College Football Rankings: Way-Too-Early Top 10 for the 2012-13

Zachary Parker@@zacharyparker49Correspondent IIFebruary 8, 2012

College Football Rankings: Way-Too-Early Top 10 for the 2012-13

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    A college football team's honor is gained and lost by how they are ranked in the BCS standings. This creates a unique intrigue to the game as every team is fighting for the top spot. Some teams win the fight, others lose and only a few teams are left satisfied.

    As teams prepare for fall ball they are constantly comparing themselves with the teams around them. With that being said, even a way-too-early Top 10 for next year is significant in that it acts as a measuring stick. 

    While this might not be how things ultimately shape out, here are today's Top 10 teams heading into the 2012 season.

10. South Carolina

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    Steve Spurrier has found his quarterback in Connor Shaw. Unfortunately, their top receiver Alshon Jeffery will likely be picked in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft. Other than losing Jeffery, Shaw will benefit from a full offseason of first-team repetitions and the return of Marcus Lattimore who was hurt for the second half of last season. 

    While the offense hopes to be better in 2011, the defense could struggle. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, defensive end Melvin Ingram, safety Antonio Allen and cornerback Stephen Gilmore all left South Carolina this offseason. The Gamecocks' success this year is riding on how well the defense can adjust to all the changes.

    Steve Spurrier led South Carolina to an SEC title game in 2010 and an 11-2 record last season. He must quickly coach up an inexperienced defense and hope that Lattimore can carry the offense if they are to continue to have success. 

9. Florida State University

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    With plenty of young talent across the board, Florida State promises to once again return to college football glory. Or at least that is what they said last season before they went 9-4. 

    This year, the Seminoles will live up to their hype. In 2012, Jimbo Fisher will coach Florida State to an ACC title game. With arguably the nation's best defense, all the Seminoles need is some help from their offense. 

    First year wide receiver Rashad Green looked promising last season, although he was overshadowed by Sammy Watkins. Quarterback E.J. Emanuel needs to continue to get better if this offense is going to take the next step. For this to happen, they need a group of young offensive lineman to quickly improve. 

8. Michigan

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    Michigan will have a chance to prove its Top 10 status even if it means a loss to start the year. Week 1 they travel to Arlington, Texas to play Alabama. The Wolverines also have to play in Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State.

    Their success this season is largely dependent on Denard Robinson's play. His completion percentage and passing yards were both down from his 2010-2011 season. Offensive coordinator Al Borges will have his hands full figuring out a way to fully unleash Robinson in 2012.

    In his first season as defensive coordinator, Greg Mattiso improved one of college football's worst defenses. The challenge continues as he needs to find replacements for the interior of his defensive line following the departure of Mike Martin and Will Heininger. 

    Last year Brady Hoke led the Wolverines to an 11-2 record and a BCS win. If he can continue to positively influence this team, they should be able to survive their tough road schedule and win the Big Ten. 

7. Arkansas

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    In his second season as a starter, quarterback Tyler Wilson will look to beat Alabama and LSU on their way to a national championship. Easier said than done.

    The Razorbacks are losing players on both sides of the ball. They are going to be without three key receivers in Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. Defensive coordinator Paul Haynes will have the laborious task of replacing defensive end Jake Bequette, linebacker Jerry Franklin and safety Tramain Thomas. 

    Wide receivers Marquel Wade and Cobi Hamilton need to step up next season to help out Wilson. Fortunately, the return of running back Knile Davis means that the Razorbacks will be relying on the run more than they did last season.

    Arkansas lucks out this year. They play both LSU and Alabama at home. If Haynes can continue to teach up his defense, they could come away with at most one upset. 

6. Georgia

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    Georgia will look to improve after finishing last season 10-4.

    Quarterback Aaron Murray will be back for his third season. He is surrounded by a group of young playmakers, including receiver Malcolm Mitchell and running back Isaiah Crowell.

    A concern on offense is whether they can shore up an offensive line that is losing three starters including future first rounder Cordy Glenn. Hopefully 5-star recruit John Theus will be able to start at tackle right away. 

    Georgia's biggest advantage next season is that they do not have to face three of the SEC's top teams: Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. The only SEC team that stands in their way is South Carolina, who have beaten them twice in the last two years. 

5. Alabama

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    Alabama is losing seven starters on defense including four possible first rounders: Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont'a Hightower and Mark Barron. Not to mention Heisman candidate Trent Richardson.  

    Still, Alabama will be the second best team in the SEC in 2012. 

    Nick Saban had the best 2012 recruiting class according to Rivals. This combined with the Tide's already talented depth chart will have them back in a BCS game next season, but not the championship.

    Quarterback A.J. McCarron was effective starting as a sophomore, completing 66.8 percent of his passes. With Richardson headed to the NFL, McCarron should expect to see an expanded role next season. How well McCarron handles the extra pressure will determine their final record. 

4. Oklahoma

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    With the return of seven defensive starters and Landry Jones on offense, the Sooners are expected to be a major force in college football next season.

    Running back Dominique Whaley is returning from injury and will improve an already talented backfield.

    Oklahoma's biggest question mark is whether or not Kenny Stills can establish himself as Landry's primary target in the passing game. He was effective once Ryan Broyles went down with an injury last season, catching 61 passes for 849 yards and eight touchdowns.

    Oklahoma has talent at all levels of their defense, so the loss of  Frank Alexander, Ronnell Lewis and Travis Lewis should not be too big of a worry.

    As long as they are able to handle the lesser powers of the Big 12, the Sooners will take home another division title. 

3. Oregon

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    Oregon's fast-paced offense is losing two key starters in LaMichael James and Darron Thomas. However, the Ducks' offense has the potential to be even better next season.

    Bryan Bennett will be the starting quarterback. While filling in for the injured Thomas for a few games in 2011, Bennett created a quarterback controversy as many argued that he was the better passer. 

    DeAnthony Thomas will see an even bigger role in the offense to fill the absence of James. Thomas has the potential to lead the NCAA in total yards as he will be catching passes, running the ball and returning kicks. 

    The Ducks' defense is underrated because of their high-powered offense. They had the best pass rush in the PAC-12 last season. However, they must improve their secondary if they want to keep pace with USC.

2. USC

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    Lane Kiffin has brought a familiar buzz back to the school. The 2012 USC Trojans promise to regain the PAC-12 Championship en route to a national title game.

    With the return of Matt Barkley, USC will have one of the most dynamic passing attacks in college football. Wide receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods potentially could both be picked in the first round of the NFL draft when their college careers are finished. 

    USC is a young team. They had a lot of freshman and sophomores starting last season. In 2012 the Trojans will expect their young players to continue to progress and build off of a 10-2 season.

    USC will finish the year undefeated as long as they can handle the Ducks in the Coliseum. 

1. LSU

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    LSU will make people forget about the title game. They are losing quarterbacks Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, as well as cornerback Morris Claiborne and defensive tackle Michael Brockers. However, part of the reason that LSU was so good last year was because of their youth and depth. 

    With Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid in the secondary and Barkevious Mingo rushing the quarterback, LSU will once again will have a dominant defense.

    On offense there is less certainty with Zach Mettenberger taking over as quarterback. Mettenberger threw 32 touchdowns and only four interceptions playing in Junior College. If he can translate his play to D-1 football, LSU will be unstoppable. 

    LSU looks poised to face the Trojans in the national championship next January.