Alabama reigns as the king of the college football landscape for another year, but let's take a look at how 2013 will shape up come next fall.
After Notre Dame was rolled in the national championship game, one thing is certain: the college football playoff cannot come soon enough.
Seven months remain before college football kicks off again, but let's take a look at how the top 15 may look for 2013.
Alabama will suffer some consequential losses to the NFL, but just a season ago, analysts thought they would struggle after losing five highly drafted players last offseason. A.J. McCarron will be back along with freshman running back T.J. Yeldon and promising receiver Kenny Bell. Saban has said that the Alabama offense will be centered around McCarron next season, and he will be the best player that the Tide have had under center in years. They will play their most difficult NFL games at home next season, so the schedule sets up for the Tide to continue to roll.
Impact 2013 recruit: Derrick Henry. Henry is the next running back destined for greatness at Alabama.
Marcus Mariota will benefit from another year of learning the Chip Kelly system. Many voiced their wishes during the national title game that they wished Oregon had gotten to take on the Tide. When Chip Kelly announced he would return, the momentum around the Ducks program amplified. Kenjon Barner is a loss, but De'Anthony Thomas will fill that void, and Byron Marshall will burst onto the scene in 2013 as the latest young star to play for the Ducks. It will be a battle between the Ducks and Stanford Cardinal for a Rose Bowl berth or potentially a national championship call.
Impact 2013 recruit: Thomas Tyner. Tyner is a speedy running back who will give the Ducks even more speed in their 2013 backfield.
3. Ohio State
Urban Meyer spoke during the national championship game about the speed differential between Alabama and Notre Dame. He will likely bring that same speed differential to Ohio State after getting a few recruiting classes under his belt. Braxton Miller will improve next year, and Meyer will bring SEC speed to the B1G. An easy schedule will help the Buckeyes. Ohio State averaged only 181 passing yards per game last season, and that number must improve for Ohio State to go undefeated again.
Impact 2013 recruit: Eli Apple. Apple is a good cover corner who could start early for the Buckeyes or help with their nickel and dime packages.
Georgia will lose only one starter from an offense that was one of the most potent in the SEC. Aaron Murray will be one of the league's best starting quarterbacks next season, and Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley will have a chance to break records in the backfield. That combo rushed for 2,144 yards last season, and both backs were freshmen. The Bulldogs boast a strong offensive line, but they must replace elite pass rusher Jarvis Jones. Bacarri Rambo is also leaving a defense that allowed just 19.6 points per game in 2012. The Bulldogs play at Clemson on August 31st; quite a showdown that will be.
Impact 2013 recruit: Tray Matthews. Matthews fills a need for the Bulldogs at safety and will compete for playing time, replacing Bacarri Rambo.
5. Texas A&M
A&M could be ranked higher on this list if junior offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and junior defensive end Damontre Moore decide to return. Both will be first round draft picks if they depart for the NFL, but neither have announced their intentions thus far. The Aggies lose quite a crop of talent at the receiver position, but Sumlin's encore season could be just as special as the first. The Aggies will win their first two non-conference games setting up a showdown when Alabama comes to Kyle Field on week three. Saban will have his Tide ready for that one. Oh and Johnny Manziel is a fairly solid quarterback for the Aggies.
Impact 2013 recruit: Ricky Seals-Jones. Seals-Jones will likely get early playing time after the departure of Swope, Nwachukwu, and McNeal.
Quarterback Kevin Hogan should improve and give the Cardinal an improved passing game next season. David Shaw has flawlessly stepped in since the departure of Jim Harbaugh, and Stanford's physical pro-style plays well in the Pac 12. Nine defensive starters will return for the nation's 11th ranked defense. If anyone in the Pac 12 has the defense to stop Oregon, it is the Cardinal. Junior tight end Zach Urtz will be a big factor in the Cardinal' passing game, but Stepfan Taylor and the 1530 yards he rushed for will have to be replaced.
Impact 2013 recruit: Peter Kalambayi. Kalambayi is the type of physcal linebacker that thrives at Stanford, and he gives the Cardinal good depth at OLB.
Charlie Strong turned down SEC job offers to stay at Louisville for another season. The Cardinals responded by locking up Strong long-term. Teddy Bridgewater is a promising young quarterback who will be a junior in 2013. The Cardinals proved they belonged among the nation's elite when they dominated Florida in their bowl game. Ten defensive starters are back, so Louisville's 36th ranked 2012 defense may emerge as one of the nation's best in 2013. Bridgewater threw 27 touchdowns and just eight interceptions as a sophomore. If Louisville runs the table in conference, Bridgewater may be on numerous Heisman watch lists.
Impact 2013 recruit: James Quick. Quick will give Bridgewater another reliable target at the WR position.
Clemson received a big boost of momentum for 2013 when they knocked off LSU in the Chick-fil-A bowl. Then quarterback Tajh Boyd announced he was returning and said he wants to be the most explosive offense in the country. If DeAndre Hopkins opts to return as well, the Tigers' 6th ranked offense will be just as dangerous in 2013. The ACC has not released their 2013 schedule yet, but Clemson will open the season against Georgia at Death Valley. If the Tigers can get past Georgia, they may jump up into the early season top 5. Clemson finishes the season on the road against South Carolina. Sophomore D.J. Howard will get most of the carries that Andre Ellington got in 2012.
Impact 2013 recruit: Ebenezer Ogundeko. Ogundeko is a very solid rush defensive end who will help the Tigers get after the quarterback.
Florida will lose numerous good players off their 2012 roster, but Will Muschamp's recruiting has given the roster the depth it needs to reload. The Gators will play a very tough schedule that features games @LSU, @South Carolina, @Miami, and at home against Florida State. Jeff Driskel must improve his consistency, but it's the defense that will carry the Gators. You can argue that Florida has the best recruiting class in the country for 2013, but Scout.com ranks them 7th in recruiting. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will help the Gators immediately next year.
Impact 2013 recruit: Vernon Hargreaves III. Hargreaves III is an elite cornerback with good size and physicality that will help him play quickly in the SEC.
10. South Carolina
Marcus Lattimore is gone, but wide receivers Ace Sanders and Wayne Ellington return giving the Gamecocks plenty of offensive weapons. One of the nation's most feared defenders, Jadaveon Clowney, will return as well. In total, seven starters return to the Gamecock offense, and the Ole' Ball Coach has his quarterback Connor Shaw returning as well. The schedule makers are shining on the Gamecocks as three of their SEC road games are against Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri. Georgia will be the Gamecocks toughest road SEC test. Four star running back David Williams has a chance to burst onto the scene and fill the void left by Lattimore. Williams is ranked as a four star running back by Scout.com.
Impact 2013 recruit: Kelsey Griffin. Griffin is a 285 pound defensive tackle that will join the Gamecocks defensive line rotation next year. Alongside Clowney, Griffin will have the chance to make a lot of plays even as a freshman.
How good will the Horned Frogs be in 2013? It depends a lot on who is under center for the Frogs. If Casey Pachall can return and give the Frogs a reputable passing attack, the rest of the roster sets up nicely for TCU to compete to win the Big 12. Only Kenny Cain departs from the Big 12's best defense. TCU has one of the top pass rushing duos in the nation in Devonte Fields and Stansly Maponga, and on the other side of the ball, TCU has a stable of running backs that includes Waymon James, B.J. Catalon, Aaron Green, and freshman Kyle Hicks. If the offensive line can take a step forward from 2012 to 2013, TCU will be back in the top 10. TCU must finish its 2013 recruiting class out strong to ensure it has the depth to deal with injuries that may arise.
Impact 2013 recruit: Paul Whitmill. Kyle Hicks is a good get for the Frogs, and their best impact recruit may not be committed to them yet. They need depth at linebacker and Whitmill has a chance to fill in and play as a freshman. Sammy Douglass and Dac Shaw will also get a chance to fight for that playing time.
Zach Mettenberger simply must improve if the Tigers are going to compete to win the SEC in 2013. The Tigers ranked 94th in the country in passing in 2012. When junior defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery both declared for the NFL draft, the Tigers fell in my rankings. Couple Mingo and Montgomery with punter Brad Wing, safety Eric Reid, running back Spencer Ware, and linebacker Kevin Minter and the Tigers have too much star power to replace in 2013 to garner a top 10 preseason ranking. In all, ten players are leaving LSU early. Les Miles has a deep roster and a good 2013 recruiting class, but the Tigers would love to cap off that class with Louisiana's top player, defensive end Tim Williams. Alabama is also after Williams.
Impact 2013 recruit: Kendell Beckwith. Beckwith is a great athlete who will be a versatile player for the Tigers defense. With a good summer, Beckwith could contend immediately for playing time at a defensive end positon.
13. Florida State
Florida State loses quarterback E.J. Manuel who won four bowl games while at FSU, but Jimbo Fisher has a trio of quarterbacks that will fight to win the starting job. In addition to the loss of Manuel, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has also left to take the head coaching job at Kentucky. The 2011 and 2012 recruiting classes for the Seminoles were loaded with star power, so Fisher will not have a lack of talent in 2013. Junior running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. will help to take some of the pressure off the new quarterback in the early stages of the season, and junior wide receiver Rashad Greene will provide a reliable target for whoever takes over under center. The Seminoles had the nation's 6th ranked defense in 2013, and the Seminoles will face a big test when they take on a Clemson offense that Tajh Boyd thinks can be the nation's best.
Impact 2013 recruit: Demarcus Walker. Walker was originally an Alabama commit and after Bjoern Werner's departure, Walker could jump into the defensive line rotation. He will likely play as a defensive tackle, but at 6'4, 280 pounds he could play some end as well.
14. Oklahoma State
Joseph Randle's decision to leave for the NFL leaves a void in an Oklahoma State offense that ranked 7th in passing yards, 21st in rushing yards, and 3rd in scoring offense. Jeremy Smith will likely get portion of the caries that would have gone to Randle. Despite the loss of Randle, Oklahoma State will feature a potent offense led by Wes Lunt, Clint Chelf, or J.W. Walsh. Twenty players made their first career starts for the Pokes last season, and in 2013, that youth will turn into experience. Seniors Daytwaion Lowe and Shamiel Gary will lead Mike Gundy's defense.
Impact 2013 recruit: Sam Wren. The JUCO transfer will help the Cowboys at defensive end right away in 2013.
Only Okafor and Vaccaro will be gone for the Texas defense that should take a step forward in 2013. Filled with former top recruits, the Texas defense never reached its potential in 2012. However, the success of the Horns in 2013 will largely depend on one man: quarterback David Ash. Ash played well in the Alamo Bowl, and he must carry that momentum and success into 2013 for Texas to reach its potential. Mack Brown's seat is getting warm in Austin, and his fate may rest in the hands of David Ash. Texas has three tough games at TCU, at West Virginia, and at Baylor next season. Major Applewhite's playcalling abilities are a wild-card heading into 2013.
Impact 2013 recruit: Darius James. James may not start from day 1 in Austin, but he is an elite offensive lineman that has drawn comparisons to some of the best centers in college football. He is destined for success in Austin.