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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 Pre Season Top 25 College Football Rankings

Here's the Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 poll: 1. Florida State Seminoles The Seminoles are starting to resemble what former FSU coach Bobby Bowden built during the 1990s. The defending BCS national champions have stockpiled NFL-type talent under coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff, and they might bring back eight starters on offense and six on defense in 2014. FSU will have to wait to see whether a few underclassmen such as left tackle Cam Erving, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Nick O'Leary return to school or enter the NFL draft. But Winston is coming back, along with a stable of capable tailbacks and a plethora of big-play receivers. The biggest personnel losses will occur on defense, where the Seminoles will have to replace linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith, cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and safety Terrence Brooks. However, the Seminoles figure to be even better in their second season in defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's 3-4 scheme. FSU's schedule will be more challenging next season; it opens against Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas and also plays Notre Dame (home) and Louisville (road), which joins the ACC next season. For more on how the Noles will look in 2014, check out Florida State's recruiting profile and ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings. SportsNation: Way-too-early Top 25 The college football season is over. Time to look ahead! What does your 2014 Top 25 look like? Rank 'Em! » 2. Alabama Crimson Tide The Crimson Tide finished the 2013 season with consecutive losses, and their 45-31 loss to Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl exposed concerns about their offensive line and secondary. But Alabama might bring back eight starters on both offense and defense, although offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are deciding whether to enter the NFL draft. Undoubtedly, the biggest losses are quarterback AJ McCarron, who had a 36-4 record as a starter and guided the Tide to two BCS national championships, and star linebacker C.J. Mosley. Rising senior Blake Sims, incoming freshman David Cornwell and others will battle for the starting quarterback job in 2014. Also, FSU backup quarterback Jacob Coker might be eyeing a potential transfer to Alabama as well. The Tide might bring back four starting offensive linemen and their top three tailbacks, so they figure to have a high-powered offense, regardless of who starts under center. The Tide play only four true road games this coming season and open the season against West Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. They'll face Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn at home in SEC play. For more on how the Tide will look in 2014, check out Alabama's recruiting profile and ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings. 3. Oregon Ducks Sure, the Ducks suffered disappointing losses to Stanford and Arizona that knocked them out of the national championship race. But Oregon still finished 11-2 under first-year coach Mark Helfrich, and the Ducks looked like one of the country's best teams when quarterback Marcus Mariota was healthy. Oregon might bring back nine starters on offense in 2014, including Mariota, who figures to be one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates. Tailback De'Anthony Thomas, a big-play threat whenever he touches the ball, is leaving for the NFL draft, and the Ducks also will have to replace as many as six defensive starters (including all but one defensive back after junior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu announced he was returning to school), as well as longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who announced his retirement before the Ducks defeated Texas 30-7 in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Oregon plays a nonconference game against Michigan State at home, but it will miss USC and Arizona State during Pac-12 play. For more on how the Ducks will look in 2014, check out Oregon's recruiting profile and ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings. 4. Stanford Cardinal Suddenly, Stanford has become the most dominant program on the West Coast. The Cardinal have won back-to-back Pac-12 championships, played in four straight BCS bowl games and won 34 games in coach David Shaw's three seasons. As long as Shaw remains on the Farm -- and he has made it clear he isn't going anywhere in the near future -- the Cardinal figure to be in the Pac-12 title mix every season. Stanford will have to rebuild its dominant offensive line, especially if junior All-American guard David Yankey and junior offensive tackle Cameron Fleming enter the NFL draft. Senior center Khalil Wilkes and guard Kevin Danser also are departing. But Stanford has recruited offensive linemen better than any program in the country, and future NFL players such as Kyle Murphy, Johnny Caspers and Joshua Garnett are waiting in the wings. The Cardinal might bring back seven starters on defense, but linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov will be difficult to replace. The Cardinal will face a daunting road slate in Pac-12 play this coming season with road contests at Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington. For more on how the Cardinal will look in 2014, check out Stanford's recruiting profile and ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings. 5. Auburn Tigers If the Tigers were able to win an SEC championship and reach the BCS National Championship in their first season under coach Gus Malzahn, how good can they be in Year 2? Everything seemed to fall in place during Auburn's magical season in 2013, but it might be loaded for a repeat this coming season. The Tigers might bring back 10 starters on offense, including quarterback Nick Marshall and tailback Tre Mason (who might enter the NFL draft). Auburn started two freshmen and a sophomore on the offensive line this season, though the unit figures to take a hit with Greg Robinson heading to the draft. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will have to do a little more work in the offseason, with five starters departing, including defensive end Dee Ford and cornerback Chris Davis. Auburn also will have to replace kicker Cody Parkey and punter Steven Clark. The Tigers will have to navigate their way through a few difficult road games in 2014, including trips to Kansas State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama. For more on how the Tigers will look in 2014, check out Auburn's recruiting profile and ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings. 6. Michigan State Spartans The Spartans' 24-20 victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO might propel them to even bigger things in 2014. MSU also upset then-No. 2 Ohio State to win its first outright Big Ten championship since 1987, and it figures to battle the Buckeyes again for supremacy in the conference this coming season. Michigan State loses three starters on the offensive line and six more on defense, including star linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen and All-American cornerback Darqueze Dennard. MSU coach Mark Dantonio might have to ask a little more from his offense, which improved as first-year quarterback Connor Cook and tailback Jeremy Langford became more comfortable. Keeping defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who turned down Connecticut's head-coaching job, was a major coup. MSU plays a nonconference game at Oregon on Sept. 13 and will play the majority of its difficult Big Ten games at home. The Spartans host Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio State and won't play Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota or Northwestern in the league's new scheduling format. For more on how the Spartans will look in 2014, check out Michigan State's recruiting profile and ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings. 7. UCLA Bruins UCLA's administration finally decided it wanted to get serious about supporting its football program, and coach Jim Mora already has provided some nice returns, winning 19 games in his first two seasons with the Bruins. Quarterback Brett Hundley announced he is returning for his junior season, and the Bruins might be poised to play in their first Rose Bowl since 1998 -- or even a spot in the four-team playoff. UCLA might bring back eight starters on offense; junior tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo announced he's entering the NFL draft. UCLA still expects to bring back four starting offensive linemen, which is always a good recipe for success. Seven starters might be back on defense, but the Bruins will have to replace All-American linebacker Anthony Barr and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt. The Bruins will play Texas in Arlington on Sept. 13 and get Oregon, Stanford and USC at home during Pac-12 play. For more on how the Bruins will look in 2014, check out UCLA's recruiting profile and ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings. 8. Oklahoma Sooners The Sooners are headed back in the right direction, finishing 11-2 and upsetting Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Rising sophomore Trevor Knight finally looked like the quarterback everyone thought he could be against Alabama, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns. The Sooners have to get more production out of their passing game in 2014, especially with top tailbacks Brennan Clay and Roy Finch departing. The Sooners also lose center Gabe Ikard, guard Bronson Irwin and receivers Lacoltan Bester and Jalen Saunders on offense. Nine starters might return on defense, and the Sooners were much better in coordinator Mike Stoops' second season back with the program. Oklahoma's schedule might set up favorably this coming season; it plays Texas in Dallas and Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State at home during Big 12 play. For more on how the Sooners will look in 2014, check out Oklahoma's recruiting profile and ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings. 9. Ohio State Buckeyes The Buckeyes fell just short of going undefeated in two consecutive regular seasons under Urban Meyer, but then finished the season with consecutive losses against Michigan State and Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl. Now Meyer will have to rebuild much of his offense, even with quarterback Braxton Miller returning for his senior season. OSU will have to replace four starting offensive linemen, tailback Carlos Hyde and H-back Philly Brown. The Buckeyes might bring back seven starters on defense; safeties Corey Brown and C.J. Barnett, junior cornerback Bradley Roby and junior linebacker Ryan Shazier are the only starters leaving. OSU opens the season against Navy in Baltimore and plays Virginia Tech and Cincinnati at home in nonconference games. The Buckeyes won't play Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern or Wisconsin during Big Ten play, and their most difficult league road games seem to be at Penn State and Michigan State. For more on how the Buckeyes will look in 2014, check out Ohio State's recruiting profile and ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings. 10. LSU Tigers There will be a lot of eyes on LSU's underclassmen, as there might be a mass exodus for the NFL draft for the second season in a row. Defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson have already announced they're turning pro, as well as top receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, Junior tailback Jeremy Hill and left tackle La'el Collins are reportedly leaning toward leaving school, too.The Tigers still have a chance to be very explosive on offense, even without departing quarterback Zach Mettenberger and his top receivers. Rising sophomore Anthony Jennings guided LSU to a 21-14 victory over Iowa in the Outback Bowl after Mettenberger suffered a season-ending injury and is the favorite to start under center in 2014. Four offensive linemen are coming back (if Collins leaves), along with tailbacks Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee. Senior safety Craig Loston will be a big loss on defense. The Tigers open the season against Wisconsin in Houston, but then play their next four games at home. They'll play SEC road games at Auburn, Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

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