2008 Preseason Rankings - No. 11 to 20
Texas Tech DE Brandon Williams
Texas Tech DE Brandon Williams
Posted Aug 6, 2008

Preview 2008 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 11 to 20 ... BCS Contenders

Preview 2008 Preseason Rankings

Title Contenders - No. 11 to No. 20

These teams are good enough to be in the national title hunt

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.

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

11. Texas Tech  
- 2008 Texas Tech Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to look for on offense: Jaw-dropping production. If experience means the world from one year to the next in college football, then this veteran team should go ballistic. There’s a reason most of the past ultra-productive Texas Tech quarterbacks were seniors; it took them years to figure out what they were doing. Graham Harrell is a three-year starter and the leader of the nation’s best passing attack. He had two games last year with under 400 passing yards. One of them was against Northwestern State when he threw for 338 yards and five touchdowns in the first half and sat down. The other was a 397-yard day against Missouri. 500-yard days might be the norm.
What to expect on defense: Plenty of pressure. Considering the offense the Red Raiders will throw out there, it’s not going to take a lot of defense to win game, but defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeal isn’t going to sit back and take it easy. He has a tremendous line to work with and there should be lots of sacks, lots of big plays, and lots of tackles for loss.

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receivers
Relative Weaknesses:
Running Back, Linebacker

12. Tennessee  
- 2008 Tennessee Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: New offensive coordinator Dave Clawson. It's not like he fell off the turnip truck and into the coveted Tennessee offensive coordinator position, but he has a lot to live up to with David Cutcliff gone to Duke. It's no coincidence that much of the Vols' offensive success happened when Coach Cut was running the show, then things fell off the map when he left for Ole Miss, and then the attack bounced back when he returned. Clawson isn't a born and bred Vol. From Richmond, he's bringing in some new ideas and an up-tempo offense with a shorter, quicker passing game. If the offense falls flat, he'll end up taking most of the blame.
What to watch for on defense: Can the tackles hold up? Demonte Bolden is a tremendous talent who hasn't played up to his potential yet. Junior Dan Williams is a promising inside presence. While those two haven't played like Reggie White and John Henderson, they'll need to early on as the young talent behind them develops. Most importantly, they have to stay healthy. Walter Fisher is a good option, but it'll be uh-oh time if the DTs are fantastic right away.

13. West Virginia
- 2008 West Virginia Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: Even after rushing for 1,335 yards, passing for 1,724 yards, and accounting for 28 touchdowns, the Mountaineers might need more from QB Patrick White this season. Without playmakers Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and Darius Reynaud, who caught 12 touchdown passes, West Virginia is searching for reliable complements to its dynamic quarterback. The most likely candidate to step up is RB Noel Devine, who erupted for 627 yards and six touchdowns on only 73 carries as a rookie. The offensive line, always a constant in Morgantown, returns five starters and will be among the best units in the country.
What to watch for on defense
: Coordinator Jeff Casteel was retained, good news considering how well the Mountaineers performed in 2007. The defense was air-tight in all facets, allowing just 300 yards and 18 points a game, while finishing ninth nationally in turnover margin.  Maintaining that level of play, however, is about to get tougher. Even without Marc Magro, the linebackers will be fine, but the defensive line must be rebuilt, and there’s a depth issue in the secondary. While Casteel will continue to lean on undersized athletes that fly to the ball, he’s going to need help from a few newcomers and redshirt freshmen.

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

14. Auburn
- 2008 Auburn Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback battle. Who's going to run the new attack? Kodi Burns, the hero of the bowl win over Clemson, finished spring ball on a high note and is an emerging passer, but the consistency won't be there for a full season; he needs a year before he reaches his potential. Texas Tech transfer Chris Todd would be the ideal option to start funnin' and gunnin', but he had a banged up shoulder this off-season and will have to fight for the job. There's a chance for a rotation unless one takes the job by the horns late this summer. 
What to watch for on defense: The secondary will be dominant ... again. It's a no-name bunch that was fantastic despite the lack of a steady and consistent pass rush, and now it could be even more productive with CB Jerraud Powers blossoming into a star and the rising sophomore safety tandem of Mike McNeil and Zac Etheridge among the best in the SEC.
Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses:
Quarterback, Receiver

15. Oregon
- 2008 Oregon Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: Who replaces Dennis Dixon under center? What began as an open field has been narrowed down to a pair of very different sophomores, Nate Costa and Justin Roper. While Roper was lights out in the blowout of South Florida, Costa is the better fit in Chip Kelly’s offense. He’s coming off knee surgery, but has far better mobility than Roper and can make plays outside of the pocket. Although Costa has the edge, he still has plenty to prove when practice resumes in August.
What to watch for on defense
: The play of the secondary. When you think Oregon football, many things come to mind and a suffocating pass defense usually isn’t one of them. At least for one season, this year’s squad is going to change that notion. Led by Patrick Chung, Walter Thurmond, and Jairus Byrd, the Ducks have one of the most athletic and opportunistic defensive backfields in the country. Yes, they’ll give up yards, but they’ll compensate by taking a bunch of passes the other way and doing a good job of erasing the mediocre receiving corps.   

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

16. Kansas  
- 2008 Kansa
s Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to look for on offense: The running game needing Jocques Crawford to be as good as expected. The Jayhawks have found a star running back from out of nowhere in each of the last two years, with Jon Cornish shining in 2007, and Brandon McAnderson rolling last year, and while Jake Sharp and Angus Quigley are decent veterans who can help the cause, they're hardly special talents who can carry the ground attack. Crawford fits the current KU RB mold and needs to be a 1,000-yard-caliber back from the moment he steps off the bus.
What to expect look for defense: The linebacking corps to be among the best in the Big 12, if not the best. This is sort of by default. The Big 12 might be better overall, but the linebackers are nothing special across the board. Even so, even if this was a strong year for linebackers, KU's would stand out with Joe Mortensen, Mike Rivera and James Holt three seniors who have seen it all. These three should dominate even more considering the front line should be good.

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses:
Running Back, Special Teams

17. Penn State  
- 2008 Penn State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

What to watch for on offense: Shorter, quicker passes. It's not like Anthony Morelli was a mad bomber, and it's not like the receiving corps is full of plowhorses, but the passing game is going change things up a little bit and go to more quick throws to get it out of the hands of the quarterback and into the arms of one of the veteran receivers where he can do something with it. Now the question is who the quarterback will be. Daryll Clark has the mobility, but Pat Devlin has the NFL potential. Both have live arms, and both can do whatever the offense needs when it comes to short-range accuracy.
What to watch for on defense: The defensive line is going to once again be dominant without the beef inside. The loss of star tackles Chris Baker and Phil Taylor, who were suspended, will really sting, and it was a shock considering Baker has been able to work out with the team and each is expected back at some point, if not for the start of the season. Even though they're out, it's no big deal with Abe Koroma and Ollie Odrick more than good enough to clog things up in the middle, while Maurice Evans could be the best defensive end in America.

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

18. Boston College
- 2008 Boston College Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to look for offense: Scoring issues early one …and not just because Ryan is gone. Of course the quarterback will be missed, but even when he was chasing the Heisman, BC had trouble getting into the end zone. On top of that, there’s been a complete evacuation at running back, with a few recruits needing to shine, and two of the line’s best blockers are on NFL rosters. Even if Crane is up to the challenge, the Eagles will attempt plenty of field goals, putting even more pressure on Steve Aponavicius to be better.
What to look for on defense: A brick wall of a run defense. After yielding just 75 yards a game on the ground, the Eagles might be even stingier now that DT B.J. Raji and LB Brian Toal are back in the fold. The front seven is among the toughest in the country, meaning the secondary had better be prepared for plenty of attention. Teams will have to throw to win.

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

19. Illinois 
- 2008 Illinois Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: More Juice. The running backs haven't exactly lit it up this off-season in their attempt to replace Rashard Mendenhall, and that puts even more pressure than ever on Juice Williams to be a more consistent passer and will likely rely on him to add even more to the running game. Williams was abysmal throwing the ball two years ago, struggling to complete 40% of his passes, but improved last year. This spring he was even more accurate, more confident a passer, and more of a leader.
What to watch for on defense: Time for the 2006 haul to really kick in. WR Arrelious Benn was one of the jaw-dropping talented Illinois never used to get, but was a big part of the 2006 recruiting class. Depending on what recruiting guru you like to pay attention to, he might have been the third best player in the haul. Martez Wilson is an NFL outside linebacker waiting to happen, and after a good first season, the one-time superstar recruit is about to take the next step and is expected to blossom into a star on the outside. The other next-level talent brought in two years ago was D'Angelo McCray, a prototype defensive tackle who missed last year with a knee injury, and then transferred this off-season leaving a potentially big hole up front, even though he never came through as expected.

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

20. California
- 2008 California Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
What to watch for on offense: While the Cal offense is facing a star power outage for now, don’t bet on it lasting very long. Yeah, Justin Forsett, DeSean Jackson, and LaVelle Hawkins are no longer amateurs, but that just paves the way for the next wave of Bear playmakers to excel. Brace yourself for RB Jahvid Best, receivers Michael Calvin, Nyan Boateng, and Jeremy Ross, along with TE Cameron Morrah, who are a half-year of experience away from being steady and exciting producers in Jeff Tedford’s attack.
What to watch for on defense: More of a reliance on the 3-4 defense. Although the staff won’t make a complete shift to the 3-4, it’s clear it wants to get as many of its big, speedy linebackers on the field at the same time. Led by Zack Follett and Worrell Williams, the Bears are brimming with talent with several good prospects waiting in the wings. Once the three senior starters graduate, underclassmen Mike Mohamed, D.J. Holt, and Eddie Young are putting in the time now to ensure that linebacker will be a position of strength in Berkeley for years to come.

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