CFN Rankings - Preseason No. 60-69
Posted Aug 26, 2006

Shooting for a Bowl ... Some lower-level BCS conference teams and some top mid-majors

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 might indicate. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 119. The predicted finishes don't take into account possible bowl games or conference championships.

No. 1 to No. 10 | No. 11 to 20 | No. 21 to 29 | No. 30 to 39 | No. 40 to 49
No. 50 to 59 | No. 60 to 69 | No. 70 to 79 | No. 80 to 89 | No. 90 to 99
No. 100 to 109 | No. 110 to 119

69. Indiana 
Predicted Finish: 4-8  2005 Predicted Finish: 3-8   2005 Record: 4-7
Head coach Terry Hoeppner knows how to get offensive production, and there should be more in his second year with a veteran quarterback in Blake Powers and, arguably, the best receiving corps IU has ever had led by 6-7 James Hardy. There's speed at running back, but not a lot of proven production. The line has nice young players to build around, but no depth. All four starters return to a decent secondary, but there are wholesale changes being made on the defensive front seven. Playing to the personnel, the linebacking corps is woefully undersized, but very, very fast.
Relative Strengths: receiver, quarterback    Relative Weaknesses: linebacker, defensive line

68. Mississippi State   
Predicted Finish: 4-8  2005 Predicted Finish: 2-9   2005 Record: 3-8
There's no way possible a D-I offense can average 276 yards and fewer than 14 points per game two years in a row. It just can't. The offensive line is sure to be better after struggling through injuries and inexperience last year, and the receiving corps should be much stronger with Omarr Conner's full-time switch from quarterback to receiver and the addition of receiver Tony Burks. Fine, so the running back situation is a bit dicey with the loss of Jerious Norwood and quarterback Michael Henig has to prove he can complete a pass on a regular basis, but there's hope for all the lumps taken last year to pay off. Nine starters return from a group that more than held its own last year finishing 29th in the nation in total defense.
Relative Strengths: defensive line, secondary    Relative Weaknesses: quarterback, running back

67. Syracuse 
Predicted Finish: 3-9  2005 Predicted Finish: 5-6   2005 Record: 1-10
Job one has to be to figure out how to generate more points. Quarterback Perry Patterson has been around long enough to be more of a playmaker and more of a consistent leader; he has to make everyone around him better. Despite the loss of Damien Rhodes, the backfield should grow into a strength if Curtis Brinkley and Kareem Jones can break out. The receiving corps has great players like Lavar Lobdell  and Taj Smith ready to push the starters, and the line has four rising sophomores that'll have to take their lumps before possibly forming the strength of the team in 2007. The defense has to rock right away even with only four returning starters.
Relative Strengths: special teams, secondary    Relative Weaknesses: running back, quarterback

66. UTEP   
Predicted Finish: 8-4  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 8-4
The offense was too one-sided last year relying on Jordan Palmer's arm way too much. That's not needed with the emergence of top back Marcus Thomas (although, the team's 2005 meltdown coincided with when Thomas got hot). The line gets three starters back, Johnnie Lee Higgins leads an explosive receiving corps, and the defense can't help but be better with everyone healthy on the line, one of the best safety tandems in the league in Quintin Demps and Joe Fleskoski, and a linebacking corps that could be even better despite losing NFLer Thomas Howard. The kicking game should be fantastic. In other words, there's no excuse for UTEP not to win the Conference USA title.
Relative Strengths: quarterback, receiver    Relative Weaknesses: defensive line, offensive line

65. Baylor 
It might seem like Baylor is on the verge of being much better, it's undergoing a little bit of a transformation on offense. While a balanced offense that can do a little of everything well would be nice, strength, not speed, has been the team's biggest problem over the years; it can't pound the ball on anyone. Expect more passing in the spread offense with even more four and five wide sets than last year. The defensive front six in the 4-2-5 alignment isn't going to scare anyone, but the secondary should be one of the Big 12's best
Predicted Finish:
4-8  2005 Predicted Finish: 3-8   2005 Record: 5-6
Relative Strengths: secondary, receiver    Relative Weaknesses: linebacker, running back

64. Wake Forest  
Predicted Finish: 5-7  2005 Predicted Finish: 5-6   2005 Record: 4-7
Being competitive hasn't been an issue in the five years under Jim Grobe with 32 of the 58 games played decided by a touchdown or less. To get to a bowl game and take another positive step forward, Wake Forest has to take advantage of every opportunity and needs big seasons out of some key positions. The running game should be fine with veteran Micah Andrews running behind an experienced and talented line, but there's a huge, gaping question mark at quarterback with Ben Mauk needing to pay far better than last year when he was an ineffective starter over the first four games.
Relative Strengths: running back, linebacker    Relative Weaknesses: special teams, defensive line

63. Toledo 
Predicted Finish: 8-4  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 9-3
The building blocks are in place to win the conference title with the MAC's best offensive line, one of the league's best defensive lines, and a linebacking corps that will be camped out in opposing backfields all season long. And, of course, there's head coach Tom Amstutz and his coaching staff that have proven to be able to make adjustments on the fly and be able to patch up problems in a hurry.
Relative Strengths: offensive line, running back    Relative Weaknesses: defensive line, special teams

62. Northern Illinois
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 8-3   2005 Record: 7-5
The Sisyphus of the MAC is going to roll that boulder back up the mountain again this year with a team loaded with as much talent as anyone in the MAC led by All-America candidates Garrett Wolfe at running back and Doug Free at offensive tackle. There's speed, skill, and enough depth in most spots to overcome a disaster if injuries hit. In other words, there's no reason to shoot for anything lower than a repeat trip to the title game and a shot at winning the conference title.
Relative Strengths: running back, quarterback    Relative Weaknesses: defensive line, secondary

61. Southern Miss
Predicted Finish: 7-5  2005 Predicted Finish: 7-4   2005 Record: 7-5
If new starting quarterback Jeremy Young is at all competent, and if the offensive line can stay healthy, USM will put up points in bunches with almost everyone coming back at the skill positions along with four starters up front. The defense has a weird situation with tons of holes needing to be patched, but there's surprising depth with plenty of options almost everywhere. For a veteran coach like Bower and his staff, the pieces are in place for a champion. There's a lot to get excited about with this team, but it's probably a year away from really big things
Relative Strengths: receiver, offensive line    Relative Weaknesses: running back, defensive line

60. Rutgers 
Predicted Finish: 6-6  2005 Predicted Finish: 5-6   2005 Record: 7-4
The offense has a great pair of backs in Brian Leonard and Ray Rice, and tight end Clark Harris could be one of the league's best pro prospects, and now the passing game needs a little work with new starting quarterback Mike Teel, or Jabu Lovelace, needing keep the offense moving. The big issue is the depth. This coaching staff has never been afraid to play true freshmen, and it'll have to rely on this year's class to come through in a big way if injuries strike. Linebacker will be a big, big problem if the front three go down.
Relative Strengths: running back, special teams    Relative Weaknesses: linebacker, defensive line