It’s mid-August and that means two things: kids are getting ready to go back to school and the college football season is right around the corner. Last year’s No. 1 (USC) ended up not even winning a bowl game, but Alabama is the preseason favorite this year and rarely does Nick Saban’s team disappoint. But there are quite a few really good teams this year that can challenge Alabama for the FBS championship this year. Here are, in my opinion, the top five teams who will challenge Alabama for the crystal football.
This is my dark-horse pick to surprise a few teams and finally bring a championship back to the ACC for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
Tajh Boyd is back for his senior year and will most likely improve on his 165.6 QB rating from last year. Plus, he’s had over 30 TD passes the past two seasons and has dynamic wide receiver Sammy Watkins back. Add in the fact that their schedule has quite a few highly ranked teams on it (No. 5 Georgia, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 12 Florida State) and you have a recipe for the Tigers to make a push for that No. 2 ranking if they go undefeated.
A lot of people are high on the 7th-ranked Gamecocks, and they should be. They had the 13th-ranked defense last year and should be a top-10 defense this year. Plus, Connor Shaw is due to have a breakout year in his senior season. If they get past Georgia, Clemson and Florida, it should put them in the SEC championship game against Alabama or whoever is the next favorite to be in the BCS championship game. Oh, and they also have that Clowney fellow playing for them too.
The Pac-12 looks to be a better division than it has been in years past, but Oregon is still the top dog (or duck) in the conference. We all know speed kills and De’Anthony Thomas, Marcus Mariota and company have plenty of it. Mariota should improve on his freshman season and very easily can have 40 touchdowns this year in the Ducks' high-powered offense. A little-known fact: Oregon has a very underrated defense. They were 25th in the nation last year in points against. Even if Ohio State and Alabama go undefeated, Oregon could find themselves in the championship game based off of strength of schedule.
The preseason No. 2 didn’t lose a game last year and could possibly go undefeated this year thanks to Braxton Miller and Urban Meyer. One thing that is a double-edged sword for them is their schedule. Cal and Wisconsin are the only two tests they have until Michigan at the end of the year. And if Michigan doesn’t have a good year, the only thing that game can do is hurt them. The good news is that the schedule sets up Ohio State to run the table again and have plenty left for the championship game.
The team that almost knocked off Alabama last year has the best chance to claim the crystal football for themselves this year. They do have a brutal September (Clemson, South Carolina and LSU), but if they make it out of those three games, the only thing left is Florida before the SEC championship game. Their defense will miss Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, but their high-octane offense should make up for any growing pains the D has. Plus, much like South Carolina, they would have a direct shot at Alabama in the SEC championship game if Alabama makes it that far.
These are my top five picks in my opinion to take over Alabama. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible for LSU, Stanford, Texas A&M, Florida, Louisville or any other team to get to the BCS championship game, but these are my personal hunches. One thing is for sure, this season is already geared to be an exciting ride, and we can expect only the unexpected.