Predicting the 2013 Associated Press Preseason Top 25 College Football Poll

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJune 26, 2013

Predicting the 2013 Associated Press Preseason Top 25 College Football Poll

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    We are a little more than a month away from the release of the first AP poll of the college football season.

    Oh, let the madness begin.

    The AP poll is a sign that football is right around the corner, but it is also a chance for fans to go at each other. You can never get these things right.

    Notre Dame fans will continue to think the Irish are unappreciated. Florida State fans will cry that the Seminoles aren't in the top 10. And almost every fanbase outside of Austin will agree that Texas should be a lot lower in the polls. 

    After all these years, there is never any love lost.

    Predicting how the AP poll is going to look is truly a shot in the dark. You never quite know what these poll voters are thinking, or if they are thinking at all. One thing for sure is that Texas A&M will be higher than it should be, while a certain team from the Pac-12 will continue to be underestimated.

25. USC

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: Not Ranked

    Returning Starters: 15

    Offense: Eight

    Defense: Seven  

     

    How much does the AP poll love the Trojans? It took 12 weeks before they were completely out of the rankings last year. The close call against Syracuse and the loss to Stanford were enough to show this team wasn't all it was hyped up to be. Nope. It took nearly the entire disaster for the poll voters to realize everybody was wrong.

    This year's squad isn't nearly as talented, but it still has that fancy logo on the helmet that always helps earn votes. And except for issues at quarterback and in the secondary, there aren't many other questions to answer.

    USC will find a way to barely sneak into the Top 25.

24. Northwestern

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: 17

    Returning Starters: 15

    Offense: Eight

    Defense: Seven  

     

    Northwestern hasn't begun the season ranked in the AP poll since 2001. This is the season that should snap that streak.

    Of the teams that won 10 games a year ago, the Wildcats were one of the most underrated. And in playmaker Venric Mark and sack leader Tyler Scott, they return players who were instrumental to their success.  

    This isn't your ordinary Northwestern team.  The Wildcats are now about more than high SAT scores. Poll voters need to make room for this Big Ten program on the rise.

23. Nebraska

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: 25

    Returning Starters: 13

    Offense: Nine

    Defense: Four  

     

    Nebraska has cracked the AP preseason poll six of the last seven years. It also found a way to finish last season ranked despite losing its last two games.  

    Say what you will about the Big Ten, but the Cornhuskers are one of its best teams. he offense will continue to be one of the most exciting in college football. The defense also has nowhere to go but up after allowing 500-plus yards in the final two games.

    Nebraska is one of only a couple of teams that could challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten crown.

22. UCLA

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: NR

    Returning Starters: 13

    Offense: Seven

    Defense: Six 

     

    UCLA may have folded down the stretch, but it was ranked as high as 15th and managed to win nine games. In Brett Hundley, it is led by one of the best quarterbacks in the country and should only improve, thanks to a plethora of young talent and an up-and-coming head coach in Jim L. Mora. 

    The Bruins appear to be on the upswing as part of an improved Pac-12. They will appear in the AP preseason poll for the first time since 2007.

21. Arizona State

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: NR

    Returning Starters: 14

    Offense: Six

    Defense: Eight

     

    Another Pac-12 team that is sure to receive a lot of love is Arizona State. If Vegas has bought into the Sun Devils, you know the poll voters have taken notice. Arizona State enters the season as one of the most balanced teams in the Pac-12.

    Quarterback Taylor Kelly and running back Marion Grice make for a nice offensive tandem, while eight starters return from one of the best pass-rushing teams in the country. This squad has the goods to go toe to toe with any team in its conference.

    The Sun Devils will be ranked in the AP preseason poll for the first time since 2008.

20. Wisconsin

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: NR

    Returning Starters: 15

    Offense: Eight

    Defense: Seven  

     

    After an early loss to Oregon State and three losses in its final four games, Wisconsin didn't earn the voters' respect last season. There is also a new head coach in place and that always makes poll voters wary.

     

    But good luck finding a more experienced roster.

    The Badgers return six members of the front seven on defense and pretty much all of the key guys on offense. Besides the secondary and quarterback, the rosters appears set for head coach Gary Anderson.

    Wisconsin will begin the season ranked and should be considered a Big Ten contender.

19. Oklahoma

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: 15

    Returning Starters: 11

    Offense: Seven

    Defense: Four  

     

    Oklahoma is one of those programs that is fed by the hype machine. It hasn't begun a season ranked outside the top 10 of the AP poll since 2000. It has been ranked in the preseason poll for 13 straight years.

    However, the Sooners need to address their concerns on defense and at quarterback before anybody can begin to view them as a Big 12 contender. This team has a history of and not fulfilling expectations and letting voters down.

    When it comes to Oklahoma, you can expect poll voters to proceed with caution.

18. TCU

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: NR

    Returning Starters: 15

    Offense: Six

    Defense: Nine  

     

    Last season’s 7-6 record wasn't a true indication of this team's talent. It was TCU's first season in the Big 12, and the team was forced to deal with several off-the-field issues.  

    The voters know that this is one of the more talented teams in the country defensively. It also returns a few key offensive players, including quarterback Casey Pachall, running back Waymon James and tight end Stephen Bryant. All of those players missed time last season for various reasons.

    TCU will begin the season ranked in the AP poll for the fifth consecutive time. It will also have a chance to skyrocket up the rankings if it defeats LSU in the season opener.


17. Oklahoma State

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: NR

    Returning Starters: 14

    Offense: Seven

    Defense: Seven  

     

    Oklahoma State is considered by many to be the favorite to win the Big 12. In an offensive conference, it doesn't get much better than Mike Gundy and his squad.  

    The Cowboys return seven starters from an offense that averaged 547 yards a game last season. The defense also took steps forward from 2011 and has a two-deep depth chart absolutely loaded with experience.

    Oklahoma State will begin the season ranked in the AP poll for the fourth time in five seasons.

16. Michigan

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: 24

    Returning Starters: 12

    Offense: Six

    Defense: Six 

     

    Did you know that last season Michigan was ranked in the preseason AP poll for the first time since 2007?

    Michigan will make it two years in a row. Despite all of the questions that this team must answer before the season, there is enough talent in place to consider the Wolverines a Top 25 team.

    Devin Gardner is a better quarterback than Denard Robinson. He'll also have more offensive weapons around him, including running back Derrick Green who will quickly develop into a star. Defensively, the secondary is more experienced and the pass rush has nowhere to go but up.

     

15. Texas

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: 19

    Returning Starters: 19

    Offense: 10

    Defense: Nine

     

    Texas is beginning to turn into Notre Dame from a year ago. Huge expectations, big talent, little results.

    Voters got fed up with the Irish and left them out in the cold in the preseason poll last season. Could the same thing happen to Texas? Don't hold your breath.

    No matter how many times the Longhorns come up small, there is enough talent on this roster to beat anybody in the country. The 19 returning starters are tied for most in college football, and it's only a matter of time before they start winning in a big way.

    You can't possibly look at this roster and say it isn't a Top 25 team. Texas will once again begin the season highly respected.

14. Florida State

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: 10

    Returning Starters: 10

    Offense: Six

    Defense: Four

     

    Speaking of teams that fail to live up to the hype, there is Florida State.

    The Seminoles have cracked the Top 10 of the preseason AP poll the last two seasons even without accomplishing much in the last decade. They will have a little more climbing to do this season, but a top 15 spot is a solid start.

    The defense may be young, but the talent and potential can't be matched. There are also overwhelming expectations for young quarterback Jameis Winston, who should have an incredible season.

    Florida State has the name and the talent to be considered a dark-horse title contender.

13. Boise State

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: 18

    Returning Starters: 13

    Offense: Six

    Defense: Seven

     

    Even though most college football fans couldn't name five Boise State players, this program has been the definition of consistent. It has also been treated nicely by the preseason AP poll, ranking in the top 15 three of the last four seasons.

    The Broncos must discover offensive consistency, but that defense figures to remain sharp. They had the best defense in the MWC by far, allowing just 315 yards a game.

    Chris Petersen continues to create magic by finding ways to win with little talent. That isn't expected to change.


    The voters know Boise State isn't going away.

12. Florida

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: Nine

    Returning Starters: 11

    Offense: Six

    Defense: Five

     

    Like many SEC teams, the Gators are a well-oiled machine defensively. That, along with last season's success, is why a high preseason ranking is expected. The problem is that the offense that couldn't pull away from Louisiana-Lafayette or Missouri. It was absolutely painful to watch.

    Florida has the potential to be a Top 10 team and a national title contender if the offense begins to show signs of life. But the unknown is a scary place to be, and many voters aren't going to throw up a high number without knowing for sure how this unit will look.

    The Gators will begin the season in a respectable spot in the AP poll and will have a chance to silence the critics with a resounding win over Toledo, a cupcake opponent, in their opener.

11. Louisville

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: 13

    Returning Starters: 15

    Offense: Six

    Defense: Nine 

     

    Louisville is going to get respect because of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. It also helps that the last time anybody saw the Cardinals they were rolling over an SEC powerhouse in Florida.  

    The problem with Louisville is that the schedule features a bunch of community colleges. It also isn't a team voters know much about, as it isn't like Louisville is a national power.

    Besides Bridgewater, can you name another player on the roster? Moving the Cardinals higher than this spot, jumping the big boys, seems highly unlikely until they give voters a reason to do so.

    Still, this would be the highest preseason ranking since Steve Kragthorpe was head coach in 2007.

10. LSU

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: 14

    Returning Starters: 13

    Offense: Eight

    Defense: Five

     

    LSU has been ranked in the Top 10 of the preseason AP poll in seven of the last nine seasons. That shouldn't change, thanks to the track record under head coach Les Miles and the returning starters on offense.

    While the defense has been the Tigers' identity, their power running game has been no joke. LSU remains loaded at running back, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger showed signs of life down the stretch last season.

     Defensively, there are major concerns with youth, but this is LSU, right? Talent seems to grow on trees in Baton Rouge.

    With other programs stepping up, LSU seems to be the forgotten team in the SEC. But not even the AP poll would be foolish enough to count this team out.

9. Notre Dame

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: Four

    Returning Starters: 14

    Offense: Six

    Defense: Eight

     

    Everett Golson or not, Notre Dame will be fine.

    The Irish will continue to rely on a defense that may be better than it was last season. The offense should also be more consistent due to added depth at running back and experienced wide receivers. Tommy Rees is also an experienced option at quarterback, showing last year that he is capable of managing a game and limiting mistakes.

    Notre Dame once again has the talent to win a majority of its games. Whether that happens is another question. Still, voters will want to make up for leaving this team off the preseason rankings last year.

8. Clemson

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: 11

    Returning Starters: 13

    Offense: Seven

    Defense: Six

     

    It is hard not to fall in love with Clemson. The offense will remain flashy with a heavy dose of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. It also proved that it is finally capable of winning the big game after upsetting LSU in last year's Chick-fil-A Bowl.

    But that defense?

    Well, that's where there are problems. The Tigers had a difficult time getting off the field and return only one starter in the secondary. With star cornerback  MacKensie Alexander enrolling, there is help coming. But is he enough?

    Clemson has to be more balanced to be considered a championship contender. However, there are plenty of voters who will like what they see a little too much.

7. South Carolina

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: Eight

    Returning Starters: 12

    Offense: Seven

    Defense: Five

     

    South Carolina will be the most overrated team in the preseason AP poll. It's happening now to a certain extent, as many believe the Gamecocks have what it takes to win the SEC and compete for a national championship.

    Stop it.

    Steve Spurrier's team still has to replace its entire group of linebackers and develop consistency at quarterback. The Gamecocks are desperate for offensive playmakers, and Jadeveon Clowney can't do it by himself defensively. This team doesn't look as polished as the rest of the conference and didn't exactly look like the eighth-best team in the country last season.

    A Top 10 ranking is expected, but it may not last long.

6. Stanford

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: Seven

    Returning Starters: 15

    Offense: Eight

    Defense: Seven

     

    Stanford will be the most underrated team in the AP preseason poll.

    The Cardinal have won at least 11 games in three straight seasons and return more than enough talent o compete for a Pac-12 title. The defense is as physical as it gets, and the linebacker corps, led by Shayne Skov, is one of the best in the country. Stanford has quality depth at running back, and the offense could surprise with dual-threat QB Kevin Hogan now leading the way.

    Stanford is like an SEC team with its physicality and discipline. The ranking won't be as high as it should be, but Stanford will crack the Top 10 for the second time in three years.

5. Georgia

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: Five

    Returning Starters: 13

    Offense: 10

    Defense: Three

     

    It's rare for a team to return nearly every starter from an entire unit. Georgia is blessed to have a majority of its offense returning.

     This is bad news for the rest of college football. Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and Malcolm Mitchell have a chance to do remarkable things this season. The offense is a huge reason many are on the Bulldogs' bandwagon.

    Defensively there are a lot more questions, but the talent is clearly there. Come on, this is Georgia! Linebacker Jordan Jenkins, cornerback Sheldon Dawson and safety Tray Matthews are just a few of the new names worth remembering.

    Georgia was five yards away from topping Alabama and appearing in the national championship game. With many key players returning, the Bulldogs will receive another high ranking.

4. Texas A&M

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: Five

    Returning Starters: 10

    Offense: Six

    Defense: Four

     

    Overrated? Possibly. But there is little doubt Texas A&M will sneak into the top five of the AP poll.

    Johnny Manziel and the Aggies' offense has much to do with this. The reigning Heisman winner has that Cam Newton feel. Although he may not play on a perfect team, he has the ability to take over a game and lead his team to the promised land.

    The Aggies' defense isn't anywhere near championship quality, but that doesn't matter as long as Manziel continues to play out of his mind.

    Texas A&M was the only team to beat Alabama last year and is widely considered the second-best team in the SEC West. There's no way voters forget to pencil in Texas A&M for one of the top spots.

3. Oregon

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: Two

    Returning Starters: 15

    Offense: Eight

    Defense: Seven 

     

    Maybe it's the uniforms. Maybe it's the high-flying offense. Ah, who are you fooling? It's everything!

    Oregon is impossible to hate. Even USC fans can't hate this team. Voters find it difficult as well. The Ducks have been ranked in the top five of the AP poll at some point in each of the last three seasons. They have also finished ranked in the top five of the final AP poll three years in a row.  

    With eight starters returning, the high scoring will continue. It doesn't matter if Chip Kelly is around or not. A chimpanzee could coach this offense. Let Marcus Mariota go to work and find ways to get the ball to De'Anthony Thomas. Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown! 

    Oregon is still a national championship contender and will be treated as such by the voters.

2. Ohio State

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: Three

    Returning Starters: 13

    Offense: Nine

    Defense: Four

     

    Would Ohio State have played for the national championship if it had not been banned from postseason play? It's the question that will be asked forever by college football fans.

    With Braxton Miller leading the way, the offense will continue to be one of the best in the Big Ten. He also has an improved backfield and four of five starters returning on the offensive line.

    The defense is young, but extremely talented. Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington will create a ridiculous 1-2 punch at defensive end.

    The Buckeyes are the favorite to play the SEC Champion in the national championship game. Whether or not they are the best team, among the title contenders, they do have one of the easiest schedules. They'll begin the season ranked in the top two of the preseason AP poll for the second time since 2010.

1. Alabama

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    Last Year's Final AP Ranking: One

    Returning Starters: 13

    Offense: Six

    Defense: Seven

     

    Alabama should forfeit the season if it isn't ranked as the best team in college football. You could say it should be unanimous, but there is always one voter who wants to mess everything up by picking his favorite team.

    Sorry, but Marshall isn't going to the big dance this season.

    The Crimson Tide is the only team in the country that can say it has no weaknesses. Their quarterback is a three-time champion. The offense is as loaded as ever with offensive weapons. The defense is led by a potential first-round pick in linebacker C.J. Mosley.

    Even Auburn fans have to be impressed with this squad.

    Nick Saban has another terrific group of players who will make a serious run at a three-peat.