USA Today released its preseason college football rankings on Thursday, and while there are some surprises peppered throughout the Top 25, few will be shocked by the fact that the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide reside at No. 1.
After a dominant 2012 season that saw them lose just one game, the Tide are now in position to win their third title in a row, and their fourth in five years. Dynasties are tough to come by in sports these days, but Nick Saban seems to be building one in Tuscaloosa.
In order to earn the three-peat, Alabama must go through the SEC, which is widely regarded as the most difficult conference in college football. USA Today's rankings are littered with SEC teams including Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU, so there is no guarantee that Bama will make it out of conference play unscathed.
Thanks to a stout defense and returning quarterback A.J. McCarron, though, Alabama is in an ideal position to accomplish something very special this season.
Alabama is clearly favored to reach the BCS National Championship Game yet again, but its potential opponent isn't so clear. If the rankings are any indication, Stanford's meteoric rise as a program could ultimately result in the Cardinal playing for all the marbles this season.
Which team should be ranked No. 2?
At the same time, Stanford must get through formidable Pac-12 rival Oregon. The Ducks are prepared for life after Chip Kelly, and they could very well compete for a national title in their first year under new head coach Mark Helfrich.
A number of SEC teams are also in the mix, but it's possible that those teams will beat each other up so badly that they'll play themselves out of contention. If that is the case, then the rankings suggest that Oklahoma State could come out of the Big 12, or Ohio State could make a run out of the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes are particularly interesting, as they went undefeated last season and in all likelihood would have played against Notre Dame for the national championship over Alabama, if not for the fact that NCAA sanctions precluded them from participating in postseason play.
That is no longer an issue this year, though, and with Ohio State playing in a fairly weak conference in terms of elite teams this season, Urban Meyer's squad could be on a collision course with mighty Alabama.
Of course, it wouldn't be fair to count out teams that are in the latter half of the Top 25, or even outside it completely. Surprise teams emerge on a yearly basis, and it will be intriguing to see which teams outplay their preseason expectations when the regular season finally kicks into gear.
|USA TODAY PRESEASON COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS|
|2. Ohio State|
|6. Texas A&M|
|7. South Carolina|
|11. Notre Dame|
|12. Florida State|
|14. Oklahoma State|
|19. Boise State|
|25. Oregon State|
*Rankings courtesy of USAToday.com
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