The college football season is over, and there is no doubt about the best team in the country for the 2012 season. But fans need something to argue over, and looking forward to next season will provide excellent debate fodder.
Alabama's dominant 42-14 victory over Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game put an exclamation point on the team's season. The Crimson Tide's reign over the sport has continued with their third title in four seasons.
But top programs around the country are reloading and getting ready to knock off Nick Saban's squad, and 2013 will be another exciting year.
Here are my super-early predictions for the 2013 preseason Top 5.
There are several SEC teams that will be gunning for this spot, but ultimately, Notre Dame will land here.
Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M will have a claim, while South Carolina and Jadeveon Clowney will have a chip on their shoulder if they do not crack the Top 5. Georgia, Florida and LSU will all feel they have a right to rank ahead of the Fighting Irish as well.
But Brian Kelly has reestablished the Fighting Irish as perennial contenders.
Although Manti Te'o—the heart and soul of this year's team—will be playing on Sunday's next year, Kelly has built something special in South Bend and he will be bringing in Rivals.com's top recruiting class. His faith in Everett Golson will pay dividends going forward, and young defensive stars like Stephon Tuitt will ensure that Notre Dame remains an elite team in 2013.
The NFL is known as a "copycat league," but college football is not all that different. The SEC has dominated through recruiting superior athletes along the offensive and defensive lines, and David Shaw has executed the same strategy at Stanford.
With a power running game and stout front-seven to go along with a budding star under center in Kevin Hogan, the Cardinal are on the rise.
A Rose Bowl win will give the program momentum heading into next season. Losing players like Stepfan Taylor and Zach Ertz will hurt, the foundations for an elite program are undoubtedly in place in Palo Alto.
Stanford will once again be in the mix for a Pac-12 title, and it will have its sights set even higher than that in 2013.
There would be a vacant spot in the Top 5 if Chip Kelly had opted to jump to the NFL, but he will remain in Eugene, and Oregon will continue to compete for a national championship.
Explosive athletes will line up on both sides of the ball for the Ducks in 2013.
Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas will ensure that the quick-hitting offense will still leave opposing defenses dizzy, while playmakers like Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will ensure that the defense pulls its weight.
2013 may or may not be the year that Oregon finally breaks through and wins it all, but it will undoubtedly be one of the heavy hitters next season.
Nick Saban just cemented his status as the greatest coach of the BCS era with his fourth national championship, but the only other coach to win multiple titles since the 1998 season is Urban Meyer.
By all appearances, Meyer is recreating the success he had at Florida in Columbus. 2013 is the time for Ohio State to take the gloves off and compete for a title now that its one-year bowl ban has expired.
Braxton Miller will be receiving as much Heisman Trophy buzz as any player in the country, and Meyer's leadership will make the Buckeye's a formidable team.
OSU will likely cruise through the Big Ten, but it will not be satisfied with only a conference championship. This team has the talent to make a run at a national championship next season.
Alabama left no doubt against Notre Dame, and with several of the National Championship Game's stars sticking around Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide are an easy pick for the 2013 preseason No. 1.
A.J. McCarron will return for his final season, and he will have T.J. Yeldon in the backfield and Amari Cooper streaking down the field. While the offensive line will likely lose players, Nick Saban's incomparable recruiting will allow the team to fill the holes.
The defense may also have to replace starters, but it had to reload this year after several players departed for the NFL and it did not miss a beat.
The Tide will continue rolling in 2013, and although it is still extremely early, it is difficult to see any team stopping Alabama next season.