College football

College Football Preview: 130-121

#120: Virginia | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
A quick fix wasn't expected for Bronco Mendenhall's first season at Virginia. The Cavaliers finished 2-10 but defeated Duke in ACC play and lost two games (Louisville and Wake Forest) by a touchdown. Mendenhall and this staff have a lot of work to do as offseason workouts begin for 2017. Quarterback Kurt Benkert (21 TDs, 11 INTs) returns, along with the team's top two receivers in Doni Dowling (50 catches) and Olamide Zaccheaus (51). However, running back Taquan Mizzell (940 yards and 52 catches) departs. The offensive line needs to play with more consistency after giving up 36 sacks in 2016. After giving up 6.3 yards per play last year, the defense also enters spring ball looking to take a step forward. There are building blocks for Mendenhall on this side of the ball. Linebacker Micah Kiser and safety Quin Blanding are two of the top defenders in the ACC, and tackle Andrew Brown is back after generating six sacks in 2016.

#119: Georgia State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The hiring of South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott has the folks at Georgia State excited as the Panthers will move into Turner Field as their permanent home to start 2017. The Panthers are coming off a solid recruiting class and they are fifth in the league in returning production. But there are still a lot of question marks all around and a winning season may be another season off.

#118: Buffalo | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Bulls have some upside behind quarterback Tyree Jackson and a defense that returns eight starters. However, coach Lance Leipold's team is likely a year away.

#117: Charlotte | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Still a young team and still getting its feet wet playing at the top level, the 49ers don't look to figure in the overall picture.

The Rebels are on the right track. UNLV has a dynamic offense, headlined by standout receiver Devonte Boyd and redshirt freshman Armani Rogers at quarterback. UNLV also returns one of the Mountain West's deepest backfields and top offensive lines this fall. But their defense has to improve. This unit gave up 36.8 points per game in 2016 and returns only two starters.

#115: Connecticut | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
UConn has a new defensive coordinator in Billy Crocker and lured back Randy Edsall to be head coach. He has a big task on his hand to turn around an ffense that averaged an FBS-worst 14.8 points per game last season, and replacing three key players in the defensive secondary. Long-term, he'll try to rebuild a program -- one that he once took from FCS obscurity to the Fiesta Bowl -- and turn it back into a conference contender. Not this year.

#114: Louisiana Monroe | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
ULM has improved at recruiting, but Louisiana-Monroe still has a lot of climbing to do. The Warhawks are going to be depending on a lot of JUCOs and young talent as the program is coming off three consecutive losing seasons. If ULM can figure out a way to win close games this fall, they could inch their way towards bowl eligibility.

#113: Tulane | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Green Wave finished 4-8 in coach Willie Fritz's debut last year but lost four games by 10 points or less. Tulane should feature one of the league's top defenses, and the offense will take a step forward behind new quarterback Jonathan Banks. The former Kansas State signal-caller is a perfect fit for Fritz's offense, and this unit will benefit from another offseason to work in this scheme.

#112: Rutgers | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Second-year coach Chris Ash inherited a major rebuilding project, so it is no surprise the Scarlet Knights finished 2016 without a win in Big Ten play. Some of the pieces are starting to fall into place for Ash, as veteran coach Jerry Kill joined the staff to call the plays in 2017. Developing more consistency from the quarterbacks is Kill's top priority. However, there are promising skill players returning next fall, including running back Robert Martin (625 yards) and receiver Jawuan Harris (39 catches). The offense also received a boost around the NFL Draft deadline, as receiver Janarion Grant decided to return to campus after suffering a season-ending knee injury early in the 2016 campaign. The Scarlet Knights allowed 37.5 points per game last fall and did not have a player earn consideration for All-Big Ten honors. This unit returns largely intact, but there are a few key departures. Linemen Julian Pinnix-Odrick and Darius Hamilton and safety Anthony Cioffi will be missed.

#111: Illinois | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
A quick fix was unreasonable for coach Lovie Smith in his first season, so it was no surprise Illinois finished 3-9 in 2016. After averaging 16.8 points per game in Big Ten contests last season, Smith and coordinator Garrick McGee are searching for answers on offense. One solution could come via the junior college ranks, as quarterback Dwayne Lawson could win the starting job. Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin form a solid duo at running back. Malik Turner returns after catching 48 passes last season, and Mike Dudek is also back in the mix after missing 2016 due to a knee injury. Center Joe Spencer and tackle Austin Schmidt depart from the offensive line. In addition to the concerns on offense, Smith and defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson are losing some of the unit's top players. Ends Dawuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips, tackle Chunky Clements, linebacker Hardy Nickerson and safety Taylor Barton have all expired their eligibility.

2017 Preseason Ranking

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