The road to the 2013 college football national championship runs through Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The four major college football publications – Athlon, Lindy’s Sports, Phil Steele and Sporting News – have selected Alabama as the team to win it all again.
The Crimson Tide are bidding to win three consecutive national titles and four in five years.
Alabama returns senior quarterback A.J. McCarron and seven starters on defense. While the Crimson Tide do not face Florida, Georgia or South Carolina during the regular season, Alabama opens with a tough two-game slate against Virginia Tech (in Atlanta) and at Texas A&M.
Here are some other items of interest:
PLAYING FOR SECOND?
The Southeastern Conference owns the past seven national championships. Will they win an eighth? Lindy’s has five SEC teams – Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, Lousiana State and South Carolina – in its top nine. The Sporting News has four in the top seven – Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and Texas A&M. Athlon has four in the top eight – Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and LSU.
BUCKEYES ARE BACK
Ohio State went 12-0 last year, but the Buckeyes served a one-year postseason ban. Ohio State returns nine offensive starters, including standout quarterback Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes should be 4-0 before they jump into Big Ten Conference play with a difficult home game, Sept. 28, against Wisconsin.
HOW ’BOUT THEM DOGS?
Georgia is looking to make another trip to Atlanta after last year’s 12-2 campaign. The Bulldogs return nine starters on offense, including quarterback Aaron Murray and running back Todd Gurley. Defense is a major concern with Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo and four other defensive starters selected in April’s NFL Draft. Georgia will know more about its national championship chances after the first two weeks of the season – at Clemson, Aug. 31 and home against South Carolina, Sept. 7.
NO CLOWNEY-ING AROUND
South Carolina returns with Heisman Trophy contender Jadeveon Clowney leading a defense that returns six starters. Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson are back to share quarterback duties, while Bruce Ellington remains their top target. The Gamecocks replace LSU with Mississippi State on their schedule. If they can defeat Georgia on the road, a run to the SEC title game is likely.
Clemson is getting a lot of preseason love, ranked between No. 6 and No. 15 in the major magazines. The Tigers return senior quarterback Tajh Boyd and four of their five offensive linemen. Clemson avoids Miami and Virginia Tech and has Florida State at home. The Tigers should be looking at an Atlantic Coast Conference title run.
Georgia Tech is receiving no love from the preseason football magazines. Lindy’s has the Yellow Jackets finishing second in the division after last year’s 7-7 mark. Georgia Tech returns eight defensive starters, but defense was not a strength last year. Also, the team has major concerns at quarterback.