A Lot Of Sports Talk’s Preseason Top 25

It’s back to school…and back to college football! The students of E C Brice Elementary School in Mt. Pleasant, TX and educator Jillian Cooper (c., with ball cap) are ready – and hoping – for something special on the gridiron in Austin.

As of this moment – which finds me staring into this empty white Internet expanse as much as typing sensical sports jargon into it – there are exactly 75 hours left until the first scheduled kickoff of the 2013 college football season.  And as much as you are excited about North Carolina playing at South Carolina at 6 PM Eastern on Thursday evening, you would be just as geeked up if the official first game of the college season you got to intake was Liberty at Kent State, which kicks off at the same time.  Admit it.

Tar Heels or Flames, Gamecocks or Golden Flashes, we are just excited to hear those mascots once again in relation to the gridiron.  Even more, the release of preseason media and coaches polls only stoke the fires and passion of diehard college football fans even more.  A Lot Of Sports Talk now gives you another outlet to let those passions (and other things) out as we release our preseason Top 25 poll during college football kickoff week.

We were privileged to gather an esteemed group of broadcasters, reporters and fans – all with great credentials – to combine their own polls (six polls were used) and their own opinions to create our amalgamation, including: James Bates (Fox Sports 1), Lisa Horne (writer/on-air personality, Bleacher Report), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), T.J. Basalla (super fan, marketing professional, WJPZ Alumni Association President), Matty J. (, Adesina Koiki (A Lot Of Sports Talk reporter) and an anonymous staff member at a Division I-FBS school.  Jillian Cooper (elementary school teacher at E C Brice Elementary School in Mt. Pleasant, TX) also contributed to the comments section of our poll, as well as provided us the unbelievably adorable picture above (adorable, as long as A&M or Oklahoma fans are not taking in all that burnt orange into their eyes).

So without further jibber-jabber, here is A Lot Of Sports Talk‘s Preseason College Football Top 25.



Alabama   (148 points, 5 first-place votes)

Why they will win their third consecutive BCS title: Nick Saban.  He does such a great job at being a teacher and relating with the student-athletes of this generation and is a great football mind (especially coming from the Bill Belichick umbrella).  They don’t play Georgia, Florida nor South Carolina (at least until the SEC Championship Game, if ‘Bama makes it there).

Why they won’t win their third consecutive BCS title: all good things must come to an end, right?  Losing Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack off the O-line hurts.  Despite their depth, you don’t know what you have along the front line unless you get into live action.  (James Bates)



Oregon   (136*, 1 first-place vote)

What the Ducks have built in Eugene on the gridiron has been nothing short of fantastic and revolutionary.  But under new head coach Mark Helfrich, there should be some caution—this is his first head coaching gig. The Ducks will be very good and fast this year but how much will Chip Kelly’s play-calling be missed?  (Lisa Horne)



Ohio State   (136*)

Meyer (l.) and Miller would be all smiles once again if OSU pulls off another unblemished regular season (Getty Images)

A incredibly talented team with a Heisman favorite in QB Braxton Miller. That said, given their weak schedule, the Buckeyes have ZERO margin for error if they want to play for the national title. Games at home against Wisconsin and at Northwestern and Michigan will determine whether or not Urban Meyer’s team will play for it all.   (T.J. Basalla)



Stanford   (135)

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Alabama of the West Coast: tough, nasty and GOOD!  The Cardinal have to replace running back Stepfan Taylor but the rest of the up-for-grabs positions will just reload. Look for Tyler Gaffney and a kid named Barry J. Sanders —yes, he is the son of that Barry Sanders—to turn some heads in the backfield before too long.  (Lisa)

[More Stanford: Interview with Cardinal defensive end Ben Gardner]



South Carolina   (116)

The Gamecocks lose workhorse RB Marcus Lattimore, center T.J. Johnson (a starter in all 53 games of his career) and WR Ace Sanders (11 TD in ’12) on offense, and playmaking safety D.J. Swearinger of defense.  That’s a lot of leaders to lose.  Jadeveon Clowney will probably see constant double-teaming, but he’s so good, that might not even matter and he’ll still dominate.  We know the Ol’ Ball Coach has tricks up his sleeve, so another 11-win season (or better) is not out the question.  (James)



Georgia   (114)

The offense returns almost everyone of note, but losing seven starters on defense would worry me if I’m a Georgia fan.  That, and the opening stretch of games (at Clemson, vs. South Carolina & vs. LSU all before end of September).  Given that, I think the world of QB Aaron Murray.  He can drop back and eat you up, and Georgia may need to win a few shootouts this year…and they have the gunslinger to do just that.  (James)



Clemson   (109)

Last season was the first in recent memory where Clemson didn’t have at least one head-scratching loss, and it was capped off by a momentum-building Chick-Fil-A Bowl win vs. LSU.  The combination of QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins and off. coordinator Chad Morris have worked magic in two years together. Opening vs. Georgia and ending at South Carolina (with FSU sandwiched in) is tough, but avoiding the trap-game defeat might yet be even trickier.  (Adesina Koiki)



Texas A&M   (107)

I’m such a big Kevin Sumlin fan, going back to his days at the University of Houston.  But regardless of whether Johnny Manziel is out on the field or not, this could be a surprise team on the disappointing end, especially with the defense being so pedestrian.  I’m far from the only person uttering the same sentiments, so that could be motivation for the Aggies, and a motivated Manziel could be just as tough to stop in 2013 than in his Heisman-winning campaign last year.  (James, Adesina)



Louisville   (104)

The Cardinals’ schedule is softer than a bowl of oatmeal. With four road trips to Kentucky, South Florida, UConn and Cincinnati, they should be 12-0.  (Lisa)

This is the Tulane team of 1998 reincarnated: a stud quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater (like Shaun King), an explosive offense and an up-and-coming star in the coaching ranks in Charlie Strong (like Tommy Bowden AND Rich Rodriguez for the Green Wave in ’98).  And like Tulane, a 12-0 record may likely still land them out of the BCS title game mix.  (Adesina)



Florida State   (83)

Highly-touted QB Jameis Winston was so good in the spring game that holdover Clint Trickett – the main competitor to Winston in replacing EJ Manuel – saw the writing on the wall and transferred.  Word is that Winston reminds many people of 1993 Heisman winner Charlie Ward.  That’s a great sign, especially since he could have been compared to Chris Rix or Marcus Outzen.  (Adesina)

Maybe if pundits project the Seminoles in the lower half of the Top 10 rankings, they will meet the yearly BCS Championship game expectations. You’re welcome, Florida State.  (Lisa)



Oklahoma State   (82)

In a supposed down period in the Big 12, Oklahoma State finds itself as the team to beat.  The schedule is perfect for a championship run. It’s not too difficult but contains enough meat to impress pollsters.  The defense worries me, however, and at last check, the offenses in the Big 12 haven’t gotten any less explosive.  (Lisa)



LSU   (80)

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and Nick Saban and Les Miles are a perfect example in the SEC West: two different guys, but they both get their players to respond.  No one is really talking about LSU going into this season, and that could be a scary thing for the rest of the league.  The jury is on QB Zach Metterberger, though, and whether we know how good he really is and if he’s the guy that can lead you home.   (James)



Florida   (77)

If sophomore RB Matt Jones is able to fully recover from his viral infection, he’s the difference-maker this offense needs.  QB Jeff Driskel, along with his running ability, can make more plays with his arm than he’s given credit for, but do the Gators have somebody that can scare teams down the field at wide receiver? Given all the receivers the program has produced over the years, that’s an odd question to have to ponder about.  (James)



TCU   (66)

The Horned Frogs are back to their old tricks, and by that, I mean being loaded with a menacing defense under Gary Patterson (and defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas).  The return of quarterback Casey Pachall to the program after a rehab stint following his DWI arrest in October ensures the offensive production has a good chance to complement the defense’s parsimony.  A win over LSU in the opener, and a special season could germinate.  (Adesina)



Notre Dame   (60)

Fix the quarterback situation and things look good. Beat Arizona State, Stanford and USC and the Irish may punch their ticket into a second-straight title game.  (Lisa)

For everyone shouting “NOTRE DAME’S BACK!,” please have a seat. Most people remember Notre Dame getting boat raced by Alabama, but this team should have lost to Stanford and Pitt (kickers y’all) and could have lost to BYU. ND can’t catch all the breaks again this season. The defense is very solid, but the offense will face a lot of issues without Everett Golson this season.  (T.J.)



Texas   (56)

Those of us that bleed burnt orange believe every year, on every Saturday, we will win the game. David Ash is looking better than ever after claiming the QB job as his own. Hopefully RB Johnathan Gray will find gaps and hit the endzone consistently. The defense must improve, and with stud defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat back and healthy, our defense will be complete – I hope – with talented corners Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom.  Hook ’em!  (Jillian)



Michigan   (54)

Brady Hoke’s boys are likely a year away from truly being back on a national level. Still, this team will see a complete upgrade on the offensive side of the ball with Devin Gardner at QB instead of Denard Robinson. If they can beat Notre Dame at home in week two, the odds are very good that Big Blue will be undefeated entering a brutal November (@ Michigan State, vs. Nebraska, @ Northwestern, @ Iowa, vs. Ohio State).  (T.J.)



Oklahoma   (46)

The offense is loaded, but the keys to it have been handed to redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight – a dual-threat QB – instead of “The Belldozer,” Blake Bell. The defense is an even bigger question mark, and that has to irk head coach Bob Stoops, given his defensive pedigree. The Sooners play Notre Dame on the road to go along with their Big 12 schedule.  A lot of talent, but a lot of unknowns.  (Lisa)



Can Joe Southwick be the next great Boise State QB? (Getty Images)


Boise State   (38)

Boise State should always be ranked in the Top 25—yes, even though it only returns nine starters—as long as Chris Petersen is coaching the team. We’ll know everything we need to know about the Broncos when they open the season at Washington.  (Lisa)



Miami   (37)

The Hurricanes have self-sanctioned themselves for two consecutive years, and the players are chomping at the bit to play with something on the line at the end of the year. In 2013, they will be bowling under highly-underrated quarterback Stephen Morris and stud running back Duke Johnson.  (Lisa)



UCLA   (33)

This is definitely an up-and-coming program under Jim Mora, and QB Brett Hundley was a revelation in 2012, but the Bruins’ schedule may do them in. They play at Nebraska on Sept. 14 and also play back-to-back road games at Stanford and Oregon.  Oh, and they had a devil of a time stopping the run last season, especially on the edges. Not a good sign when playing each of the teams mentioned earlier.  (Lisa)



Wisconsin   (21*)

For a team that has won three consecutive Big Ten titles, Wisconsin sure is overlooked. Gary Andersen has a lot going for him in his first year on the sidelines in Madison, including the conference’s best running back in James White and best linebacker in Chris Borland. An unsettled QB situation could likely keep the Badgers from four straight trips to Pasadena, however.  (T.J.)



Oregon State   (21*)

Mike Riley is the man.  He has probably gotten the most out of his teams in the Pac-12/10/8 than any coach in recent memory in the conference.  A nine-win season last year after going into it with many questions might have been his best coaching job yet in Corvallis.  No matter who is at quarterback this season (Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz), the Beavers will be a tough out all season.  (Lisa, Adesina)



Northwestern   (19)

The Wildcats were one blown double-digit lead at home vs. Nebraska and one miracle Michigan catch away from playing in Indianapolis for the conference title in 2012. Pat Fitzgerald consistently does more with less, but this year’s team has the most talent he’s ever had in Evanston (17 returning starters, an All-America candidate in RB Venric Mark). The one problem? The Legends Division is also stacked this season.  (T.J.)



USC   (17)

Two issues need to be resolved: finding a starting quarterback and getting better coverage from the cornerbacks. One will get resolved, one is still an unknown. If the defensive backs step up, USC will be very dangerous.  (Lisa)

Others receiving votes:

Nebraska (16 points), Baylor (13), Arizona State (12), Michigan State (5), Ole Miss (4), Kansas State (3), Fresno State (1), Memphis (1)

* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)

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