1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide will likely start in the Polls No.1 as they try to capture their third straight BCS title and their fourth in five years. QB AJ McCarron (2922 yds. 30 TD) returns for his senior season as he tries to get a third ring on his finger. Receivers Amari Cooper (1000 yds. 11 TD) and Kevin Norwood (461 yds. 4 TD) will help him achieve that goal. The only thing standing in the way of Alabama's title run is the semi-depleted secondary (S Vinnie Sunseri (52 TOT) and CB Deion Belue (36 TOT) only returning starters) and September 14th when they travel to College Station to take on the Aggies of Texas A&M. If Alabama can overcome those two things, Crimson Tide fans can expect another title in Tuscaloosa (or at least a title appearance).
2. Oregon: The Ducks may change their football uniforms about every day, but one thing has remained constant in Eugene, winning. And it will be remain that way in 2013. Arguably one of the more fun teams to watch, the Oregon Ducks return a high octane offense led by QB Marcus Mariota (2677 yds. 32 TD) and RB De'Anthony Thomas (701 yds. 11 TD). Oregon is almost nearly as talented on defense as they are on offense as they return all four starters to a secondary that ranked 56th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game with 229.2. The offense and defense is there for Oregon, what they lack is coaching experience in their new HC Mark Helfrich. Helfrich was Oregon's OC from 2009 to 2012, so putting points on the board shouldn't be a problem, defense may be though.
3. Ohio State: Urban Meyer did a fantastic job in his first year as the head man at Ohio State, turning around a Buckeye team than went 6-7 the year before to 12-0 the next. The Buckeyes will heavily rely on their quarterback Braxton Miller (2039 yds. 15 TD) for most of their offensive production as he was responsible for 3310 yards of Ohio State's 5085 total yards, nearly 65%! in addition to four returning starters on the offensive line, Ohio State also returns RB Carlos Hyde (970 yds. 16 TD), WR Philly Brown (669 yds. 3 TD) and WR Devin Smith (618 yds. 6 TD). A huge concern for Ohio State will be on defense, especially on the defensive line as no starters return. All American CB Bradley Roby (63 TOT) will have to lead the backfield. Another "weakness" on this Buckeye team is more of an intangible, pressure. The pressure of a win streak that started from the beginning of the last season that continues into this one. @ Northwestern could snap the streak.
4. Texas A&M: College Football's most beloved (or despised) quarterback is back for another year as Johnny Manziel (3706 yds. 26 TD), or better known as "Johnny Football", looks to follow up a 5115 yard, Heisman season. Manziel finds himself surrounded by a cast of returning offensive starters that includes his top four rushers, RB Ben Malena (808 yds. 8 TD), and WR Mike Evans (1105 yds. 5 TD). Texas A&M needs to address their issues at the secondary as just S Howard Matthews (58 TOT) and CB Deshazor Everett (55 TOT) return to a pass defense that allowed 250.7 passing yards a game. The rest of the defense could use some work too as only five defensive starters return. Texas A&M's fairly "easy" schedule should set them up for a chance at a BCS bowl bid, or even Championship bid if they can defeat Alabama, but only if only Manziel can get off of his dang Twitter!
5. Georgia: The Bulldogs are in a rut. For the last two years it seems that Georgia is poised for greatness, and usually the Bulldogs field a pretty good team, but one thing always stands in their way for a Championship bid. The SEC Western division. Is this the year Georgia gets over the hump and beats Alabama? Perhaps. Georgia had one of nation's best offenses in 2012, averaging 37.8 PPG and returns ten returning starters including all five offensive linemen. QB Aaron Murray (3893 yds. 26 TD) passed up the NFL and returns for his senior season along with RB Todd Gurley (1385 yds. 17 TD), WR Malcolm Mitchell (572 yds. 4 TD) and WR Arthur Lynch (431 yds. 3 TD). Much like Ohio State and Texas A&M, Georgia will be all offense in 2013, with glaring weaknesses on defense. Georgia returns only four defensive starters. Georgia did catch a break having LSU and South Carolina at home.
6. Texas: This could be the last straw for Texas Head Coach Mack Brown. There is absolutely no reason for Texas not to win the Big 12 this season. Texas returns 20 retuning starters, the most in the Big 12. Defense was not a strong point for Texas last season, allowing 29.2 PPG, but with nine returning starters, the defense should improve astronomically. Another flaw in this team is the QB position. For the last two years, QB David Ash (2699 yds. 19 TD) and QB Case McCoy (722 yds. 6 TD) have been fighting for playing time. Whoever the starters is this year, he will Texas' top four out of five receivers including WR Mike Davis (939 yds. 7 TD) and WR Jaxon Shipley (737 yds. 6 TD). Games against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and at TCU could make or break Texas' season and possibly end Brown's 16 year tenure.
7. Louisville: The Cardinals could be one of the best teams in all of College Football this season. Coming off an upset victory over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, Louisville looks to continue the momentum with another BCS bowl appearance. With 19 returning starters, Louisville is poised to sweep their easy slate of ex-Conference USA members and poor Big East teams. This easy schedule could also end up hurting Louisville, unless they are the only undefeated team in 2013. Heisman candidate QB Teddy Bridgewater (3718 yds. 27 TD) leads an passing offense that was No.1 in the Big East last season and has his top two targets, WR DeVante Parker (744 yds. 10 TD) and WR Damian Copeland (628 yds. 2 TD), coming back.
8. South Carolina: Head Coach Steve Spurrier once again looks to implement his "two-quarterback system" with QB Connor Shaw (1956 yds. 17 TD) and QB Dylan Thompson (1027 yds. 10 TD). Replacing RB Marcus Lattimore will be a tough task for South Carolina, especially when RB Mike Davis (275 yds. 2 TD) is the next best RB. Receiving could also be a problem for South Carolina as WR Bruce Ellington (600 yds. 7 TD) and WR Damiere Byrd (366 yds. 3 TD) are the top receivers coming back. Of course, offense will not be the strongest point on this team, the defense will. DE Jadaveon Clowney (54 TOT 13 sacks) made his name known (if wasn't already at that point) when he obliterated the state of Michigan (according to wiki). Linebacker could be a problem for the Gamecocks as no linebackers return.
9. Clemson: On the other end of the Palmetto state is a team who is the opposite of South Carolina: tons of offense. Clemson looks to pick up where they last left off, commanding the 13th best passing offense, the 36th best rushing offense and the 6th best overall offense that put up 41 PPG. Heisman candidate Tajh Boyd (3896 yds. 36 TD) has his top five of six targets returning including All American WR Sammy Watkins (708 yds. 3 TD). Oh, and did I mention that Clemson returns four starters to the offensive line? Yikes. I would not want to be the defensive coordinator who has to deal with that. Clemson should also have a modest defense to back up the offense, returning six starters including 3 DL and 2 LB to a rush defense that allowed just 155.9 rushing yards a game.
10. Oregon State: I believe that Oregon State could be a sleeper this season to dethrone Oregon and claim the Pac 12 title. That of course is a HUGE claim. I back up that claim with seven returning starters to a defense that ranked 22nd in points allowed last season with 20.6 PPG. I also feel that duo quarterbacks Sean Mannion (2446 yds. 15 TD) and Cody Vaz (1480 yds. 11 TD) along with RB Storm Woods (940 yds. 13 TD), RB Terron Ward (415 yds. 6 TD) and WR Brandin Cooks (1151 yds. 5 TD) should validate that statement further. November 29th could halt all of Oregon State's momentum when they have to take a vistit to Eugene to play Oregon.
11. Oklahoma State: I feel as though OSU may be ranked a little high, but much like Texas, they return just about everybody and have as good as shot as Texas does at the Big 12 title. The Cowboys will begin the second year of the "two-quarterback system" as Clint Chelf (1588 yds. 15 TD) and J.W. Walsh (1564 yds. 13 TD) both return. Returning along side them are receivers Josh Stewart (1210 yds. 7 TD), Blake Jackson (598 yds. 3 TD) and Charlie Moore (542 yds. 6 TD). The Cowboys MUST improve on pass defense if they expect to compete with Texas as they ranked 110th in passing yards allowed with 280 passing yards a game. Oklahoma State got a lucky draw when they got to play Oklahoma and TCU at home this season, leaving @ Texas the most challenging game on the schedule. If Oklahoma State can beat Texas, the implications could be endless.
12. Stanford: I know what you must be thinking, ranking Stanford this low. I'm just not all that into Stanford. Yes, Stanford will feature one of the best defenses in the nation this season, with 8 defensive starters returning to a defense that allowed just 17.2 points a game, but that is pretty much it. The Cardinal have no appeal on offense except for QB Josh Nunes (1643 yds. 10 TD), QB Kevin Hogan (1096 yds. 9 TD). And yes while the offensive line, led by All American OG David Yankey, is supposed to be one of the best in the nation this season, who cares when RB Anthony Wilkerson (224 yds. 1 TD), WR Ty Monygomery (213 yds.) and WR Kodi Whitfield (13 yds.) are your top offensive playmakers? And on top of that, Stanford has to play Notre Dame, Oregon and Oregon State and USC both on the road.
13. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers, much like Georgia, are in a rut. No matter how close Nebraska gets to a conference championship, they always get thwarted in the title game, a 70-31 pummeling by Wisconsin the most recent. Nebraska will once again dazzle on offense as they return a many offensive weapons and four offensive line starters. Of those weapons most deadly are dual threat QB Taylor Martinez (2871 yard passing 1019 yards rushing 33 TD), RB Ameer Abdullah (1137 yds. 8 TD) and Nebraska's top 3 WR that includes Kenny Bell (863 yds. 8 TD). The defense may be awful though. Nebraska gave up 27.6 points and 192.5 rushing yards a game last season, and only return five defensive starters from last season. A favorable schedule should allow Nebraska another shot at a BCS bid, though they'll probably get destroyed by Ohio State like they did last season.
14. Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish could have been one of the top teams this season, but when QB Everett Golson was dismissed, their BCS hopes were all but shot. QB Tommy Rees (436 yds. 2 TD) will presumably take over and lead a dismantled offense that features RB George Atkinson III (361 yds. 5 TD), WR TJ Jones (649 yds. 4 TD) and WR DaVaris Daniels (490 yds.). Notre Dame wasn't big on offense last year, it was the defense that won most of their games. The Fighting Irish return eight defensive starters, including All American DL Stephon Tuitt (42 TOT), to the nation's 2nd best defense. Will the defense be good enough to overcome the loss of Golson and their tough schedule to a 12-0 season? I think not. Probably not, anyways.
15. Ole Miss: Most sites don't have Ole Miss ranked this high (or ranked at all) but I like what is cooking in Oxford. Ole Miss returns the most starters in the SEC with 18. The Rebels defense wasn't the best last year, surrendering close to 28 PPG, but with all 11 starters returning, the Rebels defense should blend in with the rest of the SEC's tough defenses. QB Bo Wallace (2994 yds. 22 TD) returns for the Rebels and has top three receivers in Donte Moncrief (979 yds. 10 TD), Vince Sanders (504 yds. 4 TD) and Ja-Mes Logan (490 yds. 1 TD) all coming back. Ole Miss probably won't win @ at Texas or Alabama, but they have a real shot at taking down LSU and Texas A&M at home this season.
16. Florida: A lot of people like Florida in the top ten, some would even label Florida a title contender, but I'm just not seeing it. Florida's case is very similar to Stanford: no offense, tons of defense. Though, with only four returning starters on defense, I just don't see how a high ranking is warranted. QB Jeff Driskel (1646 yds. 12 TD) was less than exiting to watch, accumulating just 2054 yards of total offense. His top target will be WR Quinton Dubar (383 yds. 4 TD). Tough games @ Miami (FL), @ LSU, @ South Carolina, may result in losses, not even home against Florida State and Georgia are assured W's.
17. LSU: After losing just about every defensive player to the NFL draft, the LSU tigers are poised to put together another top 25 worthy defense with just four returning starters. QB Zach Mettenberger (2609 yds. 12 TD) will benefit after an off-season under HC Les Miles. Mettenberger will have his top four targets returning including WR Odell Beckham (713 yds. 2 TD) and WR Jarvis Landry (573 yds. 5 TD) as well as his top runningback Jeremy Hill (755 yds. 12 TD). LSU comes up a little empty on the defensive line as no starters return.
18. Florida State: Playing Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl was a disappointing end to the Seminoles season and the beginning of the season may be disappointing as Florida State LB Christian Jones (96 TOT) is the only defensive returner on the entire defensive front. The offense isn't quite in much peril as the defense is, but it isn't a perfect unit yet. Whoever will be the QB this season, he inherits his EJ;s two targets in WR Rashad Greene (741 yds. 6 TD) and WR Kenny Shaw (532 yds. 3 TD). Runningbacks Devonta Freeman (660 yds. 8 TD) and James Wilder Jr. (635 yds, 11 TD) return as well.
19. Wisconsin: To win ballgames this season, Wisconsin will have to rely on their defense, which shouldn't be that difficult considering they return seven starters. Wisconsin will yield one of the most impressive rush defenses as they return six starters to a defense that ranked 24th in rush defense with just 128.9 rushing yards allowed per game, and thats in the rush happy Big Ten! The offense will go through some changes as RB Montee Ball leaves a hole that will have to be filled by RB James White (806 yds. 12 TD). Wisconsin has three available quarterbacks, but will be likely going with Joel Stave (1104 yds. 6 TD) most of the time. While top WR Jared Abbrederis (837 yds. 5 TD) does return, Wisconsin desperately needs to work on passing, as they ranked 115th in passing yards per game.
20. TCU: The Horned Frogs are a popular sleeper team to win the Big 12 this season. They have all the making of a sleeper team, ranked in the 20's, returning starters from a underwhelming season, plus the fact that they have been a Big 12 member for only two years makes them even more of a sleeper team. TCU could potentially posses a strong defense in 2013 as they return nine starters, including All American CB Jason Verrett (63 TOT), to a defense that allowed just 22.6 points a game. The offense won't look to shabby either as QB Trevone Boykin (2054 yds. 15 TD) returns along with RB B.J. Catalon (582 yds.) and WR Brandon Carter (590 yds. 6 TD). A brutal schedule that features games against LSU, @ Oklahoma and @ Oklahoma State may keep TCU out of the Big 12 title chase.
21. Michigan: 2012 was a disappointing season for Michigan, what started with BCS hopes were quickly dashed by a romping by Alabama and ended with, well... the entire state of Michigan getting obliterated by Clowney. 2013 could be a rebounding year for Michigan as the Big Ten's most intriguing QB in Devin Gardner (1219 yds. 11 TD) returns to Ann Arbor. 6 returning starters on the 20th best defense provides cushioning incase the offense doesn't deliver, which it should. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (514 yds. 5 TD) will make up for the loss of QB Denard Robinson. WR Jeremy Gallon (829 yds. 4 TD) will help too. With a manageable schedule in 2013, Michigan could replicate their 2011 season, coming out of nowhere and it all could start in their second game of the season against Notre Dame.
22. North Carolina: North Carolina, much like Penn State and Ohio State, suffered a bowl ban despite being bowl worthy in 2012. High flying QB Bryn Renner (3356 yds. 28 TD) returns for the Tarheels and has his top two targets in WR Quinshad Davis (776 yds. 5 TD) and WR Eric Ebron (625 yds. 4 TD) returning as well. North Carolina will have to work on the Lineback position as no LB returns for the Tarheels. UNC's game against Miami (FL) could decide who wins the ACC Coastal division this year.
23. Fresno State: No this isn't a typo. Fresno State should be in the top 25. Where to begin with Fresno State, how about on defense? The Bulldogs return eight starters to a defense that allowed just 23.8 points per game. Heisman candidate QB Derek Carr (4104 yds. 37 TD) leads an explosive offense headlined by BYU transfer RB Josh Quezada (803 yds. 6 TD), WR Davante Adams (1312 yds. 14 TD) and WR Isaiah Burse (851 yds. 6 TD). Fresno State has a realistic chance to go undefeated this season as they get to play Boise State at home. The only real bump on the road would be @ San Jose State.
24. Michigan State: Sparty was supposed to win the Big Ten last year. Funny how things turn out, huh? Much like Michigan, 2013 also provides Michigan State at a chance for a rebound season that starts with the defense. While their season wasn't impressive the defense was, allowing just 16.3 points a game. That defense returns seven starters. QB Andrew Maxwell (2606 yds. 13 TD) will hopefully increase his number in his second year at QB. He will need help from his top two receivers in Bennie Fowler (524 yds. 4 TD) and Keith Mumphery (515 yds. 1 TD).
25. Arizona State: If Arizona State doesn't begin the season in the top 25, they will sneak in eventually. The Sun Devils defense, led by All American DT Will Sutton (63 TOT), have the players that will sustain them. QB Taylor Kelly (3039 yds. 29 TD) leads one of the Pac 12's hottest offenses along with RB Marion Grice (679 yds. 11 TD), WR Chris Coyle (696 yds. 5 TD) and WR D.J. Foster (533 yds. 4 TD). Needless to say Arizona State is my favorite to represent the south division in the Pac 12 Championship Game.