Way-early Preseason Power Poll: Champ FSU your 1st playoff favorite
Florida State brings back an NFL-caliber QB and likely takes minimal hits in the early NFL departure department. So the national champs start out (and likely finish?) No. 1.
Jimbo Fisher took two days off before preparing for 2014. That seemed like respectful pause for the Power Poll before looking head.
The first top 25 of 2014 contains the usual suspects -- six from the SEC -- but also the possibility of a repeat. With an NFL-caliber quarterback and the guts of the nation's No. 1 scoring defense, Jimbo's team seems like a good bet to do it again.
1. Florida State Seminoles : We'll have to sift through the NFL defections but Jameis Winston is a good place to start. It's logical that he'll get even better in his second year as a starter. Jimbo says maybe "one or two" players will leave early for the draft. Repeat? Why not?
2. Auburn Tigers : Gus' bus remains all but full with all the key contributors back. The Tigers won't be able to sneak up on anyone in '14. The only major losses figure to be left tackle Greg Robinson and tailback Tre Mason .
3. Michigan State Spartans : Spartans surprised Stanford Cardinal and the Big Ten in the second half with an offense that averaged 30 points down the stretch. If Mark Dantonio can keep defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, even better for the Spartans.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes : Braxton Miller and his battered body return for a senior season. The defense has to get better after being rolled by Michigan State Spartans and Clemson Tigers . Doesn't it?
5. Oregon Ducks : De'Anthony Thomas may have been bored of playing in Rose Bowls, but if the Ducks don't return to Pasadena in '14, it means they will finish out of the playoff.
6. Stanford Cardinal : Ty Gaffney is gone but there's still a Barry Sanders (Jr.) on the roster. David Shaw is in the process of building a perennial top 10 program. That's exactly where the Cardinal finish next season.
7. Alabama Crimson Tide : Nick Saban does not suffer such "failings" as 11 wins. The last time Bama didn't win the national championship, it responded by winning two in a row. Must find a quarterback.
8. Oklahoma Sooners : This just in -- Bob Stoops still has it. Upset of Oklahoma State Cowboys . Upset of Alabama. Blossoming of Trevor Knight . Guess who's going to be favored to win the Big 12?
9. UCLA Bruins : Brett Hundley 's return changes everything for the Bruins. With Jim Mora staying put and Hundley in the fold, they have an experienced quarterback to go with the inspirational Myles Jack .
10. Missouri Tigers : James Franklin 's shoulder injury allowed us to see the future in quarterback Maty Mauk . The Tigers might actually get better at the position. The defense loses SEC defensive player of the year Michael Sam .
11. Southern California Trojans : All kinds of upside here with a new coach (Steve Sarkisian) inheriting an experienced quarterback ( Cody Kessler ). In the final season of the sanctions, the Trojans are ready to win the Pac-12 South.
12. Baylor Bears : The loss of Lache Seastrunk is huge, but the Bears won't slip much offensively. Bryce Petty should be a Heisman candidate. Do games at Texas Longhorns , Oklahoma and Texas Tech Red Raiders mean the Horns, Sooners and Red Raiders will be looking for revenge?
13. Arizona State Sun Devils : QB Taylor Kelly returns, giving the Sun Devils a chance at another Pac-12 South title. Coach Todd Graham will have to rally his troops after blowout losses to Stanford (Pac-12 Championship)and Texas Tech (Holiday Bowl).
14. Kansas State Wildcats : Now that Bill Snyder is somewhat settled on Jake Waters at quarterback, the Wildcats should contend for the Big 12. Tyler Lockett should be a Biletnikoff candidate.
15. Texas Longhorns : No matter what happens, the Longhorns get better at quarterback. That is, assuming David Ash overcomes concussion issues. Charlie Strong is inheriting a fairly stocked roster.
16. Wisconsin Badgers : We'll find out as early as possible about the Badgers in the seson opener against LSU Tigers . The Big Ten schedule is fairly easy in Gary Anderson's second season.
17. Notre Dame Fighting Irish : Everett Golson returns from his cheating suspension. Michigan and Stanford come to South Bend. Irish have to travel to Arizona State Sun Devils , USC and Florida State Seminoles .
18. Texas A&M Aggies : The post-Manziel era begins in Aggieville. New quarterback, same trajectory for Kevin Sumlin. Up. In Year 3 of the SEC, A&M still hasn't reached its potential. The defense must improve dramatically.
19. UCF Knights : Even without Blake Bortles returing at quarterback, the Knights will be the favorites to snag the first automatic berth (AAC) for the Group of Five in the playoff era.
20. South Carolina Gamecocks : Not so quietly, Steve Spurrier has positioned the Gamecocks' program in the best era of football ever at South Carolina. It will be hard to win 11 again.
21. Georgia Bulldogs : The Dawgs have to be better. You might have noticed that plenty of backups got playing time. The majority of the offensive line returns along with tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall .
22. Clemson Tigers : Tigers are the first team from the state of South Carolina to win a BCS bowl game. But don't forget: They're also the first to give up 70 points in a BCS bowl.
23. Brigham Young Cougars : Taysom Hill is the best quarterback you don't know. The Cougars won eight with a brutal schedule. They could win 10 in '14 and challenge for that playoff bowl berth.
24. Duke Blue Devils : Two-time 1,000-yard receiver Jamison Crowder and quarterback Anthony Boone return. Everyone has been alerted that the Blue Devils are now a factor in the ACC.
25 (tie). Minnesota Golden Gophers : The surprise team in the Big Ten gets another year older and wiser in '14. The entire offensive line returns along with 1,000-yard rusher David Cobb .
25 (tie). Marshall Thundering Herd : Any team with Rakeem Cato has a chance. The non-BCS Johnny Manziel threw for a career-high 39 touchdown passes in leading the Thundering Herd to a 10-win season for the first time in 11 years.
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