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Potential spoiler teams for 2013

7/9/2013
Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss Rebels top the list of potential spoiler teams for 2013. Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports

Spoiler alert!

No, I haven't been given any special Disney access into Avengers 2 or Star Wars VII. What I have been doing is poring over the 2013 college football schedule and trying to figure out what BCS outsiders have the best chance to spoil the party for someone else.

I'm talking about those teams that aren't expected by many to earn an invite to the five big January games, but their calendar includes national title hopefuls ripe for season-wrecking (see: Iowa State versus Oklahoma State 2011).

So, who are the top five 2013 BCS wrecking balls? Here we go.

1. Ole Miss

Likely preseason ranking: AP: NR, SEC West: 5th

Wrecking Ball Games: Sept. 14 at Texas, Sept. 28 at Alabama, Oct. 12 Texas A&M, Oct. 19 LSU

You could make a pretty nice argument for a few SEC West schools to be in this spot, particularly Mississippi State or Arkansas. That'll happen when your division has won five out of the last six BCS titles.

But it's the Rebels who are returning the core of an offense and defense that went a surprising 7-6 one year ago. With a little luck, that record could have been 9-4 because it included near misses against Texas A&M and LSU. This year both of those teams travel to Oxford, part of a brutal five-game stretch that also includes trips to Austin and Tuscaloosa. If Hugh Freeze can figure out a way to win just one of those games, it would likely be a BCS buster for four teams expected to be nicely placed within the AP's preseason top 20.

2. Kentucky

Likely preseason ranking: AP: NR, SEC East: 7th

Wrecking Ball Games: Sept. 14 Louisville, Sept. 28 Florida, Oct. 5 at South Carolina, Oct. 12 Alabama, Nov. 23 at Georgia

You could just as easily plug Tennessee, Missouri or Vanderbilt into this spot because the SEC members all play essentially the same conference schedule. But the Wildcats have more season-destroying potential because of their in-state rivalry with likely preseason top-10 pick Louisville.

There's also the Mark Stoops factor. He got the jump on most new guys via a relatively early hire date and is already blowing minds with his recruiting prowess. Kentucky is still going to have a rough go of it, more than likely picked to finish last in the division. But all it would take would be one upset and it could upset the apple cart for a top-shelf opponent.

3. BYU

Likely preseason ranking: AP: NR

Wrecking Ball Games: Sept. 7 Texas, Oct. 25 Boise State, Nov. 23 at Notre Dame

I toyed with a handful of Big 12 teams here for the same reason that I ultimately went with the Cougars. It's the Texas factor. The Longhorns seem right on schedule for another season entry in the midrange of the Top 25, knowing that just a couple of wins will push their brand name into the top 10 in a hurry. But as the old coach says on Saturday morning, "not so fast, my friend." They have to travel to Provo for the season's second game. A loss there to a team that's coming off an 8-4 season and is playing its best defense in decades would put the Horns' season into the wall while the green flag is still waving.

When BYU hosts Boise State in the eighth game, the Broncos could be undefeated and placed well inside the top 10. No one expects Notre Dame to be playing for a BCS berth when it hosts BYU at season's end, but then again no one expected that last year either. With Stanford the following weekend, the trap game potential for the Irish will be high.

4. Penn State

Likely preseason ranking: AP: NR, Big Ten Leaders: 3rd

Wrecking Ball Games: Oct. 12 Michigan, Oct. 26 at Ohio State, Nov. 23 Nebraska

The second season of the post-Joe Paterno era will begin with a solid core of young talent and, thankfully, a markedly diminished media circus atmosphere. The Nittany Lions far exceeded what was expected of them in 2012 with an 8-4 record. By the time they see Ohio State and Nebraska in the season's second half, the Buckeyes -- who follow a Penn State bye week -- should be at least a top-five team, maybe even in the top two. The Huskers will have only really been tested twice by the time they come to Happy Valley. I'm not saying that Bill O'Briens's team, which is being projected as a 6-6 or 7-5-level squad, will win one of those. I'm saying it could.

5. Washington State

Likely preseason ranking: AP: NR, Pac-12 North: 5th

Wrecking Ball Games: Sept. 7 at USC, Sept. 28 Stanford, Oct. 19 at Oregon

It's Year 2 for the Mike Leach show in Pullman, and the schedule, particularly the first half, is daunting. But that also feels like it could be the perfect time when the Air Raid could catch an opponent off guard. If wide receiver Dominique Williams can pick up where he left off and junior quarterback Connor Halliday can improve upon last year's completion percentage (or incoming true freshman QB Tyler Bruggman can meet even a little of the potential that Leach sees in him), there's a chance to put points on the board and knock a big team back on its heels.

Unlike last year, USC will probably enter the season hanging onto the bottom rung of the AP Top 25 instead of the top. A loss to the Cougars would tie an anchor around their ankles for the remainder of the season. The same goes for Stanford three weeks later -- a team that will still be in early-year offensive reconstruction mode.