NCAA Football

Preseason College Football Rankings 2014: Listing of Top 25 NCAA Teams

As the 2014 college football regular season swiftly approaches, the most highly debated topic surrounding the college football ranks is the list of Top 25 teams from the Amway Coaches Poll.

While some teams appear to be ranked in legitimate fashion, other Top 25 squads hold rather intriguing positions due to roster uncertainties stemming from the loss of several key players via the 2014 NFL draft.

Each year, the Top 25 rankings don't take long to undergo a severe transformation. After all, in the college ranks, one untimely early loss could have season-altering consequences. That's why these rankings are one of the most argued topics heading into every season.

Let's go ahead and fuel the fire by listing the Top 25 teams from the coaches poll and pose a few debatable questions regarding those rankings.

 

Alabama Worthy of No. 2 Ranking?

This may seem like a strange question—Alabama has been one of CFB's most dominant teams for years. However, due to the loss of quarterback A.J. McCarron, an unsettled quarterback controversy has plagued the team during the summer months.

Blake Sims and Florida State transfer Jacob Coker have been entrenched in a battle for the starting position that is showing no signs of ending anytime soon.

Even after the team's first scrimmage, head coach Nick Saban didn't indicate any clear leader when praising both players during a press conference, via Andrew Gribble of AL.com:

I think they both did a lot of good things. I think they both have some things that they wish they had back. And I think they both probably made some choices and decisions that we can improve on.

But I also think that both guys showed that they're capable of doing what we need to do with them on offense so that we can be effective with the other players that we have.

The ongoing battle appears to be a detriment to locker-room morale. Michael Carvell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the division among the team's players:

There's no doubting this team's talent, but after faltering at the end of last season, receiving zero first-place votes and struggling with a quarterback controversy, questioning the Crimson Tide's ranking begins a legitimate debate.

 

Michigan State a Snub at No. 8 Overall?

While Michigan State saw several of its outstanding players leave at the end of last season—notably cornerback Darqueze Dennard, a first-round selection of the Cincinnati Bengals—the team remains one of the most complete in the NCAA.

The Spartans maintained one of the most prolific defenses throughout the 2013 season, ranking third in points allowed, second in rushing defense, third in passing defense and second in total defense.

Due to some very experienced starting defenders this season, comprised mostly of juniors and seniors, there's no reason to believe this team will face any kind of significant decline.

The steady Connor Cook also returns as the team's starting quarterback this season. In 2014, Cook completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 2,755 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press relayed Cook's comments on the upcoming season:

He'll be joined in the backfield by running back Jeremy Langford, who rushed for 1,422 yards on 292 attempts—a 4.9 average—and 18 touchdowns one season ago.

The No. 8 ranking sure seems a little low for the reigning Rose Bowl champions.

 

South Carolina Deserving of Top-10 Ranking?

Here's another example of a team that certainly contains a great deal of talent—not to mention one of the best coaches in the business—but is also undergoing several changes which may not bode well for the upcoming season.

The big loss for this football team is freakish defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The first-overall selection of the 2014 NFL draft, Clowney will no longer be a threatening presence for the Gamecocks along the defensive front.

Even tough Clowney's production dropped off last season, he demanded constant attention from opposing offensive coordinators in each contest. South Carolina simply doesn't have that kind of presence going forward.

Another question mark is the departure of quarterback Connor Shaw. Last season, Shaw was extremely efficient, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 2,447 yards, 24 touchdowns and just one interception—he also brought an increased level of mobility.

This season, Dylan Thompson is currently slated to start for the team, although he hasn't shown a high level of efficiency. In relief appearances last season, Thompson completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 783 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Gamecocks must be wary of taking a step backward.

Let the debate rage on.

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Breaking Down Oregon's Latest Depth-Chart Moves Midway Through Fall Camp

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich is playing his initial 2014 depth chart close to the chest.

"There is a fine line in anticipating and predetermining, and we don't want to predetermine anything," he said last week at Oregon's media day, via Matt Prehm of 247Sports.

While several starting spots are locked in—Oregon returns the Pac-12's second-most veteran lineup behind only UCLA—there are enough positions to make for intriguing internal competition.

Helfrich spoke specifically of the wide receiver corps, which returns just one 2013 starter, Keanon Lowe.

In July at Pac-12 media days, Helfrich praised the leadership of the redshirt senior Lowe and noted redshirt freshmen Devon Allen's high potential.   

Darren Carrington and Dwayne Stanford should also compete for spots atop the wide receiver depth chart. The unit's development in fall camp will shape Oregon's offense in the season to come. 

"It might end up [being] three tight ends," Helfrich said last week per 247Sports. "Or two tailbacks."

A three-tight end set? No, Stanford head coach David Shaw was not added to Helfrich's staff in the offseason.

But the Ducks do have an abundance of options at the tight end position, with Evan Baylis, Pharaoh Brown and Johnny Mundt all having made starts in 2013. Add Koa Ka'ai, who has performed well enough this offseason to earn endorsements from tight ends coach Tom Osborne and quarterback Marcus Mariota, and there is indeed a wide variety of combinations for Helfrich to employ.   

As for Helfrich's two tailbacks comment, that wouldn't be a problem. Oregon is similarly stocked in the backfield, if not more so. 

Top returning rusher Byron Marshall and explosive sophomore Thomas Tyner are known commodities, but highly touted freshman Royce Freeman adds a new element.

So too does redshirt freshman Kani Benoit, another ball-carrier whose presence allows offensive coordinator Scott Frost and Helfrich to tinker with lineups.   

Oregon's linebacker corps can also dive deep into the depth chart with potentially productive reserves. One gaining attention through the first week of fall camp is redshirt freshman Danny Mattingly, a scout-team standout in 2013. 

"I see way more growth," Derrick Malone told Andrew Greif of The Oregonian. "Now he can show what he can do because he can play that much faster." 

Should Mattingly reach his high potential, he'll factor prominently into the rotation. But the collection of talent among the Oregon linebackers requires one to stand out in practice in order to make an impact come game day. 

Outside linebackers coach Erik Chinander addressed the level of competition with GoDucks.com editor Rob Moseley

Guys like Tony Washington, Tyson Coleman, Christian French, Torrodney Prevot, they’re comfortable. They go out there, they don’t blink. I want to see who’s going to be that next guy—who can communicate, who can talk, who can think fast. But I also just want to throw them in there so they understand, this is what it’s really like.

Helfrich may be less playing coy with the depth chart than he is weighing all options—the options are abundant.  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com  

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Breaking Down Oregon's Latest Depth-Chart Moves Midway Through Fall Camp

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich is playing his initial 2014 depth chart close to the chest. "There is a fine line in anticipating and predetermining, and we don't want to predetermine ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Former 8th Grade Phenom Dylan Moses Named No. 1 Recruit in Class of 2017

The 2017 recruiting class, which is made up of high school sophomores, will have an unsurprising name at its head when the first 247Sports rankings are released Monday afternoon: future LSU linebacker Dylan Moses.

Barton Simmons of 247Sports made the official announcement:

"It definitely means a lot to me," Moses said of receiving the No. 1 ranking, per Simmons. "I’ve definitely been striving for it ever since I started playing football. I’ve always wanted to be the best."

Moses has been playing varsity football since he was in middle school and received his LSU scholarship offer in the seventh grade.

The hoopla of his recruitment reached a new level when he landed on the cover of ESPN The Magazine in July 2013, headlining the issue with a story by Kevin Van Valkenburg that said he was "changing the college recruiting process."

At 6'2", 220 pounds, Moses projects as an outside linebacker but could realistically play just about any position he wants at the next level. According to the ESPN story, he clocks a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash, and he's also played some running back in high school.

The 2017 cycle is obviously a long way from being complete, but Moses, who plays at University Lab High School in nearby Baton Rouge, seems like a pretty safe bet to remain loyal to LSU.

However, that doesn't mean he won't keep looking other places. According to Simmons, Moses visited Florida State this summer and has also mentioned Texas and Alabama as intriguing alternatives.

"My thing right now is to continue to weigh my options and look at other schools," he said of his open-mindedness. "LSU will always be number one. I just want to make the right decision."

LSU landed the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2014 cycle, running back Leonard Fournette, and also has a commitment from the former No. 1 overall prospect in the 2015 cycle, cornerback Kevin Toliver II (who has since dropped down to No. 4).

The No. 1 overall prospect in the 2016 cycle, offensive tackle Gregory Little, committed to Texas A&M this summer, but Moses would get the Tigers back on the board with top-ranked recruits.

They just need to hold on to him for another three years.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Ohio State Football 2014: Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

Ohio State heads into 2014 looking to redeem itself after a disappointing end to its 2013 campaign. After exploding onto the scene with a 12-0 start, the Buckeyes suffered losses to Michigan State and Clemson, who were the only top-10 teams they faced all season.

With Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller at the helm, and everyone's eyes on the November 8 game against the Michigan State team that derailed Ohio State's playoff hopes a season ago, how will the Buckeyes fair this time around? Watch as B/R's experts break down this year's Ohio State squad.

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Notre Dame Football 2014: Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

Following a 2013 campaign that saw the Notre Dame Fighting Irish finish with a 9-4 record and a win in the Pinstripe Bowl, Brian Kelly and Co. are looking to get back into national title contention.

Watch as B/R's experts weigh in on the coming season and what to expect from Notre Dame.

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Texas A&M Football 2014: Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

Kevin Sumlin's Texas A&M Aggies were successful in 2013, with an overall record of 9-4 and a victory against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Now, Texas A&M will look to continue that success despite losing Johnny Manziel, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans to the NFL. Will the Aggies progress or regress this year?

Watch as B/R's experts weigh in on Texas A&M ahead of the 2014 season.

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Auburn Football 2014: Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

Following a heartbreaking loss in last year's national championship game against the Florida State Seminoles, the Auburn Tigers are looking to finish the job in 2014.

Watch as B/R's experts weigh in on Auburn's season and make predictions for 2014. 

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5 Things We've Learned About Auburn Through Fall Camp so Far

The first week of fall practice had no shortage of new developments for the Auburn Tigers, who are now less than three weeks away from a highly anticipated opening kickoff against Arkansas.

Several new players on the Auburn roster have shaken up starter battles and other key positions on the depth chart, which has taken a couple of hits with the injuries to standout sophomores Alex Kozan and Carl Lawson.

A couple of positions that seemed to be set in stone have been opened in Auburn's second week of fall camp, including a crucial special teams spot.

The coaching staff will evaluate the entire depth chart for the upcoming week before turning toward preparations for a season-opening visit from Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks.

Here is a look at five new things we have learned about the defending SEC champions through the first 10 days of fall camp.

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College Football 2014: Who Is the No. 1 QB Heading into the Season?

The college football season is fast approaching, and there are a number of stud quarterbacks across the country. Florida State QB Jameis Winston is looking to repeat as Heisman Trophy winner and become only the second player in history to take home the prestigious award twice.

Could Oregon's Marcus Mariota get in his way? What about UCLA's Brett Hundley?

Watch as B/R's college football experts debate who the best QB is heading into the 2014 season.

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Baylor Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

The Baylor Bears will look to continue the momentum they've built in recent years under head coach Art Briles in 2014.

Although they lost to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl last season, they experienced a successful overall campaign, finishing 12-2 on the year with an 8-1 record in the Big 12 Conference.

Watch as B/R's experts analyze the Bears ahead of the 2014 season.

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4 Things We've Learned About Notre Dame Through Fall Camp So Far

Six practices into fall camp, Notre Dame football is off and running here in August with just 19 days remaining until the season opener against Rice.

The Irish returned to campus for practice on Saturday after spending the first five days of camp at Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana.

Coach Kelly made quite the entrance today. More of this to come later today via @NDFootball and @WatchND... pic.twitter.com/UyuezmarJv

— Leigh Torbin (@LTorbin) August 8, 2014

Irish head coach Brian Kelly lightened the mood toward the end of the week at Culver, and before we turn the page to Week 2 of training camp, let’s take a look at what we’ve learned from the first week of practices.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Stanford Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Stanford has been a dominant program in college football in recent years. Head coach David Shaw once again has the team in contention in the Pac-12 after winning the conference championship last season.

However, a loss in the Rose Bowl last year to Michigan State proved the team had holes that needed to be filled. Will Stanford see continued success in 2014?

Watch as B/R's experts examine the team ahead of the season.

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Stanford Football 2014: Complete Preview and Predictions

Stanford has been a dominant program in college football in recent years. Head coach David Shaw once again has the team in contention in the Pac -12 after winning the conference championship last season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Texas Football: 5 Things We've Learned About the Horns Through Fall Camp So Far

The first week of fall camp is in the books for Charlie Strong's Texas Longhorns, with a rejuvenated David Ash leading the way.

It's "Phase Four" for Strong and his staff, who have taken to sleeping in the dorms with their players as they try to build the final product. And, of course, the effort of making the team earn its identity continued with practice uniforms and helmets being stripped of the Longhorn logo.

Though Strong's motivational tactics will continue to grab headlines, the real excitement is happening on the field for the first time since April. Almost all of the freshmen are practicing, and only a few players are still nursing major injuries, so we're finally seeing where all of Strong's efforts are truly leading.

So far, it's a walk-on starting at safety, a quarterback making a major comeback and important skill positions that need a freshman to step up.

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Florida State Football 2014: Schedule Breakdown and Predictions

Unlike last season, the Florida State Seminoles enter the 2014 campaign atop the college football landscape.

However, there are several questions surrounding Jimbo Fisher's squad, none greater than whether Jameis Winston can lead the Seminoles to another championship victory.

Watch as B/R's experts discuss FSU's upcoming season. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down USC's Latest Depth-Chart Moves Midway Through Fall Camp

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said at last month's Pac-12 media days that the Trojans' Week 1 lineup would be a work in progress well into fall camp.

"We're going to go back into training camp and let guys compete like crazy," he said.

With one week of practices complete, some dynamics to the ongoing competition changed.

The Trojans were dealt a major blow when linebacker Jabari Ruffin suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday.

Ruffin was competing for the starting job at SAM linebacker, but his absence likely means Quinton Powell takes over the spot. Behind Powell is freshman Uchenna Nwosu.

The other big roster shakeup from the Trojans' first week of fall camp was the loss of Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, who was declared academically ineligible (h/t SI.com).

With USC already thin at tight end, Cope-Fitzpatrick's departure leaves the Trojans with senior Randall Telfer and freshman Bryce Dixon as the only scholarship players on the depth chart.

Chris Wilson helped fill the void USC faced at tight end last season, playing in four games while Telfer was injured. His ability as a blocker could get him into the rotation, with the Trojans dealing with uncertainty on the offensive line.

Veteran Max Tuerk anchors the unit in his third year as a starter, though is continuing his transition to center. Left tackle Chad Wheeler is also back, but the rest of the starting spots are up for grabs.

Freshman Toa Lobendahn's quick acclimation earned him first-string repetitions last week, living up to Sarkisian's billing at Pac-12 media days:

To Toa's credit, he's worked extremely hard. He's done great in the classroom, had a really good spring practice, and he's worked really [well]. I would foresee him being the middle of the battle for a starting spot.

Redshirt freshman Khaliel Rodgers capitalized on his opportunity at right guard. Sarkisian told Michael Lev of the Orange County Register that veteran Aundrey Walker may be losing ground to the youngsters while recovering from an ankle injury.

He’s just not bouncing back the way we would have hoped. Obviously, these are valuable reps that he’s missing out on that young guys are getting, and they’re getting better and better and better.

On the opposite side of the line, the first week of fall camp has been an all-around trying time. Antwaun Woods, who earned high praise from both Sarkisian and teammate Leonard Williams at Pac-12 media days, is sidelined for a brief duration with an elbow injury.

USC was already without Kenny Bigelow at nose tackle, who was ruled out for 2014 with an ACL tear in July, while Cody Temple, a third at the position, sustained a concussion. The assortment of ailments forced reshuffling along the defensive front.

Meanwhile, Williams sat out Sunday to rest a sore shoulder—though not the same shoulder he had surgery to repair this offseason, per Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times 

While only Ruffin's knee injury appears to impact USC's Week 1 lineup against Fresno State, the rash of minor injuries is a reminder of issues that plague the Trojans' depth chart. With fewer than 70 scholarship players, the result of three years of NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions, the situation is tenuous.

Running back stands out as one position in which depth is not a concern, and Sarkisian could make the most of it.

USC will rotate ball-carriers, per the Orange County Register. Last year's breakout star, Javorius "Buck" Allen, seems to endorse the move.

"It’s great to have guys back,” Allen told Lev. He referred to Tre Madden and Justin Davis, both of whom missed the back half of 2013. “If we can get a rotation going, everybody’s fresh, nobody’s getting beat up.”

  

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Breaking Down USC's Latest Depth-Chart Moves Midway Through Fall Camp

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said at last month's Pac-12 media days that the Trojans' Week 1 lineup would be a work in progress well into fall camp. "We're going to go back into training camp and let guys compete like crazy," he said...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Preseason College Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the AP's Top 25

We're less than three weeks away from the opening of the much-anticipated 2014 college football season, with teams beginning their second week of preseason workouts and two-a-day practices.

New faces are emerging, position battles are being fought and fans across the country are forming opinions about who they think will emerge as contenders for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Sunday, another piece of that thought process will fall into place when the Associated Press releases its annual preseason Top 25 poll. Voted on by college football media members across the nation, the poll has no influence on the College Football Playoff selection committee's deliberations but is nonetheless an important milepost for the 2014 season and how the national picture is viewed.

Here is a look at how we think the AP Top 25 will shake out when it is released. Note that this is not a matter of personal opinion, but how we believe the poll will look next Sunday. Here's a look at our projected AP Top 25.

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Gus Malzahn, Auburn Handling Delicate Nick Marshall Situation Perfectly

It was almost a month ago when Auburn pulled senior quarterback Nick Marshall the night before the Tigers made the rounds at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama, after Marshall was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and illegal window tinting.

Since then, he's been off limits.

That changed on Sunday, when he appeared before the media following Auburn's fan day.

"I made a mistake and I'm just trying to gain my trust back from the coaches," Marshall said, according to Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com. "I let my family down and I'm also trying to gain their trust back and also the Auburn fans. The incident that happened, it's just going to change me as a better man on and off the field."

The way head coach Gus Malzahn handled this entire ordeal will also make Marshall a better man on an off the field, which was his goal from the beginning.

"We have high expectations for our players, but specifically our quarterback, being the face of our program," Malzahn said in Hoover. "Up until last Friday, Nick has been a model student, teammate, and citizen. Nick made a mistake and he'll have to deal with the consequences."

Malzahn didn't have to string this out, and doing so is part of Marshall's punishment.

He could have announced that Marshall wouldn't start the opener, brought him to Hoover and forced him to answer the same repetitive questions about the incident all afternoon long, and the drama would have been over with.

Instead, he made a spectacle out of Marshall, which served as pretty severe punishment. Marshall's absence made him the talk of the town in Hoover, which is something that will stick with him through the season and the NFL draft process—which also may include a position change. On top of that, he missed out on a trip to Los Angeles two days later for the ESPYS with Malzahn and several teammates.

He then waited a few weeks to announce that Marshall won't start the opener vs. Arkansas. His absence isn't really the punishment. Whether it's a series, a quarter, a half or a game; backup Jeremy Johnson should be able to hold down the fort until Marshall makes his 2014 debut.

The punishment draws out the process even more, and it will be a storyline up until toe meets leather. Time is punishment—more so than missing a few snaps.

Make no mistake, it was still important for Malzahn to make a point with his quarterback and force him to miss some time.

While some, including former tight end Ricky Parks, spoke of a "zero tolerance policy" regarding Auburn's football program and marijuana, its official school policy doesn't include an automatic suspension for the first marijuana offense, a suspension for half the season on the second and permanent suspension on the third.

Malzahn went above and beyond with Marshall to prove a point, and judging from Marshall's first media appearance of fall camp, it seems like the message was received loud and clear.

Shouldn't that be the point?

 

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