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Alabama again? The Sentinel's 2013 college football preseason poll

With the 2012 season in the books, here is a quick look at our top 25 poll for next season.

Matt Murschel | College Football 365

3:37 PM EST, January 8, 2013

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Now that we have put the finishing touches on the 2012 college football season, it seemed like the perfect time to look forward to 2013.

Here is our very, very, very early look at the preseason 2013 top 25:

No. 1 Alabama

The Buzz: The two-tme defending champs return top stars like quarterback A.J. McCarron as well as running back T.J. Yeldon. The recruiting class is among the top five in the country while next season’s schedule features only five games against teams that were bowl eligible including two teams ranked in the BCS top 25: LSU, Texas A&M.

No. 2 Ohio State

The Buzz: It will be tough for Urban Meyer to top his inaugural season, but the Buckeyes will get a shot and will rely heavily on quarterback Braxton Miller, who thrived under Meyer’s spread offense. Another top five recruiting class and a weak schedule spell good things in Columbus.

No. 3 Oregon

The Buzz: Oregon’s biggest offseason move might not involve a player. Chip Kelly’s future with the program will have a major impact on a team that returns a lot of talented players including quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De’Anthony Thomas.

No. 4 LSU

The Buzz: The 2012 season may not have gone exactly how LSU would have liked it, but Tiger fans need not worry, with a bevy of returning starters from last year’s squad making their way back for 2013. The offense has some concerns, however the defense has plenty of young talent which should make it a threat.

No. 5 Georgia

The Buzz: Georgia was five yards away from playing in the BCS national championship instead of Alabama and that memory will fuel the Bulldogs in 2013. Quarterback Aaron Murray's decision to return for his senior season makes Georgia a favorite to repeat in the SEC East.

No. 6 Oklahoma

The Buzz: Quarterback Landry Jones and running back Dominique Whaley are gone which means the offense could center around Blake Bell. The defense has some gaps to fill on the front seven, but the secondary should be one of the most experienced in the Big 12.

No. 7 Florida

The Buzz: Florida’s success in 2013 will hinge on the continued development of quarterback Jeff Driskel as well as finding a suitable replacement for running back Mike Gillislee, who rushed for more than 1,100 yards in 2012. The schedule will feature tough games against LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State.

No. 8 Clemson

The Buzz: There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Clemson program. Quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver DeAndre Hopkins could all vote to leave for the NFL which would leave the Tigers searching to fill some huge holes on offense.

No. 9 South Carolina

The Buzz: After back-to-back double-digit win seasons, South Carolina looks to continue its recent run of success. There could be a quarterback controversy with Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, but when is there not a QB controversy under Steve Spurrier? The defense will be led by Jadeveon Clowney, who could be the best defensive player in 2013.

No 10 Stanford

The Buzz: First it was Andrew Luck and now it will be Stepfan Taylor. Somehow the Stanford program manages to replace crucial pieces on offense. Taylor was a workhorse in the backfield, rushing for close to 1,500 yards last season. If the quarterback situation is settled early, the Cardinal could be a force in the Pac-12 again.

No. 11 Notre Dame

The Buzz: Last season, Notre Dame was unranked going into the season wound up in the national championship game. That’s not going to happen this season. The Irish lose key pieces like LB Manti Te’o, RBs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood and TE Tyler Eifert. The schedule features 11 games against teams who qualified for bowl games in 2012.

No. 12 Oklahoma State

The Buzz: The Cowboys took a slight dip from 2011 to 2012, but expect this team to be loaded with talent especially on offense. Mike Gundy used four different quarterbacks last season thanks to injuries and picking a starter will be crucial especially with a new offensive coordinator.

No. 13 Louisville

The Buzz: Hot off their upset win in the Sugar Bowl, Louisville should be expected to do bigger and better things in 2013 especially with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. The receivers are young and talented while the backs share the work load. The schedule features several challenges, but is very manageable. 

No. 14 Texas A&M

The Buzz: Texas A&M will not sneak up on anyone this season. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will lead the offense again, but will be without his coordinator Kliff Kingsbury who left to take the head coaching job at Texas Tech.

No. 15 Florida State

The Buzz: The coaching staff took some major loses, but none as big as losing defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who left for the head coaching job at Kentucky. Former Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt will take over the defensive coaching duties. EJ Manuel departs leaving head coach Jimbo Fisher to find a suitable replacement from a bevy of talented players.

No. 16 TCU

The Buzz: The first season in the Big 12 wasn’t exactly a banner year, but when you consider that TCU essentially played the whole season with a freshman quarterback, it wasn’t too bad. The development of Trevone Boykin will be crucial for the Horned Frogs success in 2013. The offense struggled at times to score points which is a concern in a league that has become synonymous with offense.

No. 17 UCLA

The Buzz: When you look back at the Bruins in 2012, it was a season of contradiction. UCLA accomplished some major goals: defeating rival USC and winning the Pac-12 South division title. However, the team lost its final three games including an embarrassing loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. The good news is Brett Hundley is back at quarterback and the team is loaded with talent. 

No. 18 Nebraska

The Buzz: After giving up 115 points in its final two games, the Huskers have to be asking themselves what happened? The defense will need to find those answers quick if Nebraska expects to compete for another Big Ten championship. The offense returns seven starters including quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Ameer Abdullah.  

No. 19 Oregon State

The Buzz: Things appear to be looking up for Oregon State. On the heels of a nine-win season, the Beavers have a lot to look forward to in 2013. The quarterback situation will be the key with Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz battling for the starting nod. Storm Woods will handle the rushing duties with an offensive line that remains almost intact. The defense loses at least five players and will need a boost.

No. 20 Texas

The Buzz: Offense has been a concern for the Longhorns over the past couple of seasons. In 2013, that won’t change. The program loses offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and will need to figure out the quarterback situation with David Ash and Case McCoy. The run game is strong with Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray while the defense could be the strength of this team once again.

No. 21 Boise State

The Buzz: Boise State managed an 11-win season despite losing quarterback Kellen Moore last season. That’s because Chris Petersen put together one of the best defenses in the country. Unfortunately, the Broncos lose at least six starters from that squad. That means the offense will need to pick up the slack.

No. 22 Michigan

The Buzz: For the first time since 2010, Denard Robinson won’t be leading the Wolverines offense. Instead, that honor will fall on Devin Gardner, who filled in for the injured Robinson during the final few weeks of 2012. His performance showed a lot of promise for Michigan’s offense in 2013. Once again, the schedule is tough with match-ups against Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State.

No. 23 Wisconsin

The Buzz: No program has seen more turnover than Wisconsin which lost its head coach and several key assistant coaches. Former Utah State coach Gary Andersen will take over and will have several big decisions to consider with the loss of quarterback Curt Phillips and running back Montee Ball on offense. The Badgers will be looking for their fourth straight Big Ten title.

No. 24 Baylor

The Buzz: If Art Briles and the Baylor faithful hope for another exciting run, they will need a monster performance out of running back Lache Seastruck, who has already indicated that he is gunning for the Heisman Trophy. The biggest questions surrounding this team will be who replaces Nick Florence at quarterback in 2013.

No. 25 USC

The Buzz: This could be a make-or-break season for Lane Kiffin at USC. The Trojans are looking to recover from a disappointing 2012 season and will have several chances in 2013 including a new defensive coordinator and a new quarterback. Matt Barkley is gone and that opens the door for Max Wittek, who saw limited action last season.

mmurschel@tribune.com

 

Don't forget about Matt's Murschel's weekly mail bag. If you have any college football questions you would like answered or just issues or players you would like his thoughts on please email him at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.comFollow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.