College Football logoCollege Football

Power Ranking Every BCS Team, Summer Edition

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIJune 26, 2013

Power Ranking Every BCS Team, Summer Edition

1 of 77

    With summer fully underway and the 2013 season a mere two months in the future, it's time to start taking some in-depth looks at the lineup of potential national champions. The BCS-AQ conferences are as good a place as any to begin.

    Each of the 76 teams were graded on the following six criteria:

    1. Returning Starters/Quarterback (12 possible points)

    2. Coaching (10 possible points)

    3. Average Recruiting Class Ranking from 2010-2013 (Five possible points)

    4. Average AP Final Poll Ranking (10 possible points)

    5. Strength of Schedule (Five possible points)

    6. Team Momentum (Five possible points)

    (Maximum possible score is 47 points.)

    Before we get to the list, here is a full breakdown of each of the criteria.

     

    Returning Starters/Quarterback

    To get the single score here, the total number of returning starters was divided by two. After that, if the quarterback was one of the returning players, a bonus point was awarded.

    (Max score is 22 returning starters, including the quarterback. That would yield a score of 11 + 1 = 12.)

     

    Coaching

    Each coaching staff was evaluated based on its past performances and potential for success. For flow and ease of reading, the head coaches are the only ones listed, but offensive and defensive coordinators were also factored into the evaluation.

     

    Average Recruiting Class Ranking from 2010-2013

    The reason those years were chosen is that those classes provided the majority of the players who will take the field this fall.

    Points were awarded for finishing with the following average position:

    1-3.9 = Five points
    4-6.9 = 4.5 points
    7-9.9 = Four points
    10-12.9 = 3.5 points
    13-15.9 = Three points
    16-18.9 = 2.5 points
    19-21.9 = Two points
    22-24.9 = 1.5 points
    25 = 1.1 points
    Outside top 25 yielded one point.

     

    Average AP Final Poll Ranking from 2009-2012

    To keep things consistent, a four-year period was considered here. That allowed any long-term coaches to establish themselves statistically, and it shows what these teams are capable of for more than just a year. It also eliminates the inconsistencies from season-to-season.

    All teams were arranged by average finishing place. The highest average was awarded 10 points. Second place was awarded 9.8. Third was awarded 9.6, and so on. All unranked teams were awarded one point.

    The AP Poll was chosen, because it looks at all teams without ignoring sanctioned programs.

     

    Strength of Schedule

    The chart on Phil Steele's blog was used to determine each team's strength of schedule. The five-point scale was simply the chart's ranking divided by 20, with an upper and lower limit of five and one. 

    The harder the schedule, the lower the score. The odds of making it through an extremely difficult schedule unscathed are lower than against an easier slate.

     

    Team Momentum

    Each team was awarded anywhere from one to five points based on its recent trajectory. For instance, Texas A&M, Ohio State and Alabama were awarded five points. On the other hand, teams like Kansas and Iowa were awarded just one point. 

     

    This is a power ranking of which teams have the best shot at finishing the season ranked the highest in the polls. While they may or may not perform to their potential, the ingredients for success are all in the cupboard.

    From a statistical standpoint, multiply your team's score by two to get a good idea of which teams you can compete with on a good day. On a great day, anyone can beat anyone else.

    Enjoy the read, and feel free to agree or disagree in the comment section.

    All references to where a team finished in the total rankings last season were from Jeff Sagarin's 2012 rankings page. All unlinked final 2012 win-loss records are from this ESPN.com page.

76. Kansas Jayhawks

2 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 11/No (5.5)

    Head Coach: Charlie Weis (5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 5 (1)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 14.5

    Kansas is a non-contender in the Big 12 this coming season. Now, the Jayhawks are capable of upsetting almost anyone on the schedule, for sure. However, to put together a championship team, Charlie Weis is going to need more time.

75. South Florida Bulls

3 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 10/No (5)

    Head Coach: Willie Taggart (6)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 35 (1.8)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 15.8

    South Florida finally got rid of Skip Holtz, and Willie Taggart is taking over for the Bulls. Taggart will need a few recruiting classes under his belt in order to compete seriously at the FBS level, but USF fans don't mind letting a year or two go as long as Holtz is no longer in charge.

74. Virginia Cavaliers

4 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/No (7)

    Head Coach: Mike London (4)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 24.5 (1.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 28 (1.4)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 15.9

    Virginia is looking at another disappointing year, but it should still be better than last season when the Cavaliers finished 87th in the country among all college football teams.

    It might be a little rough for the Virginia fanbase in 2013, but things will get better soon.

73. Iowa State Cyclones

5 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: Nine/No (4.5)

    Head Coach: Paul Rhoads (7)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 21 (1.1)

    Program Momentum: 2

    Total Score: 16.6

    Iowa State can take advantage of a down year for the Big 12 in 2013, but the Cyclones themselves are also contributors to that decline. Iowa State has to replace a starting quarterback in a season that will have a healthy Texas team gunning for the title, among other factors.

    The Cyclones have a tough row to hoe this fall, and things appear to be getting a little worse for them before they get better.

72. Illinois Fighting Illini

6 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 12/Yes (7)

    Head Coach: Tim Beckman (5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 11 (1)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 18

    It stinks to be put in this part of a list like this, but someone has to finish last in each of these conferences. Illinois is the selection for the bottom of the Big Ten.

    With teams like Indiana, Ohio State and Nebraska gunning for the title, Illinois is going to be little more than collateral damage in 2013.

    Of course, if quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase steps up huge, the Illini are in prime position to take the conference completely by surprise.

71. NC State Wolfpack

7 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 11/No (5.5)

    Head Coach: Dave Doeren (6.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 25.75 (1.1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 16 (1)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 18.1

    NC State lost a major quarterback (Mike Glennon) and a top-notch cornerback (David Amerson) this offseason. Both are in the NFL now, and the Wolfpack are going to be limping through a rebuilding year.

    The ACC is going to have a great year, and NC State is going to have its work cut out for it in 2013.

70. Memphis Tigers

8 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13 Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Justin Fuente (4.9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 19 (1)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 18.4

    Memphis will be taking its first stab at the American Athletic Conference (former Big East) title this fall. Things will not end well, but no team jumps up to an AQ conference expecting major success in the initial season.

    Memphis can become a contender, but not without a decent amount of time to build a contending program.

69. Kentucky Wildcats

9 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13 Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Mark Stoops (7)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25

    Strength of Schedule: No. 1 (1)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 18.5

    Kentucky has a bright future under Mark Stoops, but new coaches need time to build programs just like new teams to conferences do. Kentucky is the basketball king of the SEC, and they have the resources to fund a stellar Southeastern Conference football program.

    However, competing with teams like Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia doesn't happen overnight. Expect Kentucky to be the familiar football team it has always been for another few years.

68. Washington State Cougars

10 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/No (7.5)

    Head Coach: Mike Leach (4.9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 63 (3.2)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 18.6

    Washington State dug deep and took down a ranked Washington team at the end of the 2012 season. That was the third and final win of the season. The Cougars are definitely motivated to taste victory again, but not in 2013.

    They have to rack up at least three more wins to get noticed in this day and age, but fans will settle for four or five wins. Improvement is improvement, and the 104th-place finish from 2012 is a fairly easy target to destroy for a coach like Mike Leach.

67. SMU Mustangs

11 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: Nine/Yes (5.5)

    Head Coach: June Jones (7.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 26 (1.3)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 19.3

    SMU's June Jones is leading the Mustangs into a power conference for the first time in 2013. Growing pains are to be expected, and 2013 will bring them all in full force.

    The Mustangs can work their way into national titles from the American Athletic Conference, but it's not likely to happen in year one.

66. UCF Knights

12 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 11/Yes (6.5)

    Head Coach: George O'Leary (5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 98 (4.9)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 19.4

    Central Florida is riding the high of a 10-win season in 2012, but the move from Conference USA to the American is going to kill all the momentum it built. The power conferences are different animals from their non-AQ cousins.

    The football field is always the same, but the competition is from another world entirely.

65. California Golden Bears

13 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: Nine/No (4.5)

    Head Coach: Sonny Dykes (8)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 20 (2)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 9 (1)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 20.5

    Sonny Dykes came from Louisiana Tech to California, and he brought his offensive coordinator with him. The Golden Bears are in for a run of success not seen in a long time, but it still takes time to build a successful program.

    With the Pac-12 generally on the rise as a conference, overtaking teams that are already getting better is twice as difficult as simply building a more successful program than your peers.

64. Missouri Tigers

14 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 12/Yes (7)

    Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (7)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 24 (2.6)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 4 (1)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 19.6

    Missouri had a rough time in the SEC last season, and a good bit of it was due to injuries all over the field. Unfortunately, this means that the best players on the team still haven't played a season in the SEC.

    While they have seen the level of competition, the co-bottom-dwellers have hired new coaches. Now, the Missouri Tigers are up against stiffer competition with less familiarity. It's almost a trip through a new conference all over again.

63. Tennessee Volunteers

15 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/No (6.5)

    Head Coach: Butch Jones (7.6)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 17 (2.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 21 (1.1)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 19.7

    Tennessee hired Butch Jones after canning Derek Dooley. The breath of fresh air into the program has fans excited, but it's going to take some time to clean up the mess that Lane Kiffin and Dooley left in their combined wake.

    Jones will have the fans' loyalty for a while while he rebuilds, but a six-win season may still be asking too much.

62. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

16 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 16/Yes (9)

    Head Coach: Jim Grobe (4.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 74 (3.7)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 19.8

    Wake Forest just finished a season in which it lost to eventual Orange Bowl champion Florida State in a 52-point shutout. The Demon Deacons are in for another horrible season, as many other teams in the ACC have out-recruited them on the trail.

61. Maryland Terrapins

17 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 12/Yes (7)

    Head Coach: Randy Edsall (5.3)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 25.25 (1.2)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 67 (3.4)

    Program Momentum: 2

    Total Score: 19.9

    Maryland's head coach is entering his third season in 2013. He formerly built Connecticut into a Big East contender, and he will be expected to bring results over the next couple of seasons in order to maintain his good standing with the athletic program.

    The Terrapins won only two games in 2011, and Edsall took them to four wins in 2012. He should be okay this coming season, but he's nowhere near an ACC title yet.

60. Temple Owls

18 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: Matt Rhule (6)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 48 (2.4)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 19.9

    Temple hired Matt Rhule in December of 2012 to replace Steve Addazio. Rhule was a member of the Owls' staff before taking the job as the New York Giants' assistant offensive line coach. He's back with the Owls now, and the fans are itching to see how well he will do in his new position.

    If nothing else, he is an excellent recruiter, as the linked article states.

59. Connecticut Huskies

19 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Paul Pasqualoni (5.9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 51 (2.6)

    Program Momentum: 2

    Total Score: 20

    Connecticut lost a good bit of NFL talent in this past draft, and it will show on the field. The Huskies have a good coach, but they are short on momentum. In a conference with people like Teddy Bridgewater, that's a big issue.

    A bowl game is definitely not out of the question, though. All it would take is a couple of upsets.

58. Colorado Buffaloes

20 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 17/Yes (9.5)

    Head Coach: Mike MacIntyre (6.9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 14 (1)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 20.4

    Mike MacIntyre hails from San Jose State. The same San Jose State that came within a field goal of defeating Stanford in 2012. MacIntyre has a host of returning starters to arrange into what he sees as a successful football team.

    If he can work his Spartan magic on the Colorado Buffaloes, there could be another contender in the Pac-12 within the next few seasons.

57. Pittsburgh Panthers

21 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/No (7)

    Head Coach: Paul Chryst (5.6)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 23.25 (3.2)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 13 (1)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 20.8

    Pittsburgh lost Tino Sunseri from under center this offseason, and that is a huge hit to the offense. Sunseri had a 21-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio last year, and that's not an easy brain to replace.

    As Pitt enters the rebuilding year, fans should simply remember that is is a down year for the program. If Paul Chryst can work a miracle, then he'll earn himself another point or two for the next time this list is released.

56. Purdue Boilermakers

22 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/No (6.5)

    Head Coach: Darrell Hazell (7.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 3 (1)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 21

    Purdue lost a lot of games last season by large margins, and seniority at quarterback is completely gone for the Boilermakers. Purdue is going to have a rough time trying to win in the Big Ten.

    Outside the conference, Purdue takes on Cincinnati and Notre Dame as major players. Purdue will be lucky to make it back to the postseason in this down year.

55. Texas Tech Red Raiders

23 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/No (6.5)

    Head Coach: Kliff Kingsbury (6)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 24.5 (1.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 24.75 (1.6)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 50 (2.5)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 21.1

    Texas Tech lost its head coach and its starting quarterback between 2012 and 2013. The Red Raiders will not do very well in terms of the Big 12 title, but finishing inside the top 60 of BCS-AQ programs will still give them an outside shot at a bowl game.

54. Syracuse Orange

24 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/No (6.5)

    Head Coach: Scott Shafer (7)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 53 (2.7)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 21.2

    Syracuse finished 2012 on a high note by taking West Virginia down in the Pinstripe Bowl in a snowstorm. The Orange lost big names to the NFL this spring, and they have to replace Ryan Nassib under center this fall.

    Things aren't set up for Syracuse's success in 2013, but these guys might just surprise some people and make a run for the conference title. It's doubtful, but it is possible.

53. Boston College Eagles

25 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/Yes (8)

    Head Coach: Steve Addazio (7.2)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 63 (3.2)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 21.4

    Not every coach can make an instant turnaround upon arrival, but Steve Addazio should be able to do just that for the Boston College Eagles. One major factor that works to his advantage is the win-loss record from 2012.

    The Eagles finished the season 2-10 with wins over Maine and Maryland. While it's difficult to instantly impact a team, BC was so terrible last season that he'd practically have to try not to do better.

52. Iowa Hawkeyes

26 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/No (7)

    Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (6.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 21.25 (5)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 34 (1.7)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 21.8

    Iowa's 2013 season really could go either way. While the Hawkeyes are missing their quarterback from 2012, they won only four games that season. Five of their losses came my fewer than seven points, and it wouldn't take much to push them into the postseason this winter.

    While Iowa isn't exactly the smartest bet for Big Ten champion, it also would not be wise to overlook it.

51. Arizona State Sun Devils

27 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/Yes (8)

    Head Coach: Todd Graham (6.9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 39 (2)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 21.9

    Arizona State is one of the biggest teams to watch this coming season. Is the rest of the Pac-12 going to take the Sun Devils seriously and crash their hopes, or is Arizona State really as good as it looked in 2012?

    Todd Graham is an excellent coach, and he is definitely building a contender at Arizona State. However, there are some depth issues that still haven't been solved on the recruiting trail yet.

50. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

28 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 10/Yes (6)

    Head Coach: Kyle Flood (7.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 83 (4.2)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 22.3

    Rutgers returns a good coach from last season, but there are 12 missing starters. One missing player is stellar running back Jawan Jamison. Jamison was able to keep defenses honest, and the Scarlet Knights took advantage of that frequently.

    Unfortunately for Rutgers, Gary Nova still has some growing to do before he's championship material. He finished the 2012 season with 16 interceptions to 22 touchdowns. He needs to cut his picks in half before Rutgers can expect to take on Louisville.

49. Houston Cougars

29 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/Yes (8)

    Head Coach: Tony Levine (7.8)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 24 (2.4)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 35 (1.8)

    Program Momentum: 2

    Total Score: 23

    Houston is one of the teams on this list that could surprise everyone. If Tony Levine can get his quarterback to transform into the next Case Keenum, then the Cougars could challenge Louisville for the conference title.

    If Houston has a year close to its 2012 performance, expect a lot of on-the-fly adjustments to the new conference beginning in September. Houston will be a contender one day, but 2013 doesn't look great.

48. West Virginia Mountaineers

30 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: Nine/No (4.5)

    Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen (8)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 23.5 (3)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 52 (2.6)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 23.1

    West Virginia's defense was exposed in 2012, and the main character on offense, Geno Smith, has gone to the pro level now. Without an offense to make up for the defense, the Mountaineers' rebuilding year is going to be rocky at best.

    As West Virginia takes advantage of the Big 12 logo on the recruiting trail, things will look up. In 2013, look for the Mountaineers to be battling fiercely to stay out of the bottom of the barrel.

47. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

31 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 16/No (8)

    Head Coach: Paul Johnson (6.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 22.75 (3.6)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 24 (1.2)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 23.3

    Georgia Tech has to break in a new quarterback, but for the run-happy Yellow Jackets that isn't a big deal. Paul Johnson and the Jackets are coming off a crushing 21-7 defeat of the USC Trojans, and that little bit of confidence could go a long way.

    Georgia Tech has the ability to make it to the ACC championship game, but there are a lot of hurdles between now and December. In particular, the nation's 24th-toughest schedule comes to mind.

46. Army Black Knights

32 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 17/No (8.5)

    Head Coach: Rich Ellerson (6)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 103 (5)

    Program Momentum: 2

    Total Score: 23.5

    Army faces one of the nation's toughest schedules, and it comes in at No. 103 out of 126. Combine that with the loss of its quarterback and lack of recruiting muscle, and Army may have to look forward to the 2014 Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

    To these men, though, football is inferior to everything else they get from school, and America salutes their service.

45. Arkansas Razorbacks

33 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 11/No (5.5)

    Head Coach: Bret Bielema (7)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 24 (1.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 17.25 (7.8)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 2 (1)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 23.8

    Arkansas has a major problem with momentum, thanks to Bobby Petrino and John L. Smith. Things are looking up now that Bret Bielema has taken over for the Hogs, but they are still missing half of their starters from 2012.

    As Arkansas rebuilds, fans should still hold out hope for the postseason, even if an SEC title is not going to happen.

44. Mississippi State Bulldogs

34 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Dan Mullen (7)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 23.25 (3.4)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 31 (1.6)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 24.5

    Mississippi State got off to a great start last season, and the Bulldogs cruised into a bowl before the rest of the conference figured out how to beat them.

    As Dan Mullen approaches the fall of 2013, he has to be asking himself if he can do it again. He's missing some key players from the starting lineup, but the postseason is still a real possibility.

43. Baylor Bears

35 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/No (6.5)

    Head Coach: Art Briles (7.8)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 22.75 (3.8)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 29 (1.5)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 24.6

    Art Briles and company have been working miracles over in Waco since Robert Griffin III arrived on campus. They developed him and some of his peers into lethal passers with the ability to take on any defense in the Big 12.

    Now that all the experienced quarterbacks are gone, though, the Bears are going to slip back for a season. How long that season lasts depends solely on the new quarterback's ability to learn from some of the best minds in the country.

    Fans haven't seen the last of Baylor, but the Bears will be conspicuously absent from headlines in 2013.

42. Navy Midshipmen

36 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 11/Yes (6.5)

    Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo (7.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 94 (4.7)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 24.7

    Navy holds the higher position of the two service academies on this list. The Midshipmen return a starting quarterback that went 6-2 in 2012 after taking over for a turnover-happy Trey Miller after the fifth game of the season.

    Keenan Reynolds will lead the Midshipmen to another Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and another bowl game this winter.

41. Utah Utes

37 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Kyle Wittingham (7.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 21 (5.2)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 18 (1)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 24.8

    The Utes return more than half their starters, including the quarterback. Utah finished just shy of a bowl game with a 5-7 record last season, and the Utes have to be salivating for some revenge. The only major obstacle here is the 18th-toughest schedule in the country.

    Utah will have to bring its best game on all 12 occasions in order to find those six wins.

40. Indiana Hoosiers

38 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 19/Yes (10.5)

    Head Coach: Kevin Wilson (6.3)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 42 (2.1)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 24.9

    Indiana lost four games by four or fewer points in 2012. (Yes, they were football games.) While that may seem trivial, the Hoosiers return all but three of those starters.

    Indiana may not have the depth to win a national championship at this juncture, but the postseason is a realistic goal in 2013.

39. Minnesota Golden Gophers

39 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 16/Yes (9)

    Head Coach: Jerry Kill (6.8)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 83 (4.2)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 25

    Minnesota is in a similar situation as is Indiana. The major difference being that the Golden Gophers went to a bowl game last season.

    The same Gophers that almost took down Texas Tech when Seth Doege was under center are returning 16 starters, including their quarterback. They have a good coach that has been steadily improving the program, and 2013 could be a turning point.

    There are still many more obstacles before the Gophers finish in the Top 25, though.

38. Arizona Wildcats

40 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 17/No (8.5)

    Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez (6)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 91 (4.6)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 25.1

    Ka'Deem Carey will lead the Arizona rushing attack, but there won't be an experienced quarterback to help take focus off the run. Arizona has a great offensive mind running the program, but the defense will really be tested this coming season.

    Without stopping teams like Oregon and Washington from scoring, there's no way the Wildcats compete for the Pac-12.

37. Washington Huskies

41 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 17/Yes (9.5)

    Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian (6)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 21.5 (2)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 73 (3.7)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 25.2

    Washington had fits of brilliance last season, including a big-time win over the Stanford Cardinal. If the 17 returning starters can get their acts together, then Washington can improve upon that performance.

    Of course, we are talking about a conference that's improving from top to bottom, to that's easier to theorize than to accomplish.

36. UNC Tar Heels

42 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: Larry Fedora (7.8)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 21.75 (2)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 60 (3)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 25.3

    North Carolina may be returning 15 starters, including its quarterback, but don't forget that two of those starters were among the best in school history. Jonathan Cooper and Giovani Bernard were two key members of the offense that left this offseason.

    The Tar Heels have an outside shot at a berth in the ACC title game, but it's from way outside. UNC will return to its normal place in the middle of the pack, but the future is bright for the Heels.

    If the coaches can parlay Cooper's draft slot into recruits, then UNC may become a threat to the established brands before too long.

35. Duke Blue Devils

43 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/No (7)

    Head Coach: David Cutcliffe (8.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 85 (4.3)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 25.4

    Sean Renfree is gone, but the Blue Devils still have potent weapons on offense. Plus, there's always David Cutcliffe. He led Duke to its first postseason appearance in two decades last season, and he's still at the helm for 2013.

    While Duke may have lost some game-changers, the Blue Devils still have plenty of things going for them this fall. The country's 85th-ranked schedule will play in their favor quite well, but the growing pains of a new quarterback will seal their fate outside the Top 25.

34. BYU Cougars

44 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/No (7)

    Head Coach: Bronco Mendenhall (8.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 22.5 (4.2)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 25 (1.3)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 25.6

    BYU has one of the toughest schedules in the land for 2013. The Cougars have a stout defense that can carry them into victory lane plenty of times, but a Top 25 finish is less likely than it was in 2012.

33. Vanderbilt Commodores

45 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/No (6.5)

    Head Coach: James Franklin (8.9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 25 (1.1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 25.25 (1.4)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 82 (4.1)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 26

    Coach James Franklin is building a title contender over at Vanderbilt, and he's off to a great start. The Commodores have to rebuild at quarterback, but All-American candidate Jordan Matthews (wide receiver) will help alleviate the stress for the new guy.

    Franklin is building a monster at Vandy, and the only solace the SEC has right now is that he's still building it.

32. UCLA Bruins

46 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Jim Mora (8)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 17 (2.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: Outside Top 25 (1)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 66 (3.3)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 26.3

    UCLA accomplished its Pac-12 title appearance with a freshman quarterback. The Bruins return just 13 starters this fall, but Brett Hundley is one of them.

    Hundley has the talent to lead another bowl charge, but a Pac-12 title is still out of reach for the Bruins. Stanford is too deep and Oregon is too explosive for the Bruins to knock off in 2013.

31. Auburn Tigers

47 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: Gus Malzahn (5.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 8.75 (4)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 19.75 (6.2)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 38 (1.9)

    Program Momentum: 1

    Total Score: 26.7

    Auburn will make an impressive turnaround under the tutelage of Gus Malzahn. It won't be a Cam Newtonian national championship, but the Tigers will make it into the "others receiving votes" section of the Top 25 by year's end.

    Expect the Iron Bowl to be a spectacle. Auburn may be good enough to give Alabama a run for its money by rivalry weekend.

30. Oregon State Beavers

48 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: Mike Riley (8.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 24.5 (2)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 65 (3.3)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 26.9

    Despite the comeback victory that a depleted Texas scored against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl, the Beavers should enter the 2013 season as a team to watch in the Pac-12.

    The Beavers have Storm Woods at running back, and returning quarterbacks who have continually proven themselves worthy of the starting role. Mike Riley is doing great things at Oregon State, and the Beavers are going to pop in and out of the Top 25 regularly this fall.

29. Michigan Wolverines

49 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 12/Yes (7)

    Head Coach: Brady Hoke (8.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 13 (3)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 22 (4.4)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 31 (1.6)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 27.1

    Michigan is another team that can go toe-to-toe with almost any team in the country. Devin Gardner returns as the starting quarterback, and Taylor Lewan is the best offensive lineman in the country.

    If Gardner hones his skills during the offseason, he could prove to be the one that pushes Michigan from contender to champion. Since he still needs a few more games to find his groove though, Michigan will finish just outside the rankings in January.

28. Northwestern Wildcats

50 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (7)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 23.75 (2.8)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 77 (3.9)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 27.2

    Northwestern returns its quarterback and Venric Mark, the battering ram who almost took the Wildcats to the Big Ten Championship Game last season. The Wildcats made a good effort to take the conference last season, but had to settle for destroying Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

    Northwestern lost three games last season by a combined 19 points. The Wildcats are a dark horse for the Big Ten. If things play out as they "should," then they will nudge the Top 25 at the end of the season.

27. Kansas State Wildcats

51 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: Eight/No (4)

    Head Coach: Bill Snyder (9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 19.75 (6.4)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 40 (2)

    Program Momentum: 5

    Total Score: 27.4

    Kansas State is missing 14 starters from the 2012 squad, including Heisman-candidate quarterback Collin Klein. The Wildcats have plenty of hope with Bill Snyder in command, but Kleins don't come along every recruiting class.

    Factor in the top-40 schedule, and Kansas State is simply going to have to spend a year rebuilding.

26. Oklahoma State Cowboys

52 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/Yes (8)

    Head Coach: Mike Gundy (7)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 25 (1.1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 17 (8)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 17 (1)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 28.1

    Oklahoma State brings back starting players all over the field, and the quarterback position is no exception. With half the Big 12 training new passers, Oklahoma State has a prime opportunity to catch the conference off-guard.

    Granted, there are better teams in the Big 12 than OSU, but just a few. The Cowboys will have one of the Big 12's better bowl bids.

25. Penn State Nittany Lions

53 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/No (6.5)

    Head Coach: Bill O'Brien (9.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 21.75 (2)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 21.75 (4.6)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 44 (2.2)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 28.8

    Penn State will not be in any BCS rankings or in any bowls yet again this coming season, but it's just wrong to overlook what Bill O'Brien is doing in Happy Valley.

    The Penn State Nittany Lions are heading into their second year of sanctions, and things are going to be okay. The Lions will finish in the AP Top 25, since the AP Poll doesn't ignore ineligible teams.

    O'Brien is a master of motivation, and the Lions will continue to give 100 percent at every game. Expect more statistically eligible seasons for Penn State as he guides them on this journey.

24. Virginia Tech Hokies

54 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Frank Beamer (5.9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 24 (1.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 18.25 (7.6)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 102 (5)

    Program Momentum: 2

    Total Score: 29.5

    Virginia Tech has the 102nd-hardest schedule in the country, but there is no denying that the Hokies have the most difficult season opener in all of FBS football. The Hokies lead off against the reigning repeat national champion.

    The Hokies' coaching staff is going to have to figure out how to get Logan Thomas to remember what he did differently in 2011. If he can bring that kind of skill back to the pocket, then even Alabama should worry about losing to Virginia Tech.

    If not, then this is going to be an incredibly long season for Hokies fans.

23. Oklahoma Sooners

55 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 11/No (5.5)

    Head Coach: Bob Stoops (8)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 11 (3.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 15.75 (8.6)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 8 (1)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 29.6

    Oklahoma lost half its team this spring, and that included Landry Jones. Luckily for the Sooners, an easy schedule should help them stay in the hunt for the conference title. Bob Stoops does need to focus on one thing this fall, though.

    He needs to eliminate the silly mistakes that get the Internet chanting "Choklahoma." If he could do that for one complete season, there might be a national title on the other end.

22. Cincinnati Bearcats

56 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/Yes (8)

    Head Coach: Tommy Tuberville (7.9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 21.25 (4.8)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 118 (5)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 29.7

    Tommy Tuberville joined the Cincinnati staff for the 2013 season, and defense is his game. He couldn't get Texas Tech to perform consistently while he was there, but there were signs of his potential all over the place.

    If he can bring his style of defense to Cincinnati, then Louisville will cease to be the conference favorite. Tuberville can coach with the best of them for at least a game. Of course, with the 118th-ranked schedule, he's probably going to have to do it for 12 solid matches.

21. Clemson Tigers

57 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Dabo Swinney (8.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 12.5 (3.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 20.75 (5.4)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 45 (2.3)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 30.2

    Clemson took down LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last season, and that gave Tigers fans a lot to look forward to for 2013. Clemson is now staring down the barrel of a schedule that includes major SEC powers at both ends.

    The Tigers lead off against Georgia, and they cap the season off against South Carolina in the Battle for the Palmetto State. One thing is for sure: If Clemson emerges from the season with zero losses, there will be an ACC team in the BCS title bout.

    The odds of beating both Georgia and South Carolina in the same season, though, are minimal.

20. USC Trojans

58 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/No (7.5)

    Head Coach: Lane Kiffin (7.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 9.5 (4)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 20 (6)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 70 (3.5)

    Program Momentum: 2

    Total Score: 30.5

    USC finished the season with a loss to Georgia Tech. That was just salt in the wound for the Trojans, though. Now, they are approaching this fall with an inexperienced quarterback, an inexperienced secondary and seven starters who will never be back.

    The Trojans have the talent to win the Pac-12, but the question is still whether Lane Kiffin and his staff can actually develop it.

19. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

59 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 14/No (7)

    Head Coach: Brian Kelly (8.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 11 (3.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 20.5 (5.8)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 23 (1.2)

    Program Momentum: 5

    Total Score: 30.6

    Notre Dame will not have Everett Golson in 2013. The quarterback who led the Fighting Irish to the National Championship Game will simply be biding his time in hopes of a return to the school.

    In the meantime, Notre Dame has to find a way to survive the season with an intact 2014 recruiting class. Brian Kelly doesn't need to win a national championship, but finishing inside the Top 25 is a must.

18. Louisville Cardinals

60 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: Charlie Strong (9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 25 (1.1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 22.75 (4)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 90 (4.5)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 31.1

    It seems that Louisville is coming into the fall even stronger than it left this past winter. But while that is certainly up for debate, Teddy Bridgewater is definitely going to help Louisville secure that preseason-favorite slot on the airwaves.

    Bridgewater dismantled a lot of teams last season, but then-No. 3 Florida was the most impressive. If Bridgewater can improve even just a little, then the Cardinals might just end up playing for the crystal football.

17. Ole Miss Rebels

61 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 18/Yes (10)

    Head Coach: Hugh Freeze (9.6)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 20 (2)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 24.5 (1.8)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 55 (2.8)

    Program Momentum: 5

    Total Score: 31.2

    Ole Miss is led by a football genius. Hugh Freeze turned the Arkansas State program into a non-AQ powerhouse, and he has wasted no time developing the Ole Miss Rebels.

    Freeze has only just begun in Oxford, and 2013 should see more improvement. The Rebels just landed an insane No. 5 recruiting class ranking for 2013, and some of those players will be on the field during the season opener.

16. Michigan State Spartans

62 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (8.4)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 19.25 (6.6)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 80 (4)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 31.5

    Michigan State was a few lucky bounces away from a Big Ten title in 2012. In fact, other than Notre Dame, the Spartans didn't lose a single game by more than four points.

    The Spartans may not have Kirk Cousins under center anymore, but Mark Dantonio is turning out to be one of the best coaches in the country.

15. Nebraska Cornhuskers

63 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Bo Pelini (8)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 23 (1.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 20.75 (5.6)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 99 (5)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 31.6

    Nebraska returns a Heisman candidate at starting quarterback, and the Cornhuskers should appear on all of the preseason lists. Taylor Martinez is one of the most exciting people in college football, and Nebraska is going to be a contender all season long.

    Don't be too surprised if the 'Huskers stay inside the Top 25 all year. Sure, they'll move around a bit, but they shouldn't drop out altogether.

14. Florida State Seminoles

64 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 10/No (5)

    Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (8.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 4.5 (4.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 19 (7.2)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 71 (3.6)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 31.8

    Florida State may have lost a ton of people (11) to the NFL draft, but the Seminoles seem to be reloading almost everywhere. Jimbo Fisher is carving himself a nice little slice of success at Florida State, and even a rebuilding year can't knock him out of the preseason rankings.

    There will be fierce competition in the ACC, and Florida will always provide a stout game at the end of the year. Florida State is getting closer and closer to a national title. Even the rebuilding season can't hold it out of the Top 25 anymore.

13. TCU Horned Frogs

65 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: Gary Patterson (8.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 12 (9.2)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 14 (1)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 32.2

    TCU returns the 2011 starter (Casey Pachall) and the 2012 starter (Trevone Boykin) for the 2013 season. Aside from the Devonte Fields suspension, the Horned Frogs are in prime position to have a perfect season.

    Unfortunately, that suspension will put the Frogs at more of a disadvantage against LSU in the season opener, but Fields will be back for all the conference matches if he keeps himself out of trouble.

    TCU will either win the Big 12 title or a share of it in 2013.

12. South Carolina Gamecocks

66 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 12/Yes (7)

    Head Coach: Steve Spurrier (9.6)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 18 (2.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 16.25 (8.2)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 9 (1)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 32.3

    South Carolina is heading into Jadeveon Clowney's final season, and the Gamecocks will be in a state of emergency all year.

    Steve Spurrier is going to hammer it into his team's head that this is the year South Carolina wins a national championship. The Gamecocks have plenty of talent on the roster. The only place they tend to fall short is in the execution phase.

    They'll be a Top 10 squad for most of the season. Georgia, Florida, Clemson and the SEC title game are their biggest obstacles.

11. Texas A&M Aggies

67 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 10/Yes (6)

    Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin (9.7)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 16.5 (2.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 19 (7)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 43 (2.2)

    Program Momentum: 5

    Total Score: 32.4

    Texas A&M took the SEC by complete surprise in 2012, and the biggest thing working against them is the 12 departed starters. Yes, they still have Johnny Manziel. Yes, he was a trump card last season.

    However, with Alabama facing them after a bye week, the Aggies have a tougher schedule than the stats show. (The stats are still what determined their placement on this list, though.)

    Kevin Sumlin already proved that he can more than hang with the big boys during his first season in the SEC. Now comes the true test: Can he do it repeatedly?

10. Georgia Bulldogs

68 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Mark Richt (8)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 8.25 (4)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 19 (6.8)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 31 (1.6)

    Program Momentum: 5

    Total Score: 32.9

    Georgia has been to the past two SEC title games, and the Bulldogs have come closer to winning the conference crown each time. If trends told the whole story, then Georgia would easily be the favorite to win the SEC in 2013.

    However, the Bulldogs have a tougher schedule this season than in the past two, including an out-of-conference season opener against Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Tigers. The next week, Georgia faces the other Palmetto State power, South Carolina.

    The only thing Georgia is guaranteed is a spot in the BCS Championship Game if they go 13-0 as SEC champions. Everything else is dust in the wind.

9. Wisconsin Badgers

69 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: Gary Andersen (7.3)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Outside top 25 (1)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 14.75 (8.8)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 92 (4.6)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 33.2

    Wisconsin has been to three straight Rose Bowls. The only reason that the Badgers didn't get a perfect score in momentum is the coaching change. Utah State's Gary Andersen has taken over at Wisconsin, and he has yet to prove himself in a power conference.

    If he brings the same defensive philosophy to Wisconsin successfully, then there is a good chance that 2013 will make it four in a row. This partly depends on my team at No. 3, but it's mostly just Andersen's ability to build on the success that Bret Bielema left in his rear-view mirror on the way to Arkansas.

8. Stanford Cardinal

70 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: David Shaw (9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 19 (2)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 11 (9.4)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 27 (1.4)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 33.3

    Stanford arguably has the best coach in the Pac-12. (The only argument is Oregon, really, and the Ducks have a new head coach.) David Shaw has built a defensive powerhouse that can hang with just about anyone in the nation.

    The Cardinal may be missing some key players from 2012, but the vast majority of the team is intact. Stanford's ceiling hinges on its quarterback's performance. If he can orchestrate roughly 28 points per game, the Cardinal have a great shot at the Rose Bowl or better.

7. Miami Hurricanes

71 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 19/Yes (10.5)

    Head Coach: Al Golden (9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 15.5 (3)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 24.25 (2.2)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 94 (4.7)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 33.4

    Miami is the most underrated team in the ACC for 2013. From quarterback Stephen Morris to tailback Duke Johnson, this offense is ready to explode. The defense is not too shabby at all, either.

    If every player on the roster can play at 100 percent for 13 straight games, there's nothing stopping the Hurricanes from making it to the national title game.

    A 13-game streak would include wins over Florida, Florida State, Virginia Tech and an ACC Championship Game (against either Clemson or Florida State). Make no mistake about it, Miami is good enough to do it.

6. Florida Gators

72 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 11/Yes (6.5)

    Head Coach: Will Muschamp (9.1)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 4.75 (4.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 16 (8.4)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 7 (1)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 33.5

    Overall strength of schedule works for and against Florida. While it's nearly impossible to make it through the nation's seventh-toughest lineup, the Gators have talent out the wazoo.

    Plus, the general perceived bias (whether real or not is a debate for another article) toward the SEC means that a loss won't hurt that much if it's to one of the tougher teams.

    Florida accomplished more than expected in 2012, and this fall will kick off the first season of real expectations. The Gators will finish in the top 10.

5. LSU Tigers

73 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Les Miles (9.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 9.75 (4)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 13.25 (9)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 12 (1)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 34

    Les Miles has sustained success at LSU for years. Despite his shortcomings, he's won against Nick Saban repeatedly. Granted, the last win was just under two years ago, but that's better than anyone not called Texas A&M can say.

    Miles has recruited with gusto, and John Chavis has established that he is one of the greatest defensive masterminds of the era. If Zach Mettenberger can get himself together, LSU can switch spots on this list with Alabama.

4. Texas Longhorns

74 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 19/Yes (10.5)

    Head Coach: Mack Brown (7.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 6.5 (4.5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 18.25 (7.4)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 62 (3.1)

    Program Momentum: 3

    Total Score: 36

    Mack Brown has one major item on his to-do list, and that is to pray that his team stays healthy. He has averaged a top-10 recruiting class over the past four years, and he's returning 19 of 22 starters.

    David Ash has one of the best arms in the country, and the Longhorns are loaded with All-American quality players on both sides of the ball. If the Texas defense can stay off crutches and the like, then Texas will have a comeback season worthy of at least an indie film.

3. Oregon Ducks

75 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 15/Yes (8.5)

    Head Coach: Mark Helfrich (9.5)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 20 (2)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 5 (9.8)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 113 (5)

    Program Momentum: 4

    Total Score: 38.8

    Oregon has undergone a coaching change, but it's almost not a change at all. Oregon has been known for its offense for quite some time, and Mark Helfrich was the offensive coordinator until Chip Kelly left. Essentially, the team is the same now as it has been.

    The Ducks have Marcus Mariota, and it would be more than a little difficult to coach him into the gutter. Mariota is as naturally gifted as Johnny Manziel, and you can't simply erase that kind of talent.

    Oregon has ended the last four seasons at an average spot of No. 5. Only one team in the country did any better.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

76 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Urban Meyer (9)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: Eight (4)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 9.75 (9.6)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 105 (5)

    Program Momentum: 5

    Total Score: 40.1

    Urban Meyer has taken over the Ohio State Buckeyes with a furious energy. The Buckeyes went from the middle of the Big Ten to the top in the span of 12 games last year.

    Now that Meyer has been there for a full season plus two offseasons, it's almost scary to imagine what will come out on the field in scarlet and gray. The Ohio State Buckeyes are the only thing standing between themselves and a national championship game berth.

    With top-10 finishes in both recruiting and final rankings and one of the easiest schedules in the country, an Ohio State trip to the title game should come as no shock to anyone. (Well, except maybe a Michigan fan.)

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

77 of 77

    Returning Starters/Quarterback: 13/Yes (7.5)

    Head Coach: Nick Saban (10)

    Average Recruiting Class 2010-2013: 1.75 (5)

    Average Final AP Ranking 2009-2012: 3.25 (10)

    Strength of Schedule: No. 79 (4)

    Program Momentum: 5

    Total Score: 41.5

    Momentum, recruiting, average final ranking, returning quarterback, coaching, defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator. It honestly doesn't matter how you set up qualifications for a ranking article. The Alabama Crimson Tide will end up on top.

    Not because they are guaranteed another national title no matter how you look at it, but because they are by far the best-equipped to win one. They have proved it three times over the past four seasons.

    Yes, there are plenty of teams who can ensure that a one-loss SEC team is shunned from the BCS title game. In fact, the opportunity arose for Oklahoma State, Baylor and Kansas State all in the past two seasons.

    Somehow, some way, Alabama manages to get back in. Like it or not, Alabama belongs at the top of the list until someone beats them out of the No. 1 position. After that, all the other undefeated teams need to do is not lose.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices