CFN 2013 First Look Rankings
The Top Ten
2013 CFN First Look Rankings
- The Top 10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70
- 71-80 | 81-90 | 91-100 | 101-110 | 111-120 | The Bottom 6
Past CFN First Look Rankings 2012 | 2011
CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason Rankings By Conference
- ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | C-USA | Ind
- MAC | Mountain West | Pac-12 | SEC | Sun Belt | WAC
- Based On Opinion ... CFN 2012 FINAL Rankings, Top 25
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It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and all the other factors before Signing Day and spring ball, where does everyone stand? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2013. The First Look Ranking is based on how good the teams appear to be at the moment.
1. Alabama (13-1)
Remember, 2012 was supposed to be a rebuilding year. There are certainly holes to fill, and there were some hiccups late in the season, but the talent is in place and the expectations will be there for a third straight national title and a fourth in five years. While others will be able to make the case for being the No. 1 team in the country, it'll be hard to argue for anyone else but the defending national champion for the top spot.
The big concern right away will be on offensive line that has to replace center Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack and right tackle D.J. Fluker, but will revolve around all-star left tackle Cyrus Kouandijo and guard Anthony Steen. There are several good prospects ready to step in, but it'll be a lot to ask of the line to dominate like it did in key moments like it has over the last few years.
BCS championship game star running back Eddie Lacy is off early to the NFL, but electrifying super-soph T.J. Yeldon will lead a loaded stable, helped by a great recruiting class coming in. AJ McCarron is a crusty veteran, and he'll be front and center in the Heisman race with Amari Cooper and a strong group of receivers returning.
Defensively, it's Alabama. It had to overcome massive losses last year and still finished up No. 1 in the nation in total defense, run defense and scoring defense. Top corner Dee Milliner is gone, but the rest of the secondary will be more than fine. The return of Trey DePriest, C.J. Mosley, Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson form a tremendous linebacking quarter working behind a retooled front three that loses nose tackle Jesse Williams and end Damion Square. Again, it's Alabama. There are more top prospects ready to step up.
2. Oregon (12-1)
There's no excuse for the Ducks to not be in the national title chase. Mark Helfrich inherits a heater from Chip Kelly with 16 starters back and enough pop and explosion to keep the league's No. 1 offense rolling. How great was the 2012 season? Outside of the overtime loss to Stanford, every other game was a double-digit win. The pressure will be on for Helfrich to take the team to yet another level.
Eight starters return to the high-octane offense, and that doesn't count De'Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall taking over at running back for Kenjon Barner. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is a superstar in the making, and while the running game will still take center stage, the passing attack should do even more with all the receivers back. Two starters are gone on the line, but tackles Tyler Johnstone and Jake Fisher are good young blockers who should grow into all-stars.
The defense gets everyone back in a strong secondary that finished 15th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a rising star at one corner, while safeties Brian Jackson and Erick Dargan are good tacklers to work around. End Dion Jordan and linebackers Kiki Alonso and Michael Clay have to be replaced, but the team's best pass rusher, 6-6, 292-pound end Taylor Hart, will hold things down on one side, while Ricky Heimuli is a rock on the inside.
3. Florida (11-1)
It's lost in the storylines now, but last year at this time there were question marks about whether or not Will Muschamp could actually coach and the team was seen as a bit of an underachiever considering all the talent that Urban Meyer had amassed. The 11-1 season with dominant wins over South Carolina and Florida State on a run that came really, really close to finishing with a trip to the BCS championship came from out of left field, but all anyone will remember this offseason will be the Sugar Bowl clunker to Louisville.
There wasn't a massive loss of talent early to the next level, but a lot of work needs to be done for a passing game that finished dead last in the SEC thanks to a line that couldn't keep Jeff Driskel upright. Three starters are back up front, but battering ram running back Mike Gillislee is gone and Driskel has to be far better with almost all the key targets returning.
The defense that finished second in the nation in pass efficiency D and fifth overall in yards allowed and scoring gets seven starters back, hoping for everyone to stay healthy to fill in the gaps up front. The linebacking corps will be fast and athletic, but the bulk is gone with the graduation of Jonathan Bostic, and while losing All-America safety Matt Elam will be a problem, Loucheiz Purifoy will be one of the nation's top corners and several options ready to step into the safety roles. Punter Kyle Christy will be in the All-America mix, but kicker Caleb Sturgis is gone.
4. LSU (10-3)
Is the team getting anyone back? Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Eric Reid, Kevin Minter, Tharold Simon, Brad Wing, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford are all bolting early to the NFL, and that doesn't even count Tyrann Mathieu, who was at least back at the school. Of course, LSU loses players to the big league on a regular basis and still comes back roaring. This year isn't an exception.
The line struggled in pass protection after needing to do some major reshuffling and retooling, but the payoff should come with guards Trai Turner and La'el Collins, and tackle Vadal Alexander, all experienced and ready to roll. The running back corps might have lost Ware and Ford, but that's partly because the writing was on the wall that Jeremy Hill and Kenny Hilliard were going to handle the workload. Of course, all the focus will be on Zach Mettenberger and whether or not he can be more consistent and more efficient after spending 2012 trying to find his way.
The defense suffered the biggest hit in lost talent, but safety Craig Loston is a talented player to start with. The secondary is a revolving door of top-shelf playmakers with more where Reid, Simon, Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne came from. However, the entire front four needs to be replaced and linebacker Tajh Jones has to shine after spending most of last year with academic problems.
5. Texas A&M (11-2)
Get ready to handle the bull's-eye. The Aggies snuck up on the college football world in 2012 with a thrilling team led by a transcendent quarterback, and after coming within eight points of being unbeaten, even more will be expected. Johnny Manziel will have to carry the burden of trying to be Johnny Repeat, and Kevin Sumlin will have to play down rumor after rumor that he's destined to go to the NFL. With a loaded recruiting class coming in, and with a ton of talent to build around, it's time to have more fun.
Of course, the team will revolve around Manziel, but he loses a several key targets led by Ryan Swope. Fortunately, Mike Evans is one of the nation's brightest young receiving stars. Losing star tackle Luke Joeckel hurts, but it's not unexpected, while getting back Jake Matthews for another season before starring in the NFL was a nice surprise. Ben Malena is an unsung back who should shine behind the slightly retooled front five.
The defense that's been so great at getting into the backfield over the last few seasons has to replace pass rushing terror Damontre Moore and linebacker Sean Porter, but the secondary appears able to reload despite losing corner Dustin Harris and safety Steven Terrell. Steven Jenkins needs to come up with a big year for a linebacking corps that needs some work. Punter Ryan Epperson has to be replaced after coming up with a terrific year.
6. Texas (9-4)
Is this the year the Longhorns finally start playing up to their talent level? 2012 wasn't as bad as it's being made out to be, but 9-4 doesn't cut it at a place where BCS appearances are considered the norm. It was an inconsistent year, but that could change with so much returning talent.
Defensive tackle Brandon Moore is the only starter taking off early to the NFL, but losing end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro will be a problem. On the plus side, the linebacking corps should be among the fastest and most athletic in the country, but it would be nice if the defensive front could be stronger against the run – it's going to be an offseason of position battles on the line.
Is David Ash really going to be the starting quarterback, or is Case McCoy – who was reinstated after violating team rules – ready to make a big move in spring ball? In all, depending on the formation, ten starters are back on offense including all five starters up front and a deep and devastating stable of running backs with Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron in the rotation. All the top receivers are back for a passing game that should be among the nation's most efficient. Throw in the expected healthy return of former Penn State kicker/punter Anthony Fera, and Texas is loaded. Again.
7. Georgia (12-2)
Last year, most of the excitement was about a Dream Team of a defense. Years of recruiting, with a few key transfers, jacked up the expectations for the Dawgs, and the started to come together as the season went on, allowing 14 points or fewer in each of the last five regular season games before the SEC championship. This time around, it's all about the offense.
Ten starters are back on O, helped mostly by the return of quarterback Aaron Murray, who'll be on the short list of Heisman candidates. All five starters are back on a line that got stronger as the season went on, and it should be far stronger in pass protection. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall form, arguably, the nation's most dangerous rushing tandem, and while the loss of Tavarres King from the receiving corps might seem like a big deal, Malcolm Mitchell looks like the next big thing.
The defense has to replace John Jenkins on the nose, linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, and four other starters including three in the secondary. Five of the top six tacklers are gone meaning linebacker Amarlo Herrera and corner Damian Swann are going to have to be the new stars. The Dawgs always find top replacements, but as long as the D can hold serve so the offense can do its thing, everything should be fine.
8. South Carolina (11-2)
It's hard to believe that it's not all that long ago when South Carolina was an irrelevant also-ran in the SEC race. Is this the year it finally all comes together and Steve Spurrier has the team that's able to win the national title? It's going to be tough considering the Gamecocks have to undergo a bit of an overhaul. Even so, the defense should continue to rock and the offense should be just good enough to get by.
End Jadeveon Clowney will be the national star of the 2013 season as he tries to solidify his place in the top five of the 2014 NFL draft. He won't have Devin Taylor on the other side taking away some of the heat, but Kelcy Quarles is a strong interior presence and Gerald Dixon Jr. has the size to step in and produce. The linebacking corps has to start from scratch, and two starters are gone from a terrific secondary. Fortunately, Jimmy Legree appears ready to take on a bigger role.
The offense gets seven starters back, but it has to figure out what it wants to be. Marcus Lattimore was lost halfway through the 2012 season and bolted for the NFL, and now a back has to emerge with Kenny Miles done. The quarterback situation will be front and center after Spurrier rotated his passers in the bowl win over Michigan. Connor Shaw has the mobility and the experience, and Dylan Thompson showed that he could produce when called on. They'll get to work behind a line that welcomes back four starters, but had problems in pass protection, and they'll need Bruce Ellington to do even more for the receiving corps with all-around playmaker Ace Sanders leaving for the NFL.
9. Louisville (11-2)
Let the hype begin for the defending Sugar Bowl champions, who'll spend the offseason basking in the praise after thumping Florida in one of the shockers of the bowl season. Can the team start to dominate in regular season play like it did against the Gators? There were too many close calls against too many mediocre teams, but that could quickly change.
The defense has the potential to be dominant with ten starters returning, only losing corner Adrian Bushell. Linebacker Preston Brown should be a lock for all-star honors, while he end trio of Marcus Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin and Delontrez Mount should be devastating at times.
Of course, the headliner will be Teddy Bridgewater, one of the nation's most accurate and efficient passers who gets a full offseason to heal up after being beaten and battered late last year. The line is a slight concern with center Mario Benavides and left tackle Alex Kupper gone, but it's a rising group with good talents to build around. The receiving corps should be the best in the Big East, while running back Jeremy Wright will be in for a good season to balance things out.
10. Ohio State (12-0)
Will the Buckeyes be able to build on their great first season under Urban Meyer, or will they pull a USC and struggle under the weight of lofty expectations? It's possible for neither to happen – the program is still at least a year away from truly starting to rock and roll again with Meyer's phenomenal recruiting classes needing time to jell.
The offense won't have much of a problem moving the ball with the return of quarterback Braxton Miller, who'll finally starting getting his due Heisman consideration, along with eight other starters. Four seniors will start up front, and Carlos Hyde is back to help Miller carry the mail, but the key to the attack might be the improvement of the receiving corps needing Devin Smith and Corey Brown to do even more. Safety valve tight end Jake Stoneburner is gone.
The defense that had consistency problems has to hope for several young players to step up and shine on the line with all four starters gone including John Simon, Nathan Williams and tackle Johnathan Hankins, who left early for the NFL. Linebacker Ryan Shazier is destined for All-America honors, and Bradley Roby is a rising star at corner but the D as a whole might take a wee step back before making a giant leap forward in 2014.
2013 CFN First Look Rankings
- The Top 10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70
- 71-80 | 81-90 | 91-100 | 101-110 | 111-120 | The Bottom 6
It was a busy weekend in Aggieland with official visitors from 2013 in town and the A&M basketball…