Breaking Down the Top 5 Favorites for 2013 Preseason AP No. 1

Jake Martin@JakeMartinSECCorrespondent IIIJanuary 6, 2013

Breaking Down the Top 5 Favorites for 2013 Preseason AP No. 1

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    As much as Nick Saban despises preseason rankings, his Alabama team is sure to be ranked high in the 2013 AP preseason poll.

    With loads of talent returning (what's new?), the Crimson Tide should once again be favored in the polls, as they should be. But will Alabama come into the 2013 season as the favorite to win it all?

    Well, considering the emergence of Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide will have a much tougher road than say a team from the Pac-12.

    Will this be a factor in the mind of voters? Here are the five favorites to gain that No. 1 position.

5. Texas A&M

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    On the Texas A&M bandwagon yet?

    You might better get on while the gettin' is good. And these days, the gettin' just keeps getting better and better for the Aggies.

    Manziel is flying sky high, and with the best player in college football returning to College Station for another year, Texas A&M will challenge Alabama for the SEC West crown.

    Manziel returning is scary enough, but when news broke recently that one of the best offensive tackles in college football will return to help protect him, the Aggies became an even greater threat. Jake Matthews decided to return, despite being one of the best offensive line prospects in the country.

    The Aggies will lose superstar defensive end Damontre Moore to the draft, but as long as Manziel and the offense is scoring 44.5 points per game, the defense will only have to be sustainable at best.

4. Notre Dame

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    Notre Dame will lose a lot, but the Irish are returning a lot as well.

    With the departures of Manti Te'o, Tyler Eifert, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, Notre Dame will have huge holes to fill. However, this team has enough talent to cope with the losses.

    As far as running backs go, George Atkinson III will return to the backfield and will be joined by Amir Carlisle, who is coming off an injury. Add a highly touted running-back recruit in Greg Bryant, and the Irish's ground-and-pound style  should be preserved.

    As for the defense, the Irish will undeniably miss Te'o in the middle, but Notre Dame returns vital pieces as well.

    The Irish will bring back Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt on the defensive line. More goal-line stands are to be expected.

3. Stanford

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    Speaking of ground and pound, how about this 2012 Stanford club?

    Enough can't be said about the job David Shaw has done with this team, and he's the primary reason why the Cardinal should be a Top-5 team in 2013.

    Stanford will miss running back Stepfan Taylor considerably, but many thought the loss of Andrew Luck, David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin would surely doom Stanford in 2013. Shaw certainly proved the doubters wrong.

    With a young, talented offensive line returning and Kevin Hogan resuming his starting quarterback role, this team is shaping up to be a national championship contender.

    Stanford will be the most physical team in the Pac-12 next year, and grown-man football is proving more and more to be a national championship-winning recipe.

2. Oregon

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    Don't expect Chip Kelly to conform to grown-man football.

    Kelly's no-huddle offense is all about finesse, and he'll have plenty of that with Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall returning to the offense.

    Of course, this is all assuming Kelly decides to pass up on the pros and rejoin Oregon. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning that the Cleveland Browns were no longer in the running for Kelly. 

    So for the time being, let's assume Kelly retains his head coaching job with Oregon. Could he finally break through and lead his Ducks to a national championship?

    With Mariota, Thomas and Marshall returning to his proven offensive system, it's hard to dispute the Ducks'  chances of winning it all.

1. Alabama

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    Oh, Alabama, you stand alone at the top.

    Do we really need to go through all of the variables with the Crimson Tide? Sure, this team will be challenged by LSU and Texas A&M in the SEC West, and, sure, it will have to fill some big shoes on the offensive line.

    But come on, this is Alabama we're talking about here. The Crimson Tide have an advantage over every other team in the country simply because they are coached by the very best in the business.

    There's no other coach better at getting his players ready for big games and big moments, and Nick Saban will have his team ready to play before the season begins.

    With AJ McCarron, T.J. Yeldon, Amari Cooper, and C.J. Mosley returning, Saban will have the leadership needed to mesh with the young players who will have bigger roles.

    Alabama remains the top dog.