On the Fringe - No. 30 to No. 39
With the right breaks, these teams could be in the the top 25
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.
Georgia Preview |
The ranking is too low because ... this will be one of the
nation's 20 best teams as the season goes on and everything gets into
place. The offense that was so lousy last year should be appreciably
better with QB Matthew Stafford over his true freshman year, a good
backfield to carry the attack at times, and Sean Bailey back as the
number one receiver. The line appeared to be a glaring problem going
into the off-season, but quickly turned into a major positive. The
defense has plenty of speed and athleticism.
The ranking is too high because ... there could be problems over
the first month of the season with Oklahoma State, South Carolina and
Alabama on the schedule in the first four games. While there's plenty of
talent, the defense is painfully short of veteran stars and will need
time before it lives up to its potential. Hurting most is a secondary
that lost the one player it couldn't, corner Paul Oliver, because he
didn't go to class. While there's hope for a better year from the
offense, it still has to prove it can produce on a consistent basis.
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Special Teams
Weaknesses: Wide Receiver, Secondary
The ranking is too low because ... Dennis Erickson should finish
off what Dirk Koetter started. The offense never quite exploded, and the
team never quite played, as expected, but Erickson is a Pac 10 veteran
who should be able to tweak things enough to get more production. QB
Rudy Carpenter appears to be far more relaxed than last year when he
pressed way too much. The offensive line should be a strength, paving
the way for underappreciated back Ryan Torian.
The ranking is too high because ... it should be more of the same
from the ASU defense. There's plenty of speed, athleticism and
potential, but there will still be problems against the better Pac 10
offenses. Justin Tryon will be a starting corner in the NFL, but the
second corner has to emerge and will get picked apart early and often if
there isn't consistent safety help. The linebackers have a world of
upside, but not enough experience.
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Quarterback
Weaknesses: Linebacker, Secondary
Arkansas Preview |
The ranking is too low because ... Darren McFadden and Felix
Jones are still in the backfield. These two can score from anywhere on
the field, and can be even more effective that a passing team that
pushes the ball deep. The defensive back seven has SEC-level speed and
athleticism, and it should grow into a strength as long as everyone
The ranking is too high because ... this isn't last year's team.
You don't get better by losing Jamaal Anderson, Keith Jackson, Chris
Houston and Sam Olajubutu off the defense, and the O line has to replace
three starters. Marcus Monk might be one of the SEC's best receivers,
but he needs someone to throw him the ball. Casey Dick isn't a good
enough passer to win with if the running game breaks down.
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Weaknesses: Quarterback, Special Teams
The ranking is too low because ... this is the sleeper Big East
team everyone is secretly worrying about. While there doesn't appear to
be enough in the bag to win the conference title, the Bulls will shatter
plenty of dreams. The receiving corps is deep and potentially explosive,
while rising QB Matt Grothe should do a little of everything to spread
things around. The defensive back seven could be the best in the league,
led by a pair of NFL caliber corners in Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins.
The ranking is too high because ... if Mike Ford doesn't live up
to the hype, there won't be much of a running game outside of Grothe.
The average O line won't make the ground game better. Grothe is a
running quarterback who'll take some big shots, and he can't afford to
get hurt or the offense might go into the tank. The special teams are
just mediocre enough to be a problem against the top Big East teams.
Relative Strengths: Secondary, Linebacker
Weaknesses: Running Back, Offensive Line
The ranking is too low because ... the offense should be better
after the loss of offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. As crazy as that
might sound, considering he went to LSU, things ended up bogging down as
the season went on. New Hampshire's Chip Kelly should provide a nice
spark, utilizing the talent better with more no huddle and a better
tempo. QB Dennis Dixon, RB Jonathan Stewart and WR Jaison Williams form
one of the league's best trio of skill players.
The ranking is too high because ... for all the excitement about
the offense, it still has to prove that last year's collapse was a
fluke. The talent has to shine through and be consistent. The defense
was lousy against the run last season, and it should be a problem again.
The front seven not only has to be far better against the run, but it
has to figure out a way to consistently get into the backfield.
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Quarterback
Weaknesses: Linebacker, Defensive Line
Iowa Preview |
The ranking is too low because ... the defensive line should be
devastating. With the healthy return of Ken Iwebema, getting into the
backfield won't be too much of a problem. The running backs are in place
to ease new starting quarterback Jake Christensen into the job, while
Dominique Douglas, Andy Brodell, and a few good prospects are causing
some to call this the best receiving corps yet in the Kirk Ferentz era.
The ranking is too high because ... the offensive line could be a
problem. Injuries were the issue last season, and now everyone has to
show they can form a consistent unit. Iowa always seems to give up
plenty of passing yards, and this year likely won't be any different
with a secondary that'll be merely average. Overall, the defense needs
to force more turnovers.
Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Running Back
The ranking is too low because ... this is the year it should
finally, finally start to come together in the Mike Stoops era.
Ten starters return to a defense that'll be as stingy as any in the Pac
10, at least outside of the Los Angeles area, while the offense can't
help but be better with a new attack that'll start putting the ball in
the air more. As long as QB Willie Tuitama is healthy, he'll be one of
the league's elite weapons. However ...
The ranking is too high because ... the team can't rely on
Tuitama for a full season. He's just talented enough to get everyone
excited about the possibilities, but as soon as things start to seem to
turn, he has injury issues. The rest of the skill players aren't
anywhere near the level of the top league teams. The O line might be
experienced, but it's not that great. The defense will be terrific, but
it need to find a pass rush.
Relative Strengths: Secondary, Linebacker
Weaknesses: Running Back, Wide Receiver
Alabama Preview |
The ranking is too low because ... this isn't your daddy's
Alabama offense. New offensive coordinator Major Applewhite has a nice
passing game to work with as long as QB John Parker Wilson continues to
progress. The 1-2 receiving punch of D.J. Hall and Keith Brown could
grow into the best in the SEC. While the running backs might not be
there, the line, led by future top ten draft pick Andre Smith, will make
them look good. The defensive back eight in the 3-4 should be excellent.
The ranking is too high because ... the D line looks the part,
but doesn't play like it. The move to the three man front will help the
rotation and should generate more of a pass rush from the outside
linebackers. While the defense should be solid under new coordinator
Kevin Steele, there has to be more all-around production. Offensively,
Nick Saban would like to establish the run, but he doesn't have the
backs to do it.
Relative Strengths: Wide Receiver, Secondary
Weaknesses: Running Back, Defensive Line
South Carolina |
The ranking is too low because ... the offense finally
appears to be in place the way Gamecock fans were hoping it'd be
when Steve Spurrier was hired a few years ago. While QB Blake
Mitchell and the passing game will get most of the attention, the
ground game, thanks to Cory Boyd and Mike Davis, should be every bit
as strong. The linebacking corps, led by Jasper Brinkley, will be
one of the SEC's best.
The ranking is too high because ... the offensive line could
keep the offense from realizing its potential. It'll take a while to
break in three new starters, but there won't be a lot of time to
jell with September road trips to Georgia and LSU. Kenny McKinley
has the potential to be a good number one target, but the receiving
corps will be an X factor if the line doesn't give Mitchell time to
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Quarterback
Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Wide Receiver
- Texas Tech
Offense Preview |
The ranking is too low because ... it's Texas Tech; the passing
game will be there. Yeah, there's a big concern about the receiver
experience, but the production will be there. Graham Harrell should take
another step in his development now that he's a veteran triggerman with
a nice résumé of being able to lead the team to clutch comeback wins.
The secondary might be the best unsung unit in the Big 12 thanks to the
safety tandem of Darcel McBath and Joe Garcia along with corner Chris
The ranking is too high because ... there's bound to be a period
of adjustment in the receiving corps with almost all the top pass
catchers gone. The O line loses four starters, and there's the continued
drama around RB Shannon Woods and the question of effort, at least in
the eyes of the coaching staff. The defensive front seven, with only one
starter returning up front and no depth whatsoever, will give up rushing
yards in chunks.
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary
Defensive Line, Linebacker