The 2012 bowl season is at an end, the last AP Poll has been released, and the crystal football has been won. It is time to look forward to the 2013 college football season and what it has to offer.
From the Alabama Crimson Tide to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Final AP Poll has given us a Top 25 to work with. For teams 26 through 50 in this article will be using Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings.
Some teams finished much worse than they expected to end 2012, while others finished much better. Regardless of what top 50 team you root for, each one has plenty of motivation to win lots of games in 2013.
Here's one thing to fear about every top 50 college football team in 2013, presented from No. 50 to No. 1.
The 2012 bowl season is at an end, the last AP Poll has been released, and the crystal football has been won. It is time to look forward to the 2013 college football season and what it has to offer.
Yes, the Tar Heels will be missing Giovani Bernard. However, the Tar Heels have a major source of motivation that should strike fear in the hearts of their future victims, even without Bernard.
The Tar Heels amassed an 8-4 record in 2012, and they knew they were not eligible for the postseason at the time. The biggest thing to fear about North Carolina is how good they might be with a bowl at the end of the tunnel.
The UCF Knights ran through Conference USA to a nine-win regular season, and capped 2012 off with a 10th win over the Ball State Cardinals.
While it may not seem like UCF is a team to be feared at first glance, there is one major stat that should shiver you spine: Sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles tossed 25 touchdowns to only seven interceptions.
He threw all seven of his interceptions by close of business on October 27, 2012.
Washington fell to the Boise State Broncos in the Las Vegas Bowl to finish 7-6 on the season. The Huskies were frightfully inconsistent throughout the season, but found the will to upset both Oregon State and Stanford.
While there are issues on the field that the Huskies need to address, there is one position that's just fine: running back. Bishop Sankey rushed for 1,439 yards on 289 attempts in 2012 for an average of 5.0 yards-per-carry.
Sankey will be back to lead the Huskies' ground assault, and that should scare at least half of the Pac-12.
Tulsa loses senior standout Alex Singleton to graduation this year, and his 202 carries for 24 touchdowns go with him. That should give Hurricane enemies plenty to smile about. However, there is something else that those foes should fear even more than Singleton.
Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas both return. Watts had 186 carries for 1,108 yards, and Douglas had 136 attempts for 936 yards. That's an average of six or more yards per carry for two different tailbacks.
Tulsa will return two of the biggest factors on the nation's No. 9 rushing attack. That's definitely cringe-worthy.
Colby Cameron overshadowed a lot of players on the Louisiana Tech offense in 2012. He set an NCAA record for consecutive passes without an interception, and he was the captain of the nation's No. 1 scoring offense.
He graduates this offseason, and that will make way for the other offensive star to shine: Kenneth Dixon. Dixon is the freshman running back that gouged defenses for 1,194 yards on 200 carries in 2012.
If your defense doesn't fear Dixon, chances are he will make you regret the lack of respect on the field.
USC may have had a season to forget in terms of expectations vs. performance, but the Trojans bring a few things to the table that should be heavily considered when drafting a game-plan against them in 2013.
One is the intangible wounded-dog attitude that the Trojans will have on the field next season. This was a team that won 10 games in 2011 when it wasn't bowl-eligible and turned around to win only seven when it really mattered. That's attitude that you can't buy with full-ride scholarships.
The tangible object to fear is Marqise Lee. The sophomore wide receiver shredded the opposition for 1,721 yards on just 118 receptions in 2012, and that was with the hindrance of a new quarterback in the final two games of the year.
Lee and Max Wittek need to work on timing during the spring and fall practices. If that happens, then Lee can break the 2,000-yard mark without Matt Barkley.
West Virginia finished a disappointing season with a Pinstripe Bowl loss to ex-rival Syracuse. The Mountaineers lose a lot of talent to the NFL and graduation this offseason, but it's nothing they can't overcome with some hard work.
There is one major player that all should fear coming into 2013, and that's running back Andrew Buie. He racked up 851 yards on 179 carries this season, and that was with Geno Smith leading the nation's 10th-best passing offense beside him.
Buie will either strike fear into opponents before or during the game. It's up to the enemy coaches.
Miami self-imposed a second-straight postseason ban that held the Hurricanes out of the ACC title game. While that may appear to be counterproductive, the Hurricanes are now entering a 2013 season with a lot of motivation.
There is one player on the Miami offense that the ACC should fear the most, and that is Duke Johnson. He got 947 yards off 139 attempts and added 221 receiving yards to that off just 27 catches.
Johnson can be the go-to guy that takes the Hurricanes to the ACC title game, especially if the opposition doesn't give him due respect.
Arizona State reeled off an eight-win season with a commanding 62-28 victory over Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The Sun Devils got there via one of the better pass-rushing defenses in the nation.
There is one tandem that takes the field for the Sun Devils that should strike more fear into an opposing quarterback than any other duo in the country: Will Sutton and Carl Bradford.
Sutton is 12th in the nation in sacks with 12, and Bradford comes in just behind him at 13th with 11.5. (Rankings are from cfbstats.com.)The tandem is the most lethal in college football, and 2013 will give them one more opportunity to shine.
If the enemy lets them in the backfield, they might as well just hand the football over to the Sun Devils. It would cause less injury to the quarterback.
Syracuse bested the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Pinstripe Bowl, and that capped off an eight-win season for the Orange behind quarterback Ryan Nassib. Nassib and a host of other offensive weapons are leaving the program for graduation or careers in the NFL.
This leaves the offensive load hanging on one man. He happens to be the biggest offensive threat even when those players are on the field beside him. That man is Jerome Smith.
He tagged defenses for 1,171 yards on 227 carries for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. Smith will be the workhorse of an offense that will be warming up for the first few games of the season. If he is not respected, the Orange could be on the way to an ACC title before anyone figures out how to stop them.
Mississippi State pulled off a seven-win streak at the beginning of the season, but the Bulldogs only managed one more win over the rest of the year. The worst loss was to the Northwestern Wildcats in the Gator Bowl. Not because Northwestern blew them out, but because Mississippi State lost by six points while Northwestern's defense had a field-day with Tyler Russell.
Russell threw four picks in that game, and that's why he's the biggest thing for opponents to fear. Russell will have that performance hanging over him for the next eight months, and he will use that game tape to improve for the next eight months.
Dan Mullen will be the biggest thing for Russell to fear, but the enemy had better take Wilson seriously. He is not to be trifled with in 2013.
The other No. 39 is Arizona. The Arizona Wildcats came up big a couple of times this season, including an upset victory over then-No. 9 USC. Arizona ranked seventh nationally in yards per play on offense, and there is one leader of that offense.
Ka'Deem Carey is to be feared by anyone, especially anyone with a lackluster rushing defense. Carey ran for 1,929 yards on 303 attempts for 23 touchdowns. Carey is a sophomore, and will have to return in 2013 for his junior season.
If Arizona can work him into the offense just as much next season, Arizona will be heading for another bowl.
TCU had some issues with starting quarterback Casey Pachall in the middle of the season, and freshman Trevone Boykin had to step up and fill his shoes. Boykin responded by completing a 7-6 season that ended in a heartbreaking one-point loss to the Michigan State Spartans.
Boykin went 167-of-292 for 2,054 yards, 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his portion of 2012. Half of his 10 interceptions were thrown in the two games against Iowa State and Texas Tech. Other than those two, he never threw more than one pick in any game.
Boykin will have an entire offseason to develop under the coaching staff at TCU. Do not expect him to come out in 2013 with the same freshman mindset that caused him so many problems in 2012. He is not to be trifled with, especially in the Big 12 that's losing so many senior quarterbacks.
Texas Tech is in a similar situation as Louisiana Tech. The Red Raiders' star quarterback overshadowed a serious ground-attack threat through the 2012 season. With senior quarterback Seth Doege leaving the program, the biggest threat will be that star running back.
Kenny Williams ran for 824 yards on 143 attempts to average 5.8 yards per carry. Williams will be the dominating force on offense as the rest of the crew gets adjusted to the new signal-caller.
Not only that, but he will also be the difference-maker even after the offense starts to click.
BYU ran through its schedule to an 8-5 season that was extremely close to being a 12-win venture. The Cougars finished on the losing end of four games that were decided by a touchdown or less.
BYU's scoring defense was ranked third in the nation behind No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Notre Dame. The Cougars defense allowed only 14 points per game, and that was good for a 12-win season that ended in a commanding 20-6 Poinsettia Bowl win.
The key player on BYU's defense all season was linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy was a force to be reckoned with in 2012, and his performance in the Poinsettia Bowl certainly did nothing to hurt his placement on any linebacker watch list for 2013.
If you're planning on having success against BYU in 2013, Van Noy should be the first person you address on defense. Good luck finding success anywhere else, though.
UCLA just finished a good season, and the Bruins were more successful than conventional wisdom would have predicted. They had a freshman at signal-caller, and he led them all the way to the postseason.
Brett Hundley completed 318-of-478 passes for 3,740 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. While the interception mark may not be elite, he was a first-year starter. Those types of mistakes are to be expected when playing at a new level of the game.
Hundley took the Bruins to the Pac-12 title game in his first season. Imagine what he will do with all his experience in 2013. The Pac-12 had better take notice. If not, the media will certainly take notice when he shreds defenses on the way to another conference-championship appearance.
Missouri had a letdown season, but quarterback James Franklin battled injury for a lot of it. He had no passing attempts in three games, and he had fewer than 10 passes in two other games.
The biggest fear for Missouri's enemies in 2013 is a consistent quarterback. If either Corbin Berkstresser or Franklin can pitch in all 12 games, the offseason development will make all the difference from one year to the next.
Alabama and Texas A&M benefited from not having to face Missouri's go-to signal-caller. Opponents in 2013 may not have that same luxury.
Arkansas State learned how to win under head coach Hugh Freeze back in 2011. After a 4-8 record in the 2010 season, Freeze took the Red Wolves to a 10-3 performance in 2011. Despite Freeze's absence in 2012, Arkansas State had a second-straight 10-win season in 2012.
The major difference in 2012 was that the Red Wolves won the postseason game instead of losing it. Arkansas State has tasted true success, and that's the most frightening thing about the squad in 2013.
Once you've tasted real success, you have a hunger for that success that nobody can take away from you. Sure, there is a real danger of complacency, but Arkansas State isn't there just yet. The Red Wolves will fight viciously to get that postseason-victory feeling back.
Penn State rolled to an eight-win season in the Big Ten under new head coach Bill O'Brien. O'Brien was not expected to succeed at Penn State beyond keeping the program alive for the next four years as Penn State served its NCAA sanctions.
The sanctions included the ability for any player on Penn State to leave for another FBS school without the penalty of sitting on the bench for one year, and the school that took the player would not have the scholarship counted against the limit. Silas Redd was one player who took advantage of that by bolting for the USC Trojans.
O'Brien took a decimated roster to an eight-win season. The biggest fear for opponents is him. He will be back on the sidelines for the 2013 season, and you can bet that the Nittany Lions will not get off to the slow start that they did in 2012.
Munchie Legaux and the Cincinnati Bearcats had some lapses throughout the season, but nothing lethal to the crew's development. All three of the Bearcats' losses came by a touchdown or less, and the Belk Bowl win was a sure sign of growth from the entire squad.
Legaux will have the entire offseason to get synced with his receivers, and he will come out with guns blazing in 2013. He went 120-of-230 for 1,716 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2012. He added 335 yards on the ground off 55 touches as well.
In 2013, when he comes back with another offseason of development under his belt, expect him to strike something into his opponents. If it isn't fear, it will be touchdowns followed by shame.
Michigan State fought valiantly through its rebuilding season in 2012 after losing star quarterback Kirk Cousins to the NFL in the 2012 draft cycle. The Spartans fell by three or fewer points in four separate games this season.
That means that they were simply one experienced quarterback (or kicker) away from a 10-win regular season. Well, in 2013 their quarterback, Andrew Maxwell, will be experienced enough to make a three-point difference in any game he plays.
Maxwell went 234-of-446 for 2,606 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2012. An improved Maxwell is definitely on the opponents' "do-not-want" lists. Especially after that gutsy win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl by a field goal.
Wisconsin had an unbelievable season. It's not that it was so great, it's that the Badgers ended up in the Rose Bowl with five regular-season losses. Don't misinterpret that, the Badgers earned it in a big way by demolishing the Nebraska Cornhuskers 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship game.
Wisconsin will be missing Montee Ball in 2013, as he will graduate at the end of this school year. What's even more impressive about the conference-championship win is that Ball's three touchdowns could have been completely removed from the score, and the Badgers still would have won.
With him gone, James White becomes the Badgers' most lethal man with the football. White's 806 yards on only 125 carries went largely unnoticed due to Ball's status as the team's headliner. That 6.4 yards-per-carry average will not go unnoticed in 2013.
Opponents that don't respect him will be gouged by him.
Hugh Freeze's accomplishments at Arkansas State have already been discussed, so we will use them as assumptions to start this slide off slightly ahead of schedule. What he did at Arkansas State was great, but he repeated the performance at Ole Miss.
Ole Miss was 2-10 in 2011, and the Rebels had zero wins over conference opponents. He took them to a bowl game with three SEC wins in 2012. He also coached the 38-17 win over Pittsburgh in the Compass Bowl.
Freeze didn't take Ole Miss to 10 wins in his first season, but moving from zero to three conference wins in the SEC is a huge leap forward. If you root for an SEC team, Freeze should make you very nervous.
Even if you pull for an elite SEC squad, his threat to upset your team after a big game should give you pause.
Oklahoma State had a great season, considering two of the greatest offensive players in school history left for the NFL in the first round of the draft (Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden).
That standout will be back under center for the Oklahoma State Cowboys when the 2013 season kicks off. In a Big 12 conference riddled with departing senior quarterbacks, Walsh will be one of the best from the opening snap.
Oklahoma State will be a strong candidate for the conference title.
Baylor ended the season in a similar spot as Oklahoma State. The Bears lost Robert Griffin III to the NFL, and they were not expected to do well without him. Apparently, the Bears were not aware that was the case.
Baylor finished with a big bowl win over the UCLA Bruins, and many players contributed to that 2012 Bears season. Lache Seastrunk was one of the biggest contributors to that offense that finished fourth in the nation in scoring.
Seastrunk carried the ball 131 times for 1,012 yards and seven touchdowns. Seastrunk has already claimed the 2013 Heisman as his own, and the Big 12 should beware. He is talented enough to make a legitimate run at it.
With Terrance Williams graduating, Seastrunk will be an integral part of the offense. That alone could produce large enough numbers for a trip to New York.
Nebraska reeled off a 10-win season at the hands of quarterback Taylor Martinez. Martinez completed 228-of-368 passes for 2,871 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He tacked on 1,019 yards via 195 ground attempts.
Nebraska returns a so-so quarterback with another year of experience. If his 76-yard touchdown run against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game is any indication, 2013 could be a special year for the 'Huskers.
If the opponents don't take Martinez seriously in 2013, he will gladly make that special season happen.
Michigan started the season off with a crushing loss to Alabama, but eventually realized that Denard Robinson was a running back instead of a quarterback. That realization helped Michigan rip off a total of eight regular-season wins an the way to the Outback Bowl.
Michigan returns Devin Gardner under center in 2013, and that should help the Wolverines start off much better than the 2-2 record they started with in 2012. Gardner reeled off a 75-of-126 passing effort for 1,219 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Gardner will be a senior in command of a Brady Hoke offense that was good enough to carry Michigan to the Sugar Bowl in 2011.
Vanderbilt has come up quickly in the SEC under the tutelage of head coach James Franklin. The Commodores just finished off a nine-win season with a Music City Bowl win over the NC State Wolfpack.
Vanderbilt is no longer the whipping boy of the SEC East, and a total of seven teams finished with worse records than the Commodores. That means that Vandy rounds out the top half of the 14-team conference.
Franklin is on his way up with Vandy, and if you don't fear him in 2013, you probably will in 2014.
Northern Illinois finished the season in a BCS bowl against the Florida State Seminoles. Up until that game, the Huskies had reeled off 12 straight wins after a season-opening loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
NIU's Jordan Lynch came in fourth nationally in rushing yardage, and he set an NCAA record as the first quarterback in history to pass for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,500 yards in a single season.
Lynch is one of the most lethal quarterbacks in the nation, and if you aren't prepared for him, he will eat you alive.
San Jose State led the season off with a near-win over the Stanford Cardinal, and the season continued to prove that was not a fluke. The only other loss during the 2012 season was to the Utah State Aggies, who were having a great season themselves.
San Jose State was led by a quarterback who just couldn't figure out how not to win, and he didn't seem interested in learning. David Fales amassed a 327-of-451 passing record for 4,193 yards, 33 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
Considering he was sacked 26 times, those are stellar numbers from the signal-caller. Fales will be back in charge of the Spartans after another offseason of development. This season, he may be skilled enough to capture that elusive perfect season.
Oregon State started the season off with back-to-back upsets over Wisconsin and UCLA in Week 2 and Week 4, respectively. The Beavers continued to prove that they were a powerful offensive force throughout the 2012 season.
If not for a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback by the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl, the Beavers would have snagged a 10-win season in 2012. Oregon State had a few major players throughout the season, but one stuck out as lethal for the coming season: Storm Woods.
Woods accumulated 940 yards on 192 carries for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. Woods was a freshman in 2012. That means that there are a minimum of two years left for him to terrorize the Pac-12 defenses for over 1,000 yards per season.
The miraculous comeback mentioned in the previous slide pushed the Longhorns up to a 9-4 record for the 2012 season. Texas' year was marred by inconsistency on both sides of the ball, but it can get better.
Even without a stellar recruiting class, the Longhorns already have the personnel necessary for a run at the conference title. The main man on offense that can help make this happen is freshman tailback Johnathan Gray.
Gray rushed for 701 yards on 194 carries and added 11 catches for 151 yards as well. Gray sets up the scoring runs that are handled by sophomore Joe Bergeron, and the tandem is one of the best in the country.
Bergeron totaled 16 rushing touchdowns on the season, but did it on fewer carries. He outweighs Gray by roughly 30 pounds, so he's more useful in scoring position. This tandem will get a lot of press in 2013, as the Big 12 takes huge losses at the quarterback position.
Boise State's defense carried the Broncos to an 11-2 season with losses coming only to Michigan State and San Diego State by a combined six points. While the Broncos missed out on a BCS bowl, this was the rebuilding year after losing quarterback Kellen Moore.
The Broncos defense held opponents to just 15.8 points per game, which was good for an eighth-place national ranking. While there are some key players on defense, like Mike Atkinson and Jeremy Ioane, the total defense is what got the Broncos through the season.
You can avoid the headliners all you want, but the rest of the defense isn't going to be any more forgiving than those two. Fear-mongering is something that Boise's defense does quite well, and the two-loss rebuilding season should drive that point right home.
Northwestern was nearly eligible for the postseason before the Big Ten figured out the Wildcats were really that good. After a 5-0 start, Northwestern won four of the last seven regular-season games to earn a trip to the Gator Bowl against Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs didn't know what hit them, and a first-drive pick-six put the Wildcats ahead of Mississippi State for good. (Mississippi State would tie the game in the third quarter but would never take the lead.)
Venric Mark is the coming headliner in 2013, and his stats tell the story: 226 carries for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns. Mark added 20 catches for 104 yards and one more touchdown to that total. He also broke the 100-yard barrier in eight of his 12 games in 2012.
Mark could be the best running back in the Big Ten next season, and he could easily be finish in the top five nationally.
Utah State lost to Wisconsin by two points and BYU by three points. That's how close this defense was to going undefeated with a practically guaranteed BCS berth. The Aggies had plenty of people all over the field that contributed to the season, but nobody on offense could compare with the all-around defense.
At least, nobody that's returning in 2013. The Utah State Aggies posted notable wins over San Jose State, Toledo and even the mighty Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (who averaged over 50 points per game this season).
Utah State will bring another stout defense to the table in 2013, and you can bet they'll have the offense tuned to avoid those two- and three-point losses next season. The defense will make sure they are in the best possible position.
Oklahoma finished the season with a 10-3 record, posting losses only to Kansas State, Notre Dame and Texas A&M. Kansas State and Notre Dame were both ranked inside the top five at some point during the season, and Texas A&M is the only team to have beaten Alabama.
Bob Stoops may not be on the doorstep of a national championship right now, but he can coach a football team. The Sooners are outperforming rival Texas on a regular basis at this point, and the 63-21 win in the Red River Rivalry this season proves that directly.
Bob Stoops may catch some flak for performing below expectations, but that may simply be too-high expectations. On the other hand, he's the biggest threat to the opposition in 2013.
LSU faltered a bit this season, but Zach Mettenberger had some great games in the process. If he had found his rhythm early, the Tigers would have had fewer than the three losses they suffered.
While you may expect to see LSU's defense on this list, that is not going to happen. The Tigers' defense is busy taking up space on an NFL draft prospect list. Mettenberger will be the go-to guy to make up for those losses.
Mettenberger went 207-of-352 for 2,609 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the 2012 season. Mett went over the 200-yard mark in all four of his last regular-season games, including a 298-yard performance against the Alabama defense.
Mettenberger is one offseason away from being a real threat to the entire nation, and that offseason just started.
Louisville was poked around for being one of the most laughable selections for a BCS bowl, but the Cardinals decided to pull a 2008 Utah move and absolutely crush the then-No. 3 Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl this year.
Every aspect of the Louisville game was clicking in that match, and the Gators were never truly in that game from the first play. (Louisville got a pick-six off Florida's first play from scrimmage.) Louisville had a secret weapon that had been all over television all season long: Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater went 287-of-419 for 3,718 yards, 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season and cruised to an 11-2 record. Bridgewater is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and he will strike fear into the hearts of anyone paying attention in 2013.
Kansas State just finished a huge season that saw them almost get into the BCS title game against Notre Dame. The Wildcats finished with 11 wins and only one regular-season loss. Yes, the loss to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl hurt, but the Wildcats would probably have won any other BCS bowl if they had been invited.
Kansas State will lose senior quarterback Collin Klein (another Big 12 senior quarterback, for those of you taking note), but the Wildcats will return a huge scoring threat in John Hubert.
Hubert is a huge offensive threat, earning 947 yards and 15 touchdowns on 189 carries. In the absence of the star quarterback, Bill Snyder will have to use Hubert more often. The only people concerned with that setup are Kansas State's enemies.
Clemson ripped through everyone on the schedule except Florida State and South Carolina on the way to an 11-win season that was capped by a beautiful game against the LSU Tigers.
With all that Clemson accomplished, it would have been easy to understand if its headlining quarterback bolted for the NFL. He didn't, and that should make at least the rest of the ACC shudder.
Boyd completed 287-of-427 passes for 3,896 yards, 36 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also carried the ball 186 times for 514 yards and 10 trips to the end zone. Boyd is an explosive play-maker with the ability to burn you on a busted coverage at the drop of a hat.
Given the record, Boyd has struck fear into the hearts of at least 11 head coaches.
Florida State may not have played for the national championship this past season, but the Seminoles certainly won the Orange Bowl with ease. The 2012 season saw Florida State return to form and contend for the national title. If not for one lousy performance that cost the Seminoles a game in the middle of the season, the 'Noles might have been fired up enough to beat Florida at the end of the year.
No matter what happened on the scoreboard in 2012, the Orange Bowl confirmed one player as a standout to be respected in 2013: Rashad Greene, the sophomore wide receiver. His heads-up catch in the corner of the end zone against Northern Illinois was a thing of beauty.
Greene caught 57 passes for 741 yards and six touchdowns through the 2012 season. He was almost a guaranteed first-down strike every time he touched the ball. Greene will run rampant through the ACC in 2013.
Florida took a tough loss to Georgia during the 2012 season while it waited for Jeff Driskel to get the hang of the quarterback position. The Gators came close enough to smell the national title game, but Notre Dame beat USC to secure its spot opposite the SEC champion.
Driskel went 156-of-245 for 1,646 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. Since he was sacked 36 times (almost three times per game), those interceptions don't look that bad. He only threw interceptions in three games, and two of those games were against Louisville and Georgia.
Driskel will have an offseason to review the footage from both those games, and he will return in 2013 ready to lead a potential SEC title run. Driskel will have the element of surprise on his side, but those who go ahead and respect him early will find themselves much better prepared for what he will bring to the table in '13.
For those of you who saw the South Carolina vs. Michigan Outback Bowl performance, this slide will not be surprising. South Carolina had to lose a couple of games to land in the Outback Bowl, but the Gamecocks showed up ready to play.
If there is one player who is feared more than any other in the nation, it's South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney made up for a botched call by the referees in that game, and Michigan's Vincent Smith really wishes the stripes wouldn't have motivated Clowney like they did.
As this video circulates around the various media at our disposal, the fear of Clowney rightfully grows.
Stanford tore through its conference schedule all the way through the Pac-12 title game against UCLA. Granted, the Washington speed bump nearly killed the Cardinal's season, but Stanford beat Oregon to breathe hope right back into the Rose Bowl run.
The Stanford defense should strike fear into the hearts of all challengers. It almost completely made up for the mass exodus from the 2011 offense, including Andrew Luck.
Stanford's defense brought down then-No. 1 Oregon in Week 12, and the Cardinal scoring defense was 11th in the country when the season's dust settled. Stanford's defense is certainly something to be feared, and you can bet the Ducks will never forget that.
Neither will the Wisconsin Badgers, who lost the Rose Bowl to the Cardinal.
Texas A&M has an astoundingly surprising season in the SEC. The Aggies took down everyone on their schedule except Florida (lost by three points) and LSU (lost by five points). The Aggies are poised to make a run for the SEC championship in 2013, which could very well mean an appearance in the national title game.
The Aggies are led by one of the most frightening names in college football: Johnny Manziel. He's the only freshman to win the Heisman, and he's the only quarterback to have beaten Alabama on its repeat national-championship run.
Manziel has a knack for making plays last longer than they should, and he finishes them successfully. It's one thing to defend a play for four-to-eight seconds, but it's another matter entirely to defend a play 10 seconds after is has broken down.
Manziel is a rare talent, and seeing his team's logo on your schedule has got to fill you with despair. It's possible he could win a second-straight Heisman in 2013 as well. If he leads the Aggies to the final BCS title game, you can fully expect that.
Georgia's tandem of freshmen running backs ate SEC defenses for lunch in 2012. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were Georgia's No. 1 and No. 2 running backs, and they earned every bit of the load they were given.
Gurley ran for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns on 222 carries, and Marshall ran for 759 yards and eight touchdowns on only 117 carries. Georgia lost a stunner to South Carolina during the regular season, but the Bulldogs still made it to the SEC title tilt against Alabama.
'Bama beat Georgia by four points, four seconds or four yards, depending on who you ask about the game, but Georgia will be much more experienced should the Dawgs make it back in 2013.
Either way, do not be surprised to see Marshall and Gurley both cross the 1,000-yard mark sometime in late October.
Notre Dame didn't win the national championship, but if you're looking for someone to predict that there's no way they can get back to it in 2013, you're in the wrong place. Everett Golson was only in his second year of college football in 2012, and he was a first-year starter for the Irish.
Notre Dame's defense got them a championship appearance in 2012, but Golson got a serious development opportunity against the Crimson Tide on Jan. 7. If you want to get good at something, you find someone better than you and play them until you can at least compete.
Notre Dame and Alabama both scored 14 points each in the second half of the national championship game. That doesn't mean that Notre Dame figured out how to beat the Tide in the second half, but it surely should strike fear into Notre Dame's opponents for 2013.
Notre Dame will field a battle-tested quarterback who is hungry for a title after a 12-1 season.
Urban Meyer showed up at Ohio State in 2012. The Buckeyes had just put up a 6-7 record in 2011, and Meyer decided that just wouldn't do. Since he is what he is, he organized the group of young men into a team, and he took them to a 12-0 record in the Big Ten in 2012.
Meyer is one of the best coaches in the nation, and that flip from 6-7 to 12-0 in one offseason proves it. Meyer will be looking for his first national championship since the Tebow days at Florida. He will be thrilled if it comes as soon as 2013, along with the entire Ohio State fanbase.
For those of you who aren't scared yet, here's a question: What if Meyer isn't done making the Buckeyes better?
Oregon fell just shy of a national championship appearance, but it was not for lack of effort. The Ducks dropped just one game along the road, and they handily beat the Kansas State Wildcats in the Fiesta Bowl 35-17.
While Oregon did field the nation's third-ranked rushing attack, there was one player on the field who made a Johnny Manizel-like difference in plenty of games: Marcus Mariota. Mariota's ceiling is sky-high, and he proved it in 2012.
The 2012 season was his freshman year, and he led the Ducks to a one-loss Fiesta Bowl win over a one-loss Big 12 champion. That is a competitive as you can get in your freshman season. Manziel won the Heisman with more losses than Mariota posted.
Mariota's only loss came to Stanford in overtime, but that loss can be placed on the coaches just as much as the quarterback. The kickers barely had any in-game experience at the time, and Alejandro Maldonado was asked to kick two field goals in excess of 40 yards in that game (one in regulation and one in overtime).
Alabama just won its second national championship in two years. Last season, A.J. McCarron became the first sophomore to win a BCS title game, and this season he became the first quarterback to start in and win two.
He led the Crimson Tide to the only back-to-back BCS titles in history, and with one season left, that's a record that can't be broken. McCarron finished the season as the nation's most efficient passer with a 175.3 rating.
The Tide have a plethora of talented kids on the roster that helped the young signal-caller accomplish everything he's accomplished so far in his career, but he made the throws. He led a 43-second, game-winning touchdown drive at LSU, and he didn't even toss an interception this season until Nov. 10 against Texas A&M.
McCarron is 2-of-2 in national championships, and he's only taken two seasons to accomplish that feat. he's the scariest quarterback in the nation surrounded by the scariest team.