As another season comes to a close in an exciting chapter of college football history, it now is time to reflect and rank the Top 25 in the country now that everyone has finished their season. Alabama completely thrashed the Fighting Irish in Miami last evening to silence the doubters and cement themselves as a dynasty that may continue its dominance in 2013-2014. The SEC has won the past seven national championships, leaving the rest of the country playing catch up.
1. Alabama 13-1 (7-1 SEC)
Alabama doesn't rebuild, they reload. Monday night's championship game was "supposed" to be much better than the final score indicated, but the Crimson Tide were in control at the opening kickoff. Quarterback AJ McCarron is coming back next year for his senior season, and if TJ Yeldon and Eddie Lacy do the same, they could be the favorites again next year. They only had nine returning starters this year, and still were dominant for the majority of their season. Alabama also has arguably the best collegiate football coach in Nick Saban, who is threatening Bear Bryant's six national championships and is a mastermind in championship football games. They play conference rival Texas A&M in the second week of the 2013 season in what could very well have national championship implications. The countdown to September in College Station, TX has started.
2. Ohio State 12-0 (8-0 Big Ten)
They may have been suspended from postseason play, but the Buckeyes had a surprising year under first year head coach Urban Meyer. Most of college football figured that Meyer would have the Buckeyes back on track within 2 or 3 years, but an undefeated season in his first year in Columbus was amazing. Braxton Miller continued to improve all season long and he lead his team back from some close football games numerous times throughout the season. Had Ohio State been available for postseason play, they most likely would've been in the national championship game against Notre Dame which is hard to think about as we lament on how badly they were beaten by the Crimson Tide. With the majority of the team back for next year including Miller, the Buckeyes could very well threaten for another undefeated season in an up and down Big Ten Conference.
3. Oregon Ducks 12-1 (8-1 Pac-12)
Oregon surprisingly lost to a tough Stanford Cardinal team earlier in the year, but rebounded nicely with a dominant season final win over conference rival Oregon State. Besides Nick Saban, Chip Kelly may be the hottest coach in college football right now. He spurned offers to leave Oregon for the NFL, and will be back in Eugene for the foreseeable future. The Ducks featured probably the fastest and most exciting offense in the country this year, headlined by Kenjon Barner, Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas. They put a whooping on Big 12 winner Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl 35-17, and will be favorites to hoist the crystal ball in 2014.
4. Notre Dame 12-1
The Fighting Irish had a remarkable season, and should keep their heads held high in the coming weeks after a brutal loss in the BCS National Championship Game. Heading into the season Notre Dame wasn't even in the Top 25 rankings, and steadily moved their way up all the way to number one by December. Key wins over Michigan State, Oklahoma, Stanford and preseason #1 favorite USC gave the Fighting Irish the push they needed to play for a national championship for the first time in over 20 years. Headlined by defensive captain Manti Te'o, they played exemplary defense and only allowed 12.8 points per game heading into Monday's matchup with Alabama. They will grow from their postseason loss, and are still young in many key areas both on offense and defense.
5. Stanford Cardinal 12-2 (8-1 Pac-12)
Stanford continues its unforeseen run of dominance in the Pac-12, even after former head coach Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL. David Shaw, Harbaugh's assistant before he left for the 49ers, has done an amazing job with the team he inherited and has the Cardinal set for another great year in 2013. Behind a stifling defense and an old school ground and pound offense, the Cardinal went on to win the Pac-12 as well as the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin. Running back Stepfan Taylor will be a Heisman worthy candidate heading into next season, and quarterback Kevin Hogan will be a name to watch in the Pac-12.
6. Texas A&M 11-2 (6-2 SEC)
Behind freshman sensation Johnny Manziel, the Aggies were one of the surprising headliner's in an exciting year in the SEC. They were recently removed from the Big 12 with a new head coach (Kevin Sumlin), and figured to be a middle of the pack football team that maybe would hover around .500. But Sumlin found a diamond in the rough in Manziel, and the freshman put up record setting numbers on the way to his Heisman trophy run. Manziel, aptly named "Johnny Football", put up a Cotton Bowl record 516 all purpose yards against Oklahoma as they ran away with a 41-13 victory to seal up a exciting and successful season. College Station will get to see some great football early in the 2013 season as the Crimson Tide will be coming to town in the 2nd week of September. With another full year of spring practice and summer workouts under his belt, its scary to think what Manziel will be capable of in his sophomore campaign.
7. Georgia Bulldogs 12-2 (7-1 SEC)
In the toughest conference in college football, the Bulldogs never backed down after getting handled by South Carolina in October 35-7. They rattled off six more wins after that to secure a spot in the SEC Conference championship game before losing a close one 32-28 to eventual national champions Alabama. Aaron Murray is arguably the best pocket passer in the conference, and scorched secondaries in 2012 for 36 touchdown passes and 3,900 yards. They rebounded from their conference championship loss by beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl. The Bulldogs will lose defensive captain Jarvis Jones to the NFL Draft, but if Murray decides to stay for one more year they could be a contender once again in 2013.
8. South Carolina 11-2 (6-2 SEC)
The Gamecocks exploded onto the national scene when they put a 35-7 drubbing on the Bulldogs at home, but quickly fell back to earth with two straight losses to LSU and Florida with the latter an embarrassing 44-11 loss. In their October 27th win over Tennessee they lost their sensational running back Marcus Lattimore, who will be remembered in college football lore as a back with so much promise, but was marred by freak injuries to his knees. He is on his way to the NFL after rehabbing and getting healthy, but Spurrier will have plenty of talent back for the 2013 campaign that should see the Gamecocks competing once again for a conference championship. Freak defensive end Jadaveon Clowney could've opted for the draft in April and been an easy top five pick for any NFL team lucky enough to grab him, but he'll be back for his junior year.
9. Clemson Tigers 11-2 (7-1 ACC)
The highest ranked ACC team again this year, the Tigers are the East coast version of the Oregon Ducks offensively. Behind surefire Heisman contender Tahj Boyd, the Tigers averaged 41 points per game and were in title contention before a heartbreaking loss to conference foe Florida State in late September. They could never quite climb back into the polls with a weak schedule, but ended their season nicely with a win over Les Miles and LSU in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl 25-24. DeAndre Hopkins has stepped in nicely as a secondary option to his counterpart Sammy Watkins, who was sidelined by non-football issues early in the year. Even though running back Andre Ellington is gone, the Tigers should be the consensual favorites to win the ACC heading into 2013.
10. Florida 11-2 (7-1 SEC)
Florida was riding high on emotions at the close of the regular season after beating in-state rival Florida State handily. They were ranked #3 in the nation as the bowl games were released, and they were set to square off against Charlie Strong and Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. What happened next shocked just about everyone who closely follows college football. The Cardinals surprised everyone, and controlled the game from the opening kickoff on their way to a 33-23 win. The Gators have all the speed you could ever want, but have been hampered by mediocre play from quarterback Jeff Driskel all season. They boasted one of the better defenses in the country all year, but couldn't stop Louisville sensation Teddy Bridgewater from doing what he does best---score. The Gators will lose a couple key players to the NFL, so it will be interesting to see how they bounce back in 2013.
11. Florida State 12-2 (7-1 ACC)
Florida State didn't take their Orange Bowl competition for granted, and went on to win easily over Northern Illinois 31-10. Florida State started the season as one of the few favorites to possibly hoist the crystal ball in January, but quickly fell in the beginning of October to NC State. Behind a defense that allowed 14.7 points per game, and a balanced passing and rushing attack led by quarterback EJ Manuel, the Seminoles were still able to lock up the ACC over Clemson. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has been bringing in top tier recruiting classes, so it'll be interesting to see how he regroups after losing fullback Lonnie Pryor and quarterback EJ Manuel. They should take a backseat to Clemson as the favorite to take the ACC crown in 2013.
12. LSU 10-3 (6-2 SEC)
LSU didn't have exactly a textbook year under Les Miles, and they did suffer a heartbreaking loss to the Clemson Tigers on a last second field goal in the Chik-fil-A Bowl a few weeks ago. The Tigers were competitive all year long, and only lost by a combined 13 points in their three losses. They controlled Heisman winner Johnny Manziel in College Station in October, and lost a nailbiter in Tuscaloosa to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide in a game that they very well could've won. The Tigers have fallen a bit offensively as quarterback Zach Mettenberger has had some growing pains, but overall they still are the LSU program we have come to know. Jeremy Hill had a solid freshman campaign to build on, and the Tigers should be in the top four or five teams looking to compete for the SEC crown in 2013. Miles is one of the best in the country in getting the most out of his players, so they will surely be back with a chip on their shoulder.
13. Louisville Cardinals 11-2 (5-2 Big East)
The Cardinals were probably the most surprising team by the beginning of November still in the national title picture. They are from a conference not really known for competing for a national championship, and they had a freshman quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater lighting up defenses as well. Head coach Charlie Strong has reinforced his commitment to the Cardinals, and will be back after considering jumping to the NFL. Bridgewater will be a preseason Heisman favorite heading to 2013, along with Braxton Miller and Tahj Boyd. The Cardinals highlighted their amazing season by crippling the Florida Gator defense in the Sugar Bowl, and limiting them to just 286 yards of total offense.
14. Kansas State 11-2 (8-1 Big 12)
Bill Snyder added another amazing year as the head coach of the Wildcats under his belt, but in the end couldn't cap it off with a national title or a BCS bowl win. Heisman runner up Collin Klein had a remarkable senior season rushing for 920 yards and throwing for 2,600. The Wildcat defense was all over the place and held opposing teams to just 22 points per game before falling apart at the end of the year to Baylor and then to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. The Wildcats will lose a lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball, and may fall off quiet a bit from their sensational year which saw them beat rivals Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma State. Manhattan, Kansas should be proud at the season the Wildcats delivered in 2012.
15. Oklahoma 10-3 (8-1 Big 12)
Landry Jones had a disappointing end to a remarkable career for Bob Stoops in Norman, and they got to feel the wrath of Johnny Football in the Cotton Bowl losing 41-13. Stoops has been trying to get back to the national championship since he was last there with Heisman winner Jason White in the early 2000's. Jones was efficient as usual in the passing game again this season, passing for over 4,200 yards and 30 touchdowns. He will follow in White and Sam Bradford's footsteps to the NFL, and see if a franchise will take a chance on him after a storied run for Oklahoma. The Sooners were in quite a few shootouts in the offensive-juggernaut Big 12, and came out on the wrong side to Kansas State and Notre Dame during the regular season. They have a verbal commitment from four-star recruit Keith Ford, so if they can lock him up they will have a dominant running attack in 2013 along with starter Damien Williams.
16. Boise State 11-2 (7-1 Mountain West)
Chris Pederson continues to have success with the Broncos and has continually reinforced that he his staying with them for the long haul. Junior Joe Southwick is now the "guy" at quarterback now that Kellen Moore is gone, and he didn't disappoint. They suffered a close season-opening loss to Michigan State 17-13, but recovered nicely by winning their next seven before a surprising loss to San Diego State by two points. Senior running back DJ Harper will be sorely missed after posting a 15 touchdown, 1,200 yard season for the Broncos. Boise State highlighted another overall promising season under Pederson by winning the MAACO Bowl against Washington 28-26.
17. Texas 9-4 (5-4 Big 12)
Mack Brown hasn't been seeing the same production he saw from his Longhorns in years past, but overall they still had an above-average season. They scrapped by a tough Oregon State team in the Valero Alamo Bowl, and should see an increase in wins next year. Sophomore quarterback David Ash was one of the most efficient passers in the entire country this past season, and will be returning looking to recreate an even better season in 2013. Underclassmen Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron will be back spearheading a two-man attack in the backfield for next season as well for an offensive unit that boasted 35 points per contest in 2012.
18. Northwestern Wildcats 10-3 (5-3 Big Ten)
Northwestern has got to be happy with how their season went in the always tough Big Ten Conference, and they were competitive in all three of their losses to PSU, Nebraska and Michigan. Pat Fitzgerald is highly regarded in coaching circles for doing well with little to work with, and has a school mostly known for its academics playing football with the big boys now. The Wildcats had a balanced attack offensively behind quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark. Both will be back next year in what should be another competitive year for the Wildcats in the Big Ten. They will be tough tests for the likes of Michigan and Nebraska next year in the Big Ten Legends division.
19. Nebraska 10-4 (7-1 Big Ten)
Nebraska had arguably one of the toughest ground games to prepare for in the country, and behind Taylor Martinez, Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah they racked up 253 rushing yards per game. But their defense ended up being their Achilles heel, and they allowed Ohio State, Wisconsin and Georgia to rack up 63, 70 and 45 points respectively on them. They should be competitive again in 2013, as Martinez enters his senior year fully in control of the offense, and with Ameer Abdullah again in the backfield with him. Shoring up the defensive woes will predict whether Nebraska builds on this season or falls back in the Big Ten.
20. Utah State 11-2 (6-0 WAC)
Gary Andersen, who now is the new head football coach at Wisconsin, did amazing things at Utah State this year with a roster filled with names that many in college football have never heard of. Sophomore Chuckie Keeton passed for 3,300 yards and 27 touchdowns, and was the cornerstone of a offense that put up 35 points per game. They lost their two games by a combined five points, and had a solid shot of finishing undefeated and possibly playing in a BCS bowl for the first time. Utah State running back Kerwynn Williams finished an amazing career at Utah State with 235 yards and three touchdowns in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl which saw the Aggies win 41-15 over Toledo. Andersen will be sorely missed as the Aggies look towards the 2o13 season.
21. Oregon State 9-4 (6-3 Pac-12)
Oregon State started their season 6-0, and looked well on their way to playing spoiler in the Pac-12 before a stunning loss at Washington 20-17. They played competitively against their main rivals in-conference including Stanford and Oregon, but just couldn't get it done this year. They also had a heart-wrenching loss to Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl 31-27, unable to stop Longhorns QB David Ash. Sophomore Sean Mannion had his growing pains, but will benefit from a year at the helm and will come back stronger than ever next year. Mannion also benefits from having freshman Storm Woods in the backfield again in 2013. Woods ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns in their bowl loss to Texas.
22. Michigan 8-5 (6-2 Big Ten)
The Wolverines had a rollercoaster ride of a season that started with a season-opening shellacking at the hands of the eventual national title winner Alabama. Later in September they lost a close one to Notre Dame 13-6 in a game where record setting QB Denard Robinson was limited offensively. He ended up splitting time all season long with junior Devin Gardner, who will most likely be the starter heading into 2013. The Wolverines put up a fight against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, but lost in the waning seconds 33-28.
23. Oklahoma State
In the offensive shootout that is the Big 12 Conference, the Cowboys were in their fair share of high scoring contests this year. All of their losses were high scoring games, and they just couldn't quite compete with conference rivals like years past. Head coach Mike Gundy rotated Clint Chelf and JW Walsh at the quarterback position, and they combined for over 3,000 yards passing and 28 touchdowns this season. They capped off their season with a 58-14 rout of Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. With a large majority of the offense returning in 2o13, the Cowboys should once again be competitive in the Big 12.
24. Northern Illinois 12-2 (8-0 MAC)
The Huskies probably had no business being in the Orange bowl this year, but they still put together an amazing year after a season opening loss to Iowa. Junior quarterback Jordan Lynch put together a truly remarkable season, rushing for 1,800 yards and passing for 3,100 more. He was the cornerstone of head coach Rod Carey's football team, and will be a key component next year if he decides to stay. They kept things relatively close with Florida State in the Orange Bowl at halftime 14-3, but were routed by the 4th quarter. For a program that rarely gets any national media attention, they should be proud at how far they climbed this season.
25. Vanderbilt 9-4 (5-3 SEC)
Playing in the toughest conference in all of college football, the Commodores more than held their own this year. Besides a 48-3 loss to Georgia and a 31-17 loss to Florida, Vanderbilt played dominating football on both sides of the ball and definitely will be looking to compete in seasons to come. Aaron Rodgers younger brother Jordan had an above average year, and finished his career with over 4,000 yards passing and 24 touchdowns. The Commodores capped off their season with a 38-24 win over North Carolina State, and will be looking for their next starting quarterback and running back heading into spring practice.
25. Texas 9-4 (5-4 Big 12)
Mack Brown hasn't been seeing the same production he saw from his Longhorns in years past, but overall they still had an above-average season. They scrapped by a tough Oregon State team in the Valero Alamo Bowl, and should see an increase in wins next year. Sophomore quarterback David Ash was one of the most efficient passers in the entire country this past season, and will be returning looking to recreate an even better season in 2013. Underclassmen Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron will be back spearheading a two-man attack in the backfield for next season as well for an offensive unit that boasted 35 points per contest in 2012.1001788