The college football season is upon us! Time to look at the 2013 pre-season rankings and see how the teams stack up. Here we go!
Rank Team 2012 Record
1 Alabama 13-1
The SEC won the last seven NCAA championships. The last non-SEC team to win: The University of Texas in 2005. Can Alabama three-peat? Coach Nick Saban is playing it down. Winning a national championship is hard enough. Let alone consecutively. Let alone three times in a row. The Crimson Tide is the team to beat but the law of averages suggests they will not pull off the same feat for the third year in a row.
2 Ohio State 12-0
Ohio State was the first undefeated team that couldn’t play for the national championship or participate in a bowl game. Had they not been on NCAA probation it would have been the Buckeyes, and not Alabama, playing Notre Dame for the Championship. Bittersweet. Urban Myer has his team running on all cylinders. Look for the Buckeyes to possibly run the gauntlet again and be in the national championship picture.
3 Oregon 12-1
With the NCAA ruling on their improper recruiting practices behind them the Ducks have a clear path to the national championship. Oregon is for real and will carry the momentum from their successful season last year. If the Ducks don’t find themselves in the national championship game they will be in a BCS bowl.
4 Stanford 12-2
Stanford’s strong showing in both the Pac-12 Championship Game and the Rose Bowl has them ranked high for 2013. Expectations are high. They will compete in the Pac-12 and look to win the north again. Check back midseason however to see if the Cardinal is still ranked in the top 10.
5 Georgia 12-2
Here marks the shift in the national landscape for college football. Two seasons ago, the Georgia Bulldogs were in the basement. Last year the Bulldogs had a turnaround season. This year they have a pre-season ranking of fifth in the nation. Ambitious? The experts feel the Bulldogs have something to show for 2013. The proof will be on the field. The SEC is still the strongest, hardest and toughest conference in the country. A lot will have to go Georgia’s way to still be fifth, or higher, at the end of the season.
6 Texas A&M 11-2
Is it any surprise the A&M Aggies is a top 10 nationally ranked team? Johnny Football returns from his Heisman Trophy winning performance from last season. And in the eyes of the Aggies he is their savior. But off-season reports of strange antics and behavior of the team captain has given cause for concern. Will Maisel be focused and have the same drive from last year? In addition the pressure on Maisel is greater now than ever before. Expect the Aggies to stumble.
7 South Carolina 11-2
The old ball coach has the old ball club ready and competing in the SEC. That and Clowney returns to dominate on the defensive line. The Gamecocks will compete in the SEC. Look for a repeat performance from South Carolina in 2013.
8 Clemson 11-2
Clemson had a banner year last season. The crowning achievement was upsetting LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. While earning an 11th ranking in the nation to end the season unfortunately that will not translate into a high pre-season ranking for 2013. The Tigers will have to earn it again. Clemson make get some early pre-season love but check back mid-season to see if the Tigers can remain ranked.
9 Louisville 11-2
Building on the success from 2013 Louisville is going to get respect. The Cardinals provided themselves with their excellent and admirable 11 win season. The problem this year is Louisville’s soft schedule which features a bunch of community colleges. Louisville is not a national power; still, the Cardinals have its highest preseason ranking since Steve Kragthorpe was head coach in 2007.
10 Florida 11-2
The Florida Gators are strong. Like many SEC teams, the Gators are a well-oiled machine. That, along with last season's success, is why a high preseason ranking is granted. Florida has the potential to be a Top 10 team and a national title contender if the offense can sustain productivity. But the unknown is a scary place to be. The Gators begin the season with the respectable 10th spot in the AP poll.
11 Notre Dame 12-1
Note Dame returned to its storied prominence last season. Unfortunately the fairy tale ending did not come true for them. Alabama handed ND their only loss in a lopsided win for the national title. Notre Dame will compete again this year but are not a sure bet. Their best chance was last season. To regroup and reload for another title run will prove too difficult for the Irish in 2013.
12 Florida State 12-2
Speaking of teams that fail to live up to the hype, there is Florida State - a team that fails to live up to the hype. Huge expectations, big talent, little results. The Seminoles have cracked the Top 10 of the preseason AP poll the last two seasons even without accomplishing much in the last decade. They will have a little more climbing to do this season, but finding themselves within the top 15 it is a solid start. Florida State has the name and the talent to be considered a dark-horse ACC contender.
13 LSU 10-3
Year in and year out the LSU Tigers are part of the national championship landscape. LSU has been ranked in the Top 10 of the preseason AP poll in seven of the last nine seasons. This year the Tigers “slip” to 13. But the consistently high pre-season ranking is tribute to the track record under head coach Les Miles and the returning starters on offense. Talent seems to grow on trees in Baton Rouge. With other programs stepping up, LSU seems to be the forgotten team in the SEC. But no one should count this team out.
14 Oklahoma State 8-5
One would think a mediocre win record at 63% from last season wouldn’t warrant a top 15 ranking in the nation. But these Cowboys are poised for improvement. In fact, the Big 12 media poll has the Cowboys picked to win the conference. A conference win is an automatic BCS bowl bid. Should the predictions hold true OSU will be a fun team to watch this year. It will be interesting if the Cowboys find themselves in the conversation for the national championship.
15 Texas 9-4
The Longhorns find themselves in a familiar territory being ranked in the top 25. However for the Longhorn nation a 15th ranking is not as high to their liking or what they are used to. Texas’ prominence has slipped in recent years however the program is still solid. Texas owns the Big XII. The Longhorns will continue to dominate in 2013.
16 Oklahoma 10-3
Oklahoma is a storied and proud program. Its pedigree often supersedes it. Oklahoma is one of those programs that is fed by the hype machine. It hasn't begun a season ranked outside the top 10 of the AP poll since 2000. It has been ranked in the preseason poll for 13 straight years. You can expect the Sooners to live up to their ranking.
17 Michigan 8-5
The Wolverines are on the rise. The team is installing a pro-style offense that they expect will allow them to return to elite status in the Big 10. Now that Denard Robison is gone it is Devin Gardner’s team. But Gardner can’t win every game by himself. The defense will have to step up. Look for the Wolverines to have a similar season as last with room for improvement.
18 Nebraska 10-4
Nebraska has ranked in the AP preseason poll six of the last seven years. The Cornhuskers are one of the best team in the Big Ten. The offense will continue to be one of the most potent and productive in college football. Nebraska is one of only a couple of teams that could challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten crown.
19 Boise State 11-2
The underrated, overlooked and unappreciated Broncos are ranked high once again. Year after year the Broncos continue to overachieve. When will the BCS recognize Boise State and reward them for all its success and playing Division I football with the powerhouses? Perhaps this year the Broncos will finally play in their first BCS bowl. This is a fun team to watch.
20 TCU 7-6
New Big 12 member TCU has held their own in their new conference. Don’t sleep on the Horned Frogs for 2013. They are predicted to finish fourth in the Big 12 this year. A top four finish in the Big 12 would almost certainly guarantee a Bowl bid. Look for TCU to have another winning season this year and stay ranked somewhere in the top 25 all season long.
21 UCLA 9-5
The Bruins have high hopes with head coach Jim Mora. He proved last season in his inaugural year at the helm that he can lead and deliver. And 2013 proves to offer UCLA a favorable schedule. With the exception of Nebraska, the Bruins’ non-conference schedule is soft, and then they open up Pac-12 play against down Utah and Cal. Don’t be surprised if they start the season 5-0 or 4-1. And since they played in the Pac-12 Championship game last year they will challenge again. The Bruins will be bowl bound again this season.
22 Northwestern 10-3
Northwestern hasn't begun the season ranked in the AP poll since 2001. This is the season that snaps that streak. The Wildcats were one of the more underrated teams from last year yet they surprise most by grinding out a 10 win season. This is a Big Ten program on the rise. The Wildcats will compete again in 2013.
23 Wisconsin 8-6
Ohio State is the team to beat in the Big 10, but who is second behind them in the Leaders Division? The Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers are predicted to go 9-3 overall in 2013 and 6-2 in conference play. A 9-3 campaign for Wisconsin likely involves a non-conference loss to either Arizona State (on the road, and probably more likely) or BYU. Then two other missteps in conference play. At Ohio State is almost certainly one, and the second very well could come the following week at home vs. Northwestern. This is probably the most accurate assessment of the pre-season for Wisconsin.
24 USC 7-6
Coach Lane Kiffin sits on the hottest seat in the Pac-12 conference but he is able to recruit and succeed. The talent and potential are there at USC for a deep run in 2013. And now that the NCAA sanctions have been served the Trojans are able to capitalize on any success they generate during the season. That is added incentive and motivation. Even with Lane Kiffin on the hot seat, USC will be a player in 2013 and a force to contend with. This will be a bowl eligible team and possibly a BSC bowl at that.
25 Oregon State 9-4
Oregon State had a banner year last season and they will look to repeat that success this year. However these are the Beavers who, as a program, have a penchant to yo-yo up and down. Expect them to backslide this season back to mediocrity. Their first half schedule is promising with the ability for them to be sitting on a 4-2 record by the midway point. But the back half of the schedule is a murderers' row with the last five games all looking like probable losses on paper. Still the Beavers could be a sleeper team in the Pac-12. Don’t be surprised for them to have a consecutive winning season.