The college football season is only 29 days away until the opening kickoff on August 28th. So what better way to kick off the month of August, but to start the great debate about who the last four teams standing for the inaugural season of the plus 4 scenario. Here is my preseason Top 25 with some of my reasons for having each team graded at their current level. It is the best sport in town and before you know it Saturdays will be filled with some of the best landscapes on our television sets.
2014 Pre-Season Top 25
1) Georgia – I went out on a limb and I am sticking to my guns with the Bulldogs winning the 2014 National Championship.Georgia has some of the best talent at the skill positions to take the pressure off of 5th year senior QB Hutson Mason. The Bulldogs have RB's Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, WR's Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley ( one game suspension). That is more than enough talent for the Bulldogs to make a legitimate run at the trophy. The addition of DC Jeremy Pruitt should help the defense tremendously and for now the schedule favors a Bulldog run to the title.
2) FSU- Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston returns with one of the best offensive lines in the country led by Irving and Jackson. WR Rashad Greene is a big play threat and gives Winston a solid target. The loss of DT Jernigan and S Joyner will hurt the defense along with DC Pruitt’s departure to Georgia.
3) Michigan State- Really? Yes really. What the Spartans were able to prove in last year’s Rose Bowl is that they can duke it out with anyone. Mark Danatonio has seven starters on offense back led by QB Connor Cook. The Spartans will be tested early on Sept. 6th as they travel to Autzen Stadium to face the Ducks. One key statistic is that the scoring defense for the Spartans has gone down consecutively over the last five seasons. Defense wins championships.
4) Oklahoma- Sophmore QB Trevor Knight comes back to build off last season’s Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. The Sooners deserve to be this high because of the talent coming back on the defensive side of the ball. Now can HC Bob Stoops capitalize on this opportunity?
5) Auburn- What can you say about the cardiac kids of the 2013 college football season. HC Gus Malzhan has done a fantastic job and with QB Nick Marshall at the helm, the Tigers should be in a position to challenge for the SEC title.
6) Alabama- Great talent coming back on the defensive side of the ball. However, it is the lack of quarterback experience that has me putting the Tide at no. 6. Jacob Coker, who should get the nod has no real game experience, coupled with the addition of new OC Lane Kiffen. Tide are going to face an uphill battle to get back to title game.
7) Ohio State- The Buckeyes were in a position last year to go to the title game. However, OSU could not find the answers against MSU. QB Braxton Miller returns to lead the team and the Buckeyes must get by Virginia Tech on week 2 to break the Top 5.
8) UCLA- QB Brett Hundley could be one of the most dynamic players in the game. HC Jim Mora Jr. has done a fantastic job and LB Myles Jack is a marquee player. The Bruins could be tested on the road on Sept. 25th against ASU and they end their season with back to back games against USC and Stanford.
9) Oregon- Most analysts have the Ducks in the Top 5. However, for me to put the Ducks higher, they are going to have to prove to me that they can win an “ugly” ball game of ball control and being able to rely on their defense. QB Marcus Mariota is a Heisman candidate.
10) South Carolina- QB Dylan Thompson takes over for Connor Shaw. The Gamecocks have won 11 games in three straight years. RB Mike Davis is the second best RB behind UGA Todd Gurley in the conference. However, the Gamecocks have only 6 starters back on defense and a lot of inexperience on the defensive side of the ball.
11) Clemson- No Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Roderick McDowell. DL Vic Beasley is legit. However, the Tigers open up with Georgia on the road and still have to travel to FSU.
12) Wisconsin- RB Melvin Gordon has the NFL drooling. However, until QB Joel Stave steps up and progresses in the passing game, the Badgers will be the third best team in the Big 10 behind MSU and OSU.
13) LSU- What can you say about the job that Les Miles and his staff have done in Baton Rouge. Amazing. Two seasons ago the Tigers lost 11 players to the NFL, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. This year they lost QB Metttenberger, RB Hill, and starting WR’s Landry and Beckham. The Tigers should not miss Hill with Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee coming back, however, it will be the production of Landry and Beckham that the Tigers will be pressed to duplicate. Both WR’s combined for 70% of Mettenberger's completions, yards and touchdowns in ’13.
14) Baylor- HC Art Briles is building a winner in Waco. However, if you watched the losses to Oklahoma State and UCF, the Bears need to shore up the defensive side of the ball in ’14 to make a run. Only four starters return to a defense that was average at best.
15) USC- New HC Steve Sarkisian is a underrated head coach. Sarkisian is familiar with the landscape and will bring new life to the Trojans in ’14. The Trojans have one of the most difficult schedules in 2014. They open up with Fresno State and then play Stanford, BC, Oregon St., ASU, Arizona. They then must end their season with back to back games against UCLA and Notre Dame.
16) Stanford- HC David Shaw has done a fantastic job in keeping the momentum that former HC Jim Harbaugh had built. Seven starters return to a very physical defense that should be the foundation of the team’s success this year. QB Kevin Hogan is a winner, however, the Cardinal will have inexperience on the offensive line to start the season.
17) Louisville- New HC Bobby Petrino is an offensive minded head coach. Former head coach Charlie Strong left Petrino a lot of talent in the pantry on his way to Austin. RB’s Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer are big backs who can move the chains and take the pressure off of a new QB.
18) Nebraska- HC Bo Pelini was able to get off the hot seat last year with a Gator Bowl victory over Georgia. Sophmore QB Tommy Armstrong is a versatile quarterback who has great vision. In order for the Cornhuskers to make a run at the Big Ten title, the defense needs to be better against the run in ’14. RB Ameer Abdullah is the best back in the conference and a homerun hitter that is not afraid to pound it between the tackles.
19) ASU- QB Taylor Kelly is one of the most underrated QB’s in the conference. HC Todd Graham has done a solid job since leaving Pittsburgh to take over the Sun Devils. The schedule has back to back games against UCLA and USC followed by a bye week before the team plays Stanford. With only 2 starters coming back defensively, the pressure will be on the Sun Devils offense to outscore opponents. However, I like the talent on this team and think they finish ’14 with at least 8 wins.
20) BYU- QB Taysom Hill can beat you with his arm and his legs. He is not your typical Cougar QB as he is not afraid to lower the shoulder into opposing defenders. He is a tough QB who matured at the end of last season. One aspect of the Cougars you can take to the bank-is that HC Mendenhall will have a very strong run defense.
21) Virginia Tech- The Hokies lose starting QB Logan Thomas to the NFL, however, Virginia Tech has a schedule that could allow the Hokies to win 9 games or more in 2014. If Virginia Tech can pull off the upset in week 2 at the Horseshoe, the team can ride that momentum throughout the 2014 season.
22) Ole Miss- HC Hugh Freeze has done a very nice job in Oxford and has a veteran QB in Bo Wallace. The Rebels seem to win games they are not supposed to and lose games that they should win. This team has the defense to make a run in the SEC West-led by the DT Robert Nkemdiche. They must open up their season with Boise St. and play at Texas A&M , at LSU and face Alabama and Auburn at home. They can win out, but more likely I see them winning two of three on the road.
23) Notre Dame- QB Everett Golsen returns to lead the Irish. The Irish will have new field turf in their stadium and expectations are very high entering the 2014 season. Notre Dame will play a very difficult schedule this season. The Irish must face Michigan, Syracuse, Stanford, UNC, FSU, ASU, Northwestern, Louisville and USC. The potential for four losses are there and the Irish will need all the breaks to go their way in order for them to be playing in the playoff.
24) Iowa- I have a feeling that the Big Ten will make some noise this year and the Hawkeyes have a very solid QB in Jake Ruddock. HC Kirk Ferentz won 8 games last season and Iowa played LSU very tough in the bowl game last year. Look for the Hawkeyes to pull off some upsets in the 2014 season.
25) Mississippi State- HC Dan Mullin has 8 starters back on offense and defense. QB Dak Presscott is a dual threat quarterback who can throw on the run. Week 4 will determine the Bulldogs season when they travel to Death Valley to play LSU in Baton Rouge. If the Bulldogs can strike the upset, this could be a magical season in Starkville.
Joseph Lisi is a former ABC Sports college football researcher. He is the owner of www.NCAABLITZ.com and www.GOFORTHE2.COM. Joseph has contributed for www.Rantsports.com- You can follow him on YOUTUBE at: MRJAL2230 or on Twitter @Goforthe2
Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com called:
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