The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Z_CNHI News Service

August 27, 2013

The top 5s of college football: Teams, players, games

There’s little sign of fall in the air, but it's Kickoff Week and that's enough to get one ready for tailgate parties and college football.  The long Labor Day weekend has most teams trotting onto the field for the first time. For starters, fans can pick from about 20 games that will be televised on Thursday night , including North Carolina at South Carolina and Ole Miss at Vanderbilt.

Before we get to the coin toss, let’s look ahead at what the 2013 season – the last year for the Bowl Championship Series -- has to offer.

The Fabulous Five

1. Alabama. Picking Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide is too easy. Nobody beats him at recruiting or preparation. Quarterback play with A.J. McCarron and a bevy of backs and receivers makes the offense look unstoppable. One question is the offensive line, where graduation left some spots to fill. A fourth national championship in five years looks possible.

2. Oregon. Great athletes and a great offense make the Ducks the team to beat in the Pac-12. The quick striking offense features two Heisman Trophy candidates -- Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas. With Chip Kelly gone to the NFL, Mark Helfrich steps up from offensive coordinator to run the team. A favorable schedule should help.

3. Ohio State. The Buckeyes breezed through last season’s relatively weak schedule unbeaten, but remained in Columbus during the bowl season on probation. Coach Urban Meyer should have Ohio State competing for championships thanks to the magic of quarterback Braxton Miller and linebacker Ryan Shazier.

4. Georgia. The Bulldogs won 12 games last year and were a play or two away from beating Alabama, thanks to a high-powered offense. Coach Mark Richt counts 10 returning starters on offense led by QB Aaron Murray. If Georgia can survive early-season matchups with Clemson and South Carolina, the Bulldogs could join the championship hunt.

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