The first third of the countdown wraps up with this installment.
Not a single ACC team lands in that stretch. But don't worry. That will be rectified soon enough.
For now, here's five more teams you might not hear a whole lot about once November and December come around:
Yes, the Golden Gophers were a bowl team last season. I was an employed sportswriter last season. Lot of good that does now.
Minnesota was decidedly average on defense last year, hardly great but good enough to avoid getting humiliated in every situation other than a visit to the Horseshoe. Hey, that happens. But the front seven is gone, and there's little reason to think the Gophers will magically become a great defense by getting younger.
And about the offense? Well, nine starters are back. But the Gophers couldn't run (less than a 100 yards a game on the ground), couldn't score (less than 20 points in five of their last seven games) and simply weren't very impressive.
Minnesota also misses Indiana and Michigan, so the schedule isn't particularly favorable. The Gophers also open on a Thursday night (Sept. 2) at Middle Tennessee, which means they could be the first team whose season comes unraveled. If things get too ugly, Tim Brewster's fourth season could be his last.
The power of turnovers is an amazing thing.
In 2008, the Cowboys were a ghastly -22 in turnover margin, averaged an anemic 296 yards a game and managed to get not only coach Joe Glenn fired, but to punctuate Phil Fulmer's downfall at Tennessee with a 13-7 victory in Knoxville.
Last year, Wyoming was +8 in turnover margin, averaged an almost-as-anemic 309.4 yards of total offense and earned its first bowl berth in five years.
Much of last year's bunch is back, but the Cowboys are staring at an unpleasant schedule. They play Texas and Boise State in the season's first three weeks, and pay visits to Texas Christian and Brigham Young in October. This could be one beat-up outfit by the time it has to engage the bottom half of the Mountain West. Matching last year's 6-6 regular-season record would be impressive.
83. EAST CAROLINA
One of the great wild cards this season, the Pirates were wiped out by graduation and the loss of coach Skip Holtz to South Florida. Into the breach steps Ruffin McNeill, who was last seen figuratively wearing Mike Leach's headset as Texas Tech won the Alamo Bowl.
This is a fairly optimistic assessment compared to several preseason magazines, and even then it comes with some caveats.
The Pirates won't be as good on defense as they were a season ago, and a so-so offense will struggle now that Patrick Pinkney is gone after what felt like an eight-year career. One possible replacement: Dominique Davis, best known for helping Boston College clinch an Atlantic Division title with a defeat of Maryland in the 2008 regular season finale.
Few teams will face as crucial a stretch as the Pirates will in the season's first month. Trips to Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Southern Mississippi are lined up in a row, and East Carolina then gets N.C. State in Greenville. A fifth straight bowl berth isn't impossible, but a third consecutive conference title is unlikely.
Perhaps no major program needed a fresh start like the Cardinals, who rapidly plummeted from Big East champions to so-so to irrelevant in three years under Steve Kragthorpe. The evidence: Kragthorpe won five conference games, or one less than Bobby Petrino did in 2006 before an ill-fated move to the Atlanta Falcons.
Enter Charlie Strong, who at least will enjoy a little bit of a cushion to sort stuff out. The former Florida defensive coordinator finally gets his first head-coaching gig, and all is not bad.
The offensive line returns intact. The Cardinals get seven home games, including four in the Big East. The conference doesn't have an obvious dominant power, either this year or in the long run.
The defense, unquestionably, needs help, but that's Strong's specialty. Louisville probably won't be great this season, but things are just favorable enough for a bowl berth to be possible. If nothing else, the Cardinals should show some modest improvement --- and that should be enough for a fanbase numb to the steady decline of the last three seasons.
Sometimes, a team will receive a bump in any sort of ranking like this based on coaching alone.
That doesn't just go for the Jim Tressels and the Nick Sabans of the world. Chances are a team coached by Mike Riley or Brian Kelly or Jim Grobe will probably wind up outperforming expectations. Not always, of course, but it happens enough that folks should be smart enough to account for that consistently strong play.
It works in the other direction, too --- and that's where the Illini come in.
To be blunt, Ron Zook has done little to generate much faith in his sideline acumen, though his 6-9 record at Illinois in games decided by a touchdown or less isn't as bad as some might think.
Still, Zook has drawn raves as a recruiter and has a 21-39 record in five seasons in Champaign to show for it. He's 7-17 on the road and 0-5 on neutral fields. But perhaps most damning is this little gem:
BIG TEN STANDINGS, 2005-09
1. Ohio State (36-4, .900)
2. Penn State (29-11, .725)
3. Wisconsin (25-15, .625)
4. Iowa (22-18, .550)
5. Michigan (21-19, .525)
6. Northwestern (20-20, .500)
7. Purdue (17-23, .425)
8. Michigan State (16-24, .400)
9. Minnesota (13-27, .325)
10. Illinois (12-28, .300)
11. Indiana (9-31, .225)
Zook isn't the only coach who should fidget nervously because of these numbers (ahem, Rich Rodriguez), but he's presided over all five of these seasons and comes out behind everyone except Indiana. Which is to say he's behind everyone in the Big Ten that consistently makes football a priority.
Expectations aren't particularly high this fall, though the Illini catch a break by avoiding Iowa and Wisconsin and getting winnable games against Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue at home. A bowl berth is attainable, and it might just keep the Zooker around for an extra year. But another sub-.500 season from the Illini would make dismissing Zook one of the most justifiable coaching changes of 2010.