College Football Preseason Rankings 2013: Updated Assessment of Top Teams
As we continue to look ahead to September with memories of Alabama's romp of Notre Dame still in our heads, we are getting a clearer picture of how teams figure to stack up to the competition in 2013-14.
Will Nick Saban's Crimson Tide win yet another national championship (probably)? Will Georgia suffer after its losses on the defensive end (most likely)? Does Stanford even remember who Jim Harbaugh is at this point (no)?
Here's a look at my updated top five for the 2013-14 college football campaign.
The biggest thing for Georgia in 2013-14 will be making up for its losses on defense. The Bulldogs return only three starters on the defensive side of the pigskin, having lost linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, as well as nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, in the offseason.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs are so explosive on the offensive end that you still have to call them contenders for the national championship. They return nine starters, including senior quarterback Aaron Murray, running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and 2012 second-leading receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
It's going to be interesting to see if the defense can hold its own this season in the big and bad SEC.
On the back of a 12-2 campaign and a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin, Stanford is even more experienced this season.
Second-year coach David Shaw is already one of the best coaches in the nation (No Jim Harbaugh? No problem!), and junior quarterback Kevin Hogan showed strides last season, completing 72 percent of his passes while tossing eight touchdowns to three interceptions after taking over for former starter Josh Nunes against Colorado on Nov. 3.
Replacing running back Stepfan Taylor and linebacker Chase Thomas will be key, but, given the various players and formations Shaw uses, a committee approach may make up for that.
Oregon may not be as equipped to win the national championship without former coach Chip Kelly (who joined the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason), but promoting former offensive coordinator (and guru) Mark Helfrich figures to make it a rather seamless transition.
As far as the roster goes, Oregon is stacked yet again. Star running back Kenjon Barner may have left for the NFL, but it doesn't hurt all that much when electric sophomore De'Anthony Thomas is still there, not to mention the powerful Byron Marshall.
Of course, the Ducks still have quarterback Marcus Mariota under center, who ranked 25th in the nation in yards per pass attempt while tossing 32 touchdowns to six interceptions last season as a freshman.
Oh yeah, Mariota can run, too. He racked up 752 rushing yards and five touchdowns last season.
Making up for the losses of linebackers Dion Jordan, Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso will determine how far the Ducks go.
2. Ohio State
Ohio State certainly has the offense to contend for the national championship in 2013-14. Led by dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes averaged 37.2 points per contest last season, good for 21st in the nation and first in the Big Ten.
The biggest thing the Buckeyes will have to address will be their defense. They lost seven starters on defense during the regular season, including defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive end John Simon.
Of course, the talented Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence and Michael Bennett figure to lessen the blow on the defensive line. Also, watch out for the young Joey Bosa.
That's not to mention All-Big Ten first-team selection Ryan Shazier in the linebacking corps, as well as All-American cornerback Bradley Roby and safety Christian Bryant.
Will Alabama repeat as national champions?
The defending national champs may have lost Eddie Lacy, but they return sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon, who figures to improve on his 2012 campaign with more touches.
Yeldon racked up 1,108 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 175 carries last season (6.33 yards per carry). Among players who posted at least 175 carries, he ranked fifth in yards per carry along with Oregon's Kenjon Barner.
Top receivers Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell also return to the squad this season. Cooper posted 59 catches for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in his freshman campaign last season.
And, of course, you have quarterback A.J. McCarron. McCarron ranked third in the nation in yards per pass attempt last season (9.3) while tossing 30 touchdowns to three interceptions. He had the highest quarterback rating in the country (175.28).
Add in the fact that last season's top tacklers—C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest—are returning, and you have a recipe for another national title.
Alabama did lose three big-time offensive linemen this offseason, but the group replacing them is experienced enough to pick up the slack for the most part.
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