The numbers are the CFN pre-preseason national rankings.
11. West Virginia 2006 Record: 11-2
Why to get excited: Rich Rodriguez isn't the head coach of the
Alabama Crimson Tide. After two unbelievable seasons, West Virginia has
proved its an elite team and thanks to Rodriguez, a top-notch program.
As long as Pat White and Steve Slaton are healthy and rolling, along
with underappreciated WR Darius Reynaud, this will be one of the most
nation's most dangerous teams. Eight starters return on defense, while
super-solid P/PK Pat McAfee is also back.
Why to be grouchy: West Virginia might be a factory when it comes
to cranking out offensive linemen who fit the system, but losing C Dan
Mozes, the quarterback up front, and guard Jeremy Sheffey, will be a
problem. Reynaud is the all-around star receiver, but Brandon Myles led
the team in touchdown catches and receiving yards, and Rayshawn Bolden
was a decent option.
The number one thing to work on is: Making more plays in the
backfield. The pass rush wasn't all that bad, but the defensive front
didn't make enough tackles for loss and didn't generate enough overall
pressure to help out the secondary. The defensive backs are good, not
great, and they need as much help as possible after allowing 243 yards
Biggest offensive loss: C Dan Mozes
Biggest defensive loss: LB Kevin McLee
2006 Record: 11-2
Why to get excited: Greg Schiano isn't the head coach of the
Miami Hurricanes. It was considered by many to be a foregone conclusion
that Schiano would by gone after his breakthrough year with the Scarlet
Knights, but instead of leaving for a bigger program, he appears to have
made Rutgers one of those top programs. He's keeping many of the star
local players in-state to restock the shelves behind a team with just
enough returning talent to keep the momentum rolling. PK Jeremy Ito will
be one of the nation's best.
Why to be grouchy: Just enough top players are gone off the
nation's No. 4 defense to expect a bit of a drop-off. While last year
was certainly special, it's not like the D stopped a who's who of
offenses. The losses on the front seven will take at least a game or
three to overcome.
punter Joe Radigan is gone.
The number one thing to work on is: Getting Mike Teel rolling
right off the bat. The junior-to-be quarterback showed against Kansas
State in the Texas Bowl that he can be more than just a guy who hands it
off to Rice, and he now needs to take the next step up and be a
playmaker to open up the attack a bit more. If he's on, there might be
no stopping the offense.
Biggest offensive loss: TE Clark Harris
Biggest defensive loss: DT Ramel Meekins
26. South Florida 2006 Record: 9-4
Why to get excited: Talk about a program on the verge of
exploding, USF has gone from non-existent to a player in a major
conference with its first bowl win, a dominant victory over West
Virginia, and a nine-win campaign. Only six players are gone off the
Papajohns.com Bowl two-deep depth chart with sophomore-to-be QB Matt
Grothe a star to build rally around and the defense certain to be among
the best in the country.
Why to be grouchy: There might not be many personnel losses, but
they're relatively big ones. Starting receivers Ean Randolph and S.J.
Green, along with TE Will Bleakley, are gone from the offense, while
star linebackers Stephen Nicholas and Pat Green, along with SS Jerramy
Burnett, are off the D. USF can't sneak up on anyone anymore; this is
now the type of team everyone will bring its A game for.
The number one thing to work on is: Punting and kickoff returns.
Sophomore Justin Teachey had a rough year, but the punt coverage team
didn't help him out much as the Bulls netted an abysmal 30.03 yards per
punt. Taurus Johnson has to give the kickoff return game some more pop
after USF averaged just 17.58 yards per try.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Ean Randolph
Biggest defensive loss: LB Stephen Nicholas
2006 Record: 12-1
Why to get excited: Brian Brohm. Likely the the third quarterback
taken in the draft, and a possible top 15 pick, had he come out, Brohm
provides steady leadership and a Heisman-caliber playmaker to a team
that needs to get through the transition from Bobby Petrino to Steve
Kragthorpe in a hurry. All the top receivers are back meaning the
nation's No. 7 passing attack should still shine, while getting
All-America PK Art Carmody back for another year will mean all the
attack has to do is get around the 35 to get points.
Why to be grouchy: Kragthorpe is a good one, and Brohm is
special, but there can't help but be a little bit of a slip after losing
a star like Petrino. The departure of six starters off the defense,
including CB William Gay and top 15 overall-caliber DT Amobi Okoye won't
help. George Stripling is a great back, but the running game will be
worse without Kolby Smith.
The number one thing to work on is: The entire punting game.
Louisville's only real weaknesses last year were punting the ball
(averaging 33.48 yards per kick) and returning punts (averaging 6.79
yards per return) relying on two freshmen to handle the work. Punter
Corey Goettsche has a year of experience now, as does punt returner
Trent Guy, and now they have to do more.
Biggest offensive loss: OT Renardo Foster
Biggest defensive loss: DT Amobi Okoye
2006 Record: 8-5
Why to get excited: Brian Kelly. The loss of Mark Dantonio to
Michigan State would've really hurt if UC didn't pick up one of the
hotter coaching prospects out there. While Kelly is a high-riser and
might be a bit of a rent-a-coach, he should keep the momentum going
after a strong eight win season finished off by a bowl win. Eight
starters return to the offense and eight to the defense with Dustin
Grutza a veteran, if erratic, quarterback to work around, but ...
Why to be grouchy: ... can Grutza be the type of passer who can
make the offense sing? It was Nick Davila's show in the bowl win over
Western Michigan, and the new coaching staff might want to play around a
little bit with its options. Safety valve tight end Brent Celek won't be
around to rely on. Strong PK Kevin Lovell is also gone.
The number one thing to work on is: Protecting the quarterback.
The sack numbers might not mean too much since quarterbacks are required
to run in Kelly's offense, but the offensive line has to do a much
better job in pass protection. The more time Grutza gets, the more
effective he is.
Biggest offensive loss: TE Brent Celek
Biggest defensive loss: SS Dominic Ross
2006 Record: 6-6
Why to get excited: Alright Dave, time to kick it in. The
Wannstedt era should now be ready to roll after two years of upgrading
the overall team speed and athleticism, but it has to get past the five
game losing streak it ended last year on. Enough starters return on
defense to be far better than last year when the Panthers gave up 363
yards per game, while the offense should be solid with a slew of good
receivers and RB LaRod Stephens-Howling to work with. However ...
Why to be grouchy: ... the leadership losses are gaping. QB Tyler
Palko came up with a fantastic 2006, while LB H.B. Blades was one of the
nation's best tacklers. While the coaching staff has brought in more
athletic talent on defense, losing Blades, LB Clint Session, DE Vernon
Botts, and CB Darrelle Revis, who took off a year early for the NFL,
stings. The defense might need another year of transitioning.
The number one thing to work on is: Stop the run. Wannstedt's a
defensive coach, but his teams haven't been able to slow down good
running games in two years and was torched over the final three games of
last year. You can't win in the Big East if you're not consistent
against the run with backs like Steve Slaton, Ray Rice, and Donald Brown
to worry about.
Biggest offensive loss: QB Tyler Palko
Biggest defensive loss: LB H.B. Blades
68. Connecticut 2006 Record: 4-8
Why to get excited: Call 2006 a transition year. UConn had to
break in several new starters in key spots and was erratic all season
long with an unsettled quarterback situation, a spotty run defense, and
not overall consistency. Veteran teams tend to get past the little
problems, and the Huskies have experience with 17 starters returning.
Donald Brown would be getting national attention as one of the nation's
better backs if he wasn't in the same league as Steve Slaton and Ray
Why to be grouchy: And the quarterback will be ... ? D.J.
Hernandez struggled too much when he got his chance to finally show what
he could do, Matt Bonislawski is gone, Darius Butler is a question mark,
and JUCO transfer Tyler Lorenzen is unproven. The rest of the Big East
is too strong to not get steady quarterback play. The run defense was
awful throughout last year, and it won't help to lose starting defensive
tackles Ray Blagman and Rhema Fuller. .
The number one thing to work on is: Passing efficiency. With
Brown in the backfield and the way the Huskies have run under head coach
Randy Edsall, the passing attack doesn't have to be Texas Tech's, but it
has to be effective. UConn was last in the Big East, and 104th in the
nation, in passing efficiency and averaged a mere 141 yards per game.
Biggest offensive loss: FB Deon Anderson
Biggest defensive loss: DT Rhema Fuller
77. Syracuse 2006 Record: 4-8
Why to get excited: Things can't get any worse. After finishing
at the bottom, or second-to-last, of the Big East in just about every
major category. The attack gets a boost with WR Taj Smith returning from
injury, while RBs Curtis Brinkley and Delone Carter appear to be the
type of backs to revolve the offense around. After two years, now Greg
Robinson has to show the program is on the right track.
Why to be grouchy: Just enough starters are gone to leave open
several question marks going into the year. The linebacking corps takes
the biggest hit hurt most by the loss of Kelvin Smith, both corners are
gone, and for good and bad, QB Perry Patterson is done. One of the
team's few bright spots, punter Brendan Carney, is also gone.
The number one thing to work on is: The offensive line. Patterson
took most of the blame for the team's problems, but he rarely had time
to operate behind a porous offensive lint that allowed a whopping 45
receivers should be in place to make the passing attack a major plus,
but the new quarterback, possible Andrew Robinson, needs a chance.
The ground game rarely
got room to get moving.
Biggest offensive loss: QB Perry Patterson
Biggest defensive loss: LB Kelvin Smith