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CFN: Top 50 teams for 2002

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Before anyone gets too up in arms over or puts too much stock in these rankings by our friends at the CollegeFootballNews.com, remember ... IT'S JANUARY. The recruiting classes haven't come in and spring ball hasn't started. These will certainly change before the beginning of the season. 1. Florida State
Hope you all enjoyed the year off. The Noles come back experienced on both sides of the ball and while this group might still be a year away from winning the national title, this will still be as talented a team as any in the country. With RBs Greg Jones and Nick Maddox, the Noles might surprise and win on the ground.

2. Tennessee
Losing John Henderson, Will Overstreet and Albert Haynesworth on the defensive line is too much to overcome to consider the Vols No. 1, but no one is going to stop this offense. With Casey Clausen, Donte Stallworth and Kelley Washington returning (for the moment), the passing game will shine.

3. Texas
We've all heard this before. The offense will have a dizzying array of stars from Roy Williams to Cedric Benson to, yes, Chris Simms. The defense will have to reload after losing CB Quentin Jammer and LB D.D. Lewis.

4. Washington
The Huskies lose good, but not irreplaceable, RB Willie Hurst, and Rich Alexis will pick up the slack. QB Cody Pickett and WRs Reggie Williams and Paul Arnold will form one of college football's most lethal passing games even with the losses of TE Jerramy Stephens and WR Todd Elstrom. The D must find a clogger in the middle to replace Larry Tripplett.

5. Ohio State
The Buckeyes lose a ton of talent and are still about a year or two away from the monster recruiting classes kicking in, but there are replacements. Ben Hartstock will take over for TE Darnell Sanders, Dustin Fox looks like the next great OSU defensive back replacing Derek Ross, RB Lydell Ross becomes the new workhorse and Craig Krenzel will be a nice replacement for Steve Bellisari. The D line and receivers will be outstanding.

6. Miami
The Canes will withstand the loss of RB Clinton Portis with Frank Gore and Willis McGahee taking over and QB Ken Dorsey and WR Andre Johnson should light it up through the air. Two HUGE question marks keep the Canes from being ranked higher: 1) The offensive line. This was the reason Miami won the nation title and the Canes lose Bryant McKinnie, Joaquin Gonzalez and Martin Bibla. 2) The secondary loses Ed Reed, Philip Buchanon and Mike Rumph. That's too much talent to lose.

7. Oregon
The defense will build on the success of the Colorado game with its devastating pair of linebackers, David Moretti and Kevin Mitchell, returning. It remains to be seen if the Ducks can still have that comeback magic without No. 3 slinging.

8. Nebraska
The defense will be experienced and should be dominating. With Dahrran Diedrick and Thunder Collins coming back, the running game should be fine even without Mr. Heisman. Jamaal Lord has the early line on the QB job.

9. Oklahoma
The offense has to find more of a spark with most of its key players returning. You don't lose players like Roy Williams and Rocky Calmus without a little bit of a drop-off.

10. Florida
Had Spurrier returned, most likely all the top talent comes back and the Gators are far and a way the No. 1 team in the nation. Now it's regrouping time.

11. Georgia
We believe. We love this offense with QB David Greene, RB Musa Smith and WRs Fred Gibson and Terrence Edwards lighting up the SEC. The defense has a ton of holes to fill, but we like this offense so much that the Dawgs will be just fine.

12. Colorado
The offensive line loses Andre Gurode and Victor Rogers, but the running backs are so good the Buffs might not miss them. The defense has too many holes to be rated higher than this.

13. LSU
Matt Mauck replaces Rohan Davey at QB and even though Mauck won the SEC title game for the Tigers, we're not sold that he can replace Davey's production. The loss of RB Josh Reed and LB Trev Faulk are killers.

14. Michigan
The defense should be better while the offense will be outstanding if the Wolverines can find a replacement for WR Marquise Walker. RBs B.J. Askew and Chris Perry will carry the load.

15. Virginia Tech
The running game might be the nation's best and QB Grant Noel has a year of experience. The defense has to replace too many superstars, but it should still be good enough to challenge for the Big East title.

16. Boston College
If only William Green had returned, the Eagles might be top ten or even top five. The defense returns most of the key players while RB Derrick Knight and QB Brian St. Pierre will carry the offense.

17. Texas A&M
The Aggies can't be any worse on offense with QB Mark Farris returning while the defense, particularly the secondary, should be out-of-this-world.

18. Illinois
Look for Dustin Ward to take over for Kurt Kittner and with Brandon Lloyd and Walter Young returning, the passing game won't miss a beat. The defense should be at least as good as last year's version.

19. South Carolina
Run, run and run some more. QB Corey Jenkins and RBs Derek Watson and Andrew Pinnock will give the Gamecocks the SEC's most devastating running attack. The defense has some mile-wide holes to fill.

20. Syracuse
QB R.J. Anderson will have to take over more of the offense with RB James Mungro and a bulk of the offensive line gone. Even without DE Dwight Freeney, the defense should still be strong led by LB Clifton Smith.

21. Louisville
QB Dave Ragone loses his favorite receivers, but the running game will be outstanding with T.J. Patterson coming back. Look for DE Dewayne White to be this year's Dwight Freeney.

22. Alabama
QB Tyler Watts and RB Ahmaad Galloway will keep the Tide running. Even with the loss of LB Saleem Rasheed, the defense should be devastating.

23. Texas Tech
If the Red Raiders can replace RB Ricky Williams and SS Kevin Curtis, they might actually be a threat to win the Big XII South. QB Kliff Kingsbury and LB Lawrence Flugence are superstars.

24. USC
We think the disaster of the Las Vegas Bowl will be the motivating factor this team needs to propel the Trojans to a great 2002. QB Carson Palmer returns for his 17th college football season and has weapons to work with. RB Sultan McCullough must stay healthy. SS Troy Polamalu should be given the Jim Thorpe Award right now.

25. Maryland
The loss of QB Shaun Hill and WR Guilian Gary kills the passing game, but RB Bruce Perry and LB E.J. Henderson gives the Terps star power. There are too many losses in the secondary to rank them higher. No one's going to take them lightly this year.

26. Auburn
The Tigers should be more poised going into 2002. Now they need to settle on a QB.
27. Marshall
The offense will lead the nation, but the defense won't stop anyone.
28. Arkansas
On defense alone, we should have the Hogs higher than this.
29. Mississippi
Eli Manning will be a Heisman finalist.
30. Kansas State
The D should be better, but the loss of RB Josh Scobey hurts.
31. Clemson
Many Tiger fans couldn't wait to get QB Willie Simmons out there.
32. Penn State
Led by QB Zack Mills, PSU should challenge for the Big Ten title.
33. Iowa State
QB Seneca Wallace will have to carry the load.
34. Washington State
Some stars return, but the Cougars lose too much on D.
35. Purdue
The Boilermakers need to find consistency on offense.
36. Michigan State
We should probably have the Spartans higher than this.
37. Georgia Tech
There's still talent for Chan, but too many key cogs are gone.
38. NC State
Don't be surprised if the secondary turns into one of the nation's best.
39. Colorado State
The Rams will ride the development of QB Bradlee Van Pelt.
40. North Carolina
The Tar Heel offense should be stellar but the D line needs help.
41. Virginia
WR Billy McMullen is the early dark horse for the Biletnikoff.
42. BYU
We're just assuming Gary Crowton will fill in the holes.
43. Wisconsin
The offense will be among the nation's best, but the D is still lousy.
44. Hawaii
Can Timmy Chang do what Nick Rolovich did?
45. Pittsburgh
Walt Harris has a ton of work to do.
46. UCLA
The Bruins should be higher than this, but we want to see them this spring first.
47. Fresno State
The Bulldogs won't be anywhere the team they were in 2001.
48. Missouri
Don't laugh, the Tigers are experienced and Gary Pinkel is one of the new head coaching stars.
49. Oregon State
Look for the Beavers to be one of the sleeper teams of 2002.
50. Boise State
QB Ryan Dinwiddie should put up monster numbers.

Tagged: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Miami (FL), Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Boise State, Utah State, Ohio, Arizona, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, USC, Oregon, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, Tulsa, Hawaii, Fresno State, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State, Colorado, Texas, Louisville, New Mexico, Colorado State, Kurt Kittner, Kevin Curtis, John Henderson, Josh Reed, Roy Williams, Saleem Rasheed, Bryant McKinnie, Clinton Portis, Albert Haynesworth, William Green, Rocky Calmus, Dwight Freeney, Joaquin Gonzalez, Rohan Davey, Andre Gurode, Victor Rogers, Quentin Jammer

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