially when it comes to a defense that hasn't stopped anyone with a pulse in years, but the pieces are coming into place with a terrific young group of defensive backs to build around and a veteran linebacking corps that does a little of everything. The line is the big concern after not generating any pass rush and struggling to hold up against the run against the stronger ground games. Depending on the situation, the Rams will shift around using linebacker Shaquil Barrett as a defensive end in a modified 4-3, even though he's at his best as an outside defender in a 3-4. Either way, the defense has to be more disruptive and far more consistent against the better Mountain West attacks.

102. Arkansas State
Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Special Teams, Secondary

Offense: It might not be the wild and crazy up-tempo offense of Gus Malzahn's last season, but Bryan Harsin knows how to crank up an offense after doing wonders as Boise State's offensive coordinator. Former Bronco quarterback Bush Hamdan will combine with Eliah Drinkwitz as co-coordinators, and they have a ton of talent to work with helped mostly by a great line that returns four starters. David Oku proved he could shine as the main man at running back, and J.D. McKissic is a tremendous No. 1 target to work the passing game around, but a new quarterback has to emerge in place of all-star quarterback Ryan Aplin. The holes to patch aren't that big – even at quarterback – and there are nice options to play around with. Consider it a shocker if the O doesn't crank out over 450 yards and close to 35 points per game again.

Defense: ASU led the Sun Belt in scoring defense and was second in total defense, but it wasn't great at getting into the backfield and it struggled against the better passing teams. New defensive coordinator John Thompson is a fantastic get for the program, and he should do a nice job with an athletic, veteran crew. Ryan Carrethers is one of the best tackles in the Sun Belt and a strong anchor to work around, while Qushaun Lee is the perfect middle linebacker for the 4-2-5 alignment. The pass rush needs to be better to help out a secondary that hit a bad patch over the second half of last season, but there's athleticism on the outside and speedsters in the secondary with some shuffling being done to get the best playmakers on the field at the same time. The D will be fine, but there will be times when things don't work in shootouts. Even so, statistically, this will once again be one of the league's leading defenses.

101. Louisiana
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Defensive Line

Offense: Explosive, balanced and consistent, the ULL offense did everything right on the way to leading the Sun Belt in scoring while averaging 455 yards per game. The loss of two all-star tackles will mean some reshuffling up front, and losing leading receivers Javone Lawson and Harry Peoples will sting a bit, but it should be business as usual with quarterback Terrance Broadway growing into one of the league's brightest stars, and with enough talent at the skill spots to keep up the production. Bruising back Alonzo Harris will work well behind the revamped line, and Jamal Robinson and Darryl Surgent should be ready to shine for the receiving corps.

Defense: The defense had its meltdowns last season and was never a brick wall, but as long as it can hold serve once in a while and let the offense do its job, all should be fine. The biggest concern early on will be the pass rush after losing Emeka Onyenekwu and Cordian Hagans from the outside, but Christian Ringo should be one of the Sun Belt's leading sackers moving from tackle to end. The back seven is athletic and active – linebacker Justin Anderson should be an all-star – but the secondary has to get far tighter after being lit up on a regular basis and with little consistency.

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