The numbers are the CFN pre-preseason national rankings.
Notre Dame 2006 Record: 10-3
Why to get excited: In year three of the Charlie Weis era, the
program should theoretically be hitting its stride, but it appears to be
two years away from being the superpower to match up the hype and
attention. The recruiting classes have been terrific, highlighted by QB
Jimmy Clausen, but it's obviously going to take a little while before
they all start to rock. The schedule couldn't end any softer than Navy,
Air Force, Duke, and at Stanford, and there's a five-game home stretch
starting in mid-October, but ...
Why to be grouchy: ... it starts out brutal. After the home date
with Georgia Tech, the Irish go on the road for four games in five weeks
to Penn State, Michigan, Purdue and UCLA. They follow that up with
Boston College and USC. Yeesh. It doesn't help when you lose all the
offensive stars, including RB Darius Walker, who left a year early. Four
starters are gone off the offensive line, the defense loses Victor Abiamiri and Derek Landri along with big-hitting safety Chinedum Ndukwe.
The number one thing to work on is: Pass protection. Brady Quinn
was enough of a veteran to get out of several jams, but he still got
killed. The new starting quarterback has to survive behind a rebuilt
offensive line and without Walker, Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight to
rely on. The line simply can't give up the 31 sacks it got roasted for
Biggest offensive loss: QB Brady Quinn
Biggest defensive loss: DE Victor Abiamiri
Navy 2006 Record: 9-4
Why to get excited: Many of the main pieces are back for the
offense to be its usual, dominating self. Losing QB Brian Hampton in the
middle of last year wasn't good, but the positive out of is was the
experience Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada gained. He now appears to be the
type of leader who can keep the attack rolling. FB Adam Ballard should
be back after getting hurt, while all the top speed backs return. Even
with all the concerns going into next year, the independent status
should mean another bowl season playing only three teams that went to
bowls last year.
Why to be grouchy: The defense loses almost all the starters.
Just three return, while the offense loses three key offensive lineman
along with top receiver Jason Tomlinson. The passing game was the worst
in the nation last year, partly be offensive design, and it should
struggle even more next year.
The number one thing to work on is: Kickoff returns. Navy is
great at going on long, drawn-out drives, but it could use all the
positive field position it can get. The punting game was awful, the punt
returners were mediocre, and the kickoff returners were abysmal
averaging 16.27 yards per try.
Biggest offensive loss: OG Zach Gallion
Biggest defensive loss: LB Rob Caldwell
Army 2006 Record: 3-9
Why to get excited: Carson Williams. He might not have shown it
last year when thrown to the wolves as a true freshman, but Williams is
the type of talented quarterback Army hasn't had in a long, long time.
When the light eventually goes on, he's the type of player who should be
able to make everyone around him better. If he's not on, David Pevoto is
a veteran quarterback the offense can go back to. The rest of the
backfield returns, so the running game should be better.
Why to be grouchy: The defense is still a work in progress, and
while the effort is always there, the overall talent isn't. It hurts
most going into this year that most of the top players of 2006 were
seniors including top pass rusher Cameron Craig. The team's top three
tacklers are gone.
The number one thing to work on is: Turnovers. Army simply isn't
good enough to make a ton of mistakes and win games. It led the nation
last year with 37 turnovers, two more than anyone else, and only forced
19 takeaways with just four interceptions. Getting more pressure into
the backfield would also be nice after cranking out just 11 sacks.
Biggest offensive loss: OG Pete Bier
Biggest defensive loss: DE Cameron Craig
Temple 2006 Record: 1-11
Why to get excited: Yeah, Temple won just one game last year, but
there were signs of some big improvements under Al Golden. For one, the
team actually got a win beating Bowling Green. It lost to Buffalo in
overtime, and started to get the offense going a wee bit over the second
half of the year as the team experimented. Now, just about everyone is
back with eight starters on offense, including options at quarterback,
and eight on defense including the entire defensive front four and three
in the secondary. The kickers all return.
Why to be grouchy: Two key linebackers, Walter Mebane and Ryan Gore, were seniors and while there are just three starters gone on
offense, they were the key playmakers (RB Tim Brown, OT Elliot Seifert
and WR Mike Holley). The team might have experience, and it really is
getting better, but the overall talent level isn't there to hope for a
winning season. Improvement is needed in almost every area.
The number one thing to work on is: Moving the ball. The Owls
were dead last in the nation in run defense, second-to-last in scoring
defensive, third-to-last in total defense, dead last in punt returns,
and 116th in scoring. The biggest issue is total offense after finishing
last in the country averaging 216 yards per game. The big issue is the
line that needs to do far more for the running game and has to be far,
far better at protecting the quarterbacks.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Tim Brown
Biggest defensive loss: LB Walter Mebane