Thursday, August 1, 2013
Poll: Texas A&M ranked 6th, UT ranked 15th, TCU ranked 20th
Alabama is No. 1.
Preseason football poll. Outlook by USA TODAY Sports' Harry Hawkings.
1. Alabama (13-1)
Points: 1,545 (58 first-place votes). Previous ranking: 1. Outlook: Tide lost several starters but still look poised to make a run at another national title. QB AJ McCarron returns for his third season as the starter. Also returning on offense are RB T.J. Yeldon, who had more than 1,100 yards last season; WR Amari Cooper, who caught the game-winning touchdown in the SEC title game; and mountainous OT Cyrus Kouandjio. LBs Trey DePriest, C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard also return. To top it off, Alabama has another recruiting class ranked best in the country. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Virginia Tech in Atlanta (ESPN, 5:30).
2. Ohio State (12-0)
Points: 1,427 (3). Previous ranking: not ranked. Outlook: The Buckeyes return 14 starters, including nine on offense. Junior QB Braxton Miller is an early Heisman hopeful after throwing for 2,039 yards with 15 touchdowns and running for 1,271 yards and 13 scores. The team enters camp knowing top RB Carlos Hyde will miss at least three games because of recent legal troubles. All-Big Ten CB Bradley Roby is out indefinitely for the same reason. The defense lost three players picked in the NFL draft but still has a core of upperclassman starters, including safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Buffalo (ESPN2, noon).
3. Oregon (12-1)
Points: 1,397. Previous ranking: 2. Outlook: The Ducks lost coach Chip Kelly to the NFL but avoided severe NCAA sanctions from a lengthy investigation into recruiting violations. Kelly's offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich, was promoted to his first head coaching job. He is well-versed in the offense that the Ducks' roster is built to play. That should help ease the transition. The Ducks have their electric running back, De'Anthony Thomas, back for another round as well as starting QB Marcus Mariota. LB Boseko Lokombo and S Brian Jackson lead the defense. First-team ALL-USA RB Thomas Tyner heads the recruiting class. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Nicholls State (Fox Sports 1, 4).
4. Stanford (12-2)
Points: 1,262. Previous ranking: 6. Outlook: Stanford returns 17 of 22 starters, 10 on defense, which means a 3-4 unit loaded with seniors should once again be one of the best in the country in the explosive Pac-12. Still, two of the starters the Cardinal lost were their starting running back and a starting receiver. QB Kevin Hogan came on to start the final five games, completing 72(PERCENT) of his passes and leading the Cardinal to wins against then-unbeaten Oregon and against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Opens: Sept. 7 vs. San Jose State (Pac-12, 11).
5. Georgia (12-2)
Points:1,250. Previous ranking: 4. Outlook: The Bulldogs will again be a force after coming up a handful of yards shy of the BCS title game in 2012. Another SEC powerhouse with a star veteran quarterback, the Bulldogs will use Aaron Murray to power their offense. He threw foralmost 3,900 yards last season with 36 touchdowns and only 10 picks. However, the Dawgs lost four defensive standouts in LBs Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, S Shawn Williams and DL John Jenkins. CB Shaq Wiggins heads the recruiting class. Opens: Aug. 31 at No. 8 Clemson (ABC, 8).
6. Texas A&M (11-2)
Points:1,215 (1). Previous ranking: 5. Outlook: What can Johnny Manziel do for an encore that comes after a tumultuous offseason? The Heisman Trophy winner had a record-setting redshirt freshman season and will again be the centerpiece of Kevin Sumlin's offense for a team with national title aspirations. Star LT Luke Joeckel is gone, but the O-line does have three starters back. Also gone is offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. Still, the Aggies return a lot of their offensive talent around Manziel, including RB Ben Malena and WR Mike Evans. The secondary is a strength, although its depth could be tested with projected starters Floyd Raven and Deshazor Everett still on suspension for offseason arrests. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Rice (ESPN, noon).
7. South Carolina (11-2)
Points: 1,136. Previous ranking: 7. Outlook: The Gamecocks are back with many of the players that led them to the program's best-ever final ranking. Dual-threat QB Connor Shaw returns after a season that saw him throw for 1,956 yards and 17 touchdowns with only seven interceptions despite battling assorted injuries. Coach Steve Spurrier, however, has said Shaw will share time with Dylan Thompson, who filled in capably when Shaw was hurt. Bruce Ellington, the top receiver last season, is also back. The defense has holes at linebacker and returns only five starters, but one is DE Jadeveon Clowney, an early Heisman favorite. Opens: Aug. 29 vs. North Carolina (ESPN, 6).
8. Clemson (11-2)
Points: 1,047. Previous ranking: 9. Outlook: After a win against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Clemson added vast amounts of confidence to a group that has the potential for a run at a national championship if everything clicks. The offense, led by senior QB Tajh Boyd, is one of the nation's best, and Boyd is complemented by WR Sammy Watkins and a deep, experienced offensive line. The defense could have some consistency issues, but will be aided by the return of seven starters and the addition of five-star CB recruit Mackensie Alexander. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. No. 5 Georgia (ABC, 8).
9. Louisville (11-2)
Points: 1,010. Previous ranking: 13. Outlook: Coach Charlie Strong has the Cardinals poised for another BCS game following a season capped by a Sugar Bowl win vs. Florida. What can Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater do for an encore? He threw for 3,718 yards and 27 TDs last season and has a strong supporting cast, such as WR DeVante Parker, the big-play threat, and Damian Copeland in the slot. Defense will also be strong with a roster that includes 12 who have started at some point in their careers. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. Ohio (ESPN, 3:30).
10. Florida (11-2)
Points: 930. Previous ranking: 10. Outlook: The Gators lost three of the best players on their defense to the NFL in DT Sharrif Floyd, LB Jon Bostic and S Matt Elam; they also lost leading rusher Mike Gillislee. That means the offense rests with QB Jeff Driskel, who was the starter last season and is recovering from an emergency appendectomy this week. There is help on the way, though, in second-team ALL-USA RB Kelvin Taylor and first-team ALL-USA DB Vernon Hargreaves III. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Toledo.
11. Notre Dame (12-1)
Points: 872. Previous ranking: 3. Outlook: A storybook season came crashing down in January, when the Irish were knocked around by Alabama in the BCS title game and then had star LB Manti Te'o engulfed in a scandal about a fake girlfriend. Te'o is gone, as is star TE Tyler Eifert and QB Everett Golson (suspended for an academic issue). That will hurt the offense, though senior Tommy Rees has proved capable under center. NT Louis Nix III returns to Brian Kelly's front seven. Three five-star players -- RB Greg Bryant, DB Max Redfield and LB Jaylon Smith -- headline the recruiting class. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Temple (NBC, 3:30).
12. Florida State (12-2)
Points: 844. Previous ranking: 8. Outlook: The Seminoles lost a lot following a season that saw them win the ACC and Orange Bowl. Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops is gone, as are starting QB EJ Manuel, OT Menelik Watson and leading rusher Chris Thompson. The defense also lost a lot, mainly CB Xavier Rhodes and DE Bjoern Werner. So what's left? Jameis Winston, a redshirt freshman, wowed everyone in the spring as he bid to take over for Manuel. They do return WR Rashad Greene, who had six TD catches last season, as well as LB Christian Jones and CB Nick Waisome. A recruiting class that includes LB Matthew Thomas, No. 6 overall on the ESPN 300, and CB Jalen Ramsey, who is No. 14, will help on defense. Opens: Sept. 2 at Pittsburgh (ESPN, 8).
13. LSU (10-3)
Points: 797. Previous ranking: 12. Outlook: The Tigers probably lost more talent in the NFL draft than Alabama, and that is saying something. But with Les Miles at the helm, LSU, like seemingly every top SEC school, has a stockpile of young talent. On offense, QB Zach Mettenberger returns. Leading rusher Jeremy Hill is a question mark because of suspension, but backup Alfred Blue is back after being injured last season. DT Anthony Johnson leads a relatively inexperienced defense. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. No. 20 TCU in Arlington, Texas (ESPN, 9).
14. Oklahoma State (8-5)
Points: 726. Previous ranking: not ranked. Outlook: QB Clint Chelf, who started the final five games of last season and threw for 1,588 yards and 15 scores against six interceptions, goes in to camp as the presumed starter. In addition, electric RB Jeremy Smith is ready to take over following a season in which he averaged 5.3 yards a carry and scored eight times. The Cowboys also have a lot of talent at receiver, led by Josh Stewart, who had 1,210 yards last season. The question mark for coach Mike Gundy is the defense, which is young. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Mississippi State in Houston (ABC, 3:30).
15. Texas (9-4)
Points: 622. Previous ranking: 18. Outlook: Coach Mack Brown welcomes back 19 starters. That includes QB David Ash, who will be the head man behind center for the second consecutive season following a campaign in which he threw for 2,699 yards and 19 TDs against eight picks. On defense, replacing stars Kenny Vaccaro and Alex Okafor will be tough, but the Longhorns have DE Jackson Jeffcoat and LB Jordan Hicks, who received a medical redshirt after missing most of 2012 with a hip injury. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. New Mexico State (Longhorn, 8).
16. Oklahoma (10-3)
Points: 620. Previous ranking: 15. Outlook: OU will have a new quarterback, likely junior Blake Bell, who is known as a runner but will need to air it out with a deep and experienced receiving corps. The health of RB Damien Williams, who rushed for 946 yards and 11 scores last season, is key as well. The defense was allowed 189 points in the last five games, so it will need to dig in its heels this season despite worries about depth in the front seven. LB Corey Nelson and CB Aaron Colvin are the big names. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Louisiana-Monroe.
17. Michigan (8-5)
Points: 589. Previous ranking: not ranked. Outlook: QB Denard Robinson is gone, and he takes with him more than 2,500 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns. The "backup" quarterback, Devin Gardner, returns, though, and he threw for 1,200 yards and 11 TDs against only five picks. Top RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (recovering from a broken leg suffered in November) and WR Jeremy Gallon return alongside three other offensive starters and six defensive starters. However, LB Jake Ryan will miss at least the first month of games as he continues to recover from a spring knee injury. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Central Michigan (BTN, 3:30).
18. Nebraska (10-4)
Points: 426. Previous ranking: 23. Outlook: The Cornhuskers lost eight starters on defense. But the offense returns seven starters, including dual-threat QB Taylor Martinez (he rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year with 10 TDs), a 1,000-yard running back in Ameer Abdullah, and talented receivers headlined by Kenny Bell. The defense is more inexperienced, though CB Ciante Evans is a talent. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Wyoming (BTN, 8).
19. Boise State (11-2)
Points: 420. Previous ranking: 14. Outlook: Broncos only bring back 12 starters but have players on both sides of the ball with experience. QB Joe Southwick threw for 2,730 yards last season in his first year as starter. The defense lost six starters and probably will struggle early. Opens: Aug. 31 at Washington (Fox Sports 1, 10).
20. TCU (7-6)
Points: 400. Previous ranking: not ranked. Outlook: A less-than-stellar 2012 was a perfect storm of youth, key injuries and adversity. QB Casey Pachall was the media's preseason pick to be all-Big 12, but coach Gary Patterson says he still has to beat out Trevone Boykin for the starting spot. Pachall had 10 TD passes in the first four games before he missed the rest of the season in the wake of a DWI arrest, opening the door for Boykin. TCU also landed RB Aaron Green in a transfer from Nebraska. The defense returns every starter in the secondary, including All-America CB Jason Verrett, and has a star up front in DE Devonte Fields (18.5 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks). Opens: Aug. 31 vs. No. 13 LSU in Arlington, Texas (ESPN, 9).
21. UCLA (9-5)
Points: 202. Previous ranking: not ranked. Outlook: Under first-year coach Jim Mora the Bruins came within three points of beating Stanford for the Pac-12 title in 2012. QB Brett Hundley leads the Bruins following a redshirt freshman season in which he threw for 3,745 yards and 29 TDs despite being sacked 52 times. He'll need a new chief running threat as Johnathan Franklin is gone. Top receiver Shaq Evans (60 catches) returns. The defense gets back DE Cassius Marsh and LB Anthony Barr (13.5 sacks), but it lost every starter in the secondary. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Nevada (Pac-12, 10).
22. Northwestern (10-3)
Points: 186. Previous ranking: 16. Outlook: RB Venric Mark rushed for 1,366 yards last season while quarterback Kain Colter, in a split role, threw for 872 yards, eight touchdowns and just four interceptions. With most of the main players back, the offense should improve again. DE Tyler Scott, who tied for the conference lead in sacks a year ago, and S Ibraheim Campbell head a relatively inexperienced defense. Opens: Aug. 31 at California (ESPN2, 10:30).
23. Wisconsin (8--6)
Points: 172. Previous ranking: not ranked. Outlook: The Badgers will have to cope with the loss of Montee Ball, who ran for 1,830 yards last season along with 22 touchdowns. Gary Andersen is the new coach, but there is a lot of talent returning at the skill positions. Leading receiver Jared Abbrederis returns following an 837-yard season and James White, Ball's backup last year,rushed for 806 yards and 12 scores in 2012. The Badgers should rely on their rushing game again this season but need to pick a quarterback from among Curt Phillips, Joel Stave and juco transfer Tanner McEvoy. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Massachusetts (BTN, noon).
24. Southern California (7-6)
Points: 165. Previous ranking: not ranked. Outlook: The Trojans entered 2012 with sky-high expectations and closed with five losses in their last six games. QB Matt Barkley is gone, but the leading rusher and receiver -- Silas Redd and Marqise Lee -- are back and probably will help take some stress off of Cody Kessler, who is expected to take over for Barkley. Lee is an early Heisman contender and caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. Redd rushed for 905 yards and nine touchdowns last year. There is talent on defense as well and a predictably strong recruiting class, led by DB Su'a Cravens, the USA TODAY Sports ALL-USA high school defensive player of the year. Opens: Aug. 29 at Hawaii (CBS Sports Net, 11).
25. Oregon State (9-4)
Points: 135. Previous ranking: 19. Outlook: Coming off an Alamo Bowl loss to Texas, the Beavers are hoping for further growth. Gone is WR Markus Wheaton (91 catches), but Oregon State still has talent on offense. That starts with two quarterbacks who split time last year, senior Cody Vaz (1,480 yards and 11 TDs in five starts in 2012) and redshirt junior Sean Mannion (2,446 and 15 in eight starts). RB Storm Woods, who had 13 TDs last year, returns as well. A defense that was 30th overall in the nation lost star CB Jordan Poyer but welcomes back standout DE Scott Crichton (17.5 tackles for loss, including nine sacks) and LB Michael Doctor. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Eastern Washington (Pac-12, 6).
Others receiving votes: Kansas State (11-2) 113; Miami (Fla.) (7-5) 101; Michigan State (7-6) 89; Baylor (8-5) 80; Virginia Tech (7-6) 65; Fresno State (9-4) 62; Arizona State (8-5) 51; Mississippi (7-6) 32; Vanderbilt (9-4) 29; Utah State (11-2) 23; Brigham Young (8-5) 20; North Carolina (8-4) 19; Northern Illinois (12-2) 19; Tulsa (11-3) 9; Ohio (9-4) 8; San Jose State (11-2) 8; Arizona (8-5) 5; Cincinnati (10-3) 3; East Carolina (8-5) 3; Kent State (11-3) 3; Mississippi State (8-5) 3; Washington (7-6) 3; Central Florida (10-4) 2; Arkansas (4-8) 1; Arkansas State (10-3) 1; Rutgers (9-4) 1; Tennessee (5-7) 1; Toledo (9-4) 1.The USA TODAY Sports' Board of Coaches is made up of 62 head coaches at Bowl Subdivision schools. All are members of the American Football Coaches Association. The board for the 2013 season: David Bailiff, Rice; Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech; Tim Beckman, Illinois; Bret Bielema, Arkansas; Bill Blankenship, Tulsa; Terry Bowden, Akron; Art Briles, Baylor; Troy Calhoun, Air Force; Matt Campbell, Toledo; Rod Carey, Northern Illinois; Dave Christensen, Wyoming; Dave Clawson, Bowling Green; Larry Coker, Texas-San Antonio; David Cutcliffe, Duke; Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State; Ron English, Eastern Michigan; Larry Fedora, North Carolina; Jimbo Fisher, Florida State; Kyle Flood, Rutgers; Dennis Franchione, TexasState; James Franklin, Vanderbilt; Al Golden, Miami (Fla.); Todd Graham, Arizona State; Jim Grobe, Wake Forest; Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State; Bryan Harsin, Arkansas State; Bobby Hauck, UNLV; Mark Helfrich, Oregon; Brady Hoke, Michigan; Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia; Doc Holliday, Marshall; Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette; Curtis Johnson, Tulane; Joey Jones, South Alabama; June Jones, Southern Methodist; Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; Jerry Kill, Minnesota; Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech; Mike Leach, Washington State; Rocky Long, San Diego State; Dan McCarney, North Texas; Bronco Mendenhall, Brigham Young; Urban Meyer, Ohio State; Les Miles, LSU; Ken Niumatalolo, Na vy; George O'Leary, Central Florida; Bo Pelini, Nebraska; Chris Petersen, Boise State; Mark Richt, Georgia; Mike Riley, Oregon State; Rich Rodriguez, Arizona; Nick Saban, Alabama; Steve Spurrier, South Carolina; Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee; Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; Charlie Strong, Louisville; Dabo Swinney, Clemson; Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M; Don Treadwell, Miami (Ohio); Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati; Kyle Whittingham, Utah. AFCA policy bars schools under major NCAA or conference sanctions from receiving