NCAA FB

2009 preseason power rankings

Share This Story

foxsports admin

 
   
 
The season is fast approaching, so it's time to identify the top teams in the country. Based on how good the teams should be going into the season, here is the CFN preseason top 25.

1. Florida

Relative strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative weaknesses: Offensive Line, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The I-formation?! New offensive coordinator Steve Addazio was experimenting this offseason in an attempt to add a few more wrinkles to the equation. No, this isn't going to be 1977 Nebraska, and the spread isn't going anywhere, but part of the overall goal is to develop Tim Tebow's NFL passing ability and to get the running backs more involved.
downlevel description
This video requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download a free version of the player.
What to watch for on defense: The backups. With 11 starters returning from a defense that finished ninth in the nation, fourth in scoring D, and held down the all-timer of an Oklahoma offense, there isn't all that much room for wild, sweeping changes. But there's a problem that's not really a problem: some of the backups are better than the starters.Years of strong recruiting has stocked the shelves, and it should be interesting to see how the rotation ends up playing out.

2. USC

Relative strengths: Offensive Line, Secondary
Relative weaknesses: Defensive Line, Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The offensive line. Yeah, it's rough to focus on interior linemen, when Damian Williams, Stafon Johnson, and Joe McKnight are on the playground, but these Trojans are worth the discipline. If you like dominant, athletic front walls, then USC is going to grab your eye throughout the year.
What to watch for on defense: The new linebackers. Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga, and Kaluka Maiava were all drafted by the NFL in April. Sure, it would've been nice if even one veteran was back at the position, but there's no stopping progress. Or the next wave of stars about to populate the depth chart. Chris Galippo, Malcolm Smith, and Michael Morgan are next in line, and have just as good a chance to follow their predecessors into the pros. They won't be as prolific, at least not right away, but they will be faster and potentially more apt to create turnovers.

3. Oklahoma

Relative strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative weaknesses: Secondary, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: The offensive line. Last year's front five was the best in America, and this year it has to replace tackle Phil Loadholt, guards Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker, and center Jon Cooper. Tackle Trent Williams might have been the best of the bunch, and while he's back and will move over from right tackle to the left, there are some major question marks after a rocky offseason. This year's front five might not be as good, but it can't be a liability in the up-tempo, no-huddle attack.
What to watch for on defense: A dominant front seven. It's not an overstatement to suggest that OU has six legitimate pro prospects to rotate around up front, while the linebacking trio of Ryan Reynolds in the middle, leading-tackler Travis Lewis on the weakside, and Keenan Clayton on the strongside will make its pitch to be among the best in college football.

4. Texas

Relative strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative weaknesses: Secondary, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The young receivers. The running backs will again operate by committee, with the hope to do more so Colt McCoy doesn't have to lead the team in rushing again, and the offensive line should pave the way for a more consistent season. However, the key to the Texas offense is the precision passing attack that McCoy was so masterful at last year. Getting top target Jordan Shipley back with a sixth year of eligibility was key, but the emergence of the young receivers might be the difference between a great year and a national title. What to watch for on defense: Sergio Kindle doing his Brian Orakpo imitation. Kindle is an All-America-caliber linebacker who saw a little bit of time as a rush end late in the year when Orakpo went down. While Kindle might still play a more natural outside linebacker spot from time to time, he'll use his speed, smarts, and talent to be used as the Buck end and be asked to be a pure pass rusher.

5. Georgia

Relative strengths: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative weaknesses: Quarterback, Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The line. It's the walking wounded going into the fall with so many key players recovering from a slew of issues, led by star left tackle Trinton Sturdivant coming off a bad knee injury. But if everyone is healthy, there won't be a deeper more talented line in America. There's so much talent and so much versatility that the coaching staff can play around with the lineup whenever needed and get production.
What to watch for on defense: The tackle rotation. With Jeff Owens back after missing almost all of last season, and with Geno Atkins choosing to return for his senior year rather than be a millionaire as a first round pick in this year's draft, the Bulldogs are loaded on the inside.

6. Ohio State

Relative strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative weaknesses: Linebacker, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The line. While the overall production wasn't bad, when push came to shove, last year's line got shoved. It got ripped apart this spring by the defensive line, but the OSU front four will probably be dominant against everyone. With three good starters returning, led by center Michael Brewster, and with the addition of former Michigan Wolverine, Justin Boren, to bring more of an attitude and a nastiness to the offensive front, the line should be better and should allow all the speedy skill players time and room to work. What to watch for on defense: The rotation on the end. The pass rush was supposed to be unstoppable, even after losing Vernon Gholston, but it was only above average. This year, there are too many ends to get on the field at the same time. Thaddeus Gibson is a star who could grow into an All-America-caliber pass rusher, while Cameron Heyward is productive inside and out.

7. LSU

Relative strengths: Linebacker, Defensive Line
Relative weaknesses: Secondary, Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: Better quarterback play. Jarrett Lee tried his best, and was trying to get through his first season without collapsing after Andrew Hatch had injury issues. He collapsed. The 16 interceptions forced the coaching staff to adjust the gameplan on both sides of the ball to hide him. If LSU's quarterbacks were better last season, the team would've been 10-3 and would've beaten Alabama and Arkansas. What to watch for on defense: More attacking. It's not like the defense was awful last year, but it wasn't the high-flying disruptive machine it was in previous years. This year's D should make far more plays in the backfield, it'll come up with far more takeaways, and it'll start to look a little bit like the defense that now-Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini put together.

8. Oklahoma State

Relative strengths: Running Back, Quarterback
Relative weaknesses: Secondary, Linebacker
What to watch for on offense: The secondary receivers. No. 1 target Dez Bryant has to stay healthy, which has been a wee bit of a problem, even though he's been able to tough it out when needed. But even if he's 100%, the second and third receivers need to start doing more. So who will they be? DeMarcus Conner and Justin Blackmon are projected to be starters, but Isaiah Anderson and Hubert Anyiam are good options ready to make a splash.
What to watch for on defense: More of a pass rush. New defensive coordinator Bill Young will try to release the hounds and get all the speed an athleticism on the Cowboy defense to start to produce big things. The pass rush was non-existent throughout last year and the secondary suffered.

9. Penn State

Relative strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative weaknesses: Receiver, Secondary
What to watch for on offense: The new receivers. The Nittany Lion top three receivers, Deon Butler, Derrick Williams, and Jordan Norwood, combined for 132 catches for 1,932 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. So good were those three that the passing game all but ignored the tremendous tight ends and didn't throw to the backs enough. The new receiving corps will need time to be as good. Chaz Powell is a sub-4.4 runner with tremendous quickness and No. 1-target capability, and Derek Moye is a sub-4.4 runner with tremendous quickness and No. 1-target capability, but he's 6-foot-5.
What to watch for on defense: The secondary. This could be the Achilles heel. There will be production and the stats will be fine, but oft-injured corner A.J. Wallace has to suddenly use all his NFL tools and be a good college cover man. The safeties are promising, but untested, while Knowledge Timmons is a senior who has yet to put it all together at corner.

10. California

Relative strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative weaknesses: Quarterback, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: The pivot. Cal didn't just lose a center when Alex Mack graduated, it lost a leader, a fixture, and one of the best ever to play for the program. Under normal circumstances, junior Chris Guarnero would slide into the opening without a lot of attention, but these aren't normal circumstances. He's a nice, experienced player, who won't hurt the offense, but he'll have to deal with the added pressure of filling the shoes of a legend.
What to watch for on defense: The rebuilt corps of linebackers. An obvious strength a year ago, the linebackers are now a question mark, courtesy of the graduations of Zack Follett, Worrell Williams, and Anthony Felder. Mike Mohamed is a holdover, and a good one, but he'll need help if the 3-4 defense is to continue flourishing at Cal.

11. Alabama

Relative strengths: Linebacker, Defensive Line
Relative weaknesses: Quarterback, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: QB Greg McElroy. The junior might not be flashy and he's not going to do anything that'll earn him all-star honors over Tim Tebow, but he's the type of heady, tough, consistent playmaker who ends up winning championships.
What to watch for on defense: The run defense. After finishing No. 2 last year against the run with a linebacking corps that was getting its feet wet and with a mediocre pass rush that didn't help the statistics, 'Bama should be truly special. The front three, anchored by Terrence Cody, is full of huge, tackle-sized linemen at all the spots, while the linebackers are phenomenal.

12. Mississippi

Relative strengths: Defensive Line, Quarterback
Relative weaknesses: Secondary, Linebacker
What to watch for on offense: Even more deep balls in the passing game. The passing attack averaged 15.1 yards per completion last year, and now that QB Jevan Snead knows what he's doing with an added year of experience, he should be ready to make quicker, better reads. What to watch for on defense: Jerrell Powe. He was the star of the 2005 recruiting class, couldn't get academically eligible, and fought for years to finally show off the sure-thing NFL-bound defensive tackle skills that every key talent evaluator swore he had.

13. Iowa

Relative strengths: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative weaknesses: Running Back, Quarterback
What to watch for on offense: The interior of the offensive line. Tackles Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Callaway will someday be earning NFL paychecks, and the interior of the line has the potential to be devastatingly good if everyone can stay healthy.
What to watch for on defense: Karl Klug and Mike Daniels. If the two new starting tackles are merely adequate, the defense could be every bit as good as it was last season when it was 12th in the nation overall, fifth in scoring D, and ninth against the run.

14. Virginia Tech

Relative strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative weaknesses: Receiver, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The young skill position players. It's been years since the Hokies had so many budding stars at running back and wide receivers. It'll be up to QB Tyrod Taylor to make the most of them, and the beleaguered offensive line to spring them.
What to watch for on defense: Same old, same old. Year after year, Virginia Tech has been one of the most consistent, dependable defenses in the country. Expect to see a rerun in 2009.

15. Oregon

Relative strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative weaknesses: Defensive Line, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: LeGarrette Blount's career as a solo artist. Sure, he's going to get help, but not as much as last season, when Jeremiah Johnson got the majority of the carries. At 6-2 and 229 pounds, Blount is built for a feature role, something the JC transfer has craved since arriving at Oregon.
What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. Very quietly, this is going to be one of the strongest and most dependable units on the entire team.

16. Florida State

Relative strengths: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative weaknesses: Receiver, Quarterback
What to watch for offense: The continued development of the young offensive line. This group, a liability before the start of the season, wound up becoming a revelation in 2008. And the best is yet to come.
What to watch for on defense: The emergence of new pass rushers. It has to happen, or else Florida State will reenact 2007, when it was carved up through the air.

17. Notre Dame

Relative strengths: Receiver, Quarterback
Relative weaknesses: Offensive Line, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The attempt to get a power running game going. Notre Dame has been pushed around too often, and it appears to be tired of it. The running game has been non-existent over the past two seasons, but now there are four decent veteran backs ready to roll behind an experienced line.
What to watch for on defense: A far faster defense that doesn't quite resemble anything yet seen in the Weis era. As Notre Dame moves from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3, defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta loves to be aggressive and he wants to blitz from several different angles. He may have the athletes up front and in the secondary to do it.

18. West Virginia

Relative strengths: Linebacker, Running Back
Relative weaknesses: Secondary, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: The adjustment of the offensive line. It used to be that the Mountie linemen would be insulated by zone blocking schemes that masked their modest size and athleticism. Not anymore. This is a new era in the trenches in Morgantown, which requires the blockers to be far more versatile and mobile.
What to watch for on defense: Blitzes. Lots of blitzes. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel would like to bring pressure from all angles as long as it doesn't jeopardize a pass defense that'll be somewhat green at the corners.

19. Illinois

Relative strengths: Receivers, Quarterback
Relative weaknesses: Defensive Line, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: Explosion. Arrelious Benn, Florida transfer Jarred Fason, Jeff Cumberland, and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui form the Big Ten's best group of pass catchers. Every rushing yard gained last season is back, with four very good running backs to go along with the running ability of QB Juice Williams.
What to watch for on defense: The defensive line question marks. Jerry Brown is expected to eventually grow into the team's best pass rusher, with the best raw pass rushing tools on the team, and is trying to get his academics in order. One of the team's top tackles, Sirod Williams, is coming off a torn ACL, and one of the other top tackle prospects, Josh Brent, was suspended indefinitely.

20. Missouri

Relative strengths: Offensive Line, Running Back
Relative weaknesses: Secondary, Special Teams
What to watch for on offense: QB Blaine Gabbert. While he's not going to be Chase Daniel, Gabbert has an elite arm, NFL size, and the potential to make the passing game even more deadly.
What to look for on defense: The secondary. An utter disaster last season despite having an all-star in William Moore and veteran speedsters all across the back four, the pass defense can't be much worse after finishing last in the Big 12 and 117th in the nation giving up 287 yards per game.

21. Georgia Tech

Relative strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative weaknesses: Quarterback, Receiver
What to watch for on offense: More opportunities in the passing game. While the triple-option remains the bread-and-butter of this attack, the coaching staff realizes there are a handful of chances to burn defenses on long balls through the air. And it plans to exploit them whenever possible.
What to watch for on defense: The hunt for new leaders. Georgia Tech lost some of the vocal leaders and catalysts on defense. The Yellow Jackets will need someone new to step into those voids and help keep the momentum going.

22. Miami

Relative strengths: Defensive Line, Running Back
Relative weaknesses: Secondary, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The different ways that sophomore WR Travis Benjamin gets used. One of new coordinator Mark Whipple's first priorities will be to invent interesting ways to get the ball in Benjamin's hands.
What to watch for on defense: The progress of the run defense. The Hurricanes were bullied by more physical teams, finishing at the bottom of the ACC against the run. Hope can be found in the shift inside of disruptive former end Allen Bailey, and the returns of Marcus Forston and Micanor Regis for a second season. The 'Canes should be much improved in this area.

23. Pitt

Relative strengths: Defensive Line, Secondary
Relative weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The replacements. Now that LeSean McCoy has foregone his final two years of eligibility, Pitt needs to locate its next workhorse in an offense that leans pretty heavily on the run. Although none are going to be McCoy right away, the Panthers have recruited the position very well, providing hope for the future.
What to watch for on defense: Constant pressure. At any level, if you can get a consistent push up front, everything else has a way of falling into place. Pitt will have such a luxury this season, thanks to the presence of three All-Big East-caliber players on the defensive line.

24. Clemson

Relative strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative weaknesses: Receiver, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The race to replace Cullen Harper under center. The program is fortunate to have two really talented young QBs in sophomore Willy Korn and redshirt freshman Kyle Parker. Who gets the ball when Middle Tennessee State visits Sept. 5?
What to watch for on defense: Sacks. With Ricky Sapp, Da'Quan Bowers, and Kevin Alexander at defensive end, Clemson ought to be treating the quarterback like a piñata, right? It should, but it didn't last fall, finishing last in the ACC in sacks. It's the lone glaring weakness on a defense that figures to be among the league's best again in 2009.

25. South Florida

Relative strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative weaknesses: Offensive Line, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The growth of QB Matt Grothe. Every staff member in Tampa is labeling the quarterback a new man, who's finally become a better student of the game. Let's see it.
What to watch for on defense: The defensive line. George Selvie is the headliner, but he's hardly a solo act. Just about everyone is back from last season, which means South Florida will be home to one of the nation's nastiest front fours.
Tagged: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Miami (FL), Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Marshall, Eastern Michigan, Ohio, California, UCLA, USC, Oregon, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, LSU, Georgia, Southern Methodist, Hawaii, Middle Tennessee State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, UNLV, South Florida

More Stories From foxsports admin

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash