2010 Preseason Rankings - No. 31 to 40
Michigan State LB Eric Gordon
Michigan State LB Eric Gordon
Posted Aug 9, 2010

Preview 2010 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 31 to 40 ... Fringe Top 25 Teams

Preview 2010 - Preseason Rankings

Fringe Top 25ers - No. 31 to 40

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

31. Michigan State
- 2010 Michigan State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: The pass defense doesn't allow more than two touchdown throws. Last year, MSU allowed more than two touchdown passes in six key games and lost them all, and they went 6-1 in games when they allowed two touchdown passes or fewer (and lost both games when allowing three or more in 2008).
Relative Strength: Linebacker, Quarterback
Relative Weakness: Defensive Line
What to watch for on offense: Keith Nichol at wide receiver. The biggest question mark early on will be the play of the offensive line that has to replace three starters, but the big key to the season is going to be if Nichol emerges as the deep threat at the X that everyone is hoping for. After getting pushed out of the quarterback discussion, the former OU Sooner who battled with Sam Bradford for the starting job will now be looked at as a dangerous receiver and one of the team's key playmakers. If he shines, he could be a steadying force for a good-looking receiving corps with tremendous upside.
What to watch for on defense: The secondary. Greg Jones and Eric Gordon solidify one of the Big Ten's best linebacking corps that's good enough to allow the D to go to a 3-4 from time to time, while the line is big, athletic, and deep. All the positives on the front seven won't mean too much if the secondary isn't night-and-day better. MSU only picked off six passes on the year, allowed 32 touchdown passes, and gave up 200 yards or more in nine games.
Fun Stat: Interceptions Thrown: Michigan State 12 for 124 yards – Opponents 6 for 65 yards

32. Texas Tech
- 2010 Texas Tech Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: Better play from the O line. On the down side, there was no cohesion last year with a slew of injuries and little consistency from one game to the next, but fortunately, the problems allowed several young players to get their feet wet. Now the big, strong, beefy line from the Mike Leach era has to become sleek and athletic to do what Tommy Tuberville would like.
Relative Strength: Receiver, Quarterback
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: A sped up version of last year's offense. There will be more running than in the Leach era, with the quarterbacks being allowed to take off from time to time and the running backs carrying more of the offensive workload, but the biggest change will be the tempo. New offensive coordinator Neal Brown will be looking to get the offense as many plays as possible with a more frenetic-paced attack that should keep defenses on their toes. It'll be entertaining.
What to watch for on defense: More aggressiveness overall. The defense finished fourth in the nation in sacks and 34th in tackles for loss; getting into the backfield wasn't a problem. However, former defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill was aggressive, but his defenses relied more on pressure up front and defensive backs that kept everything in front of them. Now the corners will be on more of an island, the smallish, athletic linebackers will swarm. The alignment, a 3-4 most of the time but a 4-3 to likely be used when push comes to shove, will give the D a far different look.
Fun Stat: Fourth Down Conversions: Texas Tech 22-of-32 (69%) – Opponents 11-of-23 (48%)

33. Clemson
- 2010 Clemson Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 7-5
Key to the Season:: More from the kicking game. It might sound like a minor deal, but for a school that dropped four of its five games by no more than five points, this is big stuff. As a duo, Richard Jackson and Spencer Benton combined to miss 11 field goals and five extra points.
Relative Strength: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative Weakness: Receiver
What to watch for on offense: The new James Davis and C.J. Spiller. The Tigers' version of thunder and lightning is about to be reprised by Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington, budding stars just itching for their chance to shine. Ellington gave a glimpse of the future, darting and juking his way to 491 yards rushing and four scores on only 68 carries. Harper is a 230-pound downhill runner with good speed.
What to watch for on defense: T he safeties. In DeAndre McDaniel and Rashard Hall, there aren't many better tandems in the country. Both are big, athletic, and have the ball skills of wide receivers, which will help a secondary regrouping from the graduations of starting corners Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor. So good are McDaniel and Hall that they combined for 14 interceptions a season ago, and will discourage opposing receivers from even venturing into their area of the field.
Fun Stat: Sacks: Clemson 36 – Opponents 19

34. California
- 2010 California Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 7-5
Key to the Season:: Pass defense. Throwing the ball, Cal ranked 64th nationally in passing efficiency. Defending the pass, it was a putrid 91st. Teams that have a lower passer efficiency rating than pass efficiency defense rating usually don't even reach the .500 mark, something the Bears have to solve in order to move forward.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weakness: Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The transition of sophomore Matt Summers-Gavin from left guard to left tackle. As if the passing game doesn't have enough concerns, now it must contend with position-switcher supplanting all-star Mike Tepper. Now, Summers-Gavin is one of the young stars of the front wall, but this is a big move that's going to test his retention and pass protection skills.
What to watch for on defense: More blitzes and stunts than in the past. New coordinator Clancy Pendergast will keep the 3-4 alignment on defense, but is asking the players he inherited to be a lot more aggressive than in recent years. With a veteran line and athletic linebackers, the staff is going to have the flexibility to mix things up and keep opposing offenses on their heels. If nothing else, the Bears must find creative ways to support a pass defense that was garroted on a regular basis in 2009.
Fun Stat: First quarter scoring: Cal 117 - Opponents 68

35. Washington
- 2010 Washington Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 4-8
Key to the Season:: The secondary. It's the one area where Washington is capable of making the greatest improvement in 2010. In seven losses a year ago, the Huskies allowed 13 touchdown passes and picked off just three. While the offense was improving, much of the gains wound up being squandered by the defense. Further progress is needed here, or else the program will wind up being forced to score 35 just to get a W.
Relative Strength: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weakness: Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The shell game known as the offensive line. The left tackle was last year's right guard. The left guard was last year's center. The new center started games at left tackle. The new right guard was a backup center in 2009. The staff has done a lot of shifting of personnel in the offseason, hoping to get the right combination and the best talent on the field. Will it work? It had better.
What to watch for on defense: The ends. With the graduation of leading sacker Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, the Huskies are in dire need of pass rushers, who can take some heat off a suspect secondary. As if the situation wasn't desperate enough already, Everrette Thompson suffered an Achilles injury, Kalani Aldrich is coming back from a knee injury, and Andru Pulu has been dismissed.
Fun Stat: Scoring in regulation: Washington 313 - Opponents 313

36. Connecticut
- 2010 Connecticut Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 7-5
Key to the Season:: Keep up the momentum. Connecticut went 8-5 last season, but it was just 15 points away from a perfect season. That's a converted field goal or a late stop away from a very different bowl destination. The Huskies got the hang of it down the stretch, beating Notre Dame by three and South Florida by two, results that have to become trends in 2010.
Relative Strength: Linebacker, Running Back
Relative Weakness: Receiver
What to watch for on offense: The young receivers. Marcus Easley and Brad Kanuch are gone, robbing the Huskies of last year's top two pass-catchers. In their place come three juniors with outstanding upside and a lot to prove. Isiah Moore, Kashif Moore, and Michael Smith showed flashes of big-play ability in 2009, but there's a huge difference to being a complement and a focal point. In Joe Moorhead's up-tempo attack, moving the ball through the air is a must. QB Zach Frazer is eyeing a breakout final year, but only if he gets proper support from his receivers on the outside and in the slot.
What to watch for on defense: The ends. Lindsey Witten is gone, taking the Big East sack title with him to the NFL. The Huskies have a lot of similar options in his wake, undersized speedsters who could be a liability against the run. Their athleticism, however, is impossible to ignore, meaning opposing tackles will have nightmares trying to contain Jesse Joseph, Trevardo Williams, and Marcus Campbell. It'll also be worth following the knee recovery of Greg Lloyd, the former all-star linebacker making a position switch. If he can bring the same level of intensity to the line, everyone behind him is going to benefit.
Fun Stat: Third quarter scoring: Connecticut 103 - Opponents 41

37. Rutgers
- 2010 Rutgers Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 7-5
Key to the Season:: Replacing three top offensive linemen. That fact is that if this group stunts the growth of QB Tom Savage, Rutgers will have trouble getting to higher ground. The team was 111th nationally in sacks allowed a year ago, when first round NFL Draft choice Anthony Davis was still manning left tackle, and now the line play has to find a way to be far better.
Relative Strength: Defensive Line, Secondary
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The development of Tom Savage at quarterback. All things considered, he had an auspicious debut as the starter, throwing twice as many touchdowns as picks and winning nine games. He looks and acts the part of a next-level hurler, which the Knights are hoping to see a lot more of now that he has a full season as the starter in his muscle memory.
What to watch for on defense: The loaded defensive line. This unit has the potential to be as deep and as talented as any in the Big East. And that's especially good news for a secondary that'll be without star CB Devin McCourty. While not exactly flush with household names, Jonathan Freeny, Alex Silvestro, Scott Vallone, Eric LeGrand, and Justin Francis all showed a penchant for beating the block and making stops for loss in 2009. The Knights lose little from a group that fueled the nation's No. 15 run defense and No. 4 pass rush.
Fun Stat: Fumbles lost: Opponents 19 - Rutgers 4

38. Notre Dame
- 2010 Notre Dame Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 7-5
Key to the Season:: A pass rush. The Irish came up with plenty of tackles for loss but only came up with 20 sacks. This year, the outside linebackers will be the pass rushers while the defensive linemen can try to get to the quarterback from the interior. More sacks mean better overall numbers on third down conversion defense, pass defense, and pass efficiency defense.
Relative Strength: Receiver, Defensive Line
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: Speed. Instead of the NFL-like pace of last year where the play is called, sent into the huddle, talked over, discussed and dissected, implemented, and then run, the new Irish attack will be faster, quicker, and with a better pace to get more plays in and to keep defenses on their heels. The Notre Dame offense will want to control the tempo and exploit the mismatches, and under Brian Kelly, the offense should do a great job of taking advantage of the faster style to get the receivers into the open.
What to watch for on defense: Gap control. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will implement a 3-4 that should take advantage of the good group of linebackers and the three-man front that's big and experienced. The job of the linemen won't necessarily be to get into the backfield, but to hold the fort against the run and not let the lanes open up. The defense has to do something to make more big plays after giving up too many third down chances and too many big runs.
Fun Stat: Third Quarter Scoring: 47 – Fourth Quarter Scoring: 109

39. South Carolina
- 2010 South Carolina Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 7-5
Key to the Season:: A serviceable offensive line. After allowing 31 sacks in 2007 and 39 in 2008, pass protection was supposed to be a priority for the offense. 37 sacks later, the offensive line is still a big question mark. The biggest knock on the Steve Spurrier fun ‘n' gun, even when everything worked perfectly, was that it opened up the quarterback to some big shots. That's not the case here; the line has just stunk. It's a veteran front five with four starters returning and there's a new line coach, Shawn Elliott (the third O line coach in three years) to try to improve the production.
Relative Strength: Secondary, Quarterback
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The zone-read. Is Stephen Orr Spurrier, the architect of one of the most devastating passing attacks college football has ever seen, going to go to a running attack?! Maybe not full-time, but Spurrier is going to call all the plays this year and he's likely to be even more aggressive. He has the quarterback in Stephen Garcia to start chucking it more, and he has a tremendous group of receivers, but he also has a fantastic backfield (helped by the addition of star recruit, Marcus Lattimore). Garcia might be the franchise right now, but watch out for true freshman Connor Shaw, a dual-threat quarterback, to get plenty of time.
What to watch for on defense: A special secondary. The Gamecocks were supposed to be in a rebuilding phase last year in the defensive backfield, but the young players grew up in a big hurry and the pass defense became one of the best in America. Now it should be even better, even with the loss of Darian Stewart off to the NFL, with sophomore Stephon Gilmore and senior Chris Culliver two NFL-ready corners who'd get long looks in a camp right now. Throw in free safety Akeem Auguste and rising star DeVonte Holloman at strong safety the secondary is loaded.
Fun Stat: Third quarter scoring: South Carolina 87 – Opponents 39

40. Georgia Tech
- 2010 Georgia Tech Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 8-4
Key to the Season:: Former Virginia head coach Al Groh can help transform the defense. Even with two All-ACC performers, DE Derrick Morgan and S Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech was mediocre on defense a year ago, ranking in the bottom half of the ACC in many statistical categories. Too often the Jackets were dragged into shootouts. They won far more than they lost, but the program would prefer not to live so dangerously for a second straight year.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Quarterback
Relative Weakness: Receiver, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: An Allen sighting. Wherever he has played, be it in Louisville or as a backup with Tech, Anthony Allen has had a penchant for long runs and trips to the end zone. Literally hitting the ground running upon transferring, he turned his first 64 carries with the Yellow Jackets into 618 yards and six touchdowns. Now that he's slotted in at B-back, the feature position in this offense, there's no telling how prolific he might be when he gets his hands on the ball 20-25 times a game. If the line blocks, the senior has all-conference potential, at a minimum.
What to watch for on defense: The return of SS Cooper Taylor. When Taylor was lost in September to Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a rare heart disorder, the Jackets lost much more than a starter. They were robbed of an emotional leader and one of the best all-around athletes on defense. One heart surgery and countless frightening moments later, he's back and ready to pick up where he left in his breakout debut in 2008. In a secondary pining for leaders and playmakers, his return will be both timely and inspirational considering how close he was to never playing again.
Fun Stat: Average yards per catch: Georgia Tech 22.7 – Opponents 11.9

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