Preseason College Football Rankings 2013: Teams That'll Climb During Season

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IJuly 23, 2013

Ohio State has rolled to the top of my preseason college football rankings, as Urban Meyer will hope to have his Buckeyes in position to end the SEC's seven-year run of housing the national champion. 

Of course, there is a lot of time and football to be played between now and when a national champion is crowned, and the rankings will undoubtedly look far different from how they look now. 

Every year, there are teams who underperform and teams that vastly exceed expectations. 

I have my eye on three teams that will improve as the season goes on and climb in the rankings. They will be highlighted with extra attention, and marked in italics, in my below preseason rankings. 


Langford's 2013 Preseason Top 25

1. Ohio State

The Buckeyes lost a lot of snaps on defense, but it's not like defense carried this squad to its undefeated season last year, and they have good young talent coming up on that side of the ball.

With a relatively easy schedule, a second straight undefeated season for Ohio State is not out of the question.


2. Alabama

Once again, Alabama is loaded. However, I expect it to suffer at least one slip-up in the first stages of its difficult schedule as it adjusts to replacing three starters along the offensive line. 


3. Oregon 

Sure, the Ducks lost head coach Chip Kelly, but he's been replaced by last year's offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. With Marcus Mariota back at quarterback and ready to run the Ducks' fast-paced offense, I expect Oregon to be a huge factor once again. 


4. Louisville 

The Cardinals will set out to prove that Louisville is not just a basketball school. This team has 19 returning starters, which includes a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.  


5. Texas A&M

With the first-ever freshman Heisman Trophy winner set to come back, the Aggies are in good hands. Also, Johnny Manziel will have a talented group of running backs to help him run the offense. 

This team should be a blast to watch. 


6. South Carolina

Losing offensive stars Marcus Lattimore and Ace Sanders will hurt the Gamecocks, but this is turning into a deep program with the ability to withstand those kinds of losses. 

Of course, it also helps that they have the nation's best player in Jadeveon Clowney. 


7. Stanford

As has become their tradition, Stanford is back with a fearsome offensive line. The Cardinal also have another talented quarterback in Kevin Hogan. 

That said, I don't see the Cardinal starting off the season looking like one of the nation's best. With the loss of productive tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, the Cardinal's offense is going to go through a period of adjustment. 

This team will still have talent in the passing game with young receivers like Michael Rector. Still, it will take some time for this passing game to transition to a more spread-out attack.

Also, the Cardinal have to deal with the loss of the insanely productive running back Stepfan Taylor.

With the Cardinal offensive line making life easy on the rest of the offense, Stanford will be tough all year, but I certainly expect it to get better as the year goes on.


8. Michigan

The Wolverines got a glimpse of what the offense would look like this season when Devin Gardner took over for injured quarterback Denard Robinson. Needless to say, the offense will be a little more passing-oriented this year. 


9. Georgia

Losing nine starters on defense is going to hurt the Bulldogs out of the gate. This team has the talent to replace them, but it will take time for that group to jell. 

Often, this kind of adjustment period would not be a huge problem for a team. However, Georgia doesn't have an easy early schedule. The Bulldogs will kick off the season against Clemson and South Carolina. Their fourth game is against LSU. 

This is not the best scenario for a team replacing nine starters on one side of the ball. 

However, with quarterback Aaron Murray leading the offense, this team will still have a shot in those games.

Whether the Bulldogs get off to a strong start or not, they will finish the season strong. 


10. Florida

Once again, Florida appears loaded on defense but has nothing but question marks on offense. With limited quarterback Jeff Driskel working with subpar wide receivers, this team can only go so far. 


11. Clemson

With quarterback Tajh Boyd set to hit Sammy Watkins for big plays, Clemson is going to be one of the more entertaining teams in the country.

However, the offense will have to deal with the loss of receiver DeAndre Hopkins. This will lead to Watkins receiving far more attention from the defense. 

The Tigers will need a receiver like Charone Peake or Martavis Bryant to step up and command defensive attention to really open up the offense. I expect that to happen, but it won't be overnight. 

This team also made some nice strides on defense as last year progressed, and with a budding dominant pass-rusher in Vic Beasley set to terrorize quarterbacks next year, this team could be a real force by the end of the year. 


12. Texas

The Texas offense should look much different this next season as the team tries to keep up in the high-scoring Big 12. 

This team has talent, but there will undoubtedly be growing pains during the transition. 


13. Notre Dame

The Irish have to deal with a lot of transition, including the suspension of quarterback Everett Golson. 

This is still a talented squad, but it is hard to see the Irish not having an up-and-down season. 


14. Florida State

The Seminoles underwent massive turnover this offseason—most notably at the quarterback position, where Jamie Winston will have big shoes to fill after the departure of E.J. Manuel


15. Oklahoma State

Head coach Mike Gundy will be working with two new coordinators this year and an unsettled quarterback position. Still, this will be a powerful offense no matter who winds up under center. 


16. LSU

It is going to be fun to watch the changes new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron instills in the Tigers' offense. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger should certainly get a chance to show off his arm more. 


17. Oklahoma

Having to replace Landry Jones, head coach Bob Stoops is going to need his defense to be far better than it has been. That defense suffered big losses in the front seven, but that might not be a bad thing given the performance on that side of the ball last year. 


18. TCU

TCU struggled a bit while making the transition to the Big 12 last year, but it did lead the conference in total defense. It's returning nearly everyone who played a role on the defense from a year ago.  


19. UCLA

UCLA limped to the finish line last season under new head coach Jim Mora Jr. A big part of that was terrible play along the offensive line. That group will need to make big strides if this program is going to improve. 


20. Kansas State

The Wildcats are going to look vastly different this year. They have to replace Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, as well as eight starters on defense. 


21. Boise State

The loss of cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins will be a big blow to this quality defense. However, this has developed into a deep program, and I expect this team to still be in the Top 25.


22. Nebraska

The Cornhuskers will rely on an influx of youth to help a defense that struggled last year. There are sure to be some growing pains in this process, but Nebraska still has the talent to win its share of games. 


23. Northwestern 

A huge part of Northwestern's 10-3 season last year was stellar offensive line play. The Wildcats have to replace three starters from that group, and they will not be as strong as a result. 


24. Wisconsin

With an unsettled quarterback position, it is tough to project the Badgers next season. However, this team still has an offensive line that will make the quarterback's job easier. 


25. USC

Replacing quarterback Matt Barkley while also dealing with limited scholarships is going to be a tough task for this year's Trojans. I wouldn't be surprised to see this program finish outside the Top 25 next year. 


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