2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - Top 5
Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon
Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 12, 2013


2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - The Top Five - National Title Contenders


Preview 2013 - Rankings

The Top Five

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2013 CFN Preseason Rankings
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 125 
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There's one very important distinction in the CFN preseason rankings: these are based on how good the teams are going into the season and NOT how they're going to finish. Some teams have easier schedules than others, some get tougher road games and some will need a little bit of time to jell, meaning they might be better than their final record indicates. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 125.

5. Texas
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Special Teams

Offense: With Bryan Harsin taking off to become the head man at Arkansas State, now Major Applewhite gets all the offensive coordinator duties to himself, and now comes the adjustment. Forget about plodding, deliberate Texas and get ready for fast, fast, fast with everyone being coached up to speed up the style of play and keep defenses moving. With ten starters returning and a ridiculous level of quality depth, there’s no excuse to not put up massive numbers. Quarterback David Ash has to take his game to another level, and he’ll get time to work behind a good, athletic line that welcomes back all five starters. The running back rotation should be lethal with Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron all getting their chances, while the 1-2 receiving combination of Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley should be deadly.

Defense: There’s speed, experience, athleticism and talent to that most programs could only dream of having, but now everyone has to actually play after allowing 404 yards and 29 points per game. The pass rush was fantastic last season and it should be even stronger with Jackson Jeffcoat returning healthy to go along with a great rotation in the interior. The back seven can move, but now someone has to tackle after a painfully soft season in all phases. Getting linebacker Jordan Hicks back from a hip injury should help in a huge way, but the lightning fast defensive backs have to be more physical.

4. LSU
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Secondary

Offense: The offense simply couldn’t score touchdowns in the red zone. While the Tigers finished 36th in the nation in red zone scoring, that figure plummeted to 104th when it came to scoring six. It was even worse on the road, where it dropped to 114th and didn’t come through in key moments. LSU may have struggled in 2012 with a patchwork offensive line, an inexperienced quarterback and a receiving corps that took the first half of the season off, but the talent, experience and upside is there to be far better. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger appears ready to take his game to another level behind a terrific line and with the usual array of fantastic skill players to work with.

Defense: Despite finishing eighth in the nation, 2012 was still a step backwards for the LSU defense from 2011. How much so? There were fewer tackles for loss, fewer sacks, forced less fumbles, allowed opposing quarterbacks a better passing completion percentage, more passing yards, twice as many passing touchdowns, almost half a yard more per run, twice as many rushing touchdowns, and more total rushing yards. And now the D has to replace seven starters including leading tackler Kevin Minter, All-America safety Eric Reid, and all four starting defensive lineman. Experience is clearly the question mark, but defensive coordinator John Chavis rotates so much of his roster during games, a lack of starting experience means less in than for most programs. Overall it might take a little while, but the defense should improve as the season goes on.

3. Oregon
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Linebacker

Offense: Chip Kelly is in Philadelphia. The high-octane spread-option remains in Eugene. The Ducks offense won’t be changing now that Mark Helfrich is the head coach. Why mess with success? Last season was proof of the plug-and-play nature of the Oregon system. The program had to replace its quarterback, top back, to receiver and two starting linemen, yet still ranked No. 2 nationally in scoring. Giddy-up. Now that QB Marcus Mariota is back for an encore to his scintillating debut, Helfrich and new offensive coordinator Scott Frost are banking on even more explosive plays and lopsided victories. The Ducks will continue to spread the ball around, feeding any number of speedy playmakers, from the electrifying De’Anthony Thomas to TE Colt Lyerla or one of many speedy wide receivers. There is some trepidation regarding backfield depth, though young Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner are poised to allay many fears. C Hroniss Grasu and RT Jake Fisher will be the anchors of another very productive O-line. Fisher, in particular, is a shooting star, with the foundation of skills to catapult into the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Defense: Somewhat overshadowed during Oregon’s recent run of excellence have been the contributions of Nick Aliotti’s defense. Take last season, for instance. The Ducks led the country with 40 takeaways, while only allowing 21 points per game. Oh, and some of those points yielded came when backups were on the field during the second half of Oregon routs. A healthy number of starters return from the 2012 edition, though Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay must be replaced in the front seven. As the linebackers adjust to fresh faces, the Ducks will put a little more of their weight on an imposing D-line and one of college football’s most disruptive secondaries. DE Taylor Hart leads a three-man front that averages just under 300 pounds, and features three seniors. CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is the centerpiece of a frenetic defensive backfield that’ll encourage opposing teams to test the Ducks’ ability to stop the run as they breaks in new starters at the second level.

2. Florida State
Relative Strengths: Secondary, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Quarterback, Receiver

Offense: The Florida State offense is back. The 2012 edition cranked out more yards—6,591—than any other team in Seminoles history, a balanced unit that ranked No. 2 in ACC rushing, while producing the first quarterback chosen in the 2013 NFL Draft, EJ Manuel. Now that Manuel is a Buffalo Bill, though, the ‘Noles need to develop a successor. Clint Trickett transferred to West Virginia, paving the way for Jameis Winston to become the most talked about redshirt freshman in America during the offseason. The rookie has been a revelation so far, tantalizing fans with his rocket arm, quick feet and impressive maturity. If Winston maintains his composure, the offense will again be potent. The ground game is assertive, with James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman and Mario Pender set to run behind the ACC’s most physical offensive line, a group that exceeded all expectations last season. The corps of receivers took a hit when Greg Dent was suspended in June. Still, WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O’Leary lead an athletic group of pass catchers who’ll do more good than harm for the new starting quarterback.

Defense: The meteoric rise of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is making a stop in Tallahassee. While disappointed to lose Mark Stoops to Kentucky, Florida State believes it’s landed another rising star of the coaching ranks. Pruitt inherits one of the country’s deepest and most talented defenses, a unit that led the ACC in scoring and total D in 2012. His primary objective will be to retool a D-line that lost more stars to graduation than any other FBS program. The openings will give NG Timmy Jernigan, DE Mario Edwards Jr. and DT Eddie Goldman, among others, a chance to flourish now that their path to increased playing time is no longer congested. Christian Jones and Telvin Smith head an active corps of linebackers, and few teams can boast a secondary as deep or as stingy as the one at Doak Campbell Stadium. Pruitt is preaching a more physical brand of defense, and plans to mix in some 3-4 looks. At the end of the day, he won’t have to tinker too much for Florida State to once again sport a nasty and suffocating defensive group.

1. Alabama
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Backup Quarterback

Offense: Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier isn’t going to change things up too much, but there might be a little bit of tweaking with so much talent to work with. This will be one of the most efficient and effective offenses in college football, but it’ll have to be consistent again, too, despite some huge losses up front. As good as the 2012 line was – it was as talented as any front five in the history of the game – it wasn’t always a rock in pass protection and it wasn’t always as dominant for the ground game as history will show. Fortunately, tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and guard Anthony Steen are back as building blocks to work around, and if the line is good, the offense should dominate. Quarterback AJ McCarron is the unquestioned leader now, and he has an embarrassing array of riches to work with helped by a loaded recruiting class. T.J. Yeldon is one of the SEC’s most effective backs, Amari Cooper is one of the most dangerous receivers, and there’s more NFL talent waiting in the wings to show what it can do.

Defense: Ho hum. Once again, Alabama finished No. 1 in the nation in total defense, run defense and scoring defense despite losing a slew of NFL talent and having to revamp and reload in several key areas. This was supposed to be the year everything came together, and the potential is there to be even nastier as long as the secondary has a decent season. It struggled when LSU’s Zach Mettenberger was on fire and Johnny Manziel was Johnny Manziel, but for the most part the defensive backfield was terrific. However, Dee Milliner is gone to the NFL and the corner situation is a wee bit shaky. Fortunately, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and the safeties should pick up the slack. The line has to replace Jesse Williams on the nose, but Ed Stinson leads another big, fast, pro-quality group of defensive tackles working on the front three. The real strength is at linebacker where just about everyone returns including C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest on the inside and pass rusher Adrian Hubbard along with Xzavier Dickson outside. It’s a rare problem to have; Alabama has too many good linebackers for the 3-4 scheme.

2013 CFN Preseason Rankings
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 125 
 - CFN Preseason Rankings 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007  
- Preview 2013 - All The Team & Conference Previews