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CFN 2006 Rankings - 1 to 10

2006 Preseason Rankings
National Title Contenders - No. 1 to No. 10
The best teams in the nation

There's one very important distinction in the CFN preseason rankings: these are based on how good the teams are going into the season and NOT how they're going to finish. Some teams have easier schedules than others, some get tougher road games and some will need a little bit of time to jell meaning they might be better than their final record might indicate. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 119. The predicted finishes don't take into account possible bowl games or conference championships.

10. Tennessee  Tennessee Preview
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 5-6
There are few teams in America that can match the overall speed and athleticism of the 2006 Vols, but all the skills have to translate into better overall play and, of course, wins. The offense can't be any worse, and should be a force with new/old offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe taking back his offensive coordinator job. The running backs can fly, the receivers are even faster, and the line is bigger than more NFL front walls. If quarterback Erik Ainge is merely competent, and the defense can avoid falling off the map after losing six of the starters on the front seven, the Vols should be back in the SEC title hunt. The hope has to be for all the top recruiting classes to pay off in a big way on defense with six of the starters on the front seven needing to be replaced including the entire linebacking corps.
Relative Strengths: running back, receiver     Relative Weaknesses: linebacker, offensive line

9. Florida  Florida Preview
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 9-3
Are the pieces starting to fit well enough for Florida to be SEC champions and in the hunt for national title? That will be the focus all season as fans are waiting for the Gator offense to explode, but considering the potential issues on the offensive line and the mediocre corps of running backs, it'll be the defense that carries the team. The D finished ninth in the nation and allowed a mere 18.8 points per game, and it should be even better if injuries don't strike early at linebacker and corner. There's enough talent on the line to fill out the All-SEC team without a problem. Brandon Siler and Earl Everett form one of the nation's best linebacking tandems, and the safeties, led by Reggie Nelson, should be fantastic. National title dreams might have to be put on hold for a while, but that doesn't mean the Gators can't take the next step in the Urban renewal plan and win the SEC championship and get to the BCS.
Relative Strengths: defensive line, quarterback     Relative Weaknesses: running back, offensive line

8. California  California Preview
Predicted Finish: 9-3  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 8-4
There are few teams with more speed among the starters with an array of talents that would litter the All-America lists if it played in one of the other
BCS conferences. DT Brandon Mebane, CB Daymeion Hughes and LB Desmond Bishop will be among the best in the nation at their respective positions, and RB Marshawn Lynch deserves Heisman consideration from day one. The quarterback situation will sort itself out with Nate Longshore ready to steady the four-man race, Lynch and Justin Forsett combine to form one of the nation's top tailback duos, and the receivers might not be the best in America, but they're in the top three when it comes to speed. The defense will be a sack machine with too many good ends for one team, Mebane an all-star in the middle, and one of the best linebacking corps in the nation. The slight concerns are on the offensive line and at safety, but those won't turn out to be any big deal as the season goes on.
Relative Strengths: running back, linebacker     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, secondary

7. LSU  LSU Preview
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 10-1   2005 Record: 11-2
The quarterback situation has to be settled and air-tight shut after this fall. Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux are more than capable of leading LSU to an SEC title, but if JaMarcus Russell has to look over his shoulder every time he tried to throw into triple coverage, the offense won't run smoothly. Running back is a question mark with the top two backs coming off of torn ACLs, the lightning fast receiving corps has to make even more big plays and live up to all of its talent, and the offensive line has to deal with the loss of three stars while trying to get more push for the running game. The defense will be amazing as long as tackles Glen Dorsey, Charles Alexander and Marlon Favorite do a spot on impersonation of Wroten and Williams, and as long as the starting linebackers stay healthy. LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels are NFL safeties spending time in the college ranks, and corner Chevis Jackson is an All-SEC playmaker waiting to break out.
Relative Strengths: secondary, quarterback     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, linebacker

6. Auburn  Auburn Preview
Predicted Finish: 11-1  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 9-3
Auburn loses several good starters, but none of them, not even four of the top five receivers or All-American offensive tackle Marcus McNeill, will hurt that much. Out with the old, in with near mirror images of the players who left. In other words, Auburn should be even better than last year good enough to be ranked among the ten best in America with a schedule that makes a great team a national title contender. The defense is a bit shaky at tackle and safety hoping good prospects can produce right away. The offense needs WR Courtney Taylor to regain his 2004 form and is in huge trouble if there's an injury problem on the offensive line, but that's all nitpicking.
Relative Strengths: running back, secondary     Relative Weaknesses: special teams, receiver

5. Miami   Miami Preview
Predicted Finish: 11-1   2005 Predicted Finish: 10-1   2005 Record: 9-3
This year's team has enough talent to think about the national title, but there are just enough holes to keep it from happening with an offensive line that doesn't look to be appreciably better than last year's disaster and mot enough overall skill level among the stars on offense to overcome the potential problems up front. The defense will be among the best in the country, but it can't win every game if there are offensive issues like there were occasionally last season.
Relative Strengths: secondary, linebacker     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, backup quarterback

4. Oklahoma   Oklahoma Preview
Predicted Finish: 11-1  2005 Predicted Finish: 9-2   2005 Record: 8-4
So is this a national title caliber team? Yes, but there are still too many question marks on the offensive line and with QB Rhett Bomar to assume it’ll be an easy run to a third championship game in four seasons. 2007 is when the team should be truly ready to explode and become a juggernaut again. Even so, it might turn out to be a two-game season with a trip to Oregon and the battle with Texas the likely only roadblocks.
Relative Strengths: running back, defensive line     Relative Weaknesses: offensive line, special teams

3. Ohio State  Ohio State Preview
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 10-1   2005 Record: 10-2
QB Troy Smith should make the spread offense sing making big play after big play with his legs as well as his arm. The receivers are big, fast, and talented with Ted Ginn Jr. appearing to be ready to blossom into a superstar wideout. The backfield is full of talent with star freshman Chris Wells ready to push possible All-Big Ten runner Antonio Pittman. The line might be the best in the Jim Tressel's six years in Columbus with a world of talent, especially at tackle. There's no reason whatsoever to worry about the defensive back seven that has to replace all its starters. The line needs to come up with a steady pass rush, but that's nitpicking; All-America tackle Quinn Pitcock and the boys will be a rock against the run.
Relative Strengths: quarterback, offensive line     Relative Weaknesses: defensive experience, linebacker

2. Texas  Texas Preview
Predicted Finish: 10-2  2005 Predicted Finish: 8-3   2005 Record: 13-0
The backfield is loaded with talented backs, there's plenty of experience and next-level ability in the receiving corps, and the line will once again be among the best in the country despite losing All-Americans Jonathan Scott and Will Allen. The defensive cupboard is hardly bare with a tremendous end tandem of Tim Crowder and Brian Robison sure to be among the best in the country and more than enough talent in the back seven to fill up the All-Big 12 team. Oh yeah, quarterback. If Jevan Snead and Colt McCoy can be merely adequate, the Longhorns could be back in the national title game.
Relative Strengths: offensive line, running back     Relative Weaknesses: quarterback, backup linebacker

1. USC  USC Preview
Predicted Finish: 11-1  2005 Predicted Finish: 12-0   2005 Record: 12-1
Remember, these rankings are based on how good the teams appear to be going into the season and NOT where they're going to end up. There isn't a more talented roster in America with a who's who of high school all-stars brought in by Pete Carroll, but how many of those top prospects will even play? It's hard to fall too far when you have the best recruiting class in the country two years in a row, but there are big things to worry about like the health of quarterback John David Booty, the issues in the running back corps from injuries to inexperience, and the loss of most of the key players in the secondary. Even with all the question marks, the Trojans should be in the mix for yet another national title appearance thanks to great coaching, great players, and a great schedule that's tailor-made for a championship. Then again, the same was said about Miami going into the 2004 season.
Relative Strengths: receiver, linebacker     Relative Weaknesses: secondary, special teams


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