Early 2011 non-AQ power rankings

January, 11, 2011
1/11/11
3:00
PM ET
I took out my crystal ball and have looked at the non-AQ future for 2011. Here is my early conference ranking for the next season. Subject to change come the spring, then again in August.

1. Boise State. The Broncos lose several of their top players, including Austin Pettis, Titus Young, Jeremy Avery, Winston Venable and Ryan Winterswyk, but Kellen Moore returns and that makes them the top non-AQ team going into 2011.

2. BYU. The Cougars have a chance to post a 10-win season again, even though they face a tough start to their first independent schedule. But they have a lot of talent returning on offense, and if they can go at worst 3-2 in their first five games, the Cougars will be in great position to win out.

3. TCU. The Horned Frogs are in for a rebuilding year with their top two leaders, Andy Dalton and Tejay Johnson, leaving. But there is plenty of young talent on this team, from Josh Boyce to Matthew Tucker to Ed Wesley to Tanner Brock.

4. UCF. The Knights lose plenty on defense, but they also have freshman phenom Jeffrey Godfrey returning at quarterback, along with one of the deepest running back groups among the non-AQs.

5. Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane are going to have a coaching change with Todd Graham leaving, but they also return 16 starters, including C-USA Offensive Player of the Year G.J. Kinne. The nonconference schedule is brutal with games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State.

6. San Diego State. The Aztecs might be losing their coach, but with running back Ronnie Hillman and quarterback Ryan Lindley returning on offense, and Miles Burris coming back on defense, they should be able to follow up the success of 2010.

7. Air Force. The Falcons return 13 starters, none more important than quarterback Tim Jefferson, whose maturation in the offense helped Air Force win the Commander-In-Chief Trophy for the first time since 2002.

8. Hawaii. The Warriors lose plenty with top receivers Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares leaving, but quarterback Bryant Moniz and linebacker Corey Paredes return, and they could be the favorite to win the WAC with Boise State leaving for the Mountain West.

9. SMU. The Mustangs played in the C-USA championship game, and though they flopped in their bowl loss to Army, they have plenty of experienced players. The key to their success will be how Kyle Padron has developed -- this will be his third season as a starter.

10. Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks are going to prove that 2010 was no fluke. I see them as the favorites in the MAC with all the talent they have returning -- either Zac Dysert or Austin Boucher at quarterback, Nick Harwell at receiver, Austin Brown and Evan Harris on defense. Don Treadwell is an excellent hire and proved himself in his short stint filling in for Mark Dantonio at Michigan State.

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