2010 Preseason Rankings - No. 21 to 30
LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard
LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard
Posted Aug 9, 2010

Preview 2010 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 21 to 30 ... Conference Contenders

Preview 2010 - Preseason Rankings

Conference Contenders - No. 21 to 30

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

21. Oregon State
- 2010 Oregon State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 7-5
Key to the Season:: Takeaways. In 13 games, the Beavers had just 16 takeaways last season. That just isn't going to cut it for a program with serious designs on winning a Pac-10 championship. Over the last six seasons, Oregon State is 30-5 when it commits fewer turnovers than the other team. Now, it got bailed out by an offense that almost never coughed it up, but there are no promises that trend will continue. This school has way too many good athletes on defense to not be jarring loose and picking off more balls.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Receiver
Relative Weakness: Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: More from the backs and tight ends in the passing game. Jacquizz Rodgers was second on the team with 78 receptions, and is always a threat with the ball in the flat. Brady Camp is a capable tight end, with three years of experience. And H-back Joe Halahuni is one of the Pac-10's best-kept secrets, a 6-2, 252-pounder who can nuance agility with raw power.
What to watch for on defense: The ends. Oregon State took a rare nosedive in sack production last fall, largely because the defensive ends went AWOL. Collectively, they had just six sacks in 2009, putting extra pressure on a rebuilding secondary. Now, Gabe Miller shows a lot of potential in his second season since switching sides of the ball, but he needs a lot of help. Beaver fans are cautiously optimistic that Taylor Henry's spring game performance, coming up with four sacks, was no fluke.
Fun Stat: First quarter scoring: Oregon State 112 – Opponents 48

22. LSU
- 2010 LSU Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: Better play from the offensive line. Remember when LSU was loaded with All-America candidates and NFL prospects up front? The line was mediocre in 2008, and panic alarms went off. That was nothing compared to last year when the line gave pass rushers open invitations to pop the quarterback while doing nothing for the running game. No team with the skill players that LSU boasts should finish 112th in the nation in total offense, and it won't if the line is merely average. There might not be any stars up front, but this could be a more cohesive group that won't be asked to do too much.
Relative Strength: Secondary, Receiver
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The potential explosion of some good young prospects. LSU always has a slew of very athletic, very talented prospects at all the skill positions, and this year is no exception. While receivers Terrence Toliver, Rueben Randle, and Russell Shepard are known playmakers, it might be the emergence of junior tight end DeAngelo Peterson that makes the most noise. He was phenomenal this offseason and could be a key part of the attack, as should Michael Ford, a top running back recruit last year who looked the part this spring. If he's great, all of a sudden the LSU offense will have more consistent balance and pop.
What to watch for on defense: The outside linebackers. Perry Riley was the team's second leading tackler last season and Harry Coleman was third, and now the Tigers need two new starters to flank tackling-machine Kelvin Sheppard. There should be a steady rotation with redshirt freshmen Tahj Jones, Josh Johns, and Lamin Barrow pushing junior Stefoin Francois and sophomore Ryan Baker for time. The defense needs to generate more pressure from all spots, and the hope will be for the young players to do more to get to the quarterback and come up with tackles for loss.
Fun Stat: Punt Return Average: LSU 18.9 yards – Opponents 4.4 yards

23. Auburn
- 2010 Auburn Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: More takeaways. As long as the Tigers are ahead of the game in turnover margin, or even, they should be okay. Last year, they picked off 17 passes with 16 of them coming in the eight wins and just one (Arkansas) coming in a loss. Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and LSU hardly lit it up through the air, but none of the four threw any picks and everyone but Georgia lost one fumble. The margin for error in the SEC is always going to be relatively thin, and as long as the Tigers are making big plays in the secondary, the offense can afford to take a few chances.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Weakness: Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The attempt to quicken up the pace. Almost all offense in today's day and age want to speed things up a bit, and Auburn is no exception as offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn would like to take the training wheels off his attack. With so much experience across the board and almost everyone with a year in the system, the goal is to get everyone to quicken their pace a bit, be crisper, and be more decisive. However, that only works if the quarterback play is sharp, and that isn't going to be a given early considering Cameron Newton (the likely starter) will need a little while to figure out what he's doing.
What to watch for on defense: The safeties. The Tiger secondary has the potential to be fantastic if everyone is healthy, but that's a long shot. Aairon Savage (knee), Mike McNeil (broken leg), Zac Etheridge (neck), and Drew Cole (foot) are all banged up to various degrees and all trying the secure spots at safety. Not only do the Tigers need playmakers at safety, but they also need to be healthy to provide depth for a rotation. If the position is a problem, then Daren Bates, a starter in the secondary last year, will have to move from linebacker back to the defensive backfield and then the linebacking depth becomes extremely thin.
Fun Stat: Penalties: Auburn 97 for 847 yards – Opponents 59 for 466 yards

24. West Virginia
- 2010 West Virginia Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 10-2
Key to the Season:: Winning on the road. In Bill Stewart's two seasons as the head coach, West Virginia is 13-1 in Morgantown and just 5-7 away from home. With tough road tests at LSU, Connecticut, and Pitt this season, the Mountaineers will need to improve their mark away from home in order to make a serious run at a ten-win season.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weakness: Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The situation at right tackle. It's the only opening on an otherwise solid offensive line. If one position is out of sync, it could end up impacting the entire line. For now, Matt Timmerman has an edge based on seniority. He's been on campus for a long time, but he hasn't played a lot of football. If he leaves the door open between now and September, it'll be worth keeping an eye on Pat Eger, an upwardly-mobile redshirt freshman with an eye on playing early in his career.
What to watch for on defense: Scooter Berry. As a sophomore, Berry emerged as one of the Big East's best defensive tackles, regularly shooting the gap and blowing up running plays. As a junior, however, he plummeted, suffering through an injury and suspension-filled campaign. If West Virginia has a fully-functional Berry to go along with NT Chris Neild and DE Julian Miller, this line is going to dominate up front, allowing the linebacker and safeties to make a ton of plays near the line of scrimmage.
Fun Stat: Red zone touchdowns: West Virginia 70% – Opponents 46%

25. Ole Miss
- 2010 Ole Miss Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: Keeping mistakes to a minimum. Jevan Snead threw 20 interceptions last year and the team turned it over 31 times. The five turnovers against Alabama never let the Rebels have a chance, while four turnovers against Mississippi State didn't help when the run defense was getting steamrolled over. The defense is too aggressive and too good to not do its part to take the ball away, and unlike last year when the team was loaded with veterans, this year's team needs to win the turnover battle in all the big games.
Relative Strength: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: Even more explosion. The backs can all move and can all crank out big runs with a little bit of room. Throw in the Wild Rebel formation and the top options for the spot, and Ole Miss should average around five yards per carry (after averaging 4.7 yards per pop last year). At receiver, Jesse Grandy and Lionel Breaux are among the fastest players in America, while Markeith Summers averaged 23.2 yards per catch last seasons and Ja-Mes Logan can move.
What to watch for on defense: The corner situation. The front seven is set with NFL talent across the board on the line and good veterans at linebacker, but pass defense was an issue two years ago and it could be a problem again if former UCLA running back Jeremy McGee and junior Marcus Temple don't shine at corner. There are options with Charles Sawyer and Ryan Campbell two good-looking prospects, and there will be help from the pass rush, but the secondary has to keep the big plays to a minimum and it has to turn on the production on the road against Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU.
Fun Stat: First Quarter Scoring: Ole Miss 81 – Opponents 27

26. Texas A&M
- 2010 Texas A&M Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: Keeping interceptions to a minimum. The defense isn't going to be Alabama's, but it'll be better. However, the Aggies aren't going to win games 12-9 and will be in shootout after shootout. That's fine with the firepower on offense, but it has to come through every week, and Jerrod Johnson has to keep the mistakes to a minimum. Over the last two years, A&M has gone 10-14 with Johnson the main man, and in those games the team is 1-10 when he throws an interception and 9-3 when he doesn't. In the five games when he threw multiple picks the Aggies were outscored 269 to 111, or an average of 54 to 22.
Relative Strength: Defensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weakness: Secondary
What to watch for on offense: Luke Joeckel. There's no questioning the talent and depth at the skill positions, and the interior of the line will be solid with three good returning starters, but what could be a special season offensively could all go kaput if the tackles don't shine. The Aggies must get a fantastic year from Joeckel, a true freshman who joined the team early and staked his claim to the all-important spot up front. He more than held his own against Von Miller and the excellent defensive pass rush, but he has to show why many consider him a can't-miss NFL prospect who just needs a little bit of time.
What to watch for on defense: The 3-4. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter comes in from Air Force where he was able to make a defense with no appreciable talent shine. While the role of Von Miller won't change too drastically, now he'll be more of a 3-4 outside linebacker rather than a pass rushing 4-3 end, but this only works if the front three hold their own against the run. The Aggies have some big bodies for the inside, and they need to be rocks to allow the speedy linebackers to make all the big plays. Generating pressure from the outside is a must to help out a veteran, but unproductive secondary.
Fun Stat: Third down conversions: Texas A&M 104-206 (50%) – Opponents 69-184 (38%)

27. Missouri
- 2010 Missouri Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: Closing. Mizzou has lost some big games under Gary Pinkel because it couldn't bring in Mariano Rivera to get the save, and with an experienced, smart team returning, that has to change. The Tigers were about to be the lead dog in the North up 12-0 on Nebraska at home before allowing 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The defense gave up 14 points in the fourth to Baylor, while the offense came up with a measly three points in the second half in the shocking loss. Those were two home games the team HAD to win, and if it did, it would've won the North
Relative Strength: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Weakness: Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The running game. Missouri didn't ignore the ground game with 444 attempts compared to 467 passes, but it wasn't effective. The Tigers only averaged 127 rushing yards per game and a meager 3.7 yards per carry; both numbers inexcusable for a team with so much speed in the backfield and so much talent up front to pave the way. The temptation will be to let Blaine Gabbert bomb away since he's the star of the show and the passing attack will eat up yards in chunks, but to win the North, Derrick Washington and the backs have to be more effective.
What to watch for on defense: A more aggressive secondary. Everyone has had pass defense problems over the last few years in the Big 12, but Mizzou has had particular issues in key games. Most opposing offenses have had to bomb away to keep up the pace, and if the defense could tighten up a wee bit more the difference could be night-and-day for a secondary that finished 11th in the league and 104th in the nation in passing yards allowed. The Tiger D came up with a paltry eight interceptions, and now the goal will be to go after more passes and take more chances. The secondary is getting burned anyway; there might as well be a payoff once in a while.
Fun Stat: Field goals: Missouri 26-of-27 – Opponents 18-of-19

28. Boston College
- 2010 Boston College Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: Better play on third downs. The Eagles ranked just between New Mexico and New Mexico State at 116th nationally on third down conversion percentage. Even taking that conversion rate from 30% to 40%, which is still average, could be the difference between a good and a great season in the suddenly nasty ACC.
Relative Strength: Linebacker, Running Back
Relative Weakness: Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The development of the quarterbacks. Last summer, Dave Shinskie was a 25-year old former baseball player looking to revive his football career and Mike Marscovetra was a wide-eyed rookie. It's Shinskie's job to lose entering, but Marscovetra has not backed down, a great sign for the position as a whole. While the Eagles don't need either to be Matt Ryan, but better consistency and a few more downfield connections are musts if the offense is to become more potent.
What to watch for on defense: The status of LB Mark Herzlich. The one-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year has been declared cancer-free, which is the only victory that truly matters for the senior and the BC family. With that massive hurdle down, he's turned his attention to getting back on the field in time for the opener.
Fun Stat: Red zone touchdown %: Boston College 61% – Opponents 40%

29. Stanford
- 2010 Stanford Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 7-5
Key to the Season:: More from the defense. No one is counting on an overnight transformation, but if Stanford is to take the next step, it has to begin doing something better. Anything. Even if the Cardinal continues to allow big plays, the defense can still assist the common good by creating more big plays, like sacks and turnovers. Despite employing a frenetic pace, the team ranked ninth in takeaways and eighth in sacks in the Pac-10.
Relative Strength: Quarterback, Special Teams
Relative Weakness: Secondary
What to watch for on offense: QB Andrew Luck. All signs point to him erupting in his second year as the starter. The running game is in a state of transition now that Toby Gerhart is gone, and Luck has the strong right arm that's already caught the attention of NFL scouts, and there are two terrific receivers in Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu to work with. He'll have the required numbers, and if the Cardinal winds up being in the Rose Bowl hunt, Heisman voters won't have any choice but to pay attention.
What to watch for on defense: The transition of the linebackers to Vic Fangio's new 3-4 alignment. If you're going to employ the 3-4, you better have a deep collection of players at the second level. There's a lot of shifting and experimentation that'll continue to go on in the summer, with the hope of having this unit raring to go by the time Sacramento State visits on Sept. 4.
Fun Stat: First half scoring: Stanford 267 - Opponents 156

30. Arizona
- 2010 Arizona Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 8-4
Key to the Season:: Staying healthy. Over the last couple of seasons, the Wildcats have been besieged by injuries. What would have happened last year if TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Nic Grigsby, DE Brooks Reed, to name just three, didn't miss all or part of 2009? Arizona needs to avoid the injury-bug, especially along both lines, if it's going to compete for a Pac-10 title. One of these years, the program is hoping to see how it stacks up against the rest of the league when it has its full complement of stars.
Relative Strength: Quarterback, Secondary
Relative Weakness: Linebacker
What to watch for on offense: QB Nick Foles. The Michigan State transfer was beaten out for the starting job by Matt Scott last summer. He got the last laugh, however, taking over in September and going on to throw 19 touchdown passes and earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention. At 6-5 and 245 pounds, Foles has a great arm, a deep ensemble of receivers, and an even better work ethic. With a little more consistency and a few less mistakes, he's capable of drawing lots of attention from NFL scouts this fall.
What to watch for on defense: The new starting linebackers. How unsettling is the situation at linebacker? The Wildcats could begin the season with a pair of first-year JUCO transfers and a second-year sophomore in the opening day lineup. Plus, the second and third teams will be flush with freshmen. All three starters have graduated, leaving imports Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo, and young Jake Fischer as marked men.
Fun Stat: Arizona ranked in the top 10 nationally in both kickoff and punt returns

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