Maybe you think it's too early to put out a Top 25 ranking for the 2013 season. Respectfully, you are the stupidest if that's your belief. With the help of this handy guide, soon you'll be ready to explain why one team you haven't seen play is definitely better than another team you haven't seen play!
1. Alabama. Look, maybe you have a perfectly strong case for some other school, but if you go off the reservation right away, the readers are going to suspect something is amiss. Stay with the pack here and, if the Tide stumble, you'll be one of many mistaken scribes, not a distinct and lonesome idiot.
2. Big 12 or Big Ten team. BOOM! Because you started comfortable, those stupid readers didn't see this knowledge roundhouse coming. Pick a team that didn't meet expectations in 2012 and talk about how they'll be "hungry" and "focused" because of it.
3. SEC team. Mention how battle tested playing in the conference will leave this team by the end of the season. Then hedge by saying SEC play could eat them alive. SPORTSNIGMA!
4. Ohio State. Emphasize how good the team looked in the first year of a new system. Ignore that they barely beat Cal, Indiana, and Purdue. Clunky suggestion that Braxton Miller could be the next Tim Tebow. Obliquely suggest Urban Meyer could quit at any week for any reason.
5. Oregon or Stanford. Shit, you meant to put one of them higher, but that much backspacing seems like a real pain in the ass. Say something here about how you're being cautious not to put too much stock into a big bowl performance.
6. Team Coming Off A Big Bowl Performance. Clemson-Louisville national championship game ahoy!
7. SEC team. Which one? Any one THAT'S JUST HOW DAMN GOOD THEY ARE MAN. (Seriously, though, not Auburn.)
8. Notre Dame. Yes, Irish fans are going to be super pissed at the perceived disrespect, but that'd be true even if you ranked ND numbers one, two, and three simultaneously. Don't fight a losing battle. Just slot them here and suggest that they could be better off without Manti Te'o.
9. Oregon or Stanford (whoever you didn't put at 5). Say something about how they've lost a lot of key pieces. Is it true? Players graduate, don't they?
10. ACC team. You'll need to construct a paper fortune teller and write the names of four plausibly successful teams twice each. Be sure you only do it twice, because if you write out "Georgia Tech" three times on the same piece of paper Paul Johnson appears out of nowhere and insists on rearranging your pantry.
11. Team that will likely have three losses before Halloween. Your obligation in preparing this ranking is not simply to come up with a sensible accounting of the top 25 teams heading into the season. It's also to provide us with teams destined to leave unreasonable expectations unfulfilled. Who will be this year's Arkansas? THE POWER IS YOURS!
12. Team with the highest ranked recruiting class that you have not yet included. I mean, all that talent wouldn't be going to a bad team, would it? And I bet half of them start right away! (note: I do not know how recruiting works)
13. This is exhausting. You really deserve a lemonade, and maybe even an oatmeal cookie. I mean, people bitch about preseason rankings, but then they lap them right up like hungry dogs. Do they not understand how market forces work? Oh, um, Michigan State. Whatever.
14. Florida. "Will Muschamp is driving a truck with a great engine and no brake pads. Will Muschamp is eating a sandwich with meat and no bread. Will Muschamp is developing a model that explains how light behaves like a particle but not as a wave." Metaphor them to death in this middle section.
15. School that was good six years ago and has stunk since. Because these things are cyclical, or something.
16. Team stocked with seniors that have mostly underachieved up to this point. They just want it more, man. That's why they're fighting in spring practice. Out of love.
17. Big 12 team with a miserably weak non conference schedule. Basically, this is between Texas Tech, West Virginia, Kansas, and Kansas State. Kansas is out for reasons of being Kansas, so just pick one of the other three and feel like a genius up to, but not beyond, Week 5.
18. Big East team. Start out by noting that the conference had a better bowl winning percentage last year than the every other AQ conference. Pretend you knew that Memphis was joining this year without looking. Realize that the team you pick could join the ACC before this gets published. Shrug, and continue trying to beat Jetpack Joyride.
19. Team that was terrible but hired a trendy coach. You've already won me over, Cal, in spite of me. (WRITER TIP: Using lyrics from popular music makes your writing resonate with younger audiences. This is why Lou Holtz only speaks in Evanescence lyrics.)
20. School from a non AQ conference. Again, this is mostly an exercise in antagonizing fans, so just find a Mountain West or MAC team that could plausibly win eight games and put them here. Then say something snide about the Big Ten.
21. Scandium. Don't think it belongs here? Check your atomic numbers, clown.
22. Team with a coach on the hot seat. If you're not sure who qualifies, just pick any coach that hasn't won a conference title in the last two years and say he's on the hot seat.
23. Almost there! Pick any team, say this is a make-or-break season for the program, and move forward.
25. Team that barely made a bowl last year. "Trial by fire has made them stronger" sounds way more optimistic than "holy shit they needed a punt return touchdown to beat Sweet Valley High."
Congratulations! You have now completed a preseason ranking. Enjoy the praise and adulation that will soon be filling your inbox.