Are things going to be different in 2013? Who knows. Still, it’s always fun speculation, and it’s not a really bold assumption saying Alabama will be the early season favorites; Texas A&M will be the closest thing to a challenger in the SEC, while Oregon, Stanford and Ohio State will also have hopes of winning a national title.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide – The national champions are losing a big chunk of their offensive line (Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker), but they have McCarron returning at quarterback, a deep squad with another massive recruiting class and most importantly, Nick Saban calling the shots.
2. Texas A&M Aggies – Johnny Manziel, the first Freshman Heisman winner in College Football history, is enough to give the Aggies a high ranking. The SEC is a killer, but the Aggies’ national title hopes rest on September 14, when they host Alabama at College Station.
3. Oregon Ducks – It’s going to be an interesting season for the Ducks in the post-Chip Kelly era. Marcus Mariota is going to be a Heisman candidate while De’Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla make one of the most intriguing offensive duos in the nation, not to mention deadly. Replacing the starters on defense will be the key to another successful year.
4. Stanford Cardinal – Stanford are returning four offensive linemen and 10 defensive starters, so the departures of Stepfan Taylor and tight ends Zach Ertz shouldn’t be that painful, especially with Kevin Hogan showing so much promise this season.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes – It’s hard to see the Buckeyes going 12-0 one more time, but the Big Ten isn’t getting much stronger. There’s also the case of Urban Meyer on year two, usually coming with a national title or something of the sorts. One of the biggest problems is the weakness of the Big Ten, hurting their strength of schedule.
6. South Carolina Gamecocks – The Gamecocks keep four offensive linemen, their two quarterbacks and the most highly rated defensive lineman in the nation, Jadeveon Clowney. South Carolina will be young at linebacker, but Steve Spurrier’s team has recruited well, and the attention paid to Clowney by opposing offenses should allow other playmakers to emerge. An easy schedule compared to the rest of the SEC East might help.
7. Georgia Bulldogs – The offense is going to be great: Aaron Murray returning, not to mention Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at running back. The problems will be replacing Jarvis Jones at linebacker.
8. Louisville Cardinals – Returning 20 starters is a good enough reason to start celebrating, not to mention quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a year older and still playing in the very soft Big East might even get us an undefeated season and overrated rankings.
9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Once the Manti Te’o storm blows over, there’s a pretty good football team left in South Bend. Brian Kelly stayed, along with a few more defensive stars, not to mention quarterback Everett Golson bound to look better this season. The schedule also looks a tad easier than last season, although there is a season ending game at Stanford.
10. Clemson Tigers – It usually falls down to who hosts the game – Clemson or Florida State. With a returning Tajh Boyd, a healthy and more focused Sammy Watkins and an improved defense, the Tigers should be the best in the ACC this season.
The rest of the Top 25:
16. Florida State
17. Boise State
20. Kansas State
25. Northern Illinois