CFN Rankings - Preseason No. 30-39
Posted Aug 26, 2006

On the Fringe ... With the right breaks, these teams could be in the the top 25

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

39. Boise State 
Predicted Finish: 11-1   2005 Predicted Finish: 10-2   2005 Record: 9-4
New head coach Chris Petersen won't change the high-octane offense too much, if at all, considering he was the team's offensive coordinator last year. If the defense isn't the best in the WAC by a long shot, then that means something went horribly, horribly wrong. The secondary will give up a ton of yards, as it always does at BSU, but it's full of All-WAC talents who can all run. Korey Hall and Colt Brooks lead a loaded linebacking corps, and the line, anchored by Andrew Browning, should be dominant against the inept WAC rushing games. With the new rules, the BCS is possible.
Relative Strengths: offensive line, quarterback     Relative Weaknesses: defensive line, secondary

38. Utah  
Predicted Finish: 11-1   2005 Predicted Finish: 10-1   2005 Record: 7-5
The defense returns seven starters, but where will they play? Safety Casey Evans moves to linebacker after finishing second on the team in tackles, top nose guard Kelly Talavou will move to tackle, and All-America talent Eric Weddle will move anywhere in the secondary that needs him. Those are just the high-profile moves; there are plenty of more players still trying to figure out where their homes are. Yeah, the defense will be fine, but it's the offense that'll get people buzzing about Utah football. It all starts with the quarterback situation, which is among the best in the nation with two Mountain West Player of the Year talents in Brian Johnson and Brett Ratliff battling it out this fall once Johnson returns from a torn ACL. The system makes stars out of smart quarterbacks, and this twosome certainly fits the mold. 
Relative Strengths: quarterback, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: running back, special teams

37. Arizona
Predicted Finish: 4-8   2005 Predicted Finish: 4-7   2005 Record: 3-8
The defense should finally be up-to-snuff with ten starters returning led by a linebacking corps that's finally healthy and should be a rock as the year goes on, and a secondary that boasts All-Pac 10 caliber talents Antoine Cason, Michael Johnson and Wilrey Fontenot. The line is bigger and better now that end Marcus Smith is back after missing almost all of last year. There's more depth everywhere than the program has had in years. If that wasn't enough, the special teams should be among the best in the nation. The tackles are there to give QB Willie Tuitama time to work, the receiving corps is in place with Mike Thomas, Anthony Johnson, and Syndric Steptoe all fast enough to make big plays, the outlet receivers are there with three good tight ends and an emerging safety valve in fullback Brandon Lopez, and the running game should be more explosive with three lightning-fast prospects. The problem? The schedule is a bear. The team will be far, far better than the final record will indicate.
Relative Strengths: secondary, quarterback     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, defensive line

36. Oregon  
Predicted Finish: 7-5   2005 Predicted Finish: 7-4   2005 Record: 10-2
While this is a talented enough team to have a good season, this might be a bit of a stepping-stone year to what should be a tremendous 2007 when almost all the key skill players return and the defense will be loaded with experienced depth and several options. A late-season injury to QB Kellen Clemens allowed Brady Leaf and Dennis Dixon to see meaningful playing time, and now they should hit the ground running in a two-quarterback system. Top receiver Demetrius Williams is gone, but there's plenty of returning talent at receiver to hope for a sure-thing number one target to emerge. The line will be the best in the Pac 10 with all five starters returning, but it has to be better at run blocking. The time is now for top prospect Jonathan Stewart to shine as the featured tailback. The league's best defense last year has some question marks needing to find a sure-thing pass rusher and hoping for the corners to shine right.
Relative Strengths: offensive line, running back     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, linebacker

35. Washington State
Predicted Finish: 6-6  2005 Predicted Finish: 6-5   2005 Record: 4-7
While it didn't make a lot of national headlines, the decision of receiver Jason Hill to come back for his senior year might have changed the Pac 10 season. He's a top gamebreaker with All-America ability, and combined with Michael Bumpus and Chris Jordan, should make quarterback Alex Brink look very, very good. he defense should be better with a good set of linebackers and end Mkristo Bruce to be one of the nation's best pass rushers. Unfortunately, the new corners probably aren't going to help a horrible pass defense from stopping any of the high-octane Pac 10 attacks cold.
Relative Strengths: receiver, linebacker     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, offensive line

34. Michigan State 
Predicted Finish: 8-4  2005 Predicted Finish: 8-3   2005 Record: 5-6
With 12 returning starters, a legitimate All-America quarterback candidate in Drew Stanton leading one of the nation's top offenses, a potentially better, more active defense, and special teams that can't be worse than last season's group, there's the chance to finally put together an even year and come up with the second winning season in the last five years. This is hardly a great team, but there's no excuse to not win at least eight with a win over a power like Ohio State or Notre Dame thrown in there. Being a rock at home against Purdue and Minnesota is a must.
Relative Strengths: quarterback, receiver     Relative Weaknesses: defensive line, secondary

33. Iowa State  
This should be a fun team that makes several big plays on both sides of the ball and has the makeup to annoy the heck out of top ten-caliber teams like Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma. The defense loses a ton of top starters off the secondary and the defensive line, but the run defense should once again be among the league's best led by Brent Curvey at tackle and DeAndre Jackson at corner. If you can stop the run, you can be a player in the Big 12 race. Iowa State can stop the run. Ten starters return to an offense that has the potential to be the most explosive in the Big 12 North.
Predicted Finish:
8-4   2005 Predicted Finish: 6-5   2005 Record: 7-5
Relative Strengths: receiver, quarterback     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, special teams

32. Boston College 
Predicted Finish: 8-4   2005 Predicted Finish: 8-3   2005 Record: 9-3
The offense will center around the running game early on with the 1-2 punch of L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender returning for a third straight year and with more speed behind them. Matt Ryan is a big passer who needs to make the average receiving corps shine. The offensive line that allowed only 15 sacks last year won't be quite as good, but it'll hardly be a liability. The Eagle defense has to replace all-star end Mathias Kiwanuka and linebackers Ray Henderson and Ricky Brown, but the secondary should be outstanding and there's enough beef upfront to give most running games fits. Brian Toal leads a linebacking corps that should very quietly be among the best in the ACC.
Relative Strengths: running back, secondary     Relative Weaknesses: receiver, quarterback

31. TCU  
Predicted Finish: 9-3   2005 Predicted Finish: 7-4   2005 Record: 11-1
It's not like the team is without holes needing to replace four starters on the offensive line and with inexperience at the tackles and corners, but the pieces are in place for another run at the Mountain West title. Patterson has put together a good program that no one wants to face at this point and everyone will have to go through to get the conference championship. Ten starters return on offense if you count all three returning tailbacks, but there's a problem up front with all-star Herbert Taylor the only returning starter. QB Jeff Ballard needs to keep improving after a stellar second half of last season by cutting down on interceptions and making even more deep plays. Seven starters return to the Mountain West's best defense after forcing a nation-leading 40 turnovers and holding teams to 108 rushing yards per game.
Relative Strengths: running back, defensive line     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, receiver

30. Wisconsin 
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 7-5   2005 Record: 10-3
Many will once again underestimate the Badgers with only three starters returning on an offense that loses the top seven pass catchers along with touchdown machine Brian Calhoun, but the team is at a point where it can reload. The new starting receivers could be among UW's fastest ever, there are more than enough huge, pounding running backs to carry the workload, and the line should be better with three legitimate All-Big Ten candidates returning. The defense struggled last season finishing 92nd in the nation, but that was mostly because of a young line that never got healthy. Now there are eight fantastic prospects up front, speed at outside linebacker and corner, and steady All-Big Ten caliber players at safety and middle linebacker.   
Relative Strengths: defensive line, special teams     Relative Weaknesses: receiver, running back