Today at the NFP marks the last of seven post-spring conference power rankings, finishing with the Non-AQs/Independents.
Click here for the ACC post-spring power rankings, which ran last Monday.
Click here for the Pac-12 post-spring power rankings, which ran last Tuesday.
Click here for the SEC post-spring power rankings, which ran last Wednesday.
Click here for the Big Ten post-spring power rankings, which ran last Thursday.
Click here for the Big East post-spring power rankings, which ran on Saturday.
Click here for the Big 12 post-spring power rankings, which ran on Tuesday.
Around the time preseason practice begins in the fall, we will revisit these rankings before 2012's opening kickoff.
1. Boise State: The post-Kellen Moore era has begun in Boise, and with the exception of possibly Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the winningest signal-caller in NCAA history will be the hardest player to replace for any team in the nation. Junior Joe Southwick and true freshman Nick Patti continue to battle for the starting job after separating themselves a bit from sophomore Grant Hedrick and redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea. Southwick was Moore’s backup the past two seasons. In addition, head coach Chris Petersen is replacing fellow stars such as running back Doug Martin, left tackle Nate Potter, defensive lineman Shea McClellin and linebacker Byron Hout. The Broncos were decimated by graduation, so we’ll see how strong the program is this season without so much experience returning. Defensively, the team's inexperienced ends had a strong spring game, highlighted by the play of redshirt freshman Sam Ukwuachu, JUCO transfer Demarcus Lawrence and senior Darren Koontz. The Broncos open the season in East Lansing against Michigan State, which is one of the more intriguing openers because the Spartans have the athletes to compete with Boise’s speed.
Can Everett Golson win the starting quarterback job at Notre Dame?
2. Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are slotted behind Boise State because of their instability at quarterback as well as their brutal schedule. The Irish could be better in 2012 than they were last year, but it may not show in the record. I’ve maintained that head coach Brian Kelly should turn the offense over to Everett Golson, but I think Andrew Hendrix will ultimately get the nod at QB for the opener against Navy in Dublin. Defensively, the line boasts good depth despite losing star end Aaron Lynch to a transfer. But can coordinator Bob Diaco piece together a solid enough starting secondary with not a whole lot of depth at cornerback?
3. BYU: The Cougars begin their second season as an Independent with Riley Nelson back as the starting quarterback after Jake Heaps transferred to Kansas. He must stay healthy, however, if Bronco Mendenhall has designs on winning 10 games for a second straight season. Nelson is in his fourth season at BYU, but this past spring marked the first time he had the starting job all to himself in Provo. Josh Quezada and Mike Alisa, meanwhile, will help pace the rushing attack. Defensively, Jordan Johnson will try to replace Corby Eason, who was tied for the team lead with 14 pass breakups, at cornerback.
4. Arkansas State: Hugh Freeze parlayed his strong 2011 season into the head job at Ole Miss, so local icon Gus Malzahn has come home to try to continue the Red Wolves’ success. The reigning Sun Belt champs return 2011 conference player of the year Ryan Aplin, but it’s unclear whether Auburn transfer Michael Dyer will be eligible for 2012. Frankie Jackson, who ran for six scores in 2011, is back, however. Defensively, the team lost Sun Belt defensive player of the year Brandon Joiner as well as first-teamers Demario Davis, Darryl Feemster and Kelcie McCray. Expect some JUCO players to see playing time immediately under new DC John Thompson.
5. Northern Illinois: The Huskies lost dual-threat star quarterback Chandler Harnish, so two-year backup and former safety Jordan Lynch takes over, and his specialty is as a runner. However, he looked good throwing the football in the team’s spring game. The offensive line lost four starters, and that was a unit that was possibly the strength of the team last year. However, the defense returns eight starters and should be ready to complement the team’s offense, which looks like it’s ready to be prolific once again in DeKalb.
6. Houston: The Kevin Sumlin and Case Keenum eras are over, as new head coach Tony Levine and new starting quarterback David Piland are now the faces of the program. Piland actually has starting experience from 2010, when Keenum and backup Cotton Turner were injured. Levine, meanwhile, brings some consistency to the program after being promoted from within. What changes will we see for the Cougars under his direction? One thing that will be different is the defense, which is transitioning to the 4-3.
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