The never-too-early top 25 for 2014

final-ap-poll-2013

It’s never too early for a preseason top 25, right? Most people think preseason polls are bad for college football. Hell, I think they need to make more of them. They give us something to talk about, but you have to wonder how they will affect the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Related: Early SEC West Predictions 2014

Now that players have declared for the NFL Draft and the coaching carousel is slowing down, we can make more accurate projections looking ahead to next season. FSU returns a loaded roster, and they enter as college football’s favorite to land a spot in the four-team playoff. Yes, playoff. Sounds weird, doesn’t it?

We’ll go through the top 10 teams, and then list 11-25 at the bottom. Let’s get it…

Related: Early SEC East Predictions 2014

1. Florida State Seminoles
FSU returns Heisman winner Jamies Winston and a hoard of NFL talent, as well as its head coach, Jimbo Fisher, who keeps stockpiling talent in Tallahassee. Yes, FSU plays an easy conference schedule, but key games against Louisville and non-conference Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Florida will test this team’s will. If they are going to lose, it may be one of those four, maybe Clemson or maybe Miami. Still, with just one loss, FSU could still be a lock for one of the four spots in the playoff.

Related: SEC’s 9th best BCS Championship Team

2. Auburn Tigers
Gus Malzahn nearly completed the biggest turnaround in college football with a national championship. You think he can coach? Nick Marshall is one of the handful of returning SEC quarterbacks in 2014, and although Tre Mason is gone, Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne should pick up the slack. I would like the passing game to develop more this spring, but the biggest reason I like Auburn is the defense. Ellis Johnson’s unit is going to be one of the strongest units in the conference, because they return a lot of talent at every position. With Malzahn’s offense lighting it up, the defense only needs to be in the top half of the SEC.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide
Yes, Alabama lost two straight games to close out the season, but they are going to be loaded with talent once more. AJ McCarron and CJ Mosley are the toughest players to replace, and it looks like Jacob Coker will step in and win the starting QB job. Lane Kiffin will coordinate the offense, but Nick Saban has some deficiencies with his defense stopping hurry-up offenses. Also, Saban knows his defense has to get bigger and better at cornerback, or the secondary will struggle again. You have to love the overall roster, but developing key positions on both sides of the ball will be the difference in getting into or missing the four-team playoff.

Related: Alabama’s new QB

4. Stanford Cardinal
Stanford, not Oregon, is the class of the Pac-12, and Stanford, like Oregon, has to replace its defensive coordinator. David Shaw is an outstanding head coach who picked right up where Jim Harbaugh left off, winning two Pac-12 Championships in two of three seasons. They have concerns along the offensive line, but returning seven starters on defense is great news. The schedule looks tough next year, but Stanford is one of the early favorites to jump into the four-team playoff, especially after they bully Oregon…again.

5. Oregon Ducks
Any time any team’s starting quarterback returns it will pay dividends. Yes, Oregon isn’t as physical as they would like, but QB Marcus Mariota returns as a Heisman favorite. The Ducks do have to replace six defensive starters and RB De’Anthony Thomas, as well as defensive coordinator Nick Allotti. Oregon will have a great offense, but replacing that many starters as well as the coordinator on defense is somewhat concerning. Still, I think they are worthy of a top five team.

6. Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans are close to taking over the Big Ten with their nasty defensive play, and the Big Ten Championship reminded us that defense still wins championships. Mark Dantonio has this program ready to compete for a national championship, and they didn’t lose any underclassmen to the NFL Draft. Although some key components graduate on defense, the Spartans will be strong once again, even returning QB Connor Cook and RB Jeremy Langford.

7. Oklahoma Sooners
So much for the 2013 rebuilding year. The Sooners finished the season 11-2, and they topped it off with beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. If that Trevor Knight shows up for an entire season, look out. Oklahoma is continuously one of the more overrated programs, and they’ll enter into the top 10 for 2014. Like other teams, Oklahoma loses key pieces, but nine starters return on defense. The Sooners could find their way into the 2014 playoffs, if that Trevor Knight shows back up.

8. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia returns 17 starters next season, including beast RB Todd Gurley. Ten of 11 starters return on defense, and the Bulldogs made the best offseason assistant coaching hire in DC Jeremy Pruitt. The key questions for Georgia will be replacing three offensive linemen and Aaron Murray. The good thing is QB replacement Hutson Mason received invaluable experience replacing Murray at the end of 2013, and it was better to struggle then than it will be against Clemson and South Carolina to start 2014. Georgia could be one to watch.

9. South Carolina Gamecocks
You can go ahead and write South Carolina down for 11 wins next season. Yes, Connor Shaw is gone, along with Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles, but there is young talent returning everywhere, especially in the backfield with RB Mike Davis and WR with Shaq Roland. I love the makeup of the Gamecocks’ team and program and the direction it’s heading, but replacing Connor Shaw could prove more difficult than initially perceived. Senior Dylan Thompson takes over the reins of the offense, and he’ll have to improve if Carolina wins an SEC Championship.

10. Ohio State Buckeyes
Following their undefeated 2012 season, Urban Meyer now knows the gap between Ohio State and the rest of the elite-caliber teams. Braxton Miller returns, along with a slew of talent, but the Buckeyes must get much better on defense, particularly in the secondary. OSU allowed 34 or more points in four of the last five games of 2013, and Meyer poached Arkansas DC Chris Ash to help them improve. He also hired former Penn State coach and ace recruiter Larry Johnson. But the Buckeyes have to replace four offensive linemen, and that could spell trouble.

11. UCLA Bruins
12. Baylor Bears
13. Wisconsin Badgers
14. Oklahoma State Cowboys
15. Missouri Tigers
16. LSU Tigers
17. Arizona State Sun Devils
18. Clemson Tigers
19. Washington Huskies
20. USC Trojans
21. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
22. Ole Miss Rebels
23. North Carolina Tar Heels
24. Texas Longhorns
25. Louisville Cardinals

Just outside: Texas A&M, Florida, Michigan, Iowa

Photo Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

REFERENCES

COMMENTS

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  • My top 25 would look like this;

    1. FSU
    2. Bama
    3. Auburn.
    4. Stanford
    5. Ohio St.
    6. South Carolina
    7. Michigan St.
    8. Oklahoma
    9. Oregon
    10. Georgia
    11. Ole Miss
    12. Wisconsin
    13. Oklahoma St.
    14. LSU
    15, USC
    16. Clemson
    17. Baylor
    18. Notre Dame
    19. Mizzou
    20. Arizona St.
    21. Texas
    22. Mississippi St.
    23. Washington
    24. Michigan
    25. Florida

    This is probably closer to a power ranking than a top 25 poll. I’m sure the first think people are going to argue with me on is why is Ole Miss so high. The reason is because they return most of their team and they are going to have a really good offense with a 3 yr starter back. But the defense is why I put them so high. They will have a nasty defense with the front seven being really good.

    Also, there are two reasons why I have Florida ranked. The first one is because I couldn’t find a better team and the second reason is if they find just a little offense they are going to be pretty good and they can’t do any worse than they did last year. I’m still not sold on teams like Oregon, Georgia, LSU, and even FSU because they lost a lot of really good players. Both LSU and Georgia are having to replace QBs that where very good. LSU is also losing a ton to the draft and Georgia’s defense may have a lot coming back, but they were still bad this past season.

    • Armyguy007, I understand why you put ole miss so high, It’s your team and I get that. I like you feel they belong in the top 25. They are going to be a decent team. With that said let me interject. MSU clearly improved over the last half of the season. Particularly on defense. On offense they have arguably one of the better quarterback guys in the SEC coming back in Dak Prescott who has established himself as the clear leader of the team. MSU has one or two more returning from this year than you guys do. My question is this. Since we have a strong group coming back and since we clearly were the better team between the two at the end of the year why do you have them so far above us.? I am not being an a&* asking this. I am asking you to seriously answer this if you can. I give people who are ole miss fans that are being jerks the business but you seem to be pretty level headed and just wondered where you thinking was on this.

      • “Clearly” the better team? The Rebs were literally 2 steps away from taking it to double overtime. And on their worst played game this year. I don’t think you can say they were clearly better than Ole Miss. That being said…Ole Miss should not be #11 going into this season

        • Yes, however they didn’t. Didn’t score one offensive touchdown. Was beat up front on both sides. Falling back on that worse game of the year doesn’t wash. You have to give credit to State for causing them to have their worst game of the year. But, ole miss fans would never admit that which is typical.

        • I feel like both teams should move up as the year progresses. Maybe we’ll both ranked we play each other.

        • *Maybe we’ll both be ranked when we play each other

      • Most preseason projections are based off of a body of work and not simply one game. Also recruiting projections play a role as well. Based off of Ole Miss’ body of work, they are viewed as being on an upward projection. They had decent wins against Vanderbilt, Texas, LSU, and Georgia Tech. MSU, though, is hundred by their lack of credible wins from last season. Their four best wins were Kentucky, Arkansas, Rice, and Ole Miss. Therefore, their body of work is weaker than Ole Miss’. Further complicating their projection is a lack of impact players in their 2014 recruiting class. I do believe that MSU may very well end up ranked next year at some point. Dak Prescott finished 10th in the nation in total QBR. However, they will have to win a few games next year similar to Ole Miss this year before the Alabama game. Until then, though, they can’t be ranked based off of last season. They did beat Ole Miss, but their weaker body of work puts them in a position where they will have to prove themselves over the course of next season in order to make believers out of everyone.

        • I can accept that sports guy to a degree. Of the SEC losses they had SC and LSU were the only games they what I call weren’t in. When looking at their season game by game they started coming together during the SC game. They had 5 turnovers and lost but they were just different after that. Defense improved with every game. So much so that they ended up 4th in the league in scoring defense. They had the unfortunate schedule that had them playing Sc, a&m, bama, ark and ole miss back to back to back. I agree that in order to get the ranking that they will have to beat some of these teams to get there. Still, in my opinion they are not 11 spots behind ole miss which was my original question to army guy. Really, I don’t think its as much that I feel we should be ranked any higher than 22nd as it is that i don’t think that ole miss should be 11th which is where army guy had them. I can buy them a couple of spots over us.

        • and i know its just predictions and the playing of the games will settle that.

        • Rriffe..my point is State wasn’t “clearly” better. Alabama was clearly better than Ole Miss. The Egg Bowl just as easily could have gone the other way…you being a typical State fan probably don’t see it that way though. And yes you are a typical State fan by claiming that a team that won 7 games last year (1 that was worth a crap) should be ranked at all. And no i can admit that Ole Miss isn’t all that great…I’m not sure they should be ranked going into the season

  • Based on last year…. using the wolf-index: wolf index = last year’s final AP-Coaches rank, plus that conference’s rank of wins vs. loses, plus losing starters (lose 0 starters you are ranked #1, lose 22 starters you are ranked #127. Add all these ranks together and a team could be anywhere from 3 points down to a low of 381 points. So how does your team come out based on this index? For Example Missouri finished ranked #4 or #5, plus conference was ranked #1 in conference record (7wins 3losses), and they lose 8 starters, = total score of 13.5 points. Not too many teams are going to be ranked ahead of them in the wolf index. And show me a simple projection based on real data that mean’s more that that criteria. Add your team’s up and see how they would rank on the wolf-index, post here please.

    • CONFERENCE RECORD IN BOWL GAMES 2013-2014

    • Using your formula – USC is #4 + 1 (bowl record) + 8 (starters lost) = 13 points.

      • Who is your qb going to be next year Gamecock?

        • Dylan Thompson, the same guy that played the entire Clemson game in 2012 and beat them with over 300 yards passing.

        • It will be Dylan Thompson. We have two good QBs that will be sophomores, but I thinkSpurrier will go with the 5th year senior who has been around and started/won big games. Having 4 OL back will help as Dylan is more pro-style, you will see more QB under center, play action from under center, and more wildcat with Pharoah Cooper or direct snap to the RB.

        • Glad you aren’t on our schedule at MSU next year. we need the break and for once the schedule eases up a bit for us next year.

      • and that seems like the great low point total and corresponding rank they should have.

  • 1. FSU
    2. Auburn
    3. Bama
    4. South Carolina
    5. Stanford
    6. Mich St.
    7. Oregon
    8. Oklahoma
    9. baylor
    10. Ohio State
    11. Mizzou
    12. Wisconsin
    13. Oklahoma St.
    14. LSU
    15, Georgia
    16. Clemson
    17. USC
    18. TAM
    19. Ole miss
    20. Arizona St.
    21. Texas
    22. Mississippi St.
    23. Washington
    24. Michigan
    25. Florida

    • Interesting. Not many people are giving Oklahoma as much love as i thought they would after the way they played in the bowl game. Look like they could be dominate. Appreciate that at least you are giving MSU some respect by at least having them ranked.

      • They looked better for sure the second half. Okah always has a good team but htey worked it well this year. Im not sold on Georgia as much as everyone else. It still is Georiga, Love the Dawgs but Id rather them start out lower and work their way up. Ohio State I am not sold on as much and You can really switch out 4-9 really. maybe stanford a bit lower honestly. But it should be a good year next year for sure.

        • Yea, they are gonna surprise some folks this year. Particularly if they can keep Prescott healthy. Your team will be better for sure once they heal up. Rough year for sure for you guys last year.

        • Injury wise that is

        • I also think we have some coaching issues that are being neglected as well. I think the offense will be more than likely fine. The defense still has me a bit worried but if pruitt is as half as good as they say then hes already better than grantham. *shrugs

        • I think he was a good hire.Should hit the ground running with the talent level you guys keep. I have always really liked Richt. Good luck with the coming season..

  • My rankings would be:
    #1 Florida State
    #2 Auburn
    #3 Stanford
    #4 Oklahoma
    #5 Alabama
    #6 Oregon
    #7 Georgia
    #8 Michigan State
    #9 LSU
    #10 South Carolina
    #11 Ohio State
    #12 Wisconsin
    #13 Oklahoma State
    #14 Ole Miss
    #15 UCLA
    #16 Missouri
    #17 Baylor
    #18 Clemson
    #19 Arizona State
    #20 Washington
    #21 North Carolina
    #22 USC
    #23 Notre Dame
    #24 Texas
    #25 Texas A&M
    Okay 1st I’m just gonna give my LSU rant, most of the years LSU starts off outside of the top 10 they are in it with in the 1st 3 weeks so why keep them out? We start the year against some OOC team that is supposed to be a tough team (NOT always but generally speaking for all the people who will pop off about it) and we dominate them.. Wisconsin will be no exception. We will start this year strong and of course be in the running for the SEC and national titles. Believe me with what we lost last season and the way we performed this year, we will NOT have as tough of a time this year with the transition. Especially with Cam Cameron as our OC. Secondly, Bama will be probably be just as good as always but they have also lost a lot not just on one side of the ball but both, and with all the different guys they will have competing for the QB spot ( From Coker to Bateman to Cornwell ETC.) I feel it’s its being too kind to leave them in the top 3… For now let’s leave them in the 5-10 range. But regardless the SEC will be hoisting the Natty this year whether it be Bama, Auburn, LSU, or maybe Georgia.

    • I agree with most of your rankings. I would have LSU a little higher on mine, but I was that impressed with Jennings. I know that he should get better over the off season. But losing Mettenburger and both WRs is going to sting a little. The draft is also hurting LSU a lot. Most years I wouldn’t worry about LSU losing that many players, but it’s happened two years in row with the draft taking a lot of underclassmen. I appreciate the love your giving my Rebels. They are going to have a really good team this coming season. The only player they are losing that might sting a little is WR Donte Moncrief, but if there is on thing Ole Miss has is plenty of talented wide outs. But this season it’s going to be the Ole Miss defense that makes a lot of noise. Ole Miss has lacked quality depth, and this season they will finally have some. The DL in particular is going to really good. But talking about LSU, everyone knows that like Bama, LSU has talent everywhere. This year they are just going to be really young and unexperienced. But either way LSU is still going to have a good team. The one team I disagree with on your list is A&M. Just losing Manziel is going to hurt them a lot. But they are losing pretty much all their production on offense with Manziel and Evans leaving. Plus, A&M’s defense was horrible and that is an understatement. I don’t see that defense getting that better between now and this coming season.

      • Yeah I struggled with the A&M thing but there defense has to get better IMO, I think they have too much talent not too. And while I think A&M will be no where near as successful without Manziel they still have recruited well the past few years and have more talent than Mississippi State ,who is who I woulda put on this list instead. While I love Dak Prescott’s game the overall talent level @ MSU isn’t as high IMO.

        • Yes your right about how well A&M has been recruiting, but they have only been recruiting that way for really two years, just like Ole Miss has started recruiting really well these past two year. The reason I give MSU the nod over A&M is because they have good QB coming back and a solid defense. That’s something A&M can’t say right now. I just see this season for A&M as a rebuilding year. I don’t see them doing much at all. They will be relying on a lot of freshmen and sophomores and that’s doesn’t usually end up with a lot of success in the SEC. Even though they maybe talented freshmen and sophomores, they are going to have a very steep learning curve.

        • Yeah Dak Prescott is definitely an X-Factor for Miss St

    • @GeauxTigersFan: You went:
      “The SEC will be hoisting the Trophy–Bama,Auburn,LSU, or maybe Georgia.”
      I’ would not overlook 2 things: firstly, the Head Ball Coach 2013-14 just reached the top 5 with the absolute Youngest team in Division One football. Secondly, Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks are the only S E C team other than–you guessed it–Alabama to have consistented 11 wins ,consecutively, in these past t h r e e years. (Alabama has had 12 sometimes.) My point is: I wouldn’t have left out “possibly the Carolina Gamecocks” in the final 4. And if this more experienced Defense (and experienced backup QB,Dylan Thompson) gets these Gamecocks in the final four playoffs,we don’t know what will happen.
      G o ‘ Cocks.

      • And yeah there’s also South Carolina as well, but my point is I think there will be at least 2 SEC teams in the playoff, and this will be a combo of 1 of the big 3 in the west and 1 of either UGA and SC in the east.

  • 1. FSU
    2. Auburn
    3. Alabama
    4. Stanford
    5.South Carolina
    6. Michigan State
    7. Georgia
    8. Oklahoma
    9. Missouri
    10. Oregon
    11. Ole Miss
    12. Baylor
    13. LSU
    14. UCLA
    15. Clemson
    16. Ohio State
    17. Wisconsin
    18. Arizona State
    19. Texas
    20. Mississippi State
    21. Michigan
    22. North Carolina
    23. Notre Dame
    24. Louisville
    25. Florida
    Some of this, especially my top 15, will probably look like I looked at this with my SEC colored glasses on. But it’s just the way I see it. Auburn is going to be very strong again and has the potential to run the table….but so do a few other teams on their schedule. Bama will be strong once again. They will be fine at qb. With all that talent they have on offense, they don’t need a superstar qb. I placed South Carolina so high because just look at what they’ve done the past few years. And Dylan Thompson is by far the most experienced back up qb in the league. Georgia made the best offseason hire by far in Pruitt. And the fact that they’re returning 10 of 11 starters on defense is scary. Hutson Mason didn’t look overly impressive, but he will get better in the offseason and throughout the season….but Gurley is what will carry that offense. Missouri is the team I feel like hasn’t gotten enough respect. They lost some guys, and depending on some investigations, may lose a few more, but Maty Mauk is a great qb that showed he can run the offense. And their defense is stout. LSU is LSU which means no matter how many guys they lose, they will be contenders. And with Cam Cameron conducting the offense, I don’t believe LSU fans have anything to worry about. Ole Miss stepped up and made noise last year, which is why I believe they finish a top ten team this year. Miss. St. is a team that finished with great momentum. This could be the year Dan Mullen gets him 9 wins or so. I like their chances with Dak Prescott leading the offense. And Florida made the cut because of Kurt Roper. I believe he can get some production out of the offense. And that’s all Florida needs. I don’t see them winning a championship with Muschamp, but I do believe they can get back to competing with Roper calling the plays.

    • This probably gonna tick some Bama fans off but I see LSU and Auburn battling it out for the SEC west title this year. Auburn loses little and while LSU does lose 5 out’ve 11 offensive starters, we’re only losing about 3 of our 11 on defense. (Even if you count Loston at safety leaving we still have 4 returning starters in our secondary because we return Jalen Mills who will transition one of the safety spots and the 2 corners will be Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson who both started at CB this year and we also return Corey Thompson at the other safety spot.) Bama,however, is losing 5 out’ve 11 offensive starters and 9 out’ve 11 defensive starters.. That’s 8, and you could say 9 at the most’ returning starters.

      • I do see next year as a rebuilding year so to speak for bama, but I have learned that you can never write Saban off. Also interested to see what Kiffin will do with the offense. No doubt about it that he’s not a head coach, but I believe he’ll pan out to be a pretty great offensive coordinator for them. Nonetheless, it will be a great and fun season.

      • This is probably going to tick some LSU fans off, but I see LSU being the big bust in the conference this year. They don’t have the talent that Alabama does, and cannot simply reload. Not only that, but we’re talking about a team that has lost 6 games in the past two years, and has been a top 5 team only once in the last six years.

    • LOL, finally someones predictions that I can buy into. And from my Maroon colored glasses not because of where you ranked us as much as your comments. You obviously have seen what I’ve been preaching to the ones who write us off so to speak. It’s all about the momentum. Nine wins is very doable with our change in schedule. For years we have had to contend with a monstrous back ended schedule that included teams like bama, a&m, ark, lsu and ole miss. This year our toughest stretch is lsu, a&m and auburn towards the middle of our season. Of those 3 a&m and auburn are in Starkville where i think they have a chance of holding on. At least with what they have coming back this will be the best chance they have had in a long time.

  • I would like to know how Stanford gets ranked so high every year. They lost to two non-ranked (at the time) teams in the regular season and then to a BIG TEN (the conference that can’t count) team in the Rose Bowl!! So exactly HOW does that make them Number 4???

  • Gotta ask, where is Duke? I mean, look at how they hung in (and almost beat) A&M. The majority of playmakers on offense and defense are returning, and they aren’t even mentioned. Surprised LSU & Georgia are ranked as high and UF is even mentioned.

  • Looks like many people continue to be high on Oklahoma State for next year. I think there will be a major dropoff for them, they are losing 28 seniors this year, playmakers at pretty much every position.

  • Mississippi State will get minimum 9 wins this year. Book it. Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama to start off with. The LSU game is a swing game. MSU wins that… oh boy watch out. TAMU is in a down year and at home I think MSU wins that. Auburn was basically a coinflip last year, and MSU gets them at home this year. *If* they are coming off of a win at LSU, I would almost guarantee a victory over Aubun. If not, I say coinflip again. Arkansas, Kentucky, and UT Martin will all be wins. Right there MSU is 9-0 and at worst 7-2. A 9-0 MSU team heading into Alabama would be a nice spectacle to see. And a loss (if its close) may be the better scenario at that point. I think with the trouble vanderbilt is having right now the next week would be an easy win. Then the big Egg Bowl, with a win in that you are looking at 11-1 *if LSU goes as planned, 12-0 *if we get lucky vs. bama, 9-3/10-2 *if we lose to LSU. Being put at the 11-1 with bama being 12-0 and beating someone from the east to make us the second best team in the sec could be better for our National Title chances. We could get put in as the fourth seed and who knows from there. But this is just me dreaming. I’ll go back to my sad reality where we go 9-3 at best *sobs*

  • I would like to commend you all on a very well thought out comment section…Alot of these things get ignorant after one person says something not agreed by all…

    SN-I agree mostly with jefhuas’ comment…
    #hailstate