Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Best5Zach's Preseason Top 10 Teams for 2014

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It's almost time, folks. There is a thick buzz in the air because college football is ALMOST HERE. As Dickens wrote: "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." Everyone's team is undefeated. Every team is loaded with stars just waiting to shine. And yet, not a single snap has been played. Don't worry. After Week 1, half of all the teams will have their dreams dashed.

All you can do is read all the practice reports, listen to your favorite sports show, or watch ESPN Classic games. Speaking of reading, there is no shortage of preseason polls and lists out there. I figured I would get in on that action, though my audience is slightly smaller than most. I have to admit, I look at polls like the USA Today Coach's Poll and find myself wondering who is crazy. I just don't get some of the rankings.

I already started with my College Football Fantasy QB breakdowns. Check that out.

But, I figured I would also list my Top 10 Teams for 2014.

How am I factoring this? I am looking simply at where I think teams will be at the final week of the regular season.

  1. Ohio State (12-0)
  2. Florida State (12-0)
  3. Oklahoma (12-0)
  4. Stanford (12-0)
  5. Auburn (11-1) Loss to Georgia
  6. Baylor (11-1)-Loss to Oklahoma 
  7. Oregon (11-1)-Loss to Stanford
  8. Alabama (10-2) Losses to LSU and Auburn
  9. Michigan State (10-2)-Losses to Ohio State and Oregon
  10. Wisconsin (11-1) Loss to LSU 
That takes us to the first college play off. Who makes it? Well, here we go. 

Ohio State- Ohio State is going to roll. Big. Though I was certainly thankful for Michigan State to win at the Horseshoe last year, it was the perfect storm. The Michigan State defense was and will continue to be one of the best in the country. Their offense, however, profited mightily from an Ohio State secondary that may have been the worst in the country. After all, Cook and Co were one of the worst passing units in major college football for all of 2013. Let's recall that the MSU defense and special teams were outscoring the offense for several games. Michigan State is the single roadblock to Ohio State going undefeated while outscoring opponents by 3 TDs a game, at least. I do expect Penn State to put up a fight, but they just don't have the firepower to challenge this year. Give Franklin another year, and it will be a different story. Urban Meyer and his Buckeye team will be ready to play at East Lansing this year. Braxton Miller is nearly a 3:1 odd to win the Heisman, in my opinion. The defense, literally, cannot be any worse than last year.  

Florida State-First thing's first. I don't expect this team to be as good as last year's squad. I do believe we will see a dropoff in the performance of Winston. He lost essentially all of his skill positions. Though many experts believe that Clemson is going to be better this year, I don't buy it. Clemson and Florida are the only two games that FSU play, all year. And FSU gets them both at home. Florida may surprise us and take this game to the wire, but I doubt it. Clemson will get woodshedded....again. Though I firmly believe that last years Clemson team could have won, they just didn't show up. This Clemson team doesn't have the firepower. FSU lost some key starters on defense, notably, Jernigan, Brooks, and Joyner. But, State has recruited almost as well as Alabama has. I expect the fresh crop of starters to mature in the easy schedule and be ready by season end. FSU cruises into the ACC Championship and wins handily. 

Oklahoma-Another team that will roll over the competition. Outside of a huge upset against Kansas State, Baylor is the lone team to challenge Oklahoma. Unlike last year, Stoops will have the Sooners ready to go. The Baylor defense has been deplorable and the offense has had to win games. Oklahoma will have a good offense and at least show up to play defense. Though I think a lot of hype has surrounded the program for the win against Bama, I think it was less about Stoops having a great team than Saban and Co simply mailing one in. What I mean is, I don't rank Oklahoma at #3 because I think they have a great team. I think they have a good team with an incredibly favorable schedule. Let's not forget that the QB is very young....and he played out of his mind in his one game. A lot could happen, but even mediocre QB play can win with this schedule. The key factor is the easy front end of the schedule, which will allow the new QB to get broken in. 

Stanford-I believe this will be Stanfords year. Though they can't seem to put a great QB with a great RB, they have been one of the winning-est programs in the last 5 years. Across the board, they have been better than average with few weak spots. Though the QB play started out shakey last year, it finally solidified down the stretch and Hogan really began to shine. Shaw continues to recruit at a record pace for a such a prestigious university with such high standards. There are several tricky games on the schedule, and they have been unable to navigate it in the last few years. Notable games are USC, Oregon, and UCLA. Though the talent is thick at USC, I think having to play Stanford so early in the year will be too much for coach Sarkisian. If this game were, say, November 28th, I might even think USC could win it. But it's not. Though the Cardinal plays at Oregon, they have had the Ducks number. Though I do think Oregon does well this year, I sense that the drop off from the Kelley years is about to take place. Only Mariotta will keep them at the top. Stanford travels to Eugene and wins. Though I respect Brett Hundley, UCLA is far from a complete team. They beat UCLA in the last game of the season, then in a rematch on the Championship. 

I know many of you are wondering how and why I have Auburn and Alabama missing the playoffs, though most experts feel that one or both of these two teams will make it. 

Auburn-Though I did my prognostication on Auburn and initially listed them as going 12-0, I believe I have to recount that. It isn't that I think they can't beat each and every team on the schedule, because I think they can. And, if each week were a season in and of itself, I would be steadfast on 12-0. But it isn't. Though I think South Carolina is probably the best team that Auburn will play next season, I don't think they will come into Jordan-Hare and win. It's late November that really has me worried. Auburn travels to Athens and Tuscaloosa for the first time ever. I think Auburn will lose to the Bulldogs, because they cannot help but look forward to a rematch with Alabama, especially in front of the House of Cards that is Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Bulldogs will have a really good defense and the running game will be solid, perhaps the best in the Nation. 

Alabama-You have your head in the sand if you think Alabama is a top 4 team. Though Saban has recruited like no one else, there will be a substantial drop off this year, more so than any other year in terms of talent and production. Though all the weapons are in place, the offensive line is not. I find it funny to read Lindy's and Steeles articles who say in one sentence that the Bama offensive line will be one of the worst in the SEC, and think they will have a great offense. Additionally, Saban is replacing another secondary, which didn't live up to expectations even last year. If they played any other team in the SEC East, I would be penciling in 9-3. In fact, I am not so sure that Mississippi State can't get them, even at home. Though Ole Miss may be the better of the Magnolia State teams, Bo Wallace cannot perform down the stretch against GOOD or GREAT defenses, which Bama will at least be GOOD. LSU is a wildcard. Though they play in Death Valley, LSU's offense has been inconsistent at best, even with NFL talent. That being said, the defense could very well knock a struggling Alabama offense off. I am going with the home team in this one, and LSU wins in the Bayou. Auburn comes to BDS and wins. 

Biggest Surprise? Wisconsin Badgers. They open up against an LSU team, and though I have that as a loss, opening day games are a real tossup, just like I think West Virginia is going to really surprise the Tide. The Badgers have the best think happen. They lose to an SEC in a close game on National TV on opening weekend. Then, they steam roll the Big10. By seasons end, they will find themselves in the Top 10, though they aren't necessarily ready to compete with the teams at the top. 

Most Over-rated Team? UCLA. Hundley is a good player. But he isn't a whole offense and he doesn't line up on defense. Before Hundley showed up, UCLA was absolutely BRUTAL to watch play. They were terrible. They lost every game against quality competition, though they did win at USC. Even though I do believe their offense will score a lot of points, their defense has been porous. Things could go south in a hurry if Charlie Strong gets Texas turned around, even a little. Oregon will get UCLA, as will USC and Stanford. So, a team that is a preseason Top 10 will end up being 9-3 at best, possibly even 8-4, as Texas, Arizona or Arizona State could knock them off.