Non-AQ pre-spring power rankings

Today at the NFP marks the final of seven pre-spring conference power rankings, continuing the series with some non-AQ teams.

Click here for the ACC pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Monday.
Click here for the SEC pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Tuesday.
Click here for the Big Ten pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Wednesday.
Click here for the Pac-12 pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Thursday.
Click here for the Big 12 pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Friday.
Click here for the Big East pre-spring power rankings, which ran on Saturday.

After spring practice season, we will revisit these rankings before the dog days of summer kick in.

Click here to see when your favorite non-AQ team begins spring practice.

Joe SouthwickJoe Southwick has the edge in the race to become the new starting QB at Boise State.

1. Boise State: The Broncos begin the post-Kellen Moore era. And with the exception of possibly Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s 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, sophomore Grant Hedrick, redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea and true freshman Nick Patti will battle for the starting job, with Southwick having the edge after being the backup to Moore the past two seasons. This competition likely will last into the fall. In addition, head coach Chris Petersen will have to replace 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.

2. 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. Josh Quezada and Mike Alisa, meanwhile, will help pace the rushing attack.

3. Temple: The Owls very likely could be in the Big East in a matter of days or weeks, but I am including them on this non-AQ list because Steve Addazio’s team remains in the MAC as of now. Star running back Bernard Pierce is gone as well as offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, who took over for Gus Malzahn at Auburn. But Matt Brown is ready to carry the load in Pierce’s absence, and this offense should continue to be productive as long as Addazio is head coach.

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 reigning conference player of the year Ryan Aplin, but it’s unclear whether Auburn transfer Michael Dyer will be eligible for 2012. Defensively, the team loses Sun Belt defensive player of the year Brandon Joiner as well as first-teamers Demario Davis, Darryl Feemster and Kelcie McCray.

5. Houston: The Kevin Sumlin and Case Keenum eras are over, as new head coach Tony Levine and new starting quarterback David Piland are the new 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?

6. Northern Illinois: The Huskies lose dual-threat star quarterback Chandler Harnish, so two-year backup and former safety Jordan Lynch will take over, and his specialty is as a runner. The offensive line loses four starters, and that was a unit that was possibly the strength of the team last year. However, the defense returns eight starters.

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