HOW THEY'LL FINISH
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.
RANDY SNYDER/ICON SMI (CURRY)
DERICK E. HINGLE/US PRESSWIRE (MASSAQUOI)
ROBERT BECK (HEAPS)