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2008 Preseason Rankings - No. 80 to 89
Duke LB Michael Tauiliili
Duke LB Michael Tauiliili
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 6, 2008


Preview 2008 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 80 to 89 ... Admittedly Underrated

Preview 2008 Preseason Rankings

Admittedly Underrated - No. 80 to No. 89

No argument here if you think some of these teams should be higher

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.

CFN 2008 Preseason Rankings
1 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 29 | 30 to 39 | 40 to 49 | 50 to 59
60 to 69 | 70 to 79 | 80 to 89 | 90 to 99 | 100 to 109 | 110 to 119

80. Air Force
- 2008 Air Force Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
hat to watch for on offense: A desperate, ongoing search for players who can make big things happen. This will be an inexperienced group that'll need to fight through mistakes by being consistent, and to hit a home run here and there. The coaching staff would love if it Ty Paffett could come close to being the type of runner Chad Hall grew into last season, while there might be more from the receiving corps that shows promise and has a nice target in tight end Ty Dekker to work around.
What to watch for on defense: Ben Garland in the middle. One of the team's best linemen last season, Garland moves from the outside in to provide more bulk. It's not like the run defense was all that bad with the veterans returning to the front three, but putting Garland inside should bring even more activity.

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Special Teams
Relative Weaknesses:
Wide Receiver, Linebacker

81. Duke 
- 2008 Duke Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: David Cutcliffe plans to install a faster paced, no-huddle offense, while still adapting to the personnel he inherits. The ultimate goal will be to achieve balance and to keep defenses guessing. Cutcliffe’s first quarterback is a good one, third-year starter Thaddeus Lewis, an all-league contender if he keeps learning. If Duke is going to start scoring more touchdowns than in recent years, it’s imperative that the line gives Lewis an extra tick or two to find top offensive weapon Eron Riley and an improving collection of young wideouts. 
What to watch for on defense
: Although Duke’s recent woes on defense will likely continue, there is reason for optimism thanks to a front seven that’s loaded with more playmaker than usual. DT Vince Oghobaase is the signature player, but he has company, namely from frenetic LBs Michael Tauiliili and Vincent Rey, who’ll go anywhere to make a play. The weakest link is located in the secondary, where the Blue Devils are short on defensive backs that can go stride-for-stride with quality receivers. It’ll help in a big way if the ends, Wesley Oglesby and Ayanga Okpokowuruk can generate more heat on quarterbacks this season.  

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses:
Special Teams, Secondary


82. Syracuse
- 2008 Syracuse Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 
What to watch for on offense: The running game. The Orange was second-to-last in the nation in rushing offense averaging just 62.75 yards per game, but that wasn’t helped by 54 sacks bringing down the overall total. Now with Mike Williams out of the picture, and the receiving corps a mess, the coaching staff has figure out how to pound away with the running game and hope for an explosive element to come out of it. SU can’t win with its passing game without Williams.  
What to watch for on defense
:
The defensive back seven to be an issue up until the opener, and beyond. Considering the SU defense was last in the Big East and 111th in the nation in yards allowed, the last thing this team needed was to have to start from scratch. The line will turn out to be fine with some good prospects working around tackle Arthur Jones, but the secondary is trying to rebuild with several different options, including a few from the offense, while the linebacking corps is a work in progress with position battles on the outside to work around Jake Flaherty in the middle.
Relative Strengths: Wide Receiver, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses:
Offensive Line, Secondary

83. Florida Atlantic 
- 2008 Florida Atlantic Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: More from the running game. There was supposed to be more production from the backfield last year, and while there was, the offense became too reliant on QB Rusty Smith. That's not necessarily a bad thing considering the air show should be the Sun Belt's more efficient, but with Pierre, Edgecomb and Rose, three solid veterans, the running game will get more attention early on.
What to watch for on defense: Phenomenal corner play. FAU might not have corners on the level of last year's Troy tandem of Leodis McKelvin, now with Buffalo, and Elbert Mack, now with Tampa Bay, but the NFL scouts are going to take a hard look at Corey Small this season while hoping Tavious Polo beefs up a little bit over the next two seasons. Add Erick McIntosh to the mix, after he missed all of last year with academic issues, and the Owls are loaded at corner.

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Wide Receiver
Relative Weaknesses:
Defensive Line, Offensive Line


84. Ball State   
- 2008 Ball State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: QB Nate Davis to be even better. With all his weapons back, a strong line to operate behind, and the emergence of Daniel Ifft as a new dangerous target, Davis should improve on his tremendous 2007 numbers. 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns aren't unattainable goals (he threw for 3,667 yards and 30 scores last season).
What to watch for on defense: More pressure into the backfield. That was the goal going into last year and the Cardinals stunk at getting to the quarterback for yet another season. Brandon Crawford will do his part at one end, but as a whole, the defense has to do far more after struggling to come up with big plays behind the line while failing to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback. The defense will give up several big plays, but it'll have to make more of its own.

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receivers
Relative Weaknesses:
Defensive Line, Linebacker

85. Northern Illinois   
- 2008 Northern Illinois Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: A variety of formations depending on the personnel. Depending on who's under center, the offense will go to a pro style attack, a spread formation, and everything else possible to take advantage of the matchups. There will be some shotgun for a different look, and there will be plenty of tinkering going on to get things going.
What to watch for on defense: Safety Alex Kube at strongside linebacker. The team's second best defensive player last year behind DE Larry English, Kube was a tackling machine as the last line of defense for the porous run defense. Now Kube will be closer to the line to use his toughness and tackling ability to add more overall production, but can he hold up? He's only 6-1 and 203 pounds.

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebackers
Relative Weaknesses:
Defensive Line, Secondary

86. Louisiana Tech
- 2008 Louisiana Tech Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Steve Ensminger is a good talent who should be in the starting mix for the next few seasons, but it was sophomore Ross Jenkins, with excellent all-around skills and big upside, who sat on top of the depth chart coming out of spring ball. When Georgia Tech transfer Taylor Bennett gets his chance he's expected to be the main man, but it'll be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles the situation. This is a good enough team to win the WAC title right now; can an untested sophomore take the job from a veteran senior like Bennett?
What to watch for on defense: The return of Brannon Jackson. The Tech linebacking corps is full of smallish, fast players built more like safeties than linebackers. Jackson is the exception checking in at 256 pounds with good toughness against the run and decent quickness. He was the one bright spot on the miserable 2006 defense, and now, thanks to a knee injury that cost him all of last year, he gets a shot to make some noise on possibly one of the best Tech teams in years.

Relative Strengths: Special Teams, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses:
Offensive Line, Defensive Line

87. Colorado State 
- 2008 Colorado State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: The ground game. Everyone talked about running the ball over the last few seasons, but this group should actually do it. With Kyle Bell back to being Bell and Gartrell Johnson, last year's leading rusher, certain to be even more effective now that he doesn't have to do everything, the Rams should be powerful on the ground.
What to watch for on defense: Far more of an attitude from the run defense. Now the pieces are back in place with safeties Mike Pagnotta, who was limited for a stretch with an ankle problem, and Klint Kubiak, back after a serious ulcer cost him almost all of last year, healthy and patrolling the secondary again. While the hope is for the front seven to handle their duties against the run, the secondary will now do more to make big plays.

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Special Teams
Relative Weaknesses:
Wide Receiver, Secondary

88. Toledo 
- 2008 Toledo Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: No, this might not be the explosive attack that put up points in bunches in a mad attempt to make up for the huge numbers the defense was giving up, but the running game, even without Jalen Parmele, should be solid while the passing game should be even better with a settled quarterback situation thanks to the emergence of Aaron Opelt. The 1-2 receiving punch of Stephen Williams and Nick Moore should be deadly.
What to watch for on defense: More plays in the backfield. Yeah that was said before last year, but this season it's going to happen by default. The Rockets can't do any worse after tying for dead last in America with a mere nine sacks and 51 tackles for loss. The coaching staff is jockeying things around to get more pop from the ends.

Relative Strengths: Wide Receiver, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses:
Defensive Line, Linebacker

89. Western Michigan 
- 2008 Western Michigan Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: The backups. While QB Tim Hiller stepped up this off-season and appears to be ready for a big year, he's only a year removed from a bad knee injury, and West will be the main man once he comes back from a knee problem of his own, the focus will be on the developed depth to keep the train moving if the starters aren't 100%. Glenis Thompson, a 5-8, 210-pound junior, proved this spring that he can carry the ground game if West isn't right. Quarterback is the bigger issue with neither Drew Burdi nor Robert Arnheim showing much so far.
What to watch for on defense: A return to 2006. Two years ago the Broncos were flying all over the place on defense wreaking havoc from the backfield to the secondary. Last year the D was a bit more tentative, but it was still effective and productive. This year, with everyone back, new defensive coordinator Steve Morrison will release the hounds. Expect more sacks, more movement, and more big plays.

Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses:
Special Teams, Offensive Line

CFN 2008 Preseason Rankings
1 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 29 | 30 to 39 | 40 to 49 | 50 to 59
60 to 69 | 70 to 79 | 80 to 89 | 90 to 99 | 100 to 109 | 110 to 119