January 10, 2009

Ranking them all: The Rivals.com 120

Here are our final 2008 1-120 rankings.

Mike Huguenin's 120
1. FLORIDA (13-1)
The buzz: The Gators won their second national title in three seasons with an extremely young team. If quarterback Tim Tebow returns, could Florida make it three titles in four seasons?
2. USC (12-1)
The buzz: The Trojans played stifling defense in all but one game; the offense had some consistency issues. Next season, the offense should be great and the defense could cause some worries.
3. TEXAS (12-1)
The buzz: The Longhorns were a big surprise this season, because this was seen by most as a sort of rebuilding year. Instead, quarterback Colt McCoy and the offense had a big season.
4. OKLAHOMA (12-2)
The buzz: The Sooners' offense had a season for the ages well, at least until the title game. OU could lose numerous key underclassmen to the NFL.
5. UTAH (13-0)
The buzz: The Utes finish unbeaten for the second time in five seasons and deserve all sorts of credit. But excuse us for thinking there's no way the Utes would have been unbeaten had they played in the Big 12, SEC or even Pac-10.
6. ALABAMA (12-2)
The buzz: The Crimson Tide ended the season on a two-game losing streak. But if you had asked Nick Saban before the season if he would be happy with a 12-win season, we're pretty sure he would have said, "Yes!"
7. PENN STATE (11-2)
The buzz: The Nittany Lions' defense was exposed in the Rose Bowl. Still, an 11-win season is not to be taken lightly.
8. TCU (11-2)
The buzz: The Horned Frogs' defense was one of the best in the nation. If the offense had a little more oomph, the Horned Frogs easily could have been 12-1 and ranked in the top five.
9. TEXAS TECH (11-2)
The buzz: Yawn wake us when something changes. The Red Raiders' offense was prolific. The Red Raiders' defense had issues.
10. OREGON (10-3)
The buzz: The Ducks had some missteps along the way, but considering the amount of offensive talent that was lost off the 2007 team, a 10-win season is quite an accomplishment.
11. OHIO STATE (10-3)
The buzz: The Terrelle Pryor era got off to a good start, though the Buckeyes really didn't beat anybody of note.
12. BOISE STATE (12-1)
The buzz: The Broncos finished unbeaten in the regular season, but their offense was stymied by TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. A 12-0 regular season in '09 is a legit goal.
13. GEORGIA (10-3)
The buzz: The season began with visions of a bowl in Florida to end the season. The season did end with a bowl in Florida but in Orlando, not Miami.
14. OREGON STATE (9-4)
The buzz: As usual, the Beavers started slow. As usual, the Beavers finished strong. True freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers was a revelation.
15. OLE MISS (9-4)
The buzz: Gee, isn't it amazing what a legitimate coaching staff can do for a team? New coach Houston Nutt did a nice job in his first season, and the Rebels appear poised for a solid 2009 season.
16. MISSOURI (10-4)
The buzz: The Tigers won their second consecutive Big 12 North title, but this season still was a disappointment. Quarterback Chase Daniel struggled at times, and the defense frequently was shredded.
17. CALIFORNIA (9-4)
The buzz: Jahvid Best will be the offensive focal point next season. If the Golden Bears can improve their passing attack, their offense would be well-nigh unstoppable.
The buzz: The offense was good this season and should be the same next season. But the defense has to get better before the Cowboys are a legit contender in the Big 12 South.
19. VIRGINIA TECH (10-4)
The buzz: The Hokies' offense wasn't very good this season, but Tech still won the ACC and the Orange Bowl behind a stout defense. To win the ACC again next season, it's likely the Hokies will have to seriously upgrade their passing game.
20. CINCINNATI (11-3)
The buzz: The Bearcats' potent offense was shut down in the Orange Bowl. Still, that there was an Orange Bowl appearance makes this perhaps the best season in school history.
The buzz: The Seminoles look to be gradually creeping back into prominence. The passing attack needs an upgrade, though.
22. IOWA (9-4)
The buzz: After two mediocre seasons, the Hawkeyes returned to prominence. But how good will the offense be in 2009 without star running back Shonn Greene?
The buzz: Star running back Javon Ringer was a senior, meaning the Spartans need to retool their offense.
24. GEORGIA TECH (9-4)
The buzz: The bowl debacle overshadowed a great first season by coach Paul Johnson. How good can Tech be in Year Two in his triple-option scheme?
The buzz: QB Pat White is gone. How good can the Mountaineers be without him?
26. BYU (10-3)
The buzz: The 10 wins part of the record is impressive. But the three losses were all rather one-sided, and four starting offensive linemen were seniors.
27. NEBRASKA (9-4)
The buzz: Nine wins is probably more than Bo Pelini expected in his first season as coach. But the Huskers need a new quarterback and have to find more toughness on defense.
28. PITTSBURGH (9-4)
The buzz: If the offense had been better, the Panthers easily could have won the Big East.
The buzz: BC won the ACC Atlantic Division for the second season in a row. They'll try to three-peat with a new coach after Jeff Jagodzinski was unceremoniously dumped.
30. LSU (8-5)
The buzz: The Tigers stumbled and bumbled their way down the stretch in the regular season, but they looked like world-beaters in hammering Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The buzz: The Tar Heels made a big jump in their second season under coach Butch Davis. Can they make a big jump again and legitimately contend for the ACC title next season?
32. ARIZONA (8-5)
The buzz: The Wildcats had their first winning season since 1998 and capped it off by beating archrival Arizona State, then winning their bowl game.
The buzz: The Wildcats were a pleasant surprise this season. Can they be a sleeper contender for the Big Ten title next season?
34. MARYLAND (8-5)
The buzz: The Terps beat four ranked team this season. But they were inconsistent and never found an identity on offense.
35. RICE (10-3)
The buzz: The Owls won 10 games for just the second time in school history. But they're losing a lot of key offensive players, so next season could be a struggle.
36. USF (8-5)
The buzz: For the second season in a row, the Bulls started fast, then faded. At least this season they won their bowl game.
37. KANSAS (8-5)
The buzz: While this season certainly wasn't as memorable as last season, the Jayhawks still went to back-to-back bowls for the first time in school history.
38. RUTGERS (8-5)
The buzz: The Scarlet Knights carry a seven-game winning streak into the offseason. They need to find a new quarterback and a new go-to receiver in spring ball.
39. WAKE FOREST (8-5)
The buzz: The Demon Deacons went bowling for a school-record third consecutive season. Can they keep the streak alive in 2009?
40. TULSA (11-3)
The buzz: The Golden Hurricane again had one of the nation's most prolific offenses, but they need to get a lot better on defense.
The buzz: The Pirates won the C-USA crown and had big victories over Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
The buzz: The Huskies won eight games despite having a passing attack that wouldn't have been sophisticated in a Pop Warner league. Plus, star tailback Donald Brown is departing.
43. HOUSTON (8-5)
The buzz: The Cougars were tremendous on offense this season and should be even better next season. But the defense needs improvement.
44. MIAMI (7-6)
The buzz: Year Two of the Randy Shannon era ended in a bowl. But unless the offense undergoes a seismic change, next season will end in another "lesser" bowl.
45. BALL STATE (12-2)
The buzz: The Cardinals started 12-0, then fell apart. Their play in the GMAC Bowl was not a good way to go into the offseason.
46. CLEMSON (7-6)
The buzz: The Tigers were one of the nation's biggest disappointments this season. The offense needs an offseason retooling.
The buzz: The Chippewas ended the season with a three-game losing streak. The top offseason priority should be finding a tailback to take some pressure off QB Dan LeFevour.
48. WISCONSIN (7-6)
The buzz: The season began with the Badgers a sleeper contender in the Big Ten. It ended with them getting trampled by Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
The buzz: The defense did a nice job for much of the season. But coach Steve Spurrier has to find a quarterback or the Gamecocks will continue to sputter on offense.
50. BUFFALO (8-6)
The buzz: The Bulls won the MAC and went to their first bowl in history. I'd say that makes this a season to remember.
The buzz: The Broncos were waxed in their bowl game, but the offense is setting up nicely for a big 2009.
52. VANDERBILT (7-6)
The buzz: Vandy went to its first bowl since 1982, won its first bowl since 1955 and finished one game above .500. At Vandy, that's a season to put in the scrapbook.
53. KENTUCKY (7-6)
The buzz: The offense was mediocre all season, but the Wildcats still found a way to win seven games.
54. NAVY (8-5)
The buzz: The Midshipmen lost their bowl, but so what? They won their seventh in a row over Army with their first shutout in the series since 1978.
55. AIR FORCE (8-5)
The buzz: Two years, two bowls for coach Troy Calhoun, who has done a fine job. So, when do other schools start sniffing around?
56. NOTRE DAME (7-6)
The buzz: As a whole, it was a disappointing season. But a good bowl win gives the Irish some momentum heading into the offseason.
57. MINNESOTA (7-6)
The buzz: The season started well at 7-1. But a five-game losing streak to end the season took a lot of luster off the fast start.
The buzz: The Wolfpack may have won the Papajohns.com Bowl had quarterback Russell Wilson not gotten injured.
59. ARKANSAS (5-7)
The buzz: The Hogs already are looking ahead to 2009, when they should have a quarterback suited for Bobby Petrino's offense.
60. ILLINOIS (5-7)
The buzz: Last season ended in the Rose Bowl. This season ended with the Illini home for the holidays. Needless to say, coach Ron Zook and his staff need to produce in 2009.
61. VIRGINIA (5-7)
The buzz: The Cavs started poorly, got hot in the middle of the season, then finished poorly. The offense needs a big boost.
The buzz: Steve Fairchild's first season as coach culminated with a victory over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl.
63. STANFORD (5-7)
The buzz: Coach Jim Harbaugh has the Cardinal on an uptick; they have to get better throwing the ball.
The buzz: The Golden Eagles rallied to win the New Orleans Bowl over Troy. All in all, though, they may have underachieved a bit.
65. TROY (8-5)
The buzz: The Trojans fell to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl, which was a bad ending to a solid season.
The buzz: The Sun Devils fell flat this season. Coach Dennis Erickson has some work to do on both sides of the ball.
67. AUBURN (5-7)
The buzz: Successful coach Tommy Tuberville was forced out, and school officials made an uninspiring hire with Gene Chizik. But Chizik's staff looks like a good one, so there is hope on the Plains.
68. COLORADO (5-7)
The buzz: Coach Dan Hawkins will be feeling the heat when the 2009 season kicks off. He needs to make sure the offense becomes more productive.
69. BAYLOR (4-8)
The buzz: Freshman QB Robert Griffin came in highly hyped and lived up to the billing. He gives the Bears hope they can get to a bowl next season.
70. TENNESSEE (5-7)
The buzz: The Phil Fulmer era ended, and the Lane Kiffin era has started. Tennessee is paying new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin $1 million, making him the first million-dollar coordinator in college football history.
The buzz: The season opened with a victory over the first SEC team to ever play in Ruston; it closed with the school's first bowl victory since 1977.
72. NEVADA (7-6)
The buzz: The Wolf Pack's offense is fine. But the defense has to get a lot better if Nevada is to seriously contend for the WAC title.
73. PURDUE (4-8)
The buzz: Joe Tiller didn't go out the way he wanted. New coach Danny Hope has some work to do.
The buzz: Yes, the season ended with a loss in the Independence Bowl. But the season was a big success, given how the 2007 season finished.
75. NEW MEXICO (4-8)
The buzz: Coach Rocky Long's departure was a surprise, given his success at the school. The new coach is Mike Locksley, an ace recruiter who had been offensive coordinator at Illinois.
76. HAWAII (7-7)
The buzz: The '08 season ended the same way as the '07 season a big loss in a bowl game. But at least the '07 loss came in a "good" bowl.
77. LOUISVILLE (5-7)
The buzz: For the second season in a row, the Cardinals were a disappointment. They ended the season on a five-game losing streak.
78. FRESNO STATE (7-6)
The buzz: A disappointing season ended with a disappointing loss to Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl.
79. DUKE (4-8)
The buzz: David Cutcliffe did a nice job in his first season as the Blue Devils' coach. For the first time in a while, there actually is hope when Duke plays a football game.
The buzz: The Bulldogs' solid defense couldn't make up for an inept offense, and coach Sylvester Croom resigned. Dan Mullen, who had been overseeing Florida's potent offense, is the new coach.
81. UCLA (4-8)
The buzz: The offense was a season-long problem for coach Rick Neuheisel and coordinator Norm Chow. Their first job this offseason is to find a quarterback.
82. KANSAS STATE (5-7)
The buzz: K-State jettisoned coach Ron Prince after three seasons. The new boss? It's Bill Snyder, back for his second go-round with the Wildcats.
83. TEXAS A&M (4-8)
The buzz: Coach Mike Sherman's first season did not go as expected. Can the Aggies make a big enough jump in his second season to get to a bowl?
84. UNLV (5-7)
The buzz: UNLV showed improvement this season, which earned coach Mike Sanford a contract extension.
85. MICHIGAN (3-9)
The buzz: Year Two of the Rich Rodriguez era has to be better, right? Right?
The buzz: The Owls capped off a disappointing season with a nice win over Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl.
87. SAN JOSE STATE (6-6)
The buzz: The Spartans were in the running for a bowl bid until late in the season. The offense needs a boost.
88. MEMPHIS (6-7)
The buzz: The Tigers were smashed in the St. Petersburg Bowl by USF, but, hey, at least the Tigers made it into the postseason.
89. UTEP (5-7)
The buzz: Six of the Miners' losses were to bowl teams. The offense was fine. The defense was pitiful.
The buzz: A disappointing season led to the dismissal of coach Gregg Brandon. The new guy is Dave Clawson, who had a tough first season as Tennessee's offensive coordinator.
91. TEMPLE (5-7)
The buzz: Coach Al Golden has made the Owls competitive. Their offense needs to get better.
92. MARSHALL (4-8)
The buzz: Coach Mark Snyder is being given another year to get the Herd turned around. He'll be on one of the hottest seats in the nation entering the '09 season.
The buzz: The Ragin' Cajuns faded late in the season, and they're losing star RB Tyrell Fenroy and QB Michael Desormeaux.
94. SYRACUSE (3-9)
The buzz: Syracuse alum Doug Marrone was hired away from the New Orleans Saints, where he was offensive coordinator, to try to restore respectability to the program.
The buzz: As usual, the Red Wolves were in the hunt in the Sun Belt Conference. They need to find a way to upgrade their passing attack.
96. AKRON (5-7)
The buzz: The Zips had a chance to finish at least 7-5 but faded down the stretch. The defense was a sieve at times this season.
The buzz: The Blue Raiders have to do a better job running the ball next season. A more-experienced line should help in that regard.
98. WYOMING (4-8)
The buzz: A disappointing season ended with the firing of coach Joe Glenn. The new guy is Dave Christensen, who will be expected to add some offensive "oomph" after serving as offensive coordinator at Missouri.
99. OHIO (4-8)
The buzz: The offense woke up in the final two games. It was way too late by then, though.
100. INDIANA (3-9)
The buzz: That bowl bid after the 2007 season sure seems a long time ago now. The defense needs a lot of work.
101. UAB (4-8)
The buzz: The Blazers played well down the stretch, and junior QB Joe Webb gives them hope for more improvement next season.
102. KENT STATE (4-8)
The buzz: The Golden Flashes have to get better on defense before they can legitimately contend in the MAC.
103. UCF (4-8)
The buzz: A tumultuous offseason was followed by a disappointing season, and coach George O'Leary has responded by shaking up his coaching staff.
The buzz: Second-year coach Mario Cristobal has FIU once a laughingstock on the right track to respectability in the Sun Belt.
105. ARMY (3-9)
The buzz: School officials, obviously cognizant of the success at Air Force and Navy, fired Stan Brock after just two seasons. New coach Rich Ellerson who had been at Cal Poly understands his "mission" is to make Army football relevant again.
The buzz: The Warhawks could have a solid season in 2009 assuming they can find a quarterback.
107. UTAH STATE (3-9)
The buzz: Coach Brent Guy was fired, but he left the program in better shape than when he got there. Now, it's up to Gary Andersen who had been defensive coordinator at Utah to get the Aggies above .500.
108. TOLEDO (3-9)
The buzz: Coach Tom Amstutz's run at Toledo ended poorly. Can new coach Tim Beckman, who was defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, turn around the program?
109. IOWA STATE (2-10)
The buzz: The Cyclones ended the season on a 10-game losing streak, then lost their coach to Auburn. Their new coach? Paul Rhoads was hired from Auburn.
The buzz: Ron English, who did good work as a defensive coordinator at a few stops, is the next coach in line to try to get the Eagles some respect.
111. SAN DIEGO STATE (2-10)
The buzz: If there's a program that underachieves more than this one, we'd like to see it. Brady Hoke, who led Ball State to 12 wins, is the new coach.
The buzz: This is one of the worst programs in the nation. DeWayne Walker was a well-respected defensive coordinator at UCLA and as a defensive assistant in the NFL. Can he succeed here as coach?
The buzz: New coach Mike Haywood, who had been offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, needs to spice up the RedHawks' dreary offense.
The buzz: This was a season from hell. But, hey, at least the Cougars can say they were better than the cross-state Huskies.
115. TULANE (2-10)
The buzz: The Green Wave need a talent infusion. Even in Conference USA they're overmatched.
116. WASHINGTON (0-12)
The buzz: It's up to new coach Steve Sarkisian to try to clean up the mess in the wake of the worst season in school history.
117. IDAHO (2-10)
The buzz: There were moments this season when it looked as if the Vandals were getting better. At other times, it was the same old, same old.
118. SMU (1-11)
The buzz: June Jones can expect better results in Year Two of his tenure with the Mustangs. Thing is, they can't get much worse.
119. NORTH TEXAS (1-11)
The buzz: The Mean Green need to learn how to play defense. They were overrun on a weekly basis.
The buzz: After two years as a provisional member, the Hilltoppers will be a full-fledged Football Bowl Subdivision member this fall and will be allowed to contend for the Sun Belt title.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.


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