Preview 2017: CFN Rankings No. 1 to 130

Preview 2017: CFN Rankings No. 1 to 130

USF

Preview 2017: CFN Rankings No. 1 to 130

CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Rankings No. 1 to 130


The 2017 CFN Preview ranking of all 130 teams with strengths, concerns, and what to watch for.


CFN College Football Preview 2017
Every Team’s QB Situation
Early Week 1 Predictions

Preview 2017: Conference Rankings

AACACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA
Ind | MAC | MW | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt

Where do the  teams rank going into the season? This is NOT a ranking of how the teams are projected or predicted to finish. This is a ranking of how good they all appear to be going into the fall, and again, not how they’ll end up.

The 2016 Season Ranking is based on the CFN Season Formula, taking into account what actually happened, with last year’s final record next to it.

Preview 2017: Ranking All 130 Teams

130. UAB Blazers

Relative Strengths: Offensive backfield and linebacking corps
Relative Concerns: Depth, talent level, experience
Why Are They Here? It’s not like the program was rocking and rolling before going away, and now it’s starting from scratch.
2016 Final Season Ranking: Not Available

UAB 2017 Preview

129. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Relative Strengths: Coaching, Experience, Quarterback
Relative Concerns: Offensive line, Linebacker, Talent level
Why Are They Here? There might be plenty of veterans to ease the transition into the FBS world, but the talent – especially on defense – will be a problem.
2016 Final Season Ranking: Not Available

Coastal Carolina 2017 Preview

128. Texas State Bobcats

Relative Strengths: Linebackers, Quarterback, Wide Receiver
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Secondary
Why Are They Here? The Bobcats have too many major concerns on defense and not enough sure-thing playmakers on offense.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 128 (2-10)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 116

Texas State 2017 Preview

127. Charlotte 49ers

Relative Strengths: Offensive Backfield, Defensive Back Seven
Relative Concerns: Both Lines, Offensive Gamebreakers, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? The 49ers are missing too much on the lines and don’t have the offensive firepower.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 107 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 119

Charlotte 2017 Preview

126. Massachusetts Minutemen

Relative Strengths: Tight Ends, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? The Minutemen should have more offensive pop this season, but they’ll still struggle to stop anyone.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 118 (2-10)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 128

UMass 2017 Preview

125. Kent State

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Defensive Front
Relative Concerns: Scoring, Quarterback, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The Golden Flashes always have a bad O and great D, but the D isn’t so great this time around.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 117 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 110

Kent State 2017 Preview

124. Rice Owls

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Defensive Front
Why Are They Here? What will the Owls do relatively well? After a miserable season, they need help in just about every area.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 121 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 120

Rice 2017 Preview

123. New Mexico State Aggies

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Offensive Pop
Relative Concerns: Love and Affection from the Sun Belt, Defensive Line, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? It’s possible for NMSU to be this year’s Idaho and make a big, shocking run thanks to a devastating offense, but the D still won’t stop anyone.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 104 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 121

NMSU 2017 Preview

122. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? Okay, okay, okay, these are the Ragin’ Cajuns and they’ll end up being better than this, but suspensions and key losses will be a huge problem early.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 80 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 101

Louisiana 2017 Preview

121. Georgia State Panthers

Relative Strengths: Secondary, New Stadium, Coach & Energy
Relative Concerns: Running Back, Defensive Front
Why Are They Here? There’s a renewed energy and excitement with so many big changes, and the offense could find a spark with the passing game.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 106 (3-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 111

Georgia State 2017 Preview

120. Buffalo Bulls

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Sure-Thing Offensive Pop
Why Are They Here? UB should be better than this. They have an interesting group of talents at some key spots, but the production has to come.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 124 (2-10)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 97

Buffalo 2017 Preview

119. Akron Zips

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Coaching, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Deep Offensive Plays
Why Are They Here? There’s a chance to rally back into bowl contention if the D can rise up and play like it did in 2015, but the depth and talent aren’t there.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 98 (5-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 116

Akron 2017 Preview

118. South Alabama Jaguars

Relative Strengths: Defensive Back Seven, Quarterback
Relative Concerns: Lines, Proven Consistency
Why Are They Here? Are the lines going to be able to hold up? The pass rush should be fine, but the run D and ground game will be issues.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 79 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 112

South Alabama 2017 Preview

117. Eastern Michigan Eagles

Relative Strengths: Attitude After 2016, Quarterback, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The Eagles shocked the MAC world last year, and while they won’t regress into previous Eastern Michigan form, they won’t be as good.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 57 (7-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 124

Eastern Michigan 2017 Preview

116. UTEP Miners

Relative Strengths: Linebackers, Offensive Backfield
Relative Concerns: Receiving Corps, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? There’s a lot to build around to expect a better season, but it’ll take a few big breaks – like some a dangers target emerging in the receiving corps – to get bowl eligible.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 116 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 117

UTEP 2017 Preview

115. San Jose State Spartans

Relative Strengths: Receiving Corps, Pass Defense, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Offensive Backfield
Why Are They Here? The new coaching staff should help in time, but it’ll take at least a year to make any noise. The lines aren’t strong enough and the running game will struggle.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 110 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 92

San Jose State 2017 Preview

114. UTSA Roadrunners

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The Roadrunners battled their way to a bowl game, but they’re missing the offensive punch to keep up with the better C-USA teams.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 67 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 122

UTSA 2017 Preview

113. ULM Warhawks

Relative Strengths: Experience, Quarterback
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Receiver
Why Are They Here? Could this be the Sun Belt’s biggest turnaround team? After a rough 2016, the Warhawks should grind their way into a few more wins.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 108 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 125

ULM 2017 Preview

112. North Texas Mean Green

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The coaching, special teams, and experience in key spots will be enough to stay competitive, but even after going bowling, there’s rebuilding to do.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 83 (5-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 127

North Texas 2017 Preview

111. Connecticut Huskies

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Coaching, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Offense, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? Randy Edsall has a whole lot of work to do to bring the magic back. The running game will need a while and the defense won’t be a rock quite yet.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 119 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 71

UConn 2017 Preview

110. Idaho Vandals

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker, Attitude
Relative Concerns: Defense, Both Lines
Why Are They Here? It’s one more year before going off to life in the Big Sky. It’s Idaho – the passing game will be fun and explosive, the defense will be awful, and it’ll be a whole lot of fun.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 55 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 118

Idaho 2017 Preview

109. Marshall Thundering Herd

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Back Seven
Relative Concerns: Running Game, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? Which Marshall team will show up? It’s very, very possible the Thundering Herd will be back to form and last year was an aberration.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 102 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 84

Marshall 2017 Preview

108. Ball State Cardinals

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Quarterback
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Receivers
Why Are They Here? The Cardinals should be annoying in the MAC race with a dangerous ground game, but the defense and passing game won’t be good enough to be in the title chase.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 97 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 113

Ball State 2017 Preview

107. Bowling Green Falcons

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Secondary
Why Are They Here? There should be a bounce back into contention for a bowl game with an improved passing game to overcome a shaky defense, but this will hardly be the 2015 version.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 105 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 97

Bowling Green 2017 Preview

106. Georgia Southern Eagles

Relative Strengths: Running Game, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? The option attack will be back to form as a differentiating factor in the Sun Belt chase, but the defense won’t be strong enough to win the title.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 93 (5-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 83

Georgia Southern 2017 Preview

105. Miami University RedHawks

Relative Strengths: Gus Ragland, Secondary, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Running Back
Why Are They Here? The team started to play better and better as last year went on,. QB Gus Ragland should keep the passing attack rolling, but the running game won’t help enough.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 84 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 126

Miami Univ. 2017 Preview

104. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

Relative Strengths: Playing In Hawaii, Quarterback
Relative Concerns: Running Game, Secondary
Why Are They Here? The Rainbow Warriors will build on a breakthrough season under Nick Rolovich, but there are still too many holes on defense to compete for the Mountain West title.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 74 (7-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 100

Hawaii 2017 Preview

103. Fresno State Bulldogs

Relative Strengths: Coaching, Special Teams, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Running Game
Why Are They Here? Jeff Tedford can only do so much in his first season. The passing game should shine right away, but the D won’t stop anyone.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 127 (1-11)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 99

Fresno State 2017 Preview

102. Tulane Green Wave

Relative Strengths: Option Attack, Secondary, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Receiver
Why Are They Here? The Willie Fritz-coached ground game should start to dominate at times, but the defense won’t be strong enough to be a real factor in the American Athletic.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 99 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 108

Tulane 2017 Preview

101. SMU Mustangs

Relative Strengths: Courtland Sutton, Passing Game
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? Will the Mustangs ever turn a corner? The passing attack will make things interesting, but the team isn’t complete enough to make too much noise.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 87 (5-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 102

SMU 2017 Preview

100. FIU Golden Panthers

Relative Strengths: Coaching, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? Butch Davis should make a big difference right away for a team that’s not that far off from being solid. The lines, though, aren’t there.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 114 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 115

FIU 2017 Preview

99. Arkansas State Red Wolves

Relative Strengths: Offensive Backfield, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line Depth, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? As always, Arkansas State will be a factor in the Sun Belt chase, but they have a whole slew of major holes to fill.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 66 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 94

Arkansas State 2017 Preview

98. Utah State Aggies

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Special Teams, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The run defense has to find its groove again, but the running game should be okay. The pass defense will be a difference-maker in the Mountain West.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 103 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 82

Utah State 2017 Preview

97. Florida Atlantic Owls

Relative Strengths: Lane Kiffin, Offensive Backfield
Relative Concerns: Lane Kiffin, Defensive Front Seven
Why Are They Here? Kiffin really is a great coach, but he’ll also be Kiffin – get ready for the circus, good and bad. The offense and running game should be fantastic.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 120 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 107

Florida Atlantic 2017 Preview

96. Army Knights

Relative Strengths: Running Game, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Special Teams, Receiver
Why Are They Here? What Army does well, it does as well as anyone in the country. What it does poorly, it does as poorly as anyone in the country. Expect another bowl season – and maybe another win over Navy.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 50 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 105

Army 2017 Preview

95. Northern Illinois Huskies

Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Receiver, QB Injury Luck
Why Are They Here? NIU should get its running game groove back enough to be a factor again in the MAC, but there’s just enough missing on defense to win the title.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 88 (5-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 72

NIU 2017 Preview

94. UNLV Rebels

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Punch
Relative Concerns: Defense, Defense, Defense
Why Are They Here? The offense should finally start being consistently good enough to win in the Mountain West, but the defense has to prove it can hold up.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 91 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 98

UNLV 2017 Preview

93. Central Michigan Chippewas

Relative Strengths: Experience, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Special Teams, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? If you want your sneaky pick to win the MAC, here you go. The passing game should be fantastic but the D has to hold up. Get ready for plenty of shootouts.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 76 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 96

Central Michigan 2017 Preview

CFN College Football Preview 2017

92. Ohio Bobcats

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Coaching, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Big Offensive Plays, Quarterback
Why Are They Here? You know exactly what you’re getting. The Bobcats will be consistently very good, but can they be great? They’re good enough to take the MAC East again.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 69 (8-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 104

Ohio 2017 Preview

91. Nevada Wolf Pack

Relative Strengths: Coaching, Passing Game
Relative Concerns: Defense, Defense, Defense
Why Are They Here? New head coach Jaay Norvell will make this a whole lot of fun with the Air Raid passing style, but the defense has to go a long way to merely by mediocre.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 100 (5-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 86

Nevada 2017 Preview

90. Wyoming Cowboys

Relative Strengths: Josh Allen, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? The defending Mountain division champs have a special quarterback in Allen, and the overall offensive system is good enough to put up big numbers, but the defense will be a problem.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 44 (8-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 95

Wyoming 2017 Preview

89. East Carolina Pirates

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Defensive Back Seven
Why Are They Here? The Pirates should be a few wins better after a meltdown of a second half of last year, but will the defense finally be able to stop someone? The O will bomb away.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 101 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 78

East Carolina 2017 Preview

88. Navy Midshipmen

Relative Strengths: Running Game, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Secondary
Why Are They Here? The running game will still be fantastic, the coaching will still be top drawer, and the fire will still be there from the defense. The team, though, will be a bit worse overall – it doesn’t matter. It’s Navy. It’ll be in the thick of the AAC title chase.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 34 (9-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 89

Navy 2017 Preview

87. Kansas Jayhawks

Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Secondary
Why Are They Here? Baby steps. The Jayhawks are getting better, but it’s still taking a long, long time to get there. It’ll be another ugly season, but there will be a few bright spots – finally.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 123 (2-10)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 90

Kansas 2017 Preview

86. New Mexico Lobos

Relative Strengths: Running Game, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? This might be the best running game yet in the Bob Davie era, but will the rest of the team be able to hold up its end of the bargain?
2016 Final Season Ranking: 51 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 91

New Mexico 2017 Preview

85. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Relative Strengths: Receivers, Quarterback
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? The Blue Raiders will bomb away, but lines aren’t going to be good enough to hold up against the more powerful teams.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 62 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 88

Middle Tennessee 2017 Preview

84. Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? The talent is there to be in the hunt for the Conference USA title, but there’s just enough missing on the defensive front and O line to get over the hump.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 58 (7-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 87

Southern Miss 2017 Preview

83. Old Dominion Monarchs

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? After a breakthrough season, the Monarchs should be even better if the quarterback situation is solid right away. The rest of the offensive skill players are strong.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 41 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 109

Old Dominion 2017 Preview

82. Air Force Falcons

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? As always, the running game will be great and the holes will be filled in on defense, but there’s a whole lot of turnover across the board, even for Air Force.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 22 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 73

Air Force 2017 Preview

81. Temple Owls

Relative Strengths: Secondary, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Quarterback
Why Are They Here? The defending American Athletic Conference champs have enough returning talent for new head coach Geoff Collins to keep things from crashing, but the team is nowhere near as good.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 23 (10-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 74

Temple 2017 Preview

80. UCF Knights

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Running Back, Secondary
Why Are They Here? Scott Frost’s team has enough returning talent at some key spots to improve, but after not beating anyone who’s any good, the Knights have to start winning the bigger games.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 73 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 106

UCF 2017 Preview

79. Troy Trojans

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Secondary
Why Are They Here? The Trojans skill players should be the among the best in the Sun Belt, but the defense won’t hold up in enough big moments. The O will be a blast to watch, though.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 20 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 114

Troy 2017 Preview

78. Appalachian State Mountaineers

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Special Teams, Receiver
Why Are They Here? Be shocked if this isn’t the class of the Sun Belt. It’s a veteran team that should be as rock-solid as any Group of Five program.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 26 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 81

Appalachian State 2017 Preview

77. Western Michigan Broncos

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Experienced Coach
Why Are They Here? The Broncos won’t be anywhere near as good as last year’s version, but they should still be strong enough to once again be the star of the MAC – with a few big breaks.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 4 (13-1)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 80

Western Michigan 2017 Preview

76. Duke Blue Devils

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? The talent isn’t there compared to the rest of the ACC – an improved ACC – but head coach David Cutcliffe and the systems in place are good enough to get the Blue Devils in the hunt for a bowl game.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 94 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 62

Duke 2017 Preview

75. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Secondary
Why Are They Here? It’s going to take a while, but the Scarlet Knights are getting better. There are plenty of good talents among the starting 22, but there aren’t enough of them.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 126 (2-10)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 59

Rutgers 2017 Preview

74. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Relative Strengths: Passing Game, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? A slew of key parts are gone from the passing attack, and it should still be fantastic. The Bulldogs will be in their share of wild shootouts – and they’ll win most of them.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 43 (9-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 93

Louisiana Tech 2017 Preview

73. Toledo Rockets

Relative Strengths: Skill Players, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? It’s Toledo’s year in the MAC – at least it’s supposed to be. The offense will be unstoppable at times, but the Rocket D will give up yards and points in bunches.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 36 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 70

Toledo 2017 Preview

72. Memphis Tigers

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? After a strong first year under Mike Norvell, the offense should be even more explosive and consistent as the Tigers stay in the AAC title hunt all season long. Get ready for plenty of wild scoring-fests.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 48 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 75

Memphis 2017 Preview

71. Virginia Cavaliers

Relative Strengths: Defensive Star Power, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Running Back, Offensive Star Power
Why Are They Here? Bronco Mendenhall and the coaching will be strong, and the stars are in place on defense. But the offense still needs to figure out how to score on a regular basis.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 125 (2-10)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 60

Virginia 2017 Preview

70. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Offensive Pop, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The Demon Deacons might not be all that entertaining, but they’ll be effective. There’s enough experience to come up with another strong season, but there’s no margin for error.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 68 (7-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 68

Wake Forest 2017 Preview

69. Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Relative Strengths: Offensive Firepower, O Line
Relative Concerns: D Line, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? The offense loses a few key parts to the passing game, but the fun should keep on rolling. The fireworks will be fun, but it’s all about whether or not the defense can hold up.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 40 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 79

Tulsa 2017 Preview

68. Iowa State Cyclones

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Allen Lazard
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? The skill position players might actually be enough to Big 12 snuff, but the lines are just okay and as good as the O might be, it won’t be nearly as strong as the rest of the league’s top attacks.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 112 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 61

Iowa State 2017 Preview

67. Purdue Boilermakers

Relative Strengths: Coaching Staff, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Secondary
Why Are They Here? New head man Jeff Brohm knows how to crank up the offense, but it might need a little while to all get rolling. There will be times, though, when it all clicks.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 115 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 77

Purdue 2017 Preview

66. Cincinnati Bearcats

Relative Strengths: Luke Fickell, Defensive Front Seven
Relative Concerns: Running Back, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? After a dud of a 2016 season, watch out. New head coach Luke Fickell gets a strong team with the upside to rise up quickly in the AAC race.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 109 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 66

Cincinnati 2017 Preview

65. Illinois Fighting Illini

Relative Strengths: Receiver, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? The potential is there to be sneaky good if Lovie Smith finds his groove as a college coach in his second year and if the offense can consistently start scoring. It’s Lovie Smith – the D will come around.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 122 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 53

Illinois 2017 Preview

64. Oregon State Beavers

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Passing Game, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The Beavers will be better, but it might not matter in what should turn into a loaded Pac-12 North. Gary Andersen’s team has to come up with one thing it can do really, really well.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 95 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 63

Oregon State 2017 Preview

CFN College Football Preview 2017

63. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The defending Conference USA champs lose a ton of talent – including their head coach – but there are still plenty of great parts returning to do it all again. The team just won’t be as good.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 19 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 85

WKU 2017 Preview

62. Arizona Wildcats

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Injury Luck
Why Are They Here? It all depends on whether or not the team can finally stay healthy. Okay, and it depends on whether or not the defense can stop anyone. The O will work just fine, though.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 111 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 51

Arizona 2017 Preview

61. Houston Cougars

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Proven Coaching, Secondary
Why Are They Here? Can Major Applewhite keep the fun going? He’s got a loaded group of quarterbacks to choose from, and a future NFL star in Ed Oliver to anchor the line. Remember, though, last year’s team didn’t win the AAC. This one might.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 25 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 49

Houston 2017 Preview

60. South Florida Bulls

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Secondary
Why Are They Here? The Bulls didn’t win the American Athletic Conference title last season, but they should be just as good – if not better – even with the coaching change. Don’t be shocked if Charlie Strong’s team comes out with a major chip on its shoulder.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 29 (11-2)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 67

USF 2017 Preview

59. Boston College Eagles

Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Proven Scoring Pop, Quarterback
Why Are They Here? The Eagles are making a push to come up with a more dangerous offense, but the defense will carry the team again thanks to a devastating front seven.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 65 (7-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 56

Boston College 2017 Preview

58. BYU Cougars

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Quarterback
Relative Concerns: Running Back, Receiver
Why Are They Here? The Cougar linebackers will be outstanding, the O line great, and QB Tanner Mangum a star. The pieces are there to potentially win ten games, even with a brutal schedule.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 37 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 50

BYU 2017 Preview

57. San Diego State Aztecs

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? Even with some key losses on both sides of the ball, thanks to another great defense, the two-time defending Mountain West champ will be deep in the thick of things again.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 21 (11-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 43

San Diego State 2017 Preview

56. Colorado State Rams

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? This should be the year the Rams start to roll under Mike Bobo. The passing attack will be devastating, the linebacking corps solid, and the team overall strong enough to play for the Mountain West title.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 53 (7-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 76

Colorado State 2017 Preview

55. California Golden Bears

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? Justin Wilcox is a great new head coaching prospect, but does he have the team in place to start winning in the terrific Pac-12 North? At the very least, the D will start tackling.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 72 (5-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 58

California 2017 Preview

54. Boise State Broncos

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? This isn’t going to be the team last year’s version was supposed to be, but it’ll still be dangerous enough to beat anyone and everyone on the schedule.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 17 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 33

Boise State 2017 Preview

53. Syracuse Orange

Relative Strengths: Passing Game, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? The defense might still be an issue, but the offense will be a blast. The passing game that was so exciting last year should be even better and more explosive.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 89 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 69

Syracuse 2017 Preview

52. Colorado Buffaloes

Relative Strengths: Receiver, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The defending Pac-12 South champs lose a ton from the great secondary and have concerns on the lines, but the O will still roll as long as the skill stars have time to work.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 13 (10-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 65

Colorado 2017 Preview

51. Vanderbilt Commodores

Relative Strengths: Special Teams, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Receiver
Why Are They Here? As always, the Vanderbilt defense will be nasty and effective, and the ground game strong, but the O has to rock like it did at the end of the regular season.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 52 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 47

Vanderbilt 2017 Preview

50. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Relative Strengths: Receiver, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Secondary
Why Are They Here? You know what’s coming. The passing game will be fantastic, and the defense won’t stop anyone. Unless the D does more, all the fireworks on O won’t matter.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 77 (5-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 54

Texas Tech 2017 Preview

49. Ole Miss Rebels

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Running Backs, The NCAA
Why Are They Here? Can the team overcome the disappointment of not being bowl eligible? Will all the NCAA issues be a problem on the field? The team will be okay, but the fire and attitude have to be there.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 64 (5-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 27

Ole Miss 2017 Preview

48. Maryland Terrapins

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Sure Thing QB, O Line
Why Are They Here? The Terps are coming around. The top talent is young, but it’s there. There’s enough defensively now to be more of a factor in the Big Ten East.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 85 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 55

Maryland 2017 Preview

47. Arizona State Sun Devils

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Todd Graham Job Security
Why Are They Here? The Sun Devils have a ton of offensive talent, but it won’t mean much if the horrific defense isn’t far, far better. ASU should outbomb its way to plenty of wins – it’s better equipped this year.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 96 (5-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 34

Arizona State 2017 Preview

46. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Secondary
Why Are They Here? Nick Fitzgerald is a good enough quarterback to get past a whole slew of other issues. The lines are okey, but are the big play receivers and defensive backs there? Not really, but again, having Fitzgerald helps.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 71 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 39

Mississippi State 2017 Preview

45. South Carolina Gamecocks

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Offensive Consistency
Why Are They Here? The talent is slowly creeping in, but can the Gamecocks possibly keep up in any sort of shootout? Will Muschamp’s D will be good enough to stay in games, the team can’t get behind.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 75 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 52

South Carolina 2017 Preview

44. North Carolina Tar Heels

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Running Back
Why Are They Here? The Tar Heels are missing a slew of key skill players, but the defense – yes, the North Carolina defense – should carry the team just enough for the new guys on O to get ready.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 31 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 30

North Carolina 2017 Preview

43. Indiana Hoosiers

Relative Strengths: Receiver, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Running Back
Why Are They Here? Tom Allen and the new coaching staff should keep the offensive firepower going, but the Hoosiers will thrive with their best defense in a long, long time – especially in the back seven.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 81 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 46

Indiana 2017 Preview

42. Kentucky Wildcats

Relative Strengths: Offensive Backfield, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? The Wildcats are starting to get better and better, and now anything less than a bowl will be okay. The offense will rip teams up at times, but it won’t be consistent.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 60 (7-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 45

Kentucky 2017 Preview

41. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Relative Strengths: Secondary, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Sure Thing QB
Why Are They Here? The Huskers don’t have any glaring weaknesses, but they don’t have any major positives, either. The star power isn’t there on either side of the ball.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 32 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 41

Nebraska 2017 Preview

40. Baylor Bears

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Getting Past The Problems
Why Are They Here? It’s not going to be the high-powered fun show of past Baylor teams and offenses, but it’ll still be dangerous. New head coach Matt Rhule first has to work on the D – and changing the program’s national profile.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 56 (7-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 22

Baylor 2017 Preview

39. Pitt Panthers

Relative Strengths: Passing Game, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Pass Defense, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? Will the Panthers ever stop a passing game? USC transfer Max Browne will keep the offense going, but against so many good ACC QBs, all that matters is the beleaguered secondary.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 35 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 32

Pitt 2017 Preview

38. Georgia Tech

Relative Strengths: Running Game, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? Even with a new quarterback, the option attack will be an absolute killer. The running backs are talented, the defense strong, and the team should be more than just an annoyance in the ACC Coastal.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 39 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 64

Georgia Tech 2017 Preview

37. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker, Spunk
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Passing Game
Why Are They Here? P.J. Fleck will make things interesting, but for the Gophers to succeed, they have to be a little boring – run well, play good D, don’t make mistakes. It should all work, but the O needs a passing game.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 30 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 48

Minnesota 2017 Preview

36. Missouri Tigers

Relative Strengths: Offense, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Proven Coaching
Why Are They Here? The offense showed last season it could explode, and it should be able to again, Now the defense has to do its part, especially up front. The coaching staff has to prove there’s life after Gary Pinkel.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 78 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 44

Missouri 2017 Preview

35. Northwestern Wildcats

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Defensive Depth, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? QB Clayton Thorson and RB Justin Jackson form the nucleus of an offense that should be ultra-effective. The rest of the Wildcats will be serviceable, and that should be enough if Thorson is special.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 63 (7-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 40

Northwestern 2017 Preview

34. Texas A&M Aggies

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Desperation
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Receiver Depth
Why Are They Here? There’s a now-or-never thing happening in the Kevin Sumln era, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s reloading to do on the D line and receiver, but the offense will work.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 42 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 35

Texas A&M 2017 Preview

33. Utah Utes

Relative Strengths: Coaching, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Passing Game, Receiver
Why Are They Here? One of the Pac-12’s toughest teams should be an absolute terror defensively. Can QB Troy Williams rise up and do more? As long as the ground game and defense play like normal, the Utes will be a factor.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 46 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 37

Utah 2017 Preview

32. UCLA Bruins

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Running Game
Why Are They Here? If everyone stays healthy – particularly QB Josh Rosen – the Bruins should be a terror in the Pac-12 South. There’s still no proven running game, and the team needs to be more physical, but there’s talent.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 90 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 13

UCLA 2017 Preview

31. Michigan State Spartans

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Controversy, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The team just can’t be that bad. The ground game will do enough to overcome a slew of concerns – off the field, special teams, explosiveness – but the Spartans need to find the magic again.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 113 (3-9)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 12

Michigan State 2017 Preview

30. Arkansas Razorbacks

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Special Teams
Why Are They Here? The Hogs will have the beef to blast away, but Austin Allen and the passing game will take over – again. There’s just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to win the SEC West.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 59 (7-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 28

Arkansas 2017 Preview

29. West Virginia Mountaineers

Relative Strengths: Passing Game, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? It’s Will Grier time. The former Florida quarterback should keep the passing game rocking, but can the O keep up with the Big 12 stars? The team will be just a little worse, but it’ll still be dangerous.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 28 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 29

West Virginia 2017 Preview

28. Tennessee Volunteers

Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Talent
Relative Concerns: Coaching, Proven Run D
Why Are They Here? Once again, the Vols have more than enough talent to win the SEC East. Once again, they’ll almost certainly find a way to underachieve. There’s experience and skill, but it has to equate to wins.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 10 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 5

Tennessee 2017 Preview

27. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, It’s Not 2016
Relative Concerns: Coaching, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? The Irish will be better just because it’s a new year. Last season was strange, but now Brian Kelly needs to produce at a relatively high level. He just might have the team to do it.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 86 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 16

Notre Dame 2017 Preview

26. Washington State Cougars

Relative Strengths: Passing Game, Mike Leach
Relative Concerns: Special Teams, Mike Leach
Why Are They Here? This could and should be the best and most complete team yet under head coach Mike Leach, but his teams always seem to be just good enough to get close to greatness, and then they blow it. This one might be good enough to overcome the occasional funky coaching moves.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 47 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 42

Washington State 2017 Preview

Preview 2017: Conference Rankings 
AACACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA
Ind | MAC | MW | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt

25. Oregon Ducks

Relative Strengths: Offensive Backfield, New Coaching Staff
Relative Concerns: Defensive Front, Secondary
Why Are They Here? Forgetting the fact that Willie Taggart hasn’t really won anything, he’s bringing in a renewed energy and the ability to crank up the running game. The loaded Duck offense should explode again.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 92 (4-8)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 9

Oregon 2017 Preview

24. Kansas State Wildcats

Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Consistent Passing Explosion, Linebacker
Why Are They Here? The star veteran linebackers have to be replaced, but the offense should be able to be all Kansas State and grind out the production. The Wildcats should be just good enough to be in the mix for the Big 12 title game.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 45 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 38

Kansas State 2017 Preview

23. Virginia Tech Hokies

Relative Strengths: Secondary, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Quarterback Experience, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The Hokies aren’t going to fall that far back – if at all – from the Coastal championship season. All that’s missing is a steady quarterback and O line consistency, but both will come around in a hurry.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 12 (10-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 36

Virginia Tech 2017 Preview

22. Iowa Hawkeyes

Relative Strengths: Defense, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Downfield Passing
Why Are They Here? If you liked last year’s Iowa defense, you’ll adore this year’s version. The D will be among the best in the Big Ten, while the O line will crush for the ground attack.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 54 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 24

Iowa 2017 Preview

21. Michigan Wolverines

Relative Strengths: Talent, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Proven Starters, Ohio State
Why Are They Here? The whole lack of starting experience thing will be over in a hurry – the talent will overcome the problems. Now Jim Harbaugh has to start winning more really, really big games – even though his team is a little worse.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 14 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 8

Michigan 2017 Preview

20. NC State Wolfpack

Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Special Teams, Running Back
Why Are They Here? Look … out. The defensive line is among the best in college football – the run defense will be a brick wall. With an efficient passing game, a strong O line, and a coach in Dave Doeren whose had the time to build the thing up, the Pack will be in the hunt.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 61 (7-6)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 57

NC State 2017 Preview

19. TCU Horned Frogs

Relative Strengths: Coaching, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Consistent Quarterback Play, O Line
Why Are They Here? The Horned Frogs suffered a setback last year in a strange season for a Gary Patterson-coached team. But the defense will be better and QB Kenny Hill should be stronger – if he’s the starter.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 70 (6-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 17

TCU 2017 Preview

18. Louisville Cardinals

Relative Strengths: Lamar Jackson, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: ACC Atlantic, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? The machine should crank up again to let the Heisman winner do his thing. But the division is even stronger this year. If the Cardinals couldn’t win it last year, why are they going to do it this time around?
2016 Final Season Ranking: 16 (9-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 20

Louisville 2017 Preview

17. LSU Tigers

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defense
Relative Concerns: Ed Orgeron, Quarterback
Why Are They Here? The Tigers will have a killer running game along with a potentially devastating defense. But can Ed Orgeron be the coach to take it all and make it an SEC title contender? The passing game will need to be more dangerous.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 33 (8-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 1

LSU 2017 Preview

16. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Relative Strengths: Mason Rudolph to James Washington, O Line
Relative Concerns: Linebacking Corps, Secondary
Why Are They Here? The passing game will be among the nation’s most dangerous, and it’ll have to be with a leaky defense that’ll have its problems. Rudolph-to-Washington will be an unstoppable pitch-catch combo.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 18 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 23

Oklahoma State 2017 Preview

15. Auburn Tigers

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Jarrett Stidham
Relative Concerns: Alabama, Defensive Line
Why Are They Here? With Stidham coming in from Baylor, the Tigers have the talent at quarterback to balance out the devastating ground game. The D will be fine, but will it be good enough for that one giant game against the Crimson Tide?
2016 Final Season Ranking: 38 (8-5)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 31

Auburn 2017 Preview

14. Stanford Cardinal

Relative Strengths: Coaching, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Deep Plays
Why Are They Here? The Stanford style should work – run hard, D up harder, outcoach everyone, repeat. However, the passing game pop isn’t there if the team gets behind early. Don’t expect a slew of shootouts.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 27 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 18

Stanford 2017 Preview

13. Florida Gators

Relative Strengths: Secondary, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Passing Game, Consistent Scoring
Why Are They Here? Yeah, yeah, yeah, Florida was able to land Malik Zaire – but he’s hardly a proven longterm quarterback. The D will be great again, the running game sound, and there will be a few big moments, but the Gators need more fun and gun.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 24 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 15

Florida 2017 Preview

12. Texas Longhorns

Relative Strengths: Tom Herman Hype, Experience
Relative Concerns: Tom Herman Production, Proven Tackling
Why Are They Here? On talent and experience, this is the right ranking. On proven production – including the coaching when it comes to what happened last year at Houston – this is way high. Herman has the talent to work with – led by a killer O line – but the defense has to become a bear right away.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 82 (5-7)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 26

Texas 2017 Preview

11. Miami Hurricanes

Relative Strengths: Mark Richt, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Expectations, Proven QB
Why Are They Here? Let the hype kick in. Richt is one of the best coaches in the game, and he’s got the defense that could turn into the best in the ACC with a little luck. The offense has upside, but the quarterback play has to rock.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 11 (9-4)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 25

Miami 2017 Preview

10. USC Trojans

Relative Strengths: Sam Darnold, Defensive Back Seven
Relative Concerns: Off The Charts Hype, Kicker
Why Are They Here? Everyone will put USC in the CFP in all the preseason picks thanks to Sam Darnold and an easy schedule, but now it has to happen for a full season.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 15 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 10

USC 2017 Preview

9. Penn State Nittany Lions

Relative Strengths: Offensive Backfield, Coaching
Relative Concerns: The First Half, No. 1 WR
Why Are They Here? That was great, Penn State. Now do it again. The Nittany Lions have the offensive talent to blast away with anyone, but can they start scoring early to not need big comebacks? Now they’re the hunted.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 9 (11-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 21

Penn State 2017 Preview

8. Wisconsin Badgers

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Passing Game, Scoring
Why Are They Here? The defense was amazing last year, and even with a few key losses, it should be even better and deeper. Now the passing game has to show up – Bucky desperately needs a No. 1 wide receiver.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 7 (11-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 14

Wisconsin 2017 Preview

7. Georgia Bulldogs

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Front Seven
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Proven Production
Why Are They Here? Everything is in place to win the SEC East and have a puncher’s chance at the title if the offensive line can rock right away. Everything was there last year, too, but now there’s really no excuse to not take down the division.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 49 (805)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 19

Georgia 2017 Preview

6. Washington Huskies

Relative Strengths: Jake Browning, Chris Petersen
Relative Concerns: John Ross, Offensive Line
Why Are They Here? This year’s team will prove that last year’s wasn’t a fluke. There’s receiving talent, but it’s hard to replace a dominant home run hitter like Ross – the Huskies will get by. The defense and running game will be crushing again.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 5 (12-2)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 11

Washington 2017 Preview

5. Oklahoma Sooners

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Lincoln Riley, Veteran Running Back
Why Are They Here? Bob Stoops walked away from a heater. The offensive line is OU’s best in years, the quarterback situation is too deep, and the defense should be good enough to hold serve. Now Lincoln Riley has to prove he’s up to snuff.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 8 (11-2)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 7

Oklahoma 2017 Preview

4. Clemson Tigers

Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Coaching
Relative Concerns: Deshaun Watson, Florida State
Why Are They Here? Dabo Swinney and his staff have proven they can reload and come up with an even stronger team, but not having Deshaun Watson around anymore is obviously an issue.

The Tigers are loaded again and should be deep in the national title chase, but FSU, Louisville and NC State aren’t going to be dangerous in the Atlantic.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 1 (14-1)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 3

Clemson 2017 Preview

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

Relative Strengths: Urban Meyer, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Proven Receivers, Shellshock
Why Are They Here? Are the Buckeyes really past the nightmare against Clemson in Glendale? Will that ramp up the intensity and pressure going into the season?

Yeah, it’s Ohio State, but there’s still a ton of top talent to replace. Fortunately, the defensive line is ridiculously good, J.T. Barrett is a Heisman-caliber quarterback, and great recruiting classes have created a next-NFL-star-up system.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 3 (11-2)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 6

Ohio State 2017 Preview

2. Florida State Seminoles

Relative Strengths: Secondary, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Dalvin Cook, Receiver
Why Are They Here? Once again, Florida State has the talent to get to the College Football Playoff, but it wasn’t able to get it done last season even though the one concern – quarterback – turned into a positive.

The secondary is the best in college football, the defensive talent up front is serious, and offensive backfield will be amazing even after losing Dalvin Cook. There’s no excuse to not win the ACC.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 6 (10-3)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 2

Florida State 2017 Preview

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Relative Strengths: The Process, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Receiver Depth, Offensive Coordinator
Why Are They Here? Eventually, Alabama will lose two regular season games again and fall back in the pack. That probably should’ve happened to last year’s team, but the Crimson Tide reloaded and were even stronger – even though they didn’t win the national title. The problems this year pale by comparison.

New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has to prove he can make the machine go, but his O will run at will while the Alabama defense will once again be the Alabama defense. Nick Saban’s “Process” will keep on rolling.
2016 Final Season Ranking: 2 (14-1)
2016 CFN Preseason Ranking: 4

Alabama 2017 Preview

– CFN College Football Preview 2017

Preview 2017: Conference Rankings 
AACACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA
Ind | MAC | MW | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt

More College Football News
Home