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Athlon Sports College Football 2016 Team Rankings 1-128

Athlon ranks every team for the 2016 season.

The 2016 college football season is less than 100 days away, but the countdown to kickoff is officially underway. Athlon Sports’ 2016 College Football Preview annuals are already on newsstands across the county and available for order in the online store, hosted by Amazon. Each year, Athlon Sports produces regional preview magazines for the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, as well as a national edition with previews for all 128 teams.

 

Who will make the College Football Playoff and how will the 2016 season look by December? Athlon Sports has projected how the results will play out and ranked every team 1 to 128 based upon its finish for 2016. This NCAA college football ranking represents where we think teams will finish – not where they should start at the beginning of the season. 

 

Conference Predictions

 

Power 5: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

 

Group of 5: American | C-USA | MAC | MW | Sun Belt

 

Follow the Athlon Sports' college football team on Twitter: @AthlonSports, @JasmineLWatkins, @AthlonSteven, @AthlonMitch, @BradenGall, @DavidFox615, @RichMcVey

 

Athlon Sports Projected 128 Team Rankings for 2016
Athlon Sports 2016 College Football 1-128 Team Rankings
1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide suffered key losses on both sides of the ball, but this team reloads as well as any in the nation. Expect Nick Saban's team to lean on its defense and ground attack until the offense finds stability at quarterback. Team
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2. Florida State: After winning 10 games in a rebuilding season, FSU is poised to challenge for the title. Most of the roster returns intact, but the Seminoles have to find a QB and replace cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Dalvin Cook is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman.

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3. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have the fewest returning starters (six) of any Power 5 team. However, thanks to elite recruiting classes, Ohio State should be able to reload in a hurry. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Buckeyes can lean on J.T. Barrett until the rest of the pieces fall into place.

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4. Clemson: Even though the Tigers suffered heavy losses on defense, quarterback Deshaun Watson and the nation’s top receiving corps is more than enough to keep Clemson in the hunt for the national title.

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5. Michigan: Jim Harbaugh already has Michigan back among the nation’s top teams. The Wolverines have to find a quarterback, but this team can lean on its defense — led by new coordinator Don Brown — to push Ohio State for the Big Ten title.

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6. Oklahoma: The Sooners are a heavy favorite to win the Big 12, but there are potential landmines on a schedule that features road trips to TCU, Texas Tech and West Virginia. If the voids on the offensive line and defense are filled, quarterback Baker Mayfield could carry Oklahoma to another playoff berth.

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7. Tennessee: The Volunteers have made steady improvement under coach Butch Jones, and the pieces are in place to challenge for the SEC title. Tennessee returns 18 starters, including quarterback Joshua Dobbs and end Derek Barnett.

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8. Notre Dame: Brian Kelly’s team lost a handful of key players from last year’s 10-3 squad. But the Fighting Irish have a manageable schedule, two proven quarterbacks and enough of a foundation on both sides of the ball to push for 10 wins once again.

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9. LSU: After coaching drama surrounding Les Miles at the end of 2015, LSU is loaded for a run at a CFP berth. As usual, the Tigers will lean on their ground attack and defense to carry the team. However, Brandon Harris and the passing game have to improve to win the SEC.

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10. Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze must replace three first-round picks, but the Rebels have recruited well enough to prevent a huge drop off. Chad Kelly is the SEC’s top signal-caller and there’s no shortage of options at receiver.

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11. Washington: The Huskies are poised for a breakthrough year in Chris Petersen’s third season. Talented sophomores Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin are two of the Pac-12’s top players on offense, while the defense returns eight starters from a unit that allowed only 18.8 points a game last year.

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12. Stanford: Stanford has won three of the last four Pac-12 titles, but David Shaw’s team was hit hard by personnel departures. However, the Cardinal still has enough returning talent to challenge for the conference title — especially with running back Christian McCaffrey leading the way.

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13. Michigan State: The Spartans have won at least 11 games in five of the last six years. Despite the loss of quarterback Connor Cook, end Shilique Calhoun and standout linemen Jack Conklin and Jack Allen, coach Mark Dantonio won’t allow Michigan State to slip too far in the rankings.

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14. UCLA: Similar to rival USC, UCLA enters 2016 with its share of questions. However, the Bruins return the Pac-12’s top quarterback in Josh Rosen, and the schedule is more manageable than the Trojans’ brutal slate. The defense returns eight starters, and standout end Eddie Vanderdoes is back from injury.

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15. Houston: The bar is set high for Houston after a 13-1 record in Tom Herman’s first season. The Cougars are the top Group of 5 team for 2016 and could climb into the playoff discussion with wins over Oklahoma and Louisville in non-conference games.

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16. Georgia: New coach Kirby Smart inherits a roster filled with promising talent and one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits in Jacob Eason. However, running back Nick Chubb is recovering from a serious knee injury, and the defense features a revamped front seven.

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17. TCU: TCU will be a dark horse contender in the Big 12. Only one starter returns on offense, but there’s a good foundation in place at the skill positions. The Horned Frogs are loaded on defense and return four key players who missed all or most of last year due to injury.

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18. Louisville: The Cardinals finished the 2015 season by winning six of their final seven games. Bobby Petrino’s team should build on that momentum in 2016 with 16 returning starters and the emergence of dynamic quarterback Lamar Jackson.

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19. Iowa: The Hawkeyes were one of college football’s biggest surprises in 2015 and open 2016 as the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten West. Quarterback C.J. Beathard leads the way on offense, while the defense returns eight starters.

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20. Florida: The defense is still among the best in the SEC, but Florida has to find some answers on offense after averaging 12.6 points over the final six games of 2015. Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is expected to start at quarterback.

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21. North Carolina: New quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a rising star, and the supporting cast is among the best in the ACC. The defense showed some improvement under new coordinator Gene Chizik last year but has to get tougher against the run.

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22. USC: Clay Helton’s first full season on the job features one of the nation’s toughest schedules, a quarterback battle and a completely revamped defensive line.

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23. Oregon: The Ducks hope another FCS transfer (Dakota Prukop) is the right answer at quarterback. There’s no shortage of skill talent on offense, but the line must replace three starters. Brady Hoke is tasked with improving a defense that surrendered 37.5 points a game.

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24. Oklahoma State: Mason Rudolph to James Washington should be one of the Big 12’s top quarterback-receiver combinations in 2016. However, for the Cowboys to match last year’s 10 wins, the offensive line and rushing attack have to improve.

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25. Baylor: The dismissal of Art Briles as the program's coach has added a layer of uncertainty to Baylor for 2016. The Bears still have plenty of talent, but question marks remain on the line of scrimmage. Will interim coach Jim Grobe keep this team in the hunt for the Big 12 title?

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26. Arkansas: Bret Bielema has to retool an offense that loses quarterback Brandon Allen, running back Alex Collins and a handful of other key players. However, the defense should take a big step forward with nine starters back. If Austin Allen settles in at quarterback, Arkansas could be a top 25 team.

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27. Miami: Mark Richt's return to Miami is a much-needed boost for a program still looking for its first trip to the ACC Championship Game. Richt will handle the play-calling duties for the Hurricanes, and he inherits one of the nation's top quarterbacks in junior Brad Kaaya. With North Carolina and Florida State visiting Sun Life Stadium, Miami could surprise in Richt's debut.

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28. Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin needs to show the program is still on track after an 8-5 2015 campaign. The quarterback position took a hit with the transfer of Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, but Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight should provide stability at the position. The defense took a step forward under first-year coordinator John Chavis last season and should be even better in 2016.

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29. Virginia Tech: The Hokies hit a home run with the Justin Fuente hire, and the first-year coach should immediately help an offense that has experienced its share of ups and downs in recent years. Coordinator Bud Foster needs to restock the trenches, but Virginia Tech could crack the top 25 with improvement by its offense.

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30. Washington State: Don't sleep on Mike Leach's Cougars in the Pac-12 North title race. Led by quarterback Luke Falk and receiver Gabe Marks, Washington State's offense will be one of the best in the nation. The defense showed progress under new coordinator Alex Grinch in 2015. With six starters back for 2016, another step forward is expected.

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31. Nebraska: After a season filled with bad luck and close losses, Nebraska is due for a change in fortune in 2016. With quarterback Tommy Armstrong and a deep group of receivers in place, scoring points won't be a problem for the Cornhuskers. However, coach Mike Riley's team has significant question marks in the trenches.

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32. Utah: The Utes will be a dangerous team in the Pac-12 South. Coach Kyle Whittingham's team is once again strong on defense and boasts a standout ground attack on offense. However, the passing game has to improve for Utah to win the division.

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33. Wisconsin: Paul Chryst had a solid debut (10-3) in his return to Madison, but the road to double-digit wins is much tougher in 2016. The Badgers face a brutal schedule, and enter the season with uncertainty at quarterback and a new play-caller on defense.

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34. Boise State: A year after winning the Mountain West and the Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos slipped to 9-4 in coach Bryan Harsin's second season. However, Boise State won't be down for long, as quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Jeremy McNichols anchor an explosive offense and provide enough firepower to win the Mountain West in 2016.

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35. Auburn: The Tigers were one of the nation's biggest disappointments in 2015. Is a rebound year in store for coach Gus Malzahn? Auburn needs to find an answer at quarterback, while new coordinator Kevin Steele is tasked with improving a defense that ranked near the bottom of the SEC last season.

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36. San Diego State: Rocky Long's Aztecs are the defending Mountain West champs and will be a tough out once again in 2016. Running back Donnel Pumphrey anchors the offense, while seven starters return from a standout defense. The Aztecs could win 11 games once again.

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37. South Florida: The Bulls showed marked progress in coach Willie Taggart's third year. USF finished 8-5 in 2015 and returns 14 starters for 2016, including running back Marlon Mack. The Bulls are the favorite to win the AAC East this fall.

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38. Pitt: Pat Narduzzi's first year in the Steel City was a success, and the Panthers are aiming even higher in 2016. Standout receiver Tyler Boyd must be replaced, but Pitt returns 16 starters, including standout safety Jordan Whitehead and senior quarterback Nathan Peterman. The combination of James Conner and Qadree Ollison is one of the nation's best backfield duos.

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39. Penn State: James Franklin has recruited well, but the Nittany Lions are still looking for a breakout season under their third-year coach. With scholarship sanctions ending, the depth and overall talent level is improving in Happy Valley. Franklin needs to find a new quarterback and replace a couple of key faces on defense.

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40. West Virginia: Is this a make-or-break year for coach Dana Holgorsen? With no long-term contract in place, Holgorsen is under a lot of pressure to win in 2016. The Mountaineers should have one of the Big 12's top offenses, but the defense features a revamped back seven. 

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41. Mississippi State: Replacing the best player - Dak Prescott - in school history will be a challenge for coach Dan Mullen. However, Mullen has elevated this program, and the Bulldogs are better equipped to handle personnel losses than ever before.

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42. Texas Tech: Dynamic offense, questionable defense. A similar theme is setting up for the Red Raiders in 2016. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is one of the best in the nation, but the junior has to work behind a revamped offensive line. If the defense improves, Texas Tech could exceed last year's seven wins.

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43. Texas: The pressure is building on coach Charlie Strong, but the Longhorns have a promising core of young talent and some much-needed direction on offense under new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. The development of true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele and front seven on defense are the keys to Texas' 2016 season.

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44. California: The addition of graduate transfer Davis Webb was huge for the Golden Bears in the post-Jared Goff era. With Webb in the mix, California gets a slight bump in Athlon's rankings for 2016.

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45. Northwestern: The Wildcats were one of the Big Ten's biggest surprises last year, claiming 10 victories for the second time in four seasons. Pat Fitzgerald's team needs to improve on offense to reach that level in 2016, but the defense should be strong once again with six returning starters.

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46. Arizona State: High expectations surrounded the Sun Devils last year, but the Sun Devils finished a disappointing 6-7. Todd Graham's team has a lot of question marks for 2016, as a new quarterback must emerge, and the defense has to get better against the pass.

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47. BYU: New coach Kalani Sitake faces a challenging schedule in his first year in Provo, but the Cougars return 12 starters, including two standout quarterbacks in Tanner Mangum and Taysom Hill.

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48. Kansas State: Injuries hit Bill Snyder's team hard last year, but the Wildcats still managed to get six wins and a bowl trip. With better luck in the health department and more consistent play at quarterback, Kansas State will be a dangerous team to watch in the Big 12 this season. 

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49. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets had a surprising fall last season. After winning the Coastal Division and the Orange Bowl in 2014, Georgia Tech slumped to 3-9. Expect Paul Johnson's team to rebound back into a bowl and challenge for a winning record in 2016.

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50. Arizona: Last season's seven-win mark was the lowest by Arizona under coach Rich Rodriguez. And if the Wildcats want to top that total in 2016, it will have to be on the strength of an offense that averaged 37.4 points a game last year. Rodriguez hit the reset button on defense, and this unit is in need of repair after giving up 35.8 points a game in 2015.

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51. Air Force: With 13 returning starters, Air Force should challenge Boise State for the top spot in the Mountain West's Mountain Division. Coach Troy Calhoun has a deep stable of running backs at his disposal, and the defense should be strong with nine starters back.

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52. Temple: After tying the school record with 10 victories last year, what will Matt Rhule's Owls do for an encore? With 11 returning starters, including quarterback P.J. Walker and running back Jahad Thomas, Temple should challenge for the American Athletic East Division title once again.

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53. Duke: The Blue Devils have made significant progress under coach David Cutcliffe, but getting to a fifth consecutive bowl game won't be easy. Quarterback Thomas Sirk's status is uncertain due to an offseason Achilles injury, and there's a challenging road slate ahead on the schedule.

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54. Cincinnati: After a disappointing seven-win season last year, the Bearcats hope to get back on track in 2016. Tommy Tuberville's team could show marked improvement just by having better luck in the turnover department (minus-19 in 2015). Quarterback Gunner Kiel also returns for his senior year.

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55. Indiana: Replacing quarterback Nate Sudfeld won't be easy, but the Hoosiers are on the right track under coach Kevin Wilson. New quarterback Richard Lagow inherits a strong supporting cast, and new coordinator Tom Allen should help the defense take a step forward.

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56. Kentucky: Mark Stoops' fourth year in Lexington is a critical one. The Wildcats have posted back-to-back 5-7 campaigns but are still looking for their first bowl trip under Stoops. With a favorable schedule and promising talent on both sides of the ball, Kentucky should be able to hit the six-win mark this fall.

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57. Vanderbilt: The Commodores showed progress in coach Derek Mason's second year, and a bowl game isn't out of the question for 2016. The strength of Mason's team is once again the defense, and quarterback Kyle Shurmur is expected to improve with a full offseason to work as the starter.

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58. Appalachian State: As last year's 11-win season showed, the Mountaineers made a quick transition to the FBS level. With 16 returning starters - including a deep stable of running backs - Scott Satterfield's team should edge Arkansas State for the Sun Belt title.

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59. NC State: Earning a third consecutive bowl trip won't be easy for the Wolfpack in 2016. In addition to finding a replacement for quarterback Jacoby Brissett, NC State's schedule is tough, highlighted by a non-conference game against Notre Dame and road trips to Clemson, North Carolina and Louisville.

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60. Minnesota: First-year (full-time) coach Tracy Claeys has a chance to make a good first impression on new athletic director Mark Coyle. With 14 returning starters and a favorable schedule, there's a good chance Minnesota exceeds last year's six wins.

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61. Colorado: The Buffaloes are trending in the right direction under coach Mike MacIntyre. However, the schedule isn't easy, and there's uncertainty at quarterback after Davis Webb decided to transfer to California. Will Sefo Liufau return to full strength by September?

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62. Missouri: The Tigers should be strong on defense once again. However, new coach Barry Odom's biggest task is generating improvement from an offense that averaged only 13.6 points a game in 2015. 

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63. South Carolina: Will Muschamp has plenty of question marks to address in his second stint as a head coach in the SEC. The Gamecocks probably have more talent in the program than last year's 3-9 record would suggest, but only eight starters are back and both sides of the ball have significant holes to fill.

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64. Wake Forest: Expect the Demon Deacons to take a big step forward in Dave Clawson's third year. The overall depth and talent level has improved over the last two seasons, and the schedule is favorable enough to challenge for six wins.

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65. Boston College: Injuries hit Boston College hard last season, but the Eagles should rebound in 2016. The addition of Patrick Towles is an upgrade at quarterback, while the defense remains tough with six returning starters.

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66. Maryland: D.J. Durkin is a good hire, but expectations should be tempered in year one. The Terrapins have question marks at quarterback and suffered key losses at each level on defense. 

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67. Navy: The Midshipmen lose a handful of key players - namely quarterback Keenan Reynolds - but Ken Niumatalolo's team will be in the mix for a finish near the top of the American Athletic Conference's West Division.

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68. Southern Miss: New coach Jay Hopson should keep Southern Miss at the top of Conference USA's West Division in 2016. Of course, it doesn't hurt the Golden Eagles return standout quarterback Nick Mullens and running back Ito Smith.

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69. Western Michigan: Led by quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Corey Davis, Western Michigan is poised to threaten Northern Illinois' run at the top of the MAC West. The Broncos have a few voids to fill on defense, but NIU and Toledo must visit Kalamazoo. 

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70. MTSU: The Blue Raiders could be poised for a breakthrough season under coach Rick Stockstill. Quarterback Brent Stockstill and receiver Richie James form one of the top pass-catch combinations in the Group of 5 ranks. Also in MTSU's favor: No Southern Miss in crossover play and a home date against WKU.

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71. Iowa State: Matt Campbell was one of the offseason's best hires, and the first-year coach inherits two of the Big 12's top skill players in running back Mike Warren and receiver Allen Lazard. Campbell's biggest concern is an offensive line that's thin on depth and proven starters.

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72. Virginia: Bronco Mendenhall is an interesting fit at Virginia, and the former BYU coach inherits a roster with just 10 returning starters and question marks on both sides of the ball. Safety Quin Blanding should push for All-America honors.

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73. Marshall: The Thundering Herd will be looking for their fourth consecutive 10-win season in 2016. Sophomore quarterback Chase Litton and visits by WKU and MTSU to Huntington could be enough for Doc Holliday's team to win C-USA's East Division.

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74. Illinois: The Lovie Smith hire has created some much-needed energy around the program, but the first-year coach will have a tough time exceeding last season's five-win mark. The Fighting Illini have major voids to fill on defense, and top receiver Mike Dudek is out for the year due to a knee injury. Quarterback Wes Lunt should be one of the best in the Big Ten.

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75. Syracuse: Dino Babers is one of the top hires for 2016, but the first-year coach inherits a team with a lot of question marks. The offense is led by promising quarterback Eric Dungey and big-play threat Steve Ishmael at receiver. The defense - especially in the trenches - is Babers' biggest concern.

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76. WKU: Standout quarterback Brandon Doughty must be replaced, but the Hilltoppers are positioned for another run at the C-USA West Division title. A deep group of running backs leads the way for coach Jeff Brohm, and WKU boasts the conference's top offensive line.

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77. UConn: The Huskies took a step forward in coach Bob Diaco's second year last fall. Expect more improvement out of UConn in 2016, as 15 returning starters provide plenty of optimism for Diaco. Cornerback Jamar Summers is one of the nation's top cover men.

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78. Arkansas State: The Red Wolves return 13 starters from last year's Sun Belt title team, and coach Blake Anderson filled a few voids by adding a couple of talented transfers. Expect Arkansas State to push for the Sun Belt title once again.

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79. Toledo: New coach Jason Candle should keep the Rockets near the top of the MAC West. Toledo returns a dynamic backfield - led by senior Kareem Hunt - and a standout offensive line to lean on in 2016.

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80. Northern Illinois: With 12 returning starters and a healthy Drew Hare at quarterback, a seventh consecutive trip to the MAC Championship is within reach for Northern Illinois. A road trip to Western Michigan in early October could decide the winner of the MAC West Division.

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81. Georgia Southern: New coach Tyson Summers inherits a team capable of winning the Sun Belt title. But transitioning to a new staff and schemes is never easy. The Eagles own one of the nation's top ground attacks with the return of Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw at quarterback, along with Matt Breida and L.A. Ramsby at running back.

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82. Utah State: Chuckie Keeton expired his eligibility, but the quarterback position for the Aggies is in good hands with Kent Myers. It's a good thing Utah State returns nine starters on offense, as there's a complete rebuilding effort (three starters returning) on defense in 2016.

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83. Memphis: Mike Norvell is a good hire at Memphis, but the first-year coach has a tough assignment this fall in finding a replacement for quarterback Paxton Lynch. The Tigers have a good collection of skill players and return eight starters on defense.

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84. Tulsa: Scoring points shouldn't be a problem for the Golden Hurricane. Second-year coach Philip Montgomery returns standout quarterback Dane Evans and one of the American Athletic Conference's top receiving corps. Surpassing last season's win total rests with generating improvement on a defense that gave up 39.8 points a game in 2015.

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85. Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs have big shoes to fill on offense with the departure of quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Kenneth Dixon. And there are plenty of voids to fill on defense with only three returning starters. Receiver Trent Taylor is one of the top players in Conference USA.

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86. Nevada: An overhauled front seven on defense will be a tough test for coach Brian Polian, but the Wolf Pack will be explosive on offense with the return of nine starters. The one-two punch of James Butler and Akeel Lynch at running back provides plenty of support for steady quarterback Tyler Stewart.

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87. Rutgers: Chris Ash looks like the right coach to help Rutgers take a step forward in the rugged Big Ten East Division. Year one is going to have its share of rough patches, as the Scarlet Knights have to find a quarterback and improve a defense that gave up 462 yards a game in 2015.

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88. Central Michigan: Quarterback Cooper Rush and a deep group of receivers should keep the Chippewas in the mix for the MAC West title. However, road trips to Northern Illinois and Toledo won't be easy.

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89. Colorado State: Mike Bobo's first season in Fort Collins resulted in a solid seven-win season. The Rams are aiming higher for 2016, but there's a lot of work to do on defense, and standout receiver Rashard Higgins left for the NFL. 

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90. Oregon State: Year two of Gary Andersen's rebuilding project is underway in Corvallis. The Beavers could be more competitive in 2016, but it may not show too much in the win column. The addition of Utah State transfer Darell Garretson should provide stability at quarterback.

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91. Ohio: The MAC East is one of the toughest divisions to predict for 2016. When choosing a favorite amongst uncertainty, it's better to default to Ohio - a program that hasn't recorded a losing record since 2008. Linebacker Quentin Poling anchors a defense that should be among the best in the MAC.

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92. UTEP: Injuries hit UTEP hard last season, but the Miners should be poised for a quick rebound in Sean Kugler's fourth year. The return of running back Aaron Jones to full strength is a big boost for the offense, and a favorable schedule should allow for a trip to the postseason.

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93. New Mexico: The Lobos had a breakthrough year in 2015. In Bob Davie's fourth season, New Mexico finished 7-6 and went to a bowl for the first time since 2007. And with 14 returning starters, the Lobos should push for another bowl trip in 2016.

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94. East Carolina: The Pirates will be a team to watch under new coach Scottie Montgomery. Senior Isaiah Jones leads a dangerous group of skill players, and there's a solid foundation in place on defense with six returning starters. 

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95. Purdue: With six wins in three seasons, coach Darrell Hazell is squarely on the hot seat for 2016. The return of 16 starters provides promise, but the Boilermakers need better play from quarterback David Blough and a struggling defense (36.5 points a game in 2015) to push for a winning season.

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96. San Jose State: Last year's six-win season and bowl victory was a step in the right direction for the Spartans. Standout running back Tyler Ervin must be replaced, but the Spartans return 15 starters, including an All-Mountain West candidate at quarterback in Kenny Potter.

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97. Bowling Green: New coach Mike Jinks has big shoes to fill in replacing Dino Babers. The Falcons have enough talent to win the MAC East for the fourth year in a row, but there's a lot of unknowns under Jinks - a coach who's never been a coordinator or head coach at the FBS level.

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98. Akron: 2015 was a record-breaking season for the Zips. Terry Bowden's team set a program-high with eight wins and also claimed the first bowl victory in Akron history. Only four starters return for 2016, but the Zips should push for another postseason trip.

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99. Kansas: David Beaty inherited a massive rebuilding project. The Jayhawks need another recruiting class or two to upgrade the program's overall talent level just to be competitive in the Big 12. Kansas should at least break into the win column in 2016.

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100. UCF: The Knights have more talent on the roster than last year's 0-12 record would suggest. New coach Scott Frost should provide a much-needed boost to the offense, and this unit returns plenty of talented pieces, including quarterback Justin Holman and receiver Tre'Quan Smith.

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101. SMU: Chad Morris has SMU on the right path, but the Mustangs are probably a year away from contending for a bowl game. The offense should be explosive behind quarterback Matt Davis and receiver Courtland Sutton.

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102. Troy: The Trojans could surprise in the Sun Belt. Troy only won four games last year but showed improvement under first-year coach Neal Brown. Quarterback Brandon Silvers is a name to remember. 

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103. FAU: Despite back-to-back 3-9 seasons under Charlie Partridge, the Owls have a talented core of young players in place. End Trey Hendrickson recorded 13.5 sacks last year and anchors a defense that held opponents to 28.8 points a game in 2015. 

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104. Old Dominion: With 16 returning starters, the Monarchs are poised to push for the program's first bowl trip. The defense has room to improve, but Old Dominion returns nine starters on offense and has two proven quarterbacks in Shuler Bentley and David Washington.

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105. FIU: Coach Ron Turner has to rebuild the defense, but the Panthers return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Alex McGough and running back Alex Gardner. 

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106. UNLV: The Rebels showed progress under first-year coach Tony Sanchez in 2015. Don't be surprised if UNLV takes another step forward in 2016. Junior college recruit (and former Nebraska signal-caller) Johnny Stanton is an intriguing player to watch, and receiver Devonte Boyd is one of the best in the Group of 5 ranks.

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107. UL Lafayette: After four straight 9-4 seasons, the Ragin' Cajuns slipped to 4-8 and no postseason trip for the first time under coach Mark Hudspeth. Can Hudspeth get this program back on track? Running back Elijah McGuire is one of the Sun Belt's top players, but the bowl hopes of UL Lafayette rest with the development of the defense and quarterback Jordan Davis.

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108. Fresno State: After winning 11 games in 2013, the Bulldogs have won only nine contests over the last two years. There's pressure on coach Tim DeRuyter to show the program hasn't slipped in 2016. A revamped coaching staff provides some optimism, but the Bulldogs have big question marks on both sides of the ball.

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109. Rice: After missing out on a bowl for the first time in three years, Rice hopes the return of 15 starters will be enough for a trip to the postseason. The Owls have to break in a new quarterback, and the defense needs to show marked improvement after giving up 35.8 points a game in 2015.

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110. Georgia State: The Panthers took a big step forward in coach Trent Miles' third season with a 6-7 final record and the program's first bowl trip. The overall talent and depth has improved, but Georgia State has to replace standout quarterback Nick Arbuckle.

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111. Army West Point: The Black Knights have only two winning seasons since 1996, but they are improving under third-year coach Jeff Monken. With 14 returning starters - including two promising quarterbacks in Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Carter - Army could push for six wins.

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112. Miami, Ohio: The RedHawks are getting better under third-year coach Chuck Martin and could be a sleeper team to watch in the MAC East title picture. Martin needs to settle the quarterback battle between Gus Ragland and Billy Bahl, but Miami should have one of the MAC's top defenses in 2016.

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113. Buffalo: The Bulls return only two starters on offense and enter the year with uncertainty at quarterback, but coach Lance Leipold's team should be able to push for a bowl game on the strength of a defense that returns eight starters.

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114. Wyoming: Craig Bohl is the right coach to get Wyoming's program back on track. However, the Cowboys are in the midst of a youth movement and likely facing another uphill battle for wins in 2016. Running back Brian Hill is one of the top players in the Group of 5 ranks.

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115. South Alabama: The Jaguars were unable to build off the 2014 season, which saw the program earn its first bowl bid. A return to the postseason is possible in 2016, but South Alabama needs to find a quarterback and navigate a tough schedule to get to six wins.

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116. Ball State: New coach Mike Neu - a former Ball State quarterback - inherits some promising talent on offense, including quarterback Riley Neal and receiver KeVonn Mabon. The Cardinals could push for a winning record if the defense takes a step forward after giving up 35.8 points a game in 2015.

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117. Tulane: The Green Wave made one of the offseason's best hires in Willie Fritz. 2016 looks to be a rebuilding year for Fritz, as Tulane has major question marks on an offense that returns four starters and lacks a proven quarterback. 

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118. Kent State: The Golden Flashes boasted a standout defense in 2015, but the offense averaged only 13.1 points a game. Coach Paul Haynes needs to find a spark for this unit or the temperature on the fourth-year coach's seat is only going to increase.

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119. Idaho: Last year's four-win campaign was Idaho's best since 2010. Quarterback Matt Linehan leads the way for an offense that returns eight starters. Improvement is needed from a defense that gave up 42.1 points a game last season.

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120. New Mexico State: The Aggies were more competitive in 2015 and should take another step forward in 2016. Running back Larry Rose is one of the nation's best in the Group of 5 ranks. 

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121. Hawaii: Nick Rolovich is a good hire, but the former Hawaii quarterback inherits a team that won only three games last season (and zero in conference play). The Rainbow Warriors need to find a quarterback, but a challenging schedule won't be easy to overcome.

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122. Texas State: New coach Everett Withers inherits a team with only eight returning starters from last year's 3-9 team. However, the cupboard isn't entirely bare for Withers. Quarterback Tyler Jones is a capable triggerman for this offense, and there's probably more talent in the program than last season's record indicated.

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123. UTSA: Frank Wilson is regarded for his work on the recruiting trail, but this is his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level. The Roadrunners have talent at the skill positions, and the addition of graduate transfer Jared Johnson should settle the quarterback spot. 

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124. Eastern Michigan: The Eagles hope to show major progress in coach Chris Creighton's third season. With 15 starters back, EMU could equal its win total from the last two years (three). The return of end Pat O'Connor from injury should help a defense that gave up 42.1 points a game in 2015.

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125. Charlotte: The 49ers should show some progress in their second year at the FBS level. Running back Kalif Phillips and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi are two under-the-radar performers for coach Brad Lambert, while former Miami signal-caller Kevin Olsen takes over at quarterback.

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126. ULM: The Warhawks get high marks for the Matt Viator hire, but progress may be hard to find in 2016. The offense features talented sophomore quarterback Garrett Smith and one of the Sun Belt's top receiving corps. The defense must be overhauled with just two returning starters.

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127. UMass: Life as a FBS Independent isn't going to be easy for UMass. The Minutemen return only six starters from last season's 3-9 team. Junior college transfer quarterback Andrew Ford and running back Marquis Young provide hope on offense.

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128. North Texas: Seth Littrell is a good hire and should have the Mean Green competing for bowl trips over the next few years. However, there's a lot of work needed for 2016. Alabama transfer Alec Morris is an intriguing option at quarterback.

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