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An early top 10 for 2014

Braxton Miller AP

The sun has barely set on the BCS era and, as we speak, Florida State’s Chief Osceola is riding off toward the horizon with the last Crystal Ball tucked carefully under his arm.  But now it’s time to take a break from this glorious ending and ponder: What will next season look like?

Here’s an early top 10 for 2014:

1. Ohio State – The Buckeyes return the Heisman front runner in Braxton Miller and a ton of other playmakers on both sides of the ball. After going 24-2 in his first two years in Columbus, Urban Meyer finally has the roster in place to win the first national title under the new College Football Playoff system.

2. Oregon – If Miller is the Heisman favorite, Marcus Mariota isn’t too far behind. He returns to lead an explosive Duck offense that should once again wreak havoc on opposing defenses. On the other side of the ball is a unit led by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu that could be the best defense in school history.

3. Auburn – For all the magic and luck Auburn needed to get to the BCS title game, remember that it was only Year One of the Gus Malzahn Era on The Plains. Give the man another spring ball and add a stellar recruiting class to the mix and watch him mold a new juggernaut consisting of players who buy in completely with what he’s trying to accomplish. It helps that the ever-improving Nick Marshall and a bevy of talented young defenders are set to return for another go-around.

4. Oklahoma – No one should’ve been that surprised by OU’s upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. It’s Oklahama, after all. This is a program that is always loaded with talent. Quarterback Trevor Knight showed glimpses of a bright future against the Tide and could develop into one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in 2014. The Sooner defensive front seven is an elite group on par with those units from the early Bob Stoops era.

5. Florida State – What will the Seminoles do for an encore? Well, first they’ve got to figure out how many key players from this year’s squad will be heading to the NFL. Devonta Freeman, James Wilder, Jr., Timmie Jernigan and Kelvin Benjamin could all leave early for the draft, while seniors Lamarcus Joyner, Telvin Smith and Bryan Stork will all be gone, too. Still, Jameis Winston returns and the treasure trove of talent on defense means FSU should once again be the team to beat in the ACC.

6. Alabama – Next year’s Crimson Tide could be the most talented team of Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa. Somewhere between 40 and 50 players will play in the NFL at some point. However, the Tide will need to find a quarterback to replace AJ McCarron and do a little rebuilding on defense, too. With a few minor tweaks, Alabama should have no trouble making the four-team playoff.

7. Baylor – Heisman candidate Bryce Petty returns to lead what could be the best offense in college football. Tailback Lache Seastrunk is heading to the pros, but his able backup, Shock Linwood, returns and could be even more productive. The Bears were one of the most improved defenses in the country this past season, but will have to find able replacements for Ahmad Dixon and Eddie Lackey if they want to remain in the upper echelon of the Big 12.

8. UCLA – Heisman candidate Brett Hundley bypassed millions of NFL dollars and should be in line for a huge junior season for the Bruins. He has a ton of offensive weapons at his disposal, including linebacker-turned-running back Myles Jack. The defense is deep and experienced. This should be the best UCLA team since the late 1990s.

9. Wisconsin – Stud running back Melvin Gordon returns as does quarterback Joel Stave. If the Badgers can rebuild their wide receiver and linebacker groups, they should once again challenge for the Big Ten title.

10. Stanford – The defense must replace a lot of NFL bodies, but there’s plenty of available talent ready to give it a shot. The offensive line will once again be among the nation’s best and quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is 10-1 as a starter against ranked teams, should be ready for a breakout season.

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56 Responses to “An early top 10 for 2014”
  1. wick0926 says: Jan 7, 2014 8:05 AM

    As a Badger fan I would be shocked if Stave is the starting QB next year. GA wants a QB that has some mobility to him and can hit a wide open receiver on a consistent basis. All of which Stave lacks

  2. northernmiman says: Jan 7, 2014 8:34 AM

    No Mich State? Wisconsin is perennially over ranked, bucky needs to actually win a big game before they get an automatic top 10 ranking every year.

  3. noffy32 says: Jan 7, 2014 8:34 AM

    OSU in any top 10 is surely a mistake. That is unless they play the easiest schedule again and are overhyped by clueless writers.

  4. becauseisaysothatswhy says: Jan 7, 2014 8:50 AM

    How is FSU not #1 on this list?

    They literally just won the NC less than 12 hours ago…And your #1 OSU just lost to Clemson who FSU trounced 52 – 7, Clemson scored their second TD with like 67 seconds left in the 4th quarter against FSU’s 3rd string so it clearly doesn’t count…keep in mind FSU had to replace like 11 NFL draft picks, several undrafted free agents & 6 or 7 coaches including their DC this past season…what ever they have to replace or reload for next season pales in comparison.

    After what FSU did last night and all season you’d think they’d be higher than #5

  5. derekgorgonstar says: Jan 7, 2014 8:57 AM

    Let’s not be too hasty. Plenty of time for more Buckeyes to get arrested.

  6. lanzurrah says: Jan 7, 2014 8:58 AM

    Ohio State at 1? Two Big Ten teams in the Top Ten???…this is comedy at it’s finest.

  7. shyts7 says: Jan 7, 2014 9:06 AM

    Wow you must not watch college football. Ohio St. is about as overrated as they come. They might be in the top 5 next year but are no real threat. Oklahoma? See Ohio State answer. I’ll give you Auburn, Oregon, & Alabama. FSU will be number 1. All those guys you said might leave probably won’t. Winston, Wilder, Freeman, Williams, Benjamin will all be back. The only guy that might leave is Greene.

  8. vincentbojackson says: Jan 7, 2014 9:07 AM

    Looks like somebody that likes to make lists is a Buckeye fan!!!

    Braxton Miller is already the Heisman favorite and the Buckeyes are #1.

    Problem is, their already poor defense just lost it’s only two good players in Roby and Shazier to the NFL.

    Running Braxton Miller 30 times a game just doesn’t seem to be a recipe for long term success. He missed the first quarter of the season and got abused in the Orange Bowl due to him having to use his legs all the time. He’s just not that good of a passer for much to change in my opinion.

  9. thraiderskin says: Jan 7, 2014 9:09 AM

    I don’t think the teams are ranked in order within the Top Ten. I mean, if it wasn’t obvious, seeing who is on top of a deep FSU squad.

  10. cfballfan1 says: Jan 7, 2014 9:20 AM

    Uhhhh…..what about a certain group of Spartans who beat 3 of the teams on this list this season??

  11. tigers182 says: Jan 7, 2014 9:21 AM

    Yeah ok, the current #3 team, MSU is returning 43 players who played in the Rose Bowl and they’re not a top 10 team? Preseason rankings are all about brand names.

  12. blacknole08 says: Jan 7, 2014 9:22 AM

    becauseisaysothatswhy says: Jan 7, 2014 8:50 AM

    How is FSU not #1 on this list?

    They literally just won the NC less than 12 hours ago…And your #1 OSU just lost to Clemson who FSU trounced 52 – 7, Clemson scored their second TD with like 67 seconds left in the 4th quarter against FSU’s 3rd string so it clearly doesn’t count…keep in mind FSU had to replace like 11 NFL draft picks, several undrafted free agents & 6 or 7 coaches including their DC this past season…what ever they have to replace or reload for next season pales in comparison.

    After what FSU did last night and all season you’d think they’d be higher than #5

    ————————————————————

    This. Still no respect for what we accomplished last night or this season.

  13. philliesblow says: Jan 7, 2014 9:22 AM

    Thanks for the incentive.

    Sincerely,

    Spartan Dawgs

    (Some people are slow learners)

  14. bucrightoff says: Jan 7, 2014 9:28 AM

    I hope people have realized the Big10 supremely overrated and is marginally better than the MAC. Michigan State is the exception because they play elite defense. No one else in that conference plays good defense. Ohio State would have lost by 5 TDs to either team last night.

  15. villain612 says: Jan 7, 2014 9:30 AM

    As a Buckeye fan, Meyer is gonna need to fix our defense before we can be ranked anywhere near #1.

  16. halbert53 says: Jan 7, 2014 9:37 AM

    What dolt came up with this ranking? Obviously an OSU or Big 10 fan living in a dream world. OSU lost to the two good teams it played, including a Clemson team that lost to FSU.

    1. FSU defending NC.
    2. Auburn. Gave FSU run for their money.
    3. Oklahoma. Best Big 12 team at end of year.
    4. UCLA.
    5. Missouri. Young QB better than Franklin.
    6. MSU.
    7. USC. Talented, better coach.
    8. LSU. Sleeping giant in SEC.
    9. Clemson.
    10. OK State.

    Some of these are subjective but the top three ( in some order) should be a slam dunk. And far more credible than tOSU being ranked No. 1 preseason after both losing and getting outplayed its last two games.

  17. ken49ers says: Jan 7, 2014 9:39 AM

    How can you put a team who hasn’t beat a top 15 program in over 5 years number one already with that garbage defense?

  18. keltictim says: Jan 7, 2014 9:43 AM

    I don’t see how the gamecocks wouldn’t be ranked 9th or 10th. If we’ve proven anything the last three years it’s our year to year depth. Every year we lose outstanding players and every year the next man up does an amazing job at filling the gaps. But that’s ok while the players don’t need bulletin board material to excel us fans love it.

  19. 10kmp says: Jan 7, 2014 9:53 AM

    @blacknole08 said…

    “This. Still no respect for what we accomplished last night or this season.”

    What position were you playing on the Rose Bowl field last night?

  20. longtallsam says: Jan 7, 2014 9:57 AM

    A more likely pre-season top ten:

    1. FSU
    2. Auburn
    3. Oklahoma
    4. Oregon
    5. Alabama
    6. Mich. St.
    7. UCLA
    8. Stanford
    9. Ohio State
    10. Baylor

    It’s hard to imagine Ohio St. and Baylor being ranked much higher than this, after their defenses were exposed in their bowl games. Also would be unusual to have only 2 SEC teams in the top ten, but their next level teams(USC, LSU, Missouri) have to replace a lot of key players.

  21. dkhhuey says: Jan 7, 2014 9:58 AM

    Urban has a monster recruiting class for 2014 to add to his first 2 top 5 classes. They will have a very solid team on both sides of the ball to vie for the title next year! I will greatly enjoy all of the butt-hurt coming from everybody else outside the Buckeye Nation!!!

  22. bradwins says: Jan 7, 2014 9:59 AM

    OSU? LOL

  23. longborer69 says: Jan 7, 2014 9:59 AM

    Look at the schedules.

    Oregon hosts Michigan State September 13. That’s before their replacements on defense are fully blended into their scheme, while Oregon returns most of the keys of their offense. If MSU wins, they’ll easily be top ten, but if not, that’s going to be a high quality win for the Ducks that will have them right at the top of the polls.

    FSU plays Ok State 8/30 in Arlington, TX, likely to be a very hostile environment. They also play Notre Dame and Florida. All three will be tougher than anyone they played in non-conference this year, and tougher than anyone they played in conference besides Clemson. Unlike this year’s cupcakes, they play one of the strongest schedules in the nation. It would be no surprise to see them drop one or even two games, even if they have most players back. Good players have bad days, and there are dangerous games on that schedule.

    tOSU has only one difficult road game, at MSU. It’s not hard to see them going undefeated and being #1 going into the playoffs. Hard to see them winning the playoffs unless they figure out how to play defense against teams with a good offense, though. But I can see the #1 ranking given the schedule.

    Auburn plays early season at KSU. They’d better play better than they did this season when hosting WSU. It’s easy to see them taking a loss there that drops them down the rankings.

    I’ll be surprised if anyone escapes the PAC-12 undefeated next year, though, even with the guys Oregon is returning. Too many dangerous teams that can beat even the top teams on a given day. That’s the way it was this year, and I don’t see that changing.

  24. tide4life says: Jan 7, 2014 10:00 AM

    OSU #1? FSU #5? Somebody’s smoking some good s**t.

  25. peopletrains says: Jan 7, 2014 10:01 AM

    That’s stud, HEISMAN CANDIDATE, Melvin Gordon to you, sir.

  26. Brian Basher says: Jan 7, 2014 10:01 AM

    Calm down everyone!!

    Chris Huston wrote this article… he doesn’t know what fact checking is, rarely knows what he is even writing about and has a habit of making stuff up just to fill white space so just calm down and wait for a real journalist to publish their Top 10

  27. longborer69 says: Jan 7, 2014 10:02 AM

    LOL at the guy who called people a dolt and left Oregon completely out of his top ten. Guaranteed with Mariota back they’ll be ranked at least in the top 3-4 preseason, and if they beat MSU as is likely (early, might be a lot harder later in the season), they’ll stay there most of the year.

  28. halbert53 says: Jan 7, 2014 10:09 AM

    The further you get from No. 1, the less quality difference between teams. SC, Bama, Stanford, Oregon and a few others hover around No. 10. But at the top, which is most important, I don’t see how an objective person wouldn’t rank FSU, Auburn and OK in that order for a preseason poll.

    Now if it was a final ranking for this season, I would rank FSU, Auburn, MSU and UCF as my top 4.

  29. blacknole08 says: Jan 7, 2014 10:14 AM

    10kmp says: Jan 7, 2014 9:53 AM

    @blacknole08 said…

    “This. Still no respect for what we accomplished last night or this season.”

    What position were you playing on the Rose Bowl field last night?

    —————————————————–

    I was playing the position of a lifetime fan and alum who has invested alot of my time, energy, and $$$ supporting my team.

    So I will enjoy our win.

  30. butlers91 says: Jan 7, 2014 10:17 AM

    How is FSU not #1 on this list?
    =========

    The answer is in the story:

    Devonta Freeman, James Wilder, Jr., Timmie Jernigan and Kelvin Benjamin could all leave early for the draft, while seniors Lamarcus Joyner, Telvin Smith and Bryan Stork will all be gone, too.

  31. Deb says: Jan 7, 2014 10:19 AM

    I don’t have a big problem with the teams included on the list, but is that supposed to be the actual ranking??? FSU at #5??? Seriously?

    Dude … when you finish #1 you should start #1.

    @longborer69 …

    Never mind that halbert53 left Oregon off his list. He left Alabama off his list. That’s fine. Haters gonna hate. But Alabama will be right back in the mix next season.

  32. buryyourduke says: Jan 7, 2014 10:23 AM

    I wouldn’t write off Alabama. Supposedly the Tide were in trouble bc McElroy couldn’t replace John Parker Wilson. Then they were going to struggle to replace McElroy with AJ…They have an absolute embarrassment of riches surrounding whoever is playing QB. It’s going to be a very interesting year. Perfect time for the playoffs to begin, because there are quite a few teams that can win it all.

  33. longborer69 says: Jan 7, 2014 10:27 AM

    @Deb, of course, though we’ll see how you do without McCarron, he was better than people give him credit for.

    Could see you losing 2-3 games next year. Could see you going all the way, too. That’s the great thing about college football, they are kids, not professional athletes, and even with pros weird things happen sometimes. Bama will be one of the ten best teams, probably one of the 4-5 best, maybe the very best.

    But they could lose three games and finish ranked 15th, because things happen.

  34. Deb says: Jan 7, 2014 10:35 AM

    @longborer69 …

    Nothing is predictable–even in the pros. (I love the NFL. Last weekend was fantabulous!) A.J. is leaving big shoes to fill. But we won a championship with McElroy and McCarron stepped right in for him. We’ve got strong QB candidates in the wings. It may take a season for the new guy to get his sea legs, but I’m sure we’ll be back in contention even if we don’t go the distance.

  35. BrownsTown says: Jan 7, 2014 10:37 AM

    Breaking news: it’s not true that the same players at their same level of development will suit up for these teams again next year.

    Shocking, I know. I thought we could just carry forward the EOY rankings, but word is that it doesn’t work that way.

  36. babyfarkmcgeezax says: Jan 7, 2014 10:39 AM

    Everyone can agree that Baylor should be ranked #1 when it comes to awesome running back names.

  37. BrownsTown says: Jan 7, 2014 10:40 AM

    That said, I agree that FSU should be higher, especially when you’re returning an elite QB.

  38. hehateme1 says: Jan 7, 2014 10:42 AM

    MSU was a 1 and done this year. Mediocre program.

  39. rocket1988 says: Jan 7, 2014 11:08 AM

    Msu loses too many leaders and big play guys on D to be top ten. The last time they were ranked high preseason they lost six games.

  40. teambringitstrong says: Jan 7, 2014 11:14 AM

    10kmp says: Jan 7, 2014 9:53 AM

    @blacknole08 said…

    “This. Still no respect for what we accomplished last night or this season.”

    What position were you playing on the Rose Bowl field last night?
    ————————————————————–
    It matters not if he were on the field, his (OUR) school won it. Maybe if you spent more time being happy for someone instead of nitpicking, hating and trying to bring them down, you would be more accomplished.

  41. Deb says: Jan 7, 2014 11:44 AM

    BrownsTown …

    Given the changes that take place in college teams from one season to the next, I think we all agree preseason polls are fairly useless. It’s really more a matter of courtesy, for want of a better word, to rank the reigning champ #1 to start the coming season. I wish it were as easy to logically seed college teams as it is pro teams, based solely on performance. But in a field of some 340 teams, that’s impossible.

  42. halbert53 says: Jan 7, 2014 12:12 PM

    @Deb,
    If leaving Bama off my top 10 makes me a hater so be it. Been an SEC and Bama fan all my life.

    FSU and Auburn showed mental toughness. FSU fought back from big deficit. Auburn could have wilted after the KO return for a TD but they retook the lead. OK showed mental toughness against Bama. Those three have great talent plus mental toughness which puts them above the rest.

    Oregon, Baylor, Duke, A&M all have great offenses and skunk defenses.

    Bama’s problem isn’t so much replacing QB as other things. OL this year nowhere near as good as last year. Saban got away from run first offense and underused Henry and that hurt against OK.

    Saban’s formula at LSU and Bama was overpowering defense and a good offense. Bama’s defense is built to compete against traditional offenses such as LSU and GA, not against up-tempo teams like Auburn, MO, A&M, OK, Baylor, Oregon, etc. The defensive secondary was exposed against good passing teams.

    I could see Bama finishing next season in the top 10, but I could also see them losing 2-3 games.

    Bama has a lot of individual talent but the team, especially on defense, is less than the sum of its parts. To be a top 10 program, Bama needs to adapt its defense. Unless the Bama defense is overpowering, an up-tempo offense will score more points than Bama’s offense can score against a decent defense.

  43. Deb says: Jan 7, 2014 12:15 PM

    @halbert53 …

    You’re a Bama fan? Oops … forgot that. Just having a homer moment LOL

  44. midtec2005 says: Jan 7, 2014 12:32 PM

    MSU will crush Oregon next year if their defense is anything close to this years. OSU should be in the top 10 too (not sure about #1 with that defense though). Their offense is going to be lights out. Anyone who says otherwise is drinking to much of the SEC koolaid. Georgia Bama and Auburn all lost to other conferences (including the Big 10). Even the games they won over the big 10 (Iowa and Wisconsin) were really close.

  45. clemsonstillsucks says: Jan 7, 2014 1:02 PM

    Further proof that apparently Huston’s employers don’t have random drug testing or a substance abuse policy.

    This guy’s lack of objectivity is palpable. Either that or he is completely clueless as to his subject matter.

  46. onlyoneleft says: Jan 7, 2014 2:20 PM

    Bull, that is not fair. Only two SEC teams? Hell, ESPN will have at the least, nine teams.

  47. bigbuckeye76 says: Jan 7, 2014 4:55 PM

    This list is as useless as the pre-season BigTen awards… By the way, OSU plays VaTech next year and Navy…..stick that in your weak schedule hat and smoke it!!

  48. normtide says: Jan 7, 2014 5:14 PM

    OSU haters will be but hurt next year… . Didn’t we hear that last year?

  49. lanzurrah says: Jan 7, 2014 6:57 PM

    OSU plays VTech and Navy? Wow! Look out! A mediocre team that just got waxed by UCLA and one of the military academies. lol…..

  50. jtalsma83 says: Jan 7, 2014 7:08 PM

    Do you only look at returning skill players? Ohio St. is losing 4 very good offensive lineman and Carlos Hyde. I have a hard time thinking any team that loses that is going to be #1.

  51. ohioguy614 says: Jan 7, 2014 7:36 PM

    OSU fans wouldn’t even agree with this…maybe Top 10, but not No. 1. Please don’t make us No. 1 next year. More teams are worthy of that distinction. Somehow, when this crap happens and writers and coaches vote us higher than we should be, you morons on these chat boards take it out on us fans and blame us as being arrogant OSU fans. We are realists, and know we aren’t NO. 1 material YET.

  52. operwapitsai says: Jan 8, 2014 2:58 AM

    OK… this is a good favorites list I guess??? but in no way a good top 10 list haha

  53. onlyoneleft says: Jan 8, 2014 1:52 PM

    Top 5:

    Vandy
    Kentucky
    S Carolina
    Miss. St.
    Tennessee

  54. onlyoneleft says: Jan 8, 2014 2:10 PM

    No, that is not right. I am going to put Tennessee ahead of SC.

  55. seminolefan83 says: Jan 8, 2014 3:03 PM

    “The Buckeyes return the Heisman front runner in Braxton Miller and a ton of other playmakers on both sides of the ball.” – Braxton Miller is the front runner for the Heisman over Jameis Winston, the returning Heisman winner????? The OSU offense loses four of the offensive line, Carlos Hyde (RB) and Philly Brown (H-B). Braxton Miller (QB), Jeff Heuerman (TE, Evan Spencer and Devin Smith (WRs) are all Juniors and could leave. Basically the entire starting offense could leave. On Defense, both the safeties are gone and six others are juniors and could leave.
    This sounds like OSU is returning their starters and FSU is losing almost everyone is leaving. FSU could return 7 starters of offense and 6 on defense. Ohio State, which did not beat a team rated higher than 16, returns no more than 5 starters on offense and 8 on defense is rated number 1, but FSU, who wins every game including the number 2 team in the country is rated 5?

  56. blackball407 says: Jan 13, 2014 11:39 AM

    Wow those are some garbage rankings. I have a hard time believing the SEC winner, runner up, third place team, Pac 12 winner, runner up, and third place team, FSU, and Oklahoma wouldn’t all be higher than ohio state. Thats just off the top of my head.

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