Notre Dame 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 1

Whaddaya know? Our preseason No. 1 is our postseason No. 1.

No. 1: Manti Te'o, LB

Making the case: Before his name became as popular in the gossip pages as it did in the sports pages, Te'o turned in a historic season for Notre Dame. He led the Irish out of the depths of mediocrity to a perfect 12-0 regular season and to the Discover BCS National Championship, where they were routed by Alabama. Te'o amassed seven national awards, making him the most decorated player in college football history. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, coming as close as any pure defensive player has to winning the sport's most prestigious individual honor. He finished with a team-best 113 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, seven picks, four pass break-ups, 11 passes defended, four quarterback hurries and two fumble recoveries. He was a probable first-round NFL Draft pick had he chosen to come out of school following his junior year in 2011, and he was a sure-fire first-rounder this April before the girlfriend hoax raised plenty of questions. While Te'o's legacy remains cloudy in some circles, there's no denying the impact that the captain had on bringing Notre Dame football back to the sport's highest stage.

Preseason ranking: 1

The countdown

No. 2 Louis Nix, NG

No. 3 Stephon Tuitt, DE

No. 4 Tyler Eifert, TE

No. 5 Zack Martin, LT

No. 6 Theo Riddick, RB

No. 7 Braxston Cave, C

No. 8 Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE

No. 9 Zeke Motta, S

No. 10 Prince Shembo, LB

No. 11 Danny Spond, LB

No. 12 T.J. Jones, WR

No. 13 Everett Golson, QB

No. 14 Cierre Wood, RB

No. 15 Bennett Jackson, CB

No. 16 Tommy Rees, QB

No. 17 DaVaris Daniels, WR

No. 18 Chris Watt, LG

No. 19 George Atkinson III, RB

No. 20 Dan Fox, LB

No. 21 Matthias Farley, S

No. 22 KeiVarae Russell, CB

No. 23 Robby Toma, WR

No. 24 Kyle Brindza, K

No. 25 Chris Brown, WR