CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 1-10
Posted Sep 5, 2006

CFN 2006 Preseason Rankings ... The National TItle Contenders

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

10. Tennessee 
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 5-6
Why Tennessee should be No. 1 ... There are few teams in America that can match the overall speed and athleticism of the 2006 Vols, but all the skills have to translate into better overall play and, of course, wins. The offense can't be any worse, and should be a force with new/old offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe taking back his offensive coordinator job. The running backs can fly, the receivers are even faster, and the line is bigger than more NFL front walls. If quarterback Erik Ainge is merely competent, and the defense can avoid falling off the map after losing six of the starters on the front seven, Tennessee will be back to being Tennessee.
Why Tennessee isn't No. 1 ... Did you watch Tennessee last year? It's asking a lot for all the top recruiting classes to pay off in a big way on defense with six of the starters on the front seven needing to be replaced including the entire linebacking corps. It might also be asking the world for Ainge to be night-and-day better.
Relative Strengths: running back, receiver     Relative Weaknesses: linebacker, offensive line

9. Florida 
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 9-3
Why Florida should be No. 1 ...
The D finished ninth in the nation and allowed a mere 18.8 points per game, and it should be even better if injuries don't strike early at linebacker and corner. There's enough talent on the line to fill out the All-SEC team without a problem. Brandon Siler and Earl Everett form one of the nation's best linebacking tandems, and the safeties, led by Reggie Nelson, should be fantastic. Chris Leak might not be the perfect spread quarterback, but he's a good talent who should be more productive making more plays on the move than in the past.
Why Florida isn't No. 1 ...
Are the pieces in place yet? That will be the focus all season as fans are waiting for the Gator offense to explode, but considering the potential issues on the offensive line and the mediocre corps of running backs, the program might be another year away. This might be one of the best teams in the country, but it can all but forget about the national title thanks to a brutal schedule.
Relative Strengths: defensive line, quarterback     Relative Weaknesses: running back, offensive line

8. Oklahoma    
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 8-4
Why Oklahoma should be No. 1 ... Adrian Peterson, Adrian Peterson, Adrian Peterson. The ultra-talented running back is the type of star good enough to carry the team on his back against a relatively average schedule.
The defense should be among the best in America even though there aren't too many sure-fire, household name All-Americans. The pass rush should be unstoppable with too many good ends to get on the field at any one time.
Why Oklahoma isn't No. 1 ... After a down year, there are still too many question marks on the offensive line and the quarterback situation. Will defenses load up on the run after QB Rhett Bomar got booted? What happens when Peterson has 150 carries by midseason? If he goes down for any time, forget about a national title. 2007 is when the team should be truly ready to explode and become a juggernaut again.
Relative Strengths: running back, defensive line     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, special teams

7. California 
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 8-4
Why Cal should be No. 1 ... There are few teams with more speed among the starters with an array of talents that would litter the All-America lists if they played in one of the other BCS conferences. DT Brandon Mebane, CB Daymeion Hughes and LB Desmond Bishop will be among the best in the nation at their respective positions, and RB Marshawn Lynch deserves Heisman consideration from day one. The quarterback situation will sort itself out with Nate Longshore ready to steady the four-man race, Lynch and Justin Forsett combine to form one of the nation's top tailback duos, and the receivers are among the fastest in America. The defense will be a sack machine with too many good ends for one team, Mebane an all-star in the middle, and one of the best linebacking corps in the nation.
Why Cal isn't No. 1 ... While there are plenty of quarterback options, there is still a question whether or not anyone can be consistent. The offensive line could be an issue.
Tackle Ryan O'Callaghan and center Marvin Philip were two of the best linemen in the nation and won't be easily replaced.
Relative Strengths: running back, linebacker     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, secondary

6. LSU 
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 10-1   2005 Record: 11-2
Why LSU should be No. 1 ... The defense will be amazing as long as tackles Glen Dorsey, Charles Alexander and Marlon Favorite do a spot on impersonation of Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams. As long as the starting linebackers stay healthy, they'll be killers. LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels are NFL safeties spending time in the college ranks, and corner Chevis Jackson is an All-SEC playmaker waiting to break out. There's enough speed and skill on offense to simply outathletic most teams.
Why LSU isn't No. 1 ... The quarterback situation has to be settled and air-tight shut as soon as possible. Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux are more than capable of leading LSU to an SEC title, but if JaMarcus Russell has to look over his shoulder every time he tried to throw into triple coverage, the offense won't run smoothly. Running back is a question mark with the top two backs coming off of torn ACLs, the lightning fast receiving corps has to make even more big plays and live up to all of its talent, and the offensive line has to deal with the loss of three stars while trying to get more push for the running game. 
Relative Strengths: secondary, quarterback     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, linebacker

5. Auburn 
Predicted Finish: 11-1  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 9-3
Why Auburn should be No. 1 ... Auburn loses several good starters, but none of them, not even four of the top five receivers or All-America offensive tackle Marcus McNeill, are irreplaceable. Out with the old, in with near mirror images of the players who left. In other words, Auburn should be even better than last year good enough talent, and a good enough schedule, to reasonably think about a national title.
Why Auburn isn't No. 1 ... The defense is a bit shaky at tackle and safety hoping good prospects can produce right away. The offense needs WR Courtney Taylor to regain his 2004 form and is in huge trouble if there's an injury problem among the starters on the offensive line. The jury is still out on whether or not Brandon Cox is a national title-level quarterback.
Relative Strengths: running back, secondary     Relative Weaknesses: special teams, receiver

4. Miami 
Predicted Finish: 11-1   2005 Predicted Finish: 10-1   2005 Record: 9-3
Why Miami should be No. 1 ...
The defense will once again be among the best in the nation with size, speed, and backups that would start for about 100 other teams. The safeties are among the best in Miami history with Brandon Meriweather and Kelly Phillips each deserving of All-America consideration and Anthony Reddick and Lovon Ponder more than good enough to step in without missing a beat. There isn't a deeper linebacking corps in the ACC. The defense will be among the best in the country, but ...
Why Miami isn't No. 1 ...
... Miami can't win every game if there are offensive issues like there were throughout last season. This year's team has enough talent to think about the national title, but there are just enough holes to keep it from happening with an offensive line that doesn't look to be appreciably better than last year's disaster and not enough overall skill level among the stars on offense to overcome the potential problems up front.
Relative Strengths: secondary, linebacker     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, backup quarterback

3. Ohio State   
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 10-1   2005 Record: 10-2
Why Ohio State should be No. 1 ... QB Troy Smith should make the spread offense sing making big play after big play with his legs as well as his arm. The receivers are big, fast, and talented with Ted Ginn Jr. appearing to be ready to blossom into a superstar wideout. The backfield is full of talent with star freshman Chris Wells ready to push possible All-Big Ten runner Antonio Pittman. The line might be the best in the Jim Tressel's six years in Columbus with a world of talent, especially at tackle. There's no reason whatsoever to worry about the defensive back seven that has to replace all its starters. The line needs to come up with a steady pass rush, but that's nitpicking; All-America tackle Quinn Pitcock and the boys will be a rock against the run.
Why Ohio State isn't No. 1 ... It's one thing to look great in practice; it's another to be consistent under fire. The Buckeye defensive back seven will eventually be unbelievable, but how long is it going to take?
Relative Strengths: quarterback, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: defensive experience, linebacker

2. Texas   
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 8-3   2005 Record: 13-0
Why Texas should be No. 1 ... The backfield is loaded with talented backs, there's plenty of experience and next-level ability in the receiving corps, and the line will once again be among the best in the country despite losing All-Americans Jonathan Scott and Will Allen. The defensive cupboard is hardly bare with a tremendous end tandem of Tim Crowder and Brian Robison sure to be among the best in the country and more than enough talent in the back seven to fill up the All-Big 12 team.
Why Texas isn't No. 1 ... Oh yeah, quarterback. If Jevan Snead and Colt McCoy can be merely adequate, the Longhorns could be back in the national title game. However, neither appear to have anywhere near the magical quality Vince Young possessed.
Relative Strengths: offensive line, running back     Relative Weaknesses: quarterback, backup linebacker

1. USC 
Predicted Finish: 11-1  2005 Predicted Finish: 12-0   2005 Record: 12-1
Why USC is No. 1 ... You're forgetting what a recruiting factory USC is. If John David Booty's back isn't ready and he can't take over for Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez (with his legal troubles behind him) will step in and be a star. Reggie Bush and LenDale White are out, Chauncey Washington, who's finally academically eligible, and true freshmen
Emmanuel Moody and Stafon Johnson, are in. Star receiver Dwayne Jarrett is currently ineligible, but he's supposed to be back by the start of the season. If not, no biggie. Steve Smith returns to join NFL-caliber freshman Vidal Hazelton along with veterans Chris McFoy and Patrick Turner. Those are only the high profile players. The second team linebackers and safeties would start for at least 100 other teams. The offensive line should be solid and the pass rush will be tremendous.
Why USC shouldn't be No. 1 ... Matt, Reggie and LenDale were all-timers. You don't just replace three of the greatest college players of all-time, do you? There's still a question about the overall experience while the secondary has to rebound after a underwhelming 2005. Miami also thought it could simply reload after 2002.
Relative Strengths: receiver, linebacker     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, special teams