2009 Pre-Preseason Rankings - No. 11 to 25

Posted Jan 28, 2009

These are the big boys who'll be in the BCS race, and a few could get some big help with the hopeful return of players like Penn State LB Sean Lee and Georgia OT Trinton Sturdivant. Check out the very, very early look at the teams going into the off-season with the CFN Pre-Preseason ranking from No. 11 to 25.

CFN 2009 Pre-Preseason Rankings

No. 11 to 25

- 2009 No. 11 to 25 | No. 26 to 50 | No. 51 to 75
- No. 76 to 100 | No. 101 to 120
- 2007 CFN Pre-Preseason Rankings
- 2008 CFN Pre-Preseason Rankings

These are the teams that'll be deep in the heart of the BCS race, but should be flawed just enough to be outside of the national title hunt. 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.

11. Georgia Tech  2008 Record: 9-4   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 22
Paul Johnson’s first year might have ended in a disaster with the Peach Bowl blowout against LSU, but it’s easy to forget just how many square pegs had to fit into round holes to make the offense work. The defensive line will be the early concern losing top NFL prospects Michael Johnson and Vance Walker, but the back seven returns intact. Of course, it’s all about the offense, and QB Josh Nesbitt and RB Jonathan Dwyer are a year more experienced after playing so well late. All 11 starters return to an offense that should be even more dynamic.

12. Penn State  2008 Record: 11-2   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 10 
While this won’t be the tight Rose Bowl team of last year that was an Iowa field goal away from playing for the national title, it’ll still be the class of a mediocre Big Ten. QB Daryll Clark is back for his sixth year, but the biggest boost is the return of LB Sean Lee to the defense after suffering a preseason knee injury in 2008. The receiving corps has to start from scratch, but the running game should be nasty even with just two linemen returning to pave the way. Lee and Navorro Bowman should be the nation’s best linebacking tandem, but the defense has to replace the entire starting secondary. PK Kevin Kelly was a weapon who’ll be missed.

13. Ohio State  2008 Record: 10-3   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 12
It’s the Terrelle Pryor show now. Ohio State is a factory that reloads, but even a program as big as this suffers some down time once in a while. There won’t be that much of a slip on defense with seven starters returning, even if there aren’t many major James Laurinaitis-like stars. Pryor will be the leader of an offense that loses RB Beanie Wells and WR Brian Hartline to the NFL early, but three starters return on the line and there are just enough decent offensive prospects to hope for more scoring consistency.

14. California  2008 Record: 9-4   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 27
Where have you heard this before? Cal is loaded, USC has to rebuild a bit, blah, blah, blah. The Bears have the team able to win the Pac 10, led by Heisman candidate RB Jahvid Best, who’ll get to run behind a good line with three returning starters. QB Kevin Riley will be the man now that Nate Longshore gone, and he gets his top receivers back. The defense loses star LB Zack Follett and running mate Worrell Williams, but the secondary returns intact. Bryan Anger will be among the nation’s best punters before his career is over.

15. Clemson  2008 Record: 7-6   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 45 
The team showed tremendous heart to finish up well after all the turmoil. Head coach Dabo Swinney should have a piece of cake to deal with after having to turn things around in a hurry to earn the full-time gig. Getting RB C.J. Spiller back, when he should be in the NFL, is a major win, but all eyes will be on one-time super-recruit Willy Korn to see if he can be the quarterback Tiger fans were hoping for a few years ago. The O line that struggled so much at times last year will at least be more experienced with four starters returning, while nine starters are back from a defense that was loaded up by a few good recruiting classes.

16. Georgia  2008 Record: 10-3   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 14
Georgia has the brand and reputation worthy of being considered for the preseason top ten every year on name alone, but there’s work to be done here. You don’t get better by losing QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno, but WR A.J. Green is special and RBs Caleb King and Richard Samuel are fantastic. The key is the line with all five starters returning, and that doesn’t include superstar OT Trinton Sturdivant, who’s trying to work his way back from a devastating knee injury. The defense has work to do on the line, and loses CB Asher Allen to the NFL a year early, but Georgia always reloads. The linebacking corps will be among the best in the SEC.

17. Nebraska   2008 Record: 9-4   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 35
After a nice turnaround in Bo Pelini’s first season, the Huskers will be hoping to take a big step forward as one of the favorites to win the North. The defensive back seven should be better, but the big key was the return of DT Ndamukong Suh, who should probably be off to the NFL instead of dominating the Big 12. The offensive line will be fine and Roy Helu is a good back, but the passing game will be a concern early on with Patrick Witt and Zac Lee battling to replace QB Joe Ganz, while receivers Nate Swift and Todd Peterson have to be replaced.

18. Virginia Tech  2008 Record: 10-4   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 11  
If the Hokies could win the ACC title and get over the BCS game hump with the 2008 team, they have a chance to be truly special this year. Tyrod Taylor will be the unquestioned starting quarterback, while Darren Evans will be one of the nation’s top backs. The offense that was so awful at times throughout last year gets eight starters back, while the defense should be fantastic despite the loss of CB Macho Harris and inside linebackers Purnell Sturdivant and Brett Warren.

19. Miami
  2008 Record: 7-6   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 53
Is Miami ready to be this year’s Alabama? The star recruiting classes should be ready to mature and be special, but the season will ride on the skinny frame of QB Jacory Harris now that Robert Marve has transferred. Seven starters return to an ultra-athletic defense that should be among the best in the ACC, while the offense gets nine starters back and should have a stronger passing game led by Aldarius Johnson and Sam Shields. Matt Bosher returns to handle most of the kicking duties.

20. Utah
  2008 Record: 13-0   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 4
The Utes won’t be anywhere near the powerhouse that was in the national title discussion at the end of last year, but they’ll still be really, really good. The loss of DE Paul Kruger early to the NFL is painful, but the big hole to fill is at quarterback where steady star Brian Johnson is gone; Corbin Louks will get the first look. The three starting receivers and RB Darrell Mack are gone, but there are good players waiting to step up. Nine starters return on defense, led by Sylvester Stevenson and a strong linebacking corps. Louie Sakoda was an all-timer of a kicker who won’t be easily replaced.

21. Tennessee
  2008 Record: 5-7   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 66
Vol fans won’t have Phil Fulmer to kick around anymore. Lane Kiffin has to prove he can actually coach, at least be a head coach, with his first job to spark the offense that was so woeful under offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, who left to take over the Bowling Green head coaching job. Eight offensive starters return with the biggest question at quarterback. Will it be Jonathan Crompton or B.J. Coleman or Nick Stephens? The defense was great last year, but the performance was lost on the college football world because of the offense. If Eric Berry isn’t the best safety in America, and maybe the best defensive player, if it’s not USC’s Taylor Mays, and five other strong starters return. The big issue could be on the defensive line with DE Robert Ayers and DT Demonte Bolden gone.

22. Pitt  2008 Record: 9-4   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 13
Another year, another season when Pitt is supposed to be really, really good. The team was actually strong last year, even with the weird 3-0 Sun Bowl loss to Oregon State, and now it loses its best player on offense (RB LeSean McCoy) and defense (LB Scott McKillop). However, QB Bill Stull should be decent and he has a strong receiving corps to throw to. Three starters return to the offensive line, while seven starters are back on what should be one of the Big East’s best defenses. Replacing PK Conor Lee and P Dave Brytus won’t be easy.

23. West Virginia  2008 Record: 9-4   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 29  
Last season really wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t a BCS year, but it was still a decent campaign under Bill Stewart. Now the big question will be whether or not Jarrett Brown is really ready for the full-time job now that Pat White is gone. The offensive line is the other issue with four starters gone including LB Greg Isdaner, who took off a year early. Fortunately, the defense that was so good throughout last season should pick up the slack for any problems on offense. LB Mortty Ivy is gone, but eight starters return. The Mountaineers were second in the nation in net punting, but Pat McAfee is gone.

24. Boise State  2008 Record: 12-1   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 6
The Broncos will end up ranked much higher than this based on record, but talent-wise, they’re just on the edge of the to 25 … that’s not a rip. This is a team worthy of playing with the big boys on a regular basis with QB Kellen Moore and RB Jeremy Avery returning to the backfield, working behind three starters on the line. The receiving corps needs work, but should be fine. The defense that never gets enough credit has to replace linebackers Kyle Gingg and Tim Brady, but gets almost everyone else back including all-stars DE Ryan Winterswyk and CB Kyle Wilson.

25. TCU  2008 Record: 11-2   2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 8
All-America DE Jerry Hughes is back, but most of the stars on the tremendous defense of last year are gone. Just four starters return on defense, but there were some decent backups ready to step in and the secondary should be among the best in the Mountain West. The offense might not be a steamroller, but QB Andy Dalton leads a good group with a solid backfield and Jimmy Young back as the best receiver.