Every AP Top 25 College Football Coach's Disaster Plan for 2013

Jonathan McDanal@@jdmcdanalContributor IIIApril 12, 2013

Every AP Top 25 College Football Coach's Disaster Plan for 2013

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    The 2013 season is coming (not soon enough, as usual) and battle plans are being drawn up nationwide. Teams are drafting attacks aimed at winning the national championship crystal trophy while others simply are competing to earn better spots in their conferences.

    However, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men oft go awry." (Robert Burns via Phrases.org) No matter how well anyone plans, disaster strikes unannounced and indiscriminately.

    For example, South Carolina lost standout running back Marcus Lattimore two consecutive seasons to knee injuries (to different knees, no less). No team is free from the violence that takes place on the field.

    Maybe it's something as bad as an injury or maybe a coach relied on a part of a team that wasn't as good as expected. Either way, coaches don't always get paid to do great things with great people.

    They get paid to develop contingency plans as well. When things go wrong, do they just wait for the next season? Not the great ones. The great ones take what they have left and make a team out of the tools that remain.

    Here are the Final AP Top 25 teams, their biggest potential disasters, and their coaches' emergency plans to overcome the potential downfalls for this season.

25. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Nebraska's plan of attack centers on quarterback Taylor Martinez, and with good reason. Martinez went 228-of-368 for 2,871 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season. He also rushed for 1,019 yards and 10 more scores.

    Martinez is the crux of the offense, and Nebraska can't afford to lose him and expect to end up in the conference title game again.

    Biggest potential disaster: Martinez busts or is lost for the season.

    Plan: Put the youngest, most promising player in at the position and don't look back.

    Martinez will be a senior in 2013, so a season-ending injury would be a college career-ending one. Even a four-game injury would be devastating to his synchronization.

    If he's out for more than three games, Nebraska should take the leading backup of the youngest age and start developing him.

    Even the opportunity to put Martinez back in for late-season games would be risky. There's no telling how much rust can build over just a few games, and Oregon State's Sean Mannion showed that rust builds up quickly in 2012.

    While it wouldn't be the most popular decision to leave a healthy Martinez on the bench late in the season, the development opportunity for the future starter would be worth it.

    If the 'Huskers start to develop a talented freshman or sophomore in 2013, then that passer will have seniority over Ohio State's and Michigan's quarterbacks when Braxton Miller leaves the Buckeyes.

    That would put Nebraska in the driver's seat for the Big Ten title that season.

24. Michigan Wolverines

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    Michigan is expecting big things from newly minted quarterback Devin Gardner. He came on strong at the end of 2012, and he offered a brief picture of lasting success to the Michigan faithful.

    Biggest potential disaster: Gardner busts or is lost for the season.

    Plan: Regroup and center the offense on the best-available option at quarterback.

    Gardner came through in the latter portion of 2012 and took Michigan to the wire against an undefeated Ohio State team.

    Gardner hooked the Wolverines up with a 3-2 run to end the season. While that might not look especially strong, the two losses came against undefeated Ohio State and AP No. 5 South Carolina. Those aren't bad losses, especially because he lost each game by only five points.

    What happens, though, if he implodes in 2013? Simply put, the Wolverines need to put their tailbacks behind Taylor Lewan and let them wreak havoc on the opposing defense.

    While that's going on, Michigan also needs to take its practices and turn them into mini-scrimmages to figure out which quarterback is most likely to succeed. Whenever that choice is made, the Wolverines need to make sure the offense hinges on his abilities.

    If Michigan can get back to having a true passer under center, it is only a couple of seasons from a Rose Bowl (or better).

23. Vanderbilt Commodores

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    James Franklin already has major issues facing him in 2013, such as Jordan Rodgers and Zac Stacy leaving the program. As Franklin and the Commodores move forward, the operation must flow smoothly.

    It's difficult enough to replace talent like that and even a minor hitch can turn into a disaster during a rebuilding season.

    Biggest potential disaster: Nobody replaces Rodgers or Stacy.

    Plan: Develop what you have and start on the recruiting trail as soon as possible. Use the 2014 class to fill positions with players who would love to start in the SEC immediately. (Ask Ole Miss for tips if you need to.)

    Vanderbilt is not going to contend for the SEC title in 2013. While that's true, it doesn't mean the Commodores are allowed to write off the season entirely.

    Vanderbilt's offense is coming into 2013 maimed, and there's no way to sugarcoat that. Stacy was a stellar running back and Rodgers was the best quarterback on the roster.

    The Commodores need to approach 2013 with open minds. No position should be considered safe or permanent. If the offense isn't clicking by Week 5, then Vanderbilt might need to restructure the roster.

    Additionally, the Commodores need to publicize their weaknesses. This might seem as a bad idea, but any recruit who wants to enter the SEC and make a difference can make a huge impact at Vanderbilt by filling a much-needed slot.

    If 2013 turns into a disaster, then at least the Commodores could theoretically put a top-10 recruiting class together and turn it all around in 2014.

22. Northern Illinois Huskies

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    Rod Carey is taking over the Northern Illinois Huskies at the perfect time.

    The Huskies are recently motivated by a loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl, and they are led by the one quarterback who is a national champion sitting behind a relatively weak offensive line.

    Biggest potential disaster: Jordan Lynch injured or out for season.

    Plan: Keep calm, soldier on and give Matt McIntosh as much experience as possible.

    Jordan Lynch is one of the best true dual-threat quarterbacks in NCAA history, statistically speaking. Lynch is the center of the offense, and he earned that position.

    Matt McIntosh is his backup, and McIntosh completed seven of his 13 attempts last season for 57 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Clearly, he needs serious practice.

    Timing drills are a must for him, and he can become a mini-Lynch if the opportunity arises. He rushed for two touchdowns and 92 yards last year off 25 carries.

    McIntosh can step in and win the Mid-American Conference with his talents if he's developed intensely and properly. Hopefully, he can quietly wait his turn.

    If disaster strikes, he won't have the luxury of another year as a backup.

21. San Jose State Spartans

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    Ron Caragher is another new coach on this list who has taken over a program poised for incredible success. The San Jose State Spartans are led by standout quarterback David Fales, and he's ready to take the Mountain West by storm in 2013.

    Biggest potential disaster: Fales is injured or otherwise out for the season.

    Plan: Teach Noel Grigsby to throw the ball or rely heavily on the rushing attack.

    If Grigsby can throw the ball, then the problem is solved. However, it's more likely that Grigsby and the rest of the offense will have to learn to run the ball more as the backup quarterback gets experience.

    If Blake Jurich turns out to be a closet superstar, then the San Jose Spartans will be pleased. Even if he isn't a stellar quarterback, he has players such as Grigsby to bail him out of tight situations.

    Grigsby might be one of the best receivers in the country even if he doesn't get the recognition he deserves. The move to the Mountain West Conference should help him in that regard.

    If San Jose State's backup plan works as well as the primary plan did in 2012, circumstances will be just fine next season.

20. Oregon State Beavers

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    Oregon State will take the field in 2013 without Jordan Poyer, a game-changing cornerback whose presence will be missed.

    Fortunately, the offense can compensate for his departure with a little improvement from Storm Woods, Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion.

    Biggest potential disaster: Woods isn't consistent, and 2012 was the only good season he had in him.

    Plan: Don't be afraid to switch quarterbacks quickly or have them both on the field at the same time.

    Oregon State has a great backup plan at quarterback, as long as either stays healthy for the season. Woods is the potential threat to the offense if he's lost.

    Woods had a great freshman season in 2012, and he ran for 940 yards and 13 touchdowns on 192 carries. Woods has a high ceiling, and his contribution to the offense cannot be overstated.

    The backup plan should be to put both quarterbacks on the field at the same time. The Beavers should use misdirection frequently and force every defense to play man-to-man to get good coverage.

    If Mannion throws a backward pass to Vaz, then Vaz is free to make a skilled throw to the opposite side of the field.

    That won't work on every play, but it would be enough of a threat to keep defenses honest. That alone should be enough to get Oregon State back to the nine-win mark with or without Woods.

19. Texas Longhorns

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    Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns will take a shot at the Big 12 title again in 2013. With almost half of the teams in the conference losing quarterbacks, the Longhorns have one of their best chances since 2009.

    Biggest potential disaster: The quarterback situation doesn't improve over last season's showing.

    Plan: Hold scrimmages every practice until someone proves himself. Also, focus on defensive consistency. (That's just advice, not part of the disaster plan.)

    Texas was competing for a national championship as recently as 2009. That seems like an eternity ago for Longhorns' fans, but it's a reality. Brown has led the team well in the interim, but he must figure out how to operate without a standout quarterback.

    He could recruit one, of course, but they are simply not as common as Texas thinks. Moving into the 2013 season, David Ash has a huge comeback victory to bolster his morale through the offseason.

    Maybe it isn't a Texas-sized win to snatch the Alamo Bowl from the jaws of defeat, but it's a good sign that Ash is ready to lead this team.

    If that doesn't happen, then Johnathan Gray will need to put the team on his shoulders and carry it. While he's busy being the workhorse, the coaches should put the quarterbacks to the test until someone decides to be the future of the program even if it's only for a couple of seasons.

    From timing drills to scrimmages, the quarterbacks need to be placed in as many game-type situations as possible. Someone has to find their internal champion and bring it to the football field.

    The Longhorns will definitely be desperate if the quarterback situation doesn't improve come the start of the 2013 season.

18. Boise State Broncos

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    Chris Petersen still needs to find a quarterback. There are high expectations and Petersen built them entirely himself.

    Biggest potential disaster: Boise State still doesn't have a quarterback, and the running game isn't making up for it as in 2012.

    Plan: Focus on the defense even more and let your quarterbacks know that there is serious pressure. If they can't handle the pressure of the practice field, then you never really had them for game time.

    Boise State is under tremendous pressure to return to its former glory in 2013. With the last set of BCS bowls coming at the end of this season, Boise's access to elite bowls might never get easier.

    If the running game suffers from the loss of D.J. Harper, then it will be up to Joe Southwick to cover for his absence. The disaster occurs if Southwick can't perform well enough to put notches in the win column.

    If that happens, then the defense has to perform even better in 2013 than it did in 2012. That's going to be difficult because the Broncos finished eighth in scoring defense last season.

    Ultimately, Boise State needs an offense in the future. Fortunately, its defense can hold its own with outstanding teams. Opening the season against the Washington Huskies will be a good litmus test for the Broncos.

    If the defense can emerge victorious, then it should be capable of taking down anyone on the schedule, regardless of how the offense is performing.

17. Northwestern Wildcats

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    Northwestern had a great run in 2012 behind Venric Mark's stellar performance at running back.

    Biggest potential disaster: Mark gets injured or is out for the season.

    Plan: Set plays up in the shotgun and pass to any eligible receiver. Draw the defense into pass coverage and nickle-and-dime your way to a potential conference championship.

    If this disaster were to happen, there's no way to completely make up for the hole that would be left in the running game. However, starting from the shotgun will help.

    It will spread the field beginning behind the line of scrimmage and defenses will expect passes. Hide a target or two on the line (eligible receivers) and you have a shot at stretching the defenses.

    The defender who stays close to stop the short pass to the tight end will allow Northwestern a man-to-man shot elsewhere. All it would take is a little separation and the Wildcats would have yards.

    Maybe the 'Cats have to take it four yards at a time, but that's still more than enough to find success. The bigger issue will be getting the quarterback to throw short passes right over the defensive linemen.

    It's a grotesque perversion of what football should naturally be, but desperation is never pretty.

16. Utah State Aggies

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    Matt Wells is new at the helm of one of the nation's best scoring defenses. As long as that defense remains stout, then the Aggies should have a fine season in 2013.

    As the previous offensive coordinator, he is more than adequately familiar with the scheme.

    Biggest potential disaster: Utah State's offense simply can't make what the defense is doing count in the win column.

    Plan: If necessary, bring your defensive line over to offense for a few plays in the early part of the game. Get your offense out to a two- or three-possession lead and then let your defense hold on for victory.

    In 2012, the defense carried the offense. Back in 2011, the opposite was true, as the defense ranked 68th in the country.

    The 2013 season offers the opportunity for the Aggies to pull together on offense and defense in the same season. If that happens, there is little standing between them and an appearance in the final round of BCS bowls.

    If the Aggies revert to a lackluster offense, then the coaches need to change tactics. If it must, the defensive line needs to double as the offensive line for a few drives. Let the offense get the defense out to an early lead and relieve the pressure.

    With that setup, the only decision left for the coaches to make will be when to substitute the defensive line out to keep it rested for the fourth quarter.

15. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Bob Stoops will return to lead the Oklahoma Sooners in 2013. The loss of Landry Jones will be a major factor in the scheming for next season, but Jones didn't perform incredibly well last year, so he won't be as difficult to replace as thought.

    Biggest potential disaster: Jones proves to be the glue that held the Oklahoma squad together.

    Plan: Focus on defense. If you can take the "all we need is a quarterback" argument to the recruiting trail, you're golden.

    Oklahoma can win the Big 12 in 2013, as there is little doubt as to the talent on the roster. However, the Sooners played sporadically on defense last season. Against Notre Dame, West Virginia and Oklahoma State, the Sooners seemingly left the starting defense on the bus.

    Granted, the West Virginia issue was more Geno Smith than the defense, but the other two were simply "Whaaaaat?" moments for the Sooners.

    Oklahoma's defense did well in 2012, but could use improvement.

    If the new quarterback proves to be less of an asset than anticipated, then the defense will become the focal point of the media. (After all, there are only so many "This Guy Isn't Landry Jones" articles you can write before becoming repetitive.)

    Oklahoma's defense ranked 50th in the nation last season, and its offense ranked 15th. The 2013 passer can afford to be OK instead of great. The defense cannot.

    If the quarterback turns out to be less than OK, then the defense can no longer get by with mediocre showings.

14. LSU Tigers

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    Les Miles has a bit of a disaster on his hands as it is. He's lost yet another load of talent to the NFL, and his recruiting classes keep getting weaker. Of course, by Miles' standard, a 10th-place recruiting class is lame.

    Biggest potential disaster: Zach Mettenberger doesn't make any progress, and the 2012 Alabama performance looks like a complete fluke.

    Plan: Focus on filling the departed defensive players and join the ranks of the rest of the teams searching for a quarterback in 2014.

    Mettenberger showed serious skill against Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. The only blemish on that three-game run were the two interceptions against Mississippi.

    If Mettenberger doesn't improve, then the defense and running backs will have to make up for it until Miles can get a quarterback on the field. That might not be until 2014.

    Miles has recruited well through the years, and LSU is a perennial contender. That is no accident, and his coaching staff is among the best in the nation.

    The defense will have to control opposing offenses, which worked quite well in 2012. Even with the country's 59th-ranked scoring offense, the Tigers won 10 of 13 games.

    If the new rotation on defense can make up for another year without a standout quarterback, LSU can remain high enough in the conference to attract a top-notch quarterback recruit.

    LSU needs one in the next class regardless of Mettenberger's performance, but the defense will have to prove that it's still elite to draw one to the school.

13. Louisville Cardinals

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    Charlie Strong has Louisville sitting at the top of the American Athletic Conference for 2013. After Teddy Bridgewater's performance against the Florida Gators' top-five defense, the Cardinals will be the favorite to earn the AAC's automatic BCS bid at the end of the year.

    Biggest potential disaster: Bridgewater is injured or goes out for season.

    Plan: Let Bridgewater help coach the backup.

    This is one of the worst potential disasters on the list, but Bridgewater still could be a major factor if he misses the season.

    Bridgewater has a knack for picking defenses apart. While that's not a 100 percent teachable skill, his ability to read schemes in the American Athletic Conference is mostly teachable.

    This is a horrible theoretical situation for Louisville, and there's no good solution. However, letting Bridgewater contribute to the coaching of his replacement would even help his draft stock.

12. Kansas State Wildcats

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    Kansas State has risen to new heights recently, and Bill Snyder is responsible for that success.

    Biggest potential disaster: Nobody replaces Collin Klein as needed.

    Plan: Put two quarterbacks on the field at the same time, use misdirection to let the offense confuse the defense at any given moment.

    Kansas State has been on the rise in the Big 12, and Klein was an integral part of that success. Replacing him will not be easy.

    While the coaches likely will settle on a quarterback before the 2013 season, they don't need to have tunnel vision about the selection.

    If the starter proves that he's not the type to bring Kansas State to a brighter future, it will be best to put a second quarterback into the next game to see how he performs.

    If he doesn't cut it, then put both in simultaneously and let them work together toward success. Kansas State is too good to throw a season away as it looks for something that might not be present.

    This is Kansas State's biggest potential disaster because it's the Wildcats' biggest question. If you need one thing to complete a task, and that's the one thing you don't have, that qualifies as a bad situation.

11. Clemson Tigers

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    Dabo Swinney and Tajh Boyd have brought Clemson to the top of the ACC. Granted, Florida State has done its share of getting in the way of that recently. However, Clemson is in great position to take the ACC in 2013.

    Biggest potential disaster: Boyd melts down with a case of senior-itis as did Matt Barkley.

    Plan: Put the responsibility on your stellar skill players. Boyd must be allowed to play with lower accuracy, but the skill players can adjust their techniques to give him more Justin Blackmon-type targets with range.

    Boyd is returning for his senior season, and there are lofty dreams bounding through the Clemson fanbase. Because Florida State is losing its quarterback, Clemson is poised for a perfect run through the ACC schedule.

    With SEC powers Georgia and South Carolina on the schedule, an undefeated season likely would bring a BCS title game appearance.

    The worst thing that could happen to Clemson would be to lose Boyd for the season. If Boyd pulls a Barkley and tanks in his final season, the Tigers will have to rely on their bevy of skill players.

    Most are versatile enough to double as running backs even though they didn't have to in 2012. Sammy Watkins, the wide receiver, even managed to toss a 52-yard touchdown pass last year.

    With all the talent that Clemson has, the disaster plan almost looks good enough to try once even without Boyd on the injured list ... almost.

10. Florida State Seminoles

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    Jimbo Fisher has brought Florida State back to national prominence, and if he can replace EJ Manuel at quarterback, the Seminoles should contend with Clemson for the ACC title in 2013.

    Biggest potential disaster: Manuel and Bjoern Werner are irreplaceable in 2013.

    Plan: Put the ball in the hands of your best player. Rashad Greene becomes the Seminoles' headliner.

    Florida State handled teams defensively and offensively last season, and there were few exceptions. One was the Florida Gators and the other was North Carolina State. The loss to the Wolfpack can be chalked up to a big-game letdown as the Seminoles won the ACC game of the year against Clemson only two weeks prior.

    Werner (defense) and Manuel (offense) were the headliners and neither will be an easy act to follow.

    If neither can be adequately replaced, the Seminoles could put together a highly forgettable season rather quickly.

    Manuel can be replaced with a decent quarterback and a simplified playbook. Unfortunately, that won't net the Seminoles a 10-win run. They need to have some tricks to pull off a repeat ACC title.

    Fortunately, Florida State has Greene. From the previously linked highlight, you can see that he has incredible field awareness and the ability to abandon failed routes in favor of whatever is open.

    He might not be best-suited for the role, but putting him in at running back wouldn't be a terrible solution. He's only 170 pounds, but he's fast. He could bring an Oregon-style excitement to the ACC, and Oregon-style rushing success to the Seminoles' plan of attack.

    It might not be pretty, but it would be effective.

9. Florida Gators

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    Florida is losing much talent to the NFL, but the Gators can overcome those losses if Jeff Driskel steps up and performs next season.

    Biggest potential disaster: Driskel doesn't improve from 2012.

    Plan: Play backups equally by halves until someone ousts Driskel as the starter.

    Driskel led the nation's 118th-ranked passing attack last season, and it almost landed him in the national championship game against the SEC champion. (Had Notre Dame lost to USC after that ranking came out, the SEC champion would have been No. 1 and Florida would have been No. 2 with the ensuing win over Florida State.)

    Driskel is the linchpin for the Gators' success in 2013. The defense is set, and the rest of the offense is clearly capable of helping Driskel to a national title.

    If he comes on strong in 2013, the Gators are a lock for the SEC title game against Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU or possibly (but not likely) Ole Miss.

    If Driskel is a disaster, the Gators need to look elsewhere. They have waited long enough for him to blossom, and 2012 was his "pass."

    Driskel should be replaced by his two leading backups unless there is something seriously wrong with one of them. Put one backup in the first half of a game, and then put the second alternate in for the second half.

    When the next game comes, switch the halves that each passer plays. The coaches should repeat this scheme until one proves to be incapable of winning for Florida.

    The danger here is taking a two-quarterback system to a national championship game. However, if the two-passer system gets you there, why worry that it won't work on that day?

8. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Steve Spurrier has coached the South Carolina Gamecocks to a school-record span of greatness, and the 2013 season could yield yet another Gamecocks' appearance in the SEC title game.

    Biggest potential disaster: Offense takes a step backward.

    Plan: Put Jadeveon Clowney on the offensive side of the ball for three or four series. After a two-score lead, keep him exclusively on defense with plenty of rest to keep him solid in the fourth quarter.

    While this isn't something you would try under normal circumstances (verdict via Amy Daughters, FC), this is an emergency situation. South Carolina has a schedule advantage over Georgia in 2013, and it's Clowney's last season.

    That means that South Carolina might or might not be able to afford to lose one game. If the Gamecocks lose one, it would be best if it weren't to the Georgia Bulldogs.

    So what? South Carolina has been fine for the last two seasons and another SEC title game appearance is likely at this point.

    Well, what happens if there are no returning rushers and that affects South Carolina? That's where the problem rests. The Roosters have two solid quarterbacks that combined to beat Michigan in January.

    While nobody would wish that on them, an injury to a quarterback is less harmful than it would be at almost any other position.

    If South Carolina becomes one-dimensional, then SEC foes will dominate. Under those circumstances, Clowney should be a running back or tight end until the Gamecocks are up by two possessions. (Ideally, this means that Clowney plays no more than three drives on offense.)

    After that, he goes back to 100 percent defense and he's given periodic rest to make sure he's ready to enter beast mode in the fourth quarter. If Clowney's antics got South Carolina to the SEC title game, he'd win the Heisman regardless of that game's outcome.

    That's a nice bonus for a contingency plan.

7. Stanford Cardinal

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    The Stanford Cardinal and the Oregon Ducks pretty much own the Pac-12 North, and 2013 will be no different. David Shaw weathered the loss of Andrew Luck by winning the Pac-12 and the Rose Bowl last season.

    Biggest potential disaster: Offense doesn't improve over 2012's production.

    Plan: Experiment with a run-first option offense and keep your defense firing on all cylinders.

    Stanford is losing three offensive standouts to the 2013 draft: Zach Ertz (TE), Stepfan Taylor (RB) and Levine Toilolo (TE). Stanford's defense is a given asset. Even with a drop-off, it will be ranked in the top 20 at the end of the season.

    The offense needs to improve despite the losses to the NFL. This is a lot to ask of a team that just lost more than one-third of its talent from that side of the ball. But it has to be done.

    The biggest factor centers on the quarterback, Josh Nunes or Kevin Hogan. Hogan has the better at-first-glance numbers of the two passers, but it's going to take more than 17 touchdowns to win the Pac-12. (That's how many they combined for last season.)

    Now, if the passing attack doesn't improve next year, then there is only one other option: Take anyone on offense who can throw the ball, even just a little, and work him into a run-first option attack.

    While Stanford is known for stout defense and OK offense, there is no better time to gun for a national title than right now. Almost half the Big 12 is replacing starting quarterbacks, which takes an entire power conference out of the equation unless Texas visits the Wizard of Oz during the offseason.

    That takes more than an OK offense. If Stanford needs to simply reverse its defensive scheme and apply it on the other side of the ball, then the coaches need to be ready to do that.

    Winning games with a rushing attack is no less respectable than winning them through the air. (Maybe less entertaining, but no less respectable.)

T-5. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Georgia has come closer and closer to winning its conference in each of the last two seasons, and 2013 looks good for a victory if circumstances play out correctly.

    Biggest potential disaster: Aaron Murray is injured or otherwise out for the season.

    Plan: Restructure your offense completely around Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

    Georgia's quarterback, Murray, is yet another senior hoping for something special in his final season. Given everything the Bulldogs have accomplished during his reign under center, there is plenty of hope for Georgia.

    The most disastrous thing possible for the Bulldogs (and Murray, for that matter) is to lose the quarterback during his encore.

    The only upside is that Georgia is the second-best-equipped team in the SEC to switch over to a run-based offense. (Behind Alabama, who must be playing running backs as safeties at this point in time.)

    Between the two stellar freshmen who burst onto the scene last season, it's a wonder that Georgia even uses a quarterback. Gurley and Marshall put up excellent numbers, and they appeared to be hindered only when Murray threw the ball.

    Marshall had half the stats of Gurley across the board. They were equally productive, and even Alabama didn't stop Gurley in the SEC title game.

    While an injury to any player is not on anyone's wish list, this all-rush attack from Georgia is more than a little intriguing. Most disaster plans are chaotic and unappealing, but this one has movie-level potential.

T-5. Texas A&M Aggies

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    Kevin Sumlin and the Texas A&M Aggies rampaged through most of the SEC last season, and they have most of their tools returning in 2013.

    Biggest potential disaster: Johnny Manziel is out for the season.

    Plan: Use your stout offensive line to make up for his loss.

    Manziel passed for almost 4,000 yards last year, and he would have easily crossed the 4,000-yard mark if he hadn't been busy rushing for more than 1,400 for 21 ground-based touchdowns.

    Most of that success was due to his offensive line's ability to give him practically 60 seconds to execute every single play.

    If Manziel is lost for the season, all the coaches have to do is teach the backup quarterback patience. That's not at all an easy task, but it's possible.

    Instead of teaching the quarterback how to do what Manziel did (probably impossible), teach him how to take his time and step up in the pocket. He might have a few more fumbles as Manziel almost did against Alabama, but he'll be successful.

    The Aggies might have the first freshman Heisman winner coming back, but there is more to the game than just one player. Manziel would be the worst possible loss for A&M, but the contingency plan is already in place.

    The offensive line is among the best in the SEC, and the SEC is the best conference in the country. There is no reason to believe that losing Manziel would cost A&M the season.

    It might cost the Aggies a national title, but it wouldn't cost them a BCS bowl.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Brian Kelly led Notre Dame back to the national championship game last season. In 2013, he has the opportunity to prove that it wasn't a fluke.

    With or without an undefeated season, he can successfully show himself to be the type of coach that Notre Dame has been searching for during the last few decades.

    Biggest potential disaster: Notre Dame's defense doesn't make up for the loss of Manti Te'o, and the season unravels quickly.

    Plan: Help Everett Golson make up for it on offense, and use it on the recruiting trail. Make sure the 2014 class knows that the difference between 2012 and 2013 is the talent that left, not the talent or coaching staff that's in South Bend.

    Notre Dame made it to the BCS title game last season. There's no getting around the fact that the Irish were the only eligible undefeated team at the time, and there's no discrediting the season they put together.

    The losses of Te'o and Tyler Eifert are going to hurt in 2013, but Golson is more than capable for making up for those losses with improvement.

    What happens if the defense that won Notre Dame so many games completely crumbles? It's the one sure thing on the field for the Golden Domers, and it's the only "lock" entering 2013.

    Golson didn't play well enough in 2012 for a season-ending circumstance to be called a disaster, but the defense absolutely did.

    If the coaches can work on Golson during the offseason and the fall, then Notre Dame's defense can fade into the background while the Irish still win.

    If the defense fails to show up like it did in 2012, then Golson and his wide receivers will simply have to do better than they did last season. His go-to receiver is gone, but his go-to receiver really should be a wide receiver in the first place.

    If Golson can build on what he started in 2012, then the Irish could be right back in the hunt for a crystal football this year.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Urban Meyer trashed the Big Ten in his inaugural season with the Buckeyes, and he will attempt to repeat the feat behind quarterback Braxton Miller in 2013.

    Biggest potential disaster: Miller self-destructs.

    Plan: Get your defense up to Meyer's par, and the lack of points on the board will help you adjust your offense to whomever takes the wheel.

    Miller was a Heisman hopeful in 2012, and the Ohio State Buckeyes were the most adversely affected team in recent memory by their one-year postseason ban.

    After finishing the regular season 12-0, the Buckeyes packed up and went home for Christmas. After Miller's stellar performance in 2012, there is only one question remaining for 2013: Was 2012 a fluke or a prelude?

    If Miller is taken out of the equation due to complete lack of production, then he won't be bailing out the defense as he did in 2012.

    During certain games (against the UAB Blazers), Ohio State's inability to tackle got it into difficult situations.

    Fixing improper tackling should be part of the regular plan, but in this horrible scenario, tight tackling becomes the focus of the entire team. In practice, the squad will need to get together and work on angles, technique and assignment football almost exclusively.

    The final edition of a signature Meyer defense could help an OK offense win a national title. It's not as likely as if Miller were healthy, but it could still happen.

2. Oregon Ducks

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    Oregon is in good hands with Mark Helfrich. He was the offensive coordinator before Chip Kelly left for the NFL, so he's a natural fit to be the head coach of the offensively stunning Ducks.

    Biggest potential disaster: Marcus Mariota is injured or lost for season.

    Plan: De'Anthony Thomas becomes your new go-to player on offense, and the passing game is limited to reflect your new strength at tailback. Do passer reps with your entire eligible offense and run just as many flea-flicker-style plays as you do straight running plays.

    Oregon could afford to lose almost any player and still compete on a national level. A few notable exceptions are Colt Lyerla (TE), Thomas (RB/KR) and Mariota.

    The most disastrous potential loss would be Mariota, but he wouldn't be an irreplaceable player. His stats say otherwise, but Oregon's strength is its rushing attack.

    In 2012, the Ducks earned the No. 73 passing attack and the No. 3 rushing game in the country. Oregon is a high-scoring, electric offense with plenty of power to score.

    Sometimes, numbers such as 49.6 points per game tend to imply that quarterbacks are involved heavily. While that is true for Oregon, the ball isn't in the air nearly as much as intuition would suggest.

    This is why the backup plan would be to install a run-first option offense. The Ducks already run a Zone-Read offense, so this isn't much of a stretch.

    The major difference would be that there would be even less passing, as it would be coming from people far less talented than Mariota.

    Without a true quarterback, options do become limited. The passes that were completed would be only to wide-open receivers, but the fact that you're drawing players into the middle to stop the run so often will help open up that passing game.

    At that point, you don't need a quarterback who can hit a trash can from 40 yards, you need one that can hit a barn from that distance.

    No one on the Ducks' squad was involved in a trick pass play last season, so there isn't anyone at the top of the list as far as a potential game-manager is concerned.

    However, Thomas is the most versatile player at Oregon once Mariota's name is taken off that list. Thomas is explosive and energetic ... everything you'd want to lead a team whose captain had just been lost for a season.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Nick Saban has brought Alabama to a level far beyond expectations in Tuscaloosa, and his Crimson Tide will likely enter the 2013 season at No. 1.

    Biggest potential disaster: AJ McCarron is injured or otherwise out for the season.

    Plan: Adjust offense completely for backup quarterback. Your targets are insanely talented; let them make him look good.

    If McCarron were taken out for the season by a major injury, the Tide might be tempted to panic. However, TJ Yeldon, Amari Cooper and several other talented up-and-comers would gladly make Blake Sims' job an estimated 40 percent easier.

    Sims went an underwhelming 5-of-10 last season for 77 yards last season, and he rushed 30 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns. He's a talented dual-threat quarterback, but he's not elite.

    Fortunately for Sims, Alabama doesn't need a Heisman-winning quarterback to win national championships. In fact, Alabama's only Heisman winner is Mark Ingram, a running back from the 2009 season.

    Sims is not as good a passer as McCarron, but he is a better runner. If Saban adjusted the scheme for Sims, Alabama would be just fine. (Saban probably has that plan marked "Plan B" and sitting in a safe in his office already.)

    If Sims were out there tossing balls to Cooper, Yeldon and Kenny Bell, he'd look almost as good as McCarron. He would come out of the gate a little unpolished, but he would suffice.

    Alabama's disaster plan is essentially: Keep being Alabama. Who knows? By the time fall rolls around, Sims might not even be the backup. There's serious quarterback talent coming to the Capstone via the 2013 recruiting class.

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