A new era is upon us. For the first time this millennium it seems, we have decided to get rid of computers and replaced them with actual humans, weird right? It has been awhile since the NCAA got something right, with the new 4 team playoff format that will be hand picked by a committee of 13 members, the upcoming College Football season is one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory. But don’t let all the playoff hype overshadow the most important thing, there’s still nothing like College Football on a fall Saturday afternoon. Here is the Top 25 Pre-season Power Rankings from GoatSports:
25. Missouri Tigers
Coming off a breakout 11-win season in the SEC, the Tigers will be looking to establish themselves as a perennial threat in the SEC East. Gone is QB James Franklin, SEC Co-Defensive player of the Year Michael Sam, Leading receiver L’Damian Washington and leading rusher Henry Josey. Yet the Zou are in good hands with new sophomore QB Maty Mauk who threw for 1,071 yards and 11 TDS when Franklin was injured a year ago and it’s always a good thing when your skill set is being compared to the same guy who they called Johnny Football.
24. Texas Longhorns
It’s a new era in Texas. Charlie Strong taking over for Mac Brown has already spawned a new energy out of Austin. Strong has made a statement by kicking off uncommitted players regardless of talent level. Strong still inherits plenty of talent including one of the best rushing duo’s in the country with Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray as well as a potentially elite defense. But the Longhorns don’t get any favors from the schedule which features UCLA, Baylor and Oklahoma.
23. TCU Horned Frogs
Coming off a year of just misses, TCU missed out on a bowl game for the first time since 2004. Yet they were virtually in every game last season, thanks to a very underrated and overlooked defense that was ranked in the Top 10 a year ago. Coach Gary Patterson made improving the offense priority no. 1 in recruiting and in other areas. He convinced Texas A&M QB Matt Joeckel to transfer and replaced all his offensive coordinators in hopes that the offense would be much more up-tempo to compete with other Big 12 offenses.
22. North Carolina Tar Heels
There is a lot of grit in Chapel Hill. It starts with their football team, which started 1-5 a year ago but caught fire in the second half of the season and landed themselves in a bowl game which they would go on to win. Coming into 2014, a lot of starters are back, but still plenty of questions at QB and on the offensive line. They’re no questions everywhere else although, at running back they run a three deep rotation and have a deadly receiving trio as well. Young, hungry talent can make this team a potential threat to contend for the ACC crown.
21. Washington Huskies
Chris Peterson brought an unknown Boise State school to the Fiesta Bowl in his first season and had them contending for all 7 years during his tenure. Now at Washington Peterson has to recreate an offense that lost QB Keith Price and 1,870 yard rusher Bishop Sankey. The defense is pretty solid, but Peterson alone puts the Huskies in the Top 25.
20. Nebraska Cornhuskers
You don’t know Bo. Bo Pelini that is. The pesky and emotionally charged coach has insisted he has made minor adjustments in the way he carries himself as a coach on and off the field. With a young squad full of fresh faces, it gives Pelini a fresh start too. It starts with the rushing attack where Nebraska fields a 250-pound bulldozer in Ameer Abdullah who will carry an offense that will feature a new QB under-center this coming season.
19. Ole Miss
This team is bound to have a breakout year. After their best recruiting year in school history in ’13, Ole Miss is looking to be the Auburn of this year coming out of the SEC. Loaded with talent on both sides of the ball ( Former No.1 recruit DT Robert Nkemdiche leads a dominant D-line) QB Bo Wallace and WR Laquon Treadwell could be the deadliest QB, WR tandem in the nation.
18. Wisconsin Badgers
The Badgers will rely on their offensive line and running backs to carry them through the Big Ten this season. Go figure. RB Melvin “Flash” Gordon is the real deal and is a dark horse Heisman contender and will have to carry and offense with question marks at QB and WR. On the other side of the ball, the defense returns only 3 starters, but avoid the Big Ten’s best on their schedule. The opening game against LSU will set the tone for the season for Wisconsin.
17. Clemson Tigers
Sammy Watkins and Taj Boyd are gone. So are the days of Clemson winning games by outscoring opponents. With plenty of unproven young talent on offense, the Tigers have a potential top-5 defense in the reigns, returning an elite defensive line and Linebacker Vic Beasley. They’ll need all they can get against Winston and FSU in the ACC.
16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2013 featured a lot of 17-13, 13-10 victories and losses for the Fighting Irish. With Everett Golson back after being academically suspended for a year, Golson returns to an offense loaded with skill positions at his disposal and with Kelly calling the plays again, Notre Dame could feature one of the best offenses in the nation. The problem will be stopping opponents like Michigan, Stanford, USC and defending champ, Florida State.
15. Texas A&M Aggies
It’ll be weird seeing the Aggies without No. 2 under center and running around in the SEC, but Kevin Sumlin is one of the best recruiters in the game and reloaded on offense by signing WR Speedy Noil who will remind you of Tavon Austin. Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen will take over for Johnny Football. Regardless, the Aggies can score, defense is still the issue in College Station.
14. USC Trojans
After one of the biggest roller coaster seasons from any school, including 3 coaches and midnight firings, stability will be a nice change of pace for the Trojans. Under new coach Steve Sarkisian, the USC offense will feature a more high-octane tempo to suit the strengths of QB Cody Kessler, RB Javorious Allen and WR Nelson Agholor, the main skill guys. USC hasn’t been on top of College Football for awhile now, and they may be a few years away still, but that day is coming again under Sark.
13. Georgia Bulldogs
Even without QB Aaron Murray, the Dawgs offense is still explosive with Heisman candidate RB Todd Gurley in the backfield the offense will be fine. On defense Georgia has quite possibly the best linebacker core in the nation, but the young secondary will be exploited at times if they don’t get better.
12. Baylor Bears
Ever since RG3, the Baylor offense under Art Briles has been anything but stoppable, and now under the command of Senior Bryce Petty ( Who threw for 4200 yards and 46 TD’s last year) the Baylor offense could be tops in the nation fielding another talented group of pass catchers for Petty. They move into a new 45,000 seat state-of-the-art stadium for good measure. The only thing stopping Baylor this season: their defense.
11. UCLA Bruins
Their offense has flash, firepower and touchdowns at insane rates written all over it. Led by one of the Heisman favorites in QB Brett Hundley, the Bruins are a serious dark horse. Or are they? Jim Mora Jr. has rebuilt this program under the values of grit and hard work, and they are thinking Final Four in Westwood. But as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast!” The Bruins ground game is dependent on LB Myles Jack ( 2-way player) and they have yet to be tested. Mark Oregon vs. UCLA on your calendars folks.
10. Stanford Cardinal
You know what you’re getting from the Cardinal year in and year out. Stonewall defense, overpowering running game, consistent QB play and great coaching from David Shaw. With Kevin Hogan at the helm and Barry Sanders in the backfield (you read that right, his son) the Cardinal O maybe more explosive than many think. Only thing in their way of a three-peat Pac-12 Champs, traveling to Eugene, Oregon.
9. South Carolina Gamecocks
The ole’ ball coach has rattled off 3 straight 11-win seasons in South Carolina and that trend doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon. No. 1 overall pick Jadevon Clowney may be gone, but the Gamecocks are still strong up front defensively. The offensive line is experienced and one of the best in the nation (113 starts combined between the five of them) and will create huge holes for 1,000 yard rusher Mike Davis and 5th year Senior Dylan Thompson. Playoff bound?
8. LSU Tigers
Les Miles is going to be fielding one of the youngest squads in the country, in the toughest conference in the country. That usually means, more losses than wins. Usually. Leonard Fournette is the no. 1 rated RB out of high school and he’s already drawing comparisons to Adrian Peterson. Two intriguing prospects at WR in Malachi Dupree and Trey Quinn could be catching balls from co-freshman dual-threat QB Brandon Harris. Talent is everywhere on the defensive side of the ball for Les Miles as well who has his work cut-out for him this season.
7. Auburn Tigers
One of the most magical seasons in College Football history was nearly completed, but the Tigers came up just short. Now, Gus Malzahn brings back 7 starters on both offense and defense including his O-Line and QB Nick Marshall who will lead a ground attack that is nearly unstoppable. They won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season, and Bama and Georgia will be gunning for them after those two endings last season.
6. Michigan State Spartans
They finished 3rd in the polls last season, and are thinking playoffs this season. Sparty reloads on defense with depth and talent at every position, much like Bama and FSU. The offense returns seven key starters in QB Connor Cook and RB Jeremy Langford, another trip to the Big Ten title game wouldn’t surprise anyone, but an early visit to Oregon could decide their playoff hopes.
5. The Ohio State Buckeyes
Sorry, I had too. They’re calling it “The Chase” in Columbus. The chase for that elusive 6 National title, having a more improved, and Heisman candidate QB Braxton Miller back will certainly help. Urban Meyer hasn’t lost a regular season game at OSU, and their Big Ten schedule suggest that stat won’t be changing. They field an explosive offense and strong front seven on defense, but can the secondary improve drastically for a season ago?
4. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma and Bob Stoops were at a crossroads. They had fallen off the top of the Big 12 and College Football, until a QB named Trevor Knight came along and revived the entire program, leading them to a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama in the process. This season the Sooners are back with a stronger defense equipped to stop any Big 12 offense. The key will be whether Knight continues his ascendency to becoming a top college QB.
3. Oregon Ducks
No team benefits more from the College playoff more so than Oregon, considering the amount of times we have wished for a Bama vs. Oregon matchup. Or maybe that’s just me. The Ducks have my Heisman pick, QB Marcus Mariota along with 17 returning starters, the time is now. Their offense is as explosive and fast as it has ever been, and the defense continues to get better. They have Michigan State at home in week 2 and Stanford visits later on, if they win both, the Ducks are flying towards the playoffs and beyond this season.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
It’s a testament to a program when you lose two games in a row and all hell breaks lose. Bama are not the kings of College football anymore, and maybe that will help them. AJ McCarron is gone and the void he has left will be tough to fill. They still are loaded everywhere else, RB T.J. Yeldon will be key for Saban’s offense that will need QB Jacob Coker to be good as advertised or else the Tide are in trouble. Defensively they are strong, but can they stop the no-huddle offenses that have taken advantage of them the past few years?
1. Florida State Seminoles
Jameis Winston will have to live with all the fame and scrutiny that comes with winning the Heisman as a freshman, just ask Johnny Manziel. The target has been placed on his and FSU back, but they are still the most talented team in College Football until proven otherwise. Winston has weapons all around him at his disposal, and the defense is talented and experienced. Reclaiming the title will be challenging, but the roster Jimbo Fisher fields is more than qualified to repeat.
GoatSports Heisman Watch:
QB Jameis Winston, FSU
QB Marcus Mariota, ORE
QB Braxton Miller, OSU
RB Melvin Gordon, WIS
RB Todd Gurley, UGA