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2008 Preseason Rankings - No. 21 to 29
Michigan DE Tim Jamison
Michigan DE Tim Jamison
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 6, 2008


Preview 2008 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 21 to 29 ... Conference Contenders

Preview 2008 Preseason Rankings

Conference Contenders - No. 21 to No. 29

Dangerous players in the conference races

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

21. Pitt 
- 2008 Pitt Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: The development of the offensive line. No one is more integral to the Panthers’ 2008 fate than the five blockers responsible for protecting Bill Stull and creating space for LeSean McCoy. Pitt’s blueprint for retooling the group includes bringing C Robb Houser over from Butte College, relocating Joe Thomas from right guard to right tackle, and rehabbing the surgically-repaired shoulder of LT Jason Pinkston. If any hiccups surface in the plan, the Panthers will labor to improve on last season’s 22 points and 319 yards a game.
What to watch for on defense
: The rise of the line. Last spring, Gus Mustakas couldn’t be kept out of the backfield. This spring, Mick Williams was virtually unstoppable. Now that both are healthy, a year older, and will be joined by steady vet Rashaad Duncan, Pitt’s going to have one of the Big East’s most disruptive tackle rotations. Add in the pressure of emerging sophomore end Greg Romeus, and Dave Wannstedt finally has a line that can win the battle at the line of scrimmage.

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

22. Florida State
- 2008 Florida State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 
What to look for offense: The development of a very young offensive line. If there’s going to be progress in Fisher’s second year as the coordinator, there needs to be a lot more support from a line that returns just two starters and is painfully short on experience. The right side will be manned by freshmen and there weren’t enough bodies to even fill out a two-deep in the spring.  LT Rodney Hudson is a budding star, but he’s just one blocker in a unit that requires five and is noticeably short on talent and depth.   
What to look for on defense: Better play from the secondary. The ‘Noles were uncharacteristically leaky in pass defense last year allowing two dozen touchdown passes and almost 250 yards a game. Don’t expect it to become a trend.  Led by the cornerback trio of Tony Carter, Patrick Robinson, and Michael Ray Garvin, veteran talent returns at key positions, and the schedule is short on quarterbacks capable of exposing the cracks in this group’s armor.  
Relative Strengths: Receivers, Linebackers
Relative Weaknesses:
Offensive Line, Quarterback

23. South Florida
- 2008 South Florida Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: Matt Grothe has led the Bulls in rushing the last two years, a double-edged sword for the program. While his dual-threat potential ignites the offense, at just 6-0 and 215 pounds, do you really want your franchise taking so much pounding every week? Grothe will get much-needed help on the ground from RB Mike Ford, who debuted with 645 yards and 12 touchdowns on 138 carries. The passing game welcomes back a talented receiving corps that includes Carlton Mitchell, Jessie Hester, and Taurus Johnson, who each caught four touchdown passes. Grothe, however, needs to help himself by improving his reads and cutting back on a bloated interception total.   
What to watch for on defense: Although the departures of LB Ben Moffitt and corners Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams have the defense in transition, the unit has enough returning talent to land on its feet. Of course, it helps that All-America DE George Selvie will be back to torment quarterbacks coming off the edge. Regardless of the names on the jersey, the Bulls will be fast, well-coached, and prone to creating turnovers. Losing the cover skills of Jenkins and Williams, however, will stifle the defense’s ability to turn the safeties loose on blitzes. 

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Special Teams
Relative Weaknesses:
Receivers, Linebacker

24. Virginia Tech 
- 2008 Virginia Tech Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: Where are the playmakers? Now that leading rusher Branden Ore has been exiled and last year’s top four wide receivers have graduated, the Hokies are about to experience a power outage on offense after not exactly burning things up last year finishing 100th in the nation. While so much attention is being given to the quarterback battle between Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor, it won’t matter who wins if the supporting cast is impotent. In the backfield, redshirt freshman Darren Evans has stood out and a deep ensemble of tight ends will be instrumental to the success of the passing attack.   
What to watch for on defense: The run defense will be more vulnerable than it's been in years. No, opponents won’t be able to gash and dash, but they’ll find a little more running room than normal. Tech was gutted by graduation at defensive tackle and the losses of linebackers Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall won’t be easily overcome. The onus falls on new tackles Cordarrow Thompson and John Graves, and middle linebacker Brett Warren to pick up the slack and exceed expectations. 

Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses:
Wide Receiver, Running Back

25. Michigan
- 2008 Michigan Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch on offense … How quickly will the line come together? The running backs should be outstanding, the receiving corps won't be bad, and even with all the weeping and gnashing of teeth about not having Terrelle Pryor running the show, the quarterbacks aren't going to be awful. None of it matters unless the line, one of the least experienced in America, can produce right away. This is Michigan, so there's a slew of four-star talent across the line, and fortunately, there are enough good athletes to start putting the Rich Rodriguez style of offense in place.
What to watch on defense … The line could possibly grow into one of the best in America.  The offense might struggle, but if the defensive front plays up to its capability, the defense will pick up the slack. A disappointment last season even though it was supposed to be a year of transition, there aren't any excuses going into this season with the tackle combination of Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson good enough to get the NFL scouts hopping, while the ends, Tim Jamison and rising star Brandon Graham, should be big-time stat producers.

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses:
Quarterback, Offensive Line

26. BYU 
- 2008 BYU Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: More Fui. With backup running back Manase Tonga off the team, it'll be up to hard-charging fan favorite Fui Vakapuna to play more of a role behind Harvey Unga. The senior was never healthy last season and was limited throughout, but now he's healthy and looking like the pounding back who had a breakout 2006. He's the power in a efficient, effective attack.
What to watch for on defense: The no-name corners to improve. While the secondary is a question mark going into the season, there's talent and potential on the corners. It might take a little seasoning, and a few growing pains, but speedster Brandon Howard, junior Scott Johnson, and relatively unproven backups G Pittman and Brandon Bradley should grow into their jobs.

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses:
Linebacker, Secondary

27. Arizona State
- 2008 Arizona State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: The line, the line, the line, the line, and, uh, the line. Considering the unit yielded 55 sacks, it’s amazing the Sun Devils were able to win 10 games in a competitive conference, and it’s even more amazing that QB Rudy Carpenter can still walk. If the makeshift unit can somehow give Carpenter a little bit of time, it’ll allow a deep pool of skill position players to get more touches and make more plays in the open field. The offense will be more consistent, and Carpenter won’t be a human punching bag again.
What to watch for on defense: The pass rush should be better. It wasn’t all that bad last season coming up with 29 sacks, but that was good for ninth in the Pac 10. The ends appear to be on the verge of big things with Jamarr Robinson and James Brooks pushing starters Dexter Davis and Luis Vasquez and creating a good rotation that should be camped out in the backfield early and often.

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

28. Utah
- 2008 Utah Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: The ground game should be even stronger. The Utes were great at pounding the ball with Darrell Mack, and now Asiata is back to provide a dangerous 1-2 power punch. Each can carry the offense and each can produce big-time numbers, and now they have to show they can form a steady rotation.
What to watch for on defense: Plenty of attention to the interior. The Utah run defense was fine, but it wasn't anything special. To improve and be good enough to win the Mountain West, tackles Aaron Tonga, Lei Talamaivao, and Kenape Eliapo have to be special. They have the upside and the skill to form a brick wall of an interior, and they have enough overall athleticism to get into the backfield.

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

29. UCLA
- 2008 UCLA Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: The receivers. If the quarterbacks and offensive line cooperate, which are both big “ifs”, the Bruins have the ingredients of their most productive receiving corps in years. Young Dominique Johnson has the size and acrobatics to blossom into the headliner.  Marcus Everett and Gavin Ketchum have made it all the way back from season-ending injuries.  And Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya give UCLA one of the best one-two punches at tight end in the conference. In an offense looking for a spark, this group of pass-catchers has the talent to ignite it. 
What to watch for on defense
: Replacing DE Bruce Davis, one of the best pass rushers in school history. If the leaky Bruin secondary has any chance of stopping the pass this year, it’ll need help from the boys up front, who’ll be trying to cushion the blow of losing a true disruptive force. Ends Korey Bosworth and Tom Blake are nice players, but without Davis to attract multiple blockers, they’ll find it tougher getting into the backfield. 
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Special Teams
Relative Weaknesses:
Offensive Line, Quarterback

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