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Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Non-AQ pre-spring power rankings

By Graham Watson

It’s time for everyone’s favorite: pre-spring rankings. Now, we had some communication issues with these rankings last year, so I’m going to explain how these rankings are done. These rankings are based on if the season started tomorrow.

These are NOT my preseason rankings.

There are several teams that have a lot of returners and fewer questions to answer. There are other teams that have talent, but are still looking for some key pieces. This is a reflection of how those teams stack up. Again, these are NOT my preseason rankings.

1. Boise State: The only loss bigger than cornerback Kyle Wilson is the loss of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. The Broncos did make a quick hire from within to keep up the continuity, which should help with the transition into spring football. The offense is totally intact and this team should be working on refining the good thing it already has going.

2. TCU: The Horned Frogs proved last year that they don’t rebuild, they reload. They lost a lot of defensive players that were supposed to hamper the team this year, but actually did little to slow it down. Even though TCU loses defensive stars Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington, there are quality guys waiting and TCU should be able to pick up right where it left off.

3. Utah: The Utes had a huge signing day, especially nabbing some key junior college players who will be able to come in and help right away. Jordan Wynn is the undisputed starting quarterback, which should make this spring a lot more productive than the last one. The defense has a few question marks, but has several players that can step in seamlessly.

4. SMU: Coach June Jones likes working with young players and he’ll have a whole host of them this spring. However, unlike last year, Jones has a quality season on which to build and a lot of young experience with which to build it. The quarterback battle should be interesting with Kyle Padron, New Mexico State transfer J.J. McDermott, and incoming freshman Stephen Kaiser, and they need to find a new starting running back, but overall this team should be looking toward a nine or 10-win season.

5. Navy: Quarterback Ricky Dobbs will likely miss the spring as he recovers from knee surgery, which might not be a bad thing for the Midshipmen. Dobbs was their primary source of scoring last season, and the spring will force the Mids to find other players to become offensive weapons. This Navy teams doesn’t lose much and should continue to be a tough group.

6. Air Force: Coach Troy Calhoun flirted with Tennessee and defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter is gone, but many of the players from last season's young team return. Losing DeRuyter is a huge hit since the defense was the anchor of the team, but with former co-defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt assuming fulltime coordinator duties, it should be an easy transition this spring.

7. Houston: The Cougars need to spend this spring working on the defense, which should be a transition with new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart. Luckily for Stewart, he’s got a young and talented group with which to work, it just needs some direction. Offensively, the Cougars should be roughly the same despite a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Both have been in the program, and they return almost all of their offensive players.

8. BYU: Why are the Cougars so low? It’s not because I hate BYU (though some of you will dispute that), it’s because the Cougars have a lot of key questions to answer this spring. The most pressing is at quarterback, but offensive production is also going to be a question mark. Tight end was the most productive position on the team last season, and both of the top players at that position are gone. The Cougars have to find a go-to receiver and replace all of their starters on the defensive line and in the linebacking corps. There is a lot of talent that played last season returning, though, and several missionaries coming in.

9. Middle Tennessee: Middle Tennessee returns most of its players from last season, but lost both of its coordinators. The only reason Middle Tennessee is on this list is because it broke in a new offensive coordinator in 2009 and won 10 games. The talent is still there. Quarterback Dwight Dasher returns and most of the defense remains intact. There are a couple holes to fill, but nothing that should stop this team from being as good as it was a year ago.

10. Nevada: The Wolf Pack didn’t end the season on a high note, but they return a good portion of the team that rattled off an eight game winning streak after losing their first three. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is back and the running game is deep with or without Vai Taua, who missed the bowl game because of academic issues. The defense is the weak spot on this team, but with defensive coordinator Andy Buh coming over from Stanford, the Wolf Pack should start to show some improvement.