College Football Preseason Rankings 2013: Most Overrated and Underrated Squads
After an agonizingly long offseason, college football is finally set to make its return next month.
Until then, we get to banter on and on about where each team should be ranked in the preseason polls. After all, not only does college football boast more pageantry and tradition than most sports, but it is the undisputed king of sparking debate among rabid fanbases.
Here's a look at where each team should start the season as well as a closer look at the two most overrated and underrated teams in the top 25 as we head into the final stretch of the depressing time period known as the offseason.
Note: Overrated and Underrated teams in italics
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2012 Record: 13-1 (7-1)
Key Returners: QB AJ McCarron, RB T.J. Yeldon, LB C.J. Mosley
Were you expecting anyone else?
The Crimson Tide have won two straight national titles, so they won't be leaving this spot until someone knocks them off their perch. Everyone remembers the loss to Texas A&M, but their dominance over the rest of the season is what shouldn't be forgotten.
Nick Saban's squad won 11 of its 14 games by 19 points or more en route to the national title.
2. Oregon Ducks
2012 Record: 12-1 (8-1)
Key Returners: QB Marcus Mariota, RB De'Anthony Thomas, TE Colt Lyerla
The most explosive offense in college football returns sans the mind that ran it all in Chip Kelly, but the returning talent should be enough to continue running it up in the Pac-12. A much more difficult schedule than Ohio State's is the only thing that could keep this team from challenging 'Bama in the title game.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
2012 Record: 12-0 (8-0)
Key Returners: QB Braxton Miller, RB Carlos Hyde, CB Bradley Roby
After a perfect 12-0 season (in which they didn't play in a bowl game) the folks in Columbus are once again thumping their chests as contenders for the national championship.
The buzz is warranted for them to make it to the game. Braxton Miller is one of the top running quarterbacks in the nation, and the schedule affords them to be able to get away with sloppy play like they did when they edged out Indiana 52-49 last season.
Questions along the defensive line remain after the departure of Johnathan Hankins and John Simon, but there's no reason this team shouldn't run through the Big Ten yet again.
4. Louisville Cardinals
2012 Record: 11-2 (5-2)
Key Returners: QB Teddy Bridgewater, WR Damion Copeland, LB Preston Brown
It's odd seeing the Louisville Cardinals this high up the polls at this point of the season, but they have all the ingredients for a banner year.
Experienced, elite quarterback? Teddy Bridgewater. Check.
Manageable schedule? None of their opponents finished in the top 25 last season. Check.
BCS experience? Nearly everyone is back from the team that beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl last season. Check.
Anything less than another BCS victory would be a let down for Bridgewater and Charlie Strong this season.
5. Texas A&M Aggies
2012 Record: 11-2 (6-2)
Key Returners: QB Johnny Manziel, RB Ben Malena, OT Jake Matthews
Johnny Football and Texas A&M overrated?! Say it ain't so!
The Aggies aren't going to completely implode. The schedule doesn't allow them to. Somehow they manage to avoid Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, depriving us of the opportunity to watch Jadeveon Clowney attempt to sack the ever-elusive Manziel.
Where will the Aggies finish the season?
But there is reason to avoid the national-championship expectations that have been heaped on this team.
First, what seems to be lost in the shuffle of their Cotton Bowl rout and upset over Alabama is the fact that this is the same team that was shut down offensively by LSU and Florida and only beat Louisiana Tech 59-57.
Throw in the fact that they lost their best players in the trenches on both sides of the ball in Luke Joeckel and Damontre Moore, and Manziel repeating his magical run seems like a greater improbability.
6. Stanford Cardinal
2012 Record: 12-2 (8-1)
Key Returners: QB Kevin Hogan, LB Trent Murphy, LB Shayne Skov
If it weren't for the Oregon Ducks, most would probably be proclaiming the Stanford Cardinal as the team to beat Alabama next season.
The truth is the Cardinal are underrated because their flashier Pac-12 rivals make for better TV, but their showdown in November could very well determine who goes to the national-championship game. The Cardinal bring back Kevin Hogan as the starting quarterback. The team didn't lose a single game with him at the helm last season.
Replacing Stepfan Taylor's production will be the most difficult task, but they ranked No. 11 in scoring defense last season, which should ease the transition.
The Cardinal will again support an offense that doesn't turn the ball over with one of the country's top defenses. In many ways they are Alabama: West Coast edition.
That's a recipe for success.
7. Florida Gators
2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1)
Key Returners: QB Jeff Driskel, CB/WR Loucheiz Purifoy, DE Dominique Easley
The Gators defense allowed under three yards per carry last season. They lose a lot of talent that led that unit, but the offense shouldn't struggle nearly as much with Jeff Driskel getting another year to develop.
8. South Carolina Gamecocks
2012 Record: 11-2 (6-2)
Key Returners: DE Jadeveon Clowney, QB Connor Shaw, WR Bruce Ellington
Jadeveon Clowney gets another season to mercilessly hunt down quarterbacks while quarterback Connor Shaw is one of the most game quarterbacks you will see. He's not flashy, but he can get the job done with his arm and feet.
9. Clemson Tigers
2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1)
Key Returners: QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins, DE Vic Beasley
Tajh Boyd-to-Sammy Watkins is a combination you will hear a lot about this season. It's among the best quarterback-and-receiver tandems in the nation, and the Tigers are a strong bet to top Florida State as the ACC Atlantic champions.
10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2012 Record: 12-1
Key Returners: RB George Atkinson, DT Louis Nix III, DE Stephon Tuitt
If it weren't for one Tommy Rees starting at quarterback for the Irish, they would be slightly higher. Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt both do great impressions of brick walls and will once again make it nearly impossible for teams to find success on the ground.
The defense that was No. 2 in the nation in scoring will dominate once again. However, this team will only go as far as Rees can take it.
11. Georgia Bulldogs
2012 Record: 12-2 (7-1)
Key Returners: QB Aaron Murray, RB Todd Gurley, RB Keith Marshall
If you want to watch the defense that led the Bulldogs to a 7-1 record in conference play and nearly beat Alabama, you'll have to watch on Sundays. It's scattered throughout the NFL now.
But Murray is one of the nation's top quarterbacks, and as far as running back tandems go, it doesn't get better than Gurley and Marshall.
12. LSU Tigers
2012 Record: 10-3 (6-2)
Key Returners: QB Zach Mettenberger, WR Odell Beckham Jr., DT Anthony Johnson
The Tigers come into these rankings at No. 12 but as the No. 2 overrated squad.
Putting the Tigers this high in the rankings is derived almost solely from reputation. You can never count out a Les Miles-coached football team, but there aren't a whole lot of proven commodities on this team.
The defense was ravaged by losses to the NFL draft, including defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery as well as safety Eric Reid. Of course, Miles has recruited well over the years, so there will be highly ranked recruits filling their shoes, but nothing is guaranteed.
This team's hopes will be dependent on the maturation of Zach Mettenberger. He threw just 12 touchdowns to seven interceptions as the starter last season.
The Tigers could surprise and fill all their weaknesses easily, but they could also struggle to a subpar season by Baton Rouge standards.
13. Florida State Seminoles
2012 Record: 12-2 (7-1)
Key Returners: WR Rashad Greene, LB Christian Jones, S Lamarcus Joyner
Every year it feels like the same song and dance with Florida State. They consistently have one of the best rosters on paper, yet don't achieve the results you would expect. Last season they went a long way in shaking that trend, as they claimed the ACC title and won a BCS bowl.
Quarterback Jameis Winston has the potential to be a breakout star at the position, and the defense should once again be a top-10 unit when it comes to points allowed.
14. Texas Longhorns
2012 Record: 9-4 (5-4)
Key Returners: QB David Ash, CB Quandre Diggs, DE Jackson Jeffcoat
According to Stassen, the Texas Longhorns haven't finished the season ranked higher than when they started it since 2008. This could be the year they break that trend.
Who wins the Big 12 this year?
The Big 12 is wide open, and Mack Brown has promised the team will play a more up-tempo brand of football on offense, per ESPN. That should lead to much more success against the high-scoring offenses in the conference, as the Longhorns have three backs that can keep each other fresh throughout the game.
15. TCU Horned Frogs
2012 Record: 7-6 (4-5)
Key Returners: DE Devonte Fields, CB Jason Verrett, QB Casey Pachall
Many will scoff at the Horned Frogs being ranked this high after a 7-6 debut season in the Big 12, but with the adversity the team faced, it could have just as easily been 4-8.
Quarterback Casey Pachall's suspension a few games into the season led then running back Treyvone Boykin to be switched back to quarterback. According to Sports Illustrated, 70 percent of TCU's players on the field last season were either freshmen or sophomores.
Despite the adversity, the Frogs finished as the Big 12's top defense and will return nine starters from that unit. Throw in the fact that Pachall has been reinstated, and TCU has as good a chance as anyone to win the conference.
16. Michigan Wolverines
2012 Record: 8-5 (6-2)
Key Returners: OT Taylor Lewan, QB Devin Gardner, RB Fitzgerald Touissaint
Here's a fun prediction for the Wolverines: As great an athlete as Denard Robinson was, the Wolverines offense will be better this season with Gardner at quarterback. The team will be more successful, too.
Gardner's quarterback rating (161.66) was much better than Robinson's (126.63), and he still provides exciting athleticism, as evidenced by his 16 receptions for 266 yards last season.
17. Michigan State Spartans
2012 Record: 7-6 (3-5)
Key Returners: QB Andrew Maxwell, LB Max Bullough, LB Denicos Allen
Why so much love for a team that went just 3-5 in the floundering Big Ten last season?
Because they were a much more efficient team than their record indicated in 2012. According to Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings, which measure a team's efficiency on both offense and defense, Michigan State was the 15th team in the nation.
It would take a huge stroke of misfortune for them to deliver poor results with that kind of efficiency again.
18. Boise State Broncos
2012 Record: 11-2 (7-1)
Key Returners: QB Joe Southwick, WR Matt Miller, DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe
You'd think after all that Boise State has accomplished since the Dan Hawkins era that there's no way they could ever be underrated.
Yet here we are.
The Broncos aren't getting much pub headed into the season, but when they're one of the few remaining undefeated teams left in the country in November, we'll all be wondering if they can crash the party yet again.
Joe Southwick is back as the quarterback after leading the team to an 11-2 record last season. Replacing D.J. Harper won't be easy, but sophomore Jay Ajayi averaged 6.68 yards per carry on his way to a 548-yard season.
Considering the Broncos' two losses came by a total of five points last season, they are a strong candidate to run the table this season.
19. Oklahoma State Cowboys
2012 Record: 8-5 (5-4)
Key Returners: QB Clint Chelf, WR Josh Stewart, CB Justin Gilbert
Mike Gundy and his explosive offense return, with nearly every key contributor in the passing game coming back. Replacing Joseph Randle will be difficult, but the aerial attack averaged 331 yards last season on 38 attempts per game. The Big 12 is an offensive conference, and Oklahoma State can score with anyone.
20. Oklahoma Sooners
2012 Record: 10-3 (8-1)
Key Returners: RB Damien Williams, C Gabe Ikard, WR Jalen Saunders
The Sooners come back as co-Big 12 champions with plenty of talent to get back there. Whether they can repeat will largely depend on Blake Bell's transformation from goal-line specialist to full-time signal-caller.
21. UCLA Bruins
2012 Record: 9-5 (6-3)
Key Returners: QB Brett Hundley, WR Shaq Evans, LB Anthony Barr
James Franklin is gone, but Brett Hundley's freshman season showed that the Bruins offense will be in good hands. He threw 29 touchdowns to 11 interceptions while adding nine more scores on the ground.
On defense, Anthony Barr was one of the best pass-rushers in the country. The defensive end/linebacker will be on NFL teams' radars after registering 13 sacks last season.
22. Northwestern Wildcats
2012 Record: 10-3 (5-3)
Key Returners: QB Kain Colter, RB Venric Marc, DE Tyler Scott
Pat Fitzgerald apparently hasn't heard the adage about the perils of having two quarterbacks. He'll try to find a way to get the dual-threat Colter and pocket-passing Trevor Siemian on the field as much as possible. Both showed flashes of brilliance last season, so the experiment could either return surprisingly positive results or go down in flames.
23. Northern Illinois Huskies
2012 Record: 12-2 (8-0)
Key Returners: QB Jordan Lynch, LB Jamaal Bass, S Jimmie Ward
Only Johnny Manziel enters the season with more total yards per game last season than Jordan Lynch. The dual-threat dynamo threw for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns and ran for over 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns.
24. Oregon State Beavers
2012 Record: 9-4 (6-3)
Key Returners: WR Brandin Cooks, QB Cody Vaz, RB Storm Woods
The Beavers have to decide between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz at quarterback. Vaz had much better numbers last season, but Mannion took most of the snaps when the team started off 6-0.
If they can diagnose and solve the issues that saw them finish the season by going 3-4 in their final seven games, they will be a threat.
25. Nebraska Cornhuskers
2012 Record: 10-4 (7-1)
Key Returners: QB Taylor Martinez, RB Ameer Abdullah, WR Kenny Bell
T-Magic put up the best passing numbers of his career last season, but it still wasn't quite enough to lead the Cornhuskers to a BCS Bowl. He'll have one more season to decide whether he's remembered in Lincoln as a human highlight reel or a winner on college football's biggest stage.
Statistics used in this article via CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted.
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