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July 20, 2011

2011 Rivals.com Preseason 120 Countdown

Rivals.com presents its 2011 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 120.

We're starting at the bottom, and our No. 1 team will be unveiled Aug. 18 -- two weeks from the start of the season.

Then you won't see any team rankings from Rivals until early October. The reason: We will wait until enough games have been played so we can legitimately rank the teams.

The team rankings were compiled by college football writers Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.

Rivals.com Preseason Top 120 Countdown for 2011
1. Oklahoma
Bob Stoops and the Sooners start the season on top of our preseason 120, but Oklahoma's path to the BCS title game is not an easy one. [ 2011 season preview ]
2. Alabama
Alabama looks a lot like the 2009 Tide team that won a national championship. But much hinges on Trent Richardson and a new starting QB. [ 2011 season preview ]
3. Oregon
The Ducks, after a tough offseason off the field, could return to the BCS championship game on the field thanks to their prolific offense. [ 2011 season preview ]
4. LSU
A difficult early-season schedule will be a challenge, but the Tigers have all the tools to compete for the national title if QB Jordan Jefferson delivers. [ 2011 season preview ]
5. Boise State
This Broncos team is every bit as good as last year's team that was in the national title hunt. Can Boise reach the BCS national championship game? [ 2011 season preview ]
6. Stanford
First-year coach David Shaw inherited a talented roster from Jim Harbaugh, most notably QB Andrew Luck. Can Shaw keep it going at Stanford? [ 2011 season preview ]
7. Wisconsin
The Badgers entered spring practice with a big question at quarterback, but the arrival of NC State transfer Russell Wilson this summer solved that issue. [ 2011 season preview ]
8. Florida State
The Seminoles are thinking BCS with 18 returning starters plus quarterback EJ Manuel, who has big-game experience, ready to take over. [ 2011 season preview ]
9. Nebraska
Nebraska is poised to make a splash in its Big Ten debut, but issues loom. If they get settled, the Huskers should win the Legends Division. [ 2011 season preview ]
10. Texas A&M
The Aggies' fortunes turned around last season when quarterback Ryan Tannehill took over. How far can he take the Aggies in 2011? [ 2011 season preview ]
11. Oklahoma State
This could be the kind of season billionaire alum T. Boone Pickens was hoping for when he made multimillion-dollar donations to the Cowboys' program. [ 2011 season preview ]
12. Virginia Tech
Frank Beamer's shuffling of his staff shows that he isn't interested in settling for conference titles. He wants to make a run at a BCS title. [ 2011 season preview ]
13. Notre Dame
Depth could be an issue for Notre Dame. But if Brian Kelly can settle on a starting quarterback, the Irish could have a special season. [ 2011 season preview ]
14. Arkansas
At the least, this looks like a nine-win team. It's not a stretch to say the Sept. 24 game at Alabama will determine how the season will go. [ 2011 season preview ]
15. TCU
Coming off an undefeated season, TCU once again has high hopes. But there are some big holes to fill for the Frogs. [ 2011 season preview ]
16. Ohio State
Ohio State was the favorite to win an unprecedented seventh Big Ten crown in a row. Now, the Buckeyes may be playing only for pride. [ 2011 season preview ]
17. South Carolina
For the first time in seemingly forever, big things are expected from the Gamecocks coming off of winning the SEC East last season. [ 2011 season preview ]
18. Michigan State
The 2010 season was a breakthrough for Michigan State under Mark Dantonio. Now the Spartans are thinking Big Ten title. [ 2011 season preview ]
19. USC
Thanks to NCAA sanctions, USC is not eligible to win the Pac-12 title, but the Trojans will go a long way toward deciding who does. [ 2011 season preview ]
20. Arizona State
This should be Dennis Erickson's strongest team since he was 10-3 in his first season at ASU. The Sun Devils are talented enough to win the Pac-12 South. [ 2011 season preview ]
21. Florida
Will Muschamp brings a new staff and a new look to Florida, and there's still loads of talent in Gainesville. But depth could be an issue. [ 2011 season preview ]
22. Texas
The Longhorns figure to rebound after going 5-7. But will they be merely respectable or championship contenders in the Big 12? [ 2011 season preview ]
23. Penn State
Coming off consecutive 11-2 seasons, the Nittany Lions took a step back in 2010. But with the growing pains behind them, they could be ready to roar again. [ 2011 season preview ]
24. West Virginia
Between the ugly departure of Bill Stewart and being placed on NCAA probation, WVU had a rough offseason. The 'Eers should make noise on the field. [ 2011 season preview ]
25. BYU
The Cougars finished just 7-6 last season, but they looked like a top 25 team toward the end of 2010 - and most of the players from a year ago are back. [ 2011 season preview ]
26. Utah
If the Utes are competitive through October, they have a chance to make some noise in the Pac-12 South race in their first year in the league. [ 2011 season preview ]
27. Georgia
Mark Richt has had great success in 10 years as coach of the Bulldogs, but they have lost 12 games in the past two seasons and he's under the gun. [ 2011 season preview ]
28. Miami
The expectations for the Hurricanes last season probably were a little too high. This Miami team, however should outperform the 2010 model. [ 2011 season preview ]
29. Air Force
The Falcons have a potent offense, led by QB Tim Jefferson, and they have designs on challenging Boise State and TCU for the Mountain West title. [ 2011 season preview ]
30. Auburn
Cam Newton is gone, and the defending national champion Tigers return only five starters (on offense and defense). Are they headed for a big fall? [ 2011 season preview ]
31. Mississippi State
The Bulldogs are coming off a nine-victory season, but they never have had back-to-back seasons with at least nine wins in their 116-year history of football. [ 2011 season preview ]
32. Texas Tech
Tommy Tuberville's first season in Lubbock produced an 8-5 record. This season, the Red Raiders hope to make progress behind QB Seth Doege. [ 2011 season preview ]
33. North Carolina
The Tar Heels are counting on their talented line and receiving corps to make up for the lack of experience in the backfield. Replacing QB T.J. Yates is key. [ 2011 season preview ]
34. Missouri
James Franklin steps in at quarterback for the Tigers, replacing Blaine Gabbert, and he'll be key if they are going to make a run at the Big 12 championship. [ 2011 season preview ]
35. Pittsburgh
Todd Graham inherits an experienced team, and if the Panthers adapt to the new system fast enough it could be a big season in the Steel City. [ 2011 season preview ]
36. Michigan
How quickly can Brady Hoke turn things aruond? Michigan isn't ready to compete for the Big Ten title, but there's enough talent on hand to return to a bowl. [ 2011 season preview ]
37. San Diego State
Coach Brady Hoke has left for Michigan, but QB Ryan Lindley and RB Ronnie Hillman are back to form a dynamic 1-2 punch for the Aztecs. [ 2011 season preview ]
38. Iowa
The Hawkeyes' schedule sets up very nicely for them. A 9-0 start isn't out of the question, which will make for an interesting finish in the Big Ten race. [ 2011 season preview ]
39. SMU
The Mustangs, undergoing a revival under June Jones, might be the most talented team in Conference USA, but the schedule won't make things easy. [ 2011 season preview ]
40. Clemson
It's tempting to say the Tigers will be one of this season's pleasant surprises, but not everyone is sold on coach Dabo Swinney, who is under fire. [ 2011 season preview ]
41. Boston College
The Eagles have star power in RB Montel Harris and LB Luke Kuechly, but the lack of a passing game may cost them in the ACC championship race. [ 2011 season preview ]
42. Arizona
Mike Stoops has led the Wildcats to three consecutive bowl appearances, but are the Wildcats legitimate contenders for the Pac-12 South title? [ 2011 season preview ]
43. USF
USF has gone to six straight bowls, but Skip Holtz and the Bulls are still looking for a true breakthrough season and that elusive Big East title. [ 2011 season preview ]
44. Maryland
The Terps, who hired UConn's Randy Edsall as their new coach, may have a better team this season, but they may not finish with a better record. [ 2011 season preview ]
45. UCF
Despite some key personnel losses, especially on defense, UCF has the talent to repeat as C-USA East Division champs and even as the league champ. [ 2011 season preview ]
46. Houston
The Cougars were a BCS bust last season, but quarterback Case Keenum is back from injury and they should be on the prowl again. [ 2011 season preview ]
47. Tulsa
Assuming the Golden Hurricane are as smooth offensively under the new staff as they were with the previous one, Tulsa should vie for the C-USA title. [ 2011 season preview ]
48. Northwestern
The Wildcats are in the middle of one of their best runs in school history. How far can coach Pat Fitzgerald, a Northwestern alum, take the Wildcats? [ 2011 season preview ]
49. Tennessee
The Volunteers have just eight seniors on the roster, but they have some young and talented players - and they'll be thrown right into the SEC fire. [ 2011 season preview ]
50. Navy
The Middies have won at least eight games every season since 2003. Can they keep it going with a first-year QB and many new starters on defense? [ 2011 season preview ]
51. Washington
The Huskies are rising under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian, but Huskies fans are concerned now that quarterback Jake Locker is gone. [ 2011 season preview ]
52. Oregon State
The Beavers finished with a losing season for the third time since 2000, but they bounced back in a big way the other two times. Can they do it again? [ 2011 season preview ]
53. Southern Miss
The Golden Eagles' offense is good enough to win the Conference USA championship, but the defense is the big question mark at Southern Miss. [ 2011 season preview ]
54. Ole Miss
After back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories, the Rebels took a major step back last season, finishing 4-8. Ole Miss may struggle again in the SEC West. [ 2011 season preview ]
55. Hawaii
The Warriors enjoyed their best season under fourth-year coach Greg McMackin and are poised to make another run at the WAC championship. [ 2011 season preview ]
56. Illinois
Ron Zook has some momentum, and he'll look to lead the Illini to back-to-back bowls for the first time since they went to five straight in 1988-92. [ 2011 season preview ]
57. Northern Illinois
Jerry Kill left for Minnesota, but new coach Dave Doeren is a bright mind who has plenty to work with as the Huskies look to keep it rolling. [ 2011 season preview ]
58. Baylor
Now that their 15-year postseason drought is over, the Bears look to become a legitimate contender in the Big 12. They do have Robert Griffin III, after all. [ 2011 season preview ]
59. Syracuse
After nearly a decade of futility, Doug Marrone has the Orange on the right track and in line to contend for a Big East championship sooner rather than later. [ 2011 season preview ]
60. California
Despite a quarterback who hasn't played in a year, no proven running back and no games on its home field, the overall feeling at Cal remains optimistic. [ 2011 season preview ]
61. Louisville
Charlie Strong needed only one season to lift the Cardinals out of the malaise of the Steve Kragthorpe era, and all signs point to a return to the Big East elite. [ 2011 season preview ]
62. Fresno State
With Boise State out of the league, Fresno State has good a chance as any team to win the WAC title this season, but the non-conference schedule is brutal. [ 2011 season preview ]
63. Kentucky
The Wildcats have gone to a school-record five straight bowl games, but they finished with a losing record last season and lost their two best players. [ 2011 season preview ]
64. N.C. State
The good news is the schedule isn't that difficult; a 4-0 start looks likely. But the closing five games make for a tough finish to the regular season. [ 2011 season preview ]
65. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets have gone to 14 straight bowls, tying the fourth-longest streak nationally. Making it 15 in a row is going to require some work. [ 2011 season preview ]
66. Toledo
Tim Beckman has one of the best teams in the MAC. Experience abounds on both sides of the ball, but the kicking game must improve. [ 2011 season preview ]
67. Colorado
Jon Embree takes on the challenge of leading the program into the expanded Pac-12 and back to national prominence. That likely will require time. [ 2011 season preview ]
68. UCLA
Rick Neuheisel, who brought in new coordinators on both sides of the ball, needs a strong season to retain his job. The opener at Houston should be a test. [ 2011 season preview ]
69. Kansas State
The Wildcats obviously are hoping to start and finish strong in 2011. That will require better quarterback play and dramatic improvement in run defense. [ 2011 season preview ]
70. East Carolina
The offense is good enough to win a C-USA crown. But the Pirates have no shot at the East Division unless the defense makes drastic improvement. [ 2011 season preview ]
71. Miami University
New coach Don Treadwell has enough talent on hand to keep the RedHawks at or near the top of the MAC East. But the schedule has hurdles. [ 2011 season preview ]
72. Nevada
If the Wolf Pack and their new backfield can get out of a tough early-season stretch with their ego intact, it can make a run at another WAC title. [ 2011 season preview ]
73. Rutgers
Rutgers slipped back to the Scarlet Knights of old last season. With major changes on offense and defense, no one will accuse Rutgers of standing still. [ 2011 season preview ]
74. Purdue
The make-or-break stretch of the season will be October. Can Purdue go 2-3 in the month? If not, it may be home for the holidays for the fourth straight year. [ 2011 season preview ]
75. Cincinnati
Four of the first six games are at home this season, and the schedule as a whole isn't that daunting. Still, getting to a bowl isn't a given by any stretch. [ 2011 season preview ]
76. Troy
The Trojans should battle Florida International for the Sun Belt title. One advantage for them is Corey Robinson, the best QB in the league, returns. [ 2011 season preview ]
77. Temple
Al Golden may be gone, but new coach Steve Addazio has a decent roster to work with as the Owls shoot for another winning season. [ 2011 season preview ]
78. Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs could be the surprise team in the WAC, especially if RB Lennon Creer, a Tennessee transfer, has another big year. [ 2011 season preview ]
79. Florida International
Mario Cristobal led the Golden Panthers to a winning record and a bowl victory last season, and they have a good chance at a repeat performance. [ 2011 season preview ]
80. Virginia
If the Cavaliers can sort out their quarterback situation, they can earn a bowl bid. A soft early schedule could enable UVa to get off to a 4-1 start. [ 2011 season preview ]
81. Connecticut
New coach Paul Pasqualoni won't make many scheme changes, but could the Huskies go from the Big East championship to the cellar in the league? [ 2011 season preview ]
82. Kansas
Turner Gill's first season with the Jayhawks didn't go too well, and it won't get any easier this season with six straight games against bowl teams from '10. [ 2011 season preview ]
83. Ohio
The Bobcats' bowl hopes are fueled by one of the weakest non-conference schedules in the MAC as well as the fact that their big league games are at home. [ 2011 season preview ]
84. Army
The Black Knights have reason for optimism after earning their first bowl victory since '85 last season, but they have holes to fill if they want a return trip. [ 2011 season preview ]
85. Western Michigan
The key for the Broncos' success will be the defense. Can it pick up where it left off in '10, when it allowed a total of 10 total in the final two games? [ 2011 season preview ]
86. UAB
The Blazers had a shot to go bowling last season but lost a few games (FAU and Rice) they should have won. They should have a similar shot this season. [ 2011 season preview ]
87. Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons took a big step back in 2010, and it may take them a few years to get back into a bowl and into the hunt in the ACC's Atlantic Division. [ 2011 season preview ]
88. Iowa State
The Cyclones have earned some big win under Paul Rhoads. Now they look to become a contender in a slimmed-down, 10-team Big 12. [ 2011 season preview ]
89. Indiana
The Hoosiers have been to just one bowl since the '93 season, but new coach Kevin Wilson, the former OC at Oklahoma, plans to make Indiana relevant. [ 2011 season preview ]
90. Colorado State
The Rams should be better offensively with QB Pete Thomas leading the way, but they won't make serious progress until the defense improves. [ 2011 season preview ]
91. Duke
The Blue Devils showed they can throw the ball in 2010, but they must improve their defense if they're going to make a move up the ACC standings. [ 2011 season preview ]
92. Tulane
Bob Toledo hasn't had a winning record in four seasons as the head coach of the Green Wave, but that may be about to change. [ 2011 season preview ]
93. Wyoming
After a 7-6 record and a bowl victory in 2009, the Cowboys fell way back in 2010. An unsettled quarterback situation is an issue this season. [ 2011 season preview ]
94. Louisiana-Monroe
The Warhawks look like a good dark-horse pick to capture the Sun Belt title this season, but surviving the first month of the season won't be easy. [ 2011 season preview ]
95. Central Michigan
The Chippewas took a step back in Dan Enos' first season as coach, missing a bowl game for the first time since 2005. They'll look to rebound. [ 2011 season preview ]
96. Florida Atlantic
Howard Schnellenberger and the Owls will open up a new 30,000-seat, on-campus stadium this fall, and they hope to use that as momentum. [ 2011 season preview ]
97. Marshall
The Thundering Herd finished strong last season, Doc Holliday's first as coach, and a solid defense gives them lots of optimism heading into this season. [ 2011 season preview ]
98. North Texas
Former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney takes over for the Mean Green, and a .500 season is a legitimate goal in his first season at North Texas. [ 2011 season preview ]
99. Arkansas State
Hugh Freeze, an assistant for the Red Wolves last season, is now in charge. QB Ryan Aplin could be key to any bowl hopes Arkansas State has this season. [ 2011 season preview ]
100 Vanderbilt
James Franklin, who had been offensive coordinator at Maryland, takes over as coach, and he has a lot of work to do with the Commodores. [ 2011 season preview ]
101. Washington State
A respectable showing to end the 2010 season has Cougars fans hopeful that the team can move up in the Pac-12 standings this season. [ 2011 season preview ]
102. Minnesota
New coach Jerry Kill has been successful everywhere he's been and brought most of his staff from Northern Illinois, but a bowl this season will be tough. [ 2011 season preview ]
103. UNLV
Bobby Hauck had a difficult first season with the Runnin' Rebels, and this season may not be much different. There are holes everywhere. [ 2011 season preview ]
104. Utah State
The Aggies may very well be the WAC's biggest mystery team. They could flirt with the .500 mark, especially if the new quarterback comes through. [ 2011 season preview ]
105. Kent State
The Golden Flashes nearly wen't bowling last season thanks to their defense. But three key players are gone, so the offense has to step up this season. [ 2011 season preview ]
106. Rice
The Owls have a new offensive coordinator, but the defense is going to have to make strides if they are going to get back into the bowl hunt. [ 2011 season preview ]
107. Middle Tennessee
Even without Dwight Dasher, the Blue Raiders' offense should be good enough to contend for a top-four Sun Belt finish. Defense is the biggest concern. [ 2011 season preview ]
108. Bowling Green
Dave Clawson took the Falcons to a bowl in 2009, but they regressed last season and could be in for more of the same this season. [ 2011 season preview ]
109. UTEP
The Miners have been successful under Mike Price when the offense has excelled, but only two starters return on that side of the ball. [ 2011 season preview ]
110. New Mexico
Mike Locksley is coaching for his job this season after back-to-back 1-11 seasons. He has improved the talent level, but it hasn't shown on the field. [ 2011 season preview ]
111. San Jose State
Freshmen played a key role for the Spartans last season, and all those youngsters should be even better as sophomores in Mike MacIntyre's second season. [ 2011 season preview ]
112. Western Kentucky
Second-year coach Willie Taggart has done a nice job on the recruiting trail, but it won't likely show up for the Hilltoppers this season. [ 2011 season preview ]
113. Buffalo
The Bulls won the MAC title under Turner Gill in 2009 and looked to have turned the corner. But Gill is gone and the team has regressed. [ 2011 season preview ]
114. Idaho
The Vandals went to a bowl in 2009 and just missed last season, but they have lost many key performers so getting to a bowl this season won't be easy. [ 2011 season preview ]
115. Eastern Michigan
The Eagles won't move up until they get tougher on defense, but coach Ron English has improved the talent on that side of the ball. [ 2011 season preview ]
116. Ball State
New coach Pete Lembo, who came from Elon, prefers a no-huddle, pro-style offense, so the Cardinals' quarterbacks and wide receivers have a lot to prove. [ 2011 season preview ]
117. Louisiana-Lafayette
New coach Mark Hudspeth is a former coach at Division II power North Alabama, where he won a national title. He has the Sun Belt's biggest mystery team. [ 2011 season preview ]
118. Akron
The Zips were winless last season until their finale against Buffalo, and it very well could be more of the same this season. But they have winnable games. [ 2011 season preview ]
119. Memphis
You can win in C-USA with a bad defense. But when the offense is bad, too, that's trouble. That was the Tigers in 2010. They look to reverse the trend. [ 2011 season preview ]
120. New Mexico State
The schedule isn't overly difficult, but it won't matter unless the Aggies find a way to ignite their offense. Hopefully a large junior college class will help. [ 2011 season preview ]

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