College football

College Football Preview: 80-71

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.

#79: Wyoming | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Wyoming has quarterback Josh Allen back, but lose running back Brian Hill and must deal with a revamped receiving corps and solid offensive line provide a good foundation. Similar to Colorado State and Boise State, Wyoming enters the year with question marks on defense. Coach Craig Bohl's group returns nine starters but struggled against the run and gave up too many big plays against the pass.

Expect the Army offense to run well, but passing is an entirely different story. QB Ahmad Bradshaw is a running passer, but not much of a passer. Add in FB Andy Davidson and expect the Black Knights to control the clock via the run. The Army defense, which finished last season fourth in the nation allowing fewer than 300 yards per game, have some holes to plug. The linebackers need work after losing a few mainstays, but there's still decent size and quickness around Alex Aukerman on the outside. One other key loss is in the secondary with the loss of Xavier Moss at safety.

UCLA's 2016 season was derailed after a shoulder injury to quarterback Josh Rosen in early October. After Rosen's injury, the Bruins won just one game over its final seven contests and finished 4-8 overall. Getting Rosen back in the lineup is a huge boost for coach Jim Mora's team, but there are other issues to address. Will this team develop a ground game after managing only 84.3 yards per game in 2016? The offensive line must replace second-team All-Pac-12 tackle Conor McDermott. Despite a lackluster offense, UCLA's defense held its own last year. The Bruins limited opponents to 4.86 yards per play (No. 2 in the Pac-12) and allowed 27.5 points per game. Coordinator Tom Bradley has a few major voids to address this offseason. The line loses Eddie Vanderdoes and Takkarist McKinley, linebackers Deon Hollins and Jayon Brown and Marcus Rios, Fabian Moreau and Randall Goforth in the secondary. Just having Rosen under center should make UCLA a bowl team in 2017. However, the improvement in the other areas will determine if the Bruins return to the top 25.

#76: Notre Dame | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Notre Dame's fortunes have not been good recently and questions remain going into this season. QB DeShone Kizer is gone, but sophomore Brandon Wimbush should be primed to take the lead. Four starters return along the offensive line, including left tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Quenton Nelson. Both are expected to be among the first players at their positions off the board in the 2018 NFL Draft. Sam Mustipher should be a more consistent center this season after his first year as a starter in '16. The Irish are loaded at running back, led by junior Josh Adams, who has rushed for 1,768 yards, 11 touchdowns and a 6.4-yard average in his first two years in the program. But the big question on offense is at the wide receiver and tight end positions. Equanimeous St. Brown leads the pack after a breakthrough sophomore season (58 catches, 961 yards, nine TDs). Sophomore wideout Chase Claypool, who flashed his athleticism on coverage teams, and tight end Alize Jones, who missed the 2016 season to tend to academics, are exciting athletes with size, like St. Brown. Over on defense, the Irish boast strong, deep linebacker and cornerback corps, but the defensive line is a real concern. The safeties are talented but young. Among the 11 returning defensive linemen, none recorded a sack in '16, and they combined for just 5.5 tackles for a loss. Ends Daelin Hayes and Jay Hayes offer the most promise. Veteran interior lineman Jerry Tillery has length and experience, but a skimpy stat sheet. There's ample talent at linebacker, where senior Nyles Morgan - who paced the team in tackles (94) and sacks (four) - returns. Senior Buck linebacker Greer Martini has length, athleticism and instincts and forms a one-two punch with Te'von Coney. Drue Tranquill moves from strong safety to the Rover (outside backer) spot and teams with promising Asmar Bilal. The Irish are loaded at cornerback with Nick Watkins coming off an injury-filled '16 and Julian Love, who emerged as a standout true freshman. The speediest of the group is cornerback-nickel Shaun Crawford, who missed all of 2015 with an ACL injury and then tore his Achilles last September.

#75: Arizona State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
After back-to-back 10-win campaigns from 2013-14, Arizona State has posted two consecutive losing seasons and missed out on a bowl in 2016. Is a quick fix in order for 2017? The Sun Devils return enough talent to rebound back to the postseason, led by an offense that has the firepower to be one of the best in the Pac-12. The backfield duo of Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage is among the best in the nation, transfer Blake Barnett should provide stability at quarterback, and the receiving corps features rising star N'Keal Harry. The line is the biggest concern for Graham on offense after this unit surrendered 41 sacks in 2016. Former Baylor coordinator Phil Bennett takes over the play-calling duties for a defense that gave up 39.8 points per game last year and surrendered a whopping 357.4 passing yards a contest. This unit doesn't lose a ton of personnel, so Bennett won't be hurting for experienced players to utilize this spring. Arizona State caught a tough break in scheduling with Oregon, Stanford and Washington in crossover play, as well as road games against Utah and UCLA.

#74: Louisiana | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Ragin' Cajuns return 12 starters for 2017. Coach Mark Hudspeth needs to identify a new starting quarterback after the departure of Anthony Jennings, while standout running back Elijah McGuire expired his eligibility following the 2016 season. Hudspeth's team is strong up front on both sides of the ball but will only go as far as the new backfield tandem on offense performs. Additionally, the schedule isn't in Louisiana's favor. The Ragin' Cajuns play Appalachian State and Arkansas State and take on South Alabama and Idaho in key swing games on the road.

#73: Kentucky | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
With a 7-6 record and an appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl, the Wildcats are coming off their best season under coach Mark Stoops. And there's optimism for this program to continue its upward trend in 2017. With Drew Barker returning from injury, coordinator Eddie Gran will have two options at quarterback. However, the strength of the offense is on the ground with Benny Snell at running back, as well as an offensive line that returns four starters. Center Jon Toth and receiver Jeff Badet are the biggest losses on offense. The defense has not finished higher than 11th in the SEC in points allowed in each of the last four seasons. Will that change in 2017? Linebacker Jordan Jones (15.5 TFL) is a rising star, and the cornerback spot is in good shape with Derrick Baity, Jordan Griffin and Chris Westry. This defense has to get better against the run after surrendering 228.5 yards per game in 2016. Key swing games against South Carolina, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are on the road in 2017. However, the Wildcats host Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee next fall.

#72: Boston College | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Eagles rebounded in 2016 with a 7-6 record and a victory over Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl. Under coach Steve Addazio, Boston College has won at least seven games in three of the four seasons, with the 3-9 record from 2015 the outlier. Another bowl trip should be within reach next fall - provided the Eagles answer a few key questions on offense. Boston College averaged 12 points per game in ACC games and was limited to 3.3 yards per carry in league play. Quarterback Patrick Towles (12 TDs, 7 INTs) expired his eligibility, leaving Darius Wade and Anthony Brown as the top options under center. The backfield is in great shape with the return of Jon Hilliman (542 yards) and Davon Jones (361 yards). With a new quarterback taking over, the Eagles will lean heavily on the line and running backs until the passing attack develops under Wade or Brown. Defense has been a strength for the Eagles in each of the last three years, and this unit should remain strong once again. End Harold Landry is one of the best in the nation and passed on the NFL to return for one more season in Chestnut Hill. Linebacker Matt Milano, end Kevin Kavalec, safety John Johnson and tackle Truman Gutapfel are the biggest losses for coordinator Jim Reid.

#71: Central Michigan | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Central Michigan coach John Bonamego has a tough assignment trying to replace quarterback Cooper Rush this offseason. Michigan transfer Shane Morris and sophomore Tony Poljan will battle in the fall for the starting spot, and if a clear answer emerges, the Chippewas have the necessary firepower to reach six (or more) wins once again. The backfield and receiving corps are deep with options, and the line returns all five starters from 2017. The defense has room to improve after giving up 30.3 points per game in 2016. But this unit returns six starters, including All-MAC selections Joe Ostman, Amari Coleman and Josh Cox.

2017 Preseason Ranking

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