- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach foresees the Stanford Cardinal as the top team standing in the way of an Alabama three-peat in 2013.
At least, that's how he stacks things up in the second iteration of his Way-Too-Early preseason top-25.
Stanford replaces former No. 2 Oregon, which falls to No. 5. Why? Well, the departure of Chip Kelly has to register as a question.
The day Oregon football fans feared for so long finally came on Jan. 16, when Kelly left the Ducks to become head coach of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. Oregon promoted offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who will continue to direct the Ducks' high-powered attack. With as many as eight starters on offense and seven on defense returning from a team that finished 12-1 in 2012, there shouldn't be much of a decline without Kelly on the sideline. But there always seems to be at least a little bit of a transition with a coaching change. The Ducks can only hope it's as smooth as when former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh handed over his program to Shaw.
It's a valid concern, even if most Ducks fans seem pretty hopeful that Helfrich will keep things trucking along.
As for the rest of the top-25, Schlabach ranks Oregon State 18th -- down from 15th -- and UCLA 21st.
USC fell out of the rankings. The Trojans were 25th in the first version in January, but Schlabach says in the video that comes with the rankings that offseason issues and coaching changes are questions for Lane Kiffin's team.
My preseason top-25 is likely to include Arizona State and Washington as well as the four Pac-12 teams Schlabach presently ranks. I'm holding judgment on the Trojans until the staff is filled out and we have a better idea of who's playing quarterback. And who's calling plays.