The BCS era came to a close on Monday night in style. Florida State topped Auburn in one of the most thrilling national title games since the Bowl Championship Series was instituted. With every end, there is a new, beautiful beginning. For fans, that means the College Football Playoff system.
As everyone under the sun drops preseason rankings, we decided to forgo them until all the draft declarations are made, and offseason coaching searches are settled. Instead, we want to know who is going to enter the season Nos. 2-4 — the all-important rankings for the inaugural playoff.
With the return of Jameis Winston, Florida State will undoubtedly sit atop the polls come August. Despite the defections to the NFL, Jimbo Fisher has stockpiled talent for years to come in Tallahassee.
But who can challenge the Noles in 2014?
A few of the early teams on our radar are Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford and LSU.
The Ducks will welcome back star quarterback Marcus Mariota, who decided to return to Oregon for another year. They also return their top two rushers, and Mark Helfrich’s defense received a boost when Ifo Ekpre-Olomu announced he’ll be coming back.
Oklahoma made a huge statement to kick off 2014 with a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. Trevor Knight introduced himself to the nation that night, and with an offseason to develop, should improve next season. Bob Stoops’ defense returns a ton of talent. The offense, however, will have to replace a slew of playmakers – three of the top four receivers and four of the top five running backs. If Knight can get his teammates the ball, however, the Sooners should be just fine in that department.
Despite losing AJ McCarron, Nick Saban should have Alabama rolling again in 2014. He always finds a way to shore up the holes, and another top recruiting class will add depth once again. A miracle play was the only thing that derailed the Tide’s championship hopes in 2013.
For Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes, it starts with Braxton Miller. Miller recently announced his decision to return to Ohio State for another season, adding the key ingredient to a potential playoff run. However, the Buckeyes will lose four senior starters along the offensive line, star running back Carlos Hyde out of the backfield, and defensive leader Ryan Shazier. Despite the losses, Meyer has a realistic shot of making the playoff next season due to a weak Big Ten.
Stanford’s key to success is Coach David Shaw. He can coach with the best of them, and should once again have the Cardinal in the title talk next season. He has his hands full with filling the holes on the defense, but there is talent on The Farm that can step in and be more than serviceable. The Pac-12 should once again come down to Stanford and Oregon.
The one wild card pick is LSU. Cam Cameron has proven to be exactly what Les Miles was missing on the Bayou. Soon-to-be sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings received some valuable playing time in the wake of Zach Mettenberger’s injury. The ground game should be even better in 2014 with No. 1-ranked recruit Leonard Fournette making his way to Baton Rouge. Fournette already looks like a man amongst boys, and should have an immediate (potentially big) impact.
An early prediction on the preseason top four is:
- Florida State
Who do you think enters the season No. 2-4? Sound off in the comments below!