Preview 2012 - Unit Rankings
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2012 CFN Preseason Rankings
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50
51 to 60 | 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 124
CFN 2012 Unit Rankings
- Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defenses | Defensive Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries | Special Teams
- 2011 Unit Rankings | 2010 Unit Rankings
Note: This is based on talent, returning starters and skill. It’s not necessarily based on stats.
From the moment Matt Barkley announced on Dec. 22 that he’d be returning for his senior year, it was a foregone conclusion that Troy would boast one of 2012’s most potent passing attacks. The quarterback, who could have been a top 5 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, figures to be unstoppable as the triggerman for the Trojans’ dynamite corps of receivers. Robert Woods is already an All-American, who could join Barkley as a first round pick next spring, and Marqise Lee is on the verge of being every bit as talented. The duo, plus seam-busting tight ends Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble, will be virtually impossible to shut down this season.
There was a point when USC was concerned about its depth at running back. And then Silas Redd transferred from Penn State to give the program a pair of potential feature backs. Senior Curtis McNeal was a surprise 1,000-yarder, but still needs to stay healthy now that Dillon Baxter and Amir Carlisle have transferred. If the offensive staff experiences any sleepless nights, it’ll probably be having nightmares about the offensive line. The comforting news is that four starters do return, headed by All-Pac-12 C Khaled Holmes. The doubt centers on left tackle, the position that had been manned so competently by Minnesota Viking rookie Matt Kalil. Current RT Kevin Graf held the job at the beginning of spring, but was displaced by enormous sophomore Aundrey Walker. Assuming he stays put, all the 6-6, 320-pounder needs to do this fall is make sure Barkley absorbs as few hits as possible.
All that was missing last year was the threat of a passing game. The Tigers were able to charge through the season with a very simple formula: start running, come up with the efficient throw now and then, and then keep running with big back after big back behind a powerful line that wore down every defense but Alabama’s. Now the job is to stick with what worked while throwing in a little bit more of a deep passing game with pro-style passer Zach Mettenberger taking over at quarterback for Jordan Jefferson. The stable of running backs is very deep and very talented; the offensive line full of size and experience; and the receiving corps, even with the loss of Rueben Randle and TE Deangelo Peterson, should flourish with more downfield throws.
The offense that finished fifth in the nation and tenth in scoring might not be quite as explosive, but it should be every bit as strong thanks to the return of quarterback Landry Jones for his senior season. While the top NFL prospect might be the team’s signature star, pounding backup Blake Bell could steal the spotlight with his short-yardage scoring ability. The receiving corps might lose Ryan Broyles, but top recruit Trey Metoyer and Kenny Stills are terrific and getting Justin Brown from Penn State helps. A quick group of athletic backs should produce behind an outstanding line that gets four starters back with the depth to keep everyone fresh.
4. West Virginia
Anything less than unstoppable will be disappointing. The team that rolled up 70 points on Clemson and averaged 470 yards per game gets all the key parts back including veteran quarterback Geno Smith. The Heisman potential is there if everything goes according to plan. He gets back all his top targets with Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney combining for 222 catches last year, and he’ll get plenty of time to work behind a veteran line with four starters returning. The running game won’t be deadly, but Shawne Alston leads an experienced crew that will do more than be along for the ride. Now the pressure is on. The offense has to be consistent and it has to produce for a full four quarters instead of needing to turn things up a notch after halftime like it had to do time and again.
There might be a new head coach, but offensive coordinator Paul Petrino is around to keep the attack rolling. In a league full of mediocre offenses, Arkansas was dominant finishing first in total offense, scoring offense, passing offense and passing efficiency. With quarterback Tyler Wilson choosing to put off the NFL for one more year, and with All-America caliber running back Knile Davis returning from missing all of last year hurt, the backfield is set. The running game should be dominant with several terrific options ready to work in a rotation with Davis, while the line should be fine after getting a little while to gel. The receiving corps might be the concern with Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs gone and Marquel Wade having off-the-field issues, but Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gregg are great pieces to start with. The offense and Wilson will make everyone shine.
The offense might not have been as explosive as it was under Rich Rodriguez – finishing eighth in the nation in 2010 – but it didn’t have to be thanks to a defense that didn’t force the O to push to keep pace. The 2011 attack might have dipped a bit in total yards, but the running game stayed strong thanks to another phenomenal season from QB Denard Robinson. With Robinson and emerging star Fitzgerald Toussaint, the Wolverines have a 1-2 rushing punch that should combine for well over 2,000 yards if everything goes according to plan. The backfield is terrific and the line, with a little tweaking, will be more than fine if everyone stays healthy. The problem is a receiving corps that took a step back last season and needs Roy Roundtree to bounce back to 2010 form and Jeremy Gallon to shine as a possible No. 1 target.
7. Texas A&M
Will Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury be able to run the high-octane attack in the SEC? The Aggies threw the ball 537 times last year and was able to keep up the pace in the Big 12, but now it’ll have to be prepared to go against some of the best defenses in the country. Everything will start with a phenomenal line that was among the best in the nation last year and gets five starters back. There’s NFL talent to go along with the experience, but it’ll have to go from being a good all-around group to a steady pass blocking unit. It’ll be a race for the starting quarterback job with several terrific options to choose from, led by big-armed sophomore Jameill Showers. The receiving corps will be more than fine with a little bit of time, but the backfield is an issue with star back Christine Michael coming back from a torn ACL and Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams likely to have to wait until next year before he’s eligible.
Run, run some more, and run even more. Wisconsin, as always, will have one of the best ground games in America led by Heisman finalist Montee Ball, who along with Melvin Gordon and James White should combine for over 3,000 rushing yards working behind yet another massive line. But the big question mark will be a passing game that was among the most efficient in college football with Russell Wilson at the helm. Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien isn’t Wilson, but he’s a talented passer who could be in a perfect situation to maximize his skills. He’ll get 19 days to throw – if he can hold off Joel Stave and Joe Brennan for the starting job – but will the targets be there to balance out the attack? Jared Abbrederis has to grow into a No. 1 wide receiver and tight end Jacob Pedersen has to do even more.
9. Oklahoma State
There was some concerns that the offense wouldn’t quite have the same pop and explosion with offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen moving on to become the head coach at West Virginia. Todd Monken didn’t seem to have too many problems getting things moving with the O finishing third in the nation averaging 546 yards per game and second in scoring averaging close to 49 points per outing. Now the offense has to replace QB Brandon Weeden, two-time Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon and four starters from the line. No worries. Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith form one of the nation’s best 1-2 rushing tandems working behind a line that quickly filled in the holes. The passing game will take a step back to potentially make a giant leap forward with several good young receivers ready to take on bigger roles and with true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt being thrown to the wolves.
New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has some work to do. Last year the defense didn’t allow more than 14 points against anyone but Georgia Southern, and this season it’s not like the Tide offense has to do anything more than be ultra-conservative, score a few times and go home with a win, but QB AJ McCarron will be allowed to open it up a little bit more. He’s not going to start chucking it all over the field, but he’ll be allowed to take a few more shots down the field to a green but fast receiving corps. However, his main job will be to keep the chains moving and to make sure the running game is working. The Tide has five excellent backs to work in a rotation behind the most talented line in college football. The O line depth might be lacking and there will be problems if injuries strike, but there are four sure-thing NFL starters up front to pave the way for a ground game that should once again be among the best in the SEC.
10 is high in the unit ranking number.
|Michigan State||Big Ten||30.5|
|Kansas State||Big 12||29.5|
|Ohio State||Big Ten||29.5|
|Texas Tech||Big 12||29|
|Iowa State||Big 12||28|
|South Florida||Big East||27.5|
|San Diego State||M-West||24|
|Penn State||Big Ten||23.5|
|Arkansas State||Sun Belt||23|
|UL Lafayette||Sun Belt||22.5|
|San Jose State||WAC||22|
|Middle Tennessee||Sun Belt||21.5|
|North Texas||Sun Belt||21|
|UL Monroe||Sun Belt||21|
|Florida Atlantic||Sun Belt||19.5|
|New Mexico State||WAC||19.5|
|South Alabama||Sun Belt||19|