HOW THEY'LL FINISH
August 21, 2011
QB, BYU, Sophomore
Best offensive player
BRYANT MONIZ QB, Hawaii, Senior
In 2010 the quarterback nicknamed Mighty Mo led the nation in passing (360 yards a game) and TD passes (39).
True freshman to watch
LEILON WILLINGHAM OLB, Central Florida
Rated the nation's 13th-best OLB prospect by Rivals.com, he has the edge to start right away for a depleted linebacking corps.
Coach on the hot seat
BOB TOLEDO Tulane
Toledo's record is 13--35 in four seasons, and the Green Wave hasn't had a winning record since 2002.
Coach on the rise
TIM BECKMAN Toledo
The Rockets' coach, 46, has turned a 3--9 squad (in 2008) into an 8--5 bowl team ('10) and a MAC recruiting power.
Best defensive player
DE, Troy, Junior
The sole representative from the Sun Belt on the Walter Camp watch list, he ranks first in tackles for loss (20½) among returning players.
Players to Watch (Top performers from unranked teams)
VINNY CURRY DE, Marshall, Senior
Ranked fifth in the country in sacks (12), the 6'5", 242-pound Curry—who also had 18 tackles for a loss—will be relied upon even more in 2011. The Thundering Herd lost two starters on the defensive line.
T.Y. HILTON WR-KR Florida Int'l, Senior
Nicknamed Goodbye for the way he blows by defenders, he electrified the crowd with an 89-yard kickoff return touchdown in the Golden Panthers' 34--32 win over Toledo in the Little Caesars Bowl. He has 2,133 career kick return yards with four touchdowns.
CASE KEENUM QB, Houston, Senior
A Heisman candidate last year until tearing his right ACL in a 31--13 loss at UCLA, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility in January. After reconstructive surgery, he has a chance to set NCAA career records for total offense, passing yards, touchdowns, pass attempts and completions.
BOBBY RAINEY RB, Western Kentucky, Senior
The nation's third-leading rusher (1,649 yards) last year, the 5'8" 205-pounder was named the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year. He accounted for 49.2% of the Hilltoppers' offense with 1,879 yards from scrimmage and had 15 rushing touchdowns.