2010 Preseason Rankings - No. 41 to 50
USF LB Sam Barrington
USF LB Sam Barrington
Posted Aug 9, 2010

Preview 2010 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 41 to 50 ... Mid-Level Bowl Teams

Preview 2010 - Preseason Rankings

Mid-Level Bowl Teams - No. 41 to 50

2010 CFN Preseason Rankings
- 1 to 5 | 6 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
- CFN Preseason Rankings 2009 | 2008 | 2007

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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

41. South Florida
- 2010 USF Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 8-4
Key to the Season:: Playing a full season. South Florida had a penchant under Jim Leavitt for starting fast, raising expectations, and then tanking when the spotlight got a little brighter. Since 2004, the Bulls have gone a miserable 19-24 after Oct. 13, a trend that needs to be reversed if they're ever going to contend for a Big East championship and a spot in a BCS bowl game.
Relative Strength: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Relative Weakness: Running Back, Linebacker
What to watch for on offense: A more stationary B.J. Daniels. Oh, the fleet-footed quarterback is still going to make use of his legs, but you can bank on it being far less frequent than last season. The new coaching staff is determined to make the sophomore into more of a pocket passer, partly because he's far too valuable to be taking 20-25 hits a game. How will he handle suppressing many of the instincts that got him to this place? When his first receiver is covered, he'll have to prove he can go through his progressions and resist the temptation to tuck it and take off.
What to watch for on defense: The new ends. Obviously, you don't get better by losing NFL-caliber players, like George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul. Although USF may not have exact replicas of last year's starters, it has a collection of gifted athletes waiting for their opportunity to also use Tampa as a pipeline to a big payday. Out of seniors Craig Marshall and David Bedford, hotshot redshirt freshman Ryne Giddins, and JUCO transfer Claude Davis, at least one has to become a weekly threat to collapse the pocket and harass the other team's quarterback.
Fun Stat: Fourth down conversions: South Florida 71% - Opponents 24%

42. Cincinnati
- 2010 Cincinnati Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 8-4
Key to the Season:: Better defensive play. After starting unexpectedly well in 2009, the Bearcats came apart at the seams down the stretch, allowing an average of 40 points over the final five games. With the offense likely to do its part, Cincinnati needs more stops and a few more big plays from a defense that's straddling the fence of mediocrity.
Relative Strength: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line, Secondary
What to watch for on offense: Zach Collaros to blossom into a legitimate star at quarterback. After giving a sneak peak in five sensational games last fall, he's poised to become a wire-to-wire playmaker. An ideal fit for the spread attack, he's like a surgeon on the short and intermediate routes, and is like having another running back when he leaves the pocket. Plus, he hasn't lost as a starter since before high school. If he gets the necessary support from a retooled offensive line, he's capable of making Cincy fans forget Tony Pike in a hurry.
What to watch for on defense: The outside linebackers to make a slew of stops this season. Not only will the first line of defense allow a decent amount of plays to get beyond it, but J.K. Schaffer and Walter Stewart are built to cover huge chunks of ground and will be employed liberally by the staff. In their first season as starters, the two combined to make 159 tackles, 14 stops for loss, six sacks, and four picks. With a year of experience behind them, these two athletes will be even better prepared to produce as run stoppers and pass rushers.
Fun Stat: Fumbles lost: Opponents 3 - Cincinnati 2

43. Tennessee
- 2010 Tennessee Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 6-6
Key to the Season:: More of a running game. The passing game can be pedestrian and the Vols will get by, but forget about beating the better teams without pounding away. The ground game ran for 19 scores with four coming in the six losses. Six of the top seven rushing performances came in wins while running for 74 against Alabama, 99 against Ole Miss, and five against Virginia Tech (all losses). If the ground game isn't running for at least 150 yards, the Vols probably won't have a chance.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Secondary
Relative Weakness: Quarterback, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The maturation of the line. If we can all assume that this isn't going to be an SEC championship season, and the goal is to improve to the point to where Tennessee is a real, live factor in the race on a yearly basis, then the most important aspect of this year will be the improvement on the offensive line. The starting five might be brand new, but it's a talented group that should be special by the time it's done jelling. With two freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior playing key roles, and talented depth working in the wings, the potential is there to be great up front … in time.
What to watch for on defense: The health of the linebackers. If the defensive tackles can be anything more than serviceable, the line will be strong. The secondary, despite the loss of star safety Eric Berry, will be good with several rising stars and some solid lock-down corners. The linebacking corps gets back a ton of experience and some nice prospects, but Nick Reveiz is coming off a torn ACL, as is outside speedster Savion Frazier. LaMarcus Thompson has an ankle problem, and everyone else of note is either young or still trying to figure out how to become consistent and dangerous. If everyone can stay 100%, though, this will be one of the team's surprise strengths.
Fun Stat: First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 67 – Tennessee 17

44. NC State
- 2010 NC State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 6-6
Key to the Season:: A better turnover margin. NC State doesn't have enough talent on either side of the ball to overcome a spate of unforced errors and a lack of takeaways. A year ago, the Wolfpack had just 14 combined interceptions and fumble recoveries in 12 games, while turning the ball over 25 times. Finishing last in the ACC and 114th nationally in turnover margin is a sure-fire recipe for another losing season in Raleigh.
Relative Strength: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The development of a very young offensive line. The Wolfpack offense will be severely limited if this group can't play substantially better than it did a year ago. Two starters, LT Jake Vermiglio and RG R.J. Mattes, return to a unit that had problems with run blocking and pass protection a year ago. If Wilson and his myriad receivers are to fully bloom in 2010, it's incumbent upon a number of unproven blockers, such as Sam Jones, Camden Wentz, and Andrew Wallace, to play beyond their expectations.
What to watch for on defense: The return of LB Nate Irving from a season-long injury. No one player makes a monumental difference to a defense, but Irving is good enough to be an exception. He's a legitimate playmaker in the middle of the field, capable of creating turnovers and disrupting the other team's rhythm. When NC State was on fire at the end of 2008, he was the defensive sparkplug, making plays in the backfield and taking passes the other way. The Wolfpack D needs an identity. Irving has the right blend of talent and experience to provide it.
Fun Stat: Of the 23 times that NC State had first and goal, it scored a touchdown 22 times

45. Mississippi State
- 2010 Mississippi State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 6-6
Key to the Season:: A third down conversion. The Bulldogs came up with 229 first downs last year, and in a perfect world, there's a close to even split on how they come but with more on the side of the passing game. That means the 3rd-and-midrange plays are completed. MSU got 140 first downs on the ground and just 78 through the air, and it showed as the offense finished 104th in the nation converting an SEC-worst 33.3% of the time.
Relative Strength: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weakness: Quarterback, Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The backfield situation. The offensive line will be among the most productive in the SEC, and the receiving corps has explosion and game-breaking potential. The key will be to settle into a combination in the backfield with running QB Chris Relf and top-passing prospect Tyler Russell battling it out for time. With the loss of Anthony Dixon, the hope is that Robert Elliott plays up to his immense prep hype and/or Vick Ballard steps out of the JUCO ranks and into the starring role he appears to be ready for. MSU has the pieces, now they all have to fit.
What to watch for on defense: The defensive tackles. There are a few areas of the team that haven't been this good in a long time (primarily the receiving corps and the offensive line), and the defensive interior is among them. Sophomores Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd are two rising stars who can hold their own against the run, and with a year of experience under their belts, they should be far more consistent. Throw in the addition of massive, 6-7, 345-pound JUCO transfer James Carmon, and suddenly the Bulldogs have the makings of a brick wall in the interior to allow all-star end Pernell McPhee and promising sophomore Nick Bell to flourish on the outside.
Fun Stat: First Quarter Points Allowed: 68 – Second Quarter Points Allowed: 105

46. Kentucky
- 2010 Kentucky Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 6-6
Key to the Season:: A more efficient passing game. The line has to show it can pass protect like last year's solid wall, and if there's time, the quarterbacks have to start getting the ball down the field and making something happen. The offense had to get creative last year with the way it ran the ball, and now one of the nation's least efficient passing games has to balance things out. UK was 114th in the nation in passing yards and 109th in efficiency. With good running backs to take the heat off and a potentially great receiving corps, there's no excuse to be so bad again.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Secondary
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line, Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. The offensive line might need help with a former defensive lineman, Chandler Burden, likely to get the call at left tackle and with three other new starters in the mix, but the real issue all season is going to be at quarterback. Mike Hartline hasn't exactly set the world on fire, and he struggled before suffering a season ending knee injury. However, he's tough, experienced, and is the type of leader who can help the team along as it goes through a transitional period.
What to watch for on defense: Doing more to get into the backfield. The Wildcats might not have a ton of talent on D, but everyone can move. This is an athletic bunch that does a great job of getting around the ball, and now the new coaching staff will try to speed things up a bit to be more disruptive. Defensive coordinator Steve Brown is still around, and he has to get creative to generate more pressure take the pressure off the rest of the team. UK got by without stopping the run or hitting the quarterback, but it'll be playing with fire if it tries to do that again.
Fun Stat: Completion percentage: Kentucky 55.2% - Opponents 48.5%

47. Michigan
- 2010 Michigan Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 7-5
Key to the Season:: The turnover battle. It's not like being in the plus column would've bailed the Wolverines out over the second half of the season, but for a still emerging team that will feast off of any positive momentum, coming up with takeaways is a must after recovering a mere five fumbles and pick off 11 passes. Michigan forced just 16 turnovers while giving it away 28 times.
Relative Strength: Offensive Line, Running Back
Relative Weakness: Defensive Line, Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. On the plus side, Denard Robinson upped his game in a big way and might end up being the starter if he can show improved passing efficiency in fall practices. On the down side, there's going to be a year-long controversy no matter who wins the starting job. Tate Forcier was on the list of fringe Heisman candidates early last year, and while he has a certain magical quality, he needs to be consistent. Robinson is too fast to not have on the field in some way, and the dream would be for him to be a Pat White-like playmaker under center. Throw in super-frosh Devin Gardner in the mix, and this could be a mess that kills the team's consistency.
What to watch for on defense: The 3-3-5 alignment. Considering the team's personnel, the change in schemes appears to be a good move. There isn't a sure-thing pass rushing end to count on with Brandon Graham gone, but there are several 3-4 ends and a decent pair of tackles in Mike Martin and William Campbell to work in a rotation. There are several promising safeties, so a five man defensive backfield should allow the coaching staff to get most of the best players on the field at once. This only works if linebackers Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton rebound from fall-off-the-map disappointing 2009 campaigns, and it'll be a must for the hybrid positions, with Craig Roh working as a DE/LB and Thomas Gordon likely working as the S/LB Spur, to put up big numbers.
Fun Stat: Time of Possession: Opponents 33:35 – Michigan 26:25

48. Utah
- 2010 Utah Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 10-2
Key to the Season:: Third down offense. The Utes finished 72nd in the nation in third down conversion percentage connecting on just 71-of-187 chances. While they converted 37.97% of the time, BYU led the nation at 55.62%. The Ute defense isn't going to be as good as last year so the more the offense can keep the chains moving, the better.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Weakness: Linebacker, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: Matt Asiata. The great running game will go to a whole other level if Asiata really is back and healthy after tearing up his knee last year, and if nothing else, he'll be a thumping back to complement the speed and quickness of Wide and the bull-rushing of Sausan Shakerin to give the Utes one of the nation's most dangerous ground attacks, while taking all the pressure and heat off of Wynn.
What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. Gone are Stevenson Sylvester and Mike Wright after they finished 1-2 respectively in tackles combined for 160 stops and ten tackles for loss, and gone is Nai Fotu, a lineman who was going to take over in the middle before suffering a knee injury this offseason. Now, there's a former quarterback (Chad Manis), several former walk-ons, and several other unproven players trying to fill in the holes.
Fun Stat: Penalties: Utah 101 for 900 yards – Opponents 72 for 573

49. Purdue
- 2010 Purdue Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 6-6
Key to the Season:: Offensive line consistency. Last year's offensive front had the same combination for 11 of the 12 games, and while that was a plus for the pass protection and the offensive production, it made it hard for many young players to see meaningful time. Two good starters, left tackle Dennis Kelly and right guard Ken Plue, will have to be fantastic with three new, untested starters and no depth to rely on.
Relative Strength: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line, Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. After the problems of last year with suspensions and injuries forcing Joey Elliott into the full-time role, with decent success, now the concern is whether or not TerBush or Marve can be consistent and can utilize the dangerous receiving corps to make the passing game more explosive. There isn't going to be much of a running game, and with the expected issues in the secondary the defense might give up big yards, so the offense has to put up big points and keep up the pace.
What to watch for on defense: Can the secondary survive? Last year's defensive backfield had all four starters back and the longtime veterans were a major strength throughout the season. Now the Boilermakers not only have to replace all the starters, but they're doing it with a slew of untested players. It's a very young, very fast, and very athletic group that should be the X factor for the Purdue season. Considering how good the defensive front seven should be with six returning starters, if the secondary is merely fine, this should be a bowl season.
Fun Stat: First quarter scoring: Purdue 103 – Opponents 54

50. Colorado
- 2010 Colorado Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 7-5
Key to the Season:: Scoring 30 points. 33 teams averaged 30 points per game or more last season, and while just four of them were in the Big 12, the league had seven teams that averaged 28.4 or more per game. Over the four years under Dan Hawkins, Colorado has gone 11-3 when scoring 30 or more and 5-30 when scoring fewer. Considering the Buff defense has allowed 30 points or more 22 times under Hawkins, and the team has won just two of them, the offense has to pick up the pace.
Relative Strength: Secondary, Running Back
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line, Special Teams
What to watch for on offense: Don't think, just throw … or run. Second-year offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau will try to settle down the highly inefficient attack by simplifying the plays to let the players just play rather than to have to think so much. With so much returning experience, there's no reason to not be on the same page compared to the last few years, and there's no reason to not be able to go on more long drives. After giving the ball away 31 times last season, only Hawaii and Miami University turned it over more, there can't be so many drives that fizzle from mistakes. An easier offensive scheme should settle things down.
What to watch for on defense: The emergence of the linebackers. The linebacking corps was supposed to be a major strength last year, and while it was fine, it was hardly as special as it potentially could've been. This year, only one starter, B.J. Beatty, is back, but there's tremendous promise at the other two positions with big Michael Sipili certain to be a big-time tackler in the middle and Jon Major a tremendous prospect on the weakside. With three starters back up front and the secondary expected to be one of the team's best areas, the linebackers won't have to do it all, but they should put up some nice numbers.
Fun Stat: Time spent in the lead: Opponents 444:13 – Colorado 165:18

2010 CFN Preseason Rankings
- 1 to 5 | 6 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
- CFN Preseason Rankings 2009 | 2008 | 2007