NCF Nation: power rankings 81010

Big Ten preseason power rankings

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
10:00
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It's that time again. Let's take a look at the power rankings as camps are under way throughout the Big Ten.

1. Ohio State: There isn't a glaring weakness on this team. History shows the defense will be extremely stingy, and if quarterback Terrelle Pryor continues to develop, the offense should be more than capable of putting up points. A bona fide national title contender.

2. Iowa: The core from the Orange Bowl championship team returns, led by defensive end Adrian Clayborn and quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Iowa must reload at offensive line but has a strong tradition there. A Week 3 test at Arizona could be tricky, but Iowa will be a BCS bowl contender if it defends its home turf.

3. Wisconsin: No Big Ten team returns more individual stars than the Badgers. A balanced offense led by one of the nation's best lines could be unstoppable if John Clay, Scott Tolzien and others can stay healthy. The defense is young in spots but talented, and safety Jay Valai promises me they'll lay the wood. Can head coach Bret Bielema take this program from very good to great?

4. Penn State: I had the Lions tied with Michigan State coming out of the spring, but Penn State's historic success on defense and its superior line play provides an ever-so-slight edge right now. Given the inexperience at quarterback, Penn State will need to rely on its run game and its defense. Joe Paterno has won that way a few times before.

5. Michigan State: The Spartans boast more depth at the offensive skill positions than any Big Ten team. Linebacker Greg Jones returns to lead the defense. My only hesitation here is the line play on both sides of the ball. I'm tempted to buy into Michigan State, but I'm going to take a wait-and-see approach for now.

6. Northwestern: Quarterback Dan Persa has done everything right in the offseason. Now he needs to prove himself when it really counts. The secondary and the rushing game concern me, but running back Arby Fields is poised for a big year. This isn't a championship-level team but one that should make a school-record third straight bowl.

7. Purdue: Like Persa, Robert Marve has established himself as a leader before starting his first game at quarterback for the Boilers. If Purdue fills a few gaps on the offensive line, its offense could be very good. The defensive front seven should be better against the run, but Purdue must replace its entire starting secondary, which is never easy.

8. Michigan: Regardless of who wins the starting quarterback job, Rich Rodriguez's offense will put up points. But if the defense doesn't make a major jump in 2010, nothing else will matter. Demar Dorsey's departure from the secondary could hurt, and while I'm interested to see what Cam Gordon and others can do on the field, it's hard to buy into this unit right now.

T-9. Minnesota: There has been too much change in personnel and on Tim Brewster's staff the last two years for me to give the Gophers a stamp of approval at this stage. Quarterback Adam Weber certainly is talented enough to turn things around, especially with some help from the run game and the offensive line. I'm not counting out Minnesota by any means, but a very challenging schedule combined with a lot of new faces creates some concern.

T-9. Indiana: I'm buying into Ben Chappell and the Hoosiers offense. If the unit stays healthy, Indiana will put up points and improve in critical situations (third down, red zone). Not surprisingly, the major concerns come on defense, where Indiana hopes a switch to the 3-4 alignment pays off. A very favorable schedule gives IU a chance to make it back to a bowl game.

11. Illinois: The Grand Experiment begins Sept. 4 against Missouri in St. Louis. Great recruiting classes haven't translated into on-field success for the Illini. Perhaps an upgrade in coaching will make the difference. Linebacker Martez Wilson's return provides a boost, but Illinois needs to help young quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase as much as possible.

Non-AQ power rankings

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
10:00
AM ET
This could be an exceptional year for non-AQ teams. With Boise State and TCU already in the national mix, several other teams could make some noise this season.

Here is a look at the 10 hottest non-AQ/independent teams going into the season:

1. Boise State. Broncos went 14-0 last season and return 21 starters.

2. TCU. Only loss last season was to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Most starters return, including QB Andy Dalton.

3. Houston. QB Case Keenum is one of the best in the country. If the defense improves, watch out.

4. Navy. Ricky Dobbs should be a household name. The easy schedule could make this a record-setting season for the Middies.

5. Utah. Jordan Wynn returns, but the defense must be rebuilt.

6. Notre Dame. Brian Kelly should bring improvements to the Irish, but they are one year away from being a Top-25 team.

7. Middle Tennessee. Dwight Dasher makes Middle Tennessee a team to watch.

8. SMU. The Mustangs were one year ahead of schedule last season. Kyle Padron is back, and the offense should be high flying once again.

9. Temple. Bernard Pierce and the Owls are coming off a historic season, and the Owls shouldn’t have a letdown in 2010.

10. Northern Illinois. Fifteen starters return, including first-team All-MAC RB Chad Spann and most of a defense that ranked No. 30 in the nation last season.

SEC preseason power rankings

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
10:00
AM ET
The SEC preseason power rankings look a lot like they did coming out of the spring.

The noticeable exception is that Georgia has jumped up from No. 6 to No. 3. The Bulldogs’ returning experience on the offensive line, their playmakers on offense and some of the best special teams in the country was what separated them from Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and South Carolina.

There’s not a lot of difference in the third best team and eighth best team, which should make for an intriguing fall.

Here’s how they rank in the SEC heading into the season:

1. Alabama: A lot has been made about what Alabama has to replace this season on defense. Here’s another way to look at it: Take a gander at what the Crimson Tide have returning on offense and the way they’ve stockpiled talent on defense.

2. Florida: The nucleus of those teams that reeled off 22 straight wins is gone, but new leaders and new stars are sure to emerge in Gainesville, led by junior quarterback John Brantley and a freshman class brimming with talent.

3. Georgia: Redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray doesn’t have to be spectacular. If he’s just steady and takes care of the ball, the Bulldogs have enough talent around him to make a legitimate run in the East.

4. Arkansas: Too bad for the Hogs that it’s not the first team to 30 points that wins the game. They have one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but still have to prove they’re going to hold up better defensively than they did a year ago.

5. Auburn: The reinforcements are coming for the Tigers, whose lack of depth caught up with them last season. Several players in their No. 4-rated signing class should make an immediate impact, starting with quarterback Cameron Newton.

6. LSU: All the chatter about whether Les Miles is on the hot seat could dissipate in a hurry if some of the Tigers’ young talent comes through. Also, does the light come on this season for junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson?

7. South Carolina: The Gamecocks could easily be up there around No. 3 or No. 4, but their history says they won’t. Their returning talent says otherwise, especially since it looks like junior quarterback Stephen Garcia is more motivated than ever.

8. Ole Miss: The addition of Jeremiah Masoli is a coup for the Rebels if he stays out of trouble and plays the way he did at Oregon in leading the Ducks to the Rose Bowl. Either way, Ole Miss will be in a lot of games thanks to its front seven on defense.

9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs’ defensive line has a chance to be one of the most improved units in the league. They’re still looking for more playmakers at receiver, but Dan Mullen has this program pointing in the right direction and thinking bowl game.

10. Kentucky: The Derrick Locke-Randall Cobb tandem is a nightmare for any defensive coordinator. But the Wildcats made their move under former coach Rich Brooks with better players on defense, and a lot of those guys are gone.

11. Tennessee: There hasn’t been a lot of good news lately for the Vols, who are being probed by the NCAA and lost a pair of starting defensive linemen to injuries last week in practice. Derek Dooley is committed to doing it the right way, but it’s going to take some time.

12. Vanderbilt: We know new coach Robbie Caldwell can carry an audience. He’s a genuinely funny guy. Now we find out if he can help restore some semblance of an offensive edge to a Vanderbilt team that went belly-up on that side of the ball last season.

Pac-10 preseason power rankings

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
10:00
AM ET
If you don't like the power rankings at some point this season, just wait a week. Things figure to be fluid all the way to December.

Our latest version is different from our vote in the Pac-10 media poll. Yep, it took just a couple of days of preseason camp for my mind to change.

1. Oregon: Oregon moved past USC into No. 1 not because of anything it did. Or even because the Ducks topped the preseason media poll. It was more of a case of all the off-the-field stuff going on with USC, which at some point has to touch team morale. The Ducks can firm up their hold on No. 1 if positive reviews start to flow in about the QB competition.

2. USC: Why does USC fall? Well, transferring players, lawsuits, teammates punching each other, the NCAA looking at what happen at Tennessee under Lane Kiffin -- that's a start. Still, the Trojans have a lot of talent. They may be fairly salty when it comes to the football part of football.

3. Oregon State: The Beavers are about one more bad USC headline away from moving up to No. 2.

4. Stanford: Good QB? Check. Good O-line? Check. Defense? We'll see.

5. Washington: Listening to Steve Sarkisian talk about his team during a news conference last week -- let's just say Sark would do well in sales. But there's real substance to the suddenly high expectations: Good players, good leadership.

6. Arizona: The early word is positive on the competition for the three vacancies at a linebacker. If the Wildcats get good answers there, there aren't too many other questions.

7. California: The good news is QB Kevin Riley has been throwing well. The bad news is perhaps his best lineman, left tackle Matt Summers-Gavin, suffered a knee injury over the weekend that threatens his season.

8. UCLA: Bruins fans will feel a lot better when they start to read positive reports about how the new "pistol" offense is blossoming.

9. Arizona State: Went to the Sun Devils media day on Saturday. Kept thinking this: Maybe. Those guys didn't look like a ninth-place team.

10. Washington State: First order of business for the Cougs during camp: Stay healthy. If they can put their best 22 on the field, they've got a chance to surprise some folks.

Big 12 preseason power rankings

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
10:00
AM ET
1. Texas: Texas' big-time freshmen receiving recruits Darius White and Mike Davis are on campus to compete with the remainder of the Longhorns receivers after the departures of Jordan Shipley and Dan Buckner. Whoever develops solid chemistry with quarterback Garrett Gilbert first should have a nice advantage heading into the season. Very few questions surround the Longhorns on defense, who also have exciting freshman Jordan Hicks competing for playing time at linebacker.

2. Oklahoma: Honestly, my gut tells me to slide the Sooners above the Longhorns based on coach Bob Stoops comments at media days, but I'll give the champs their due entering the preseason. Oklahoma loses its top three blockers from a season ago, and any growth from Oklahoma's eight-win team last season will have to start on the offensive line. Stoops believes it will. If it does, look for the Sooners and Longhorns to switch positions if Oklahoma earns wins against Florida State and Cincinnati while Texas beats up on Rice and Wyoming. A convincing win at Texas Tech might keep the Longhorns on top.

3. Nebraska: The Huskers quarterback issues can't end soon enough. The Big 12 blog's pick: Zac Lee. With its offensive line and quality running backs, Nebraska will be able to run the ball. If Lee can establish himself as the best passer of the group, his skills will better serve the offense than the more athletic Cody Green and Taylor Martinez. We won't know very much about how good the defense will be again this year until the Huskers' date with Jake Locker and the Washington Huskies on Sept. 18 in Seattle.

4. Missouri: A solid contender in the North, Missouri's key to hopping over the Huskers lies in the secondary. That group returns all four starters and has another experienced player in junior Kenji Jackson entering camp as a new starter at safety. If it solidifies, Missouri will be a force that spends most of the season in the top 25. Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp should share the spotlight catching balls from Blaine Gabbert along with slot man T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew.

5. Texas A&M: The Aggies have the conference's best player, but its worst defense. Both will need to improve for the Aggies to earn a South title. On defense, new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will have to build around tackle Lucas Patterson, linebacker Von Miller and safety Trent Hunter. Three freed-up offensive line spots -- which might all be filled by freshman -- will have to be solid and consistent for the offense to remain one of the Big 12's best, despite the Aggies' talent at the skill positions.

6. Kansas State: Running back Daniel Thomas led the Big 12 in rushing with almost no help from the quarterback spot last season, so the competition between Carson Coffman, Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamurisn't immensely important to Kansas State's success. No doubt, they'll be a lot better with great play from one of those three, but they won't be a bad team without it. Two of the Wildcats' top four tacklers will be junior defensive backs in 2010, Emmanuel Lamur and Tysyn Hartman.

And yes, I am very proud that I'm still batting 1.000 in not mixing up Sammuel and Emmanuel Lamur. Stay tuned, though.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have a great chance to move up this poll after hosting Texas on Sept. 18. Whoever wins the quarterback competition between Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffieldshould excel, which not every team in the Big 12 with a quarterback battle can say. Tech's aggressive new defense will have to limit big plays to see success in the first year under coach Tommy Tuberville and defensive coordinator James Willis. A convincing opening-week win against SMU will look better in December than some Tech fans might think after the team's Sunday, Sept. 5 debut.

8. Oklahoma State: One of the conference's wildcards, the Cowboys bring back just eight starters from last season, and will showcase a radical new offense in Dana Holgorsen's version of the Air Raid. Oklahoma State's receiving corps, led by Hubert Anyiam and Tracy Moore, is extremely underrated and could surprise plenty of folks in 2010. Their first real test comes Sept. 30, when they'll get a chance to knock off media darling Texas A&M in Stillwater.

9. Iowa State: The Cyclones nonconference schedule has made plenty of headlines this offseason, and Iowa State isn't shying away from its dates with Northern Illinois, Iowa and Utah. The legal issues surrounding defensive star David Sims appear to be resolved with an opening-game suspension, and running back Alexander Robinson looks ready for another big season after rushing for over 1,000 yards in his 2009 breakout season. Iowa State will need to steal a few games like last season to qualify for a second consecutive bowl game.

10. Baylor: Freshman safety Ahmad Dixon is impressing early in camp with a few big hits, and is making good on his status as one of the best recruits in Baylor history. Another -- Robert Griffin -- is already dealing with the pressures of delivering a bowl game to Waco. Coach Art Briles will need more players like Dixon and Griffin to move the Bears goals past just making a bowl game.

11. Colorado: The only team to move up from its position in the post-spring power rankings, Colorado simply brings back more talent than Kansas, and added two new receivers in UCLA non-qualifier Paul Richardson and Travon Patterson, whose transfer from USC was finalized on Monday. The offensive line has a lot of talent in Nate Solder and Ryan Miller, but the other three members will have to improve if the Buffs are going to rush for more than 1,055 yards like in 2009 (11th in the Big 12) and give up fewer than 43 sacks, 11 more than any other team in the Big 12.

12. Kansas: Losing your three best players from a team that finished last in the Big 12 North a season ago -- plus implementing a new coaching philosophy -- is a recipe for a rebuilding year. That's where the Jayhawks sit to begin 2010. They've got good young talent in linebacker Huldon Tharp and receiver Johnathan Wilson, who are both sophomores, but they face major questions at quarterback with inexperienced candidates Jordan Webb and Kale Pick battling for the No. 1 spot. Last season's leading rusher, Toben Opurum, is also nowhere to be found on the depth chart after battling injuries throughout the spring. The Jayhawks were the only team in the conference to return all five starters on the offensive line, but a season-ending injury to tackle Jeff Spikeseliminated that status. Brad Thorson, who played both guard and tackle last season, is also recovering from a broken foot. A win against Southern Miss and a competitive loss to Georgia Tech would earn the Jayhawks some more respect.

Big East power rankings

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
10:00
AM ET
Camp has started everywhere in the Big East, and we are less than a month from the start of the season. Time for a new set of power rankings.

1. Pittsburgh: There's good reason why the Panthers received 22 out of 24 first-place votes in the preseason media poll. They're loaded. But by no means invincible.

2. Cincinnati: New coach, defensive questions, blah blah blah. The league title still must go through Cincinnati.

3. West Virginia: With 18 returning starters and Noel Devine, the Mountaineers should be in the thick of contention all year. If quarterback Geno Smith develops, they'll be tough for anybody to handle.

4. Connecticut: Only West Virginia has more starters back, and perhaps only a historical inability to beat the Mountaineers has the Huskies this low.

5. Rutgers: Talented but very young. Only four seniors listed as starters going into fall practice.

6. South Florida: Questions remain at running back, receiver and with inexperience on defense. But Bulls could surprise if they figure things out under Skip Holtz.

7. Syracuse: Orange are thinking bowl in 2010. Even a five-win season would represent progress.

8. Louisville: Let the rebuilding process begin under Charlie Strong.

ACC preseason power rankings

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
10:00
AM ET
A switch has been made.

Miami has enough talent, depth and experience to win its first Coastal Division title. There’s nothing wrong with the Hokie Hype, but having to replace six – possibly seven – starters on defense is a tall task even for Bud Foster. The following rankings matchup with how the ACC teams are ranked in my preseason Top 25 for ESPN.com.

Here are the first power rankings for the 2010 season, but remember, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish:

1. Miami: The Canes have the fewest overall questions, a veteran quarterback and what should be one of the better defenses in recent seasons.

2. Virginia Tech: A loaded backfield that includes two 1,000-yard rushers and senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor will give opposing defenses headaches.

3. Georgia Tech: Former Virginia coach Al Groh takes over the defense, and how quickly the Jackets adjust to a 3-4 scheme will determine their odds of repeating as ACC champion.

4. North Carolina: Five players who decided to forgo the NFL draft will make this one of the best defenses in the country, but until the offense shows major improvement, Carolina stays status quo.

5. Florida State: Expectations are high for an offense that returns all but one starter, but until proven otherwise, the defense is a weak link. This team can be the best in the Atlantic Division, but until the 'Noles take the field at Oklahoma, it's impossible to predict the defense.

6. Clemson: The return of Kyle Parker instantly increased the Tigers’ chances of defending their Atlantic Division title, but Parker alone can't compensate for the losses of C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford.

7. Boston College: Quarterback stability is the key to contending for the Atlantic Division, and the return of linebacker Mark Herzlich could be the feel-good story of the year.

8. NC State: The Pack’s secondary must improve, the defensive line needs to be replaced and there are no running backs with any starting experience.

9. Wake Forest: The winningest quarterback in school history is gone, and the offensive line remains a question, so a young but talented defense must carry the Deacs.

10. Maryland: After a dreadful 2-10 season, the pressure is on Ralph Friedgen to earn a bowl bid, and he’ll have to do it with a new starting quarterback.

11. Duke: Sean Renfree is a capable first-year starting quarterback, but without a running game the Blue Devils will struggle.

12. Virginia: It’s a rebuilding season under first-year coach Mike London who is changing schemes, quarterbacks and philosophies.

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