Missing college football yet? Angry because the offseason is taking too long and you just want action-filled Saturdays to get here? Worry not. Here are some projections to quench your thirst for some football.
PRESEASON TOP 10:
1. Florida State Seminoles
Hands down the best college football team in 2013, Florida State wants nothing more than to repeat as national champions. Reigning Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston looks to wow the nation again with his encore season and Florida State made it seem effortless last season. Every Saturday you could turn on SportsCenter and see some crazy 75-yard touchdown (TD) play that to anyone else would seem impossible, but to Winston was natural athleticism. It also contributed heavily to the Seminoles’ dominance. Almost every game was an absolute blowout and Winston can only get better. With an improving ACC, it won’t be easy, but don’t be surprised if Florida State repeats this year.
2. Oklahoma Sooners
Why would I put a team that lost to Texas in 2013 in the second slot for these rankings? One reason: Trevor Knight. The kid absolutely destroyed the Alabama defense last year, completing 32 of 44 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Many people have been criticizing Knight for being a “one hit wonder”, but I don’t understand it. You don’t light up the Crimson Tide and beat them like he did and then become irrelevant. Oklahoma boasts a strong defense in 2014, one that may be the deciding factor in whether they can beat out Baylor for the Big 12 title.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide
Coming off of what some would deem an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma, Alabama has to replace quite a bit of talent this year. Star RB T.J. Yeldon and WR Amari Cooper return, but the Tide lost A.J. McCarron and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the draft, amongst others. Alabama, as always, expects nothing less than a national championship. Having been one win away (thank you, Auburn’s Chris Davis, for the best finish to a college football game I’ve ever seen) from a third straight title game appearance, the Crimson Tide will have to go through an uncertain and shaky SEC to get there. I believe Alabama can make the playoff, but there are questions to be answered in Tuscaloosa.
4. Auburn Tigers
Gus Malzahn and Auburn dominated the SEC in 2014 the same way Texas A&M and Missouri attacked it: with a high flying, heavy powered, fast steering offense (we should note, Malzahn made it clear many a time that this is NOT a spread offense). I mean, Auburn and Missouri squared off in the SEC championship game and the final score was 59-42. Credit to Bob Stoops; he may not have been wrong about those SEC defenses. Why have those three teams been so dominant in the SEC recently? Offense. It’s the way college football is transforming with offense and Auburn looks to bring that quick offense back in 2014. Nick Marshall returns under center for the Tigers, but they will have to replace the talents of RB Tre Mason and LT Greg Robinson. It’s simple: unless the SEC can adapt, Auburn just has to attack with the same offensive scheme it did in 2013, and they can repeat as SEC champions.
5. Baylor Bears
Baylor undoubtedly enjoyed its most successful season in program history last year, winning eleven games and a Big 12 championship. However, they experienced the same difficulties playing on the road as they have in recent years; they barely escaped Manhattan with a 35-25 win over KSU, they got blasted by Oklahoma State 49-17 in Stillwater, and they needed a last second interception to beat TCU 41-38 in Fort Worth. The Bears contain an offensive firepower like no other, but they replace 8 defensive starters. QB Bryce Petty has many offensive weapons surrounding him, including RB Shock Linwood, and WRs Levi Norwood, Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman. If the defense can match its success in 2013, if not improve, then expect Baylor to win the Big 12 again and perhaps edge their way into the playoff.
6. Oregon Ducks
The Ducks return in 2014 with QB Marcus Mariota and their entire starting offensive line. After losing RB De’Anthony Thomas to the draft and WR Bralon Addison to injury last month, Oregon has an offense that certainty needs to rebuild before it takes the field this fall. Essentially, Mariota and his line return, but Oregon has to replace almost everyone else on offense. And offense was the key to their success in 2013, although their defense is certainly stable. The Ducks’ defense allowed a modest 370 total yards and over 2 turnovers a game. Coming off of a 30-7 Alamo Bowl victory over Texas, Oregon can return as a PAC-12 contender this season.
7. Michigan State Spartans
Coming off of a Rose Bowl victory over Stanford and boasting a powerful defense, the Spartans potentially poise the biggest threat out of the Big 10. They will have to replace key players like Darqueze Dennard and Denicos Allen, but have returning stars like QB Connor Cook and RB Jeremy Langford. I watched MSU play quite a few games this year and if they can keep their stout defense as a dominant squad, then the Spartans could win ten or eleven games this year.
8. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes didn’t exactly end 2013 on a good note. After completing the program’s second straight undefeated regular season campaign under head coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State dropped a thriller of a Big 10 Championship to Michigan State and proceeded to fall to Clemson in the Orange Bowl, 40-35. Heisman candidate and highlight-heavy QB Braxton Miller returns, but the Buckeyes lost RB Carlos Hyde to the draft and have a very unstable and unsure offensive line heading into 2014. OSU has a commanding defensive line, and a defensive squad that looks to prove much better than it did in 2013. Expect Ohio State to win the Big 10 championship this year and squeak into the playoff.
9. UCLA Bruins
I have been a huge fan of Brett Hundley for some time now, and I really think UCLA is the PAC-12’s team to beat this year. Hundley is the perfect leader for a UCLA squad that throws a solid O-line into the mix. The Bruins also have LB/RB Myles Jack as a threat, whom we all saw make some big plays in 2013. Losing All-American LB Anthony Barr may hurt UCLA on defense, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind the Bruins can win the PAC-12 this year.
10. Stanford Cardinal
Stanford played their hearts out in the Rose Bowl last season, a bowl game I would put in the top of the list of best games I have ever seen. Stanford’s defense headed into the spring with many questions to be answered, but from what I have seen they look great; certainly good enough to compete in a fierce, talented PAC-12. The question is whether Stanford can replace four offensive linemen and star RB Tyler Gaffney. The Cardinal beat six ranked teams in 2013, but lost to Utah. There’s a lot of uncertainty headed into this season for Stanford, but if those questions are addressed quickly they will win at least nine or ten games this year.
FIVE (SERIOUS) HEISMAN CANDIDATES
1. Jameis Winston
2. Nick Marshall
3. Bryce Petty
4. Braxton Miller
5. Marcus Mariota