2010 Pre-Preseason Rankings ... The Top 15

Posted Feb 9, 2010

Who are the top contenders to Alabama's throne? Pierre Allen's Nebraska? Garrett Gilbert's Texas? John Brantley's Florida? DeVier Posey's Ohio State? Here's the very, very early look at the top 15 teams before spring ball kicks in.

2010 Pre-Preseason Rankings

The Top 15

CFN 2010 Pre-Preseason Rankings 
No. 1 to 15 | No. 16 to 30 | No. 31 to 45 | No. 46 to 60 
No. 61 to 75 | No. 76 to 90 | No. 91 to 105 | No. 106 to 120

Pre-Preseason Rankings By Conference
ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Ind.
MAC | M-West | Pac 10 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC

15. USC
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 16
What now? This is uncharted territory for Lane Kiffin and the program. Having been humbled by the league for a change, USC will spend the next few months trying to pull itself back up to national contention. Continuity at quarterback will help and raw talent on both sides of the ball isn’t an issue, but the Trojans need to locate the swagger that was missing in 2009. Of all the units, the secondary will be hardest hit by graduation, losing Taylor Mays, Kevin Thomas, Josh Pinkard, and Will Harris.

14. North Carolina
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 31
Now that Butch Davis has built a foundation in Chapel Hill, he’s looking to get the Heels over the hump and into the ACC title game with a team loaded with NFL players … at least on one side of the ball. The defense should be tremendous starting with DE Robert Quinn and DT Marvin Austin, along with linebackers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant. The offense will be a work-in-progress until someone can step up and solidify the quarterback play. With the top four producers back, at least the young receivers figure to be much-improved.

13. Penn State
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 15
It’s Penn State, so the team is going to be good, it’ll go to a great bowl game, and it’ll be in the hunt for the Big Ten title, but it’s more of a Big Ten X factor than a sure thing contender going into 2010. Ohio State is loaded, Iowa should be even better, and Wisconsin should be terrific. Penn State has to replace Clark and has to hope for Kevin Newsome or Matt McGloin to be good enough to keep the passing game going while RB Evan Royster gets a heavier workload. There’s work to do to replace several key players on defense like DT Jared Odrick and linebackers Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman, and Josh Hull, but there are several decent prospects on the way ready to step up. This will be a good team that no one will put at the top of the Big Ten preseason pecking order, but it could surprise and be great with a little luck.

12. Iowa
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 8
Preseason top ten … maybe? Only four starters are back on offense, but the backfield is intact and Iowa is always great at filling in the holes with no-name players who come from out of nowhere to produce. The defense returns loaded, PK Daniel Murray and P Ryan Donohue could form one of the nation’s best kicking tandems, and the schedule isn’t all that bad with just two road games in the first eight. The toughest games, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, are at home.

11. Oregon
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 10
Oregon won a Pac-10 championship with a team that had very few senior starters, so a repeat is more than just an attainable goal; it’s expected. With Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James returning to the backfield and the entire offensive line intact, Chip Kelly’s offense could be even more prolific in 2010. The defense can use a complement to Kenny Rowe at defensive end and the offense is always looking for more consistency from the receivers, but otherwise, this program is poised for a third straight 10-win season.

10. LSU
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 27
Last year was a strong year even if it wasn’t the special one that LSU has been accustomed to. This season should be when the Tigers get back into the national title hunt with eight starters back on offense and the phenomenal recruiting classes of the last few years about to kick in. The defense suffers a big blow up front with the loss of three good starters, but LSU is a factory for coming up with talented linemen. The linebacking corps has the potential to be special with a little bit of time, while the secondary, led by corner Patrick Peterson, will be a rock. No one’s touching this team until the trip to Florida on October 9th, and the Alabama game is in Baton Rouge.

9. Wisconsin
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 19
Look out. There are a few key replacements to make but the Badgers should be considered among the favorites to win the Big Ten title. Last year’s team was good and young, but the 2010 squad should be good and experienced. Now the key will be to see if Bret Bielema’s club can play up to expectations. For all the good things that happened in 2010, the bowl win over Miami was the only victory of note and the Badgers failed in their three big regular season tests against Ohio State, Iowa, and Northwestern. They’ll be in just about everyone’s preseason top 15, and they’ll have to play like it from the start.

8. Boise State
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 3
The preseason hype will be off the charts. This will be the hot team this offseason after yet another big season and with so much talent returning, but will it be enough to finally be in the national title discussion? If the Broncos can beat Virginia Tech in Landover, Maryland in the season opener and if they can get by Oregon State at home, then yes. At this point with so many great seasons in a row, there should be a groundswell of support to see what the team can do when finally given a shot at the whole ball of wax … if it beats the Hokies.

7. Virginia Tech
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 9
Virginia Tech figures to be where it is each season, near the front of the pack in the hunt for an ACC crown. As the Coastal Division gets tighter, with the likes of Miami, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina, there’ll be minimal margin for error. QB Tyrod Taylor has another season of eligibility left, meaning the backfield will be loaded with terrific athletes. While the defense has vacancies that need to be filled, that never seems to be too big of a problem for ace coordinator Bud Foster.

6. Oklahoma
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 35
Reports of the program’s demise might be premature. Boosted by one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, the talent level is still high and now the team is a bit more experienced with eight starters returning on offense led by QB Landry Jones, whose time spent throughout last year was the one positive from the Sam Bradford injury, and RB DeMarco Murray who only seems like he’s been in Norman so long that he once shared a backfield with Billy Sims. The defense loses all-everything DT Gerald McCoy, but it gets back seven starters including LB Travis Lewis and pass rushing star Jeremy Beal. The schedule is interesting with Florida State, at Cincinnati, at Missouri, and at Texas A&M to deal with.

5. Nebraska
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 17
If you’re looking for your sleeper, or at least a team that might just outside of everyone’s preseason top five who might end up in Glendale, this could be it. Ten starters are back on offense and there’s good, developed depth to rely on, and while the defense loses Ndamukong Suh and Barry Turner off the line and SS Larry Asante from the secondary, Bo Pelini’s defense isn’t going to take a major step back with Jared Crick and Pierre Allen the stars up front. Schedule-wise, the early date at Washington will be a test, but it’s winnable for a team dreaming of a national title. Road games at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are dangerous, but Texas and Missouri have to come to Lincoln.

4. Ohio State
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 7
The Buckeyes are the far-and-away favorites to the win the 2010 Big Ten title and will be in the mix for the national title from the start. Miami is coming to Columbus, but there isn’t any USC to deal with this year. There are only two dangerous road games, Wisconsin and Iowa, but if the team really is national title-good, it needs to win those. The offense is loaded with experience and the defense should be solid once again as the tremendous recruiting classes of the last few years restock the shelves.

3. Texas
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 4
Texas might be considered one of the favorites for the national title if there weren’t a few question marks about QB Garrett Gilbert’s consistency as the full-time starter. Throw in some nasty road games against Nebraska and Texas Tech to go along with dates against Oklahoma, UCLA, and Texas A&M, and the Horns will have to earn what they get. However, the overall schedule isn’t all that awful for a team this good and there’s no reason to not be in Glendale in early January either as the Big 12 champion or as the Big 12 champion playing for the whole ball of wax. The defensive back seven will be a rock and the losses up front, including Sergio Kindle and Lamarr Houston, can be replaced by more NFL-caliber talent. The offensive line needs to be better and there has to be a running game, but this could still be a team that simply outtalents its way to a championship.

2. Florida
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 2
If you’re ever going to get to Florida, this is it with the phenomenal recruiting classes waiting in the wings. In a year of transition (or Year One A.T.T. … figure it out), QB John Brantley has to live up to all the prep hype and be the NFL prospect that many consider him to be. However, he can be mediocre and the Gators will still likely win the East with a defense that remains loaded despite the loss of future NFL stars like Brandon Spikes and Joe Haden. The offense will have to use the offensive line to pave the way for more of a running game from the backs. The depth chart is laughably amazing with too much talent for one ball now that super-recruit Mack Brown is in the mix with Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, and Emmanuel Moody. With Tennessee in even more of an iffy phase and Georgia trying to figure out what it is, this might be a three game season going to Alabama and hosting LSU in back-to-back weeks and dealing with an improved Florida State in the regular-season finale.

1. Alabama
2009 Final CFN Ranking: 1
Because it’s Alabama and because the coaching is so great and because the talent level is so ridiculously high after a few years of top-shelf recruiting, this might be everyone’s preseason No. 1 team. However, there are concerns for a team that caught a few big breaks in a down year in the SEC (not to mention Colt McCoy’s shoulder injury in the national title game) and needed a few skin-of-the-teeth wins to get through unscathed. The defense has some major work to do with six of the defensive front seven gone including LB Rolando McClain and NG Terrence Cody. Corner and punt return star Javier Arenas and FS Justin Woodall are also gone. But don’t weep any tears for a defense that has plenty of NFL prospects waiting in the wings. Oh yeah … the offense. The backfield is jaw-dropping with a Heisman-winner (Mark Ingram) along a guy (Trent Richardson) who might be a starter in the NFL right now. Throw in top-five pro prospect WR Julio Jones and three starters on the O line, and the offense will be tremendous. The schedule has plenty of landmines with Penn State, at Arkansas, Florida, at South Carolina, Ole Miss, at Tennessee, at Tennessee, and Auburn to deal with.

CFN 2010 Pre-Preseason Rankings 
No. 1 to 15 | No. 16 to 30 | No. 31 to 45 | No. 46 to 60 
No. 61 to 75 | No. 76 to 90 | No. 91 to 105 | No. 106 to 120

Pre-Preseason Rankings By Conference
ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Ind.
MAC | M-West | Pac 10 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC