2008 CFN Preseason Rankings

Posted Aug 6, 2008

The 2008 national title race is wide-open with many of the usual suspects, like Brian Hartline's Ohio State, Knowshon Moreno's Georgia, and Mark Sanchez's USC are among the ten best teams. The CFN rankings are done by how good the teams appear to be going into the season ... who else makes the list?

Preview 2008 Preseason Rankings

National Title Contenders - No. 1 to No. 10

The best teams in the nation

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

10. Wisconsin 
- 2008 Wisconsin Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Why Wisconsin should be No. 1: The Badgers finished 9-4 and got to yet another New Year's Day bowl game, pushing Tennessee to the end in a 21-17 Outback Bowl loss, despite suffering a ridiculous number of major injuries. Now the running game should be better, the tight end combination of Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham will be the best in the nation, and the defense gets a slew of top players back, including both starting corners off of ACL injuries. The D line gets the most help as Matt Shaughnessy and four banged up starters are back.
Why Wisconsin isn't No. 1: The team still has to prove it can get up for every game, every week. The ultimate play-to-the-competition team, over the years the Badgers have shown they can hang with anyone in the SEC and the best in the Big Ten, but will struggle against the UNLVs and the Citadels of the world. The injuries are still a question mark on defense, while the quarterback situation is far from a plus with Allan Evridge and Dustin Sherer failing to set the world on fire in practices.
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses:
Wide Receiver, Quarterback

9. Texas 
- 2008 Texas Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Why Texas should be No. 1: Flying under the radar last season, Texas rolled on offense finishing 13th in the nation in yards and 14th in scoring. There might be some major personnel losses, but QB Colt McCoy and veteran WR Quan Cosby are good enough to bridge the gap in the passing game until a slew of star freshmen are ready. The defense gets a major coup in Will Muschamp, the star defensive coordinator who's destined to be the head man of a major program in the near future.
Why Texas isn't No. 1: Jamaal Charles won't be around to bail the team out. Charles saved the offense at times last season, and while there should be a decent committee of speedy backs, they aren't Charles. Developed depth is an issue up front on defense and all over the place on offense. There's good talent waiting in the wings, but it'll be uh-oh time if there are major injuries early on.
Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Linebacker 
Relative Weaknesses:
Secondary, Wide Receiver

8. Clemson
- 2008 Clemson Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Why Clemson should be No. 1: The skill players are as good as any in America. The foursome of QB Cullen Harper, RBs James Davis and C.J. Spiller, and WR Aaron Kelly will all be starting in the NFL in the near future, and if they get time to work, Clemson will have the offense and the schedule to potentially make a run to the BCS Championship. The secondary is loaded and the defensive line, helped by mega-recruit DaQuan Bowers, will be dominant.
Why Clemson isn't No. 1: Either the Clemson defensive line is unstoppable, or the offensive line is going to be a big issue. It might be a little of both. It could take a while for an O line with three new starters to jell, and that's a problem with a statement matchup against Alabama to start the year. The linebackers aren't special, at least not going into the season, but they'll turn out to be fine. As good as the team might be, it's still Clemson. Everyone will be waiting for the hiccup to come against a mediocre team.
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses:
Offensive Line, Linebacker

7. Missouri
- 2008 Missouri Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Why Missouri should be No. 1:
If everyone plays as well as expected, Mizzou will once again have one of the five most productive offenses in the nation. It all starts with Heisman finalist Chase Daniel, an ultra-efficient passer who knows the offense backwards and forwards. Now in his third year as the starter and with 37 games under his belt, he'll make his dizzying array of weapons shine. The receiving corps is loaded with all-around playmaker Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman, who's healthy after playing last year hurt, while Danario Alexander and Tommy Saunders are strong targets to work with. The D could be special if everyone gets healthy.
Why Missouri isn't No. 1:
The linebacking corps, overall, needs depth to quickly develop after losing two top backup prospects to go along with an array of injuries. The corners are decent, but they're hardly elite, which will be a major problem in a Big 12 overloaded with great quarterbacks. The real question mark will the the expectations. Missouri was supposed to be a player last season, but it still sort of snuck up on everyone. Now the spotlight will be on, and anything less than a second straight Big 12 title appearance will be a major disappointment.
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receivers
Relative Weaknesses:
Secondary, Linebacker

6. LSU
- 2008 LSU Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Why LSU should be No. 1: The team reloaded in a big hurry. Even without All-Everything DT Glenn Dorsey, the D line could be even better with the expected emergence of Ricky Jean-Francois, who missed most of last year with academic issues, joining likely top 50 draft picks Al Woods, Marlon Favorite and Tyson Jackson on a supersized front wall. If the O line isn't the best in America, it's in the top five with Ciron Black, Herman Johnson and center Brett Helms forming a base to let the new quarterback work as long as he needs to.
Why LSU isn't No. 1: And the quarterback will be ... ? Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch might turn out to be decent game managers, but neither one will make anyone forget about JaMarcus Russell or Matt Flynn. Yeah, LSU reloaded with tremendous talents, but there should still be a drop-off in overall production after losing Flynn, FB Jacob Hester, Dorsey, LB Ali Highsmith and SS Craig Steltz. Those guys were warriors and team leaders who made a great team a national champion.
Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Offensive Line    
Relative Weaknesses:
Quarterback, Special Teams

5. Oklahoma
- 2008 Oklahoma Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Why Oklahoma should be No. 1: If the Sooners play up to their full capabilities every week, they'll be in Miami on January 8th. The offensive line is the best in the nation, with future NFLers like Phil Loadholt paving the way for a healed up DeMarco Murray. The passing game loses some weapons, but QB Sam Bradford, the nation's most efficient passer last season, should have all the time he needs to make everyone around him better. The defensive front is loaded, while the back seven is fast, fast, fast.
Why Oklahoma isn't No. 1: Can OU really be consistent week in and week out? When is that Colorado/West Virginia clunker going to come? In the Big 12 this year, anything less than an A game every week won't do, and this team, as talented as it is, has to prove it can bring the noise every time out. Replacing Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Curtis Lofton isn't going to be easy, Murray and running mate in the backfield, Chris Brown, are coming off knee injuries, and the receiving corps has to go on without Malcolm Kelly, who bolted early for the big league.
Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses:
Linebacker, Receivers

4. Florida
- 2008 Florida Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Why Florida should be No. 1: No one's going to stop the offense. No one. If you can't put up at least 35 points, you're not going to keep pace with a loaded Gator attack with a bigger, stronger Percy Harvin, a living, breathing running game with breathtaking speed, a future NFL tight end in Cornelius Ingram, and oh yeah, there's that guy who performs circumcisions when he's not winning Heismans. The defense is a year older and should be a year better after a reloading season. The run defense should be a rock and everyone returns in the defensive backfield.
Why Florida isn't No. 1:
The pass defense was awful last season and despite all the returning talent, it still has to prove it can stop someone. The starters should be fine, but the backup DBs are very, very green. The offensive line is fine, but it has to stay healthy after suffering some key injuries. The D line is banking the house on two true freshmen, Omar Hunter and Matt Patchen, to form a brick wall on the inside. If they're not great, there's a ceiling on how high the Gators can go.
Relative Strengths: Wide Receiver, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses:
Defensive Line

3. USC
- 2008 USC Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Why USC should be No. 1: Forget about doing much of anything on this defense. When linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing decided to put off their NFL millions for another year, all of a sudden the already good-looking D took on a whole other personality. The secondary is sensational with six players with starting experience returning, while the D line has its usual share of pro prospects, led by DT Fili Moala and speedy Everson Griffen on the outside. Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson, might not be Bush and White, in the offensive backfield, but they'll produce.
Why USC isn't No. 1: The offensive line needs just enough work potentially be a problem. Of course USC is a factory, but losing four starters is still a problem. There's also that issue of the offensive needing to prove it on a consistent basis. The receiving corps have it all, and gets former Arkansas Razorback Damian Williams, but it was average last year. This is still the star of the Pac 10, but this is nowhere near the killer of a few years ago. It's a beatable team by anyone who can muster up some offense in a one-shot deal (distant early warning ... watch out for October 25 at Arizona).
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Secondary   
Relative Weaknesses:
Offensive Line, Proven Wide Receivers

2. Georgia
- 2008 Georgia Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Why Georgia should be No. 1: It just seems like it's Georgia's turn at bat. There have been some good Dawg teams in recent years, but this one has the look of something special. It takes at least a year for an SEC superpower to build to a national title level, and the Dawgs have done it with a loaded team that doesn't have any glaring weakness. The O line is fantastic, Knowshon Moreno is one of the nation's best backs, Matthew Stafford will likely be the first quarterback taken in next year's draft (if he leaves early), and the defense will finish among the top ten. No one will be throwing on this secondary.
Why Georgia isn't No. 1: The suspensions matter. No, Georgia won't lose to Georgia Southern or Central Michigan, but for a team shooting for a national title, the cohesion lost by all the off-the-field issues and the suspensions could prove costly down the road (it could be as soon as mid-September at South Carolina).
The offense was opportunistic and it put points on the board, but it didn't move the ball nearly as well as you'd think considering the team put up 40 or more points six times. The receivers, like Mohamed Massaquoi, have to be better to make the inefficient passing attack more dangerous. Georgia, under Mark Richt, has always been at its best as the slight underdog, or the out-of-the-radar team, but the spotlight will be on from day one this year.
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Secondary   
Relative Weaknesses:

1. Ohio State
- 2008 Ohio State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 
Why Ohio State is No. 1: No one has more NFL talent. Ten starters are back on offense and the one new face to the top of the depth chart, OT Bryant Browning, will be a star. Chris Wells is a Heisman caliber back who might be the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft if he comes out early. Super-recruit Terrelle Pryor will add another dimension to an attack that already has a future NFL clipboard holder in Todd Boeckman. The defense went from terrific to impenetrable with the stunning decisions by LB James Laurinaitis and CB Malcolm Jenkins to return for their senior seasons. The linebacking corps is great, the secondary is better, and the D line appears to have improved despite the loss of Vernon Gholston. If that wasn't enough, the special teams are among the nation's best.
Why Ohio State shouldn't be No. 1: There's still a very, very, skeptical nation that assumes Ohio State will get blasted by USC and couldn't carry Georgia's jock. Does the team have the head to actually finish and win a national title after all the negativity the last two off-seasons? At this point, anything less than play for a national championship will be a major failure, but that's still setting the bar high considering the road trips to USC, Wisconsin and Illinois. The D line will be good, but it has to prove it after a down year overall, while the off-the-field issues with several defensive backs might be a wee bit of a distraction.
Relative Strengths: Running Backs, Secondary    
Relative Weaknesses:

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