2010 Preseason Rankings - No. 11 to 20
North Carolina LB Bruce Carter
North Carolina LB Bruce Carter
Posted Aug 9, 2010

Preview 2010 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 11 to 20 ... BCS Contenders

Preview 2010 - Preseason Rankings

BCS Contenders - No. 11 to 20

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

- Receive FREE selections, Free Weekly Newsletters and much more from ATS Consultants
- Get Tickets For Your Team, Any 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

11. Miami
- 2010 Miami Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: More of a pass rush. No. 10 in the ACC in sacks? Really? That's unacceptable considering the amount of speed, athleticism, and overall talent the ‘Canes have on the front seven. With Allen Bailey and one of the league's deepest defensive line rotations, there's no reason why Miami can't turn 2009 into an anomaly.
Relative Strength: Defensive Line, Receiver
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The emergence of Damien Berry as one of the ACC's top rushers. The senior and former defensive back made someone on the Miami staff look real smart when he erupted for 616 yards and eight touchdowns despite not getting a single carry until Oct. 10. A decisive and aggressive runner, he's suddenly the feature back on a team that's lost Javarris James to graduation and Graig Cooper to a serious knee injury. Even NFL scouts have started paying attention to a late bloomer, who could parlay his final year into a pro contract.
What to watch for on defense: The sophomore safeties. From the program that once brought you Ed Reed and Sean Taylor come Vaughn Telemaque and Ray-Ray Armstrong. Neither is a household name outside of Coral Gables, but that'll start to change this fall. Both are dynamite physical specimens, with the size and attitude to become legitimate enforcers of the secondary. After laying decent foundations as freshmen, both are poised to become primetime players as full-time starters.
Fun Stat: Fumbles lost: Opponents 12 - Miami 4

12. Florida State
- 2010 Florida State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 8-4
Key to the Season:: Better play from the defense. The Seminoles allowed an unthinkable 30 points a game, one of many reasons Mark Stoops was lured out of the desert to help turn things around in. The offense is going to be good, but that doesn't mean it wants to be dragged into shootouts every weekend.
Relative Strength: Offensive Line, Quarterback
Relative Weakness: Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The competition at running back. This was supposed to be the domain of Jermaine Thomas, last year's leading rusher, right? Uh-uh. Maybe it was for motivation or maybe the Seminoles are this deep, but the junior exited spring trying to avoid slipping to third on the depth chart. Chris Thompson was atop the pecking order and Ty Jones was in a dead heat with Thomas. The bottom line? Florida State will have plenty of options out of the backfield and the need for some deft coaching in order to keep everyone happy.
What to watch for on defense: The emergence of sophomore CB Greg Reid. While Florida State has a lot of good players on this side of the ball, it has few great ones. Reid has a chance to be one of the exception. A dynamic playmaker, with or without the ball, he brings an attitude and a certain electricity to the defense. After playing a complimentary role as a rookie, he's prepared to explode on to the national as more than just a homerun hitter on special teams. The ‘Noles are in dire need of difference-makers after playing so poorly in 2009, a role Reid is capable of filling.
Fun Stat: Rushing yards per game: Opponents 204.6 - Florida State 149.5

13. North Carolina
- 2010 North Carolina Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 6-6
Key to the Season:: The offense has to improve. A year ago, the Tar Heels were No. 10 or lower in the ACC in passing, scoring, turnovers lost, and total offense. Now while no one is banking on a prolific attack, Carolina has to do a better job of moving the chains and scoring six when it reaches the red zone.
Relative Strength: Defensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weakness: Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The maturation of the young wide receivers. A year ago, the targets were painfully green and trying to somehow replace the loss of Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, and Brooks Foster. This season should be different with senior Greg Little as the go-to guy, and a wave of young wideouts just itching to be the second and third options. After scratching the surface, Erik Highsmith, Jheranie Boyd, and Joshua Adams are all ready to explode into more productive players.
What to watch for on defense: The newcomers on the defensive line. The nine returning starters and all the NFL talents are getting all of the offseason press, but DE Quinton Coples and DT Tydreke Powell are emerging stars. The juniors had to wait in line for this opportunity, but now that E.J. Wilson and Cam Thomas have graduated, both have the opportunity and the talent to be special. Coples is a 6-6, 275-pound man-child on the outside and Powell has the quickness to shoot the gap and take advantage of the double teams Marvin Austin will see.
Fun Stat: North Carolina led the nation with 508 return yards on interceptions

14. Iowa
- 2010 Iowa Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: The kicking game has to be settled. It hasn't been that bad over the last few years with two veterans, Daniel Murray and Trent Mossbrucker, each proving able to get the job done. However, the difference between a great season and a decent one could come down to which one hits all the gimmes. Murray missed a few too many makeable kicks (but finished a strong 19-of-26 on field goals), and considering Iowa played in five games in 2009 and nine over the last two years decided by three points or fewer, there can't be any easy misses.
Relative Strength: Defensive Line, Secondary
Relative Weakness: Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The reloading on the line. Even with some tremendous all-stars, most notably Bryan Bulaga, the Hawkeye line gave up way too many sacks and was way too inconsistent for the ground game. Kirk Ferentz gets praised up and down for always putting together great lines, and he does, but last year's front five was a bit overrated. This year's line might be a bit underrated with some nice players (but no Bulaga types) ready to step up and produce, and it needs to be tight from the start. The skill players are experienced and excellent, and if they get more time to work the mistakes should diminish and the consistency should follow.
What to watch for on defense: The shoulders of Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood. The defense that was so good last year, finishing tenth in the nation, and should be even better even with the loss of three superstars in LB Pat Angerer, OLB A.J. Edds, and CB Amari Spievey. However, health will be an issue with all eyes on the shoulders of Sash and Greenwood after the two star safeties missed time this offseason getting healthy. These two will be the tone-setters for the back seven and should make the secondary great, but they can't knock themselves out with too many big shots.
Fun Stat: Fourth Down Conversions: Opponents 8-of-16 (50%) – Iowa 2-of-12 (17%)

15. Oregon
- 2010 Oregon Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: Stronger run defense. When the Ducks struggled a year ago, it was typically because opponents, like Stanford and Ohio State, were the grinding it out between the tackles. Despite some concerns on the interior of the line, Oregon has to find a way, with the help of the linebackers and safeties, to prevent the other team from playing keep-away with the ball.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Weakness: Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The battle to replace Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback. Comparatively speaking, nothing else will even produce a blip on the radar in Eugene this summer. Will the Ducks hand the ball to Nate Costa, the senior who's overcome multiple knee surgeries to be in this hunt? Or will they begin the Darron Thomas era, turning loose the precocious sophomore, with the skill set to fit perfectly in Chip Kelly's spread? There isn't a more interesting or more competitive battle in the Pac-10, if not the country.
What to watch for on defense: The opening at cornerback opposite Talmadge Jackson. Oregon lost three talented defensive backs to graduation, leaving the secondary thin and inexperienced. How thin and inexperienced? True freshman Terrance Mitchell had the edge coming out of spring, which was good for the rookie, but a concern for the D. Although not appearing on the most current two-deep, there's hope that some of the more seasoned players, namely sophomore Cliff Harris, can raise the level of the pass defense before the opener.
Fun Stat: Rushing yards per game: Oregon 231.7 – Opponents 128.7

16. USC
- 2010 USC Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 11-2
Key to the Season:: Third down conversions. The defense isn't going to be as air-tight as it used to be, so it's up to the offense to become more efficient. Last year's Trojans ranked 89th nationally on third downs, which meant a lot of stalled drives and Jacob Harfman punts. It's time for the offense to grow up around QB Matt Barkley, RB Allen Bradford, and WR Ronald Johnson, and start churning out more 11-play possessions that wind up in the end zone.
Relative Strength: Linebacker, Defensive Line
Relative Weakness: Receiver
What to watch for on offense: Matt Barkley. For the blue-chip quarterback, last year was all about getting accustomed to the speed of the game and the pressure of being a rookie starter. This season, however, is about taking that next step toward being the total package behind center. Predictably erratic just a year out of high school, he'll begin 2010 in better shape and better equipped to beat opposing defenses. With that awkward debut now in the rear view mirror, he's determined to put his career into overdrive.
What to watch for on defense: The move of Devon Kennard from end to linebacker. Coming out of high school, Kennard was the defense's version of Barkley, a precocious rookie starting early in his career. The new coaches want him on the field, but unlike when he arrived as a lineman, he's been moved to middle linebacker in order to toughen up that group. While he's going to play, will he start? If so, it could mean that Chris Galippo gets shifted to strongside and Michael Morgan goes to the bench. It'll be worth following Kennard's career path because his destination will have a ripple effect throughout the defense.
Fun Stat: Sacks: USC 35 – Opponents 18

17. Pitt
- 2010 Pitt Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 10-2
Key to the Season:: Closing. The Panthers' last five losses dating back to 2008 have been by an average of only four points. Pitt has pulled out some nail-biters during that time, but has lost more than they've won. The difference between a Meineke Car Care Bowl and an Orange Bowl will be the outcomes of these types of games, which hang in the balance and aren't decided until the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
Relative Strength: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weakness: Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The debut of Tino Sunseri as the starting quarterback. Yeah, Dion Lewis was the star of last year's offensive revival, but it was the play of QB Bill Stull, which added balance and really made the Panthers go. Sunseri doesn't need to be Stull right out of the chute, but he does need to distribute the ball to more than Lewis on handoffs. The sophomore has the right demeanor for this job and a high ceiling. Pitt needs him to begin approaching it as quickly as possible.
What to watch for on defense: The new starting cornerbacks. The Panthers are in ideal shape just about everywhere on defense ... except at cornerback, where Aaron Berry and Jovani Chappel must be replaced. There are four options for two jobs, something the staff will continue to sort out in the summer. The veterans are senior Ricky Gary and junior Buddy Jackson. They're the underdogs, however, to juniors Antwuan Reed and Saheed Imoru. Reed was named most improved defensive player of the spring and Imoru has hit the ground running in his first year out of Navarro (Tex.) Junior College.
Fun Stat: Sacks: Pittsburgh 47 – Opponents 15

18. Penn State
- 2010 Penn State Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 9-3
Key to the Season:: The special teams have to at least be competent. Kicker Collin Wagner came up with a fine year, but he's not an elite talent … and he was the bright spot. The punt coverage team was 117th in the nation, allowing 15.4 yards per try, the punting game was 114th in the country, the kickoff return team was 107th, and the punt return game was 106th.
Relative Strength: Defensive Line, Running Back
Relative Weakness: Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: Shuffling on the line. While injuries had something to do with it, the line simply didn't play well last year. The pass protection was fine, but the ground game never found its groove as the combination up front seemed to change each week. Not comfortable to keep the status quo, the coaching staff did some moving around this offseason, most notably taking all-star center Stefan Wisniewski and moving him to guard. This is a veteran, athletic line that has the potential to be great, but it needs to be settled.
What to watch for on defense: Michael Mauti. One of the team's most talented linebackers going into last season, the sophomore tore his ACL and was out before the year began. With the loss of all the top linebackers from last year, the speedy return of Mauti is a must to upgrade the talent level. If he's fine, he has a shot to start somewhere on the outside, even though he'd be better in the middle. If he's not 100% or is two steps below his pre-injury skill, there could be problems. Nathan Stupar is another great Penn State linebacker ready to shine, but there isn't a Navorro Bowman in the new group.
Fun Stat: Second Quarter Scoring: Penn State 129 – Opponents 34

19. Arkansas
- 2010 Arkansas Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 8-4
Key to the Season:: Better special teams. The difference between winning the SEC and being an also-ran can be a paper thin, and Arkansas has to be better and more effective on special teams to get though all the tight games. Only three games last year were decided by seven points or fewer, and they all came down to a field goal with a miss against LSU and two key misses against Florida proving costly. The defense isn't good enough for the punting game to be so miserable after averaging just 32.63 yards per try.
Relative Strength: Receiver, Quarterback
Relative Weakness: Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The Pistol. The type of offense can mean a lot of things to a lot of teams, most famously at Nevada where Chris Ault's team set records for the ground game, but all it'll mean for Arkansas is that Ryan Mallett will line up a bit differently. The idea is to get the ball in the hands of the backs a bit quicker while allowing Mallett to survey the field a bit more and get the downfield passing game going more efficiently. It's a tweak, but it could make an already explosive attack even more dangerous.
What to watch for on defense: The secondary shuffle. The team's Achilles heel could be a secondary that's long on speed and experience but short on production. The Hogs have been ripped apart over the past few years and finished last in the SEC in pass defense and pass efficiency defense last season. The coaching staff is moving some of the key parts around with one of last year's starting corners, Rudell Crim, moving to strong safety while Darius Winston gets his chance to improve the playmaking in his place.
Fun Stat: Fourth Down Conversions: Arkansas 10-of-20 (50%) – Opponents 4-of-16 (25%)

20. Nebraska
- 2010 Nebraska Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record:: 10-2
Key to the Season:: Defenses have to fear the passing game more, and the better ones won't until the quarterbacks play better. Last year, Nebraska threw just one touchdown pass with nine interceptions in the four losses and 15 touchdown passes and a mere three picks in the nine wins.
Relative Strength: Defensive Line, Secondary
Relative Weakness: Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Zac Lee really was supposed to be a great talent who could be a dangerous all-around playmaker for the offense, but he didn't exactly look the part last year. While a big boost in production can't be ruled out, Nebraska can't win the national title unless Lee plays far, far better. If he can't handle the work, then sophomore Cody Green, a good young prospect, has to show he can handle the reins. Could a potential championship season be in the hands of an untested prospect like Taylor Martinez? Everything else is in place on offense, so if the quarterback play is merely adequate (and consistent), then the O could be every bit as good as the D.
What to watch for on defense: The Peso. It's a quirky way Nebraska will term its 4-2 -5 alignment as it tries to counteract the more dangerous passing teams with a fifth defensive back who'll do a little bit of everything. After trying it out a bit last year, the formation proved to be so successful that the Pelini brothers might make it the norm. The versatility will be there to seamlessly move in and out of the alignment.
Fun Stat: Field goals: Nebraska 24-of-28 – Opponents 12-of-24

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