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Preseason College Football Rankings 2013: Analyzing Projected AP Top 5

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 24: Quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes controls the ball against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 24, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IApril 9, 2013

It may only be April, but college football season is year round for some of us.

We've already seen some preseason rankings hit the shelves (or the Internet) and there is plenty to be discussed as teams begin preparing for the 2013-14 campaign.

Defending champion Alabama lost some key members of its 2012-13 title team, but don't be shocked if the Crimson Tide make it to the national championship game again.

There are also some big-time programs (including one from the Big Ten) that figure to give the Crimson Tide a run for their money.

Here are my projected AP top five to start the season, complete with analysis.

 

5. Texas A&M

Johnny. Manziel. The 2012 Heisman winner is obviously the first thing you think about when you think about the Aggies. He was phenomenal last season, averaging 8.5 yards per pass attempt while tossing 26 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He also rushed for over 1,400 yards and 21 touchdowns as the Aggies went on to win the Cotton Bowl.

Texas A&M brings back Manziel this season, as well as running back Ben Malena and lead receiver Mike Evans. The losses of offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and defensive end Damontre Moore will hurt, but they were able to bring back offensive tackle Jake Matthews and they don't have to play Georgia, South Carolina or Florida in 2013.

 

4. Stanford

No Andrew Luck? No Jim Harbaugh? 

No problem.

Stanford still has one of the best coaches in the business in David Shaw, as well as quarterback Kevin Hogan, who played solid football down the stretch for the Cardinal last season.

Hogan tossed eight touchdowns to three interceptions in Stanford's last five regular-season games in 2012 and played mistake-free football in the Rose Bowl as the Cardinals went on to beat Wisconsin.

There's also the fact that this defense figures to be great once again, with linebacker Trent Murphy, defensive end Ben Gardner and linebacker Shayne Skov all returning for their senior seasons.

 

3. Oregon

While Oregon did lose an offensive mastermind in Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles, replacing him with Mark Helfrich (who was offensive coordinator under Kelly for three years) isn't a bad trade-off.

Plus, this team is stacked, as per the usual. The Ducks return dual-threat quarterback Marcus Mariota (who was spectacular as a freshman last season), electric running back De'Anthony Thomas and seven other starters on offense.

Losing linebackers Michael Clay and Kiki Alonso does hurt a little bit, but longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti should be able to patch up some holes with other talent.

 

2. Ohio State

Some believe Ohio State is a sure thing as the 2013 Big Ten champion. I wouldn't go that far, but I do think the Buckeyes are the best team in the conference on paper.

But, make no mistake about it, Urban Meyer and company aren't going to be satisfied with simply winning the Big Ten. They have national title hopes, led by sensational dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller. 

Miller averaged 8.0 yards per pass attempt last season while tossing 15 touchdowns to six interceptions. On the ground, he was extremely dangerous, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Miller will be surrounded by No. 2 rusher Carlos Hyde and last year's leading receivers, Corey Brown and Devin Smith. 

And while the Buckeyes lost some formidable defensive linemen, they still have star linebacker Ryan Shazier, cornerback Bradley Roby and a sterling group of recruits from the past two years that should help fill in the gaps.

 

1. Alabama

Some believe Alabama's recent run of three national championships in four years is just the beginning for Nick Saban and company.

On paper, how can you disagree? The Crimson Tide have perhaps the greatest coach in college football history in Saban and they return quarterback A.J. McCarron, young running back T.J. Yeldon and receiver Amari Cooper.

The Crimson Tide have lost plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, but, as always, they will reload with their deep recruiting classes. Also, linebacker C.J. Mosley shockingly announced he will return, which helps Alabama retain some solid veteran experience.

 

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