Conference Rankings and Breakdown
After sifting through these rankings, not only will you know where your team will finish in 2013 within its conference, but you will also know where your BCS (I cannot wait until next year when that no longer exists) conference stands as a whole. This is not an exact science, obviously, since teams are coming in and out of conferences seemingly daily, and there was a stretch last year when West Virginia looked as if it would roll over the Big 12 before getting taken to the woodshed by Texas Tech and losing 6 of its last 8. We have no real basis for predicting how some of these teams will do (I am looking at you
Big East American Athletic Conference!). It should be
fun, though. Check it out.
American Athletic Conference (#6)
10. Memphis Tigers (HC: Justin Fuente, 2nd season)
9. Temple Owls (HC: Matt Rhule, 1st season)
8. Southern Methodist Mustangs (HC: June Jones, 6th season)
7. South Florida Bulls (HC: Willie Taggert, 1st season)
6. Connecticut Huskies (HC: Paul Pasqualoni, 3rd season)
5. Central Florida Knights (HC: George O’Leary, 10th season)
4. Houston Cougars (HC: Anthony Levine, 2nd season)
3. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (HC: Kyle Flood, 2nd season)
2. Louisville Cardinals (HC: Charlie Strong, 4th season)
1. Cincinnati Bearcats (HC: Tommy Tuberville, 1st season)
Offensive Player of the Year: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Defensive Player of the Year: Jamal Merrell, LB, Rutgers
Coach of the Year: Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati
Automatic BCS Bid: Cincinnati
This conference is going to be interesting. The top three teams are very well defined at this point. It is going to probably be another split at the top, even though Rutgers lost nearly half of its starting lineup to the NFL. Cincinnati is going to get an immediate boost from new head coach Tommy Tuberville who turned Texas Tech into a formidable team in the Big 12 quickly. He is inheriting a lot of talent too. Louisville has the best coach and QB and, with some luck, could potentially run the table. The AAC has great offenses all over the place, but the few with solid defenses will rise to the top.
Atlantic Coast Conference (#5)
7. Duke Blue Devils (HC: David Cutcliffe, 6th season)
6. Virginia Cavaliers (HC: Mike London, 4th season)
5. Pittsburgh Panthers (HC: Paul Chryst, 2nd season)
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (HC: Paul Johnson, 6th season)
3. Virginia Tech Hokies (HC: Frank Beamer, 27th season)
2. Miami-Florida Hurricanes (HC: Al Golden, 3rd season)
1. North Carolina Tar Heels (HC: Larry Fedora, 2nd season)
7. Boston College Eagles (HC: Steve Addazio, 1st season)
6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (HC: Jim Grobe, 13th season)
5. North Carolina State Wolfpack (Dave Doeren, 1st season)
4. Maryland Terrapins (HC: Randy Edsall, 3rd season)
3. Florida State Seminoles (HC: Jimbo Fisher, 4th season)
2. Syracuse Orange (HC: Scott Shafer, 1st season)
1. Clemson Tigers (Dabo Swinney, 6th season)
Offensive Player of the Year: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Defensive Player of the Year: Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida State
Coach of the Year: Larry Fedora, North Carolina
Conference Championship Game: Clemson over North Carolina
This conference seems to be all but over already. Clemson is the prohibitive favorite with the majority of the key components of its squad returning from last year’s bowl victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (maybe the best matchup the bowl has ever had). They are going to put up crazy offensive numbers once again led by Heisman contender Tajh Boyd. They would be a dark horse candidate for the BCS title game if they didn’t have Georgia and in-state rival South Carolina in the non-conference. Florida State is going to have a bit of a disappointing season finishing third in the Coastal division without 4-time bowl winner E.J. Manuel and with newcomer Syracuse bumping them down a spot. The other side is going to come down to who can avoid bad losses to the Dukes and Boston Colleges of the world. Miami is poised for a good year, as is returning VT quarterback Logan Thomas, but I feel like North Carolina takes the Atlantic Division fresh off of its bowl ban. They continue to get top level talent, and Fedora can really build a program. That will be an entertaining title game for sure.
Big Ten Conference (#4)
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers (HC: Jerry Kill, 3rd season)
5. Iowa Hawkeyes (HC: Kirk Ferentz: 15th season)
4. Northwestern Wildcats (HC: Pat Fitzgerald, 8th season)
3. Michigan State Spartans (HC: Mark Dantonio, 7th season)
2. Michigan Wolverines (HC: Brady Hoke, 3rd season)
1. Nebraska Cornhuskers (HC: Bo Pelini, 6th season)
6. Penn State Nittany Lions (HC: Bill O’Brien, 2nd season)
5. Illinois Fighting Illini (HC: Tim Beckman, 2nd season)
4. Indiana Hoosiers (HC: Kevin R. Wilson, 3rd season)
3. Purdue Boilermakers (HC: Darrell Hazell, 1st season)
2. Wisconsin Badgers (HC: Gary Andersen, 1st season)
1. Ohio State Buckeyes (HC: Urban Meyer, 2nd season)
Offensive Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Defensive Player of the Year: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Coach of the Year: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Conference Championship Game: Ohio State over Nebraska
This conference is an interesting case. We have last year’s ineligible team that made undefeated look easy and returns a host of its starters, including Heisman frontrunner Braxton Miller. Nebraska is coming off a whipping at the hands of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game after going undefeated in the Legends Division. Wisconsin had a Rose Bowl berth, but they lost their coach before the game. Michigan is poised to have a rebound year of sorts when they will not have to be handcuffed by the electric play and limited passing game of Denard Robinson. Devin Gardner looked better than Robinson in glimpses last season. Michigan State is one of those that everyone feels will drop down each year, but they just linger around and take the top teams down to the wire. Penn State is going to have a huge falloff, though. It is years 2-4 of their sanctions that will really be hard on the Nittany Lions. The lack of scholarships and hope for any of the recruits to play in a bowl game is lost. It will be tough sledding for reigning national coach of the year Bill O’Brien. Oh, and watch out for Northwestern. That team can play. They have Kain Colter and Venric Mark coming back, which may be enough to contend in a tough Legends Division.
Southeastern Conference (#3)
7. Missouri Tigers (HC: Gary Pinkel, 13th season)
6. Vanderbilt Commodores (HC: James Franklin, 3rd season)
5. Kentucky Wildcats (HC: Mark Stoops, 1st season)
4. Florida Gators (HC: Will Muschamp, 3rd season)
3. South Carolina Gamecocks (Steve Spurrier, 9th season)
2. Tennessee Volunteers (HC: Butch Jones, 1st season)
1. Georgia Bulldogs (HC: Mark Richt, 13th season)
7. Mississippi State Bulldogs (HC: Dan Mullen, 5th season)
6. Auburn Tigers (HC: Gus Malzahn, 1st season)
5. Arkansas Razorbacks (HC: Bret Bielema, 1st season)
4. Texas A&M Aggies (Kevin Sumlin, 2nd season)
3. Louisiana State Tigers (HC: Les Miles, 9th season)
2. Mississippi Rebels (HC: Hugh Freeze, 2nd season)
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (HC: Nick Saban, 7th season)
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Defensive Player of the Year: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Coach of the Year: Butch Jones, Tennessee
Conference Championship Game: Alabama over Georgia
Everyone will cry that ranking the SEC 3rd is ridiculous, but they are just so weak at the bottom that they cannot stand up with the two deepest conferences. In the East, we have the defending division champion Georgia with its 4-year starting QB coming back, as well as its game-breaking young running backs. They should not have too much of an issue getting back to the Conference Title Game, but Tennessee, with new head coach Butch Jones, may be the only conference loss for the Bulldogs. They get Georgia at home, but they have three tough road games, which will make it difficult for them to actually take the division. Look for a huge bounce back from the Volunteers. Florida lost way too many starters to compete this year, and South Carolina is going to be in that usual 9-10 win range and miss out on the big time bowls. On the West side, we have Alabama. That is really all there is. I cannot see them losing to the Aggies again, even though the game is in front of the 12th Man in College Station. A&M lost a bunch of starters, and they will fall back the middle of the conference. Bielema will get the Razorbacks back, but it will take a while after the mess they have been put through the last couple seasons. LSU is always going to be around, but they just do not have the offense. Ole Miss is on the rise and will greatly improve on the 7 wins from a year ago. Once conference play gets going, their spread attack will be in full force and they will be a tough out. None of that really matters, though. The Tide will roll, maybe go undefeated this year, and almost certainly return to the National Championship Game.
Big 12 Conference (#2)
10. Kansas Jayhawks (HC: Charlie Weis, 2nd season)
9. West Virginia Mountaineers (HC: Dana Holgorsen, 3rd season)
8. Iowa State Cyclones (HC: Paul Rhodes, 5th season)
7. Kansas State Wildcats (Bill Snyder, 22nd total season)
6. Baylor Bears (HC: Art Briles, 6th season)
5. Texas Christian Horned Frogs (HC: Gary Patterson, 13th season)
4. Oklahoma Sooners (HC: Bob Stoops, 15th season)
3. Texas Tech Red Raiders (Kliff Kingsbury, 1st season)
2. Texas Longhorns (HC: Mack Brown, 16th season)
1. Oklahoma State Cowboys (HC: Mike Gundy, 9th season)
Offensive Player of the Year: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Defensive Player of the Year: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Coach of the Year: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Automatic BCS Bid: Oklahoma State
The Big 12 is the deepest conference in college football right now. Everyone except the pathetic Jayhawks is viable and bowl ready. There are legitimately 6 or 7 teams that could take the conference this year. Texas has a host of returning starters, and we have to think that the defense will be improved from last year. Texas Tech is going to continue putting up big numbers offensively with Kingsbury as head coach, adding to their sneaky good defense. Kansas State may take a step back without Colin Klein, but Snyder can coach them up better than anyone. TCU can make a run in their second year in the conference. Oklahoma is going to look totally different with Blake Bell as the full time QB. Baylor is going to be an offensive juggernaut, but I just cannot take them totally seriously until they field a competitive defense. The team that has been up there a lot recently that will wind up with the conference title is Oklahoma State. They have the important starters back, minus Joseph Randle. They are poised and well coached. Their schedule looks pretty manageable, with the only tough road games in Austin and Lubbock. No team is going to finish with less than two losses this year. The conference is way too competitive.
Pacific-12 Conference (#1)
6. California-Berkeley Golden Bears (HC: Sonny Dykes, 1st season)
5. Washington State Cougars (Mike Leach, 2nd season)
4. Oregon State Beavers (HC: Mike Riley, 13th total season)
3. Washington Huskies (HC: Steve Sarkisian, 5th season)
2. Stanford Cardinal (HC: David Shaw, 3rd season)
1. Oregon Ducks (HC: Mark Helfrich, 1st season)
6. Colorado Buffaloes (HC: Mike MacIntyre, 1st season)
5. Arizona State Sun Devils (HC: Todd Graham, 2nd season)
4. Arizona Wildcats (HC: Rich Rodriguez, 2nd season)
3. Utah Utes (HC: Kyle Whittingham, 9th season)
2. Southern California Trojans (HC: Lane Kiffin, 4th season)
1. California-Los Angeles Bruins (HC: Jim Mora, 2nd season)
Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Coach of the Year: Mark Helfrich, Oregon
Conference Championship Game: Oregon over UCLA
The best conference in the land is going to be a battle. I cannot see any of the teams going unbeaten in conference this year. The North is, of course, the best division in all of college football. Stanford and Oregon are arguable two of the five best teams in the nation. Oregon State is in that Michigan State mold, where everyone underestimates every single year. Washington has a senior quarterback and could make some noise with a 9 or so win season. Washington State proved last year that they can be a tough team to contend with at home. Leach’s offense promises to be much more consistent this year. California has a new coach and a lot of talent. Other than maybe the top two, the other four could finish in any order. I feel like the Ducks will wind up with the North title, with their only loss coming against UCLA at home. The South is probably going to come down to the Los Angeles schools. UCLA has a chunk of its division champion team back, most importantly Brett Hundley. USC should certainly have a better season than last year without the curse of the preseason #1 ranking. Utah is slowly climbing up the ranks as it gains more Pac-12 ready talent. The other three teams are all still breaking in new head coaches. MacIntyre is a great hire for Colorado. He turned San Jose State into a 10 win team, just two years removed from a 1-12 laughing stock. He will get Colorado back to the middle in the next couple years. The South champ is going to be UCLA, but I cannot see them beating Oregon twice in the same year. Ducks get the Rose Bowl berth.
Top 5 BCS Busters
5. Tulsa Golden Hurricane – The 11 win team from a year ago has their returning starting QB Cody Green. Their Conference USA schedule is manageable. This is a team that definitely needs to run the table to get in the BCS, however.
Toughest games: at Oklahoma, vs Iowa State, at Louisiana Tech
4. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs – They blew everyone away last year with their high powered offense and skill position talent. While their quarterback and receiver are gone, they still have standout running back Kenneth Dixon and a very doable road to the BCS.
3. Boise State Broncos – They are always going to be in the running. Last year was an off year for them, when they only won 11 games. This year, their schedule shapes up nicely. Senior QB Joe Southwick seemed to really be running the offense well at the end of the year.
Toughest games: at Washington, at Utah State, vs Nevada, at BYU, at San Diego State
2. Northern Illinois Huskies – The BCS team from last year is set to make another run this year. They will not start off the year under anyone’s radar, however. The MAC may not be as great as it was last year, either. They need to be undefeated this year, and seeing how Jordan Lynch played last year, that isn’t out of the question. Losing their head coach may hurt them a bit, though.
Toughest games: at Iowa, at Purdue, at Kent State
1. Arkansas State Red Wolves – They may have lost standout dual threat QB Ryan Aplin and head coach Gus Malzahn, but this team was as complete as any last year. They basically dominated the Sun Belt. I expect more of the same this year.
Toughest games: at Auburn, at Missouri, at Louisiana-Monroe
Top 5 Defenses
5. Michigan State Spartans – They lost William Gholston to the NFL, but they still return a few key starters, including elite cornerback Darqueze Dennard. They are always well coached and huge up front. Expect their defense to keep them in a bunch of games again this year, as its offense will not be up to par just yet.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish – This defense will hold most offenses to low numbers again, despite losing all everything linebacker Manti Te’o. They still have probably the most elite defensive line in the country, with Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt leading the way.
3. South Carolina Gamecocks – They have Jadaveon Clowney, which basically justifies them being on this list. He is the freakiest edge rusher I have seen in a long time. Add in a few other key returning starters from one of the better defenses last year, and you have one of the stingier potential defensive squads for 2013.
2. Stanford Cardinal – The Cardinal lost a few of their main contributors from a year ago, but David Shaw has shown an ability to replace his stars with almost no transition period. Expect Shayne Skov and company to continue the new tradition of defensive dominance by Stanford.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide – They may have lost another crop of players to the NFL, but once again, they are going to be loaded defensively. Led by likely All-American LB C.J. Mosley, this group is going to be scary good again, being as tough to move the ball on as any defense in the last few years.
Top 5 Offenses
5. Baylor Bears – We saw how well first time starter Nick Florence could do after the team lost RGIII (that is almost 45 PPG, by the way). Now they have Bryce Petty as the signal caller, who has the potential to be every bit as good as Florence. Lache Seastrunk could be a Heisman contender. Tevin Reese stretches the field as well as any Big 12 receiver. Look for some scary numbers by this offense, especially because their defense cannot stop anybody.
4. Clemson Tigers – Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins are back. They have lit up the ACC the past two seasons, and this year will be no different. I understand that DeAndre Hopkins is in the NFL and was a major component to the potency of that passing game, but Watkins is the game-breaker. Roderick McDowell should fit in nicely as a replacement for Andre Ellington. They should destroy ACC defenses.
3. Georgia Bulldogs – This could wind up being the most balanced offense in all of college football. Aaron Murray is coming into his fourth year as QB. Todd Gurley is as electric and talented as any running back in the nation. Malcolm Mitchell heads a dynamic receiving core as well. They should be able to score at will this year. Their defense is also going to be suspect, so they will put up monster numbers.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide – I could have put them number one. A.J. McCarron is more than just a game manager now. He is going to be given the keys to the offense, and he has all of the tools to be a great pocket passer. T.J. Yeldon is the next in line of the Alabama running backs who will dominate and get drafted high. Kenny Bell and Amari Cooper may be the two best receivers in the SEC. They proved against Notre Dame that they can pound even the most talented of defenses.
1. Oregon Ducks – Once again, the Ducks are probably going to be the best offense. Chip Kelly groomed Mark Helfrich to make the transition seamless, and there is no indication that it won’t be just that. Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas is a great running tandem, but Mariota can definitely throw the ball too. He is their best QB I have seen. Josh Huff is a solid wide out, while Colt Lyerla is a versatile and unguardable weapon. They should roll over almost every team they play and put up video game numbers once again.
Top 5 Coach of the Year Contenders
5. Dabo Swinney, Clemson – He is a hot commodity in the coaching world right now. Everyone seems to really like the guy, and his team is fun to watch. If he can coach his talented team to a BCS game and potentially an undefeated season, then he will be recognized in one form or another.
4. Butch Jones, Tennessee – If Jones can take that mess of a Tennessee team out of the muck and into contention for a SEC Championship Game berth, which I expect he will, then he will be up there for this award. He has followed Brian Kelly each step so far and improved on what he left him, but this time it is a rebuilding job. He can turn it around in one year. A division title will almost guarantee a spot on the Coach of the Year shortlist.
3. Mark Helfrich, Oregon – If he can get his team out the Pac-12 without a loss, then he deserves to be commended. With the investigations and bad press that the team has had, as well as losing one of the greatest offensive minds in recent memory, Helfrich would deserve to be in the conversation if he can win big and basically outshine his predecessor.
2. Nick Saban, Alabama – He is the coach of the likely National Champions. Most of the time, however, this award goes to a coach that does something truly special with a team, not necessarily the coach of the best team. He will get his votes, though, especially if he can get out of the SEC without a loss.
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State – Like Saban, most people expect his squad to be dominant. He already showed last year that the talent was already there and that it just needed the right coach. If they go undefeated again, it would be the first time since 1994-1995 Nebraska that a team has back-to-back unbeaten seasons. He would deserve the award just for that.
Top 5 NFL Draft Prospects
5. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville – People may question his level of competition against the putrid Big East, but that Sugar Bowl victory against the vaunted Florida defense proved that he is the real deal.
4. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU – After Ziggy Ansah got taken so high in the 2013 draft, it is clear that Van Noy will follow suit in 2014. He was actually the best defender on the team, always making big plays and putting up crazy numbers for an outside linebacker.
3. Marqise Lee, WR, USC – He may be a bit short for the prototypical NFL receiver, but he is ridiculously talented. When he has the ball, he is electric. When he doesn’t have the ball, he is making people look silly. His hands are as good as it gets. He will be an instant impact player at the next level.
2. Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan – He has been the talk of the Big Ten in terms of linemen for a couple years now. He is every bit as talented and athletic as Jake Long, the former #1 pick. He will almost certainly be the first left tackle taken in the draft.
1. Jadaveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – He is one of the craziest athletes in the nation. He is a pure pass rusher with sub 4.45 speed. Unless a team really wants a QB, then he will be the first pick in the draft for sure.
Top 10 Heisman Contenders
10. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – With how poorly he has handled his historic Heisman win a year ago, I cannot see him winning again. However, when Tim Tebow had his win as the first sophomore, he was invited back both subsequent seasons whether he deserved it or not. People still love him and he will continue to be in the spotlight from now until December.
9. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor – He has the talent and the offense around him to put up some stupid numbers in 2013. His team will need to be a threat in the Big 12 for this to be realistic, but his numbers should speak for themselves.
8. Jadaveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – He is going to need to build on what he did last year for him to really compete for an invitation to New York. Defensive players are getting more national Heisman attention recently, so he will be on everyone’s watchlist to start the year and maybe to end the year if he can have an Ndamukong Suh-level season of dominance and big plays.
7. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama – Once Eddie Lacy left for the NFL, he was placed on everyone’s shortlist. He will be given the platform and carries to have just as impressive of a season as invitees Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram before him. Sharing the ball with Lacy was the best thing for him. Look for him to have a ridiculous season.
6. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia – He is going to continue to be scrutinized for not being clutch until he can beat Alabama or win a BCS bowl. If he can put together an undefeated regular season, then he will be a finalist for sure. He just needs to block out all of the negative attention and just conduct what should be an unstoppable offense.
5. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska – All three seasons of his career, he has garnered early Heisman attention for his big plays and monster numbers. He is finally the unquestioned starter and proved last year that he is the most clutch quarterback in the country. He can win the Heisman if they win the Big Ten. A battle of undefeated teams in the Big Ten Title game would be the best thing for him.
4. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson – He has everything going for him right now. Last year, he was a top 10 level Heisman contender. This year, with all of the weapons he has coming back and a probable Orange Bowl run in front of him, he is a frontrunner. Let’s see how he can do with expectations.
3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon – He seems to have a bit of Colin Kaepernick in him, except he plays at a big school. If he has an even better and more efficient sophomore campaign, then he will be an easy Heisman finalist, since his team is likely headed for another 11-12 win regular season.
2. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama – At some point, the conductor of one of the most impressive runs in modern college football history has got to be recognized. He is efficient, poised, and clutch. Another unbeaten season will guarantee his candidacy.
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State – The clear frontrunner this year has to be the most dynamic quarterback in the nation. In Urban Meyer’s offense, Miller thrived last year. If he can stay healthy, then his numbers will be sick and he will run away with this vote.
Preseason Top 25
Others receiving votes: Baylor, Miami, Mississippi, Rutgers, Syracuse, TCU, USC, Washington
25. Cincinnati – Head coach Tommy Tuberville will get them there. He is left a host of talent, and they will make a run at it in the AAC.
24. Northwestern – The Wildcats have key returning starters on offense, and they have showed recently that they really have a winning pedigree. We will have to see how the team does with some real expectations in the Legends Division.
23. Oklahoma – They are always in the running and wind up disappointing. I expect the offense to go through some growing pains early on, but it could really get rolling behind power running QB Blake Bell.
22. Florida State – The Seminoles are faced with another year of high expectations, which is not good for that squad. Every year is the same hype, and every year they wind up being a pretty good but not great team with elite talent.
21. Florida – The losses on the defensive side of the ball are going to force the offense to carry the team early on, which will be a great change of pace for the defensive-minded coaching staff.
20. Louisville – This may seem a bit low for the Cardinals, but other than Teddy Bridgewater, there just is not too much pull for Louisville. They will likely have a huge year again, though. The matchup with Cincinnati in December will likely decide who gets the BCS nod.
19. Texas A&M – Johnny Football has been a media hound recently, but maybe that is just ESPN looking for a story. The team had some huge losses to the draft, but Manziel should be able to shoulder the pressure to put together another nice season and pull a couple more upsets.
18. Wisconsin – There may be a slight transition period after losing their coach and Montee Ball, but they can reload and make another run toward a Rose Bowl berth.
17. Boise State – The team has a bunch of starters coming back, and we know at worst that they will be a well coached team that will win 10 games. I don’t foresee the early offensive struggles like last year.
16. Texas Tech – This team is a dark horse in the Big 12. The offense will be potent. If the defense is solid like last year, then watch out for the Kliff Kingsbury-coached squad.
15. LSU – The Tigers are looking at another elite defense and good running game. We will see if Zach Mettenberger has grown in the offseason.
14. Texas – They have some 20 returning starters, so they have to be great. They will likely still struggle on offense since none of their QBs are great, but they will be a veteran and well coached bunch. If they do not contend this year, that could be the end of Mack Brown in Austin.
13. Oregon State – There is no real reason for them to be up this high, but there isn’t a reason they shouldn’t be either. Storm Woods and company will make the offense viable. The defense is always stingy when they are not playing Oregon. They will be a “surprise” team again.
12. Michigan – Devin Gardner could be the guy who could take the team to the Promised Land, but not quite this year. He is the next Ryan Tannehill. The rest of the team stacks up well. They will be right there contending for a division title with…
11. Nebraska – The Cornhuskers need to win this year. Martinez may well hold every relevant record in school history, but without a conference title, all of that will not mean much. They have the returning talent to do just that.
10. UCLA – The early season matchup with Nebraska will be interesting. That will be a nice barometer to measure where the team will fall in 2013. They looked like the best team in the Pac-12 at times, but they also looked very stale at times. I expect Brett Hundley to make them more of the former this year.
9. South Carolina – The team is going to be all about defense. They have a nice group of skill position players ready to step up, but they aren’t exactly Marcus Lattimore and Ace Sanders. That defensive front will keep them around the top 10 all year.
8. Oklahoma State – The Cowboys are looking at having one of the elite offenses in the nation once again. The stable of QBs has settled down to just one, Clint Chelf. He has the talent to be the best QB in the conference.
7. Notre Dame – How will Everett Goldson respond during his sophomore campaign after getting hammered in the National Championship Game? Pretty well, I suspect. Brian Kelly has never really had a great team coming back since he always upgrades. You can’t get much higher than Notre Dame. Look for another title run this year.
6. Clemson – The offense of the Tigers is going to be scary. For them to finally compete legitimately for a BCS title, they need to improve on defense. Their offense will mask a lot of their deficiencies, however.
5. Georgia – Week 1: Georgia at Clemson. Be there. It is set up to be a classic offensive show and battle to see who is a legit top 5 team and who is going to come up short once again.
4. Oregon – The Ducks will not leave the top 10 all year, unless they drop to Tennessee in the non-conference. They are reloaded and set for another National Title run.
3. Stanford – The Cardinal are going to be incredible once again. With Kevin Hogan at QB, the team was on a different level. Losing their horse Stepfan Taylor is a blow, obviously, but they have reserves. Oregon at Stanford on 11/7…should be another unforgettable matchup with a BCS Title spot potentially on the line.
2. Ohio State – After seeing how they played last year with nothing to play for, I cannot think that this year they will be any weaker. If they slip up, it will be surprising, maybe even shocking. A battle of unbeatens against Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship would be a sight to see.
1. Alabama – Surprised? I didn’t think so. They are the favorite, and they should be. However, last time they were basically a unanimous #1 in 2010, they lost 3 games in the regular season. Can you see that happening again? Nah me neither.
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State over Cincinnati
Orange Bowl: Stanford over Clemson
Rose Bowl: Oregon over Nebraska
Sugar Bowl: Georgia over Texas
BCS Championship Game: Alabama over Ohio State
So, there you have it. What do you think? Your top 25? Other rankings? Any notable snubs or overlooks? Let me know in the comments!