2007 Preseason Rankings presented by College Football News
1. USC 2006 Record: 11-2
Don't fret about the loss of Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith; USC is a receiver factory and has more NFL talent waiting in the wings. While John David Booty will be the signature star and the Heisman candidate, the 2007 Trojans will roll on defense with its speediest, most talented group in the Pete Carroll era with ten starters returning. The offense won't have to generate more than 21 points a game to win.
2. LSU 2006 Record: 11-2
The Tigers lose JaMarcus Russell, several top defensive players, and leading receiver Dwayne Bowe. Whatever. Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux are ready to step in and run the offense, there's still speed to burn at receiver, and there aren't as many losses as past years on defense. Replacing safeties LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels will be the biggest issue.
3. Texas 2006 Record: 10-3
The pressure is back on Mack Brown to produce with a loaded team. Colt McCoy has all his weapons to work with a tremendous running back and receiving corps. The O line loses Justin Blalock and Lyle Sendlein, but it's Texas; it reloads. The secondary loses three NFL players, including Aaron Ross, but it didn't stop anyone last year anyway.
4. Florida 2006 Record: 13-1
Urban Meyer is doing a phenomenal job recruiting, and he won't hesitate to put young players in key spots, but the loss of way too many defensive stars, and the graduation of Chris Leak, will be too costly to repeat as national champions. That's not to say the team won't make another big run it Tim Tebow is strong in a full-time role.
5. Wisconsin 2006 Record: 12-1
2006 Wisconsin was a very good team with a walk-in-the-park schedule. 2007 Wisconsin will be an elite team with a more challenging slate. The safeties need to be replaced, as do LB Mark Zalewski and OT Joe Thomas, but just about everyone else returns. Tyler Donovan and former Kansas State Wildcat Allan Evridge will replace QB John Stocco without a problem.
6. Ohio State 2006 Record: 12-1
If the Buckeyes could replace all the top defensive stars after 2005 and end up in the national title game, then they should be able to overcome the loss of a ton of offensive talent and get back, right? That's a bit of a stretch, but there's still a ton of NFL talent returning on both sides of the ball with ten underclassmen starting last year. It'll all be about the running game until Todd Boeckman or Rob Schoenhoft get their feet wet.
7. Oklahoma 2006 Record: 11-3
The Sooners proved at the end of 2006 that they can survive and thrive without Adrian Peterson (although he hasn't officially made his NFL decision yet), but the offense needs Joey Halzle, or some other quarterback, to be more than just steady. The secondary should be among the best in the country, but losing linebackers Rufus Alexander and Zach Latimer hurts. You don't get better by losing ends Larry Birdine, C.J. Ah You and Calvin Thibodeaux.
8. Arkansas 2006 Record: 10-4
As long as the offensive line can replace tackles Tony Ugoh and Zac Tubbs and guard Jeremy Harrell, the Hogs should pick up where they left off late in the year thanks to the 1-2 punch of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. While the defense should be fine, losing heart-and-soul LB Sam Olajubutu and top ten-caliber draft pick Jamaal Anderson will sting.
9. UCLA 2006 Record: 7-6
Who will the quarterback be? The Pat Cowan/Ben Olson debate will be the big one this off-season. That's the only offensive issue with ten starters returning. The defense loses Justin Hickman, but All-America end Bruce Davis comes back along with nine other starters. The team's biggest loss is PK Justin Medlock.
10. Michigan 2006 Record: 11-2
The offense should be tremendous with the best trio of skill players in the country in Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Mario Manningham. Jake Long should probably be off to the NFL, but he'll be back to be a sure-fire All-American at left tackle. The defense is another story losing Alan Branch, LaMarr Woodley, Rondell Biggs, Shawn Crable, David Harris, Prescott Burgess, Leon Hall and Willis Barringer.
11. West Virginia 2006 Record: 11-2
Rich Rodriguez is staying, Pat White and Steve Slaton are back, and the offense should be as good as ever. The defense wasn't exactly a rock last year, but it gets a slew of good players back. The receiving corps needs some playmakers to step up, and Mike Dent has to quickly show he can be close to as good as center Dan Mozes.
12. Georgia 2006 Record: 9-4
About a year away from being at a national title level, the Dawgs have to get more from the receivers, the offensive line has to replace four starters, and the defense has to do its yearly job or replacing several NFL prospects.
13. Virginia Tech 2006 Record: 10-3
Ike Whitaker and Sean Glennon will be in a battle for the starting quarterback spot. If one of the two can come up with more production, the offense should shine with a tremendous receiving corps and RB Branden Ore to work with. The defense will be its typical amazing self with eight starters returning.
14. Auburn 2006 Record: 11-2
A bit of a disappointment offensively last year, things will only be better if the offensive line, depleted by graduation, comes together in a big hurry. The defense will be its typical quick self with several great young playmakers to get fired up about, especially tackles Josh Thompson and Sen'Derrick Marks.
15. Nebraska 2006 Record: 9-5
Is Nebraska ready to turn another corner? Former Arizona State QB Sam Keller will take over for Zac Taylor, and he'll have plenty of weapons to work with. The defensive line has to patch some huge holes, but almost everyone returns in the back seven.
16. Tennessee 2006 Record: 9-4
The Vols pulled up out of the 2004 nosedive with a nice year, but the UT fans are looking for more. The receiving corps take a monster his losing Robert Meachem early to the NFL along with Jayson Swain and Bret Smith, but the running game should get rolling early with three fantastic players in LaMarcus Coker, Montario Hardesty and Arian Foster.
17. Florida State 2006 Record: 7-6
The Seminoles have enough offensive firepower returning to hope for a much better year, but the quarterback situation between Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee has to be hammered out right off the bat. Just about everyone of significance returns on a defense that loses star linebackers Buster Davis and Lawrence Timmons.
18. California 2006 Record: 10-3
Despite suffering just enough big losses to keep it from being among the national title contenders, Cal should still be nasty thanks to Nate Longshore, DeSean Jackson, Robert Jordan and the passing game. Justin Forsett gets the full-time rushing load with Marshawn Lynch off to the next level. DT Brandon Mebane, LB Desmond Bishop and CB Daymeion Hughes are gone taking away the heart of the defense.
19. Boston College 2006 Record: 10-3
Jeff Jagodzinski has an excellent team returning led by possible ACC Player of the Year QB Matt Ryan. Nine starters return on defense including the entire defensive front seven, while the offense only loses two good tackles and sure-thing receiver Tony Gonzalez.
20. Texas A&M 2006 Record: 9-4
2006 should be a stepping stone to a huge 2007 with QB Stephen McGee leading what should be a top ten running attack helped by Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson. Enough talent returns on defense to hope for even more production.
21. Rutgers 2006 Record: 11-2
The magic should continue with RB Ray Rice operating behind a big line. The improvement of QB Mike Teel will make the offense even better, and it'll have to be with the loss of several key defensive starters. The secondary should be excellent, while Jeremy Ito will be one of the nation's best kickers.
22. Georgia Tech 2006 Record: 9-5
Calvin Johnson is gone (bad) as is Reggie Ball (good), but almost everyone else comes back on both sides of the ball. Nine starters return from a defense that should be a killer, while RB Tashard Choice will carry the offense early on. QB Taylor Bennett showed in the Gator Bowl that he's good enough to get the passing game moving.
23. TCU 2006 Record: 11-2
It's time to start giving the program credit for being the real deal under head coach Gary Patterson. Marcus Jackson should be a more-than-adequate replacement for Jeff Ballard, while Aaron Brown and Robert Merrill will provide a killer 1-2 punch. Just about everyone is back on what should be one of the nation's best statistical defenses.
24. Penn State 2006 Record: 9-4
One of the toughest early calls, Penn State's offense should be better as long as Anthony Morelli plays like he did in the Outback Bowl. The defense might take a huge tumble losing several big stars on the defensive front, but Dan Connor and Sean Lee might be the best pair of outside linebackers in the country.
25. Oregon State 2006 Record: 10-4
Want your 2007 deep, deep sleeper for really big things? If big Sean Canfield can be a steady quarterback replacement for Matt Moore, there might be no stopping the offense with WR Sammie Stroughter and RB Yvenson Bernard among the best in the country and with four starters returning on the line. Outside of playmaking safety