Steve’s 2014 College Football Preview
2014 College Football Preseason News & Notes
The Great Debate
Settling the annual argument about conference supremacy.
1. SEC…Despite dearth of experienced quarterbacks still deepest league by far.
2. Pac-12…Half the teams in this league are starting future NFL quarterbacks this fall.
3. Big Ten…This is the best and deepest the league has looked in several years.
4. Big 12…No team that lost conference home game has won this league since 2001.
5. ACC…No real second marquee team to pair with Florida State this season.
The top schools at each position group.
Offensive backfield—Oregon…Returns a Heisman Trophy front-runner at quarterback and another deep stable of running backs.
Wide receivers—Alabama…They have recruited so well here, which is why most analysts believe Crimson Tide can overcome shaky quarterback situation.
Offensive line—Florida State…Has four NFL draft prospects returning this fall, three of whom have All-American potential.
Defensive line—Florida…Virtually the entire two-deep returns on a unit that wasn’t the reason the Gators struggled mightily in 2013.
Linebackers—Georgia…All four starters on a unit that combined for 38 tackles-for-loss last season are back, and they add one of the nation’s best defensive coordinators.
Secondary—UCLA…All four starters are back, and the one that didn’t make all-conference last season is who actually led the Bruins in interceptions.
Look for these prep newcomers to be instant impact players this fall.
Kyle Allen (QB-Texas A&M)
Bubba Baker (DB-Washington)
Drew Barker (QB-Kentucky)
Andrew Brown (DL-Virginia)
Drew Brown (K-Nebraska)
Tony Brown (DB-Alabama)
Freddy Canteen (WR-Michigan)
Dalvin Cook (RB-Florida State)
Jared Cornellus (WR-Arkansas)
Travis Custis (RB-Georgia Tech)
Leonard Fournette (RB-LSU)
Myles Garrett (DL-Texas A&M)
Brandon Harris (QB-LSU)
Elijah Hood (RB-North Carolina)
Adoree Jackson (ATH-USC)
Adonis Jennings (WR-Pittsburgh)
Allen Lazard (WR-Iowa State)
Johnny McCrary (QB-Vanderbilt)
Raekwon McMillan (LB-Ohio State)
Speedy Noil (WR-Texas A&M)
Joe Mixon (RB-Oklahoma)
Kevin Mouhon (LB-Cincinnati)
Jabril Peppers (DB-Michigan)
Cameron Robinson (OL-Alabama)
Curtis Samuel (RB-Ohio State)
Artavis Scott (WR-Clemson)
Dylan Summer-Gardner (DB-Boise State)
Jalen Tabor (DB-Florida)
DeAndre Thompkins (WR-Penn State)
Dalvin Warmack (RB-Kansas State)
Deshaun Watson (QB-Clemson)
Tre Watson (RB-California)
Joseph Yearby (RB-Miami, Fla.)
These junior college transfers will see immediate playing time.
Geronimo Allison (WR-Illinois)
Tarow Barney (DL-Penn State)
Dontavius Blair (OL-Tennessee)
Darius Caldwell (LB-Arizona State)
Terrell Clinkscales (DL-Kansas State)
Blake Decker (QB-UNLV)
Taverreon Dickerson (RB-Tulsa)
Jermaine Eluemunor (OL-Texas A&M)
Corey Ferguson (DB-Fresno State)
Jordan Finley (OL-Colorado State)
Avery Gennesey (OL-Texas A&M)
Josh Greer (QB-North Texas)
Jordan Harris (LB-Iowa State)
Demetrius Hill (DE-South Florida)
Tyreek Hill (ATH-Oklahoma State)
Skyler Howard (QB-West Virginia)
Isaac Ijalana (TE-Oklahoma)
Kenny Iloka (DB-TCU)
Dominik Jackson (OL-Alabama)
Abu Lamin (DL-South Carolina)
Rilka Levi (DT-Texas Tech)
Larry Mazyck (OL-Maryland)
Derrick Moncrief (DB-Auburn)
Jarran Reed (DT-Alabama)
James Sample (DB-Louisville)
Dalvon Stuckey (DL-Arizona State)
Von Pearson (WR-Tennessee)
A.J. Stamps (DB-Kentucky)
Jihad Ward (DL-Illinois)
D’haquille Williams (WR-Auburn)
Now Ready for Primetime
These redshirt freshmen will emerge after sitting out last season.
Joseph Ajeigbe (RB-Duke)
Mackensie Alexander (DB-Clemson)
Devon Allen (WR-Oregon)
Marcus Ball (DB-Arizona State)
Bryce Bobo (WR-Colorado)
Caleb Brantley (DL-Florida)
Greg Bryant (RB-Notre Dame)
Tyrone Carter (WR-LA-Monroe)
Demetrius Cooper (DL-Michigan State)
Aaron Davis (DB-Georgia)
Berkley Edwards (RB-Minnesota)
Aaron Evans (OL-Central Florida)
Rashard Fant (DB-Indiana)
Robert Foster (WR-Alabama)
Daniel Gresham (RB-SMU)
Chris Hawkins (DB-USC)
Austin Hooper (TE-Stanford)
Roderick Hoskins (DE-Florida State)
Angelo Jean-Louis (WR-Marshall)
Johnny Jefferson (RB-Baylor)
Jermaine Kelly (DB-Washington)
Nigel Mason (LB-Vanderbilt)
J’Mon Moore (WR-Missouri)
Chickwe Obasih (DE-Wisconsin)
Kevin Olsen (QB-Miami, Fla.)
JaCobi Owens (RB-Air Force)
Jalyn Powell (DB-Michigan State)
Tyree Robinson (DB-Oregon)
Ra’Shad Samples (WR-Oklahoma State)
Ricky Seals-Jones (WR-Texas A&M)
Matthew Thomas (LB-Florida State)
Jason Tretter (OT-Purdue)
Greg Webb (DL-North Carolina)
Derrick Willies (WR-Iowa)
Malik Zaire (QB-Notre Dame)
The New Kids in Town
These transfers are being counted on by their new schools.
Anthony Alford, DB-Ole Miss (Southern Mississippi)
Connor Brewer, QB-Arizona (Texas)
Michael Brewer, QB-Virginia Tech (Texas Tech)
Jacoby Brissett, QB-N.C. State (Florida)
Jacob Coker, QB-Alabama (Florida State)
Daniel Gray, DB-Utah State (Tennessee)
Jalen Grimble, DL-Oregon State (Miami, Fla.)
Nick Harwell, WR-Kansas (Miami, Oh.)
Christian Hayward, DL-San Diego State (USC)
Braylon Heard, RB-Kentucky (Nebraska)
Andrew Hendrix, QB-Miami, Oh. (Notre Dame)
Ty Isaac, RB-Michigan (USC)
Jeremiah Laufasa, RB-UTEP (Washington State)
Jordan Leslie, RB-BYU (UTEP)
Wes Lunt, QB-Illinois (Oklahoma State)
D’Vario Montgomery, WR-Iowa State (South Florida)
Tyler Murphy, QB-Boston College (Florida)
DaVonte Neal, WR-Arizona (Notre Dame)
Se’Von Pittman, DE-Akron (Ohio State)
Cody Riggs, DB-Notre Dame (Florida)
Rushel Shell, RB-West Virginia (Pittsburgh)
Marvin Shinn, WR-South Alabama (Alabama)
Earnest Suttles, DE-Memphis (Nebraska)
Kendal Thompson, QB-Utah (Oklahoma)
Paul Turner, WR-Louisiana Tech (LSU)
Sam Ukwuachu, DE-Baylor (Boise State)
Big Shoes to Fill
These players are replacing some of the biggest names from last season.
Kyle Allen (QB-Texas A&M/Johnny Manziel)
Cameron Artis-Payne (RB-Auburn/Tre Mason)
Ezekiel Elliott (RB-Ohio State/Carlos Hyde)
Darian Hicks (CB-Michigan State/Darquez Dennard)
Kenny Orijoke (LB-UCLA/Anthony Barr)
Erik Magnuson (OT-Michigan/Taylor Lewan)
Matt McIntosh (QB-Northern Illinois/Jordan Lynch)
Charone Peake (WR-Clemson/Sammy Watkins)
Reggie Ragland (LB-Alabama/C.J. Mosley)
Jack Tabb (TE-North Carolina/Eric Ebron)
Dwayne Washington (RB-Washington/Bishop Sankey)
Myles Willis (RB-Boston College/Andre Williams)
The Honor Roll
Predicting the winners of college football’s most prestigious awards.
Heisman Trophy—Todd Gurley (Georgia)
Bear Bryant Award—Mark Richt (Georgia)
Doak Walker Award—Todd Gurley (Georgia)
Davey O’Brien Award—Marcus Mariota (Oregon)
Fred Biletnikoff Award—Antwan Goodley (Baylor)
John Mackey Award—Nick O’Leary (Florida State)
Outland Trophy—Leonard Williams (USC)
Bronco Nagurski Award—Leonard Williams (USC)
Dick Butkus Award—Myles Jack (UCLA)
Jim Thorpe Award— Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon)
The Ultimate College Football Road Trip
If you can only be at one stadium each week this fall these are the places to be.
August 30th—Wisconsin vs. LSU (Arlington)…Two of the top smash-mouth programs not known for their subtlety square off opening week.
September 6th—Michigan State at Oregon…Classic matchup of the unstoppable force (Ducks’ offense) versus the immovable object (Sparty defense).
September 13th—Georgia at South Carolina…Division, conference, and national title implications in one early-season game.
September 18th—Auburn at Kansas State…Two mad genius coaches go head-to-head on a Thursday night.
September 27th—Stanford at Washington…Last time they met in Seattle the Huskies pulled the upset, can they do it again?
October 4th—Alabama at Ole Miss…Division, conference, and national title implications in one mid-season game.
October 11th—Oregon at UCLA…A preview of the Pac-12 title game.
October 18th—Notre Dame at Florida State…These two don’t play a lot, but it’s usually memorable when they do.
October 25th—Michigan at Michigan State…The Spartans haven’t just owned this series in recent years, they’ve taken the Wolverines’ manhood.
November 1st—Stanford at Oregon…This has now become the marquee series on the West Coast.
November 8th—Ohio State at Michigan State…Division, conference, and national title implications in one late-season game.
November 15th—South Carolina at Florida…The last trip to Gainesville for the old ball coach (and Florida Heisman Trophy winner)?
November 22nd—Wisconsin at Iowa…Winner earns a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game.
November 29th—Auburn at Alabama…A rematch of not just one of the most memorable games in Iron Bowl history, but college football history.
December 6th—SEC Championship Game (Atlanta)…Need I say more?
Previewing the 2014 NFL Draft. Draft order is determined by preseason win totals posted by Las Vegas oddsmakers.
1. Jaguars—Leonard Williams (DT-USC)
2. Browns— Cedric Ogbuhei (OT-Texas A&M)
3. Raiders—Andrus Peat (OT-Stanford)
4. Vikings—Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB-Oregon)
5. Browns (from Bills)—Amari Cooper (WR-Alabama)
6. Jets—Jameis Winston (QB-Florida State)
7. Buccaneers—Marcus Mariota (QB-Oregon)
8. Titans—Brett Hundley (QB-UCLA)
9. Rams—Randy Gregory (DE-Nebraska)
10. Giants—Shilique Calhoun (DE-Michigan State)
11. Redskins—Nelson Agholor (WR-USC)
12. Cardinals—Vic Beasley (DE/OLB-Clemson)
13. Dolphins—Todd Gurley (RB-Georgia)
14. Cowboys—Landon Collins (S-Alabama)
15. Chargers—Cameron Erving (OT-Florida State)
16. Chiefs—P.J. Williams (CB-Florida State)
17. Falcons—Melvin Gordon (RB-Wisconsin)
18. Lions—Ramik Wilson (LB-Georgia)
19. Texans—Bryce Petty (QB-Baylor)
20. Ravens—Brandon Scherff (OT-Iowa)
21. Panthers—Rashad Greene (WR-Florida State)
22. Eagles—Michael Bennett (DT-Ohio State)
23. Bears—Anthony Harris (S-Virginia)
24. Steelers—Jaelen Strong (WR-Arizona State)
25. Bengals—Eric Striker (LB-Oklahoma)
26. Saints—Denzel Perryman (LB-Miami, Fla.)
27. Colts—Trae Waynes (CB-Michigan State)
28. Packers—Dante Fowler (DE-Florida)
29. Patriots—Devin Funchess (WR/TE-Michigan)
30. 49ers—Mario Edwards (DL-Florida State)
31. Seahawks—Devonte Fields (DE-TCU)
32. Broncos—Alex Carter (CB-Stanford)
2014 College Football Crystal Ball
Predicting the top 25 things that will or won’t happen this season
1. The controversy surrounding who the new selection committee chooses for the four playoff spots will surpass anything we ever saw from the BCS.
2. South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier (69) will announce his retirement at the end of the season. He will be succeeded by Houston Coach Tony Levine.
3. Jameis Winston will not repeat as the winner of the Heisman Trophy.
4. Virginia Tech will announce the 2014 season will be Frank Beamer’s last, and then he will turn the reigns over to his celebrated defensive coordinator Bud Foster in 2015.
5. Lane Kiffin’s tenure as Alabama offensive coordinator will last only this season.
6. No major conference teams will finish the season undefeated.
7. Approaching his 80th birthday, long-time College Gameday co-host Lee Corso will retire and be replaced by Mark May.
8. Urban Meyer will coach another season at Ohio State without winning either a conference or national championship.
9. Louisville will win more games in its first season without Charlie Strong than Texas will win in its first season with him at the helm.
10. This will be the 11th straight season the Miami Hurricanes won’t win more than 9 games, which they had done six times in the previous 11 seasons before that.
11. Duke will show last season wasn’t a fluke and appear in the ACC Championship Game for a second straight year.
12. Just as it has every year since Bo Pelini took over, Nebraska will lose four games.
13. Oklahoma and Baylor will be the only Big 12 teams to win more than 9 games during the regular season.
14. Marshall will be the nation’s lone undefeated team.
15. The Heisman Trophy finalists will be (in alphabetical order): Todd Gurley (QB-Georgia), Brett Hundley (QB-UCLA), Marcus Mariota (QB-Oregon), Bryce Petty (QB-Baylor), and Jameis Winston (QB-Florida State).
16. Georgia running back Todd Gurley will win the Heisman Trophy.
17. Akron, which won a total of 14 games the five years prior to Terry Bowden’s arrival as head coach, will play in only its second bowl game ever.
18. Alabama, which has won three of the last five national championships, will not qualify for the first college football playoff.
19. For the 20th time in the past 23 seasons Notre Dame will fail to win more than nine games in the regular season.
20. The results of the top five early non-conference games will be:
Oregon over Michigan State…The Ducks ambush Sparty at home, and remind everyone they’re still a national force to be reckoned with.
LSU over Wisconsin…A freshman quarterback for the Bayou Bengals versus an all-new defensive front seven for the Badgers.
Kansas State over Auburn…Midweek game at Nowhere, Kansas, with the mad scientist on the sidelines for the Wildcats—this game has upset written all over it.
Notre Dame over Michigan…This annual classic between the sport’s winningest programs comes to an end under the lights in South Bend.
UCLA over Texas…This one probably sounds better than it is. The Bruins are the much better team.
21. Texas A&M, Clemson, and Texas will start the season in the preseason top 25 but won’t finish there.
22. Marshall, Houston, and Michigan won’t be ranked in the preseason top 25 but will finish there.
23. The following first year coaches will lead their teams to bowl games this season: Brian Harsin (Boise State), Dino Babers (Bowling Green), Bobby Petrino (Louisville), Charlie Strong (Texas), Steve Sarkisian (USC), Chris Petersen (Washington), and Jeff Brohm (Western Kentucky).
24. Liquidate on these teams that will win at least two fewer games than they did last season: Auburn, Boston College, Central Florida, Clemson, Fresno State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt.
25. Invest in these teams that will win at least two more games than they won last season: Akron, Florida, Georgia, Houston, Illinois, Iowa, Memphis, Michigan, Nevada, Northwestern, and Ole Miss.
2014 PRESEASON POWER RATINGS
Each team is given a win range based on how I evaluate their returning talent, and the level of competition they face throughout much of their schedule. The low number is what I believe a team’s floor to be, with the high number their ceiling. Teams with a * means they were given a bonus for returning a proven starting quarterback.
Central Florida (7-9)
East Carolina (7-9)*
Houston (8-10) *
South Florida (3-5)
Boston College (3-5)
Florida State (10-12)*
Georgia Tech (5-7)
Miami, Fla. (6-8)
North Carolina (6-8)
N.C. State (3-5)
Virginia Tech (5-7)
Wake Forest (3-5)
Michigan State (9-11)*
Ohio State (9-11)*
Penn State (6-8)*
Iowa State (3-5)
Kansas State (7-9)*
Oklahoma State (7-9)*
Texas Tech (6-8)*
West Virginia (4-6)
Arizona State (7-9)*
Oregon State (6-8)*
Washington State (6-8)*
Mississippi State (5-7)*
South Carolina (8-10)
Texas A&M (6-8)
Notre Dame (8-10)*
First Team All-American Offense
QB—Marcus Mariota, Oregon (Jr.)
RB—Todd Gurley, Georgia (Jr.)
RB—T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (Jr.)
WR—Jamison Crowder, Duke (Sr.)
WR—Antwan Goodley, Baylor (Sr.)
TE—Nick O’Leary, Florida State (Sr.)
OL—Cameron Erving, Florida State (Sr.)
OL—Brandon Scherff, Iowa (Sr.)
OL—Tre’ Jackson, Florida State (Sr.)
OL— Reese Dismukes, Auburn (Sr.)
OL—Cedric Ogbuhei, Texas A&M (Sr.)
K—Roberto Aguayo, Florida State (So.)
AP—Tyler Lockett, Kansas State (Sr.)
First Team All-American Defense
DL—Leonard Williams, USC (Jr.)
DL—Randy Gregory, Nebraska (Jr.)
DL—Vic Beasley, Clemson (Sr.)
DL—Cedric Reed, Texas (Sr.)
LB—Myles Jack, UCLA (So.)
LB—A.J. Johnson, Tennessee (Sr.)
LB—Ramik Wilson, Georgia (Sr.)
DB— Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon (Sr.)
DB—Darren Smith, Fresno State (Sr.)
DB—Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss (Sr.)
DB—Anthony Harris, Virginia (Sr.)
P—Austin Rehkow, Idaho (So.)
Second Team All-American Offense
QB—Jameis Winston, Florida State (So.)
RB—Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (Jr.)
RB—Jeremy Langford, Michigan State (Sr.)
WR—Nelson Agholor, USC (Jr.)
WR—Deontay Greenberry, Houston (Jr.)
TE—C.J. Uzomah, Auburn (Sr.)
OL—Andrus Peat, Stanford (Jr.)
OL—Hroniss Grasu, Oregon (Sr.)
OL—Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech (Sr.)
OL—B.J. Finney, Kansas State (Sr.)
OL—Spencer Drango, Baylor (Jr.)
K—Marshall Morgan, Georgia (Jr.)
AP—Ty Montgomery, Stanford (Sr.)
Second Team All-American Defense
DL—Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State (Jr.)
DL—Devonte Fields, TCU (Jr.)
DL—Michael Bennett, Ohio State (Sr.)
DL— Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington (Sr.)
LB—Bryce Hager, Baylor (Sr.)
LB—Jake Ryan, Michigan (Sr.)
LB—Eric Striker, Oklahoma (Jr.)
DB—Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State (Sr.)
DB—Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech (So.)
DB—Quandre Diggs, Texas (Sr.)
DB—Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida (So.)
P—Drew Kaser, Texas A&M (Jr.)
Third Team All-American Offense
QB—Bryce Petty, Baylor (Sr.)
RB—Jay Ajayi, Boise State (Jr.)
RB—Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska (Sr.)
WR—Devin Funchess, Michigan (Jr.)
WR—Rashad Greene, Florida State (Sr.)
TE—Braxton Deever, Duke (Sr.)
OL—Eric Lefeld, Cincinnati (Sr.)
OL—Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss (So.)
OL—La’el Collins, LSU (Sr.)
OL—Jack Allen, Michigan State (Jr.)
OL—Laken Tomlinson, Duke (Jr.)
K—Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson (Sr.)
AP—Venric Mark, Northwestern (Sr.)
Third Team All-American Defense
DL—Dante Fowler, Florida (Jr.)
DL—Charles Tapper, Oklahoma (Jr.)
DL—Ryan Mueller, Kansas State (Sr.)
DL—Carl Davis, Iowa (Sr.)
LB—Terrance Plummer, Central Florida (Sr.)
LB—Denzel Perryman, Miami-Fla. (Sr.)
LB—Ben Heeney, Kansas (Sr.)
DB—Lorenzo Doss, Tulane (Jr.)
DB—Marcus Peters, Washington (Jr.)
DB—Sam Carter, TCU (Sr.)
DB—Tim Bennett, Indiana (Jr.)
P—Justin Manton, Louisiana-Monroe (Sr.)
2014 Top 25
Each year I begin my rankings by giving each team’s talent a win range within two games. Teams with returning quality starting quarterbacks are then given a bonus win because of the importance of that position. From there I factor in each team’s schedule game-by-game to compile the rankings you see below, which are my prediction of what the final top 25 will look like at the conclusion of the regular season.
THE GOOD—The entire complexion of Oregon’s season changed the moment Marcus Mariota decided to bypass the NFL draft (where he would’ve been the first quarterback taken) and return to Eugene. He’ll be protected by one of the best offensive lines on the West Coast, and another deep stable of running backs to provide balance. The schedule has just one road game against a team likely to be ranked in the preseason.
THE BAD—There are questions on defense, especially with the loss of Oregon’s long-time celebrated defensive coordinator. The secondary is a top-notch unit, but there will be some youngsters required to contribute in the front seven.
THE BOTTOM LINE—The return of a star quarterback, plus a favorable schedule, plus a team with a chip on its shoulder after the way last season ended, equals a program on a mission to the college football playoff this fall.
2. FLORIDA STATE
THE GOOD—Despite some notable losses, if you look at the listing of the top players in the country regardless of position this is still the most talented program in the country. The offensive backfield, offensive line, and secondary units all rank at or near the top nationally. Oh, and then there’s the almost season-long bye called playing in the ACC, which is why Florida State needed to beef up its non-conference schedule (and it did).
THE BAD—There are some holes to fill, especially up front on defense, but given how well the Seminoles recruit we could just be nit-picking here. Maybe the biggest worry is the maturation of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. He’s no stranger to controversy, and it remains to be seen how he responds since he’ll have the target on his back this season.
THE BOTTOM LINE—The Seminoles will get a chance to defend their national title.
THE GOOD—The late season injury to Aaron Murray last season turned out to be a mixed blessing, because it gave understudy Hutson Mason time to get his feet wet. Now that Georgia has experience returning at quarterback, and several other players were forced into action because of last season’s rash of injuries, they have talent and depth everywhere on the roster with 17 returning starters.
THE BAD—The good news is everybody is back on defense. The bad news is everybody is back on defense. For all the gaudy stats several Dawg defenders put up last season, they didn’t make enough key stops. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt comes over from Florida State, which could be one of the biggest additions anywhere this offseason.
THE BOTTOM LINE—A talented team becomes a team of destiny after all of last season’s crazy bad luck.
THE GOOD—The Bruins have increased their win total each of Jim Mora’s first two seasons. If that trend continues that will finally put them in the sort of elite company they haven’t been in since the days of Cade McNown. Given a roster brimming with talent and experience everywhere, there’s no reason to assume that can’t happen. Eight starters are back on both the offensive and defensive units, and UCLA comes into the season without a glaring hole.
THE BAD—Mora has changed the culture in Westwood, but are the Bruins ready to take the next step as a program? UCLA won 10 games a year ago, but wasn’t really competitive in losses to Oregon and Stanford—currently the Pac-12’s top programs.
THE BOTTOM LINE—The window of opportunity is there for the Bruins to reassert themselves as a national program, and they will.
THE GOOD—The Sooners seemed to recover their mojo at the very end of last season, stunning instate rival Oklahoma State on the road and then thrashing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to close the 2013 campaign. The key to the turnaround was an offense that averaged 42 points the final four games after struggling for consistency the first two-thirds of the season. But the constant is the defense, which returns 9 starters from what was the Big 12’s best unit last fall.
THE BAD—Oklahoma is still uncertain at the most important position on the field. A lot is riding on Trevor Knight’s breakout performance in the Sugar Bowl, when he played his best game as a collegian. Was that an omen or an outlier?
THE BOTTOM LINE—The Sooners will at least share the Big 12 title, but a lackluster non-conference schedule keeps them out of the first ever college football playoff.
6. MICHIGAN STATE
THE GOOD—If this were Michigan and not Michigan State, there would be no qualms about ranking them this high given the return of a starting quarterback from a Rose Bowl-winning team, and the team has won at least 11 games three of the past four years. If you look at my preseason All-Big Ten team, Sparty still returns more playmakers than anyone else in the league. And it also returns defensive (witch) coordinator Pat Narduzzi, much to the chagrin of the rest of college football.
THE BAD—It’s leadership, not just talent, Sparty has to recover in the players it lost. Last year’s team became the first in modern Big Ten history to beat every league opponent by double-digits. The type of leadership that leads to that kind of focus isn’t easily replaced.
THE BOTTOM LINE—This is still the most complete team in the Big Ten, and Sparty gets Ohio State and Michigan at home.
7. OLE MISS
THE GOOD—This is a roster brimming with young talent that seems poised for a breakout season. Three of the Rebels’ five losses were by 8 points or less last year, which was only the 4th time in the past 15 years Ole Miss won at least 8 games. Every key contributor from that squad returns, including 9 starters on defense, and the Rebels return a key piece missing from most of the other teams in the SEC this season—a proven, playmaking senior quarterback in Bo Wallace.
THE BAD—This is still a young team with only 6 senior starters, so it figures to be in a lot of close games decided by special teams and field position. The Rebels are going with unproven redshirt freshmen at both punter and place kicker.
THE BOTTOM LINE—The third year is when most marquee coaches make their big leap. Hugh Freeze took over a 2-win team in 2012 and led them 7 wins and a bowl win. Last year he led them to 8 wins and another bowl win. His third year they become the SEC’s next breakthrough team.
THE GOOD—This is still Nick Saban, which means the Crimson Tide will roll into this season with a roster 99% of college programs would trade places with in a heartbeat. There are plenty of playmakers with All-American potential like T.J. Yeldon, Amari Cooper, and Trey DePriest.
THE BAD—There are plenty of playmakers, but also plenty of questions. Alabama lost three starters in the secondary, its two best offensive linemen, doesn’t have a proven pass-rusher, and is counting mightily on Florida State transfer Jacob Coker to rescue them from the pedestrian quarterback play we saw in the spring.
THE BOTTOM LINE—I know this is lower than anyone else has Alabama ranked, but I actually think I might be overrating them if anything. This team is a year away from contending for Saban’s fifth national title.
THE GOOD—You like offense? You came to the right place. Prolific quarterback Bryce Petty returns to light up score boards, and the current Big 12 Player of the Year has plenty of weapons at his disposal. The Bears are also moving into their brand new stadium, with ticket sales and fan excitement in the program at an all-time high coming off last year’s first conference title of any kind since 1980.
THE BAD—Only two starters return on defense, which is obviously problematic because even Baylor has to stop opponents sometimes. The Bears are counting heavily on players like Shawn Oakman, Bryce Hager, and Boise State transfer Sam Ukwuachu to be impact players this fall.
THE BOTTOM LINE—Overall Oklahoma has the best roster in the Big 12, but in a quarterback-driven league Baylor easily has the best one. However, since the Bears have to go to Norman this year expect another double-digit win campaign, but not a repeat championship.
10. SOUTH CAROLINA
THE GOOD—With 16 starters and 58 lettermen back this will be one of the more experienced teams in the SEC, and the program has its best momentum ever. South Carolina had just one double-digit win season in school history prior to Steve Spurrier’s arrival, but now it’s won at least 10 games three years in a row. The oddsmakers are high on this team, making them the preseason favorite in 11 of their 12 games.
THE BAD—Yes, the Gamecocks have a lot of starters back, but the ones they lost were their strongest core of playmakers: record-setting quarterback Connor Shaw, All-World Jadeveon Clowney, top wideout Bruce Ellington, etc. New playmakers are going to need to be developed.
THE BOTTOM LINE—They’ll win a lot of games but South Carolina and Spurrier will still be chasing that elusive SEC championship after this season.
11. OHIO STATE
THE GOOD—Braxton Miller wisely decided returning for his senior year was better than not getting drafted in the NFL, making him the rare four-year starter at quarterback for an offense that averaged 46 points per game in 2013. Defensively, Ohio State expects to deploy one of the top defensive lines in college football.
THE BAD—The back seven of the defense was a sieve down the stretch last year, which is the biggest reason why Ohio State surrendered at least 34 points three games in a row for the first time in school history. Only one starter is back so there will be a bunch of new faces. But the biggest issue is the offensive line, which must replace four starters. Considering how hard it is to keep Miller healthy in a spread offense that requires him to be a running threat, that is a major concern. So is the fact Miller has no proven backup to rely on this season should he get injured again.
THE BOTTOM LINE—This team is going to win at least 9 games against a Charmin-soft schedule just by showing up, but there are too many question marks for Urban Meyer to win his first championship in Columbus.
THE GOOD—The nucleus of the school’s first 10-win campaign since 2002 is back, making the Thundering Herd heavy favorites in Conference USA. Rakeem Cato should become just the 19th quarterback in college football history to throw for more than 100 touchdowns in his career. Marshall was one of the nation’s most improved defensive teams a year ago, and with so many key players back improvement should continue on that side of the ball.
THE BAD—There’s plenty of depth in the backfield to replace 1,000-yard rusher Essray Taliaferro, but Gator Hoskins quietly led all tight ends in touchdown receptions last year and will be sorely missed in the red zone.
THE BOTTOM LINE—One glance at Marshall’s schedule and you might conclude its toughest games this fall will be at practice. The Thundering Herd end the season as the nation’s lone undefeated squad.
THE GOOD—Jake Rudock was a revelation last fall for the Hawkeyes at quarterback in their rebound season, and he should be even better in his second full campaign as the starter. He’ll be protected by one of the Big Ten’s best offensive lines, and a deep stable of running backs also returns to move the chains and provide balance. On the other side of the ball it starts up front with Carl Davis leading a stout defensive line.
THE BAD—There are holes in the back seven on defense. Iowa has to replace an outstanding senior trio at linebacker, and the secondary still lacks playmakers.
THE BOTTOM LINE—This has the makings of a classic Kirk Ferentz overachiever. Underrated in the preseason, tough in the trenches, and a very manageable schedule. These are always the sort of Iowa teams the experts overlook in August but ends up right there in contention come November.
THE GOOD—An exciting offense that averaged 40 points per game last season returns most of its key cogs, starting with triggerman Nick Marshall, who improved mightily as last season went on. Tre Mason will be missed in the backfield, but the Tigers have recruited too good at that position not to remain productive. Especially with four starters back on the SEC’s best offensive line. Watch out for wide receiver D’haquille Williams, who was considered by some the top JUCO prospect in the country.
THE BAD—The Tigers were just 86th nationally in total defense, and lost top pass-rusher Dee Ford to the NFL. They’re also breaking in a pair of newcomers in the kicking game. And the road schedule – at Kansas State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama – is a gauntlet.
THE BOTTOM LINE—The 2013 Tigers became Destiny’s Darlings with two all-time classic fluke wins and a rare misfire in crunch time by Johnny Football. Given the tougher schedule expect some bad breaks to against Auburn in 2014.
15. NOTRE DAME
THE GOOD—Heading into year five of the Brian Kelly era, the Irish finally have something they’ve lacked since perhaps the days of Lou Holtz—competition everywhere among highly-recruited players. Then there’s the schedule, with several marquee games that sound tougher than they are. In fact, probably the only unwinnable game on the schedule is at Florida State on October 18th.
THE BAD—Is the old adage “any time you have two good quarterbacks that means you don’t have one” still true? Everett Golson, who guided Notre Dame to the national title game in 2012, is back after an academic suspension. But he’s being pushed by Malik Zaire, who was one of the stars of the spring.
THE BOTTOM LINE—This is the toughest team to forecast. Notre Dame lost several key contributors from a team that underachieved last season, but has its most talented roster top to bottom in quite a while. So we’ll split the difference and put them right in the middle of the top 25.
THE GOOD—Rarely is a team on its third head coach in less than a year ranked so highly, but the Trojans have 16 starters back from a team that rebounded from a terrible start to win 10 games. Eight starters are back on what was the 13th-ranked defense in the nation a year ago, led by future top NFL draft pick Leonard Williams. Nelson Agholor looks like the next elite USC receiver, and the Trojans figure to be favored in at least 9 of their 12 games this fall.
THE BAD—Now that Cody Kessler is the established quarterback, the hope is new coach Steve Sarkisian can develop him into a playmaking quarterback for an offense that was 72nd nationally in 2013. Finding a franchise tailback to build the running game around would help, too.
THE BOTTOM LINE—Sarkisian’s familiarity and previous success with the program should help ease yet another coaching transition, and with only four senior starters look out for USC in 2015.
THE GOOD—The Cardinal still has as many star players as any team on the West Coast. Quarterback Kevin Hogan, wide receiver Ty Montgomery, offensive tackle Andrus Peat, defensive lineman Henry Anderson, linebacker A.J. Tarpley, and cornerback Alex Carter would make for a strong returning core for any program.
THE BAD—It’s a good thing Stanford returns that strong core, because the rest of the two-deep experienced a lot of turnover from last season. The Cardinal also faces the toughest road slate in the country—Washington (where they lost two years ago), Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon, and UCLA. Three more 2013 bowl teams – USC, Washington State, and Oregon State come to Provo. Yikes!
THE BOTTOM LINE—Since taking over for Jim Harbaugh, David Shaw has proven his program has national staying power. But the combination of roster turnover with difficult schedule make 2014 his toughest challenge yet.
THE GOOD—At some point the combination of strong recruiting with a weak conference has to pay off for the Wolverines, doesn’t it? Devin Gardner put up solid numbers at quarterback last season and was even great at times. If he can cut down on the mistakes and get better protection he could be special, and he’ll have competition to keep him honest. Devin Funchess is a matchup nightmare. On defense the numbers look strong, with a solid mix of experience, depth, and youth. Look for Jake Ryan to have a monster year at middle linebacker.
THE BAD—This program will only improve as the offensive line does. Frankly, it was an embarrassment for a program of this stature to be physically dominated up front as the Wolverines were all too often last year. Michigan is hoping former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier can inject some much needed toughness.
THE BOTTOM LINE—This is another team tough to forecast. The Wolverines are more talented than at least 9 of the teams on their schedule. However, most of their toughest games are on the road, where Brady Hoke’s teams have struggled. With only 9 scholarship seniors Michigan still might be a year away from fully re-asserting itself.
THE GOOD—If you put any stock in composite recruiting rankings at all, this is the second most-talented roster in the SEC. The defensive line, led by Dante Fowler, could be the best in the country. Overall, eight starters return on a unit that was 8th in the nation in total defense last season. Four and five star recruits abound on the depth chart at the skill positions.
THE BAD—The season comes down to the health of quarterback Jeff Driskell. When he was under center in 2012, the Gators went 11-1. Without him last year they sunk to 4-8. There is no proven depth behind him.
THE BOTTOM LINE—Will Muschamp is coaching for his life this fall, otherwise he’s another Ron Zook. Stockpiling recruits in Gainesville for the next coach just as Zook once did for Urban Meyer.
THE GOOD—This is Wisconsin, so you always start with the running game. Melvin Gordon turned down the NFL draft and returns with his gaudy 7.8 yards per rush average from a year ago. He could duplicate those numbers behind the Big Ten’s best offensive line. Quarterback Joel Stave improved last year, and now there’s depth behind him with Tanner McEvoy, who had a good spring.
THE BAD—The entire defensive front seven has to be replaced. That’s not an easy task for any program, even one of the sport’s most consistent ones like Wisconsin.
THE BOTTOM LINE—The Badgers have the fewest starters and the third fewest lettermen returning in the Big Ten. Luckily, they’re playing in the Big Ten’s West Division, which provides plenty of time for on-the-job training.
THE GOOD—The Bayou Bengals are hoping it’s still true most football games are decided up front, because they’re built from the inside-out. The offensive and defensive lines are where there’s the most depth and experience, and where they can compete with anyone in college football.
THE BAD—Normally a name program like LSU with 15 starters back from a 10-win squad would be ranked higher, but the few players the Tigers lost were all meaningful ones—their leading passer, rusher, and receivers. Then there’s a schedule that includes eight 2013 bowl teams, and a talented Florida foe on the road.
THE BOTTOM LINE—LSU has essentially lost what amounts to a full recruiting class to the NFL draft the past two years. At some point that has to impact your win total, and given the schedule this looks to be that season.
THE GOOD—Steve Sarkisian left a full cupboard for former Boise State wunderkind Chris Petersen to take over. Sixteen starters are back for a team that was one of the few in college football to finish in the top 30 nationally in scoring offense and defense in 2013. The Huskies’ primary strength is up front, returning solid cores both on the offensive and defensive lines.
THE BAD—Washington must replace its top two playmakers – running back Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins – and hope suspended quarterback Cyler Miles can earn his way back into Petersen’s good graces.
THE BOTTOM LINE—If Mills is reinstated this becomes another talented team in an exceptionally deep year in the Pac-12.
23. KANSAS STATE
THE GOOD—The Wildcats finished as one of the top hottest teams in the country, winning 6 of their last 7 games and scoring at least 31 points in each one. Not coincidentally, their ascendancy coincided with the development of quarterback Jake Waters, who is back. Big 12 foes are hoping versatile and talented receiver Tyler Lockett is the last of his family line. If an effective punter can be found this should be one of the country’s better special teams units.
THE BAD—Ryan Mueller, one of the nation’s sack leaders, returns but he’s one of the few known quantities on a defense that will be breaking in at least nine new starters. K-State will again rely heavily on JUCOs to fortify that side of the ball.
THE BOTTOM LINE—The Wildcats have the second-fewest starters and lettermen returning in the Big 12, but by now we’ve learned never to bet against the Mad Scientist of Manhattan Bill Snyder.
THE GOOD—There’s a lot to like here. John O’Korn was the top freshman quarterback in the country not named Jamie Winston in 2013, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. A tailback duo that combined for well over 1,000 yards also returns, as does a solid fleet of receivers. A defense that forced more turnovers than any other school in the country returns 10 starters.
THE BAD—The Cougars were 7-1 last season and then the wheels came off with three straight losses to Central Florida, Louisville, and Cincinnati by a touchdown or less. Have they learned from those defeats, because those are the teams they have to overcome to win the AAC this fall?
THE BOTTOM LINE—Someone has to win the AAC and this is the league’s most talented team on paper.
THE GOOD—In a defense-optional league, Gary Patterson refuses to pander. Nine starters return from a top 25 defense in 2013, but it’s a player that was mostly absent a year ago generating the most buzz. Devonte Fields was a man-child rushing the passer in 2012, but struggled with injuries and a suspension that kept him out most of last season. He’s back and he’s a difference-maker.
THE BAD—The offense was the problem last year. You aren’t going to win too many games in a pinball wizard conference like the Big 12 if you’re 87th nationally in scoring points, and 104th in total offense. TCU is hoping Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel can win the starting quarterback job, which would allow Trevone Boykin to become an all-purpose threat.
THE BOTTOM LINE—The transition to the Big 12 has been a rough one for the Horned Frogs, but Patterson is too good of a coach to stay down too long. This is one of my bounce-back teams for 2014.
BEST OF THE REST
26. Arizona State…Sun Devils will score a ton of points, but can they stop anyone?
27. BYU…Taysom Hill is the most exciting quarterback we hardly ever get to see.
28. Duke…The Blue Devils will prove last season’s division title wasn’t a fluke.
29. Clemson…Can the Tigers actually be led by their defense for a change?
30. Northwestern…Due for a few breaks after a season of only bad ones.
31. Oklahoma State…This will be a bit of a rebuilding season for the Cowboys.
32. Texas A&M…Too talented to struggle, but too young to contend.
33. North Carolina…If some young offensive linemen develop could win their division.
34. Navy…This is the best team in Annapolis since Paul Johnson was still coach.
35. Texas…If they can keep David Ash healthy – a big if – will be better than this.
36. Nebraska…Bo Pelini is still coach, so put them down for 4 losses, right as rain.
37. Cincinnati…Bearcats get Houston at home in season-finale for AAC title.
38. Louisville…Bobby Petrino’s character is questionable, his coaching isn’t.
39. Miami (Fla.)…Was 2014 already derailed by offseason knee injury to starting QB?
40. Mississippi State…Dan Mullen assembles another respectable squad in Starkville.
41. Texas Tech…Another typical season for Red Raiders – lots of points & bowl bid.
42. Oregon State…Return of quarterback Sean Mannion keeps Beavers competitive.
43. Missouri…Lost too many standouts from last season’s Cinderella story.
44. Colorado State…When was the last time Rams were class of the Mountain West?
45. Central Florida…Too many holes to fill on offense to repeat last year’s record run.
46. Boise State…Broncos are hoping they hired another innovative young coach.
47. Syracuse…Best team in the ACC no one is talking about.
48. Arizona…Rich Rodriguez’s most talented – and youngest squad – yet in Tucson.
49. Virginia Tech…Talent on the roster is so-so, but the schedule sets up nicely.
50. Washington State…It’s Mike Leach so expect plenty of points and the postseason.
ACC – Predicted Order of Finish
Duke (5-3, 9-4)
Virginia Tech (5-3, 7-5)
North Carolina (4-4, 8-4)
Miami, Fla. (4-4, 7-5)
Georgia Tech (3-5, 7-5)
Pittsburgh (3-5, 6-6)
Virginia (1-7, 3-9)
Florida State (7-1, 12-1)
Clemson (6-2, 8-4)
Louisville (5-3, 8-4)
Syracuse (4-4, 7-5)
Boston College (2-6, 5-7)
N.C. State (2-6, 5-7)
Wake Forest (2-6, 4-8)
ACC Championship—Florida State over Duke
QB—Jameis Winston, Florida State
RB—Duke Johnson, Miami (Fla.)
RB—Kevin Parks, Virginia
WR—Rashad Greene, Florida State
WR—Jamison Crowder, Duke
TE—Nick O’Leary, Florida State
OL—Cameron Erving, Florida State
OL—Tre’ Jackson, Florida State
OL—Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech
OL—Josue Mattias, Florida State
OL—Laken Tomlinson, Duke
K—Roberto Aguayo, Florida State
DL—Vic Beasley, Clemson
DL—Mario Edwards, Florida State
DL—Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech
DL—Grady Jarrett, Clemson
LB—Denzel Perryman, Miami (Fla.)
LB—Kelby Brown, Duke
LB—Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisvlle
DB—Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
DB—Anthony Harris, Virginia
DB—P.J. Williams, Florida State
DB—Ronald Darby, Florida State
P—Will Monday, Duke
ACC Honor Roll
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Jameis Winston, Florida State
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Vic Beasley, Clemson
LINEMAN OF THE YEAR—Cameron Erving, Florida State
OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech
DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Ro’Derrick Hoskins, Florida State
COACH OF THE YEAR—David Cutcliffe, Duke
COACH MOST LIKELY TO BE FIRED—Mike London, Virginia
GAME OF THE YEAR—Notre Dame at Florida State
CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Louisville over Florida State
NON-CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—East Carolina over Virginia Tech
BEST NON-CONFERENCE WIN—Florida State over Notre Dame
BIG 12 – Predicted Order of Finish
Oklahoma (7-2, 10-2)
Baylor (7-2, 10-2)
Kansas State (5-4, 8-4)
TCU (5-4, 8-4)
Oklahoma State (5-4, 7-5)
Texas (5-4, 7-5)
Texas Tech (4-5, 7-5)
West Virginia (3-6, 5-7)
Kansas (2-7, 4-8)
Iowa State (2-7, 4-8)
All-Big 12 Offense
QB—Bryce Petty, Baylor
RB—Malcolm Brown, Texas
RB—Shock Linwood, Baylor
WR—Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
WR—Antwan Goodley, Baylor
TE—E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
OL—Spencer Drango, Baylor
OL—Tom Farniok, Iowa State
OL—B.J. Finney, Kansas State
OL—Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
OL—Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech
K—Michael Hunnicut, Oklahoma
All-Big 12 Defense
DL—Devonte Fields, TCU
DL—Charles Tapper, Oklahoma
DL—Cedric Reed, Texas
DL—Ryan Mueller, Texas Tech
LB—Bryce Hager, Baylor
LB—Ben Heeney, Kansas
LB—Eric Striker, Oklahoma
DB—Sam Carter, TCU
DB—Quandre Diggs, Texas
DB—Isaiah Johnson, Kansas
DB—Dante Barrett, Kansas State
P—Spencer Roth, Baylor
Big 12 Honor Roll
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Bryce Petty, Baylor
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Devonte Fields, TCU
LINEMAN OF THE YEAR—Devonte Fields, TCU
OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Rushel Shell, West Virginia
DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Sam Ukwuachu, Baylor
COACH OF THE YEAR—Gary Patterson, TCU
COACH MOST LIKELY TO BE FIRED—Charlie Weiss, Kansas
GAME OF THE YEAR—Baylor at Oklahoma
CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Texas Tech over Oklahoma
NON-CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Kansas State over Auburn
BEST NON-CONFERENCE WIN—Kansas State over Auburn
SELL HIGH—Oklahoma State
Big Ten – Predicted Order of Finish
Michigan State (7-1, 10-2)
Ohio State (6-2, 10-2)
Michigan (6-2, 9-3)
Penn State (3-5, 7-5)
Indiana (3-5, 6-6)
Maryland (3-5, 6-6)
Rutgers (2-6, 4-8)
Iowa (6-2, 10-2)
Wisconsin (6-2, 9-3)
Northwestern (5-3, 8-4)
Nebraska (4-4, 8-4)
Minnesota (3-5, 6-6)
Illinois (3-5, 6-6)
Purdue (1-7, 4-8)
Big Ten Championship—Michigan State over Iowa
All-Big Ten Offense
QB—Connor Cook, Michigan State
RB—Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
RB—Jeremy Langford, Michigan State
WR—Kenny Bell, Nebraska
WR—Devin Funchess, Michigan
TE—Maxx Williams, Minnesota
OL—Brandon Scherff, Iowa
OL—Jack Allen, Michigan State
OL—Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin
OL—Tyler Marz, Wisconsin
OL—Jake Cotton, Nebraska
K—Michael Geiger, Michigan State
All-Big Ten Defense
DL—Michael Bennett, Ohio State
DL—Carl Davis, Iowa
DL—Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
DL—Randy Gregory, Nebraska
LB—Jake Ryan, Michigan
LB—Chi Chi Ariguzo, Northwestern
LB—Cole Farrand, Maryland
DB—Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State
DB—Trae Waynes, Michigan State
DB—Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern
DB—Blake Countess, Michigan
P—Mike Sadler, Michigan State
Big Ten Honor Roll
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Randy Gregory, Nebraska
LINEMAN OF THE YEAR—Brandon Scherff, Iowa
OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Wes Lunt, Illinois
DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Jabril Peppers, Michigan
COACH OF THE YEAR—Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
COACH MOST LIKELY TO BE FIRED—Kyle Flood, Rutgers
GAME OF THE YEAR—Ohio State at Michigan State
CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Maryland over Michigan State
NON-CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Penn State over Central Florida
BEST NON-CONFERENCE WIN—Nebraska over Miami (Fla.)
SELL HIGH—Ohio State
Pac-12 – Predicted Order of Finish
Oregon (8-1, 12-1)
Stanford (7-2, 9-3)
Washington (5-4, 8-4)
Oregon State (4-5, 7-5)
Washington State (4-5, 6-6)
California (1-7, 3-9)
UCLA (8-1, 11-2)
USC (6-3, 9-3)
Arizona State (5-4, 8-4)
Arizona (4-5, 7-5)
Utah (3-6, 5-7)
Colorado (2-7, 4-8)
Pac-12 Championship—Oregon over UCLA
QB—Marcus Mariota, Oregon
RB—D.J. Foster, Arizona State
RB—Byron Marshall, Oregon
WR—Nelson Agholor, USC
WR—Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
WR—Tyler Montgomery, Stanford
OL—Andrus Peat, Stanford
OL—Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
OL—Jake Fisher, Oregon
OL—Tyler Johnston, Oregon
OL—Jamil Douglas, Arizona State
K—Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
DL—Leonard Williams, USC
DL—Henry Anderson, Stanford
DL—Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
DL—Danny Shelton, Washington
LB—Myles Jack, UCLA
LB—A.J. Tarpley, Stanford
LB—Shaq Thompson, Washington
DB—Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
DB—Alex Carter, Stanford
DB—Marcus Peters, Washington
DB—Jordan Richards, Stanford
P—Tom Hackett, Utah
Pac-12 Honor Roll
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Marcus Mariota, Oregon
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Leonard Williams, USC
LINEMAN OF THE YEAR—Leonard Williams, USC
OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Austin Hooper, Stanford
DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Jalen Grimble, Oregon State
COACH OF THE YEAR—Mark Helfrich, Oregon
COACH MOST LIKELY TO BE FIRED—Kyle Whittingham, Utah
GAME OF THE YEAR—Oregon at UCLA
CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Utah over USC
NON-CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Nevada over Washington State
BEST NON-CONFERENCE WIN—Oregon over Michigan State
SEC – Predicted Order of Finish
Georgia (7-1, 12-1)
South Carolina (6-2, 10-2)
Florida (5-3, 8-4)
Missouri (4-4, 7-5)
Tennessee (2-6, 5-7)
Kentucky (2-6, 5-7)
Vanderbilt (1-7, 5-7)
Ole Miss (6-2, 10-3)
Alabama (6-2, 10-2)
Auburn (6-2, 9-3)
LSU (4-4, 8-4)
Texas A&M (3-5, 7-5)
Mississippi State (3-5, 7-5)
Arkansas (2-6, 5-7)
SEC Championship—Georgia over Ole Miss
QB—Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
RB—T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
RB—Todd Gurley, Georgia
WR—Amari Cooper, Alabama
WR—Sammie Coates, Auburn
TE—C.J. Uzomah, Auburn
OL—Cedric Ogbuhei, Texas A&M
OL—La’el Collins, LSU
OL—Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL—Reese Dismukes, Auburn
OL—John Theus, Georgia
K—Marshall Morgan, Georgia
DL—Dante Fowler, Florida
DL—Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DL—Markus Golden, Missouri
DL—Alvin Dupree, Kentucky
LB—A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
LB—Trey DePriest, Alabama
LB—Ramik Wilson, Georgia
DB—Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss
DB—Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB—Landon Collins, Alabama
DB—Deshazor Everett, Texas A&M
P—Drew Kaser, Texas A&M
SEC Honor Roll
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Todd Gurley, Georgia
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR—Ramik Wilson, Georgia
LINEMAN OF THE YEAR— Cedric Ogbuhei, Texas A&M
OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR—A.J. Stamps, Kentucky
COACH OF THE YEAR—Mark Richt, Georgia
COACH MOST LIKELY TO BE FIRED—Will Muschamp, Florida
GAME OF THE YEAR—Georgia over South Carolina
CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Arkansas over LSU
NON-CONFERENCE UPSET OF THE YEAR—Kansas State over Auburn
BEST NON-CONFERENCE WIN—South Carolina over Clemson
BUY LOW—Ole Miss
2014 BOWL PROJECTIONS
Rose Bowl National Semifinal: UCLA vs. Oregon
Sugar Bowl National Semifinal: Georgia vs. Florida State
Peach Bowl: Marshall vs. Baylor
Orange Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Ole Miss
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. South Carolina
Cotton Bowl: Alabama vs. Michigan State
Capital One Bowl: Ohio State vs. Auburn
Outback Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Florida
Holiday Bowl: Michigan vs. Stanford
Alamo Bowl: Kansas State vs. USC
Taxslayer Bowl: Iowa vs. LSU
Sun Bowl: Clemson vs. Washington
Russell Athletic Bowl: Duke vs. TCU
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Arizona State
Liberty Bowl: Texas vs. Texas A&M
Belk Bowl: North Carolina vs. Mississippi State
Music City Bowl: Missouri vs. Nebraska
*Texas Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Virginia Tech
Fight Hunger Bowl: Minnesota vs. Oregon State
Pinstripe Bowl: Miami, Fla. vs. Northwestern
Detroit Bowl: Syracuse vs. Indiana
*Independence Bowl: Louisville vs. Washington State
Military Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Houston
Royal Purple Bowl: Arizona vs. Colorado State
Idaho Potato Bowl: Boise State vs. Bowling Green
Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State vs. Navy
Miami Beach Bowl: BYU vs. Cincinnati
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Illinois vs. Middle Tennessee
Go Daddy Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. LA-Monroe
*Birmingham Bowl: Central Florida vs. Maryland
New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana vs. Fresno State
Hawaii Bowl: Rice vs. Utah State
St. Pete Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. East Carolina
Bahamas Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Toledo
Boca Raton Bowl: TX-San Antonio vs. Akron
Camellia Bowl: Buffalo vs. Arkansas State
New Mexico Bowl: Nevada vs. Louisiana Tech
*At-large selection made to fill vacancy
(Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and also the author of the new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)