Top 10 College Football Teams Who Could Be No. 2 In 2013 Preseason Polls
2013 College Football Preseason Polls: Top 10 Teams Who Could Be No. 2
The ultimate prize in college football once again resides deep down South as the Alabama Crimson Tide captured their second straight BCS National Championship and their third in four years. The dominant 42-14 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish put Nick Saban and this Tide team into the rare conversation of being a dynasty, and one of the best in college football history.
So it won’t be any surprise when the preseason polls come out next summer and Alabama is listed at No. 1. They’ve done more than enough to earn the honor and will return many of the key pieces that helped them roll to the title this season next year, including quarterback A.J. McCarron. After the swing and a miss that was the USC Trojans as the preseason No. 1 in 2012, you can bet the voters will go with a proven winner in 2013, and nobody’s proven they’re bigger winners than this Alabama team.
But what about No. 2? There has to be someone that the voters think will push the Tide next season, and that team will likely get the honor of the inside track to the final BCS National Championship in Pasadena next January. They’ll have a long ways to go to get their hands on that coveted crystal football, but No. 2 is a good place to start.
So who is going to get the seat right behind Alabama? Let’s count down the top 10 teams in contention for No. 2 next season.
10. Louisville Cardinals
Okay, there’s no way that a Big East team is going to open up the preseason as the No. 2 team in the country, but if any of them had a case, it would be the Louisville Cardinals. Representatives of the conference in the BCS in the 2012 season, the co-Big East champion Cardinals will return a lot of the team that made such an impact this bowl season.
Louisville returns quarterback Teddy Bridgewater along with a committed Charlie Strong at head coach who are going to continue building what they started this season. Bridgewater broke onto the scene late into the season, displaying unreal toughness as he came into the regular season finale with a broken hand and led Louisiville to the win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, winning a trip to the Nokia Sugar Bowl in the process.
He led the Cardinals with that toughness right into the BCS as the strong-willed and disciplined Cardinals took it to the Florida Gators. Considering they were one of the biggest underdogs in the BCS bowls this year, few teams were as impressive as Louisville in a huge win.
That won’t translate into a No. 2 ranking next season, but there weren’t many teams playing better than the Cardinals as this season ended, so they deserve to get mentioned at the very least.
9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The No. 1 team in the nation before it ran into Alabama, Notre Dame isn’t going to fall off too far next season (on the field at least). They will lose some key pieces on defense and one of their leading rushers Cierre Wood along with standout tight end Tyler Eifert on offense. However, Brian Kelly has things rolling in South Bend which can’t be ignored.
He’s helped out by the emergence of Everett Golson at quarterback. The sophomore had his ups and downs, as is expected with any young player, but he grew up on the field over the course of the season and really took hold of the position as his own. With another offseason to grow and learn in Kelly’s system and he should be able to take the next step in 2013.
With the quarterback in place, the rest will fall into place. The echoes were definitely stirred for Notre Dame this season, and that has some resonance with voters. How much faith they still have in the Irish will depend on who steps up on defense and how damaging the off-the-field distractions turn out to be to the university’s image.
8. Florida Gators
The Gators and head coach Will Muschamp made the case that they should be the ones playing for the National Championship following the SEC title game (which they did not participate in). The one-loss Gators entered bowl season and the Sugar Bowl game against Louisville as one of the toughest teams in the country. They did not do much to help their case with a dud against the Cardinals, but they’ll be tough again next year.
After a rocky first year, Muschamp seems to have unlocked the key to what makes Florida a successful football team and that’s getting the ball to your best player on offense and playing stifling defense. This season it was running back Mike Gillislee, but next year it will be quarterback Jeff Driskel who showed flashes of being more than a game manager this season and will be asked to take on more of the offense next season. The conventional thinking is that he will be able to and that will only help Florida’s preseason ranking next season.
They didn’t leave voters with a very good impression at the end of this season, but their body of work and the reputation of Florida football should be enough to push the Gators up in the early rankings. How high, however, remains to be seen.
7. South Carolina Gamecocks
Another SEC team that finished in the top 10 this year that will be well positioned to start next year high in the preseason rankings is the South Carolina Gamecocks. They capped off 2012 with an explosive performance in the Outback Bowl where they rallied in the final minute of the game to beat the Michigan Wolverines 33-28.
They’ll be led by their defense and their dynamic playmaker on the defensive line Jadeveon Clowney. The phenomenal sophomore would likely be the top overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft this year, but fortunately for Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks, he still has to wait one more year to be eligible. That’s all good with Clowney, though, because the stud defensive lineman wants to win the Heisman Trophy next year, and that’s not as crazy a statement as it sounds.
South Carolina will be well tested with a very tough schedule, so they’ll be able to make up ground with big wins even if they don’t start out as the No. 2 team next season. However, they’ve got the credibility with voters that they won’t need to rise too far in the rankings to get there.
6. Stanford Cardinal
Football in California didn’t take a year off just because USC was down as the Stanford Cardinal took the crown as the best team on the West Coast, winning the Pac 12 Championship and physically overcoming the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl. It wasn’t always pretty and they had to adapt throughout the season, even making a quarterback change with just four weeks to go, but the Cardinal got the job done and staked their claim as one of college football’s best.
And don’t think they’ll be fading anytime soon. Head coach David Shaw has proven that Palo Alto specializes in reloading, and they’re poised to do it again next year. The stellar defense largely returns intact and quarterback Kevin Hogan has yet to lose as a starter in five games against top 25 teams. With the foundation of a solid Stanford team returning, there’s no reason to think they won’t pick up next year right where they left off in the Rose Bowl.
If they do, they’ll be a legitimate contender for the BCS National Championship. Whether or not they have enough faith or hype built up to climb to No. 2 in the preseason poll still remains to be seen, but they’re going to try and punch their way through to the top no matter where they start next summer.
5. Georgia Bulldogs
The Georgia Bulldogs nearly went to the BCS National Championship game this season, but came up just short against Alabama in the SEC title game. They rebounded from their disappointment by hanging 45 points on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Capital One Bowl. They’re poised to come back next season and do the same to their entire schedule in 2013.
The Bulldogs return nearly their entire offense next season, led by quarter Aaron Murray. The senior leader broke out this season, leading his team to a 12-win season and playing as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He comes back for another year in Athens to lead a talented group on offense that’s going to benefit greatly from the continuity they’ll enjoy with everyone coming back for 2013. They’ll have to replace some major contributors on defense, but Georgia has shown they have great defensive players always ready to step up.
It won’t be an easy task and they’ll have some excellent SEC teams to contend with all season long, but the Bulldogs are going to be able to hit the ground running next fall, putting them in prime position to be considered among the very best teams in the country next preseason.
4. Clemson Tigers
Few teams did more for their reputation this bowl season than the Clemson Tigers. Perpetually seen as an underachieving program that couldn’t compete with the big leagues, Clemson finally shed that ugly reputation with a gutsy win against the LSU Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, hanging tough and kicking a winning field goal as time expired.
And they’re bringing most of the team back next year to try and do it again. Tajh Boyd will be back for his senior year at quarterback and should be considered one of the best signal callers in college football, garnering some early attention for the Heisman. If he can take the Tigers’ offense over the top next season, they’ll be in great shape to not only win the ACC, but be right in the thick of things for a national championship.
The return of Tajh Boyd and a possible bounce back year for Sammy Watkins will generate plenty of buzz around this Clemson team. Will it be enough to overcome the recent memories of disappointment and take them as high as No. 2?
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
A perfect 12-0 season for the Ohio State Buckeyes in Urban Meyer’s first year as head coach will leave a lasting impression on voters going into next season. Now that they get to play for something at the end of the year, the expectations and pressure will be turned up to a whole new level. How well they appear ready to handle that will go a long ways in determining their preseason ranking.
They should be in good shape to do so, though. Meyer is a proven winner that has built championship caliber programs everywhere he’s gone. Plus, he has the benefit of getting his entire offense, a.k.a. Braxton Miller, back for next season. With another year to learn and grow under Meyer’s tutelage, Miller will generate plenty of buzz as an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
The buzz around Miller and the reputation of Meyer could be enough to push them near the top of this summer’s preseason rankings. How much faith do voters have in the Buckeyes, however, to repeat their performance in 2012? The answer to that will determine where they fall.
2. Oregon Ducks
The Oregon Ducks enjoyed a spectacular 2012 season and were one overtime loss away from a perfect season and a date in the BCS National Championship game. They still finished the year strong, winning 12 games, including their second straight BCS bowl win with a dominant 35-17 win in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl over the Kansas State Wildcats.
The team that finished the year at No. 2 for the 2012 season will have a lot of key pieces back to start 2013. Quarterback Marcus Mariota returns to follow up a sensational freshman season as he will likely take on a little more of the offensive load. He’ll be aided by the return of De'Anthony Thomas as well, who now takes on the role of No. 1 back in the vaunted Oregon rushing attack.
The departure of Chip Kelly to the NFL may give some voters pause as the unproven Mark Helfrich (likely) takes the reins in Eugene. But hiring from within should allow for a smooth transition in 2013 and depending on how much faith voters have in the new regime, could lead to a No. 2 ranking to kick off 2013.
1. Texas A&M Aggies
But if voters are going to pick a team with the best chance to make a run at No. 1 Alabama, who better than the only team to beat them in 2012? The Texas A&M Aggies burst onto the scene in their first year in the vaunted SEC, capping off their 2012 season with a Cotton Bowl thrashing of the Oklahoma Sooners.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin will have to replace some talent next season, including the likely top two picks in April’s NFL draft. The transition will be made a whole lot easier with Johnny Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, under center. The Aggies will look to become even more explosive on offense as Johnny Football enters just his sophomore season and keeps learning how to consistently beat defenses.
To be the best you have to beat the best, and Texas A&M is the only team to beat Alabama in the last year. That, along with a star at quarterback, should push the Aggies very near the top of the 2013 preseason polls. They still have work to do to hit No. 1, but they’ll settle that September 14 when the Tide rolls into College Station.
Be sure to check out the Rant Sports 100 in 100 Series, a preview of the top 100 College Football Teams for the 2013 Season!