College football

College Football Preview: 110-101

#110: Oregon State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Beavers improved their win total by two games from 2015 to 2016. Coach Gary Andersen enters his third year in Corvallis with a team capable of pushing for a bowl bid. The biggest question mark on offense revolves around the quarterback position. Can junior college recruit Jake Luton beat Marcus McMaryion, Darell Garretson or Conor Blount for the starting job? Regardless of which quarterback starts, expect to see running back Ryan Nall (951 yards) increase his workload in 2017. Top receiver Victor Bolden (46 catches), and three key linemen - Dustin Stanton, Gavin Andrews and Sean Harlow - have also expired their eligibility. After giving up 37 points per game in 2015, the Beavers cut that total to 30.5 in 2016. However, it's clear more improvement is needed for this team to hit six wins. Cornerback Treston Decoud and linebacker Caleb Saulo are the biggest losses for coordinator Kevin Clune.

SMU is loaded with potential on offense in coach Chad Morris' third year on campus. The Mustangs are led by All-America candidate Courtland Sutton at receiver, while 1,000-yard rusher Braeden West leads the way on the ground. In order for SMU to challenge the top teams in the West, improving the defense is a priority. The Mustangs gave up 36.3 points per game last fall. The schedule isn't too daunting, as UConn, Cincinnati and UCF are the three crossover games with the East, and Tulsa visits Dallas in late October.

#108: Ball State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The lone bright spot for Ball State is their passing game. It shows promise, but without a running game and a defense with a lot of holes to plug, it will be a long season for the Cardinals.

#107: Syracuse | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Entering his second year at Syracuse, Dino Babers has this program trending in the right direction. The Orange finished 4-8 in Babers' debut last season and scored an upset win over Virginia Tech in mid-October. Another step forward is within reach next year, especially if quarterback Eric Dungey stays healthy. Dungey threw for 2,679 yards and 15 scores in nine games in 2016 but missed time at the end of the last two seasons due to injury. Dungey will miss top target Amba Etta-Tawo (94 catches). However, Ervin Phillips (90) and Steve Ishmael (48) are a talented duo on the outside. The offensive line surrendered 38 sacks last year but should improve with better luck in the health department. Scoring points shouldn't be a problem for Syracuse next fall. For this team to earn a bowl bid, the defense needs to show marked improvement. The Orange gave up 38.6 points per game and 6.9 yards per play in 2016. This unit returns largely intact, with linebacker Zaire Franklin (101 tackles) and lineman Chris Slayton (10 tackles for a loss) leading the way in the front seven. The secondary needs to cut down on the big plays allowed after surrendering 12 passes of 50 or more yards in 2016.

#106: North Texas | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Mean Green passing game should be better, but it is still not going to be dominant. As long as Jeffery Wilson and the rushing attack can crank out regular production, the offense will work. The defense still has a way to go. The secondary was solid at times, but there is little depth at linebacker, and the pass rush needs to be better.

#105: Florida International | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Butch Davis makes his return to the sidelines at FIU. Similar to FAU, the Panthers have potential to surprise in this division. Seniors Alex McGough (QB) and Alex Gardner (RB) lead the way on offense, while nine starters return from a defense that surrendered 34.8 points per game last fall. The linebacker unit - led by Treyvon Williams and Anthony Wint - could be one of the best in the conference.

#104: Rice | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Rice offense was absent a season ago. The roster didn't lose many starters, but is that good news or more of the same? The Rice defense has a new coordinator, but will be in rebuild mode this season. A long season is in store for the Owls.

#103: East Carolina | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
East Carolina is relying on three graduate transfer – quarterback Thomas Sirk, running back Tyshon Dye and end Gaelin Elmore – for improvement after finishing 3-9 in coach Scottie Montgomery's debut in 2016. UConn hired a familiar face (Randy Edsall) to lead the program after dismissing Bob Diaco last season. Edsall won 74 games from 1999-10 and inherits a program with 13 returning starters for 2017. The hire of Rhett Lashlee to call plays should provide some immediate help for an offense that averaged just 14.8 points per game in 2016. While the offense may struggle, the defense should be a strength.

#102: San Jose State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Spartans won four games last year but are likely to struggle to reach that mark in 2017. Uncertainty remains under center for Brennan, and the offensive line allowed a whopping 50 sacks in 2016. Additionally, depth on defense - especially up front - remains a concern.

#101: Miami OH | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The RedHawks finished 2016 by winning six out of their final seven games and return 16 starters this fall. Quarterback Gus Ragland's return to the lineup from an offseason knee injury was a big reason for the second-half improvement, and the junior should push for all-conference honors with a full year of snaps. In addition to Ragland's emergence, Miami's offensive line is expected to take a step forward, and the defense should rank among the best in the MAC.

2017 Preseason Ranking

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