1. Alabama (58)
-Well. Yeah. Remember last year when Alabama was in a "rebuilding" year? Well now all those young guys on defense are a year older, QB A.J. McCarron is a savvy Senior gunslinger, two thousand-yard rushers return in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon as well as a thousand-yard receiver in Amari Cooper. Two of the Tide's three toughest games come off of two-week layoffs (@ Texas A&M, vs. LSU) and the SEC championship may end up being a repeat of last year's de facto national championship game that turned into an instant classic between #2 Alabama and #3 Georgia.
2. Ohio State (3)
-OK, Seriously. Someone has to know who the four coaches are who didn't vote Alabama #1. Can we get those names, please? My money is on Urban Meyer being one of them. But I digress. Braxton Miller is back along with a talented defense but the biggest question about the Buckeyes has to be whether they will be able to perform as highly as they did last year now that the pressure is back on.
-Marcus Mariota may be a year older but I have a hard time justifying Oregon at #3 without Chip Kelly. I'd be very surprised to see the Ducks even win their division without the evil genius in the baseball cap. The schedule is relatively light, every game is winnable, but they're going to have to be able to stop the run if they want to beat Washington, UCLA, Stanford, or Oregon State.
-The Cardinal are probably my preseason pick to win the Pac 12. The loss of Stepfan Taylor is tough but people thought they'd never get over the loss of Toby Gerhart, too. Oh, and this guy Andrew Luck. Maybe you've heard of him. David Shaw is making Stanford a real thing, guys. Get used to it.
-The defense took some big hits from the draft but the offense could be special with Aaron Murray and the rest of the backfield returning. The season starts off at Clemson and then back home to host South Carolina. A bye week and a warm-up against North Texas then lead up to the showdown with LSU and then a month later is the Gators. If the Dawgs make it to the SEC title game, they may be ranked #1 by then.
6. Texas A&M (1)
No, seriously. Did Kevin Sumlin give his ballott to Johnny Manziel and then he lost it in a game of beer pong? I can't wait to see how Johnny Football responds to all the offseason scrutiny (y'know, once he's done serving out his suspension for selling autographs). I feel like either he'll win another Heisman and bolt for the NFL or he'll totally collapse and be stuck at A&M (where he is, apparently, miserable) for another two years trying to escape his "loose cannon" red flag with NFL scouts. There's no in between here. The Aggies have little chance of dethroning the mighty Tide in the SEC West--especially if they'll be missing Manziel for the Week 3 showdown with 'Bama--but have a favorable enough schedule to easily win 10 or 11 games, especially if Mr. Football is Mr. Football.
7. South Carolina
-The Legend of Jadaveon Clowney continues to grow. Over the offseason we learned that he almost made Zach Mettenberger shart himself and he ran a 4.46 in the 40 yard dash (anything under 4.4 is pretty much what elite WRs and RBs run). This guy makes me so excited at the prospect of a purely defensive player finally breaking the glass ceiling and winning a Heisman. Can he carry his team to an SEC title? The road starts out mighty rough with games against North Carolina and Georgia to open the 2013 campaign but after that, every game is very winnable until Florida rolls into town. Florida and Georgia are both big challenges. The defense will be up for the challenge but on offense, either Connor Shaw or Dylan Thompson is going to have to emerge as "the guy" at QB, especially in a post-Marcus Lattimore world.
-With Heisman contender Tahj Boyd returning along with a whole slew of offensive weapons, the Tigers are the overwhelming favorite to destroy the rest of the ACC. The schedule is bookended by two TOUGH SEC opponents in Georgia and South Carolina but the rest should be a walk in the park with the possible exception of Florida State (doubt it).
-I can't believe Teddy Bridgewater is already a Junior. Imagine him and Duke Johnson in the Canes backfield right now. (No, I will never forgive Teddy for turning his back on the Canes after they fired Randy Shannon and taking Eli Rodgers with him). Louisville is in a prime position here with a potential Heisman candidate at QB and prime position to start moving up into the national title picture as those ahead of them fall like dominos.
-Considering all the weapons Jeff Driskel loses from last year's offense (not to mention the entire left side of the offensive line with a combined 48 starts between them), I'm not sure this isn't a little high for the Gators. The defense takes a major hit, too, losing its top two tacklers (and leader in tackles for loss), its top two sack leaders, plus Jelani Jenkins, Matt Elam. Driskel is a talented kid but he was recruited to run Urban Meyer's spread and right now he's just their best option until Will Muschamp finds his guy. I feel like Miami has a good chance of picking these guys off in Week 2 and if that happens, it could be the start of a long season. I know it's early but I can't imagine this team beating Georgia OR South Carolina.
AND THE REST...
11. Notre Dame
12. Florida State
14. Oklahoma State
19. Boise State
25. Oregon State
Ranked Too High: Oregon, Louisville, Florida, Notre Dame, Florida State
Ranked Too Low: Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska
My Top 25
2b. Ohio State
5. Texas A&M
7. South Carolina
10. Notre Dame
16. Oklahoma State
17. Florida State
19. Boise State
25. Miami (FL)
WAY-too-early BCS Preview/Predictions
American Athletic Conference (formerly Big East): Louisville
-Yes, the Big East is now the AAC for some reason (probably because it's not really that "big" anymore and by all rights, probably shouldn't even have an automatic BCS bid--which is fitting because "American Athletic Conference" sounds like a conference in Division I-AA). Not much more to say about the ol' AAC. It's Louisville's league to lose. Everyone will be gunning for them but there isn't a single game on the schedule that the Cardinals shouldn't win convincingly.
ACC: Clemson over Miami (FL)
-Florida State is overrated but it doesn't really matter because the Tigers are stacked and in a great position to actually make a run at a BCS title. The Coastal is wide open as always but I really like Miami's chances. Once they make it to the ACC title game, all bets are off, but the defense is going to have to play out of their minds to slow down Tahj Boyd and co.
Big XII: Texas
-To be perfectly honest, I have absolutely no idea who might win this conference. It could be fucking Baylor for all I know. I do know that Mack Brown is not someone you should ever count out and that he and his boys want BADLY to return to prominence. In a wide open Big 12, this might just be their year to do it.
Big Ten: Ohio State over Michigan
-It's going to take a miracle for the Buckeyes not to win the Leaders division (not that miracles don't happen constantly in college football) but the Legends division is wide open. Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, and even maybe Michigan State and Iowa could compete for a spot in the Big Ten title game. I think this year might be the year we get the rematch everyone has been salivating over. Imagine if both teams go into the third Saturday in November knowing they're going to play again in two weeks. How intense would that game be?
Pac-12: Stanford over UCLA
-The North will be decided November 7th in Stanford. The South will be decided November 30th in the Coliseum. That's pretty much all you need to know.
SEC: Alabama over Georgia
-This is going to be like 2008 and 2009 all over again where the Gators and Tide met in consecutive SEC title games with familiar teams. In 2009, 'Bama avenged a loss to the Gators with a 32-13 stomping on their way to a national title. This time, there will be no avenging of anything but the end result will be the same as 2009. Alabama will win the SEC and their third consecutive national championship