Looking at teams to beat next season

Why wait for Jan. 7? It's never too early to look ahead to next season's BCS title game, which will be the last of its kind.

The gang over at NationalChamps.net has already released its initial top 25 for the 2013 season.

No. 1? None other than defending national champion Alabama, though it remains to be seen whether the Tide will hold that distinction again going into next season.

Notre Dame is No. 4 on the early bird preview as the site, like many, sees this program as one that is built to last under Brian Kelly.

Another Heisman runner up linebacker is not on the roster. Replacing Manti Te'o as an individual isn't possible. However, replacing him through sheer numbers of talent and experience won't be a problem. With eight starters back from the nation's No. 1 ranked scoring defense, the Irish will win with defense again.

The SEC has six teams in the top 10, seven in the top 25 and one more in the "others receiving consideration" category.

The biggest surprise might come at No. 2, as the site ranks Stanford right behind the Tide. The Cardinal's regular-season finale next season, of course, is against Notre Dame.