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2009 Preseason Rankings - No. 11 to 20
Alabama WR Julio Jones
Alabama WR Julio Jones
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 2, 2009


Preview 2009 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 11 to 20 ... BCS Contenders

Preview 2009 - Preseason Rankings

The BCS Contenders - No. 11 to 20


These teams should be in the hunt for a BCS game.

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

11. Alabama
- Preview | Offense | Defense  | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: QB Greg McElroy. The junior might not be flashy and he's not going to do anything that'll earn him all-star honors over Tim Tebow, but he's the type of heady, tough, consistent playmaker who ends up winning championships. LSU was able to win national titles with Matt Mauck and Matt Flynn, and Alabama won a championship with Jay Barker at the helm. McElroy is the same sort of leader who won't screw things up and will make the plays that need to be made.
What to watch for on defense: The run defense. After finishing No. 2 last year against the run with a linebacking corps that was getting its feet wet and with a mediocre pass rush that didn't help the statistics, Bama should be truly special. The front three, anchored by Terrence Cody, is full of huge, tackle-sized linemen at all the spots, while the linebackers are phenomenal. No one's going to be able to power the ball on this group, while the spread attacks will have more problems than they had last year.

12. Ole Miss
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses: Secondary, Linebacker
What to watch for on offense: Even more deep balls. While the offense will be known for its running game under Nutt, including lining up WR Dexter McCluster under center, the passing game could be what opens up games. The passing attack averaged 15.1 yards per completion last year, and now that QB Jevan Snead knows what he's doing with a year of experience under his belt, he should be ready to make quicker, better reads. Mike Wallace and his 20.1-yard-per-catch average are gone, but Lionel Breaux is a lightning fast target who appears ready to step up and do more, and Shay Hodge, Dexter McCluster, and Markeith Summers can all make big plays.
What to watch for on defense: Jerrell Powe. He was the star of the 2005 recruiting class, couldn't get academically eligible at a place with one of the lowest A.P.R. scores in college football, and fought for years to finally show off the sure-thing NFL-bound defensive tackle skills that every key talent evaluator swore he had. Finally in the mix last year, he got on the field and was, in technical terms, no big whoop. That all appears to have changed this offseason. While he's still a too-massive 340-pound defender, he started to show off this spring the "yeah, that's it" type of talent that could make the line even better despite the loss of first round draft pick, Peria Jerry.


13. Iowa
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The interior of the offensive line. Tackles Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Callaway will someday be earning NFL paychecks, and the interior of the line has the potential to be devastatingly good if everyone can stay healthy. Dace Richardson is coming off a knee injury that should've ended his career, and center Rafael Eubanks and key backup guard Andy Kuempel are keeping it together with duct tape and a lot of hope. There are good prospects looking for the chance to step in and produce, but the last thing the team needs with a new set of running backs looking to replace Shonn Greene is inconsistency up front. Injuries up front killed the offense in 2007, and if linemen start going down early, hope for a dream season could come unraveled right away.
What to watch for on defense: Karl Klug and Mike Daniels. If the two new starting tackles are merely adequate, the defense could be every bit as good as it was last season when it was 12th in the nation overall, fifth in scoring D, and ninth against the run. If they're great, the defense will be a brick wall. If they struggle and they're lack of bulk really is an issue, then giant-sized ends Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard might have to move inside and the coaching staff might have to do some tinkering it really doesn't want to.

14. Virginia Tech
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The Hokie offense was supposed to be feeble in 2008, and failed to disappoint, averaging just 303 yards and 22 points a game. Furman held Tech to just 24 points, which is all you need to know about last year. Better days, however, should lie ahead if the offense can find a replacement for Darren Evans, the star back who suffered a torn ACL in fall camp. Eight other starters return from a year ago, including developing QB Tyrod Taylor and all of the receivers who required training wheels last fall. Painfully young, the Hokies are all a year older, which, coordinator Bryan Stinespring hopes, will translate into fewer mistakes and more big plays. While Tech remains a devout ball-control offense, it could have the right mix of talent to get inventive every so often in 2009.
What to watch for on defense: Same old, same old. Year after year, Virginia Tech has been one of the most consistent, dependable defenses in the country. Expect to see a rerun in 2009. Sure, there are holes that need to be plugged, but nothing so egregious that the Hokies won’t have one of the nation’s dozen or so stingiest defenses for a third straight season. This time last year, the interior of the defensive line was the biggest question mark. Today, it has no holes, featuring borderline all-stars Cordarrow Thompson and John Graves, and valuable backups Demetrius Taylor and Antoine Hopkins.


15. Oregon
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: LeGarrette Blount’s career as a solo artist. Sure, he’s going to get help, but not as much as last season, when Jeremiah Johnson got the majority of the carries. At 6-2 and 229 yards, Blount is built for a feature role, something he’s craved since transferring from East Mississippi Community College. In a part-time role, he still managed to rush for more than 1,000 yards and a school-record 17 touchdowns. With an expanded role and more touches, he’s capable of having a monster final year in Eugene.
What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. Very quietly, this is going to be one of the strongest and most dependable units on the entire team. In juniors Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews, the Ducks have a pair of athletic, highly-instinctive defenders, who laid the groundwork last year for all-star consideration. And sophomore Eddie Pleasant, while young, looks capable of replacing Jerome Boyd at strongside without skipping a beat. Together, they form a unit that’s going to make a ton of plays and be everywhere their needed for the D this fall.

16. Florida State
  Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Quarterback
What to look for offense: The continued development of the young offensive line. This group, a liability before the start of the season, wound up becoming a revelation in 2008. And the best is yet to come. Despite leaning on underclassmen and way too many true freshmen, Florida State survived, and even thrived, in the trenches. Now that the kids, like LT Andrew Datko, RT Zebrie Sanders, and RG David Spurlock, are a year older, and veterans Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon are the anchors, this group could be ready to dominate.  
What to look for on defense: The emergence of new pass rushers. It has to happen or else, Florida State will reenact 2007, when it was carved up through the air. Gone are Everette Brown and Neefy Moffett, who produced 32.5 tackles, 19 sacks, and countless breaks for the pass defense. In their place step a couple of seniors, Markus White and Kevin McNeil, who are itching for an opportunity to get a bigger spotlight. McNeil has been an enigma, failing up to this point to reach lofty expectations. White could be ready to bust out after completing his apprenticeship in his first year out of junior college.
 

17. Notre Dame  
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Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Quarterback

Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The attempt to get a power running game going. Notre Dame has been pushed around too often, and it appears to be tired of it. The running game has been non-existent over the past two seasons, but now there are four decent veteran backs ready to roll behind an experienced line. Compared to the other units, the line might be the team's weak link, but four starters are back, not including Paul Duncan, who missed last year but started 11 times in 2007. The call has gone out for everyone to be more physical and to start pounding away with the running game. At the very least, the veterans are in place to give it a shot.
What to watch for on defense: A far faster defense that doesn't quite resemble anything yet seen in the Weis era. Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta loves to be aggressive and he wants to blitz from several different angles, but last year he didn't necessarily have the athletes in place and he didn't have the experienced players to do exactly what he wanted to. This year, with the defense going to a 4-3 from last year's 3-4, there's an abundance of really good, really talented linebackers for Tenuta to send after quarterbacks, and he has the secondary in place to handle the pressure of being left out to dry.


18. West Virginia
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Preview
| Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Secondary, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: The adjustment of the offensive line. It used to be that the Mountie linemen would be insulated by zone blocking schemes that masked their modest size and athleticism. Not anymore. This is a new era in the trenches in Morgantown, which requires the blockers to be far more versatile and mobile. West Virginia has been recruiting accordingly, but was a touch sporadic last fall, and still has some wrinkles that need to be ironed out in the offseason.
What to watch for on defense: Blitzes. Lots of blitzes. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel would like to bring pressure from all angles as long as it doesn’t jeopardize a pass defense that’ll be somewhat green at the corners. He certainly has the requisite athletes at outside linebacker and safety to create havoc and confuse offenses with a variety of different looks. J.T. Thomas, Pat Lazear, Sidney Glover, and Robert Sands all cover a lot of ground, and will be turned loose liberally.


19. Illinois
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Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths:
Receivers, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses:
Defensive Line, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: Explosion. Arrelious Benn, Florida transfer Jarred Fason, Jeff Cumberland, and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui form the Big Ten's best group of pass catchers. Every rushing yard gained last season is back, with four very good running backs to go along with the running ability of QB Juice Williams. Jason Ford appears to be ready to do more for the ground game, the line has three good starters returning and some big-time sophomores ready to play bigger roles, and then there's Juice, who has shown he can move the ball through the air as well as with his legs. The offense played up to, and down to, its competition last season, but this year it should hit more home runs and blow through the mediocre defenses rather than struggle to get up for them.
What to watch for on defense: The defensive line question marks. Jerry Brown is expected to eventually grow into the team's best pass rusher, with the best raw pass rushing tools on the team, is trying to get his academics in order. One of the team's top tackles, Sirod Williams, is coming off a torn ACL, and one of the other top tackle prospects, Josh Brent, was suspended indefinitely, and missed all of spring ball after a DUI incident. The defense could be fine if any or all of them are out, but the defense could be fantastic if they're in the mix.


20. Missouri
- Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart


Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Secondary, Special Teams
What to watch for on offense: QB Blaine Gabbert. While he's not going to be Chase Daniel, Gabbert has an elite arm, NFL size, and the potential to make the passing game even more deadly. He wasn't fantastic this spring, just serviceable, but with a ton of deep speed in the receiving corps, a good line to work behind, and a great pair of running backs in Derrick Washington and De'Vion Moore, he'll be able to bomb away and there will be more deep plays than there have been in the last few years.
What to look for on defense: The secondary. An utter disaster last season despite having an all-star in William Moore and veteran speedsters all across the back four, the pass defense can't be much worse after finishing last in the Big 12 and 117th in the nation giving up 287 yards per game. The pass rush can't be blamed with the Mizzou defensive front doing a good job of pressuring quarterbacks. One starter returns, corner Carl Gettis, but junior Kevin Rutland, one of the team's best athletes, could be the star corner. The safety combination of Hardy Ricks and Kenji Jackson will have its share of inconsistencies, but the results can't be any worse.

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