1. LSU Tigers– I know they disappointed many in their National Championship Game appearance, just expect to see them in many preseason polls at number 1. They return 14 starters from a year ago (7 on offense and 7 on defense). Quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee are both gone so the big question they’ll have entering the year is at Quarterback, after all it always starts with the Quarterback. Defensively, they lose Morris Claiborne to the draft but CB Tyrann Mathieu and DE Sam Montgomery will have this defense among the top in the country.
2. USC Trojans– If there’s one team who can stop the SEC’s dominance at the top of the polls, USC could be that team. QB Matt Barkley made the decision to return for his senior year and will enter the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate and will more than likely end up being the top prospect entering the draft. They won’t have guys like OT Matt Kalil, DE Nick Perry and Tackle Wes Horton but they have some good talent coming in for Lane Kiffin. They may not have the depth like LSU or Bama but they have talent returning that they could contend for a National Title.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide– They’re the team to beat coming into the 2012 season but they enter the year with a lot of last year’s title team gone. DB Dre Kirkpatrick, LB Dont’a Hightower have left a unit who was the top in the Country last season. Trent Richardson leaves an offense with many questions about their running attack. QB AJ McCarron had a solid game in the National Title game and will look to build off that performance. Dee Hart will be a huge part of this offense as the featured running back. They’ll be in consideration for another Title game appearance. They begin the season against Michigan at Cowboys Stadium.
4. Oklahoma Sooners– They were poised to be undefeated last season but it didn’t turn out that way. QB Landry Jones’ decision to return will make this Sooners’ offense the most explosive in the country, even without dominant WR Ryan Broyles. 4 starting Offensive Linemen from a year ago return and young WR’s Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds will be threats on the outside. RB Dominic Whaley is returning from a broken ankle and the defense is returning 7 starters.
5. Georgia Bulldogs– After a 6-7 season in 2010, the Bulldogs improved last year by finishing 10-4. They bring back 10 starters on defense and a lot of firepower coming back on offense including QB Aaron Murray and WR Malcolm Mitchell. With a weak schedule that doesn’t have them playing the powerhouses of LSU, Bama or Arkansas, they are heavily favored to win the SEC East.