Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports
- Writer puts the Georgia Bulldogs at #7 in 'early' Top 25 for 2013 season
- Ranks four SEC teams in Top 10; six SEC teams in Top 25
- Says Alabama should open at #1; Notre Dame at #8
The 2012 season is officially over, which means it's time to turn our gaze to 2013. While rosters might change slightly before late August, these are the teams most deserving of a top-25 ranking in the 2013 preseason polls. As for much of the last five seasons - and on Monday night in particular - Alabama leads the way.
TIDE ROLLED: Rout of Notre Dame hands Alabama another title
EARLIER | Alabama Holds Off Georgia in Classic SEC Title Game
RELATED | QB Aaron Murray to Stay for Senior Season at UGA
1. Alabama (2012: 13-1)
Why No. 1? The Crimson Tide have more talent than any team in the country and the best coaching staff. As seen over the last half-decade, Alabama is the most elite program in college football; this team isn't going anywhere. It also helps that the Tide don't draw Florida, Georgia or South Carolina from the SEC East Division. If running back Eddie Lacy returns, the 2013 offense might be one of the most explosive in school history.
2. Ohio State (2012: 12-0)
Why No. 2? The Buckeyes hit the ground running under Urban Meyer, going undefeated until their season ended after 12 games due to NCAA sanctions. While it was a shorter year than most, OSU ended the season as the lone undefeated team in the FBS. The sky is the limit for quarterback Braxton Miller, who will be a leading Heisman contender. Ohio State will only get better and better as it gains more experience under Meyer and his staff.
3. Stanford (2012: 12-2)
Why No. 3? The Cardinal can't wait to get back on the field after this season's torrid finish: Stanford won eight games in a row after losing in overtime to Notre Dame on Oct. 13. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan is ready to lead behind one of the country's best offensive lines. Schedule-wise, Stanford hosts Oregon, USC and Notre Dame.
4. Oregon (2012: 12-1)
Why No. 4? Now that Chip Kelly has officially returned, there's absolutely no reason to think the offense won't again be the nation's best. The defense will be another year more experienced and should build upon this season's underrated performance. The winner of Oregon-Stanford will take home the Pac-12.
5. Florida (2012: 11-2)
Why No. 5? Will Muschamp's defense will insert a few new starters and not miss a beat. In addition, the offense, and quarterback Jeff Driskel in particular, will only get better in a second year under coordinator Brent Pease. What about the losses to the NFL? Those that have left thus far can be replaced.
6. Florida State (2012: 12-2)
Why No. 6? The program continues to add achievements in each season under Jimbo Fisher, taking home the ACC in 2012 and adding an Orange Bowl win. The Seminoles play Florida on the road, but the team should rule the ACC. The only questions: Who is going to play quarterback and will the defense continue to excel under a new coordinator?
7. Georgia (2012: 12-2)
Why No. 7? With Aaron Murray, two superb young running backs and the entire line returning, Georgia's offense should be the best in the SEC. However, with Jarvis Jones and others gone, Georgia has questions to address on defense. Can the Bulldogs simply outscore every team on their schedule? Not every team, perhaps, but most of them.
ROUT: Tide rout Irish to win another national championship
8. Notre Dame (2012: 12-1)
Why No. 8? Left tackle Zack Martin and nose tackle Louis Nix III opted to return for their senior seasons, lending Notre Dame some All-American production along with terrific leadership. The offense will be improved, but Manti Te'o leaves an enormous hole on defense and in the locker room. Also, Notre Dame must respond to Monday's blowout loss and use it as a motivator heading into next season.
9. LSU (2012: 10-3)
Why No. 9? Quarterback Zach Mettenberger and the offense seemed to turn a corner over the final stretch of 2012, beginning with the near win against Alabama. There are few better than defensive coordinator John Chavis, so LSU should survive despite more losses to the NFL than most expected. LSU plays at Alabama and Georgia but hosts Florida and Texas A&M.
10. Nebraska (2012: 10-4)
Why No. 10? An experienced offense, led by senior quarterback Taylor Martinez, will be unstoppable throughout the regular season. While the 2012 season ended poorly, the Cornhuskers are close to breaking out of their four-loss rut. Unfortunately, the defense won't be able to stop Ohio State when push comes to shove.
11. Boise State (2012: 11-2)
Why No. 11? After a tough start, Boise State began hitting its stride in November and December. Even in a down year, the Broncos won 11 games. Next year's team will challenge for an undefeated finish. Boise doesn't lose much, if at all, when coach Chris Petersen has a returning starter at quarterback.
12. Clemson (2012: 11-2)
Why No. 12? The Tigers will be unstoppable on offense as long as coordinator Chad Morris remains in the fold - and he's back for at least one more season. Quarterback Tajh Boyd will enter the year as one of the best players at his position. But can the Tigers play enough defense to win the ACC?
13. TCU (2012: 7-6)
Why No. 13? TCU survived its first year in the Big 12 despite overwhelming youth and a slew of personnel issues. One year later, coach Gary Patterson will have the Horned Frogs back in their customary spot among the top 15 teams in the country. TCU will bring back most of this past season's contributors and should get a full season out of quarterback Casey Pachall, who missed most of this past year with off-field issues.
14. South Carolina (2012: 11-2)
Why No. 14? Having proven it can exist without running back Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina's offense will be good enough to make a run at a BCS bowl. There's no player better than defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but South Carolina will need a team effort to navigate one of the SEC's toughest schedules.
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15. Texas A&M (2012: 11-2)
Why No. 15? Johnny Manziel alone is reason enough to expect another terrific season from the Aggies. But with the outstanding offensive line potentially rebuilt, the defense losing its star and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury gone to Texas Tech, it'll be hard for A&M to leapfrog past Alabama. But it'll fun to watch them try, won't it?
16. Louisville (2012: 11-2)
Why No. 16? Louisville bring back its coach, Charlie Strong, and its quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, and that's good enough for another BCS berth. But will the Cardinals have the schedule needed to impress voters? That's one of the team's biggest issues as part of the Big East.
17. Texas (2012: 9-4)
Why No. 17? Quarterback David Ash is ready to take the next step, but the defense needs to improve for Texas to win the Big 12. Until the defense proves itself, Texas is a very good but not great team. Greater consistency is needed if the Longhorns hope to get back to the top of the conference.
18. Oregon State (2012: 9-4)
Why No. 18? The Beavers will be a Pac-12 contender thanks to a formidable offensive line, improved quarterback play and a defense that needs only to replace cornerback Jordan Poyer to be one of the league's best. Settling on a quarterback would be a good idea, and sooner rather than later.
19. Oklahoma State (2012: 8-5)
Why No. 19? Like TCU, the lumps a young Oklahoma State team took in 2012 will pay dividends in the fall. How far the Cowboys go depends on whether the still-young roster is ready in 2013 or still a year away. The Cowboys host Kansas State, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma.
20. Fresno State (2012: 9-4)
Why No. 20? The Bulldogs are the only team capable of stopping Boise State in the Mountain West Conference. Quarterback David Carr headlines an offense that flies too far under the radar. Fresno State should expect to win 10 games.
NOT NO. 1: Ohio State goes undefeated but finishes No. 3 in the AP poll
21. Oklahoma (2012: 9-4)
Why No. 21? OU is rebuilding on offense, which might not be a bad thing. But there are holes on both lines and a deteriorating sense of confidence after a disappointing 2012 season. Oklahoma no longer intimidates opponents, so they'll need to outwork and out-scheme teams in and out of Big 12 play.
22. Northwestern (2012: 10-3)
Why No. 22? With the bowl losing streak of its back, Northwestern and players like Kain Colter and Venric Mark can focus on challenging for a division title and potential Rose Bowl berth. It's not too far-fetched to think that the Wildcats can win their division.
23. UCLA (2012: 9-4)
Why No. 23? The Bruins were ahead of schedule in Jim Mora's first season, but Mora will make sure his team suffers no sophomore slump. Returning players like quarterback Brett Hundley and linebacker Anthony Barr will help.
24. Northern Illinois (2012: 12-2)
Why No. 24? No MAC team will sniff the Huskies, but one wonders how this team will react to a coaching change (Rod Carey replaced Dave Doeren) and an ugly loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
25. Kansas State (2012: 11-2)
Why No. 25? The Wildcats have Bill Snyder and a terrific offensive line and backfield, but the team will struggle replacing what quarterback Collin Klein brought to the table. If anyone can make Kansas State can't miss a beat, it's Snyder.