College football

College Football Preview: 130-121

After being out of action the past two seasons, the Blazers are a question mark. Senior linebacker Shaq Jones is a proven defensive leader for Clark, while the offense features former MTSU quarterback A.J. Erdely. FBS transfers Kalin Heath and Jonathan Haden should team with James Noble and Donnie Lee to form a capable group of running backs. With so many new faces on both sides of the ball starting for the first time at the FBS level, a transition year should be expected for UAB. However, don't be surprised if the Blazers find a way to surprise and steal a couple of wins in league play.

#129: Kansas | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
David Beaty has this program moving in the right direction, but the Jayhawks might be a year away from escaping the Big 12 cellar. The hire of Doug Meacham from TCU was a huge addition for an offense that averaged 20.3 points per game in 2016. Meacham was instrumental in TCU's improvement on offense over the last three seasons and takes over the play-calling duties after Beaty called the plays last year. Peyton Bender arrives from the junior college ranks (and a stint at Washington State) as frontrunner to start at quarterback in 2017. The Jayhawks need to generate more production out of the ground attack, but the receiving corps features three talented players, including LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Steven Sims and Alabama transfer Daylon Charlot. The defense allowed 6.04 yards per play in 2016 but that was a slight improvement from the 6.96 mark in 2015. End Dorance Armstrong (10 sacks) is quietly one of the Big 12's top defenders, and safety Mike Lee is another promising player for Beaty to build around on defense.

#128: Massachusetts | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
There are many issues on both sides of the line. The offensive front line must improve. The defense fell apart as the season progresses last season. Can it rebound? Can the defense generate more turnovers? The pass defense was the major problem, giving up way too many big plays and not coming up with enough gamechanging moments, allowing 27 touchdown passes with just four picks. On the bright side, the backs are in place to run well. Four of the top five tacklers are back, led by Steve Casali at one linebacker spot on the outside. All four starters are back in the linebacking corps, and everyone returns on the front three.

#127: Fresno State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Bulldogs have a lot of holes to plug on both sides of the line. WR KeeSean Johnson, Jr is the lone bright spot on offense. And the defensive secondary remains a trouble spot.

#126: New Mexico State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Behind productive senior QB Tyler Rogers and stud RB Larry Rose, New Mexico State still failed to collect more than three wins. Now enter Doug Martin's fifth season, the Aggies only have 10 victories and the future certainly does not look bright. This is arguably the worst recruiting program in the league and that has reared its ugly head too many times. It is hard to envision New Mexico State climbing out of the bottom.

#125: Purdue | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Boilermakers will be an interesting team to watch in 2017. New coach Jeff Brohm is one of the offseason's best hires and is bringing his high-powered offense to West Lafayette. Quarterback David Blough (21 picks) has to cut down on the mistakes, but he could post huge numbers in this offense. The ground game should be solid with the return of Markell Jones at running back. Brohm has to replace two starters on the offensive line, while the top three targets at receiver - DeAngelo Yancey, Bilal Marshall and Cameron Posey - have expired their eligibility. New coordinator Nick Holt has a huge task ahead this spring after Purdue's defense gave up 38.3 points per game in 2016. This unit returns largely intact but tackles Evan Panfil and Jake Replogle and safety Leroy Clark will be tough to replace. Linebacker Markus Bailey (97 stops) led the team as a freshman in tackles and should be part of the foundation for Holt. End Gelen Robinson and linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley are two other key returning players for this defense in 2017.

#124: Kent State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Kent State is running on empty. No passing game, no star running backs, a defense in need of rebuilding. It will be a long season for the Flashes.

#123: Iowa State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Matt Campbell has Iowa State trending up entering 2017. The Cyclones finished 2016 with a 3-9 record, but this team won two out of its last three games and lost five by 10 points or less. Jacob Park and Joel Lanning shared time at quarterback in 2016 and both players are slated to return next fall. Park (12 TDs, 5 INTs) is the better thrower, while Lanning (518 yards) is a superior runner. The running back position is in good hands with David Montgomery (563 yards) and Mike Warren (559). Allen Lazard is one of the top receivers in the Big 12 and turned down the NFL for one more season in Ames. Deshaunte Jones (37 catches) joins Lazard as a key target in the passing game after a promising freshman season. The biggest concern for Campbell remains up front on the offensive line and on defense. The Cyclones must replace three standouts in the trenches, as Mitchell Meyers, Demond Tucker and Jhaustin Thomas have expired their eligibility. Cornerback Brian Peavy and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya should be two of the Big 12's top defensive backs in 2017.

#122: Florida Atlantic | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Lane Kiffin era begins at FAU with a chance to surprise in the East Division. The Owls will lean heavily on running back Devin Singletary, and former Florida State quarterback De'Andre Johnson should be a good fit for Kiffin's offense. The defense gave up 39.8 points per game last fall and has to improve for FAU to challenge for a bowl. That task won't be easy with defensive end Try Hendrickson expiring his eligibility after 2016.

#121: Texas State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Everett Withers did some great things on the recruiting trail at Texas State with the 2017 recruiting class but it is likely to be another rough year. Expect the Bobcats to put that top notch class to work early as Texas State still has a season full of speed bumps ahead. The future is bright in San Marcos, you just may not see the results in 2017.

2017 Preseason Ranking

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