CFN Rankings - Preseason No. 21-29
Maryland QB Sam Hollenbach
Posted Aug 26, 2006

Possible Conference Contenders  ... Dangerous players in the conference races

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

29. Arkansas   
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 6-5   2005 Record: 4-7
While the addition of a top-shelf quarterback Mitch Mustain might do wonders for the passing game, it's the ground attack that'll make headlines. True sophomores Darren McFadden and Felix Jones form one of the nation's best 1-2 rushing punches, and small, quick Michael Smith is healthy and ready to be part of the mix. Add a fullback in Peyton Hillis who led the team in catches last year and returns punts, and an offensive line with, for all intents and purposes, five returning starters, and the Hogs should run wild. The defense won't get a lot of publicity, but it'll be strong led be undersized, but talented linebacker Sam Olajabutu and with a strong line to work around. Chris Houston and Matterral Richardson are talented corners who'll both see time in an NFL camp, and the safeties are improved with speedy Michael Grant taking over the free safety job.
Relative Strengths: running back, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: receiver, quarterback

28. Texas Tech   
Predicted Finish: 8-4  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 9-3
For the first time under head coach Mike Leach, a quarterback has to be developed to shine right away with sophomore Graham Harrell and redshirt freshman Chris Todd battling it out for the honor of being one of the nation's top statistical players. Also, for the first time under Leach, he has potential NFL talents running his system with three marvelous wide receivers in Jarrett Hicks, Joel Filani and Robert Johnson almost certain to combine for over 200 catches. The line will provide plenty of help the four starters returning. The defense won't be up to snuff like last year when several veterans came through with big seasons, but the linebacking corps should be solid and there's speed to burn in the secondary.
Relative Strengths: receiver, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: running back, secondary

27. Maryland 
Predicted Finish: 6-6  2005 Predicted Finish: 6-5   2005 Record: 5-6
Rarely do teams get a shot in the arm talent-wise the way Maryland gets one this season. 2004's top rusher Josh Allen is back after missing all of last year with a knee injury. One of the team's top offensive tackles, Stephon Heyer, is back, as is rising linebacker Erin Henderson, brother of former Terp star, E.J. Those three alone help an already good foundation that might be bowling without them.
Relative Strengths: running back, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: defensive line, quarterback

26. Colorado 
Predicted Finish: 8-4  2005 Predicted Finish: 6-5   2005 Record: 7-6
There are holes to fill, especially on offense. The line has to get healthy before Dan Hawkins and the new coaching staff can properly figure out what it has to work with. The quarterbacks were inconsistent this spring, partially because they were under pressure thanks to the banged up line, and the running game has little to no proven power. There is depth and talent in the backfield and at receiver with enough options to play around with once the quarterback situation is settled. The defense is much better than it'll likely be made out to be with Thaddaeus Washington and Jordon Dizon leading a strong linebacking corps, Terrence Wheatley returning at corner to join All-Big 12 talent J.J. Billingsley in a deep secondary, and potential on the ends with several good players to rotate.
Relative Strengths: special teams, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: quarterback, running back

25. Missouri  
Predicted Finish: 7-5  2005 Predicted Finish: 7-4   2005 Record: 7-5
The defense had to rebuild last year, and all the inconsistencies should pay off in a big way with a speedy, talented front seven that should camp out in opposing backfield. The secondary has the most work to do, but there are big, athletic prospects to expect big things out of playing around star safety David Overstreet. QB Brad Smith might be gone, but replacement Chase Daniel is a good young quarterback who'll do just fine. Now the rest of the offensive playmakers will get more of a shot to shine since the attack can't be more reliant on Smith, and that's a good thing with four good, quick backs, a fast receiving corps, and a tremendous tight end tandem of Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker to catch everything in sight.
Relative Strengths: defensive line, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, quarterback

24. Alabama   
Predicted Finish: 7-5  2005 Predicted Finish: 8-3   2005 Record: 10-2
Now the real work begins for head coach Mike Shula as he needs to replace seven fantastic starters from a defense that was among the best in the game, has to find a steady starting quarterback, and needs to quickly develop depth at just about every position. Meanwhile, the two teams that tagged the Tide last year, LSU and Auburn, appear to be just as good, if not better, while the tough early road trips are at Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee. Bama is a year away from making an honest run for the SEC title, but that doesn't mean this can't be another successful season.
Relative Strengths: running back, receiver     Relative Weaknesses: quarterback, special teams

23. Georgia Tech  
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 7-4   2005 Record: 7-5
A few more big plays from the offense should mean a realistic shot at the Coastal Division title, and they should come this season with nine returning starters and one of the league's best offensive lines. QB Reggie Ball doesn't have to be Vince Young, but it's not a stretch to think the four-year starter can't be what Bryan Randall was to Virginia Tech a few years ago. Defensively, help is needed in the secondary, but the pass rush should ease the burden. Besides, few ACC teams can kill you with a passing game. The front seven should be a rock against the run led by a deep and talented line that'll get better and better as the season goes on.  
Relative Strengths: defensive line, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, running back

22. Penn State 
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 6-5   2005 Record: 11-1
This isn't last year's team, but it's certainly not going to slip enough to be lousy again. If everything can come together right away and all the new starters can play like consistent veterans, things could get interesting because of a not-that-bad schedule. New quarterback Anthony Morelli will be fine. Tony Hunt is an unsung producer who should crank out another 1,000-yard season even with Austin Scott getting a little more work. Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood forms one of the nation's best young receiving corps. The offensive line will be an issue with only one returning starter. The D only returns four starters, but the linebacking corps will be incredible.
Relative Strengths: linebacker, receiver     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, offensive line

21. Iowa  
Predicted Finish: 11-1  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 7-5
The offense will have few problems moving the ball with Drew Tate back to lead the attack for a third straight season and tailback Albert Young a burgeoning superstar running behind a talented, veteran line. The hole? The receiving corps. It's very fast and should be great by the end of the year, but it'll need time to develop. The defense has the same issues. The defensive line that was a concern last season will be one of the Big Ten's best this year, but the linebacking corps won't be nearly as good and will need a few games to get rolling. The safeties are excellent, but the corners are green. All the problems on both sides of the ball aren't that big a deal and will all be fine; it's just going to take a few games. By that time, Iowa could be out of the hunt yet again.
Relative Strengths: quarterback, running back     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, linebacker