College Football

Preseason College Football Rankings 2013: Dark-Horse BCS Championship Contenders

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 08:  Quarterback Wes Lunt #11 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys looks for a play call during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Cowboys 59-38. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2013

The 2013 college football season is less than a month away and that means it's time to look ahead and predict which teams will be in the national championship mix at season's end.

While Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and Stanford all project to be in contention for the BCS crown this fall, there are a handful of other talented teams deserving of some recognition. 

Let's take a closer look at preseason Top 25 rankings and three dark-horse national championship contenders to watch for this season.

 

 

No. 10, Florida Gators

Florida didn't end on a high note last season, losing to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, but will return a frightening defense and dual-threat quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Will Muschamp will welcome 247Sports.com's consensus No. 1 cornerback prospect in the nation to Gainesville this fall. Freshman Vernon Hargreaves III is super-quick and has incredible instincts that will allow him to make an impact early on for the Gators.

Driskel should only be better having played in 12 games as a sophomore a year ago and he'll have talented freshman wideouts Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood set to enter the offensive equation.

If Florida can become more dynamic on offense in 2013, the defense will allow it to remain in every game. The Gators allowed under 15 points per game a season ago and have a brilliant defensive mind calling the shots in Muschamp.

Much like in 2012, Florida-Georgia will carry a lot of weight for the Gators this fall, but so will away clashes with LSU and South Carolina.

 

No. 14, Oklahoma State Cowboys

Two seasons after going 12-1 and beating Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, the Oklahoma State Cowboys look poised to win the Big 12 Conference and contend for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game in 2013.

Mike Gundy was out-shined in recruiting by some of other teams in the conference, but still managed to bring in over a dozen prospects on the defensive side of the ball.

The Cowboys also landed speedster Ra'Shaad Samples, a 5'11", 160-pound wide receiver who has the potential to thrive in Oklahoma State's high-octane offense. Remember, this is a team that averaged over 45 points per game a season ago.

In 2013, Gundy will have three different talented quarterbacks at his disposal (Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt), with each having gained critical in-game experience last season. 

Oklahoma State's season will ride on its final three games: at Texas, vs. Baylor and vs. Oklahoma.

 

No. 21, UCLA Bruins

UCLA won nine games under Jim Mora last season. The Bruins hadn't done that since 2005 under Karl Dorrell. In 2013, Mora and his squad will look to build on that success.

The Bruins are easily the best team in the Pac-12's South Division heading into the new season and return star quarterback Brett Hundley, who has Heisman Trophy potential this coming fall, as pointed out by UCLA Football on Twitter: 

Hundley threw for 3,740 yards and 29 touchdowns as a freshman in 2012.

Defensively, UCLA made some key additions through recruiting, bringing in elite safety Tahaan Goodman and some other defensive gems, including linebacker Isaac Savaiinaea and defensive end Kylie Fitts.  

The Bruins will be put to the test early with a matchup at Nebraska in September, but the real test will come in late October when UCLA plays at Stanford and at Oregon in back-to-back weeks.

If Hundley continues to develop and the defense can improve upon last year's effort, this is a team that could win the Pac-12 next season and challenge for the national throne.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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