CFN Rankings - Preseason No. 11-20
Posted Aug 26, 2006

Possible Title Contenders ... These teams are good enough to be in the national title hunt

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

20. Arizona State 
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 8-3   2005 Record: 7-5
On both sides of the ball, head coach Dirk Koetter has assembled a team that can run, hit, throw, and catch as well as anyone in the nation. It'll be a major disappointment if this isn't one of the nation's five most productive offensive attacks with the addition of coordinator Roy Wittke to work with the quarterbacks. The passing game even with the transfer of Sam Keller with Rudy Carpenter able to put up All-America numbers with a speedy receiving corps to work with an a huge, experienced line to play behind. The special teams will be tremendous with Terry Richardson back returning punts and kicks, and the defense should see some improvement with the addition of several good JUCO prospects along with Northwestern transfer Loren Howard and BYU transfer Michael Marquardt on the line.  
Relative Strengths: special teams, receiver     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, linebacker

19. Georgia  
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 8-3   2005 Record: 10-3
There's talent to burn on offense, but it isn't fully developed. The team's best quarterback is a true freshman, Matthew Stafford, and the receiving corps needs at least a few warm up games before it becomes dangerous. The offensive line has no depth whatsoever and has to replace several key starters, while the running game, considering all the talent in the backfield, has to be better than 43rd in the nation. The defense has even more issues with a thin linebacking corps that can't stay healthy, a slightly undersized line, at least for Georgia, that likely won't be better against the run, and a secondary that needs to develop the corners and has to replace three starters. For all the problems and all the concerns, there's still no reason whatsoever for Georgia to shoot for anything less than a ten-win season.
Relative Strengths: running back, special teams     Relative Weaknesses: receiver, quarterback

18. Notre Dame  
Predicted Finish: 8-4   2005 Predicted Finish: 5-6   2005 Record: 9-3
Yes, this is the lowest you’ll see the Irish ranked anywhere (remember that these rankings are based on how good the teams are from top to bottom) and yes, the potential is there for a BCS Championship appearance if Charlie and the boys get out of September unbeaten. However, this is a tremendously flawed team with average corners, a limited pass rush from the front four, and no developed depth anywhere meaning the machine might quickly grind to a halt if injuries hit the skill positions. The secondary didn't get any faster in the off-season, although a few freshmen should provide some immediate help, the offensive line is average, and the overall athleticism and talent level, which was exposed in the Fiesta Bowl by Ohio State, is a year or two away from being up-to-snuff for a national title-caliber powerhouse. There's a whole boatload of talent on the way and this will be a USC-like program by 2008, but not all of the stars are in South Bend quite yet. Remember, outside of the win over an average Michigan squad, last year's team didn't beat anyone with a pulse.
Relative Strengths: quarterback, receiver     Relative Weaknesses: linebacker, secondary

17. Nebraska 
The defensive front seven will be as good as any in America with talented backups at each spot, too many good linebackers to get on the field at any one time, and, perhaps, the nation's best defensive ends in Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. If the secondary is merely competent, there's no reason the Huskers can't have a top ten D. The offense should be even better now that QB Zac Taylor knows what he's doing and with an improved line in front of him, speedy backs, and a receiving corps full of veterans and superstar newcomers to work with.
Predicted Finish:
9-3   2005 Predicted Finish: 8-3   2005 Record: 8-4
Relative Strengths: defensive line, linebacker     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, secondary

16. Virginia Tech 
Predicted Finish: 10-2   2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 11-2
The lines will take a big hit replacing some key all-stars with unproven talents, there isn't the running back depth of past years, and the quarterback situation is still a question mark. That's not to say there isn't hope for all the parts to come together, but in a league as good as the ACC has become, everything needs to be clicking to win the title. The Hokies led the nation in total defense last season and finished second in scoring defense. While there are some major losses to overcome, the same blitzing, attacking style that made the D so successful last season should work again.
Relative Strengths: linebacker, receiver     Relative Weaknesses: quarterback, offensive line

15. West Virginia  
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 7-4   2005 Record: 11-1
There's no more exciting backfield tandem in America than quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton. The offensive line that flat-out pantsed the Georgia defensive line in the Sugar Bowl should be almost as good this season. The underrated and unnoticed defense should be fantastic up front, and the kicking game should grow into one of the best in the country with two terrific young specialists. Outside of the showdown at Louisville, the schedule is perfect for a huge year.
Relative Strengths: running back, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, receiver

14. Louisville 
Predicted Finish: 11-1  2005 Predicted Finish: 10-1   2005 Record: 9-3
Rev up the engine again as the nation's No. 9 offense and No. 3 scoring attack should be just as good again as long as star quarterback Brian Brohm is fully healthy after tearing his ACL late last year. Considering his mobility could be a problem early on, it's not a positive that the Cards have to break in two new tackles. The backfield is one of the best in the nation going three deep with pounder Michael Bush coming back for his senior year and speedsters Kolby Smith and George Stripling as good as any backups in the country. Mario Urrutia leads a big, fast, and very talented receiving corps. Nine starters return on defense with plenty of depth everywhere.
Relative Strengths: running back, quarterback     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, secondary

13. Michigan 
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 7-5
There appears to be more of a mean attitude this year in the IBM-like corporate program. The goal is to be more aggressive, make more big plays, and break out of the maddening vanilla mold. The defensive line should be among the best Lloyd Carr has ever had. There's enough speed in the back seven to run with anyone, and the offense has the firepower to hang punch-for-punch with anyone on its slate. In other words, there's no acceptable reason for another down year.  
Relative Strengths: running back, special teams     Relative Weaknesses: backup quarterback, linebacker

12. Clemson 
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 6-5   2005 Record: 8-4
Clemson is in a great position to not only do great things this year, but to also be solid for years to come with a ton of productive and talented sophomores at just about every position mixing in with a strong group of veterans. The offensive line gets everyone back, the backfield has four good running backs, the receiving corps gets Chansi Stuckey and Aaron Kelly back, and the defense has two potential NFL first rounders in end Gaines Adams and linebacker Anthony Waters to build around. Throw in one of the nation's best kickers, Jad Dean, and the mix is just right to win the Atlantic Division.
Relative Strengths: running back, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: special teams, quarterback

11. Florida State 
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 8-3   2005 Record: 8-5
There's way too much speed and way too much returning talent to not be more consistent on offense. It all stems from the offensive line, which was never healthy last year but has just about all the key parts returning.  Only four starters return on a defense that gave way too many of its players to the big league this last year. Yeah, Florida State reloads as well as anyone, but it's still asking a lot to replace so many top-notch performers. Depth will be an issue with big problems at end and corner if injuries strike early on.
Relative Strengths: receiver, linebacker     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, starting defensive experience