This list of teams will start at 25 and go all the way down to 1 where reveal my top ranked team.
25. Washington Huskies Washington has one wide receiver returning along with a stout nose tackle and junior cornerback in Marcus Peters on defense that could be a total sleeper in 2014.
24. Texas Longhorns Texas has a defense led by defensive end Cedric Reed and cornerback Quandre Diggs. Reed was a left end who will play right end in 2014 thanks to the loss of Jackson Jeffcoat. Diggs is a nickel corner who can contain your slot receivers. Texas will rely on their secondary and the game-planning of head coach Charlie Strong to win games.
23. Texas A&M Aggies Texas A&M still has a strong offensive line with Cedric Ogbuhei moving to left tackle and Mike Matthews playing center. 5 star recruit Kyle Allen may finally get his chance to succeed Johnny Manziel if he wins the starting quarterback job. Cornerback Deshazor Everett kept wide receivers like Amari Cooper and Odell Beckham Jr. in check.
22. Missouri Tigers Matty Mauk threw 11 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in four starts as a freshman redshirt. Mauk reminds me of Johnny Manziel. If Dorial Green Beckham remains with Missouri Mauk and DGB could be this years version of Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans. Without Dorial-Green Beckham the Tigers are a pretender in the SEC East with a lower chance to win the conference than the Tennessee Volunteers because they lost defensive ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy to the 2014 NFL Draft.
21. North Carolina Tar Heels Marquese Williams started six games for the North Carolina Tar Heels during his sophomore redshirt season. Williams threw 15 passing touchdowns and ran for six TD's in his six starts last season. Jalen Dickerson is a five star recruit at cornerback who will be a field cornerback for the Tar Heels right away. He has yet to play a snap, but will probably be a first-round pick in 2017 assuming he declares.
20. Florida Gators The Florida Gators have the best quarterback in the SEC East with Jeff Driskel returning at quarterback. They also have a balanced offense. A lack of defense and having Will Muschamp as a head coach may keep them from another SEC Title game in 2014.
19. Wisconsin Badgers The Wisconsin Badgers have one difference maker. His name is running back Melvin Gordon.
18. Nebraska Cornhuskers The Nebraska Cornhuskers have one of the more underrated teams in the Big 10. They started 5-1 before going 3-3 to finish the season. The Cornhuskers have multiple playmakers on offense including quarterback Tommy Armstrong, running back Ameer Abdullah, and wide receiver Kenny Bell. With an abundance of playmakers on offense you have to be optimistic.
On defense you have a defensive line led by right end Randy Gregory. This is Nebraska's best front 4 since they made the Big 12 Championship back in 2009 when they had Suh, Crick, Amukamara, and Dennard at defensive tackle and secondary. Head coach Bo Pelini comes up with some of the best defensive schemes.
With the Big 10 finally getting rid of the Leaders and Legends divisions we will have the East and West divisions. Nebraska will receive a challenge from Wisconsin or Iowa. At the end of the day, I think the Cornhuskers make the Big 10 Championship only to lose to the Big 10 East winner whether it be Ohio State or Michigan State.
17. Arizona State Sun Devils Arizona State features an explosive offense led by quarterback Taylor Kelly and wide receiver Jaelen Strong. I expect Arizona State to have a tight end in the red zone along with a deadly running game to balance out the passing game. Sure you've lost defensive players to the NFL Draft like Vontaze Burfict, Omar Bolden, Carl Bradford, and Will Sutton. Arizona State will rely on a deadly offense to win games in the Pac 12.
16. Ole Miss Rebels Ole Miss is my sleeper team in the SEC. Senior quarterback Bo Wallace had an outstanding junior season with Donte Moncrief and LaQuan Treadwell as his receiving targets. Look for Wallace to improve as a senior with five star recruit Laremy Tunsil entering his second season as the Red Rebels left tackle. Ole Miss has a sophomore right tackle that will probably stand out a year from now in 2015. Treadwell is only a sophomore, but he will be a #1 receiver in 2014 playing next to senior Vince Sanders with Cody Core as a slot receiver ready to be the #2 target in 2015. Sophomore tight end Evan Engram and senior tight end Nicholas Parker could emerge as well. Third string tight end Channing Ward will be ready to start in a year from now. It is vital for Ole Miss to dominate on offense this year because the quarterback that replaces Bo Wallace could completely stink.
Ole Miss has a deadly front four on defense consisting of Fadol Brown, Robert Nkemdiche, Issac Gross, and C.J. Johnson. These guys started next to each other last season and will remain starters in 2014 and 2015 after this season. The Rebels' run a nickel defense, but have two seniors that play linebacker. On secondary you Senquez Golden as your field corner with Cody Prewitt as a safety that can play free safety or strong safety. Your boundary and nickel corners are average right now, but will blossom in 2015.
Anything less than an SEC Championship appearance in the next two years is unacceptable because you've recruited a team that can contend for the next two seasons. Ole Miss may have some hurdles this year, but they will be one of the favorites to take the SEC next year in 2015.
15. LSU Tigers The LSU Tigers have an outstanding run blocking offensive line and are led by true freshman running back Leonard Fournette. Whoever wins the starting quarterback job at LSU can develop into a starting quarterback by 2015. For now that guy has one job and that is to hand the ball off to Fournette because the Tigers lost Beckham and Landry at wide receiver. Having a secondary that features Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins also gives the Tigers a chance of winning the SEC West.
14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Notre Dame may have lost their offensive line. The Fighting Irish are naturals at recruiting tight ends and safeties. Notre Dame will have a potent offense despite losing tight end Troy Niklas, left tackle Zack Martin, and center Braxston Cave. Notre Dame's offense is led by quarterback Everett Golson. You have 2016 first round pick Corey Robinson a 6-4 215 lb wide receiver as Golson's favorite target. Davaris Daniels and Amir Carlisle are also effective wide receiver targets as both guys enter their senior seasons. Ben Koyack can be an effective tight end. Despite losing Martin and Cave, the Fighting Irish have five offensive lineman with starting experience.
On defense Notre Dame has pass-rusher Ishaq Williams who can be a 4-3 right end or a 3-4 right outside linebacker. Having a secondary that consists of Cole Luke, KeiVarre Russell, Cody Riggs at nickel cornerback, Max Redfield at strong safety, a senior free safety, and Matthias Farley as a backup safety/late-round prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft, gives the Fighting Irish an abundance of players on secondary.
Notre Dame has an easy schedule and will have another 10 win season. The Fighting Irish are switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense again. If this front 7 can stop the run, we could be looking at a Notre Dame team that potentially makes the first BCS four team playoff.
13. USC Trojans The USC Trojans are led by quarterback Cody Kessler and wide receiver Nelson Agohlor. The Trojans' also have a good tight end that can catch passes or run block along with some solid run blocking guards that can struggle in pass protection at times. Offensive guru Steve Sarkisian will find a way to make this offense even better.
On defense USC is led by left end Leonard Williams and nickel cornerback Josh Shaw. USC can be a dark horse in the PAC 12 if they stop the pass. Despite lacking NFL prospects on the front the Trojans' finished 14th in run defense while finishing third in pass defense with Shaw at the nickel.
The Trojans' may have another strong season if the defense comes through. The only teams to worry about in the PAC 12 South are the Arizona State Sun Devils and the UCLA Bruins. USC's annual game with the UCLA Bruins to end the season will likely decide who wins the South division in the PAC 12.
12. Georgia Bulldogs The Georgia Bulldogs will have a strong run blocking unit. Todd Gurley is due for another big season. Not having Aaron Murray at quarterback may set this team back. I think the front 7 can stop the run, but the secondary will struggle to keep up with other SEC squads.
11. Stanford Cardinal Stanford has quarterback Kevin Hogan, wide receiver Ty Montgomery, and an offensive line that reloads with talent every year when head coach David Shaw recruits offensive lineman to play for Stanford.
Stanford ranked #1 in run defense, but lost a lot of players on the front 7 to the NFL. The secondary features Alex Carter, Jordan Richards, and Wayne Lyons. Stanford has a chance to win the PAC 12 once again if the run defense shows up. Losing guys like Trent Murphy, Ben Garner, and Shayne Skov could jeopardize Stanford's odds of winning the PAC 12 for the third year in a row.
10. South Carolina Gamecocks South Carolina has a deadly running game with Mike Davis and some sound run blocking offensive lineman. No Clowney and a lack of passing game may keep them from an SEC Championship appearance.
9. Baylor Bears Bryce Petty and the Baylor Bears have a deadly passing game. Two second round prospects at offensive tackle and a couple of quality receivers is why I believe Baylor wins the Big 12.
8. Ohio State Buckeyes Ohio State and Michigan State are 1A and 1B whoever wins the rematch of last year's Big 10 Championship will likely win the Big 10 representing the Big 10 in the BCS Playoff Game. Without left tackle Jack Mewhort or running back Carlos Hyde, I expect Braxton Miller to struggle in 2014.
7. UCLA Bruins UCLA is led by quarterback Brett Hundley. Hundley has a weaker supporting cast than any of the quarterback prospects projected to go in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Every big game that Hundley plays in without an interception is a case as to why Hundley should be the top pick in 2015.
6. Michigan State Spartans Michigan State has a balanced offense featuring Connor Cook at quarterback and Jeremy Langford at running back. Michigan State also displays a deadly defense with both defensive ends returning to East Lansing. The Spartans are my pick to win the Big 10 East and the Big 10 all together. I believe Michigan State or Baylor will get the final spot in the first BCS Playoff. Would the BCS Committe take a 1 loss Michigan State team or an undefeated Baylor squad despite an easy schedule? Either way one school will still hate the system.
5. Auburn Tigers Auburn made the BCS Title game which is why they are a top 5 team for now. Auburn has quarterback Nick Marshall returning along with four starters on the offensive line. The one guy they lost was stud left tackle Greg Robinson. Losing Tre Mason at running back was also huge. I think Auburn disappoints fans in 2014. Maybe I'm crazy, but I believe LSU and Ole Miss are bigger threats to Alabama than Auburn. This time they play in Alabama and you know Saban wants revenge after getting screwed out of BCS Title appearance where the Crimson Tide lost to Auburn on the road in 2013. Without Dee Ford the defense will fall apart.
4. Oklahoma Sooners Oklahoma got lucky against Alabama. Nick Saban was coping with the fact that his team wasn't in the SEC Title game. Bob Stoops deserves major props for outsmarting Saban and blitzing A.J. McCarron constantly. Like Auburn, I expect Oklahoma to disappoint.
3. Oregon Ducks Oregon has Marcus Mariota back at quarterback. 2012 he starts as a freshman redshirt under Chip Kelly. 2013 he proves he can win without Kelly. In 2014, Mariota has his diploma and is only taking two classes Golf and Yoga.
Mariota has the top center in the entire country on the offensive line in Hroniss Grassu. Grassu is an excellent communicator and he makes sure all the offensive lineman are on the same page when it comes to pass blocking, run blocking, or zone blocking. That is why I expect the Ducks' offense to continue to have success.
Oregon may lack the front 7 to stop rushing attacks, but most of the PAC 12 teams are relying on their passing game to win ball games. Oregon's secondary ranked fifth in pass defense last season so you have to like the Ducks odds of making the first BCS Playoff.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide Regardless of who wins the starting quarterback job, Alabama can contend. You have T.J. Yeldon a 2015 first-round pick at running back. Amari Cooper is the top receiver prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft. Tight end O.J. Howard is the top tight end prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft. Alabama will continue to have an outstanding run blocking offensive line with guys like right tackle Austin Shepard and left guard Arie Kouandjio the older brother of Cyrus Kouandjio. Those guys will pass block effectively, while the rest of the offensive line continues to run block. Bringing in Lane Kiffin to run the offense will give the Crimson Tide more confidence in the passing game while improving the pass blocking of the Crimson Tide offensive line.
Nick Saban usually has top 5 3-4 defenses that put offenses to shame. Without a cornerback in 2013, he relied on HaHa Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins at safety while having a guy like C.J. Mosley to stop the run. Without Mosley and Clinton-Dix, Alabama will have to rely on Collins. This is the weakest defense Saban has ever had at Alabama.
Alabama will win the SEC and get into the playoffs as a one loss team. Heck they could even beat Florida State in the semifinals if they get the four seed. One thing I will say is that the SEC is stronger than ever, and LSU and Ole Miss both have the defenses to pull an upset on Alabama. I expect Alabama to roll tide roll all over Auburn, but at the same time, LSU or Ole Miss will upset Alabama this season.
1. Florida State Seminoles Florida State is loaded. Jameis Winston won the Heisman trophy with two #1 receivers and tight end Nick O' Leary. Without Benjamin, the offense may fall apart. Still Florida State has one of their three running backs back along with four of their five starters on the offensive line. Despite the loss of center Bryan Stork, the Seminoles' have another senior who is ready to come in and start at center. I expect more of the same from the Seminoles offense in 2014.
This defense features natural frun stuffers like Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman. Middle linebacker Terrance Smith is your best player at linebacker after losing Christian Jones and Telvin Smith. The secondary features the top two cornerbacks in the nation with P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby. Florida State has some safeties that look like early prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft along with another nickel corner that may go in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft as well.
Florida State is the defending National Championship after a perfect season. They face another weak schedule in the ACC. Jameis Winston has an outside chance to become the first player to repeat at Hesiman since Archie Griffin. Jimbo Fisher has groomed 27 draft picks since he took over the head coaching gig for the Seminoles in 2011 which bests Nick Saban's 23 draft picks since he left the Dolphins to become head coach for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
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