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Alabama defensive lineman Alphonse Taylor (50) holds up (Credit: AP)

Alabama defensive lineman Alphonse Taylor (50) holds up a newspaper after the BCS National Championship. (Jan 7, 2013)

Newsday's college football preseason preview

Newsday's Greg Logan picks the top 25 teams in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.

25. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA Conference: Pac-12, South Division; Coach:
(Credit: AP)

25. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Conference: Pac-12, South Division; Coach: Lane Kiffin, 4th year (25-13)
Last year: 7-6, 5-4 in Pac-12, lost to Georgia Tech, 21-7, in Sun Bowl
Final 2012 poll: NR-AP; NR-Coaches
Starters back: 6 offense, 7 defense
Season opener: Thursday at Hawaii

Coach Lane Kiffin is on hot seat after going from BCS title favorite to finishing unranked. Soph QBs Max Wittek and Cody Kessler, all-American WR Marqise Lee, and RB Silas Redd are offensive playmakers. DE Morgan Breslin, LB Hayes Pullard and FS Dion Bailey lead talented defense. Trojans avoid Oregon unless it's Pac-12 title game. |

24. OKLAHOMA Conference: Big 12; Coach: Bob Stoops,
(Credit: AP)

24. OKLAHOMA
Conference: Big 12; Coach: Bob Stoops, 14th year (149-37)
Last year: 10-3, 8-1 Big 12, lost to Texas A&M, 41-13, in Cotton Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 15th-AP; 15th-Coaches
Starters back: 8 offense, 3 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Sooners reloading after loss of QB Landry Jones and eight defensive starters. Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight gets the nod over Blake Bell at QB. There is RB depth with Damien Williams, Brennan Clay and freshman Keith Ford. Top junior college DT Quincy Russell helps rebuild defense that yielded 34.1 points over final seven games. Tough road schedule. |

23. CINCINNATI Conference: AAC; COACH: Tommy Tuberville, 1st
(Credit: AP)

23. CINCINNATI
Conference: AAC; COACH: Tommy Tuberville, 1st year
Last: 10-3, 5-2 in Big East, def. Duke, 48-34, in Belk Bowl
Final 2012 poll: NR-AP; 22nd-Coaches
Starters back: 6 offense, 5 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Purdue

Coach Butch Jones moved to Tennessee but was replaced by the highly successful Tuberville (130-77 career record). QB Brendon Kay went 4-1 as starter after replacing Munchie Legaux, and Bearcats return entire starting OL. On defense, Florida State transfer Jeff Luc joins All-Big East LB Greg Blair. Home finale vs. Louisville might be for AAC title. |

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22. MIAMI Conference: ACC, Coastal Division; Coach: Al
(Credit: AP)

22. MIAMI
Conference: ACC, Coastal Division; Coach: Al Golden, 3rd year (13-11)
Last year: 7-5, 5-3 in ACC, bowl ineligible
Final 2012 poll: NR-AP; ineligible in Coaches
Starters back: 8 offense, 6 defense
Season opener: Friday vs. Florida Atlantic

It's been a tough two-year slog for coach Al Golden, but Hurricanes are improving behind QB Stephen Morris, all-purpose RB Duke Johnson and veteran OL. Focus is on rebuilding 82nd-ranked defense, adding freshman LB Alex Figueroa and pass rusher Al Quadin Muhammad. Canes look like class of Coastal Division, should reach ACC title game. |

21. UTAH STATE Conference: Mountain West, Mountain Division;
(Credit: AP)

21. UTAH STATE
Conference: Mountain West, Mountain Division; Coach: Matt Wells, 1st year
Last year: 11-2, 6-0 in WAC, def. Toledo, 41-15, in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 16th-AP; 17th-Coaches
Starters back: 8 offense, 7 defense
Season opener: Thursday at Utah

Aggies lost two games by five points (to Wisconsin and BYU) and won WAC title, paving way for coach Gary Anderson to take Wisconsin job. Matt Wells inherits 15 returning starters, including QB Chuckie Keeton and entire OL. Aggies move to Mountain West, face tough early schedule but get Boise State at home. |

20. BAYLOR Conference: Big 12; Coach: Art Briles,
(Credit: AP)

20. BAYLOR
Conference: Big 12; Coach: Art Briles, 6th year (33-32)
Last year: 8-5, 4-5 in Big 12, def. UCLA, 49-26, in Holiday Bowl
Final 2012 poll: NR-AP; NR-Coaches
Starters back: 6 offense, 8 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Wofford

Baylor's nationally fourth-ranked offense will be in hands of junior QB Bryce Petty, who leans on RBs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin and WR Tevin Reese. Of course, Bears' defense ranked 110th, but it has eight returning starters and Penn State transfer DE Shawn Oakman. Schedule has home games vs. Oklahoma and Texas. |

19. MICHIGAN Conference: Big Ten, Legends Division; Coach:
(Credit: AP)

19. MICHIGAN
Conference: Big Ten, Legends Division; Coach: Brady Hoke (3rd year (19-7)
Last year: 8-5, 6-2 in Big Ten, lost to South Carolina, 33-28, in Outback Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 24th-AP; NR-Coaches
Starters back: 4 offense, 3 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Central Michigan

QB Devin Gardner excelled as midseason replacement for injured Denard Robinson, who has moved to NFL. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint returns from injury and top-rated freshman RB Derrick Green joins him. Defense made drastic improvement to rank 13th in country but returns just three starters. Wolverines get division rival Nebraska at home along with Ohio State. |

18. OREGON STATE Conference: Pacific-12, North Division; Coach:
(Credit: AP)

18. OREGON STATE
Conference: Pacific-12, North Division; Coach: Mike Riley, 13th year (87-67)
Last year: 9-4, 6-3 in Pac-12, lost to Texas, 31-27, in Alamo Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 20th-AP; 19th-Coaches
Starters back: 8 offense, 7 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Eastern Washington

Whether Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz is named starting QB, both are capable of leading veteran offense featuring RB Storm Woods and big-play WR Brandin Cooks. DE Scott Crichton and CB Rashaad Reynolds head solid defense. Beavers could be 7-0 before five-game finishing stretch with home games vs. Stanford, USC and Washington. |

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17. NEBRASKA CONFERENCE: Big Ten, Legends Division; Coach:
(Credit: AP)

17. NEBRASKA
CONFERENCE: Big Ten, Legends Division; Coach: Bo Pelini, 6th year (49-20)
Last year: 10-4, 7-1 in Big Ten, lost to Georgia, 45-31, in Capital One Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 25th-AP; 23rd-Coaches
Starters back: 7 offense, 3 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Wyoming

Cornhuskers gave up average of 53.5 points in four losses last season and return just three defensive starters. Fourth-year starting QB Taylor Martinez heads talented offense, including 1,137-yard rusher Ameer Abdullah, WR Kenny Bell and a veteran offensive line. Huskers' schedule avoids Ohio State and Wisconsin, and has Michigan State and Northwestern at home. |

16. LSU Conference: SEC, West Division; Coach: Les
(Credit: AP)

16. LSU
Conference: SEC, West Division; Coach: Les Miles, 9th year (85-21)
Last year: 10-3, 6-2 in SEC, lost to Clemson, 25-24, in Chick-fil-A Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 14th-AP; 12th-Coaches
Starters back: 6 offense, 3 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. TCU at Arlington, Texas

Tigers have only three defensive starters returning, and QB Zach Mettenberger must adjust to new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Coach Les Miles reinstated RB Jeremy Hill after probation violation resulted in community service penalty. LSU's talent level is slipping, and road games at TCU, Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama might expose it. |

15. MISSISSIPPI Conference: SEC, West Division; Coach: Hugh
(Credit: AP)

15. MISSISSIPPI
Conference: SEC, West Division; Coach: Hugh Freeze, 2nd year (7-6)
Last year: 7-6, 3-5 in SEC, def. Pittsburgh, 38-17 in BBVAA Compass Bowl
Final 2012 poll: NR-AP; NR-Coaches
Starters back: 8 offense, 8 defense
Season opener: Thursday at Vanderbilt

Call it a hunch, but Ole Miss has ingredients for breakthrough with eight returning starters on each side of ball and one of nation's best recruiting classes, including No. 1 overall prospect DE Robert Nkemdiche, top WR Laquon Treadwell and top OT Laremy Tunsil. Rebels face brutal early schedule, including visits to Texas and Alabama. |

14. NORTHWESTERN Conference: Big Ten, Legends Division; Coach:
(Credit: AP)

14. NORTHWESTERN
Conference: Big Ten, Legends Division; Coach: Pat Fitzgerald, 8th year (50-39)
Last year: 10-3, 5-3 in Big Ten, def. Mississippi State, 34-20, in Gator Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 17th-AP; 16th-Coaches
Starters back: 8 offense, 7 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 at California

Wildcats were top-rated Big Ten team last year behind Ohio State and return 15 of 22 total starters. Offense features QB Kain Colter and league's top returning RB in Venric Mark. Experienced defense includes Big Ten sack leader Tyler Scott at DE, S Ibraheim Campbell and LB Damien Proby. Tougher schedule adds Ohio State and Wisconsin. |

13. OKLAHOMA STATE Conference: Big 12; Coach: Mike
(Credit: AP)

13. OKLAHOMA STATE
Conference: Big 12; Coach: Mike Gundy, 9th year (67-35)
Last year: 8-5, 5-4 in Big 12, def. Purdue, 58-14, in Heart of Dallas Bowl
Final 2012 poll: NR-AP; NR-Coaches
Starters back: 7 offense, 7 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Mississippi State at Houston

Cowboys always put up big numbers, but defense gives up nearly as much as offense gains. Seven starters return, but what does that mean for defense that yielded 421.7 yards? QB Clint Chelf and WR Josh Stewart will get their numbers, and favorable home schedule vs. Kansas State, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma might help. |

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12. FLORIDA STATE Conference: ACC, Atlantic Division; Coach:
(Credit: AP)

12. FLORIDA STATE
Conference: ACC, Atlantic Division; Coach: Jimbo Fisher, 4th year (31-10)
Last year: 12-2, 7-1 in ACC, def. Northern Illinois, 31-10, in Orange Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 10th-AP; 10th-Coaches
Starters back: 6 offense, 4 defense
Season opener: Monday at Pittsburgh

Seminoles have mere 10 total returning starters, but four are on the offensive line, which should help redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston adjust, and RBs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. can share load. LB Christian Jones and CB Lamarcus Joyner lead rebuilding defense. Cake schedule still includes visits to Clemson and Florida. |

11. TEXAS A&M Conference: SEC, West Division; Coach:
(Credit: Getty Images)

11. TEXAS A&M
Conference: SEC, West Division; Coach: Kevin Sumlin, 2nd year (11-2)
Last year: 11-2, 6-2 in SEC, def. Oklahoma, 41-13, in Cotton Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 5th-AP; 5th-Coaches
Starters back: 6 offense, 4 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Rice

Uncertainty about eligibility of Heisman-winning QB Johnny Manziel regarding allegations of payments for autographs could wreak havoc. Backup QB battle between junior Matt Joeckel and freshmen Kenny Hill and Matt Davis is significant. Even if Manziel plays he'll be hard-pressed to duplicate magical freshman season. Inexperienced defense might fold when Bama visits Sept. 14. |

10. TEXAS Conference: Big 12; Coach: Mack Brown,
(Credit: AP)

10. TEXAS
Conference: Big 12; Coach: Mack Brown, 16th year (149-43)
Last year: 9-4, 5-4 in Big 12, def. Oregon State, 31-27, in Alamo Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 19th-AP; 18th-Coaches
Starters back: 10 offense, 8 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. New Mexico State

Longhorns are back after three subpar seasons since 2009 BCS title loss. QB David Ash leads 10 returning offensive starters, including RB Johnathan Gray and WRs Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis. Injured DE Jackson Jeffcoat and LB Jordan Hicks return to upgrade defense that allowed 29.2 points. Road minefield includes BYU, TCU, West Virginia, Baylor. |

9. LOUISVILLE Conference: AAC; Coach: Charlie Strong, 4th
(Credit: AP)

9. LOUISVILLE
Conference: AAC; Coach: Charlie Strong, 4th year (25-14)
Last year: 11-2, 5-2 in Big East, def. Florida, 33-23, in Sugar Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 13th-AP, 13th-Coaches
Starters back: 5 offense, 8 defense
Season opener: Sept. 1 vs. Ohio

QB Teddy Bridgewater opened eyes with MVP effort in Sugar Bowl win over Florida and should mount Heisman threat with passing to WRs DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland. Solid defense returns eight starters led by SS Hakeem Smith. Cards could run table in only AAC season before ACC move, reach second straight BCS bowl. |

8. SOUTH CAROLINA Conference: SEC, East Division; Coach:
(Credit: AP)

8. SOUTH CAROLINA
Conference: SEC, East Division; Coach: Steve Spurrier, 9th year (66-37)
Last year: 11-2, 6-2 in SEC, def. Michigan, 33-28, in Outback Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 8th-AP; 7th-Coaches
Starters back: 6 offense, 5 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. North Carolina

DE Jadeveon Clowney is a Heisman candidate and likely No. 1 overall NFL draft pick, so 11th-ranked defense remains strong despite only five returnees. Senior QB Connor Shaw might rotate with Dylan Thompson, and RBs Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds could do same. Key for reaching SEC title game is Sept. 7 visit to Georgia.

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7. TCU Conference: Big 12; Coach: Gary Patterson,
(Credit: AP)

7. TCU
Conference: Big 12; Coach: Gary Patterson, 13th year (116-36)
Last year: 7-6, 4-5 in Big 12, lost to Michigan State, 17-16, in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Final 2012 poll: NR-AP; NR-Coaches
Starters back: 5 offense, 9 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. LSU at Arlington, Texas

Horned Frogs' Big 12 debut was doomed by QB Casey Pachall's drug suspension and injury to top RB Waymon James. Both join dominant defense with nine returning starters led by Big 12 defensive POY DE Devonte Fields (suspended first two games) and CB Jason Verrett. TCU opens with LSU at Cowboys Stadium, gets Texas, Baylor at home. |

6. CLEMSON Conference: ACC, Atlantic Division; Coach: Dabo
(Credit: AP)

6. CLEMSON
Conference: ACC, Atlantic Division; Coach: Dabo Swinney, 6th year (40-21)
Last year: 11-2, 7-1 in ACC, def. LSU, 25-24, in Chick-fil-A Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 11th-AP; 9th-Coaches
Starters back: 6 offense, 5 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Georgia

Defensive toughness might prevent Tigers from BCS title shot, but they added freshman CB Mackensie Alexander to suspect secondary. Prolific QB Tajh Boyd is Heisman contender after passing for 36 TDs and rushing for 10; WR Sammy Watkins rebounds from drug suspension. Clemson gets top ACC rival Florida State Oct. 19 at home. |

5. STANFORD Conference: Pacific-12, North Division; Coach: David
(Credit: AP)

5. STANFORD
Conference: Pacific-12, North Division; Coach: David Shaw, 3rd year (23-4)
Last year: 12-2, 8-1 in Pac-12, def. Wisconsin, 20-14 in Rose Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 7th-AP, 6th-Coaches
Starters back: 5 offense, 8 defense
Season opener: Sept. 7 vs. San Jose State

Sophomore QB Kevin Hogan proved worthy successor to Andrew Luck and has NFL-caliber offensive line, including OG David Yankey. LB Shayne Skov and talented safeties Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards head eight returning defensive starters. Tough schedule includes top three Pac-12 South powers, North rivals Oregon and Oregon State plus Notre Dame. |

4. GEORGIA Conference: SEC, East Division; Coach: Mark
(Credit: AP)

4. GEORGIA
Conference: SEC, East Division; Coach: Mark Richt, 13th year (118-40)
Last year: 12-2, 7-1 in SEC, def. Nebraska, 45-31, in Capital One Bowl
Final 2012 poll: 5th-AP; 4th-Coaches
Starters back: 10 offense, 3 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 at Clemson

Bulldogs narrowly lost SEC championship to Alabama and return 10 offensive starters, including QB Aaron Murray plus RB tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Concern is defense with only three returning starters, but soph LB Jordan Jenkins could be standout. Must be ready for powers Clemson, South Carolina, LSU in first four games. |

3. OREGON Conference: Pacific-12, North Division; Coach: Mark
(Credit: AP)

3. OREGON
Conference: Pacific-12, North Division; Coach: Mark Helfrich, 1st year
Last year: 12-1, 8-1 in Pac-12, FIESTA BOWL: def. Kansas State, 35-17, in Fiesta Bowl
Fiinal 2012 poll: 2nd-AP; 2nd-Coaches
Starters back: 8 offense, 7 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Nicholls State

Chip Kelly left to coach the Philadelphia Eagles, but former offensive coordinator Helfrich inherits top BCS contender led by QB Marcus Mariota, all-purpose threat De'Anthony Thomas. Sophomore RB Byron Marshall might share load with freshman Thomas Tyner. Defense returns entire secondary in pass-oriented Pac-12. Key game is Nov. 7 at Stanford. |

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2. OHIO STATE Conference: Big Ten, Leaders Division;
(Credit: AP)

2. OHIO STATE
Conference: Big Ten, Leaders Division; Coach: Urban Meyer, 2nd year (12-0)
Last year: 12-0, bowl ineligible
Final 2012 poll: 3rd-AP, ineligible in Coaches
Returning starters: 9 offense, 4 defense
Opener: Aug. 31 vs. Buffalo

Meyer set tone in first season with shocking 12-0 record by ineligible bowl team and turned QB Braxton Miller into Big Ten POY. Soph DEs Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence and junior LB Ryan Shazier lead defense lacking experience. Biggest problem is repeating undefeated season it might take to reach BCS title game. |

1. ALABAMA Conference: SEC West; Coach: Nick Saban,
(Credit: Getty Images)

1. ALABAMA
Conference: SEC West; Coach: Nick Saban, 7th year (68-13)
2012: 13-1, defeated Notre Dame, 42-14, for BCS championship. Finished No. 1 in AP poll.
Starters returning: 5 offense, 7 defense
Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Virginia Tech (Georgia Dome)

It's impossible to pick against Alabama with QB A.J. McCarron (30-3 TD-int. ratio) seeking a third straight BCS title along with game-breaking WR Amari Cooper and 1,108-yard rusher T.J. Yeldon. Nation's No. 1 defense returns LB corps intact led by C.J. Mosley. |

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