NCAA Football News

2014 College Football Rankings: Most Underrated Teams in Opening Coaches Poll

The college football preseason polls are fun for debate, but they often look foolish by the end of the season.

A year ago at this time, Florida State was not considered a top-10 team and Auburn did not even get a vote in the AP Poll. By January, these two teams were competing for the national championship, which was eventually won by the Seminoles.

While Florida State will not sneak up on anyone this season, there are other teams looking to surprise the nation with great performances in 2014.

Here is a complete look at the preseason Amway Coaches Poll with a breakdown of the squads who are way too low on the list.

 

No. 10 Baylor

Baylor had the No. 1 offense in the nation last season, scoring an incredible 52.4 points per game. While some of the weapons have moved on, quarterback Bryce Petty is back in action and ready to lead the team to an even better season this year.

Petty finished 2013 as the No. 2 quarterback in the nation in efficiency, trailing only Heisman winner Jameis Winston. He totaled 4,200 passing yards and an outstanding 32 touchdowns to just three interceptions. 

If that was not enough, the quarterback also added 14 touchdowns on the ground to prove his versatility.

While some might call Petty a system player, NFL draft analysts like Benjamin Allbright believe the quarterback is a quality prospect:

As long as Petty plays to his potential, the offense should be as good as last season. The question is whether the defense can handle its end of the bargain. 

Linebacker Bryce Hager does not think this will be a problem. The All-Big 12 player is confident he can be a leader for a great unit, explaining to Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated:

My first year, I didn’t know what was going on. I was confused, frustrated and having second thoughts about things. Now, the game itself is so much slower compared to practice. It really helps.

What our offense has is really special. But last year, I think our defense did a very good job of stepping up when needed.

The group has plenty of playmakers who will make a difference for what should be a national title contender in 2014. 

 

No. 15 USC

Although USC went through an up-and-down season in 2013, the squad still won 10 games, including a bowl win over Derek Carr and Fresno State. There is obviously a lot of talent on the roster, but Lane Kiffin struggled to get the most out of his players.

New head coach Steve Sarkisian has done a better job of this in the past and is hoping that he can create a culture change for a once-dominant program.

It all begins with quarterback Cody Kessler. The junior passed for almost 3,000 yards last season with 20 touchdowns, but inconsistency led to doubts over his ability to lead the offense. If he can put the work in, though, he has the potential to be a quality leader for this offense.

He is certainly setting his sights high for the upcoming season:

Both Javorius Allen and Nelson Agholor should take big jumps this year to help Kessler out offensively, finally catching up to a defense that carried the load for most of last season.

Although the Pac-12 should be tough with Oregon, UCLA and other elite squads, the Trojans will be right there in the hunt for a conference title.

 

No. 19 Ole Miss

A year ago, Ole Miss was a young but talented team trying to compete in the challenging SEC West. While the division has not gotten any easier, the Rebels have gotten better.

Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports believes this team could be a top squad if Bo Wallace lives up to his potential:

He will certainly get plenty of help in the form of receiver Laquon Treadwell. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller is excited about the young player's potential:

Meanwhile, the rest of the underclassmen who played a big role last season will all hope to improve, starting with defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. He will anchor a unit that should be able to compete with Alabama, LSU and the rest of the division.

With Wallace becoming a leader as one of the few veteran quarterbacks in the conference, Ole Miss will surprise a lot of people with its play.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from Big Ten Media Days

Nebraska fans got their final look at the team as head coach Bo Pelini and members of the team appeared at Big Ten media days in Chicago this week. While these can be pretty scripted and buttoned-down affairs, there’s always a few interesting morsels of news that come out. Here are a few of the most interesting pieces of information.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from the Big Ten’s official transcripts of Bo Pelini’s presentation.

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Miami Football: 5 Games That Could Ruin the Hurricanes' 2014 Season

Five games on the 2014 schedule could derail the Miami Hurricanes' chances at a Coastal Division title, which is the program's most realistic goal for the upcoming campaign.

Due to parity within the division, "The U" should be targeting six conference victories to earn a spot in the ACC Championship Game for the first time in program history.

A loss to rival and preseason No. 1 Florida State in mid-November will not necessarily ruin the 'Canes' season, but that's why the following contests are so important.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Evolution of Team Recruiting Camps Leads to Commits in Huge Numbers

For 2016 quarterback recruit Jacob Eason, an early commitment was the last thing on his mind.

"I went down there just thinking I was going to check it out, have a good time," Eason told Bleacher Report of his visit to Georgia's "Dawg Night" camp, which concluded a Southeast swing that also featured Alabama and Florida State visits.

"But I just knew it was the place. When I went down there, I felt at home."

On the night following the camp, Eason—the nation's second-ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class, according to the 247Sports' composite rankings—verbally pledged to the Bulldogs. So did 5-star 2016 offensive tackle Ben Cleveland and two other camp participants.

Any time a school can get four verbal commitments from an event, it's considered an immense success. But Georgia's huge haul at "Dawg Night" has become par for the camp course this summer.

The practice of morphing camps into specialized, school-branded recruiting events is yielding commitments in huge numbers.

So, what is the formula?

Though nobody wants to give away secrets, a picture of this new breed of camp became clearer in the details offered by the coaches who host the events and the players who attend them.

These intimate environments allow the players and their families to spend time with coaches and players. Many are under the lights in the stadiums with jumbotrons, scoreboards and music blaring. Others thrive on competition; all thrive on peer recruiting.

No one camp has all those elements, but several of these characteristics are shared by all.

This is far from a new concept, but it didn't become must-attend until Urban Meyer's "Friday Night Lights" at Florida in 2005. Georgia's "Dawg Night" followed suit three years later.

These days, it seems everybody has a unique event.

Now at Ohio State, Meyer's "FNL" event last weekend produced two commitments.

At Tennessee, "Orange Carpet Day" resulted in seven commitments over two one-day events. Mississippi State had the most shocking camp commitment haul when eight players pledged to the Bulldogs during the "Big Dawg Camp," and another participant committed shortly after.

The list goes on and on.

"'Friday Night Lights' under Urban Meyer at Florida was the event that first had the biggest impact on the Richter scale, so to speak," said Barton Simmons, 247Sports' national director of scouting. "Meyer was smart enough to transition a college instructional camp into a showcase, an event. Kids started flocking, and back before events like The Opening sprung up, 'Friday Night Lights' was one of the best events in the country from a talent perspective. Now, almost all major programs have some sort of version of that.

"Every program's recruiting culture is different, so I don’t think an elite event is a necessity. Penn State has killed it recruiting under James Franklin this year without an under-the-lights type of event. Alabama is the best recruiting program in the nation and [Nick] Saban doesn't have a single 'Dawg Night'-style event. But when you look at Mississippi State adding seven or eight commits in one day at their 'Big Dawg Camp' or Georgia adding two five-stars in the class of 2016 in one evening, it's hard not to see a serious benefit to a well-run event."

 

The Forefathers of Showcase Recruiting Events

Georgia recruiting coordinator Bryan McClendon remembers when head coach Mark Richt and his staff were in the early stages of discussing a showcase recruiting event.

The rival Gators had changed the recruiting game with "FNL," and the Dawgs had all these resources they wanted to show off, too. Before long, the elements started coming together.

It would be a night camp under the lights at Sanford Stadium. They'd turn on the scoreboard and even open it up to media so the kids who didn't show could get a glimpse of what they missed. It would also be scheduled at a time when they weren't competing with AAU basketball or track for players' attention.

Most importantly, they'd make it cost-efficient.

"To be honest with you, one of the things we always want to do—and it's very, very tough to do now—is try to make it as cheap as possible," McClendon said. "This is a camp where you know you’re not going to get any kind of profit from in that regard. It's very available to them, and you’re able to attract people and say, 'This is too good of a deal to pass up.' It’s the cheapest camp we have.

"We wanted to make sure the bang for your buck was too good to pass up for people out-of-state to pass us to go do something else."

Almost immediately, Georgia had an immense success on its hands. It didn't take long for rivals to know it was time to worry if a target was heading to Athens that weekend.

This year, UGA made two important tweaks, splitting the event into a two-session, all-day camp, according to GoDawgs247's Rusty Mansell (subscription required). The Bulldogs also used utilized modern technology to sell it.

While "Dawg Night" has enjoyed major staying power, the pedigree from Florida's forerunning camp is unprecedented. From the year it started in 2005, "FNL" has become a national showcase.

The camp has featured 13 first-round NFL draft picks and 36 players taken in the draft, according to GatorBait's Thomas Goldkamp (subscription required). Several of those participants became Gators, especially in Meyer's tenure. That's a big reason he won two national championships in Gainesville.

Though Will Muschamp's uncertain future led to less star power than normal this year, according to ESPN.com's Derek Tyson, the Gators still hosted plenty of elite players like Martez Ivey, Jeffrey Holland and Byron Cowart.

These recruiting events aren't just huge recruiting tools for locals, either.

"The competition level down there (the Southeast) is just really not comparable to here," said Eason, a Lake Stevens, Washington, resident.  "You have guys from Florida, Alabama, Georgia at the (Dawg Night) camp—everywhere you go, the competition is pumped up.

"Everybody plays at a higher level down there, and you could really see it."

The best want to play with the best, and Eason said that played a factor in his ultimate decision to head south for his college career. Now, the quarterback becomes part of the camp's pedigree, woven into the fabric of why future prospects will keep thinking "Dawg Night" is special.

"Kids look forward to it every year," McClendon said. "Certain coaches look forward to it every year. As soon as it’s over with, guys are asking about when’s the next one we’re having. It’s one of the premiere camps in the country. It really is.

"It's kind of like that one party nobody likes to miss out on."

 

'Shocking the World'

Mississippi State—a school in the sticks of the state, far from any big-city lights—had its own recruiting party July 18 when the Bulldogs received eight commitments at its annual "Big Dawg Camp."

The historic haul elevated the Bulldogs from the nether regions of the recruiting rankings all the way up to 11th place, according to 247Sports Composite. It was the kind of day that veteran recruiting coordinator Tony Hughes said in more than 20 years of coaching he'd "never seen happen before."

"It was just one night that it all came together," Hughes said. "It was work over a long period of time, not just the one night. It's just like that one game you get in and you've got that great opponent and every play you call works and it's executed, and you say, 'Wow! Look at that!'"

The MSU coaches didn't do anything different this year, Hughes said. Like always, they turned on the lights at Davis Wade Stadium, lit up the scoreboard and the jumbotron and coached the prospects like they would if they were their own players.

The intensity level elevated, the swagger followed and, before long, multiple players began committing to spend the next four years in Starkville.

It was the kind of night reserved for the white-collar world of college football—teams such as Alabama, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Texas and Florida.

Perhaps it wasn't a surprise because of that last example. You see, MSU head coach Dan Mullen was on Meyer's staff when "FNL" originated.

There are elements from that foundation camp nearly a decade ago present in MSU's version.

"We try to be different and out-in-front, and you have to be at Mississippi State," Hughes said. "You have to use your imagination and do things to reach out. We can’t do what Alabama does, or what LSU does or Georgia does because we don’t have the same clientele, the same finances, the same budget, you know? If we can be different and use our imagination, we can shock the world like we did that weekend.

"Ours is the real deal because it comes from the original. Coach Mullen understands how it works and how to make it an event."

Another coach who obviously understands the gauntlet of SEC recruiting is Tennessee coach Butch Jones.

In his first two full recruiting classes at UT, Jones has escalated the talent level on Rocky Top. Already on campus are 32 signees from a class ranked seventh in the 2014 cycle. Joining them in the '15 class are 22 verbal pledges in another seventh-ranked group.

Eleven of UT's commitments have come since June 9, fueled by two "Orange Carpet Day" events that produced seven pledges, including 4-star former Alabama running back Alvin Kamara.

Though some "Orange Carpet Day" details are kept quiet, tight end commit Kyle Oliver said the players didn't even work out for UT's coaches. Instead, the event was set up to impress the prospects and to enable them to spend one-on-one time with Jones and his assistants.

It was also a paparazzi-style atmosphere, Oliver said, treating the players as if they were already stars.

"When I got there, there was an orange carpet waiting for us, and they took a lot of pictures," Oliver said. "It did set them apart. It was a very great experience, and I couldn't see a reason why I wouldn't want to commit.

"It was like a family day type of thing, and that's what I really wanted when I was looking for a college. I feel like it played a big role for me."

Jones reiterated the Vols tried to make both of their summer events a down-home atmosphere. It was such a success the first time, UT held another one in July.

These types of intimate settings have been staples at all three of Jones' head coaching stops, he said. Each year, they'll switch things up a bit, but the ultimate goal never changes.

"The big thing for the 'Orange Carpet Day' was geared toward a lot of these individuals have been here a number of times, so how can we make it different?" Jones said. "But really, it’s just an opportunity to spend quality time, get to know one another, and have fun; kind of like a family reunion, so to speak.

"That's what it's all about—them getting to know us as people and coaches."

That family feel is something many coaches try to recreate. Few succeed.

Auburn, for instance, does it well at its "Big Cat Weekend," which has been a cornerstone of its recruiting success. AL.com's John Talty said the weekend is "essential" to the Tigers' recruiting philosophy.

Pick [a] Southeastern Conference school and they inevitably have their own catchy recruiting night. The difference is that Auburn's Big Cat Weekend doesn't focus much on football; it's all about bonding. During past Big Cat Weekends, top recruits participated in scavenger hunts and water balloon fights.

When the atmosphere strikes a chord with the players present, they take to Twitter, go to national camps and tell everybody about what is happening at School X. Before long, an event makes a name for itself.

With the world of recruiting shrinking, everybody talks to everybody else. That word-of-mouth buzz is the best advertisement colleges can get. If your camp is something kids are talking about, it spreads like wildfire.

Then, coaches know they've got a keeper.

"It's less of a cattle call and more of a true interaction with the coaching staff and a showcase of the best versus the best," Simmons said. "These events are the camp version of a VIP section. It's a velvet rope event for the camp season."

 

Imitation Is the Truest Form of Flattery

As long as these on-campus event camps are producing commitments, the concepts are going to be copied.

While recruiting is mostly about relationships, there's also a major element of not falling behind.

"A program's 'cool factor' has never been a bigger deal in the recruiting process than it is today," B/R recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue said. "Social media changed the game, and every team is trying new things to keep the attention of prospects."

With recruiting, it's difficult to find exclusive territory.

If one school sends 100 handwritten letters to a recruit, 10 more do the same. Georgia had a fresh idea with the hand-drawn portraits of players, and soon, others were doing the same thing with a different spin.

Camps are no different.

"Like anything and everything in our program, you're always looking to grow it, always looking to elevate it," Tennessee's Jones said. "We quality-control everything and ask, 'How do we make it better?' And we take input from our players as well, so there’s a lot that goes into the overall structure.

"It's pretty much standard at every school now. At the end of the day, it's just being who you are but spending that quality time just talking and maybe not just talking football but talking about life; getting to know aunts and uncles and grandparents."

McClendon is a guru at utilizing cutting-edge recruiting tactics and coming up with new ideas, and he was named 247Sports' recruiter of the year in 2014 for his success. It doesn't bother him that other schools out there have taken the "Dawg Night" concept and morphed it into their own.

Recruiting is a dog-eat-dog world, and one of the Dawgs who goes to war on the battlegrounds every day knows it as well as anybody.

"Once people see it, other people are going to copy it; it doesn’t surprise me at all," McClendon said. "But you're always trying to find a new way to kind of stand out to people, to grab people's attention and to keep Georgia on their mind."

These specialized camps may work for others, but it's still doing just fine for Georgia, too.

After all, Eason visited the past two national champions, Alabama and Florida State, prior to setting foot between the hedges. At "Dawg Night," he saw what he needed to see to ensure it was where he wanted to play his college football.

After all these years, that original concept is still producing Bulldogs.

"Part of me wanted to wait [the recruiting process] out, and another part of me wanted to get it over with," Eason said. "But Georgia came, and I thought, 'Why wait?' I wanted to commit to them before anybody else got that spot.

"A lot of the actual players were out there and down on the field. You look around and see all this competition, and there's music playing and a D.J., and it's just a fun environment to be around. I just knew."

 

All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports composite. All statistics gathered from CFBStats.com.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter here:

@Brad_Shepard

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Winners and Losers from the Recruiting Trail for the Month of July

July is over, which also signals another month of college football recruiting has concluded. Although July Fourth is a great day of celebration, several schools had fireworks go off at other various times of the month.

Other programs are happy to see August has arrived, as they took some lumps on the recruiting trail in July. Clemson and USC scored a few key commitments, while Northwestern and Notre Dame saw key prospects opt against joining them.

Plus, July was a big month of recruiting news for Ohio State.

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Ohio State LB Joshua Perry Has Added a Lot of Muscle to His Body in 2 Years

If you saw a picture of Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry from 2012 and one from this summer, you probably wouldn't know that you were looking at the same person.

The Buckeyes linebacker has done a lot more in the past two years than just get a haircut. He is now 31 pounds heavier than he was at the beginning of 2012, and judging by the picture, he's put on a lot of muscle.

This is just another chapter added to the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. Last week, Michigan's Jabrill Peppers showed off how much muscle he has added in just four weeks. Some believed that Peppers' lack of flexing at the beginning may have made the final result look much better.

There's no denying that Perry's hard work has paid off. 

[Joshua Perry, h/t College Spun]

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Texas A&M Unveils Incredible New Locker Room for Football Team

Texas A&M is giving Kyle Field a $450 million makeover, so that means the Aggies football team is going to see a lot of cool new perks.

The team's locker room and football headquarters received a nice upgrade as well. From 100 flat-screen televisions to waterfalls to luxurious meeting rooms to a barbershop, there was a lot of money put into the football facility.

Judging by the pictures, the school got its money's worth: 

The players were big fans of the upgraded football facility:

It looks like Johnny Manziel picked a bad time to leave College Station.

[The Dallas Morning NewsAggieFBLifeCollege Spun]

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What 4-Star Rico McGraw's Flip from Georgia to Alabama Means for Dawgs, Tide

Alabama added its second 4-star defensive back commitment this week Thursday, while swiping a key prospect away from an SEC rival. Cornerback Rico McGraw decided to flip his pledge from Georgia to the Crimson Tide, he confirmed to Barton Simmons of 247Sports.

The 6'0", 190-pound Tennessee prospect initially committed to the Bulldogs in January. However, recent visits to Tuscaloosa and Knoxville suggested he may be open to joining another program within the conference.

His declaration Thursday ended speculation and provides Nick Saban with yet another blue-chip defender. Alabama landed former North Carolina commit Ronnie Harrison, a 4-star safety, on Tuesday.

McGraw made up his mind after substantial internal deliberations with family members.

"My mom and my parents have always thought Alabama was the best decision for me," he told 247Sports. "I finally decided to hear them out."

McGraw, a rising senior who intercepted three passes for state powerhouse Ensworth last season, adds to a 2015 class that continues to strengthen its stronghold atop 247Sports' composite class rankings. Alabama is well on its way to a fifth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class, stockpiling abundant talent in the secondary.

Harrison and McGraw join a group of defensive backs that already featured 5-star cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick and No. 2 overall safety prospect Deionte Thompson. Alabama signed a pair of 5-star cornerbacks during the 2014 recruiting cycle (Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown).

McGraw isn't the first cornerback to switch allegiances to Alabama from another SEC competitor. Montrell Custis flipped from Kentucky to the Tide in April.

Alabama's latest gain is Georgia's loss.

The Bulldogs netted a commitment from McGraw shortly after first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt arrived from Florida State. Now the former Saban assistant must search elsewhere for a solution in the secondary.

Throw in the fact that 5-star athlete Terry Godwin could also jump ship and there's a definite need for defensive secondary talent.

Godwin, who could excel at wide receiver or cornerback in college, could also end up in Tuscaloosa.

"There's been a lot of guys talking to me about my commitment and my recruitment," Godwin said at The Opening. "They're saying 'Come to Auburn', or 'Come down to Alabama' or 'We need you at Tennessee.' A lot of stuff like that. It'll come down to Feb. 2 (signing day)."

Georgia holds just two 2015 commitments from prospects definitively destined to compete in the defensive backfield. Florida products Deontai Williams and Deandre Baker—both 3-star recruits—pledged earlier this summer.

Pruitt and head coach Mark Rich must attempt to make inroads with other secondary targets in the class. In-state prospects Rashad Roundtree and Micah Abernathy present 4-star options on home turf.

Florida cornerback Tarvarus McFadden remains a prized uncommitted player but Georgia appears to be chasing at least LSU and Florida State in that pursuit. Don't be surprised if the Bulldogs adopt Alabama's approach and attempt to reel in a player currently committed elsewhere.

Georgia's 2015 class now rates 14th nationally in 247Sports' composite team rankings. The Bulldogs are listed eighth among SEC squads.

 

Recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting writer Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

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Previewing 2014 Fall Camp QB Battles to Watch

Not every quarterback battle was decided by the end of spring practice. Then again, what fun would that be? What would fans and media alike have to talk about?

Preseason quarterback battles are still going on all over the country as fall camp gets underway. Ideally, coaches would like to have those battles figured out sooner rather than later. The quicker one player emerges from the pack, the quicker the offense will know who to look to and the quicker it can come together. 

To be sure, some quarterback battles will bleed over into the regular season. That's unavoidable. 

Which quarterback battles will gain the most attention this August, and why? The answers are in the following slides. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

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Biggest Storylines Heading into Nebraska's Fall Camp

Nebraska begins fall camp this weekend. That means all of the questions that remained after spring practice will have a chance to be answered.

Bo Pelini will also be able to show off the changes he boasted about at Big Ten Media Days. With practice now open to the media, it will be easier than ever to see just how key storylines evolve before the first game of the season.

Here are five storylines to keep an eye on during the Huskers' fall camp.

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NCAA Football Preseason Rankings 2014: College Teams with Title or Bust Outlook

The Amway preseason college football rankings have been released and there are no real surprises at the top of the polls. 

The defending champion Florida State Seminoles are No. 1 and perennial national championship contenders, the Alabama Crimson Tide are No. 2. The Noles and Tide are just two of the teams that must have their seasons end with a title to call the campaign a success.

More than ever, these early rankings are to be seen, but not relied upon with too much confidence as it relates to college football's bottom line. 

Ultimately, the College Football Playoff Committee will decide which four teams vie for the national championship in January. Nevertheless, here's a look at the preseason Top 25:

 

Opening Amway Preseason Coaches' PollRankTeam 1 Florida State 2 Alabama 3 Oklahoma 4 Oregon 5 Auburn 6 Ohio State 7 UCLA 8 Michigan State 9 South Carolina 10 Baylor 11 Stanford 12 Georgia 13 LSU 14 Wisconsin 15 USC 16 Clemson 17 Notre Dame 18 Arizona State 19 Ole Miss 20 Texas A&M 21 Kansas State 22 Nebraska 23 North Carolina 24 Texas 25 Washington

USA Today

 

Run it Back

When a team has gone undefeated the previous season and returns the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, as well as several other offensive weapons and disruptive forces on the defensive side of the ball, anything short of a repeat national championship would be an epic failure.

That is, of course, the situation the Seminoles find themselves in heading into the 2014 season.

Jameis Winston is headed for his sophomore campaign and is expected to be even better than he was when he earned college football's top prize. 

Winston was already a leader for his team last season, but judging by this tweet from teammate Tyler Hunter, Winston is taking the next step in the leadership department:

The Noles' schedule features just two teams that are ranked in the top 25 in the preseason poll: Notre Dame and Clemson—and both of those games are at home. As Steven Lassan of Athlon Sports states, the Noles are properly set up to repeat:

The Seminoles own arguably the No. 1 roster in college football for 2014, one of the nation’s top coaches in Jimbo Fisher, and the defending Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Jameis Winston. With a favorable schedule and a loaded roster, Florida State is positioned to repeat as college football’s national champions.

In some respects, the new playoff format makes it easier for a team like the Noles. If they do experience one week of flounder and drop a game. It's unlikely the committee wouldn't consider them a top-four team in the nation.

Thus the Noles would still get an opportunity to defend their title in the postseason.

 

Same Ol' Bama Expectations

Every year Alabama is expected to vie for a national championship. It's one of the most automatic things in all of sports. Credit head coach Nick Saban for the team's success. 

The Crimson Tide has rarely disappointed. Because of how dominant Alabama has been, last season's berth in the Sugar Bowl was a bittersweet consolation prize..

The 45-31 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners in the game made it simply bitter. When a team is as good as Bama, critics expect the wins and overreact to the losses.

The team has won three of the last five national championships and despite losing A.J. McCarron and others to the NFL, Bama will still boast one of the most stacked rosters in the nation.

According to 247 Sports, Alabama has had the No. 1 recruiting class ever since 2010. Even then the program was ranked No. 5. Bama is set up to seriously contend for a national championship for the next four years, and there's no sign of the expectations dropping.

The Tide have already received commitments from three 5-star prospects and are currently ranked No. 1 in the 2015 team recruiting rankings.

What's new?

 

High Pressure in the Northwest

With a legitimate Heisman candidate in Marcus Mariota and returning players like Arik Armstead and star defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon is again expected to do well.

Unfortunately for Duck Nation, the program has fallen short of the lofty expectations that have accompanied a proven offensive philosophy, and a solid stream of talent over the last five years.

The key game on the Ducks' schedule again this year will be against the No. 11 Stanford Cardinal.

The last two seasons Stanford has handed the Ducks their first loss of the season when the team seemed to be sailing toward a potential berth in the national championship game.

This year, Oregon's schedule is brutal. Before the team even faces the Cardinal, it will play two top-10 squads in Michigan State and UCLA, and No. 25 Washington. If the Ducks are still undefeated by the time they play Stanford it seems almost certain that they will be amongst the top-2 teams in every poll.

Getting over the Cardinal red hump in the road may be the last impediment toward reaching the playoff bracket. Stay tuned.

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