2009 Pre-Preseason Rankings - No. 51 to 75

Posted Jan 25, 2009

These are the teams good enough to be shooting for bowl games, and maybe be a surprise. Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, Maryland's Da'Rel Scott, and Michigan's Brandon Minor will be the stars of improved teams. Check out the very, very early look at the teams going into the off-season with the CFN Pre-Preseason ranking from No. 51 to 75.

CFN 2009 Pre-Preseason Rankings

No. 51 to 75

- 2009 No. 1 to 10 | No. 11 to 25 | No. 26 to 50
No. 76 to 100 | No. 101 to 120
- 2007 CFN Pre-Preseason Rankings
- 2008 CFN Pre-Preseason Rankings

These are the teams that have to come into the season thinking bowl game. There might not be enough in the back to win a conference title, but the post-season is a must for teams this good. The ranking is based on how good the team should be in 2009, while the Final CFN Season Ranking is based on how good a season the team had in 2008.

Teams that should be better than last year, teams that should be worse, team that should be about the same.

51. East Carolina  2008 Record: 9-5   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 34  
The defending Conference USA champions get to keep their head coach, Skip Holtz, for at least one more year along with starting quarterback Patrick Pinkney, who was given a sixth year of eligibility. Only three starters are gone off the offense, and just three need to be replaced on defense, too, but the attack has to be more explosive.

52. Tulsa  2008 Record: 11-3   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 17
Head coach Todd Graham signed a long-term extension, but he lost offensive coordinator Gus Mahlzan to Auburn. Is Jacob Bower ready to run the offense? He’ll have to shine from day one with RB Tarrion Adams not around to help carry the load. The defense might have stunk, but eight starters return with the only issue early on at defensive tackle.

53. Air Force  2008 Record: 8-5   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 46
Troy Calhoun has worked wonders with the Falcons, and now he should reap all the rewards with seven starters coming back on offense. However, three starters are gone off a defensive front from a team that can ill-afford to lose dependable talent up front.

54. Connecticut  2008 Record: 8-5   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 48
The defense that carried the team for yet another year gets seven starters back, but it loses CB Darius Butler and pass-rusher extraordinaire, Cody Brown. The offense that was so bad needs someone to carry the workload now that Donald Brown is gone a year early. Zach Frazer will have the inside line on the starting quarterback job.

55. Louisiana Tech  2008 Record: 8-5   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 63
This could be one of the “it” teams of 2009. Head coach Derek Dooley is a high-riser who might only be around one more year if his team is as good as expected. Star WR Philip Beck is gone, but Phillip Rivas returns. It’s the defense that should really shine with a strong defensive front returning intact to go along with a good safety tandem of Antonio Baker and Deon Young.

56. Virginia  2008 Record: 5-7   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 58 
Virginia was one of only two ACC teams to not go bowling last year and it’ll have some rebuilding to do. The offense wasn’t exactly a juggernaut, and now it losses WR Kevin Ogletree to the NFL a year early, RB Cedric Peerman, and OT Eugene Monroe. The defense has bigger problems with five starters gone including LB Clint Simtim.

57. Michigan  2008 Record: 3-9   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 97
As bad as things were last year, they can’t get any worse offensively. Four games were lost by a touchdown or less, including the opening day defeat to Utah. For good or bad, ten starters are back on offense, but the defense takes a huge hit with Tim Jamison, Terrence Taylor, and Will Johnson gone off the line. Three starters are gone off the back seven, but star punter Zoltan Mesko is back.

58. Colorado  2008 Record: 5-7    2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 76  
This will finally be the year Colorado finally starts to turn the corner under head coach Dan Hawkins … maybe. The offense that was so bad last year will at least be more experienced with nine starters returning, led by QB Cody Hawkins. The defense loses all-star tackle George Hypolite and two other starters up front, but five starters return in the back seven.

59. Wake Forest  2008 Record: 8-5   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 32
Yeah, this might be too low for a program that continues to defy all expectations and logic, but there really should be a bit of a dip this year with Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry, and the ACC’s all-time pick-off artist, Alphonso Smith, just two of the six starters gone off the defensive back seven. QB Riley Skinner returns, but the top receivers have to be replaced. However, the entire offensive line returns intact.

60. Northwestern  2008 Record: 9-4   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 49
Last year’s team that was so good at winning the close ones, with five of the nine wins by eight points or fewer, has just enough big holes to fill to take a step back. The offense has to hope QB Mike Kafka can throw a bit, and not be just a runner despite the loss to Tyrell Sutton. The defense that made such great strides last year should do even more if end Corey Wootton returns healthy from a knee injury suffered in the Alamo Bowl.

61. Colorado State  2008 Record: 7-6   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 55  
Can the Rams build off a strong end of the season? Second year head man, Steve Fairchild, has wonted to be a power running team, but he’ll have to go on without backs Gartrell Johnson and Kyle Bell, and without three starting offensive linemen. This isn’t a Mountain West title team, but it’ll be even more competitive.

62. Maryland  2008 Record: 8-5   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 36
The Terps were one of the bigger surprises of last year, but it’ll need a big season out of RB Da’Rel Scott and QB Chris Turner to repeat the success. Three starters are gone off the O line, while big-time deep threat Darrius Heyward-Bey left a year early, as expected. The defense needs to replace four starters on the front seven and SS Jeff Allen.

63. Central Michigan  2008 Record: 8-5   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 56
If this isn’t the best team in the MAC, it’ll be close. QB Dan LeFevour is back for his final season and he has a tremendous array of weapons around him including WRs Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson. The defense might not be great, but it gets all 11 starters back.

64. Vanderbilt  2008 Record: 7-6   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 43
Vandy might have gotten away with having a mediocre offense once, but it’ll need to find some more pop to get back to another bowl game. While the entire two-deep on the line returns intact, the top receivers and QB Chris Nickson are gone. The offense will be all about the running game with Mackenzi Adams now at the helm. The defense simply can’t replace stars like CB D.J. Moore and SS Reshard Langford, but the entire front seven is back.

65. Nevada  2008 Record: 7-6   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 62
The Wolf Pack will have one of the nation’s best running games again with QB Colin Kaepernick about to become a national star and RB Vai Taua also returning. Center Dominic Green needs to be replaces, but four starters return up front. The defense welcomes back eight starters, but it needs to be night-and-day better for Nevada to have any real shot of winning the WAC.

66. UCLA  2008 Record: 4-8   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 101
So year one of the Rick Neuheisel era was a disaster. Year two should be better as long as QB Kevin Craft can prove he can play. Oft-injured RB Kahlil Bell and center Micah Reed are gone, but everyone else comes back. Seven starters are back on defense, but star coordinator DeWayne Walker has transferred.

67. Troy
  2008 Record: 8-5     2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 47
The star of the Sun Belt first has to replace three starters on the league’s best offensive line. The passing game gets back breakthrough QB Levi Brown and do-it-all receiver Jernel Jernigan, but loses Mykeal Terry and Kennard Burton. Boris Lee and Bear Woods form one of the nation’s most productive linebacking tandems, but the defense loses both tackles and three key players, including S Sherrod Martin, in the secondary.

68. Mississippi State
  2008 Record: 4-8    2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 91
First, new head coach Dan Mullen has to figure out if he has a quarterback who can play. Tyson Lee and Wesley Carroll are hardly Tim Tebow. The woeful attack has to find something it can rely on besides RB Anthony Dixon. The defense could be a bigger problem losing FS Derek Pegues and six other starters.

69. Stanford  2008 Record: 5-7   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 73
Can the Cardinal gets over the hump and get into a bowl game under Jim Harbaugh? The physical team needs more out of a secondary that struggled throughout last season, but there’s enough talent coming back. RB Toby Gerhart will spearhead an improved offense.

70. Western Michigan  2008 Record: 9-4   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 50
It’s all about QB Tim Hiller and a strong offensive line that gets four starters back. The loss of top targets Jamarko Simmons, TE Branden Ledbetter, and Schneider Julien should hurt the passing game, but the return of RB Brandon West should help pick up the slack. All four starters, including big-hitting Louis Delmas, are gone.

71. Northern Illinois  2008 Record: 6-7   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 74
Second-year head coach Jerry Kill will have to press on without star DE Larry English, but the defense should be fine and the offense far crisper. Alex Kube is a fantastic linebacker to work around, but the D will take a step back with so many holes. The offense has to replace the right side of the line, but there’s hope for an improvement with QB Chandler Harnish a year more experienced.

72. Fresno State  2008 Record: 7-6   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 65
Last year was supposed to be it for Fresno State. It was when the program was finally going to live up to the Pat Hill dream, but it didn’t even come close. No one will expect much out of this year’s squad, but it won’t be all that bad. QB Tom Brandstater and TE Bear Pascoe are gone, but seven starters return on offense. Ten starters return on defense, thanks partly to the experience coming from all the injuries last year.

73. Navy  2008 Record: 8-5   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 42
Navy showed it could go on and thrive without head coach Paul Johnson, but there’s a lot of personnel turnover this season. Navy is always able to reload with players waiting in the wings being groomed to take over, but it’ll have a hard time replaces RB Shun White and FB Eric Kettani. The defense got better and better as last year went on, and while it should be solid, it loses both starting corners.

74. Marshall  2008 Record: 4-8   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 77
Can Marshall finally be a player in the Conference USA race? It had better be for head coach Mark Snyder’s sake. The defense that was so awful last year at least gets eight starters back. The offense was never consistent, but it should be much better even with the loss of its two top receivers, Emmanuel Spann and Darius Passmore.

75. Rice  2008 Record: 10-3   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 31
The offensive juggernaut of last year has to try to go on without the record-setting tandem of QB Chase Clement and WR Jarett Dillard. Losing TE James Casey to the NFL a year early doesn’t help, either, as only five starters are back. On the plus side, nine starters return on a defense that struggled so often last year.