How They'll Finish
This is an article from the Aug. 17, 2009 issue
Championship game: Dec. 4 in Detroit
Central Michigan over Ohio
Players to Watch
Top performers from unranked teams
RB, Sr., Southern Miss
The C-USA player of the year in 2007, he is the active Division I-A leader in four career rushing categories, including yards (4,287).
DE, Sr., BYU
The Mountain West's career sacks leader shed 15 pounds (to 259) in a bid to return to his 2007 form, when he had 13½ QB takedowns.
QB, Jr., Nevada
The WAC offensive player of the year in '08 became the fifth I-A quarterback with 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing in a season.
QB, Sr., Central Michigan
Nicknamed Tim Tebow Lite, he enters his final season as the I-A active leader in total yards, with 11,702—or 3,275 more than Tebow has.
QB, Sr., Florida Atlantic
Coach Howard Schnellenberger compares Smith, who has thrown for 6,912 yards and 56 TDs over the past two seasons, with Bernie Kosar.
Last season Central Michigan's ANTONIO BROWN (right) and Central Florida's Joe Burnett became the first two players in I-A history to earn first-team all-conference honors at three positions (wideout, kick returner and punt returner).... Middle Tennessee finished 91st in scoring last year, but the Blue Raiders should get a boost from offensive coordinator TONY FRANKLIN, the architect of Troy's high-powered spread in 2006 and '07 and Auburn's midseason fall guy last year.... San Diego State has plenty of star power—in its staff. New coach BRADY HOKE brought in former Auburn aide AL BORGES as offensive coordinator, former New Mexico coach ROCKY LONG as defensive coordinator and former Browns and Aztecs passer BRIAN SIPE as QB coach.... For the first time in his 13 seasons at Fresno State, PAT HILL has new coordinators on both sides of the ball. JEFF GRADY (passing game) and DEREK FRAZIER (running) take over the offense from Doug Nussmeier, who left for Washington. RANDY STEWART will coordinate the defense, replacing Dan Brown, who died of cancer shortly after retiring.... Army has the tallest receiver in Division I-A in 6'10", 283-pound senior tight end ALI VILLANUEVA.
Top offensive player
QB, Sr., BYU
Hall (left) threw for 3,957 yards and 35 TDs, completed 69.2% of his attempts and ranked ninth in the country in total offense (313.2 yards per game) last season.
Top defensive player
DE, Sr., TCU
The former high school tailback, who stands 6'3" and weighs 257 pounds, led the nation in sacks (15) and forced fumbles (six) en route to All-America honors.
True freshman to watch
LB, Notre Dame
The 6'2" 225-pounder from Punahou High in Honolulu, who surprisingly choose the Irish over USC, should thrive in coordinator Jon Tenuta's 4--3 scheme.
Coach on the hot seat
Those BCS bids in his first two seasons are a distant memory. The schedule sets up nicely, but after winning 10 games total the past two years, there is no room for error.
Coach on the rise
In his first season the ex--Oklahoma assistant took an offense that had lost its top two receivers and rusher and made an explosive attack even more productive.