The following rankings are based on how I think they will be at season's end. For example, while Louisville may not be a top ten team talent-wise, the way their schedule sets up, they could easily finish undefeated and in the top five.
So, here's my Preseason Top 25:
1. Alabama - Tough to see any team more talented in the country. May drop a game somewhere along the line but will win the title like last year.
2. Ohio State
- Love the one-two punch with Braxton Miller
and Carlos Hyde. Would like to see them play a tougher schedule, don't see a lose-able game until at Michigan.
3. Louisville - Talent-wise, the Cardinals are probably somewhere around 15th, but with the schedule they play and terrific coach in Charlie Strong, they may win all of their games by double digits.
4. Oregon - I don't know if the Ducks will return to the heights that they saw under Chip Kelly with Mark Helfrich, but he inherits a great load of talent this year and will easily reach at least ten wins. It will all come down to the Stanford game. They win it, it's tough to see Oregon not playing for the national title.
5. Texas -
The speed that the Horns began to showcase towards the end of 2012 will be on full display this season. The rush defense looks good and they return all but one starter in the secondary. I expect a motivated Mack Brown
to take advantage of a favorable schedule and compete for the Big 12 title.
6. Clemson - I could see a scenario where the Tigers lose their first and last games of the season but win the middle ten. I have them splitting with Georgia and South Carolina and finishing in the top ten.
7. Oklahoma State - Defense is the key for the Cowboys. If it steps up they can ride a relatively soft schedule to 10 or 11 victories.
8. Stanford - The Cardinal may even be a top five club, but I just don't see the offense to win 11 games and breathe that rarefied air.
9. Georgia - Schedule sets up nicely after opening week. Quarterback, running back, and tight end are all in place. If the young wide receivers step up the Bulldogs will be scary.
10. Florida State - Not as high as some are on the Seminoles this season. Road games at Florida and Clemson should both be L's, and then they typically lose one head-scratcher. Still a good team but they won't win the Atlantic.
11. South Carolina -
How far can Jadeveon Clowney
and Kelcy Quarles
carry them? SC may have top ten talent but I'm tired of picking them there and seeing them underachieve.
12. Wisconsin - September may beat them up with two tough roadies and a new coach, but the Badgers may go undefeated after that.
13. LSU - Love the Tigers here. The defense can play with anyone in the country, but the question is, can the offense put up enough points to compete in the SEC?
14. Nebraska - I really like Bo Pelini's team this season. Stout defense and an even better offense. Will compete with Wisconsin for the division and overall Big Ten title.
15. Florida - The Gators won 11 games last year, but that was probably the ugliest 11-win team I've ever seen. Bowling Green was in it late, they barely topped Missouri, needed a blocked punt returned for a touchdown with two seconds remaining to beat Louisiana-Lafayette, and even their win against Jacksonville State was nothing to write home about. And all of those were at home. Expect an equally ugly team, probably with two less wins
16. USC - I've seen the Trojans everywhere from top five to the 30-40 range, so I'll compromise. With an easier schedule than rival UCLA they've got a good chance at taking the South.
17. Oklahoma - Probably a three loss team. Quarterback situation will be interesting.
18. Arizona State -
While everyone's high on Washington as a Pac-12 sleeper, I love ASU. I may be the only one to like Todd Graham. They get Wisconsin, USC, Washington, Oregon State, and Arizona all in Tempe, and Notre Dame in Arlington. Double digit wins are possible behind Taylor Kelly
and Marion Grice.
19. Mississippi - Rebels are on the top of my teams to surprise list. Recruiting class was unreal and they have huge depth at the tackles, ends, and corner. Five of the six major playmakers from 2012 return, and they get Texas A&M and LSU at home.
20. Michigan State - Really don't have a feel on the Spartans. The front seven is loaded but they play at Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Northwestern. Should be alright if they get some help in the backfield.
21. Virginia Tech - I love Logan Thomas but I'm afraid to slot Va Tech any higher after last season's debacle.
22. Texas A&M
- Don't really have a feel for A&M. Their offensive production should drop at least a little with the loss of their super-talented center and right guard. Maybe a chance at ten wins if they can beat LSU on the road. SEC coaches have spent the summer game-planning against Johnny Manziel
, and he'll have to step up to come anywhere close to last year's production.
23. North Carolina - This will be Carolina's most talented team in four seasons. It'll be tough to get past Virginia Tech to win their division, but nine wins sounds about right.
24. Fresno State - I'm fine with having the Bulldogs higher, but with their soft schedule it'll be tough to crack the Top 20. Very deep and experienced team though.
25. Miami (Florida) - Very similar team to that of the Tar Heels. Love the offense but I'm not an Al Golden fan, and the linebackers will be picked on constantly.
Five More to Watch: Notre Dame
plays a helluva schedule and without a solid quarterback, may find themselves just outside the Top 25 at season's end. Kansas State
will not have an Auburn-like drop-off after going to a BCS bowl. Wildcats still have a great coach and playable schedule. If Oregon State
wins the games its favored in and pulls an upset against Stanford, USC, Arizona State, or Oregon, the Beavers should be Top 20. But it's tough to project that in August. I like them at 28. TCU
may not finish in the Top 25 but I really like this team. Casey Pachall
will make a run at all-Big 12 by season's end. Marshall
returns its starting quarterback and running back from one of the most potent offenses in the country. With only one game against a BCS opponent, the Thundering Herd should finish with nine or ten victories before the C-USA title game.
Below are the previous entries in my 2013 College Football preview