2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 108
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 6

The North Carolina Tar Heels were the embodiment of inconsistency in 2009. The offense was pitiful while the defense was outstanding, and the team had multiple winning and losing streaks. Head Coach Butch Davis needs to win now, considering most of his defensive stars will be playing their final season in Chapel Hill.

The Tar Heels’ defense was superb last season. They were the only team in the nation to rank in the top 15 in all important defensive statistics and they return nine starters. Defensive end Robert Quinn returns after recording 11 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He is joined on the line by fellow top NFL prospect Marvin Austin. Linebacker Quan Sturdivant led a solid group of linebackers and was top ten in the ACC with 12 tackles for loss. The secondary starts four seniors who combined for 19 interceptions last year. Deunta Williams is one of the best safeties in the country and cornerbacks Kendrick Burney and Charles Brown are rock solid.

UNC Tar Heels College Football Cheerleader

The defense will have to support North Carolina since their offense is anemic. Senior quarterback T.J. Yates will try to maintain the starting spot after struggling to throw 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last year. Redshirt freshman Bryn Renner will challenge him and could take over the position. The running back duo of Ryan Houston and Shaun Draughn is decent, but won’t scare anyone. Houston, the team’s leading rusher in 2009, averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. The receiving corps is slightly better, headlined by senior Greg Little. He caught 62 passes for 724 yards last season and may be better with a stronger quarterback. The offensive line returns three starters, but is still shaky at best. They need to control the line to give their offense a chance to succeed.

They say defense wins championships. North Carolina is hoping that is the truth. The defense should again be in the top 20 in the country, but their offense must improve to compete with the top teams in the conference.

North Carolina’s odds to win the ACC: +500

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Virginia Tech Hokies 2010-2011 Season Preview

2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 50
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 12

A high powered offense and a suspect defense. That doesn’t sound like the Virginia Tech Hokies of the past, but it will likely be a good description for the 2010 version. After having lost multiple game changing defensive players, the Hokies will rely on their balanced, intimidating scoring attack.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor Tyrod Taylor will return for his third season as the starter, and he has continued to improve with added playing time. Last season he threw for over 2,300 yards and rushed for 570 more. He is a versatile player that can beat you with his arms or legs. He has a talented stable of receivers at his disposal, led by juniors Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale. The two combined for 1,450 yards receiving and both averaged over 20 yards per reception. The passing game should be even better this year considering the fact defenses will have to devote most of their attention to the running game.

Virginia Tech Hokies College Football Cheerleader

Virginia Tech has arguably the best running back duo in the country in Ryan Williams Ryan Williams and Darren Evans Darren Evans. The ACC rookie of the year in 2009, Williams burst onto the scene with 1,655 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. Evans, who missed all of 2009 with an ACL injury, rushed for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2008. It is an embarrassment of riches in the backfield for the Hokies. The only area of concern on offense is the left side of the offensive line. The starting guard and tackle are gone, but the team has quality depth and should be fine.

The often dominant Virginia Tech defense may not be as strong as in past years. Six starters from last year are gone, including three defensive lineman and leading tackler Cody Grimm. Lombardi Watch List member linebacker Barquell Rivers may miss the start of the season due to a torn quadriceps injury. With the holes in the front seven, the secondary has become the strength of the squad. Cornerback Rashad Carmichael is one of the best in the country and Jayron Hosley should get the start opposite him.

The Hokies have the offensive talent to do some big things this year. It is clear they will put up a lot of points this, but will the defense be able to stop anyone? The team opens the season against a tough Boise State team so it won’t take long to learn if this team is a contender or pretender.

Virginia Tech’s odds to win the ACC: +400

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Miami Hurricanes 2010-2011 Season Preview

2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 45
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 29

The Miami Hurricanes are hoping 2010 will be the year they return to national prominence. The five time national champion returns most of its key players after having a nine win season in 2009. Head Coach Randy Shannon just got a new contract extension and the school hopes he can continue to build on what he started.

There is a lot of talk in Coral Gables about a possible Heisman trophy for quarterback Jacory Harris. Last season he threw for over 3,300 yards and 24 touchdowns but also 17 interceptions, second most in the nation. The Canes think offseason thumb surgery will help his accuracy and limit turnovers this year. He has a deep group of receivers, led by senior Leonard Hankerson. Harris spread the ball around well last year, with seven receivers having over 200 yards receiving. The loss of tight end Jimmy Graham puts into question how much production will come from that position. Richard Gordon, the most experienced tight end, has only four career catches.

Miami Hurricanes College Football Cheerleader

Miami will use the running game heavily to provide balance for Harris. Graig Cooper will miss at least part of the season from an injury suffered in last year’s bowl game, so Damien Berry will be the starter. He had an impressive 6.6 yards per carry, and has quality backups in Mike James and Lamar Miller. The offensive line is an area of concern, ranking 100th in sacks allowed, that must improve for the Canes to be successful.

All ACC junior cornerback Brandon Harris headlines the defense after the loss of middle linebacker Darryl Sharpton. The rest of the secondary is very solid and will be a strength of the team. The defensive line is extremely deep. Defensive end Allen Bailey returns after he led the team in sacks. Linebacker Sean Spence will try to regain his ACC defensive rookie of the year form in 2008, but the bigger question is who will take over the middle spot vacated by Sharpton?

The Hurricanes could be on the brink of a championship season. They have a balanced attack and a solid defense. Jacory Harris is the key to the season though. As he goes, so will the Hurricanes.

Miami’s odds to win the ACC: +250.

See all of our 2010-2011 college football season previews.

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2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 26
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 54

Last season’s Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champions, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, were both exciting and boring at the same time. Their triple option offense had its share of big plays, but it is predicated on running the ball and chewing up the clock. The Yellow Jackets ranked third in the nation in time of possession and averaged 56 rushes per game.

Georgia Tech College Football Cheerleader

The offense will continue to utilize the same style of attack, even without stars Jonathan Dwyer (running back) and Demariyus Thomas (wide receiver). Thankfully for Tech though, quarterback Josh Nesbitt is still in Atlanta to lead the offense. He threw for 1,701 yards last year, but more impressively ran for 1,037 with 18 touchdowns.

Anthony Allen will take over the number one running back job after averaging an eye-popping 9.7 yards per carry on 64 attempts. Roddy Jones and Embry Peeples will also have larger roles in the offense. Losing Thomas and his 46 catches hurts, especially since entire rest of the team had only 32. The team is hoping Stephen Hill will be able to step in and provide the offense some balance.

Georgia Tech’s defense is switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme. This move makes sense considering the depth at linebacker and the lack thereof on the line. Sack specialist Derrick Morgan moved on to the NFL, but eight starters return from last season. Brad Jefferson, last year’s leading tackler, will move into one of the inside linebacker spots. The secondary is solid, with Mario Butler serving as a true shutdown corner. The main question is, who will provide the pass rush now that Morgan is gone?

The Yellow Jackets lost a lot of talent from last year’s championship team, but have some players ready to step in. The rest of the conference has continued to improve, but if Nesbitt stays healthy and a replacement for Morgan is found, this team will again be in the hunt for the ACC title.

Georgia Tech’s odds to win the ACC: +1000.

 

Illinois Illini 2010-2011 Season Preview

2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 47
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 91

The 2009 season was simply a disaster for the Illinois Illini. Winning only three games, after only 5 wins in 2008, puts head coach Ron Zook firmly on the hot seat. Losing key offensive stars Arrelious Benn (wide receiver) and Jon Asamoah (guard) could make things even worse.

The brightest spot for Illinois in 2009 was their running game. Leading rusher Mikel Leshoure rushed for 765 yards with an incredible 6.8 yards per carry. In addition, backup running back Jason Ford averaged 6.1 yards per carry. These two running backs have a lot of big play potential, and should have another strong season running behind an offensive line that returns three starters.

Illinois Illini College Football Cheerleader

There is a new quarterback in town now that Juice Williams is gone. Redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase will take over leading the offense. Scheelhasse is a very mobile quarterback who rushed for over 800 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior in high school.

Jarred Fayson and Jack Ramsey are the starting receivers, but they have a lot to prove.

Illinois’ defense was terrible last year, ranking near the bottom of the national rankings in points allowed, passing yards allowed, total yards allowed and sacks. There is a lot of excitement surrounding middle linebacker Martez Wilson who was injured in the season opener and missed the rest of the season. He was a highly regarded recruit, and the Illinois defense needs him to step up. Sack leader Clay Nurse returns, along with most of the starters from a year ago. The secondary is a position of weakness, especially because of a lacking pass rush.

Illinois is going to have a hard time making a big improvement over last year’s record. If they get some breaks and some players play up to potential they can be a .500 team, but anything more than that is unlikely.

Illinois’ odds to win the Big Ten: +2000

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2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 109
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 63

When looking at the 2010-2011 schedule for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, anyone can see it will be an uphill battle to reach seven wins. Tough games against Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State and USC jump out, but there are few easy wins on the schedule. For a team in transition, this could spell big trouble.

Only two starters from last year’s offense are gone, but that may not be a good thing. Minnesota’s offense averaged the least amount of points scored and yards gained of any team in the Big Ten. To make things worse, the Gophers lost their best player in wide receiver Eric Decker.

Minnesota Golden Gophers College Football Cheerleader

Quarterback Adam Weber started off strong in his freshman year, but has only regressed over the last two years. He threw for more interceptions than touchdowns last year, but that may be partially due to a weak offensive line.

The line ranked 113th in the country in sacks allowed and Minnesota’s running game was the worst in the conference. Leading rusher Duane Bennett returns, but don’t expect too much more than his 395 yards rushing in 2009.

There aren’t any household names in the receiving corps, so we’ll see if the Gophers will be able to move the ball at all this season.

The defense showed some signs of improvement last year, but all but two starters are gone. The two “returning” starters, both safeties, may not actually play this season for Minnesota. One suffered an injury and could miss significant time and the other was recently suspended. As hard as it is to believe, Minnesota could have 11 new defensive starters on opening day. No matter how good the replacements are, they will have struggles early and often against good offenses.

Minnesota is a team that looks to be in for a long season. Both the offense and defense should be one of the worst in the conference, maybe even the country. The Gophers will be lucky to get 5 wins in 2010.

Minnesota’s odds to win the Big Ten: +3000

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Indiana Hoosiers 2010-2011 Season Preview

2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 72
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 88

The Indiana Hoosiers thought 2009 was going to be their year. The team started the season 3-0 and confidence was high. Unfortunately for them, they finished the season 1-8 and were exposed in many areas. The team will be fun to watch, with a high flying air attack, but it is unlikely they will get a bowl bid.

Senior quarterback Ben Chappell returns after throwing for 2,941 yards last season. His top two receiving options return as well in Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher. These tall receivers combined for over 1,700 yards receiving and are arguably the best receiving duo in the Big Ten. Partially because of their porous defense, Indiana will likely rely on the passing game once again.

Indiana Hoosiers College Football Cheerleader

The offensive line is serviceable, with three starters coming back. The biggest loss will be Roger Saffold, the prized tackle who was drafted 33rd overall. The running game didn’t do much damage behind the offensive line, but that may not be the line’s fault. Leading rusher Darius Willis had only 643 yards rushing, but averaged an impressive 4.9 yards per carry. If the Hoosiers were more committed to the running game, they might have had more success.

It’s a good thing Indiana’s offense has the ability to score, because its defense lacks the ability to stop anyone. The defense gave up almost 30 points per game in 2009 and lost most of its best players. Only one of the top nine tacklers from last year, linebacker Tyler Replogle, is back in 2010. The loss of the dynamic duo of defensive ends, Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton, will really hurt this team. The team is switching the positions of four players in order to provide depth on the roster.

With an easy non-conference schedule to begin the season, Indiana should again get off to a good start. The defensive issues will show themselves against better competition though, and the Hoosiers will have a hard time keeping up in the Big Ten.

Indiana’s odds to win the Big Ten: +3000

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2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 40
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 47

The Northwestern Wildcats surprised in 2009, winning 8 games under head coach Pat Fitzgerald. Not known as a football school, Northwestern has done a good job staying competitive in a tough Big Ten conference. With four easy games to start the season and no games against Ohio State, the Wildcats have a chance to go bowling again.

Most of the offensive starters from last year will return, except for the most important one. Quarterback Mike Kafka led the Big Ten in total offense and passing yards last year. Out of the spread offense he threw for 3,430 yards and rushed for another 519.

Northwestern Wildcats College Football Cheerleader

Stepping in for him will be Senior Mike Persa who threw for 224 yards in 2009. Also gone are the starting receivers from last season. Drake Dunsmore and Jeremy Ebert are quality receivers who should be able to step in and produce. The entire starting offensive line returns, but they weren’t exactly amazing last year. Outside of Kafka, the next leading rusher had only 324 yards.

The Wildcats’ defense loses four of its best players in defensive end Corey Wooten, cornerback Sherrick McManis and both safeties. The front seven should remain strong with linebackers Quentin Davie and Nate Williams and end Vince Browne. This defense needs young players to step into key roles or teams will be able to slice them up through the air.

Losing so many quality players will definitely have an impact on Northwestern. As with most teams, new starters will have to perform in order for them to have a chance at another bowl game and continuing to build a new football tradition.

Northwestern’s odds to win the Big Ten: +2000

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Michigan Wolverines 2010-2011 Season Preview

2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 59
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 82

In Rich Rodriguez’s first two years as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, the team has been an utter disappointment. After starting the 2009 season 4-0, they won only one game the rest of the season. The blue and maize faithful won’t put up with another subpar year, so Rodriguez better work fast.

The Michigan Wolverines’ offense was decent last year. They don’t have a lot of big names or starpower, but were able to move the ball well between freshman quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. Both are very mobile (rushed for a combined 591 yards) and should be better in their second years. Robinson will challenge Forcier for a starting spot after Forcier threw ten interceptions and only 13 touchdowns.

There is a deep group of serviceable receivers, headlined by junior Roy Roundtree. A feature running back has been missing from Michigan’s offense, with last year’s top rusher only gaining 503 yards on the ground.

Michigan Wolverines College Football Cheerleader

After ranking 115th in the nation in turnover margin, Michigan’s defense has many areas to work on. Losing star defensive end Brandon Graham is a big blow, and it will interesting to see if they can recover. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson is instituting a 3-3-5 defense to try and fix some of the team’s issues. The team gave up 172 yards per game on the ground in 2009, and it is difficult to have confidence that anything will change.

Another long year appears to be on the horizon for the Wolverines. The team is no better than average, with holes all over the field. All signs point to the Rodriguez era as a huge failure.

Michigan’s odds to win the Big Ten: +1200

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2009 Total Offense Rank (yards per game): 38
2009 Total Defense Rank (yards per game): 73

The Michigan State Spartans had a rough 2009 season, finishing with a disappointing six wins. Head coach Mark Dantonio, known as a defensive guru, led a lackluster defense that couldn’t get the job done. The Spartans do have some talent coming back, but it will be an uphill battle in a tough Big Ten conference.

Michigan State’s defense ranked 112th in the country against the pass last year. The team forced only 14 turnovers (6 interceptions), and allowed a whopping 42 passing touchdowns. The one bright spot is linebacker Greg Jones, a potential defensive player of the year for the upcoming season. In 2009, he had 154 tackles (14 fMichigan State Spartans College Football Cheerleaderor loss) and nine sacks. He is a game changing player that opposing offenses have to account for on every play.

The Spartans offense played relatively well last season, scoring almost 30 points per game. In his first year as a starter, quarterback Kirk Cousins was productive throwing for 2,680 yards and 19 touchdowns. His second season should be even better considering many of his top receivers return. Junior B.J. Cunningham had 641 yards receiving and Keshawn Martin averaged almost 23 yards per catch. The loss of top receiver Blair White will hurt, but the receiving corps should prove serviceable.

The running game, on the other hand, needs serious improvement. Coach Dantonio has not named a starter for this season, but it looks like last year’s leading rusher Larry Caper will get the nod. Caper had only 503 yards rushing with a 3.9 yards per carry average. For the Spartans offense to have a chance, they have to improve their running game.

Outside of Greg Jones, this team does not have a lot of star power. In a tough conference, the Spartans will be lucky to break even this year. Coach Dantonio has a lot of work to do and the Spartans will likely be an average team once again in 2010.

Michigan State’s odds to win the Big Ten: +1200

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