With only a little over a month left before the start of football season, teams are preparing to defend titles or begin the long march to return to prominence.

Now that the high school football season is nearly upon us, the Deseret News is releasing its ranking of the top 25 football programs in the state of Utah, regardless of division.

Jordan High School is looking to defend its 5A title along with other division champions Timpview, Dixie, Manti and Duchesne, but none of these schools are the top ranked program on the list. Some schools look poised for big improvements, while others may struggle to maintain success after losing key players to graduation.

As we gear up for the start of the season, here are the Deseret News rankings for the top 25 high school football teams in the state, beginning with the American Fork Cavemen at No. 25.

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25 American Fork

2012 Record: 3-7

2012 Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Outlook: The Cavemen figure to be much more competitive in 2013 as they enter their second year running the triple option with eight returning offensive starters.

24 Granger

2012 Record: 7-4

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Northridge 42-25 in the 5A quarterfinals.

Outlook: Great things are expected of the Lancers in coach Cecil Thomas' second season as head coach. The team returns seven starters on offense and eight on defense.

23 Northridge

2012 Record: 9-3

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Jordan 49-13 in the 5A quarterfinals.

Outlook: There are question marks after the graduation of Davy Adams, but Nate Kusuda is back at quarterback — the first returning QB for coach Erik Thompson in his nine years at Northridge — and speedy BYU commit Dayan Lake also returns.

22 Juan Diego

2012 Record: 12-1

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Dixie 14-13 in the 3A semifinals.

Outlook: Loss to Dixie in semis was definitely a stunner, but the Soaring Eagle will be in the hunt again this year with two returning offensive linemen, an experienced secondary, and the return of two of its best running backs.

21 Box Elder

2012 Record: 7-5

2012 Playoffs: Lost to East 21-7 in the 4A quarterfinals.

Outlook: Bees will be very good offensively with seven returning starters, including RB Breckin Gunter and QB Shad Watson. They do face a tough preseason schedule against Region 1 foes to prepare for the Region 5 grind.

20 Layton

2012 Record: 3-8

2012 Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Outlook: With four returning starters on the offensive line and Hunter Evans back for his third season at quarterback, the Lancers hope to make some noise in Region 1 this season.

19 Orem

2012 Record: 8-4

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Highland 34-25 in the 4A quarterfinals.

Outlook: After two excellent seasons from QB Taylor Camp, the Tigers are breaking in a new quarterback this year, but don’t expect much of a drop-off as Orem has been pegged as the Region 7 favorite.

18 Dixie

2012 Record: 11-2

2012 Playoffs: Beat Spanish Fork 49-21 in the 3A championship.

Outlook: Surprised many by winning the 3A title last year, but even with the departure of 3A MVP Blake Barney, the Flyers are definitely on everyone’s radar with all four starting wide receivers returning from a year ago.

17 Hunter

2012 Record: 7-3

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Fremont 14-6 in the 5A first round.

Outlook: After rolling through Region 2 last season, the Wolverines were pegged by the Region 2 coaches as the team to beat again this season.

16 Riverton

2012 Record: 6-5

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Alta 27-14 in the 5A first round.

Outlook: Riverton returns more than half its starters on both sides of the ball, and even though it’s not as big as some of the other teams in 5A, team speed will help it compete in every game on the schedule.

15 Herriman

2012 Record: 8-3

2012 Playoffs: Lost to East 27-16 in the 4A first round.

Outlook: Makes the jump to 5A this year, but the Mustangs should be just fine with talented returning starters on both sides of the ball, including running back Brandon Farmer.

14 Bountiful

2012 Record: 9-3

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Mountain Crest 41-0 in the 4A quarterfinals.

Outlook: A strong 2012 season came to a disappointing end with an emphatic loss to Mountain Crest. With the return of six offensive starters, the Braves hope to be much more competitive with the 4A elite this season.

13 Highland

2012 Record: 8-5

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Mountain Crest 14-6 in the 4A semifinals.

Outlook: The Rams return six offensive and defensive starters from a team that gave Mountain Crest a run for its money in the 4A semifinals last season.

12 Logan

2012 Record: 8-3

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Timpview 49-14 in the 4A first round.

Outlook: Chase Nelson takes over at QB and looks to follow in his brothers' footsteps by leading Logan to a state title. Defense could be the catalyst for the Grizzlies this year as the program returns seven starters.

11 Mountain Crest

2012 Record: 11-3

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Timpview 38-31 in the 4A championship.

Outlook: After coming up one play short of winning last year’s state title, the Mustangs will be very young this season as coach Mark Wootton said the program could start as many as eight sophomores. They might take their lumps early, but could benefit for several years to come.

10 Brighton

2012 Record: 8-5

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Lone Peak 24-17 in the 5A first round.

Outlook: The Bengals feature some of the best players in the state in Jackson Barton and Osa Masina, along with returning experience at QB, but they are in a brutal region along with top five programs Bingham, Jordan and Alta.

9 Pleasant Grove

2012 Record: 6-5

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Jordan 56-7 in the 5A first round.

Outlook: With a year under their belts in coach Les Hamilton’s system, the Vikings figure to be much more competitive in 5A this season with very strong offensive and defensive lines returning.

8 Davis

2012 Record: 7-5

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Lone Peak 27-26 in the 5A quarterfinals.

Outlook: A missed extra point cost Davis a shot at the 5A semifinals last season, and with a handful of skill position players returning this year, the Darts should be in the middle of the 5A race once again.

7 East

2012 Record: 5-8

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Timpview 32-14 in the 4A semifinals

Outlook: Following a drama-filled 2012 season that included the Jordan postponed game and the ineligible player debacle at the end of the season, East is loaded again this season for what it hopes is a state championship season.

6 Lone Peak

2012 Record: 10-3

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Jordan 35-14 in the 5A semifinals.

Outlook: After five very successful seasons with coach Tony McGeary, Lone Peak begins a new era with new head coach Mike Mower. The rookie head coach has a great foundation to start with as Baron Bajkowski is back at QB after leading the Knights to the semifinals a year ago.

5 Timpview

2012 Record: 9-5

2012 Playoffs: Beat Mountain Crest 38-31 in the 4A championship.

Outlook: Despite just one offensive starter returning, the T-Birds were dubbed by the 4A coaches as the team to beat, and it’s easy to see why. First-year coach Cary Whittingham proved himself to be a savvy postseason coach as Timpview beat Logan, Woods Cross, East and Mountain Crest en route to the title.

4 Jordan

2012 Record: 12-1

2012 Playoffs: Beat Syracuse 58-2 in the 5A championship

Outlook: Coming off one of the most dominant 5A seasons of the past decade, Jordan has multiple question marks after graduating all five starters on the offensive line. Mr. Football recipient Austin Kafentzis is back at quarterback, though, a foundation any coach would be thrilled to start with.

3 Syracuse

2012 Record: 12-1

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Jordan 58-2 in the 5A championship

Outlook: The second-best team in Utah last season, Syracuse will again be one of the top dogs in 5A thanks in large part to a defense that returns seven starters. That defense struggled in a title-game loss to Jordan, but was sensational in 12 undefeated weeks before then.

2 Alta

2012 Record: 9-3

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Syracuse 31-24 in the 5A quarterfinals

Outlook: In the first year of the Corner Canyon split, great things are still expected from the Hawks as they return five offensive starters — led by QB Chipper Lucero — and six defense starters.

1 Bingham

2012 Record: 10-3

2012 Playoffs: Lost to Syracuse 21-16 in the 5A semifinals

Outlook: Bingham begins the season ranked No. 1 in the Deseret News rankings for the fourth-straight year. The Miners took state just once in those previous three seasons, but this year they return six starters on both sides of the ball as they hope to halt the trend of coming up short.