Preseason College Football Rankings 2013: Early Look at Entire Top 25

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Preseason College Football Rankings 2013: Early Look at Entire Top 25
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
South Caroina's Jadeveon Clowney is the best defender entering the 2013 campaign.

College football remains months away, but it's always a good time to stir up some Top 25 rankings before the season kicks off.

And what has unfolded since Alabama dismantled Notre Dame in the BCS title game is rather intriguing. From recruiting to spring ball and who lost key players to the 2013 NFL draft, this college season provides an abundance of questions.

To that end, let's dive in and check out a way early glimpse of the entire poll. 

Note: Highlighted schools in italics.

 

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

With three BCS National Championships in the past four years, as well as a strong recruiting class, Alabama is the team to beat. Although Nick Saban lost key talent to pro football, the Crimson Tide have the overall personnel to remain on track.


2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Just like Alabama, Ohio State brings in a great recruiting class. In addition, Urban Meyer comes off a 12-0 campaign and has plenty of talent ready for more. And Braxton Miller is arguably the top Heisman Trophy candidate.


3. Texas A&M Aggies

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Texas A&M is fine. Johnny Manziel will continue to dazzle opponents and Jake Matthews is just as reliable as Luke Joeckel. There are also better playmakers on defense than at first glance.


4. Stanford Cardinal

The defending Pac-12 champions possess repeat potential. Stanford's offense will continue to punish the trenches, whereas the defense has the pass rush and instincts to generate turnovers. If there's one team that can match the SEC up front, the Cardinal are as good as anyone.


5. Oregon Ducks

Oregon's offense remains explosive to up the tempo, but also the personnel to sustain balance. Defensively, losing Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso was tough. However, the Ducks have solid young talent and get to practice against one of college football's best offenses. In short, the defense will develop better than expected.


6. Louisville Cardinals

Louisville's victory over Florida was humongous in terms of 2013's implications. The Cardinals hardly lost any key players to the NFL, which helps regarding experience for this season. Even better, Teddy Bridgewater is still developing as a quarterback. 


7. South Carolina Gamecocks

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For one, Steve Spurrier brings in the No. 24 (Scout.com) and No. 16 (Rivals.com) ranked recruiting class.

Second, there's a Heisman Trophy candidate in Jadeveon Clowney. In just two seasons for the Gamecocks, Clowney has racked up 35.5 tackles for loss and has forced eight fumbles. His presence coming off the edge will continue to be an extreme competitive advantage.

South Carolina also sports two dependable quarterbacks in Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. The two combined for 27 touchdown passes to just nine picks in 2012.

Needing the passing game to remain technically sound, South Carolina has the defense to rely on consistently. The offense must simply match that level to reach the SEC title game.

 

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Brian Kelly has some strong pieces together on each side of the ball. Everett Golson was a reliable decision-maker last season, and that only assists his development for 2013. The Irish also have more talent defensively than given credit, as evidence of playmakers such as Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt and Bennett Jackson.


9. Georgia Bulldogs

Mark Richt lost a boatload of talent on defense to pro football. So, that puts more pressure on the offense. At least Aaron Murray is still under center, though, and he'll capitalize off the reliable running game. Still, getting past South Carolina will be challenging in the SEC East.


10. Clemson Tigers

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With the offense to push the pace Clemson has the talent to compete for the ACC title. Tajh Boyd is among the best signal-callers around, which keeps the Tigers offense moving. Provided the defense plays all year like it did down the stretch in 2012 and Dabo Swinney's crew will make noise.


11. Michigan Wolverines

Expect Michigan's offense to be much more efficient in 2013. Devin Gardner knows how to spread the field, which will help set up the run. Controlling the tempo is what's needed, because the Wolverines lost some important defenders to pro football.


12. Florida Gators

Unless Jeff Driskel improves mechanics to stretch defenses downfield, Florida's offense will echo 2012's inconsistencies. As for the defense, it lost impressive talent but Dante Fowler and Ronald Powell are capable of leading.


13. TCU Horned Frogs

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Don't sleep on Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs.

This team has excellent talent on defense to suffocate the line and blanket in coverage. With Jason Verrett (22 defended passes in 2012) to isolate half the field, his impact will resonate to the front seven.

There, Devonte Fields and Co. will take care of the extra pass rush time to control up front.

The offense is a minute concern, though. Quarterback Casey Pachall had 10 touchdowns to one pick before getting suspended (via Brett McMurphy and David Ubben ESPN.com) for a DWI. He has since returned but getting back to last season's early form won't be easy.

Still, TCU has the defense and potential in its running game to wreck havoc as the year progresses.

 

14. LSU Tigers

LSU lost immense defensive talent to pro football, but the Bayou Bengals still have players like Anthony Johnson to control the line of scrimmage. As long as Zach Mettenberger helps field a high-powered offense and Les Miles' team will contest for the SEC West title.


15. Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern returns an abundance of talent for the 2013 campaign. The Wildcats are also coming off a 10-3 season that included wins over Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Getting to play Ohio State this season, though, will be the ultimate test for Pat Fitzgerald's squad.


16. Florida State Seminoles

The Seminoles appear to be in a rebuilding session. That said, Florida State will be able to move nicely courtesy of its reliable receivers. As a result, the ground game is set up to take pressure off the defense: A defense that lost an incredible amount of talent.

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17. Michigan State Spartans

The 2012 season was a brief rebuilding period for Michigan State. The Spartans now are a year removed from the Kirk Cousins era, and Andrew Maxwell has that much more experience. Sparty also presents another sound defense with playmakers such as Darqueze Dennard and Denicos Allen.


18. Boise State Broncos

Joe Southwick developed better than anticipated last season, not to mention Boise State's offense returns dependable players in Jay Ajayi and Matt Miller. The Broncos defense also looks good. Demarcus Lawrence has a nose for the rock and Jeremy Ioane is solid for changing the field after turnovers.


19. Texas Longhorns

Even though two key playmakers in Kenny Vaccaro and Alex Okafor are gone, Texas still features Jackson Jeffcoat and Quandre Diggs to find the rock. Offensively, David Ash has the experience to dice up a defense, and the ground game exists to consistently slam the trenches.


20. UCLA Bruins

The passing game with quarterback Brett Hundley is there to press downfield. And with a faster pace that forces opponents to keep up: Meaning, more passing attempts, which leads to sack opportunities. Well, enter Anthony Barr who comes off a 13.5-sack season to continue disrupting behind the line.


21. Vanderbilt Commodores

Since James Franklin took over the program, Vanderbilt has drastically improved. Keep an eye on receiver Jordan Matthews as well, since he caught 94 passes a season ago. Include an underrated defense that gets off the field on third down, and the Commodores will surprise even more this fall.


22. Arizona State Sun Devils

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One team to keep a close eye on in the Pac-12 South is Arizona State.

This offense has incredible potential with quarterback Taylor Kelly (29 passing scores to nine picks, 67.1 completion percentage) and running back Marion Grice (1,104 total yards, 19 scores).

This duo will be responsible for maintaining balance, setting up play action and converting on third down to assist the already strong defense.

And speaking of the defense, Will Sutton is an absolute monster. Recording 23.5 tackles for loss in 2012, Sutton's presence completely changes run-blocking schemes and pass protection.

Ultimately, expect the Sun Devils to make an impressive run at UCLA in 2013.

 

23. Oregon State Beavers

Losing receiver Markus Wheaton and corner Jordan Poyer really hurt Oregon State for 2013. Nevertheless, the offense needs to rely on ball-carrier Storm Woods for winning the possession battle. And the defense must continue generating turnovers to contest for the conference title.


24. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Oklahoma State allowed an average of 28.2 points per game last season. And six times did the Pokes allow above that average. Regardless of the offense's production, this defense must improve to become Big 12 title contenders.

 

25. Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Cornhuskers need to replenish defensively, and that puts more pressure on the offense. Fortunately, Taylor Martinez has kept improving and he's helped by Ameer Abdullah on the ground. If Nebraska develops a strong grasp of controlling the line of scrimmage offensively, Bo Pelini's team will make another Big Ten title run.

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