NCAA Football

College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Look at Preseason Polls and Standings

Who wants to bet that none of the teams in the preseason college football rankings finish where they currently sit?

The trouble with preseason rankings is that they often carry too much weight. If you start No. 1 and go unbeaten, you're almost certainly going to finish the season No. 1, even if another team is clearly outplaying you.

With the new four-team playoff, the hope is that that no longer remains a problem. Teams will be graded more fairly with more emphasis on their results rather than their reputations.

With the 2014 season nearly underway, plenty of Top 25 teams will be looking to make a major statement.

 

Week 1 Breakdown

Since these are preseason rankings, it's a bit premature to get worked up about this team being overlooked by Associated Press voters or coaches while this other team is way too overrated. As long as nobody's putting Georgia Southern in the Top 25, it's all good.

What you can hone in on heading into the opening week is the spate of intriguing Top 25 clashes. None is bigger than South Carolina vs. Texas A&M tonight.

The Aggies have suffered some major losses to their offense in the form of Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans and Jake Matthews. Evans and Matthews were top-10 picks, while Manziel was the second quarterback off the board in the 2014 NFL draft.

Kevin Sumlin's a very good head coach, though, and he's brought in a couple of great recruiting classes over the last two years. You wonder if A&M would be better off if this game was later in the season, when the newcomers will have had more time to adjust to their roles.

Instead, Kenny Hill is being thrown right into the fire. He does have some help in the form of a strong running game featuring Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams. Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital believes that Hill shouldn't be saddled with too much pressure.

"The quarterback doesn’t have to go out there and win the game if you have an experienced line and running backs," said Spavital, per Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News. "You’re able to feel comfortable with them … where you’re not telling the quarterback ‘go out there and beat South Carolina [on your own],’ the first game."

South Carolina is without Jadeveon Clowney, of course, but the Gamecocks still have a talented team in addition to home-field advantage.

With a win, Steve Spurrier's team could cement the transition from Capital One Bowl-caliber team to national title contender.

That's just one of the highly anticipated games involving one or more SEC teams. Many fans will also be focusing on Georgia vs. Clemson and Wisconsin vs. LSU this weekend.

Both games involve teams good enough to win their respective conferences, and they will serve as a barometer for how good the quartet are.

If Clemson goes into Athens and beats Georgia, the Tigers could be a very real threat for Florida State. Wisconsin could give the Big Ten a much-needed public-relations boost by beating LSU. The Tigers, along with Georgia, are hoping to jump ahead of Alabama and Auburn in the SEC pecking order:

The conference has no shortage of top-quality teams, so Georgia and LSU could set themselves apart from the pack.

Ole Miss is another of those SEC teams looking for a nice win this week. Although Chris Petersen has moved on from Boise State, the Broncos remain one of the best teams outside a Big Five conference this year. The Rebels can't afford to take anything for granted in this game.

Laquon Treadwell didn't get the memo, via Saturday Down South:

Boise State brings back its leading passer, leading rusher and top two receiving leaders. On paper, Ole Miss shouldn't win this one in a walk, so in the event it does, it would signify Hugh Freeze's team is ready to be a threat in the SEC.

Looking at the landscape outside the SEC, the defending national champion isn't resting on its laurels, with Florida State playing Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas, in another of the major nonconference battles. Give credit where credit's due, because this was the kind of early game missing on the Seminoles' schedule last year.

However, this has the potential of turning really bad really quickly. OSU gets only eight starters back from last year's 10-3 team. The Oklahoman's John Helsley wrote that the Cowboys will likely endure a rough 2014 in service of building for the future:

Still, anybody in or around the Oklahoma State football team would admit that the Cowboys are best built for 2015 and beyond, when the kids — and we do mean kids — will be past their Big 12 baptisms.

That’s when the buzz-worthy players collected from what Cowboys coaches believe to be their best recruiting classes can pair talent with experience.

Florida State has more than enough to mount another title campaign, but recreating that same magic is always hard to do.

Starting off with Oklahoma State will allow the 'Noles to see how hard the climb will be back to the summit of college football.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Colorado State Rams vs. Colorado Buffaloes Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

Despite recent struggles, the Colorado Buffaloes have maintained the upper hand in their in-state rivalry with Colorado State, winning and covering six of the last seven meetings with the Rams.

The Buffs are lined as field-goal favorites for the 88th edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown Friday night at Mile High in Denver.

 

Point spread: The Buffaloes opened as three-point favorites; the total was 61 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 35.9-18.1 Rams

 

Why the Colorado State Rams can cover the spread

The Rams only have five starters back on offense this year, but they include senior quarterback Garrett Grayson (62 percent completions, 23/11 TD/INT ratio last year) and his top two targets, Rashard Higgins and Joe Hansley, who combined for 120 catches. And seven starters return on defense, including six of the back seven.

CSU went 10-4 against the spread (ATS) last year, exceeding expectations on a regular basis.

The Rams lost this rivalry battle last year 41-27 as three-point favorites, but they led late in the third quarter. That game was decided when Colorado State, with a chance to retake the lead with 11 minutes to go, had a fumble returned for a Colorado score.

 

Why the Colorado Buffaloes can cover the spread

Colorado won this matchup last year, outgaining the Rams by over 200 yards, holding the ball for over 33 minutes. This year, the Buffs get 16 starters back, including QB Sefo Liufau (59 percent completions as a true freshman last year), last season's top two rushers, three along the offensive line and eight on defense.

While Colorado only won four games last season, it also topped the weekly expectations, going 7-5 ATS.

Head coach Mike MacIntyre pulled off a turnaround at San Jose State, taking that team from 2-10 the year before his arrival to 11-2 in three seasons. Might he herd the Buffaloes down a similar path?

 

Smart Pick

Colorado owns the advantage in returning talent, and as mentioned above, even through the recent tough times, it's owned this rivalry. On top of that, Colorado State will miss running back Kapri Bibbs, who only ran for 1,700 yards and 31 scores last year, and the four starters it lost along the offensive line and the three starters along the defensive front four.

If Colorado wants to become bowl-eligible this season, it must get off to a good start, because the second-half schedule is rough. Give the points and back the Buffs to come through here, despite what the computer says.

 

Trends

  • The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings between these teams.
  • The Rams are 1-6 straight up and ATS in the past seven games against the Buffs.
  • The Rams are 6-1 ATS in their past seven road games.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line-move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Colorado State Rams vs. Colorado Buffaloes Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

Despite recent struggles, the Colorado Buffaloes have maintained the upper hand in their in-state rivalry with Colorado State, winning and covering six of the last seven meetings with the Rams...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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