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2009 Preseason Rankings - No. 41 to 50
Michigan P Zoltan Mesko
Michigan P Zoltan Mesko
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 2, 2009


Preview 2009 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 41 to 50 ... Mid-Level Bowl Teams

Preview 2009 - Preseason Rankings

Mid-Level Bowl Teams - No. 41 to 50


These teams will go to decent bowls, and could sneak into some good ones.

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 120.

CFN 2009 Preseason Rankings

- 2009 Preview
|
1 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
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61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120

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2008 Preseason Rankings | 2007 Preseason Rankings

41. Michigan
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: Tate Forcier. The true freshman quarterback has more pressure on his shoulders than any player in America. Recruited specifically to be the main man for the Michigan offense from the moment he set foot on campus, he showed off a great combination of arm strength, running ability, and talent for the Rich Rodriguez attack this off-season. There will be a grace period for him considering he’s so young, but it’s not a stretch to say the entire season revolves around his development.
What to watch for on defense: The 3-4. There are linemen, but most of the best ones are young and inexperienced. New defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, the former Syracuse head coach, will use a variety of alignments including a hybrid safety/linebacker position to take advantage of the one area on the defense, safety, with a glut of talent. Every defensive coordinator likes to say there will be more blitzing and more aggressiveness, but it should actually happen this year for the Wolverines with all the speed and athleticism in the back eight.


42. Arizona State
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The competition at quarterback. Rudy Carpenter is gone, taking a streak of 43 straight starts with him. Arizona State benefited from No. 12’s toughness and durability… until now. Over the past few years, no one else has gotten meaningful reps, putting the position in somewhat of a precarious situation. Fifth-year senior Danny Sullivan is the front-runner, having been the backup the last two seasons and coming off a sharp spring. However, he still needs to close the deal. Sophomore Samson Szakacsy is a much better athlete and an intriguing option as elements of the zone-read option are installed. And true freshman Brock Osweiler has already exceeded expectations in his first spring with the program.
What to watch for on defense
: Omar Bolden. In a season to be excited about the Sun Devil, Bolden was one of the few disappointments. Following a Freshman All-American debut, the corner slumped as a sophomore, lacking consistency and allowing receivers to get behind him. The parts are in place for this to be one of the stingiest Arizona State defenses in well over a decade. However, the pass defense is susceptible to breakdowns, the one pressing weakness on the unit. If, however, Bolden can tap into his old form and lock down the other team’s best receiver, it’s going to be awfully tough navigating this Devil D.


43. Boise State
- Preview |
Offense | Defense |
Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense:
The line. Boise State might be great at reloading, and it appears to have done so at receiver and on the defensive front seven, or six, but the offensive line could be a different story. Starters Kevin Sapien and Nate Potter are injured, and while there are good players waiting in the wings, the front five could use as many veterans as possible going into the Oregon battle. QB Kellen Moore isn't a runner, Ian Johnson is gone from the backfield, and three of the top four wide receivers from last year are gone. The more time the line can provide, the better, but everyone has to be 100% and the right combination has to be found considering there are four spots that are still open, at least on the depth chart, going into the fall.
What to watch for on defense: A 4-2-5 being used more often than not. The linebackers will be more than fine, even though just one starter, Derrell Acrey, is back. The secondary gets back four starters and has a fantastic recruit in JUCO transfer Winston Venable to work as a nickelback. The defense can easily transition on the fly between alignments, but it'll be hard to keep so many talented defensive backs off the field.


44. Cincinnati
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Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The next stage of QB Tony Pike’s development. Hey, no complaints about Pike’s All-Big East debut as the starter, but he’ll need to step it up this fall and become the catalyst of the entire program. Basically, he’s got to be Ben Mauk-good in order to offset a defense that’s sure to take time to gel. For those who forget, Mauk is the guy, who tossed 31 touchdown passes in 2007 and was near flawless in one of the best seasons by a quarterback in school history. Pike had a habit of feasting on weaker defenses and got exposed by Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. He has to elevate this fall and become the pro-caliber hurler that many are predicting.
What to watch for on defense: The results of the myriad position-switchers. The program that relocated former tight end Connor Barwin and helped turn him into an NFL defensive end is at it again. Former fullback Marcus Waugh is battling for a starting job at middle linebacker. Former defensive end Craig Carey has the inside track at strongside linebacker. Former quarterback Demetrius Jones is bucking for playing time at outside linebacker. Former wide receiver Marcus Barnett is in the lead at one of the cornerback openings. If defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is going to excel in his debut, he’ll need these nomads to be quick studies, or else the back seven could be hurting.


45. Rutgers
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Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: The battle at running back. While all eyes will be focused on the quarterback race between Domenic Natale and Jabu Lovelace, the backs are staging an entertaining competition of their own. Junior Kordell Young and sophomores Joe Martinek and Jourdan Brooks all showed flashes and slightly different gifts in last year’s first season without Ray Rice. While a committee certainly remains an option for the staff, none of the three is ready to dismiss the possibility of being an every-down feature back. Young is the playmaker, Brooks is the masher, and Martinek is somewhere in between. 
What to watch for on defense: The play of the new defensive tackles. Last year, Pete Tverdov and Alex Silvestro did an underrated job on the inside for the Scarlet Knights. Well, Tverdov is gone and Silvestro has moved back to defensive end, his more natural position. Enter junior Charlie Noonan and senior Blair Bines, Rutgers’ answer at defensive tackle heading into the new season. While scrappy and quick off the snap, both are only about 6-2 and 260 pounds, making them candidates for getting bullied off their base. Sophomores Eric LeGrand and Justin Francis will provide reinforcements, but neither qualifies as the 295-pound space-eater that this defense sorely needs.


46. South Carolina

- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The running backs. The receivers need to find a No. 1 target to replace Kenny McKinley, the veteran line has to be night-and-day better, and QB Stephen Garcia has to step up and play up to his talent level. But the Gamecocks need a running game, too. It's easy to forget that Steve Spurrier's great Florida teams could run as well as pass, and now he has some good young backs to work with. True freshman Jarvis Giles is the gamebreaker missing from the attack since Spurrier arrived, while Eric Baker can also move. Brian Maddox will be a serviceable back to do the dirty work while Giles and Baker get the limelight. The nation's 112th ranked running game will be far better.
What to watch for on defense: The corners. The secondary will be fine with the loss of leading tackler Emmanuel Cook, who left early to go to the NFL; Darian Stewart might be a better player at strong safety. However, losing Stoney Woodson and Captain Munnerlyn, who also bolted early, could be a killer for the nation's No. 2 pass defense. Stephon Gilmore is going to be an all-star, but it's asking way too much for him to be a shut-down SEC star right away. Akeem Auguste has good potential, but if he isn't great, the defense is going to have a large hole it won't be able to fill.


47. Virginia  
- Preview |
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Secondary, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Linebacker, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Sure, Virginia wants to open things up offensively. We’ve heard it before. No scheme or playbook is going to matter if the program doesn’t get better play from behind center. Much better. The passing game was laughable last year, but help is on the way. Big lefty Jameel Sewell is back after not being enrolled at the school in 2008, and shifty Vic Hall has made a full-time commitment to offense after spending his first three years as a cornerback. Although both are mobile, Sewell is by far the more polished passer. Some combination of the two can be expected once the season begins.
What to look for on defense: The secondary will be all grown up. Unlike a year ago, when the defensive backfield was young and inexperienced, this group has the talent and depth to be the strongest on the team. All-star CB Ras-I Dowling is the cover boy, but he’ll get plenty of help now that Chris Cook has returned to the program and sophomore safeties Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosley are a year older. These guys have the size and the speed to blanket opposing receivers, giving a questionable front seven that extra second or two it needs to get a paw on the quarterback.


48. Boston College  
- Preview |
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Receiver
What to look for offense: The development of the quarterbacks in the summer. The line is fantastic. The backs are trending upward. The receivers will get there. The quarterbacks, however, are a mess, and are capable of becoming a giant spoke in this maroon and gold wheel. Dominique Davis was supposed to be building on last fall’s emergency debut, but he ran afoul with the books, got suspended, and opted to transfer. That’s left a quartet of complete unknowns to battle in August for the right to lead the Eagle offense. The staff is hoping that someone emerges because none of the competitors were particularly sharp in April.
What to look for on defense: The defensive backs to work overtime. The line lost its two best players. The linebackers will be in the same boat if Mike McLaughlin is slow to return from his Achilles injury. It’ll be up to a deep and talented secondary to pull its weight and them some this fall. The strength of the D, the defensive backfield boasts the return of nine lettermen and three starters. If corners Roderick Rollins, Donnie Fletcher, and DeLeon Gause can survive in man coverage, it’ll allow safeties Wes Davis and Marcellus Bowman to press up and provide more support in run defense.


49. Connecticut
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The replacements. One back won’t be enough to replace the production of Donald Brown, the 2,000-yard rusher and Indianapolis Colts draft pick. It’s a good thing Connecticut has two talented backs. In sophomore Jordan Todman and senior Andre Dixon, the Huskies are confident that their ground game isn’t going to skip a beat, even without the services of their star runner. Todman showed flashes as a true freshman reserve, finishing second on the team with 296 yards and winning the starting job in the spring. Dixon actually out played Brown in 2007, running for 828 yards and earning All-Big East honors. Together, they make a formidable tandem that’s going to keep the offense from becoming stale.
What to watch for on defense: The twin tackles. The coaching staff has to control its enthusiasm when the topic is Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes, the similarly-sized sophomore defensive tackles with the bright futures. Both played extensively as freshmen, even starting a bunch of games, and earning reps that’ll benefit them over the next three seasons. With explosive first steps and great motors, they’re liable to drive opposing interior linemen batty as they try to keep both out of the backfield and off ball-carriers. It’s early, but Martin and Reyes have qualities that could make them household names in the league before very long.

50. Arkansas

- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Receiver, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Secondary, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: QB Ryan Mallett. He was one of the nation's top recruits a few years ago when he was picked up by Michigan, and now he's ready to be, eventually, the SEC's best passer. He has the arm, the 6-7 size, and the cock-sure attitude that screams franchise quarterback. Arkansas will have its most vertical passing game in school history with a fleet group of young receivers that are just waiting to bust out and hit home runs. Mallett will make his share of big mistakes, and the team will lose at least one game this year because he'll screw up, but he'll also scare the bejeebers out of SEC defensive coordinators with the way he'll open up the field.
What to watch for on defense: The new defensive backs. The depth chart for the Arkansas secondary might as well be written in pencil considering the new blood that's about to invigorate the pass defense. There's Anthony Leon, a linebacker-sized playmaker who might end up in the front seven, but could be a devastating, tone-setting strong safety. The JUCO transfer and cousin of former Washington Redskin, the late Sean Taylor, was a humongous coup for the program. Fellow JUCO transfer Rudell Crum could be the team's shut-down, No. 1 corner the second he sets foot off the bus, while corner Darius Winston was the team's top recruit and was the best prospect to come out of Arkansas. Everyone wanted all three of these DBs, and the Hogs got them.

CFN 2009 Preseason Rankings
- 2009 Preview
|
1 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
-
61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120

-
2008 Preseason Rankings | 2007 Preseason Rankings