College Football: Ranking the Top 120 Programs Heading into Spring Practice

Edwin WeathersbyAnalyst IApril 3, 2011

College Football: Ranking the Top 120 Programs Heading into Spring Practice

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Stephen Garcia #5 of the South Carolina Gamecocks against the Florida State Seminoles during the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    With April here, we're just about ready for spring practices to start getting into full swing for 2011.

    Spring ball is a very crucial part of all teams' seasons, as it sets the tone and foundation going into summer camp. Players can get a solid amount of reps, coaches can assess rosters and it also can serve as a good crash course for early/mid-year enrolled players.

    Heading into the spring portion of the college new year, we've decided to rank the top 120 programs. Some programs are in tip-top shape, while others have taken a dip towards the bottom.

    Come see where your favorite program is at!

120. Idaho

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    LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 1:  Idaho head coach Robb Akey watches from the sideline against USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 1, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. The Vandals were defeated by the top-ranked Trojans won 38-10. (Photo by Kev
    Kevin Terrell/Getty Images

    The Vandals haven't had a rich history in football over the years, with much of their success coming in the 1980s under Dennis Erickson as a Division I-AA program. They have two bowl wins in Division I-A history, both coming at the Humanitarian Bowl, in '98 and again in 2009.

    Yet Idaho did see itself in the spotlight some last spring, as star guard Mike Iupati was considered by many as the top interior offensive player in the draft. He was selected in the first round by the 49ers.

    In their fifth year under Rob Akey, the Vandals go into the spring with hopes to make a big jump in the WAC.

119. Louisiana-Lafayette

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Chris Masson #7 of the University of Louisiana-Lafatette Ragin' Cajuns has the ball snapped to him during the game against the Louisiana State University Tigers at Tiger Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Baton R
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Former Ole Miss receivers coach and passing-game coordinator Mark Hudspeth has some work to do in his first year at the helm on Cajun Field.

    The Ragin' Cajuns aren't in tip-top shape right now, but Hudspeth has experience as a head coach at North Alabama, making that program a perennial D-II power.  Last year, Louisiana-Lafayette was only 3-6 and suffered a sixth place finish in the Sun Belt Conference.

    Hudspeth will use this spring to install his overall philosophy and try to change the culture around the program.

118. Tulane

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    NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 04:  Head coach Bob Toledo talks with quarterback Joe Kemp #7 of the Tulane Green Wave during a timeout against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes at the Louisiana Superdome on September 4, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Bob Toledo is a long ways away from Westwood, where he was big man on campus at UCLA. He's only 13-35 in four years at Tulane, and to his own defense, he did not come into the most ideal situation for a program.

    However, Toledo is a good football coach, and I expect him to give Tulane all he's got this year, as his contract extension did come as a bit of a surprise to some this past offseason.

    Toldeo has 17 starters coming back from a team that, while went just 4-8, did upset Rutgers and show improvement over the course of the season. This is a crucial spring for Tulane and Toledo.

117. Arkansas State

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    Hugh Freeze takes over the once-proud Red Wolves program and he is spending the spring re-tooling his coaching staff. Freeze, a former Lambuth University head coach, will have a new defensive coordinator and he re-shaped several other coaching positions.

    QB Ryan Amplin and WR Dwayne Frampton make up one of the top QB-WR combinations in the Sun Belt Conference, and after having a chance to work for a full year together, they are expected to put up big numbers.

    For Freeze, Amplin and Frampton, this spring has to be productive. 

116. Wyoming

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    LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 13:  Marcell Gipson #2 of the Wyoming Cowboys returns a punt against the UNLV Rebels during their game at Sam Boyd Stadium November 13, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 42-16.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The Cowboys only won three games last season under second-year head man Dave Christensen. But the interesting thing is, they go into the spring on a high note.

    See, Wyoming saved their best for last, as they blew out Colordado State 44-0. This gives Christensen and his program a building block and rallying cry to open up spring with energy.

    RB Alvester Alexander will look to continue toting the rock in spring ball like he did down the home stretch of last year, as he totaled 390 yards on the ground, a marked 6.6 yards-per-carry average.

115. Utah State

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    PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 23:  Kevin Robinson #6 of the Utah State Aggies runs with the ball against the Brigham Young Cougars on September 23, 2006 at La Vell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.  (Photo By Kent Horner/Getty Images)
    Kent Horner/Getty Images

    After losing its final game to Boise State 50-14, Utah State enters the spring on the other end of the spectrum from Wyoming. The Aggies have a bad taste in their grill and are using this spring to get their team breath back to being minty fresh.

    What Gary Andersen did well this offseason was recruit. Rivals lists USU as having the second-best class in the WAC, and that means talent is headed to Utah State.

    Adam Kennedy, a JC transfer, figures to be the key replacement for QB Diondre Borel.

114. North Texas

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    AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 2:  Quarterback Matt Phillips #18 of the North Texas Eagles looks to pass against the Texas Longhorns on September 2, 2006 at Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. The Longhorns defeated the Eagles 56-7. (Photo by Ronald Martinez
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Todd Dodge is out and Don McCarney is in. McCarney comes from Florida and brings a wealth of energy to enthuse the Eagle program.

    He's expected to turn around things at NT, but he has some work to do. The team comes off a 3-9 season, including being shut out by Army. Freddie Warner is the highlight of the recruiting class, as the defensive back was once pledged to Texas Tech.

    Lance Dunbar is easily the Eagles' best player and he is approaching the record books in all rushing categories.

113. Ball State

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    DETROIT - DECEMBER 5:  MiQuale Lewis #33 of the Ball State Cardinals runs the ball against the Buffalo Bulls during the MAC Championship game on December 5, 2008 at Ford Field in Detroit Michigan. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Dave Letterman's alma mater saw an epic rise a few years back with star QB Nate Davis, as it was ranked 12th in the polls. But now the Cardinals come off a 4-8 season, towards the bottom half of the MAC league.

    Pete Lembo takes over the program and he has stated he wants to establish in-roads in Chicago and Detroit recruiting for the program. He is installing a no-huddle offense that Keith Wenning and Kelly Page need to grasp quickly this spring.

    Look for Lembo to use this spring portion to really get a feel for his roster.

112. Eastern Michigan

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 19:  Head coach Ron English stands on the field during the game with the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Michigan won 45-17.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    When you go 2-10, that is not supposed to be a good thing. But Ron English is being looked at as Paul Brown by EMU faithful for winning two games in 2010.

    English is a renowned DB coach, stemming from his days at Michigan, but he has to keep showing improvement for the Eagles as a head coach. The main priority has to be fine-tuning a defense that routinely gave up big plays ad a lot of points on Saturdays.

    English is a defensive-minded coach and will give the unit a hands-on approach this spring.

111. Northern Illinois

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    COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 2:  Tailback Garrett Wolfe #1 of the Northern Illinois University Huskies carries the ball against the Ohio State University Buckeyes during the game on September 2, 2006 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. OSU won 35-12.  (Photo B
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Jerry Kill is off to Minnesota to take on the Big Ten. Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren is now the sheriff at NIU and will look to streamline the program the way he sees fit.

    NIU is in better standing than many think, and the program put together a nine-game winning streak in 2010, which was the height of the season. But Kill is gone, and many felt he had the magic.

    Doeren is one of the top defensive minds in college football and will look to continue playing tough, physical football at NIU.

110. Louisiana Monroe

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Todd Berry of the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks watches a play during the game against the Louisiana State University Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.   The Tigers
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Tod Berry reached up to Arkansas to get six of the 21 recruits he hauled in for his second complete class. But Berry needs to get the ground game working. Devontae McNeal will be counted on to be the main cog to retool the rushing attack as a true freshman.

    Kolton Browing, Luther Ambrose and Tavarese Mayes all return to continue the air assault for the Warhawks.

    But this spring, the ground game needs to be worked on, and it likely won't be at full tilt until McNeal comes in the summer.

109. San Jose State

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    PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Lamon Muldrow #22 of the San Jose State Spartans runs past Thomas Keiser #94 of the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Based on last season, the Spartans should be ranked lower, or not even on this list, but they have some young talent and could turn it around pretty soon.

    Keith Smith and Vince Buhagiar look like potential all-conference linebackers and Noel Grigsby and Chandler Jones the same as receivers.

    Mike Macintyre is a good coach, and he is dealing with some roster issues, as reaching a roster of 85 players has been tough for SJSU for the past few years. Yet he has a good recruiting class coming in and enters his second year at the helm, so a jump is expected.

108. Bowling Green

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 25: Bowling Green Head Coach Dave Clawson reacts during the game against  the Michigan Wolverines on September 25, 2010 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan defeated Bowling Green 65-21.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Gett
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    BGSU is far removed from when an upstart Urban Meyer ran the program, as the team only went 2-10 last season. The problem for the Falcons is team speed, and Dave Clawson went to Florida to solve that problem, as he recruited seven out of 21 recruits from the Sunshine State in 2011.

    For the spring portion, look for Clawson to emphasize faster play, as he instructed his strength coaches to focus on more explosion and speed-building offseason work.

107. Kent State

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    CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Spencer Keith #3 of the Kent State Golden Flashes passes in the first half against the Boston College Eagles on September 11, 2010 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Going 5-7 in 2010, Kent State saw four of its five wins come in conference play, but what makes the program attractive is the arrival of former Ohio State receivers coach Darrell Hazel.

    He assembled a solid recruiting class in just six weeks on the job and had to split his time between preparing the Buckeyes for the Sugar Bowl and duties as the Golden Flashes' new head man.

    This is Hazel's first spring for KSU, and he will look to hit the ground running.

106. Toledo

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    CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Danny Noble #86 of the Toledeo Rockets tries to get around the tackle of Kurt Coleman #4 of the  Ohio State Buckeyes on September 19, 2009 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Ohio State won the game 38-0. (Photo by Gr
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Tim Beckman's No.1 priority this spring is to get a jump on determining who will be his starting QB. The race is between Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens.

    A spring QB battle is always the best way to go, as coaches like to know who their guy is when summer camp opens up and not sacrifice reps to a player who won't be seeing the field as much as the eventual starter will.

    This should be a tight race, and Dantin goes in as the early favorite.

105. Rice

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    HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 04:  Head coach David Bailiff of the Rice Owls during game action against the Texas Longhorns at Reliant Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Houston, Texas. Texas won 34-17.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Owls are in the same position as Toledo is—they don't know exactly who their QB is. Taylor McHargue hurt his throwing shoulder in 2009 and missed last season, but he returns. He seems to be the favorite to land the job, but he must learn a new offensive system.

    Scott Solomon returns to the defensive line and will be asked to play end and tackle. He is a former all-conference player and his presence is sorely needed.

    The Owls getting their two best players back from injury surely will boost their season in 2011, starting in spring ball.

104. Florida Atlantic

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    NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 21:  Head coach Howard Schnellenberger of the Florida Atlantic University Owls is carried on his team's shoulders after defeating the Memphis University Tigers 44-27 in the New Orleans Bowl on December 21, 2007 at the Louisiana Supe
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Still a relatively young program, FAU is the fastest program ever to reach a FBS bowl game and it is still looking to branch out and make its mark around Florida.

    With a ways to go to compete with the infamous big three programs in Florida, the Owls have put on their helmets and gone to work this spring. Led by former Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger, the Owls have embarked on a course that once again has goals set on reaching a bowl game this season.

103. Louisiana Tech

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 14:  Quarterback Ross Jenkins #11 of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs throws a pass against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The Tigers defeated the Bulldogs 24-16.  (Photo by Chris Gra
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Sonny Dykes is looking for leadership this spring and he has gone ahead and already named seven captains for the LTU squad this spring.

    Matt Broha, Jay Dudley, Ray Holley, Taulib Ikharo, Matt Nelson, Stephen Warner and Ryan Williams all have been named leaders of the team. Dykes believes a program is built on character guys, and he has chosen these players as his main leaders.

    The Bulldogs open the season versus Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg on September 3.

102. Central Michigan

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    BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 01:  Kito Poblah #1 of the Central Michigan Chippewas carries the ball during the game against the Indiana Hooisers at Memorial Stadium on November 1, 2008 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Chippewa football opens the spring with three new coaches and a whole lot of hope going into the 2011 season. For Don Enos, the spring will be as much about getting the team ready as it is breaking in his new quarterbacks coach Morris Reynolds, receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield and defensive line coach Vinson Reynolds.

    All three won't need too much overlooking as they come in with solid experience. The Chippewas are looking to win the MAC West division and reach a bowl game this year.

101. Ohio

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    COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head Coach Frank Solich of the Ohio Bobcats watches his team play against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Ohio has fallen behind not only Ohio State but also Cincinnati as far as Ohio football programs go. But the Bobcats are still one of the better programs in the MAC, which is known for breeding coaching stars of the future.

    Fresh off a second-place finish in the East division in 2010, the Bobcats open the spring looking to top their 8-5 record last season.

    Frank Solich has the Bobcats playing solid football. He will use the spring to build depth and prime his squad for a MAC title run.

100. Western Kentucky

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    LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 04:  Brandon Kinnie #84 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers gets a pass knocked away by Derrius Brooks #2 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during the first half at Memorial Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  (Photo by E
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Willie Taggart begins year No. 2 for the Hilltoppers and this should be the year the squad makes a big jump. Taggart is stressing toughness, physicality and speed this spring.

    Improvement is being made every day so far this spring, which is the goal. Taggart says the defense is ahead of the offense and he is excited about the overall make up of the team.

    The Hilltoppers open up on September 1 versus Kentucky.

99. New Mexico State

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    DeWayne Walker has been rumored not to be pleased with the overall support of the football team and available resources to his program, but he will be on the sidelines once again in 2011.

    A top-level defensive mind, Walker is trying to build the program into a stalwart in the Southwest. He views this third season as the potential breakout season for his Aggies program. Spring practice begins April 2nd, with the spring game being held on April 30th.

98. Akron

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    LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 18:  Patrick Nicely #7 of the Akron Zips runs with the ball during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Rob Ianello had a rough first year for Akron, going 1-11 and just 1-7 in MAC play. However, he is a resilient coach who will look to show that mark is not who he is as a head man.

    The Zips won their final game last year. The offense needs to be improved. With just a 4.3 yards-per-play average and a bad running game, this spring Ianello and the Zips offensive staff have come out looking for answers and offensive playmakers to show themselves.

    Both top receivers are gone, but the offensive line does return three starters.

97. Colorado State

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    BOULDER, CO - SEPTEMBER 06:  Head coach Steve Fairchild of the Colorado State Rams leads his team against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on September 6, 2009 in Boulder, Colorado. The Rams defeated the Buffaloes 23-17.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Ge
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Steve Fairchild begins his fourth year at CSU, but the program took a step back in 2010. A 3-9 season was witnessed, including a combined 93-10 score in two blowouts against BYU and Wyoming.

    The offensive line returns four starters, but it was viewed as a weak spot for the Rams in 2010. They must do a better job of protecting Pete Thomas who, when held upright, tossed for over 2,600 yards as a freshman.

    The offense will use the spring to fine tune its timing and ability to move the ball, while the defense must answer questions in the secondary.

96. Western Michigan

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    ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 5:  Tim Hiller #3 of the Western Michigan Broncos hands off to Brandon West #2 during the game against the Michigan Wolverines on September 5, 2009 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Broncos went 6-6 last year, but a bright spot was that five of their six wins were versus MAC foes. You always want to beat the teams in your league—no matter what—and WMU did so in 2010.

    Bill Cubbit goes into season No. 6 forced to replace two big-time receivers in Jordan White and Juan Nunez, who both topped 1,000 yards last year. The front lost three starters and this spring replacements must step up.

    Four starters return on the defensive front, but the pass defense must be improved.

95. Middle Tennessee

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 18:  Head Coach Rick Stockstill of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders walks on the field during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 18, 2008 in Louisville, Kentucky.  Louisville defe
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Don't let the 33-30 record in seven years at MTSU fool you, Rick Stockstill is one of the top coaches in the business, and he has had offers to take over bigger programs. He has chosen to remain at MTSU and now must find improvement in his QB play.

    Twenty-four picks and a 58-percent completion won't cut it from MTSU QBs. Logan Kilgore and Jeff Murphy will once again be in competition for the job. The line returns four starters, but the running game has to replace Phil Tanner.

    The linebacker core is the strength of the defense, but the secondary needs help and five defensive linemen are gone.

94. UNLV

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    LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 18:  Head coach Bobby Hauck of the UNLV Rebels celebrates on the sideline after his team scored a touchdown against the Air Force Falcons at Sam Boyd Stadium November 18, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Air Force won 35-20.  (Photo by Etha
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Count me as one of those that feels the UNLV program is a potential sleeping giant. I think if Bobby Hauck can find some success on the field in these coming seasons, he can be the man to take Rebels football to another unseen level.

    Hauck went 2-11in his first season and needs improved play all around. He has to get better play out of his trenches on both fronts and instill more toughness and physicality to his big uglies. Signing eight JC transfers will surely provide immediate help.

93. Buffalo

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    DETROIT - DECEMBER 05: James Starks #19 of the Buffalo Bulls celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown with Chris Lauzze #79, Andrew West #72 and Peter Bittner #73 while playing the Ball State Cardinals during the second quarter of the MAC Championship game o
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Turner Gill is gone and Jeff Quinn starts Year 2 of his reign in Buffalo. He went 2-10 in his first season but surely will top that mark in 2011.

    One of the top offensive coaches in the country, Quinn is a disciple of Brian Kelly and brought the spread offense to western New York. QBs Jerry Davis and Alex Zordich will have to fight it out this spring, but WR Marcus Rivers and Alex Nuetz return to the offense to round out a strong receiver unit.

    The defense was good last year, but 2011 will see all new starters in the back field. An offensive jump is expected, but the pass defense will regress this year.

92. Southern Methodist

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    The big news from Southern Methodist going into the spring is about the chances of landing studly 2012 receiver Jordan Payton. Payton recently came back from an unofficial visit from SMU glowing about the school and upstart program.

    As they are still recovering from the death penalty they took in the 80s, June Jones still got the Mustangs to a bowl game last season. He is still running his wide-open run 'n' shoot offense, which should attract some serious QB and WR talent in recruiting in the near future.

91. Temple

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    NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Offensive coordinator and interim head coach Steve Addazio of the Florida Gators celebrates a touchdown from the sidelines during the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 20
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Al Golden left for Miami, and Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio takes over. Golden left the program in very good standing, and Addazio will look to keep much of the same defensive principles. But will he force the pro-style offense to switch to his spread option?

    That remains to be seen, as we will know for sure this spring. Mike Gerardi and Chester Stewart are not option-type signal callers and they may be squares in round holes for Addazio. But the Owls have a tag-team rushing attack that is among the best in the country in Matt Brown and Berbard Pierce, so it may not matter which offense is needed.

    The defense must replace likely first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson and two top linebackers. If Addazio can sprinkle in some of his philosophies while keeping some of what Golden had going well in Philly, then this program can move up big time next year. 

90. Miami (OH)

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 04:  Quarterback Zac Dysert #4 of the Miami University RedHawks runs against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Miami of Ohio has a richer tradition in football than many think as they begin the first year of Don Treadwell's tenure. Treadwell spent his last stop as the offensive chief for Mark Dantonio at Michigan State.

    The Redhawks must show whether they are the Bowl-bound team of last year or the one-win 2009 squad. Treadwell fired all of the staff to bring in his boys to run the team his way all around. Treadwell must settle on Austin Boucher or Zac Dysert for his starting QB, and he must see how good his all-returning front seven can be.

89. UAB

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    UAB reminded me of the Rams teams in the early part of last decade—great offense, leaky defense. The Blazers need to use this spring to get their defense right, as that side of the ball is holding them back from further success.

    Pat Shed and Bryan Ellis return as a top-notch QB and RB duo, and four offensive line starters are back. Bryan Turner is gone from the defense and he may have been the Blazers' top pass rusher.

    This spring has to be the foundation for improved defensive play for UAB.

88. New Mexico

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    ALBUQUERQUE, NM - NOVEMBER 27: Quarterback Stump Godfrey #11 of the University of New Mexico Lobos is tackled by Jason Teague #27 of the TCU Horned Frogs on November 27, 2010 at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. TCU won 66-17. (Photo by Eric
    Eric Draper/Getty Images

    This is the third installment of the Mike Locksley era and last year came with just a 1-11 season. Locksley has faced an uphill battle in New Mexico.

    But this is Year 3 and this has to be the year improvement is shown at New Mexico. Both the offense and defense were horrendous last year and Lucas Reed, a tight end, was the top player on the team.

    Locksley needs to find a QB and playmakers at RB and WR and he must use the spring to find 11 defenders who can tackle. He's a bright coach with passion and he is the only reason the Lobos are this high. Without Locksley, hey they don't even make this list.

87. Marshall

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    COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 2: Head Coach Doc Holliday of the Marshall Thundering Herd encourages his team against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on September 2, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Marshall was what we thought they were last year—a team that could beat inferior opponents and lose to superior opponents. Doc Holliday enters Year 2 of his reign at Marshall looking to take the next step in developing his program.

    Eddie Sullivan, AJ Graham and Cornelius Jones will all have their shots at taking over the QB spot this spring. Martin Ward will try to take over the RB spot on a full-time basis, and Aaron Dobson returns as the top receiver.

    Vinny Curry had 12 sacks last year and returns as the unquestioned defensive leader.

86. East Carolina

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    BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Running back Giavanni Ruffin #1 of the East Carolina Pirates runs with the ball for a touchdown past defensive tackle Dwight Tucker #53 of the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Blacksburg, Virgin
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    Ruffin McNeil took his Texas Tech mentality to East Carolina, even the high-octane offense. He comes into his second spring practice and he will look to roll up his sleeves and fix the defense, which is his specialty.

    In 10-of-13 games last year, the Pirates surrendered 42 or more points. That's crazy. His offensive line loses four starters, and he needs to mix and match his offensive front to find five solid players this spring.

    Dominique Davis is the field general and looks to have a bright future after showing out well last year.

85. Washington State

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    PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Head coach Paul Wulff of the Washington State Cougars walks out of the tunnel with John Fullington #77 and Jeffrey Solomon #12 for their game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Palo Alto,
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    I remember when I was in high school and my teammate took a recruiting trip to Washington State. Mike Price told him he was not taking the Alabama job. My teammate told me, hours later, he was in the airport and saw on the ESPN crawler Price had accepted the job.

    Years later, for some reason, I've always kept a distant eye on the WSU program, and I'm actually rooting for Paul Wulff. But he's on the hot seat. WSU does a top job of evaluating players and finding diamonds in the rough.

    But bigger schools always wait to see who WSU offers, look at those players, and see they're good, then steal them away.

    Wulf has attached himself to QB Jeff Tuel, and Tuel has been solid for him, throwing for over 2,700 yards last year. But this has to be the year we see a jump from WSU, or Wulff may be out.

84. Iowa State

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    BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Paul Rhoads of the Iowa State Cyclones leads his team against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on November 13, 2010 in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado defeated Iowa State 34-14.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Imag
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Paul Rhoads is 12-13 in his two seasons at Iowa State but enters his third frame with a bit of a giant-killer's rep around the Big 12. The Cyclones took down Texas and Texas Tech last year and nearly topped Nebraska.

    Rhoads has the Cylones in a spread-type offense and base 4-3 look on defense. He needs to improve his offense and its effectiveness. Jerome Tiller will battle Steele Jantz for the right to take snaps from center this spring, and settling on one will certainly help the offense moving forward.

    The Cyclones look poised to notch a couple more upsets in 2011.

83. Memphis

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    Memphis is in a similar situation as New Mexico is—they wouldn't be on this list if I didn't firmly believe their head coach could turn it around. Larry Porter went just 1-11 last year, and many of his losses were wax jobs.

    The offensive line stalled the run game to average 2.9 yards per rush. Protecting the passer was nearly as bad. Porter has even heard rumors of a hot seat for him in 2011, but I think he can show improvement this year. It starts and ends with Ryan Williams. He's the franchise to Memphis and Marcus Rucker is his main target.

    Porter is a good coach who knows how to recruit against the big boys. He will have Memphis climbing up again soon, starting in 2011.

82. Indiana

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    COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 9:  Trea Burgess #21 of the Indiana Hoosiers runs with the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Kevin Wilson comes form Norman to the Hoosier state to take over the Indiana football program. An offensive-minded coach, he has his work cut out for him. The program hasn't had much success on the field and went 5-7 last season.

    However, Wilson has filled out a great coaching staff, and the new blood may be just what the program needs. Wilson has to find a starting QB between Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker, but Demario Tandon Doss returning on the flanks help. Wilson also needs to kick start the running game.

    The defense will be overhauled form top to bottom, as they move to a 4-3 scheme this year, so the spring will be used as one big installation period.

81. Duke

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    DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 25:  Head coach David Cutcliffe of the Duke Blue Devils cheers on his team the Army Black Knights at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    David Cutcliffe's claim to fame is his knowledge of the QB position and tutoring both Peyton and Eli Manning to be No.1 picks. However, he is just 12-24 and in his fourth season at Duke. You can't fault Cutcliffe for the record as he took over a horrid program.

    Things are on the upswing at Duke, and while they have a long, long ways to catch up to the basketball squad's allure, Cutcliffe returns Charlie Hatcher and Kelby Brown—two cornerstone players on defense.

    Sean Renfree is back at the signal-caller spot, after tossing for 3,131 yards in 2010. But Cutcliffe needs to get him to tone down his turnovers this spring.

80. Colorado

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    LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 26: Cody Hawkins #7 hands the ball to teammate Rodney Stewart #5 of the Colorado Buffaloes during their game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Memorial Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Colorado 45
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Jon Embree and Eric Bienemy return to Colorado to get the program's mind right, starting with a complete overhaul in 2011. Bienemy will be the offensive coordinator, yet his true value stems as a recruiter, as the charismatic former stud rock-toter is staunch recruiter.

    Dan Hawkins asked for a contract extension but knew he did not deserve one and he was ultimately fired. He leaves behind a once-proud program that Embree will look to lead back to the glory days.

    This spring will be spent teaching the players to do things the right way and about becoming smarter situational players.

79. Houston

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Case Keenum #7 of the Houston Cougars at the game against the UCLA Bruins in the second quarter at the Rose Bowl on September 18, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 31-13.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Kevin Sumlin is 23-16 and comes into Year 4 at the helm. He has the Cougars in a 3-4 base defense and running a wide-open spread offense. But the big story of the offseason for Houston was the return of Case Keenum, as he was granted a sixth year of eligibility.

    Keenum has averaged a great 8.1 yards per passing attempt at various points during his last two seasons. Last year was a crazy 9.9 average in the three games he was in. He can wing it with the best of them, and his return puts Sumlin at ease about the QB spot this year.

    The defense returns nine starters and will look to step up in 2011.

78. Vanderbilt

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    LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 13:  Larry Smith #10 of the Vanderbilt Commodores runs with the ball during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats  at Commonwealth Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Ah yes, here comes our first SEC school. While the value of the program is high by the conference it is in, that is just about where it ends for Vandy. If the Commodores were in a different conference, they would be lower on this list.

    But I will say this: I think James Franklin is a heck of a coach and he can get Vandy to a bowl game in the near future. He inherits a 2-10 squad that only won one game in conference play last year and ended the season losing its final seven contests.

    Franklin will use this spring to begin installing his offensive system and seeing what athletes he has on defense.

77. Army

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    DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 30:  The Army Black Knights celebrate a 16-14 win against the SMU Mustangs during the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on December 30, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    This offseason has been a time of bliss for the Black Knights, as they are fresh off their first bowl game since 1996, beating SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl. The spring is now here, and Army needs to replace four starting offensive linemen.

    On defense, the stats look good, but the run defense needs to be improved. Look for Army to come out of this spring practice with a shored up run defense and new offensve line for 2011.

76. FIU

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    LAWRENCE, KS - SEPTEMBER 22:  Head coach Mario Cristobal of the Florida International Golden Panthers watches from the sidelines during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on September 22, 2007 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Sq
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Mario Cristobal is a bright coach who has a Red Bull factory worth of energy. He's a big-time recruiter and is determined to bring FIU to the forefront of Florida and college football.

    The Panthers won a bowl game for the first time last year after taking home a piece of the Sun Belt Conference title, thanks to perhaps the best returning offensive threat in the league—receiver Ty Hilton. I'm concerned about the interior line, though, as Cristobal must replace center Brad Serini and left guard Cedrick Mack.

    But look for FIU to take another big step forward in Cristobal's fifth season.

75. San Diego State

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    SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 7:  Quarterback Ryan Lindley #14 of the San Diego State Aztecs throws a pass over defensive end Wayne Daniels #96 of the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs on November 7, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.    (Pho
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Brady Hoke left as mama called him home. Rightfully so, he went running to Ann Arbor. But Rocky Long is no slouch of a football coach either. Long has retooled the Aztecs staff and shaped the program a bit to his liking, but he will look to keep much of what Hoke was doing.

    Ryan Lindley is back to toss the rock around again, and Ronnie Hillman will tote it well for SDSU is 2011. But the Aztecs need to replace their two receivers and refine their bend-but-don't-beak type of defense this spring.

    Long doesn't want to reinvent the wheel, only make it better.

74. UTEP

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    AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 26:  UTEP Miners fans before a game with the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Ah yes, back to Mike Price. So after Price left WSU for the Alabama job, just a few months later he was fired and wound up at UTEP, where he has been for now eight years. After four years off, the Miners found themselves bowling last season.

    He must replace his QB, Trevor Vittatoe, and JUCO transfer Nick Lamaison will be among the players vying for the gig. Joe Banyard comes back as the top running back on the roster, but receivers must be found this spring.

    The defense will be the leadership focus of the team, but the defensive line needs to have a big spring and prove last year was an off-year for the unit.

73. Tulsa

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 30: G.J. Kinne #4 of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane throws a pass against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes at Notre Dame Stadium on October 30, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Tulsa defeated Notre Dame 28-27. (Photo by Jonathan Danie
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Bill Blakenship takes over in Tulsa and enters his first spring portion with the program. But the Golden Hurricane are not down in the dumps, as they won 10 games last year.

    G.J. Kinne is back and so is his golden arm (pun intended). Blakenship will look to keep the 3-3-5 defense Tulsa has played in the past, and he will likely keep the spread offense. All five offensive line starters are back, so this looks like a potential record-setting year for the offense.

    Tulsa will likely be in a big-time bowl game in 2011.

72. Boston College

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    CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Montel Harris #2 of the Boston College Eagles carries the ball in the first quarter against the Weber State Wildcats on September 4, 2010 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    BC lost to Nevada last year in its bowl game after going 7-6 in Frank Spaziani's second season. The biggest strength of the team is the defense, as Spaziani has kept the tough mentality on that side of the ball.

    But BC needs better QB play in 2011 to make a move up the ACC, as Chase Rettig will likely be the starter in 2011. Montel Harris topped 1,200 yards last year and he is the engine of the offense.

    If the Eagles can get better play from Rettig, they have a chance to make some noise in 2011.

71. Kentucky

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    LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 18:  Joker Phillips the Head Coach of the Kentucky Wildcats during the game against the Akron Zips at Commonwealth Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Joker Phillips entered year No. 2 at UK and went 6-7 in his first season at the helm. He had the Wildcats close in just about every one of their losses, as they fought in each game.

    Phillips needs Morgan Newton to come out guns blazing this spring and take over the QB job from departing Mike Hartline. Ray Sanders is the top returning running back and the offensive line returns four starters.

    Defensively, the spring must bring better play form the defensive line, but All-American LB Danny Trevathan is back and will bring leadership to the defense yet again. The secondary returns five players with starting experience.

70. Troy

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 18:  Head coach Larry Blakeney of the Troy University Trojans calls to a referee during the game against the Ohio University Bobcats during the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on December 18, 2010 in New
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Troy had a stellar offensive attack last year, but it has two obstacles this spring. First, they need to replace Jason Bruce and Jerrel Jernigan, but they also need to get better on defense.

    But they return eight starters on defense, and Larry Blakeny has stated that his defensive coaches will use the spring to develop some of the young players on that side of the ball and increase depth.

    Top dog in the Sun Belt Conference, Troy will open as the favorites again.

69. Oregon State

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    CORVALLIS, OR - DECEMBER 04:  Quarterback Ryan Katz #12 of the Oregon State Beavers throws a pass against the Oregon Ducks during the 114th Civil War on December 4, 2010 at the Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Mike Riley enters his 11th season in Corvallis and is coming off a 5-7 season, The highlight of the 2010 season was the defeat of USC.

    But Riley has the Beavers thinking Pac-12 title this year. They return QB Ryan Katz who, in his second year as a starter, must show he can improve his play. Katz has a strong arm but he needs to be more accurate and make better decisions.

    The defensive line is in solid standing, but the linebacker corps needs to be upgraded. Jordan Poyer needs to move from nickel back to secondary leader in the spring.

68. Illinois

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    CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Ron Zook of the Illinois Fighting Illini watches as his team takes on the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Dani
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Hard to believe Ron Zook has been at Illinois for seven years now, but the Zookster has, and this looks like a crucial spring for the Illini. The defense was fabulous last year against the run and only gave up 3.9 yards per rush.

    On offense, Jason Ford looks to replace Mike Leshoure, and the offensive line brings back three starters. Nathan Scheelhaase looks like a future star QB, and AJ Jenkins is back at receiver.

    Martez Wilson and Cory Liuget are gone from the defense. The spring will be used to sprinkle in replacements at various spots and develop depth.

67. Pittsburgh

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    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04:  Tino Sunseri #12 of the Pittsburgh Panthers throws the ball during the Big East Conference game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Pittsburgh won 28-10.  (Photo by An
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Todd Graham inherits a team that went 8-5 last season and will completely change the face of the program. Gone is the NFL mentality of the program, with a 4-3 defense and pro-style offense. Arriving is a wide-open spread passing attack and a 3-3-5/3-4 defense.

    Tino Sunseri is the key; he played well last year, and if he grows even more, then Pitt could score some points with ease in 2011. Left tackle Jeff Pinkston is gone and needs to be replaced.

    Chas Alecxih and Brandon Lindsey look to replace former Big East DPOY Jabaal Sheard. All three linebackers are back from the 4-3 scheme and will look to adjust their roles in the defense.

66. Texas Tech

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    LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head coach Tommy Tuberville of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts on the sidelines during play against the Texas Longhorns at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Lubbock, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Going 8-5 in his first season, Tommy Tuberville is in his second spring practice down in Lubbock and he has the Red Raiders on track to compete in the Big 12. The team is led by QB Seth Doege, who has reportedly looked good in winter workouts.

    But Tuberville, who has said the key to college football is having a good defensive line, needs to get his squad's pass rush up and running this spring, as it disappeared at times last year.

    Detron Lewis and Lyle Leong need to be replaced at receiver and so does linebacker/defensive end Brian Duncan.

65. Fresno State

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Head coach Pat Hill of the Frenso State Bulldogs celebrates after defearing the UCLA Bruins on September 27, 2008 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Another 8-5 squad, Pat Hill's Bulldogs are back again for the 2011 season. Derek Carr has a buzz around his name and enters the spring as the likely starter at QB. Hill had a good offense last year, and Carr must be seamless in replacing Ryan Colburn.

    Travis returns to the defense at outside linebacker, but the defensive line needs to be developed, as they are young there. Phil Thomas and Ike Green return to the secondary and easily are the two best players on the back end.

    Hill is a great coach and surely will have Fresno State ready come the fall.

64. Purdue

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 04: Robert Marve #9 of the Purdue Boilermakers throws a pass against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on September 4, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defated Purdue 23-12. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Get
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Ralph Bolden, Keith Smith and Robert Marve both went down with huge injuries last year, but the Boilermakers kept trudging along. Rob Henry stepped in for Marve, and this spring will see a bit of a competition between the two for the job; Marve likely should win if healthy.

    Playmakers are needed at the skill positions. Defensively, the secondary is back, now with a year of experience under their belts. The Boilermakers are mostly young and now will look to make the back field a strength.

    But the biggest hole is replacing defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who will be a top 15 pick in a few weeks. Kawaan Short will get the first chance to replace Kerrigan.

63. Hawaii

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    HONOLULU - SEPTEMBER 2:  Quarterback Bryant Moniz #17 of the University of Hawaii Warriors makes a pass against the University of Southern California Trojans during first half action at Aloha Stadium September 2, 2010 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kent N
    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    Hawaii took home a piece of the WAC title with Nevada and Boise State in 2010, after winning 10 games. Greg McMackin is in his fourth year replacing June Jones and runs most of the same stuff as Jones did on each side of the ball.

    Bryant Moniz returns to lead the offense, but his skill position weapons are all going to be new, and the biggest lost is Greg Salas. Hawaii also has to find four new offensive linemen this spring.

    The linebackers return, with Corey Paredes leading the way. But the secondary and defensive line need to be retooled around him.

62. West Virginia

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Head coach Bill Stewart of the West Virginia Mountaineers talks with his team during a timeout against the  Louisiana State University Tigers at Tiger Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The Tigers de
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    We all know the arrangement that Oliver Luck has put Bill Stewart in this year. But we also all know that if there was one coach who could make this work smoothly, it's Stewart. He's on his last leg as head coach in Morgantown before Dana Holgersen takes over in 2012.

    But first, Holgorsen needs to install his system this spring. Wherever he goes, Holgorsen scores points. The offense needs to be tuned up, as the defense carried the team for much of the season and to nine wins.

    Once Holgorsen installs his system and Geno Smith gets in tune, WVU has a chance to turn heads in Stewart's last go.

61. California

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Keenan Allen #21 of the California Golden Bears is tackled by Marshall Jones #27 of the USC Trojans during the second quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 16, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry
    Harry How/Getty Images

    There was just a short time ago when Cal was the No. 2 team in the country and one of USC's main rivals in the Pac-10. Now that fit goes to Oregon, as California has fallen back a bit.

    Going 5-7 last season, Jeff Tedford needs to decide between Beau Sweeny and Brock Mansion at QB. Tedford also has to make sure Ise Sofele is ready to replace Shane Vereen at running back this spring. But on the flanks, Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen return and are among the top duos in the conference.

    Cam Jordan and Mike Mohammed are gone on defense, and I am waiting until Viliami Moala shows up so I can really assess the Bears defense for 2011.

60. Northwestern

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    EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Dan Persa #7 of the Northwestern Wildcats looks for a receiver as teammate Brain Mulroe #72 blocks Jerel Worthy #99 of the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    There was a report that Pat Fitzgerald was a candidate for the Michigan gig, but Fitz quickly dispelled those rumors. He's loyal to his alma mater and he is determined to get the Wildcats back to the Rose Bowl.

    Dan Persa, Mike Trumpy and Jeremy Ebert all return as QB, RB and WR respectively. The offensive line was not a strong point last season, as their youth showed at times, but four starters return in 2011.

    But Fitzgerald's biggest spring task is shoring up the run defense. It gave up 5.9 yards per play in 2010 and needs a new defensive tackle and Mike linebacker. 

59. Syracuse

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 11:  Running back Antwon Bailey #29 of the Syracuse Orange rushes against the Washington Huskies on September 11, 2010 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Doug Marrone took the job at his alma mater after being Sean Payton's main man with the Saints, and he has gone 12-13 in two seasons. Year 3 looks to be the year the 'Cuse comes back majorly, as the offensive line has four back along with Antwon Bailey at running back.

    Marrone has the Orange in a pro-style offense and he has done a solid job of transitioning the program to his defensive and offensive sets.

    Three starters come back on the defensive line, but Darrell Smith and Doug Hogue, the top two tacklers and linebackers, are gone. Marquis Spurrill is back and showed promise as a freshman. The secondary needs playmakers to emerge this spring.

58. Air Force

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    LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 18:  Asher Clark #17 of the Air Force Falcons runs for yardage against the UNLV Rebels during their game at Sam Boyd Stadium November 18, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Air Force won 35-20.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Troy Calhoun is an outstanding coach and he has had some talk about perhaps taking over a more prestigious program. But every year, you hear him say he's staying at Air Force.

    Asher Clark and Tim Jefferson both return in the backfield to fuel the Falcons rushing attack, with Jefferson as a great option-QB. But Calhoun needs to use the spring to find a fullback for his offense, as this is the crucial spot for the option.

    Stopping the run is important for the spring period, as the defense, which actually played well in 2010, was a bit leaky against the run in general.

57. Louisville

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: Charlie Strong the Head Coach of the Louisville Cardinals gives instructions to his team during the game against the  Kentucky Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    I rank Louisville here because I think Charlie Strong has them coming on strong. He's a strong presence, a great defensive mind and he can recruit, showing he can still pull players out of Florida without wearing orange and blue.

    He went 7-6 in his first year and Will Stein returns, but look for true freshman Teddy Bridgewater to try to nab the starting QB spot this spring as a mid-year player. Strong needs to re-establish the run game, as Jeremy Wright and Victor Anderson need to step up.

    Three starters return to the defensive line and two at linebacker, but cornerback Johnny Patrick is gone and needs to be replaced.

56. Tennessee

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    COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 30:  Head coach Derek Dooley of the Tennessee Volunteers watches on against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Im
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Going 6-7 last year, we begin Year 2 of he Derek Dooley era in Knoxville. The franchise player for Tennessee is sophomore QB Tyler Bray. Bray is one of the top young QBs in the country and he has a solid stable of young receivers coming back.

    But now it's time for the offensive line to work out its kinks. They were young last year, but now have their feet wet. If Tennessee wants to make a jump in the SEC East, this unit needs to keep Bray upright and open up holes for 1,000-yard rusher Tauren Poole.

    Malik Jackson and Herman Lathers are back at DT and LB, respectively, but the rest of the front seven needs to be replaced.

55. Kansas

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    LAWRENCE, KS - OCTOBER 14:  Quarterback Jordan Webb #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks scrambles as David Garrett #27 of the Kansas State Wildcats defends during the game on October 14, 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Im
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Turner Gill went just 3-9 in his first season at Kansas, but Year 2 could see improvement. It starts with the QBs. The offense Gil has in Kansas is a spread theme and the ball just didn't move last year.

    Jordan Webb should grab a hold of the job, but the tailback spot is where the focus is on offense, as James Sims is back after a 740-yard freshman season. Three are back along the offensive front.

    The defense lost the top two players, but even with Jake Laptad and Justin Springer, the unit was leaky at best. Gill has been knocked for not instilling toughness in his squads as a head coach; now is the time to prove that mantra wrong.

54. Southern Miss

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    NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 21:  Head coach Larry Fedora of the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles celebrates after defeating the Troy Trojans in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on December 21, 2008 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Eagles defe
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Larry Fedora has led Southern Miss to three straight bowl games and comes into Year 4 at 22-17. At 8-5 last year, the Golden Eagles won five out of eight Conference USA games.

    QB Austin Davis is back, as he fits the spread offense Fedora runs well. Davis tossed for over 3,100 yards and ran for nearly another 500 in 2010. Look for those numbers to increase as Davis wants end his senior campaign in the record books. Ken Hardy ran for 900 yards as a freshman and Desmond Jackson got another 600 last year. Davis also gets his top three receivers back.

    The run defense was great for Fedora in 2010, and linebacker Corey Williams and DE Cordero Law are both back to lead the group again. The secondary returns two starters, including ascending cornerback Deron Wilson.

53. Wake Forest

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    PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head coach Jim Grobe of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons watches his team play the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Jim Grobe just had an off year last year. He had to. He's too good a coach to have his teams blasted routinely and to end up 3-9.

    Tanner Price must raise his 56-percent completion rate and make a jump this year. A strong spring would do wonders for his confidence heading into the fall.

    Defensively, Kyle Wilbur is back at linebacker, but he needs help around him. Three freshmen saw action in the back field last year, and their experience could have the Demon Deacons' pass defense much improved in 2011.

52. Maryland

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    COLLEGE PARK, MD - JANUARY 3:  Randy Edsall speaks as he is introduced as the University of Maryland Terps new head football coach during a press conference on January 3, 2011 at the Byrd Stadium in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty
    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Ralph Friedgen getting fired after a 9-4 year at Maryland is almost as crazy as Marty Schottenheimer getting fired after going 14-2 with the Chargers. The Terrapins were interested in Mike Leach but went with Randy Edsall instead.

    As he stated, Edsall is fulfilling his destiny at his dream job and will begin this spring looking to see what he has on his roster. Danny O'Brien almost threw for 2,500 yards in 2010 and he is back along with Davin Meggitt and four offensive line starters.

    The secondary should be strong and three are back on the defensive line. Edsall has to find some linebackers to make sure his solid defense continues to grow.

51. Washington

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    EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 6: Head coach Steve Sarkisian of the Washington Huskies works the sidelines in the second quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Fresh off a revenge bowl-game win over Nebraska, Steve Sarkisian looks up now and doesn't see Jake Locker on the field anymore. Enter Keith Price and Nate Montana to fight for the job in Seattle.

    No matter who wins the job, most of their Saturdays will be spent handing the ball off to RB Chris Polk, as he is one of the top runners in the country for 2011. Jermaine Kearse is back on the flanks and needs help to take double coverage off him.

    Alameda Ta'amu, Everette Brown and Ha'oli Jamora will be asked to anchor the defense in the trenches, as two new 'backers are needed. Nate Williams is gone at safety, but three starters return for Sark and Nick Holt.

50. Minnesota

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    MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 01:  DeLeon Eskridge #23 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers makes a catch against the Northwestern Wildcats during the third quarter at the Hubert H.Humphrey Metrodome on November 1, 2008 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Harry How
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Jerry Kill has the Gophers at this ranking. He is magic on offense and he has the Minnesota area buzzing wtih specualtion on what the Gophers can do on offense this year. He will bring Marquise Gray back at QB this year, as Adam Webb is gone.

    A dual-threat type, Gray could spark some upsets for the Gophers in 2011 with Kill's offense. DeLoen Eskridge and Duane Bennett are back in the backfield, and the receiving unit is stocked with solid talent. But the line needs four new starters to emerge.

    As good as Kill is offensively, he needs to fix the problems in the front seven. Spring could see the defense re-tool its run fits.

49. Baylor

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    WACO, TX - OCTOBER 04:  Quarterback Robert Griffin #10 of the Baylor Bears drops back to pass against the Oklahoma Sooners at Floyd Casey Stadium on October 4, 2008 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Baylor has almost everything. QB Robert Griffin III is coming back, and he could be a prime player for the Heisman this year. He can do just about any and everything on the field and he is a playmaker with the ball.

    Five offensive linemen return with experience starting, and Griffin has much of his receiving core intact.

    The defense was not up to speed, however, as they rarely had any TFLs nor did they get a consistent pass rush, outside of Tevin Elliot. Chris McAlister is back at Mike linebacker but needs help to his flanks on the second level. A true, island type of man corner needs to show himself soon.

48. UCLA

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    TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 26:  Quarterback Richard Brehaut #12 of the UCLA Bruins throws the football during the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Rick Neuheisel is in the second year of having the Bruins in a pistol offense and even went and hired pistol expert Jim Mastro from Nevada.

    Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince need to step up and take over the QB job. If not, the Bruins will start savior true freshman Brett Hundley in 2011 at some point. Brehaut has the talent to be a top-flight starter in the Pac-12 but he is playing baseball this spring.

    Rahim Moore was the best player on a bad defense and he is gone to the NFL. The defense needs to be restocked and overhauled this spring.

47. UCF

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    CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 20:  Ronnie Weaver #35 of the Central Florida Knights carries the ball as Wes Davis #45 of the Boston College Eagles tries to tackle on September 20, 2008 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Get
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Golden Knights went 11-3 last year and enter the seventh year of George O'Leary leading the program. At 45-44 overall, O'Leary has the UCF program on the rise.

    Jeff Godfrey is back at QB, but needs AJ Guyton and a few other receivers to emerge and be consistent. Ronnie Weaver and Latavius Murray get to tote the rock behind a line of three returning starters.

    Darius Nall and Troy Davis will look to replace Bruce Hall on the defensive line. Linebacker needs two new starters and Reggie Weams must be replaced in the secondary, but the unit returns the other three starters.

46. UConn

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    EAST HARTFORD, CT - NOVEMBER 27:  Jordan Todman #23 of the Connecticut Huskies carries the ball around the Cincinnati Bearcats defense on November 27, 2010 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. The Huskies defeated the Bearcats 38-17.  (Photo
    Elsa/Getty Images

    I thought Mark Whipple had the UConn job wrapped up, but a swooping presentation by Paul Pasqualoni made the Huskies' officials swing his way. Whipple landed with the Browns.

    Pasqualoni is regarded as a heck of a teacher who really does a great job of developing players. He has a big plan for attacking the Atlantic region in recruiting and works extremely hard. Expect him to get UConn to a couple more Big East titles.

    He'll use this spring to assess his roster and install his schemes, doing so with good teaching.

45. Ole Miss

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Houston Nutt of the Ole Miss Rebels against the Louisiana State University Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Houston Nutt saw his offensive production dip big time last year, and the Rebels finished just 4-8, with 1-7 being their SEC record. That's not going to cut it for Ole Miss.

    Randall Mackey and Zach Stoudt will battle Nate Stanley to replace Jeremiah Masoli at QB, and Jeff Scott and Branden Bolden are back to run the ball behind all five starters on the front.

    Pretty much the entire front seven minus DT Shackelford need to be replaced in 2011, and the secondary may get exposed this year as the pass rush won't be as good.

44. Rutgers

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    PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 08:  Head coach Greg Schiano of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights leads his team onto the field to play against the Connecticut Huskies at Rutgers Stadium on October 8, 2010 in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Th Scarlet Knights will need their trench play to be upgraded in a major way to have a better season than the 4-8 season they had last year. They got pushed around upfront on both sides of the ball, and this cramped their style all over the field all year long.

    Tom Savage is gone, and Chas Dodd takes over full-time as the QB in Piscataway. He won't be there until the summer most likely. Expect Savon Huggins to be the starting running back gig when he arrives.

    Scott Vallone is back on he defensive line but needs three other mates. Steve Beauharnais is back at Mike linebacker, but the other two 'backer spots need someone to emerge and the secondary returns just one starter.

43. Virginia

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 09:  Head coach Mike London of the Virginia Cavaliers against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    After going 4-8 last year, this is the second year of Mike London's tenure at Virginia. The offense actually played well, better than the 2009 squad.

    But the ACC didn't buy the upstart Cavs' potential as the conference forced Virginia to a 1-7 record. There are four players to replace Mark Verica at QB, and Perry Jones returns as the team's top returning running back.

    Kris Burd is back at receiver and one of three starters up front. Five yards a rush and nearly eight yards per pass won't work in the ACC defensively, so this spring will have London and his defensive staff looking for players who play smart, fast and process information quickly on the field.

42. South Florida

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Skip Holtz stands with MVP B.J. Daniels #7 of the USF Bulls after a 31-26 victory over the Clemson Tigers at Bank of America Stadium on December 31, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Gett
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Skip Holtlz went 8-5 in his first year at USF after moving over from ECU. The highlight of the season surely was beating Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but now 2011 is here.

    Holtz needs to get more consistent from the notoriously inconsistent BJ Daniels. Daniels has a wealth of talent, but this needs to be the spring where we see him mature on the field. Demetris Murray is back at running back but only two starters are back on the offensive line.

    The Bulls need to find three new defensive line starters and also replace linebacker Jacquain Williams and cornerback Mistral Raymond. But free safety Jerrell Young is back and is an all-conference-caliber defender.

41. Cincinnati

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    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 04: Jabaal Sheard #97 of the Pittsburgh Panthers tackles Zach Collaros #12 of the Cincinnati Bearcats during the Big East Conference game against at Nippert Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Pittsburgh won 28-10.
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Put Brian Kelly in the same conversation as Jerry Kill, as they are both offensive-minded head coaches that see success wherever they go. You saw Cincinnati took a step back in 2010 in Butch Jones' first year as head coach, finishing 4-8.

    Zach Collaros looked like a player who could take Tony Pike's job in 2009, but he only had a so-so year in 2010. He returns to look for his old form this year and he is joined in the backfield by 1,000-yard rusher Ike Pead. The line only has two starters back and DJ Woods needs to replace Armin Binns as the top receiver.

    The Bearcats have a strong defensive line, and it will be the strength again, but Jones needs to find out if his secondary can improve.

40. Arizona

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    TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 02:  Head coach Mike Stoops of the Arizona Wildcats during the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Arizona Stadium on December 2, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Wildcats 30-29 in double
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Wildcats started hot last year but faded down the stretch, finishing 7-6. Led by Mike Stoops, Arizona is 40-45 overall with him as the head coach.

    Last year was a prime chance at making the move up in the Pac-10. As long as Nic Foles is there, the Wildcats have a chance.

    Stoops needs to replace both of his safeties and find a new defensive end to get a pass rush.

39. Iowa

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    TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Head coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the Insight Bowl against the Missouri Tigers at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 27-24.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Iowa had two upsets down the stretch last year, to Northwestern and Minnesota, which is not the signature of a Kirk Ferentz coached team.

    James Vandeburg looks to be the prime guy to replace Ricky Stanzi, yet he will get some competition. Marcus Coker and Adam Robinson are back for the Hawkeyes and will give the new QB some relief as a rushing duo. Marvin McNutt needs to make the next step as lead receiver and four starters are back on the front.

    Adrian Clayborn is gone and so is Karl "The Plug" Klugg off the defensive line. But two good cornerbacks return in Shaun Prater and Micah Hyde.

38. NC State

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    RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 3: Head coach Tom O'Brien of the North Carolina State Wolfpack watches on from the sidelines during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 3, 2009 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo b
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Wolfpack enter the fifth year of the Tom O'Brien regime, and so far they have broken even by going 25-25, They had a pretty good year in 2010.

    For 2011, the talk is Mike Glennon. It's time he shows why he was such a big-time recruit coming out of high school, as he is 6'6" and he has a cannon for an arm. I was a big Glennon fan during his recruiting year and now it's time we see him on the field. Russell Wilson likely will be a high pick in the baseball draft soon and he likely is gone.

    This is Glennon's time now.

37. Kansas State

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    BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Bill Snyder of the Kansas State Wildcats looks on as he leads his team against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on November 20, 2010 in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado defeated Kansas State 44-36.  (Photo by Doug P
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Whether you've agreed with how things have gone or not, the buzz is around Bryce Brown in Manhattan. And if Brown has anything to do with it, he will have buzz in Manhattan, New York, too, one day for the Heisman.

    Bill Snyder came out of retirement to take over the program once again, but he needs to replace RB Daniel Thomas and QB Collin Klein must step up and take over the QB position.

    Like with most teams, their fortunes on defense rest on stopping the run, and Snyder's Wildcats were extra leaky last year. Spring ball will be used to improve the defensive toughness and run fits.

36. Utah

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Utes stands on the field during a time-out in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas against the Boise State Broncos at Sam Boyd Stadium December 22, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Boise State Won 26-3.
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    You ask Urban Meyer and he will tell you that Kyle Whittingham is one of the elite coaches in America. And all Whittingham has done is prove that statement to be true by going 58-20 in what is now his seventh year as head man in Utah.

    The Utes are moving to the Pac-12 so the value of the program only increases even more. I think they can step right in and be one of the better teams in the conference. They have to battle Oregon, Stanford and USC now for titles.

    Whittingham surely will be up to the challenge.

35. Georgia Tech

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    BLACKSBURG, VA - NOVEMBER 04: Head coach Paul Johnson of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets stands on the sidelines against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on November 4, 2010 in Blacksburg, Virginia.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    You've got to love the way Paul Johnson does things; he was told his option offense would not work in a BCS conference, but he's run it anyways, and he's had success at Georgia Tech.

    Johnson is 26-14 in three seasons, but last year was his first losing season with the Yellow Jackets. QB Josh Nesbitt and Anthony Allen are gone, but RBs Roddy Jones and Orwin Smth are back, with Stephen Hill back at receiver.

    Defensively, again, it's a theme; you must stop the run on defense. Johnson's squad gave up way too many yards on the ground last year, allowing 4.5 yards per carry last year. This spring, we must see Logan Walls get better at plugging the run at the nose tackle spot.

34. Penn State

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 13:  Head Coach Joe Paterno watches his team play the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    I'm not going to run down Joe Paterno's stats or years at the helm. We know he's one of the best to ever do it and, yes, he's back once again in 2011.

    Robert Bolden and Matt McGloin were both ineffective last year and must improve for the Nittany Lions to take a step forward in 2011. The offensive is a solid unit, but not too athletic, hence them not being able to hit too many targets on the second and third levels in the run game.

    Derek Moye is back at receiver, and Silas Redd will take over for Evan Royster.

    On defense, the spring needs to find players in the front seven that just don't want to be on the field, but want to jump out on tape. They need playmakers.

33. Nevada

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 09:  Head coach Chris Ault of the Nevada Wolf Pack is covered in water by Mike Andrews #92  in the closing minute of their victory over Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on January 9, 2011 in San Franci
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Deep breath Wolf Pack fans. Colin Kaepernick is gone. Whew. OK. Chris Ault needs to find a replacement quick, because Kaepernick was the franchise. Tyler Lantrip looks like the leader to take the job at this point, but he can't possibly take the entire load of offense that Kaepernick did.

    Mark Lamford and Mike Ball, who I went to Las Vegas to see play in high school a few years ago, are back to shoulder the rushing load. Three starters are back on the front and Rishard Matthews is back at receiver.

    The defense was a bit risky in 2010, as they made some big plays and forced 21 turnovers but also gave up seven yards per pass attempt and four yards per rush. Brett Roy is back on the front but needs some help around him. But five starters return in between the secondary and linebackers, which bodes well going into 2011.

32. North Carolina

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Butch Davis of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts to a play against the Virginia Tech Hokies during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Gett
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Is it me or does Butch Davis fly under the radar just a bit as far as top college coaches go? He had the great Miami teams, sure. But he's been great so far for UNC, in my opinion.

    His best job may have been last year as the Tar Heels went 8-5, despite missing a bunch of star defensive players, and still won a bowl game. But now Davis needs to replace QB TJ Yates and also has to get better play from his offensive line.

    Dante Paige-Moss and Quinton Coples are back in the trenches for the defense and look like future All-Americans. But the back seven needs players to emerge.

31. Navy

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    PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 11: Head coach Rich Ellerson of the Army Black Knights (L) shakes hands with head coach Ken Niumatalolo of the Navy Midshipmen after a game on December 11, 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Midshipm
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Eight straight seasons with eight or more wins. The Midshipmen will put that streak on the line in 2011 and they look like a team that will be ready to go after a ninth straight.

    Ken Niumatalolo is a great coach and he has Navy in the 3-4 defense and triple option as always. After going 9-4 last year, Ricky Dobbs must be replaced by Ken Proctor. Proctor has not thrown many passes in his career and needs to step up this spring.

    If Proctor can come along early and Jabaree Tuani plays like he did last year at defensive end, the Midshipmen will reach the ninth year in a row with eight wins.

30. USC

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    PASADENA, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans celebrates following a touchdown by running back Allen Bradford (not pictured) late in the second half against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on December 4, 2010 in Pasadena, Ca
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Trojans enter Year 2 of the Lane Kiffin-head coaching era and, of course, the no-bowl era. Kiffin is fighting sanctions and scholarship limits but he got USC to an 8-5 mark last year.

    Matt Barkley returns as the QB in Troy, and Marc Tyler, Dillon Baxter and DJ Morgan figure to round out the running back stable. The wealth at receiver is crazy, even though Brice Butler bowed out. The offensive line is the question, as Tyron Smith will be a professional player in a few weeks, and Kris O'Dowd's experience is gone.

    Defensively, the theme of the spring has been to simplify the scheme and not make the players think so much. Monte Kiffin needs to shuffle his linebackers and find a top flight corner to replace Shareece Wright. TJ McDonald could be on the verge of being an All-American at safety.

29. BYU

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    FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 16:  Quarterback Jake Heaps #9 of the BYU Cougars throws a pass against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU beat BYU 31-3. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Bronco Mendenhall is another underrated coach, as he has gone 56-21 since taking over in Provo and is now in his seventh year.

    The Cougars' team starts and ends with Jake Heaps in my mind. He's a former mega-hyped recruit and played pretty well at QB last season as a freshman. Heaps must show this spring he is developing properly and ready to take the next step.

    BYU moves from the Mountain West to being an independent this year.

28. Clemson

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers reacts to his teams 31-26 loss to the USF Bulls during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 31, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Ima
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    You'd be crazy to think that Dabo Swinney will still be smiling during this spring period from signing a top-notch recruiting class. He got two 5-star linebackers in Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony, a 5-star receiver in Sammy Watkins and 5-star running back in Mike Bellamy, plus Charone Peake and Eric MacClain too.

    But this spring will be about Tajh Boyd's development for the Tigers. Kyle Parker is gone and now it's time for the QB I watched a few years back on grainy tape and felt was a top-flight prospect to show why I thought so highly of him.

    The Tigers did not have a great season last year, going 6-7, but you can't pin that on Parker. This year, I think Swinney and Boyd help get the Tigers back on track.

27. Miami

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    CORAL GABLES, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Former Temple University football coach Al Golden, 41, speaks to the media after being introduced as the new head coach at the University of Miami  on December 13, 2010 in Coral Gables, Florida.  Golden is replacing Randy
    Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    A Golden boy comes to Miami from Temple with his work cut out for him. I have friends that are extremely close to the Miami program, and I've heard some horror stories from the Randy Shannon era. I think Golden's main task is to demand accountability, discipline and to let the players know they can trust him.

    He's a great coach and he has attacked recruiting around South Florida with passion, energy and aggression. Plus, this is The U.

    The big story in the spring will be the QB battle between Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. Harris was a big-time recruit in 2008 but he has not been developed. Both he and Morris must show they can take care of the ball.

26. Georgia

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    AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Mark Richt of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Pssstt, Mark Richt is the one on the hot seat but don't tell him that. OK, so now we have that out in the open, I don't believe it's true. Richt is a fine coach and one of the best in the country. He's in Year 11 now in Athens, and his program has some elite talent on the roster.

    Aaron Murray has the tools to be an All-SEC player and incoming running back Isaiah Crowell should be a surge in the running game along with Caleb King.

    Orson Charles and Tavares King will look to catch enough passes to replace AJ Green and Kris Durham. On defense, the defense needs to get better on third down. They stayed on the field way too much, thus wearing down towards the end of the game.

25. Mississippi State

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01:  Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullens is interviewed by ESPN following the Bulldogs victory over the Michigan Wolverines during the Gator Bowl at EverBank Field on January 1, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida  (Photo by Rick
    Rick Dole/Getty Images

    Dan Mullen promised he's never losing to Ole Miss again, but I'm not so sure about that. Ole Miss signed a pretty good recruiting class in 2011 and Houston Nutt isn't a slouch.

    Mullen is a top-level coach, too, and he may have finished off Rich Rodriguez's career at Michigan worse than a Mortal Kombat player. He has gone 14-11 in two seasons for the Bulldogs. Year 3 should see him rise even more.

    An offensive-minded coach, Mullen has Chris Relf back at QB along with RB Vic Ballard and WR Chad Bumphis all back in 2011.

24. Florida

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    TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Quarterback John Brantley #12 of the Florida Gators sets to pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions January 1, 2010 in the 25th Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    This is Year 1 of the Will Muschamp era, and he inherits a roster that has talent up and down the list. Urban Meyer is one of the best recruiting head coaches ever and he stocked Gainesviille with 5-star and 4-star players.

    Muschamp needs to get John Brantley on the same page with new offensive sheriff Charlie Weis. If not, Jeff Driskel will be seen this year.

    Muschamp will shift the schemes for Florida more to NFL styles, with Weis on offense and Dan Quinn on defense.

23. Arizona State

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    TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 02:  Quarterback Brock Osweiler #17 of the Arizona State Sun Devils throws a pass during the college football game at Arizona Stadium on December 2, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Wildcats 30-29 in double overti
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Dennis Erickson is in his fifth year in Tempe and has gone 25-24 so far. He has the Sun Devils thinking Pac-12 title, as they went through some heartbreaking losses in 2010.

    Nine points kept them from being 10-2 and perhaps winning a Pac-10 title in 2010, but this is a new year in the desert. Erickson will need Brock Osweiler to step up as QB as Steve Threet retired from concussions.

    If Osweiler can play with the flash he showed down the stretch last year, ASU can be back in the Rose Bowl like they were with Jake the Snake.

22. Texas

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    LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 16: Coach Mack Brown (center) of the Texas Longhorns watches as his team finishes off the Nebraska Cornuskers during second half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Texas Defeated Nebras
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Going 5-7 is not going to fly in Austin, Mack Brown knows it. The fans know it. And the Longhorns know it. Garrett GiIlbert needs to get better and Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite are now responsible for him doing so.

    Cody Johnson and Fozzy Whittaker are awaiting Malcolm Brown to form a top level trio in the running game. But this spring needs to see Gilbert buck up and take the job of being the starting QB at the University of Texas-Austin by the horns (pun intended, yes), like Colt McCoy and Vince Young did.

    If not, then Gilbert could be creeping into the town of Bustville, USA—population too many.

21. Virginia Tech

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03: Head coach Frank Beamer of the Virginia Tech Hokies looks on against the Stanford Cardinal during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Stanford won 40-12. (Photo by Marc Serota/Get
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The Hokies program is like the San Antonio Spurs franchise; they are the model for what a college program should be—consistent. It's tough to be consistent, but every year we see the Hokies among the contenders for the ACC and in the BCS title conversation at some point.

    This year is no different as Beamer's Boys will be a preseason Top 25 squad and one of the top teams in the ACC. Bud Foster may or may not be around for much longer, and the special teams play is always good.

    But the Hokies need to replace Tyrod Taylor, and if you ask Jim Harbaugh, they should have done that before the Orange Bowl.

20. Nebraska

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    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Bo Pelini of the Nebraska Cornhuskers leads his team against the Oklahoma Sooners at Cowboys Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Sooners beat the Cornhuskers 23-20.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Bo Pelini has done a great job in Lincoln so far, but the Cornhuskers have gone through the offseason with the bad taste of losing to Washington in the San Diego all winter. Pelini comes into Year 4 with a 30-12 mark.

    The Huskers welcome spring and know that they have Taylor Martinez back. He had a rocky first year with Pelini, but the coach knows he is the top offensive player on the team. I think Aaron Green can come in and help the offense.

    But Cam Meredith and Alfonzo are among the top defenders in the country, which is trouble for the rest of the Big Ten.

19. TCU

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    PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Gary Patterson of the TCU Horned Frogs holds the Rose Bowl Championship Trophy after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 21-19 in the 97th Rose Bowl game on January 1, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dun
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    You think Gary Patterson is going to just rest on his merits of winning the Rose Bowl and not work his team hard through spring drills? That's not Patterson's style at all.

    The Horned Frogs are preparing for their move to the Big East, as this is pretty much their final go around the Mountain West. Casey Pachall needs to replace Andy Dalton, who will be a middle-round pick in the draft in a few weeks. Pachall will have three new receivers in the lineup for 2011.

    Patterson will spend the spring evaluating his secondary, as he loses four starters from his back end alignment of five.

18. Auburn

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    AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 06:  Coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers watches play against the Chattanooga Mocs November 6, 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    The champs may be outside looking in at the Top 25, but they could sneak up on people. I think they'll make a bowl game this year, and Gene Chizik and his staff are a great bunch.

    They will be young and likely will not be BCS bound again, nor will they win the SEC. But Chizik has stocked the roster with two outstanding recruiting classes in his two full years for the Tigers.

    Obviously, the big story is who replaces Cam Newton, and Barrett Trotter and Clint Mosey will both fight with freshman Kiehl Frazier for the job. Quietly, the more pressing matter will be replacing Nick Fairley at defensive tackle.

17. Missouri

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    TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Head coach Gary Pinkel of the Missouri Tigers reacts on the sidelines during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 27-24.  (Photo
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Last year's team was a defensive-minded squad, which is not the norm for a Gary Pinkel-coached Tigers team. Pinkel is 77-49 in 10 seasons on the sidelines, and Year 11 will be an attempt to follow a 10-win 2010 season.

    So, as you know, they need to replace Blaine Gabbert. James Franklin, Ashton Glaser and freshman Tyler Gabbert all will be vying for the gig. Blaine Gabbert used it to make himself a potential No.1 overall pick. Franklin is a dual-threat type and seems to be the favorite to be the guy. De’Vion Moore, Kendial Lawrence and Henry Josey all are back as running backs, and all three are starting-caliber runners.

    The front seven is the strength of the defense, but this spring, the secondary must emerge as a solid unit, because that unit lost three starters from last year.

16. Notre Dame

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 30: Dayne Crist #10 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks for a receiver against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Notre Dame Stadium on October 30, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Tulsa defeated Notre Dame 28-27. (Photo by Jonathan Dan
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The big stories in the winter in South Bend for me were whether Dayne Crist could overcome another knee injury and, of course, if Michael Floyd would return after his alcohol-related mishap.

    Crist looks like he will be able to see some time in spring ball, but his knee must be brought along slowly. I think he has more talent than Tommy Rees, but the poised Rees is liked by Brian Kelly. Floyd could enter the supplemental draft, and we shall know his status soon.

    The defense returns Ethan Johnson on the front and linebackers Manti Te'o and Darius Flemming.

15. Michigan

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines rushes against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the Gator Bowl at EverBank Field on January 1, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida  (Photo by Rick Dole/Getty Images)
    Rick Dole/Getty Images

    I know, I know, Michigan is high on this list. Yes, but I think Brady Hoke can get the Wolverines on track, and let's not forget, it's not like the Wolverines were a bad team last year. It was mainly the defense that gave up games.

    Denard Robinson is back in Ann Arbor, and he was a Heisman front runner for a portion of the 2010 frame. Hoke will put Robinson in positions to make plays, while Greg Mattison is one of the top defensive minds in football—college or pro. He will fix that defense quick, and Big Blue will be in some games late against teams they shouldn't be.

    As always, if you're close and you have a playmaker like Robinson, you have a chance to win the football game.

14. Texas A&M

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 07:  Quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Texas A&M Aggies throws against the LSU Tigers during the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on January 7, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Mike Sherman has broke even at 19-19 in three years for the Aggies, but Year 4 sees him returning a host of players, minus Von Miller.

    Sherman has turned the program into an NFL-style operation with a West Coast-style offense and a 3-4 defense. The defense was excellent last year, allowing just 3.5 yards per rush and six yards per pass.

    The Aggies roll into the spring on a six-game winning streak, led by QB Ryan Tannehill. Sherman needs his running game to match his passing game, as he could have an explosive offense in 2011.

13. Michigan State

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans hands the ball off to Edwin Baker #4 during the Capitol One Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Florida Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Mark Dantonio has done a solid job at Michigan State, where the Spartans are now one of the better programs in the Midwest and Big Ten and can compete with anyone. Sure, they took their medicine from Alabama last year, but the Spartans are still a great program.

    Going 33-19 through his fifth year, Dantonio has an 11-win season and piece of the Big Ten championship to notch in his belt. Edwin Baker and Kirk Cousins are his top players on offense at RB and QB respectively, and Le'Veon Bell is a solid backup running back.

    DJ Young must be replaced at LT, along with a few other starters on the front. Defensively, Greg Jones and Eric Gordon must be replaced, and big plays must be emphasized in the spring.

12. South Carolina

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 13:  Marcus Lattimore #21 of the South Carolina Gamecocks rushes against Jonathan Bostic #52 of the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Steve Spurrier finally got things going in 2010, with the Gamecocks making an appearance in the SEC championship game in Atlanta. The offense has two great players in RB Marcus Lattimore and WR Alshon Jeffrey.

    QB is where things get interesting. It's time Stephen Garcia finally stops with the nonsense and focuses on the field. He has great talent, but Spurrier always seems to be irked with him and his antics.

    On defense, Cliff Matthews and Stephen Gilmore are two of the better defensive players in the SEC and will be joined by all-world No.1 overall recruit Jadeveon Clowney this year.

11. Wisconsin

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    MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 18: Head coach Brett Bielema of the Wisconsin Badgers watches as his team takes on the Arizona State Sun Devils at Camp Randall Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin defeated Arizona State 20-19. Wisconsin
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Badgers suffered a defeat to TCU in the Rose Bowl, but they have a chance to get back to Pasadena in 2012. I really like Bret Bielema as a head coach, and he has gone 46-19 in five years.

    The Badgers focus is their offensive line, as they recruit toughness and strength and just move targets out of the way in order to have such a high-powered run game. They lose three starters from last year, but I still think James White and Montee Ball will both likely rush for 1,000 yards this year.

    Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips will compete to replace Scott Tolzien at QB. The defense needs to replace JJ Watt but returns its top linebacker and top two pass defenders.

10. Ohio State

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    COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 30:  Head Coach Jim Tressel speaks to the media during a press conference before the start of Spring practices at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center at The Ohio State University on March 30, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The State of the Buckeyes program is not in good standing, but it still is one of the elite in the country. I'm not sure if Jim Tressel can get out of this situation unscathed, but Tressel is a first-class man who I think made a mistake.

    The team itself has BCS title aspirations, even though Tressel, Terrelle Pryor, Mike Adams, Boom Herron and DeVier Posey all will be out the first five games. Braxton Miller and Todd Bauserman will hold down the fort for Pryor.

    The offensive line loses two starters, plus Adams, for the first five games, and the receivers need a playmaker to emerge in place of Posey.

    Defensively, seven starters are gone, including the entire back end. Being green in the secondary could derail those Big Ten and BCS title hopes.

    But the Buckeyes have talent on the roster and will be among the top teams in the country, likely peaking down the stretch.

9. Stanford

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal celebrates after he threw a 38-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Virginai Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miam
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    David Shaw takes over for Jim Harbaugh, as he left for the 49ers. Stanford likely will be highly ranked in the preseason polls. It is a program of great value because it has the best QB in the country—Andrew Luck.

    Luck is good enough to win a handful of games himself, but this year could be a challenge for him. First, he had a clean pocket last year, and this year the offensive line loses three starters. But Johnathan Martin and David DeCastro are back and they were both first team All-Pac-10 in 2010.  Luck also will be without his top two receivers, but Chris Owusu is back.

    Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas return as linebackers who the defense will be built around.

8. Arkansas

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Head coach Bobby Petrino of the Arkansas Razorbacks looks over at Jarius Wright #4 against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Pho
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    I didn't like the way Bobby Petrino left the Falcons, but you can't deny he's one of the best pure play-callers in football. Ryan Mallett was excellent last year, and while he was uber-talented, Petrino did wonders with Mallett's growth as a player.

    But Tyler Wilson has shown he is an elite QB himself, and now he has the lead for the Hogs. Three starters are gone from the line, and DJ Williams needs to be replaced at tight end. But Wilson, along with a healthy Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Colby Hailton, will be pitching and catching all day on Saturdays this fall.

    The front seven is loaded with talent, and Tremaine Thomas returns in the secondary. The spring must see the island defenders improve on making interceptions in the passing game.

7. Oklahoma State

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    STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Brandon Weeden #3 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys looks for an open receiver against the Oklahoma Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Image
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Going 11-2 last year, the Cowboys have gone 46-29 with Mike Gundy at the helm. They lost Dana Holgorsen to the WVU coach-in-waiting job but still have a chance to hang some serious points on the scoreboard.

    QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon may be the best QB-WR duo in the country, along with Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles, Weeden threw for over 4,000 yards last year while Blackmon caught 111 passes for over 1,780 yards last year.

    Gundy has to be giddy at what they can do this year.

6. Florida State

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach JimboFisher of the Florida State Seminoles is doused with water in the final seconds of their 26-17 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2010 in Atlan
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Jimbo Fisher is the unquestioned leader and face of the program now, and he has stocked the roster with great talent. Fisher had a top-two recruiting class in 2011 and a top-10 class in 2010.

    The Noles are on their way back, and this spring starts the full-time EJ Manuel era. Manuel has his feet wet already, though, as he filled in well for Christian Ponder. The receiver will be experienced and rock-toters Chris Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas all return along with three starters on the front.

    Mark Stoops proved to be Mr. Fix-It with the FSU defense last year and Nigel Bradham and Brandon Jenkins are back again to make plays. The secondary returns four starters, and the pass defense should be a strength for Florida Sate in 2011.

5. Boise State

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Quarterback Kellen Moore #11 of the Boise State Broncos smiles while standing behind a trophy as he celebrates the team's 26-3 victory over the Utah Utes in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium December 22, 2010 in La
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Chris Petersen is one of the top coaches in college football and he enters his sixth year as the head man at BSU. Out of 66 games, Petersen has only lost five of them; that's remarkable.

    He will get to watch the Kellen Moore experience once again this season, as Moore is one of the top QBs in the nation. Smart and accurate, Moore needs some receivers to emerge this spring, but 1,000-yard runner Doug Martin is back.

    The defense has an astonishing five potential all-conference players returning and could carry the team even if Moore doesn't find some dependable receivers.

    Boise State could make another BCS title run this year.

4. LSU

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 07:  Head coach Les Miles of the Louisiana State University Tigers reacts to a field goal during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies during the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on January 7, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo b
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Les Miles turned down his beloved Michigan head coaching job, allegedly at least, to stay at LSU. He stayed because the Tigers have a chance to win a national title this year.

    The roster is loaded, and I think Zach Mettenberger beats out Jordan Jefferson as QB. The Tigers are 11-2 with Jefferson, who played well down the stretch, and Jarrett Lee. Spencer Ware will replace Steve Ridley as the main running back; the offensive line only loses one starter, left tackle Joe Barksdale.

    This spring and summer will be crucial as the offense is the main question mark for LSU. Miles hired Steve Kragthorpe to improve the passing game, and Mettenberger is not coming to Baton Rouge to hold a clipboard in my estimation.

    The defense looks to be solid but needs to replace Drake Nevis, Kelvin Sheppard and of course Patrick Peterson.

3. Oregon

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Head coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks takes the field during their 22-19 loss to the Auburn Tigers during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Oregon returns the two players that were the key cogs in the offensive machine that was the Ducks in 2010—QB Darren Thomas and RB LaMichael James. They will add RB Lache Seastrunk to the backfield and should sizzle again on the scoreboards.

    Three starters must be replaced on the line, and Jeff Maehl's timing and accountability will be missed on the flanks.

    The defense will use the spring to replace Casey Matthews, Kenny Rowe and Spencer Paysinger, but All-American defensive back Cliff Harris is back, and the secondary should be solid in 2011.

2. Alabama

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 13: Coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide enters the stadium before play against the Mississippi State Bulldogs November 13, 2010 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    What can you say about the Crimson Tide program? Everything. Love them or hate them, you have to respect Alabama. Nick Saban is who I feel is the best coach in college football, and the program is run in a business-like matter.

    The Tide can make another BCS and SEC title run this year but they need to find a QB first. AJ McCarron and Phillip Simms each have their chance to show Saban they are up to the task in the spring. Trent Richardson returns in the backfield, and Marquis Maze is one of the better receivers in the SEC.

    But the defense will be the strength. Wow. Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick are back in the secondary, Dont'a Hightower, Nico Johnson and Courtney Johnson are ridiculous as linebackers, and Jesse Williams is coming to the defensive line as the best JUCO recruit in the country.

    Good program? I'd say so.

1. Oklahoma

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Bob Stoops talks to his team while taking on the Connecticut Huskies during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Sooners will be just about everyone's preseason No.1 team. Rght now, that means their program value is just a tad higher than Alabama's. The Sooners have a stable coach, one of the very best, in Bob Stoops.

    This year will feature another stellar passing attack with Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles leading the way. Broyles tied a school record in touchdowns last season, and Jones could win the Heisman this year.

    DeMarco Murray needs to be replaced, but I think Brandon Williams could come in and do well as a true freshman. On defense, there is a slew of talent, but the player I love is safety-linebacker Tony Jefferson, who won Big 12's Freshman DPOY in 2010.

    Oklahoma takes the No.1 spot going into spring.


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