10 Dark Horses for College Football's 2013 National Championship
Even though the start of the 2012-13 college football season is about six months away, it is never too early to speculate who will play for the 2013 national championship.
While there are the favorites like LSU, Oregon, USC, Alabama, Oklahoma and Georgia, there are also some teams that have the potential to surprise some folks and contend for a national championship.
These teams are not the prohibitive favorites, but if a few things go their way, there is a chance they could find themselves playing for all the marbles in the BCS National Championship next January.
Here are those 10 dark horses.
10. Kansas St.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Wildcats finished last season with a 10-3 record and a second-place finish in the Big 12. If everything falls into place this season, they could be looking at a little of the same.
Kansas St. will likely be ranked at the lower end of the Top 25 when the season starts and has a chance to run the table.
The key to the Wildcats' success will be quarterback Collin Klein, who had one of the best seasons in the country last year.
He has a chance to win a Heisman Trophy if everything goes well.
With almost all of its starters back as well, 2012-13 is looking bright for Kansas St.
9. Boise St.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Even though Boise St. lost just about everybody from last year's team, never count out the Broncos, and this could just be the year they run the table and play for the national championship.
They are likely to start the season unranked, so it will be a little difficult to play for the championship even if they run the table.
But at this point, an undefeated Boise St. team has a chance to play for everything.
Don't count the Broncos out in 2012-13; this just may be their year.
8. Michigan St.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Coach Mark Dantonio is beginning to build quite a program at Michigan St., and the Spartans finished last season with an impressive Outback Bowl victory over Georgia.
They will be expecting much of the same in 2012-13, and even though they lost some talent on both sides of the ball, there is enough coming back to allow them to contend for the Big 10 title.
With 14 starters coming back, they should be solid, but the skill players, including quarterback Kirk Cousins will be missed.
While they will likely be ranked between 15 and 20 to start the season, don't sleep on the Spartans this season.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The TCU Horned Frogs will finally be playing with the big boys this season, and it is time to see how they will match up. Odds are, they will do just fine.
The Big 12 will welcome TCU and West Virginia, both of which have a shot to contend for the national championship.
The Frogs will likely be ranked around No. 20 when the season begins with big wins all over the schedule.
TCU returns over half of its starters, and this season it will have the wins it needs to play for the BCS National Championship.
That is if the Frogs win all of their games.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Texas is the next in a long list of Big 12 teams that could contend for a national championship.
Last season the Longhorns were very young all over the field, and the experience those youngsters gained will be valuable in 2012-13.
There are 17 starters coming back, and if the Longhorns can get their quarterback situation under control, they have as much talent as almost anybody in the country with four straight top five recruiting classes, according to Rivals.com.
Texas may be ranked in the top 15 to start the season but could find itself climbing in the rankings as the season progresses.
5. South Carolina
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Could this be the year Steve Spurrier finally gets over the hump at South Carolina?
The Gamecocks are likely to be ranked between 10 and 15 to begin this season but may be slotted behind at least three or four teams in the SEC.
The development of quarterback Connor Shaw will be important, but the health of running back Marcus Lattimore will be the story this season for South Carolina.
It lost five key starters on defense, and receiver Alshon Jeffrey bolted early for the NFL, but the talent is there for South Carolina to make a run at the SEC title.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
With Andrew Luck and a lot of talent on offense gone, many people are writing off the Stanford Cardinal for 2012-13.
Not so fast.
Stanford has one of the best recruiting classes in the country and plenty of talent coming back.
While it will have to get over the hump in the Pac-12 against teams like USC and Oregon, if the Cardinal do so, this will be a Stanford team that has a chance to contend for the national championship.
Stanford could be a year or two away, but don't be surprised if it makes a move as early as next season and contends for the national championship.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Michigan has one of the most explosive offenses in the country, led by quarterback Denard Robinson.
The Wolverines are the prohibitive favorites to win the Big 10 and will likely be ranked in the top 10 to begin the season, but many do not consider them to have a chance to play for a national championship.
Those hopes could be dashed in the first week as the Wolverines take on Alabama to kick off the season.
If Michigan can somehow get by that game, it will likely be ranked in the top 5 and well on its way to running the table.
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
With 14 starters coming back, Arkansas is nearly as talented as anybody in the SEC. The Razorbacks will just have to find a way to get past teams like LSU, Alabama and Georgia.
They will be slotted somewhere between 10 and 15 when the season starts and have plenty of opportunities to move up.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson will be back for his senior season with plenty of weapons to throw the ball to as the Razorbacks are talented all over the field, including at the wide receiver position.
Arkansas has a shot to play for the national championship if it can knock off LSU or Alabama, but will likely need to beat both, and while that is tough to ask of any team the Razorbacks have the talent to do so.
1. West Virginia
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
West Virginia proved how talented it was in the postseason, dominating the Orange Bowl against Clemson.
This season the Mountaineers will likely not crack the top 10 of the preseason rankings but are my No. 1 dark horse to play for the BCS National Championship in 2013.
They have as much talent at the skill positions as anybody in college football.
Quarterback Geno Smith may be the most talented in the country not named Matt Barkley.
Receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey could be the best combination in the country, with the exception of the group at USC.
The Big 12 will challenge West Virginia, but an easy nonconference schedule should have it undefeated heading into conference play, with Oklahoma being the only team in the league with more talent than the Mountaineers.