College football preview: FBS
By John Harris
Published: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 11:57 p.m.
SEC (2012: 13-1)
Alabama has won three national championships in four seasons under coach Nick Saban. Winning a fourth title in five years could come down to how the Crimson Tide perform in three pivotal games: Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and LSU.OHIO STATE
Big Ten (2012: 13-0)
Last year's undefeated record may have been a tune-up for coach Urban Meyer, who is stocking his Big Ten roster with SEC-caliber talent. Quarterback Braxton Miller's continued development is critical if the Buckeyes expect to make a BCS title run.TEXAS A&M
SEC (2012: 10-2)
If Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is the best-known player in college football, offensive guru Kevin Sumlin is the most underrated coach in the country. Before Sumlin arrived, Manziel wasn't expected to start at A&M, much less win the Heisman.
Pac-12 (2012: 10-2)
Stanford is the West Coast version of Alabama, boasting a power ground attack and a defensive front straight out of the SEC. Kevin Hogan ended last season as the starting quarterback, going 5-0 against ranked teams.
Pac-12 (2012: 12-1)
Can new coach Mark Helfrich pick up where Chip Kelly left off? Although Helfrich has big shoes to fill, Kelly left him a boatload of talent, highlighted by quarterback Marcus Mariota.
South Carolia, junior, DE
Likely the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 NFL Draft he recorded 13 sacks and 231⁄2 tackles for loss to finish sixth in Heisman balloting a year ago. It won't hurt his chances that defensive players have recorded top five Heisman finishes in three of the past four seasons.
Ohio State, junior, QB
Already a dangerous runner, he should improve on the 2,039 yards he threw for last season. Playing for a legitimate national title contender following last year's 13-0 season only raises his Heisman stock.
Texas A&M, sophomore, QB
Based on his offseason activities, Manziel appears to be destined for self-destruction. On the field, however, Manziel's success a year ago is difficult to overlook: 3,706 passing yards, 1,410 rushing yards and 47 total touchdowns.
Louisville, junior, QB
Passing for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns in 2012 vaults Bridgewater into Heisman consideration for a team with national title aspirations.
Alabama, senior, QB
McCarron does more than manage the offense. He led the nation in passing efficiency last season and has a big-time target in Amari Cooper. Did we mention that all McCarron does is win?
5 games that could determine the title
Alabama at Texas A&M
It's never too early to play a big game, right? Alabama goes for revenge against the Aggies, and Johnny Football goes for two wins in a row against the Crimson Tide.
Oregon at Stanford
This game could determine more than who wins the Pac-12. The winner could have the inside track of representing the conference in the national title game.
LSU at Alabama
The past three regular-season games have been decided by a combined 10 points. Two years ago, No. 1 LSU beat No. 2 Alabama during the season, but Alabama beat LSU for the BCS title.
Texas A&M at LSU
Both teams already will played Alabama, so the survivor could be in line not only for the SEC title but also, at least, a BCS at-large berth.
Ohio State at Michigan
This could be a preview of the Big Ten championship game the following week. It also could end the national championship hopes for the loser and raise title hopes for the winner.
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