10 Schools Most Looking Forward to the 2014 College Football Playoff

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJanuary 24, 2013

10 Schools Most Looking Forward to the 2014 College Football Playoff

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    As every college football nut begins to prepare for the upcoming season, there are the 2014 playoffs that are lurking right around the corner. Yes, I know this seems like such a long time from now, but I can't be the only one that would like to wish the BCS away and get the new format started this season.

    But since that is impossible, all we can do is look ahead into a crystal football and predict which teams will be best prepared for the 2014 season. With a total of four squads being invited to the party, there are plenty of schools to choose from and a few that may surprise you more than others.

    To do this, you would want to look at the schools that are recruiting well, have the most players returning in a year from now and have provided a track record of winning many games over the years.

    Forget the 2013 season, all the fun will take place in 2014 when the playoffs finally arrive. Here are 10 teams that should be on everybody's radar when the good stuff gets here.

LSU

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    If there was ever going to be a year the LSU Tigers may struggle, it would be the one that's coming up. With nearly the entire roster moving to the NFL, head coach Les Miles has a lot of fresh faces entering the starting lineup that you have never heard of before.

    This may be bad news for the 2013 season, but when it is time to get ready for a playoff push, you better have the Tigers penciled in for one of the four spots.

    Defensively, LSU will be loaded with guys such as Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones and Jalen Collins. All of those players were top recruits coming out of high school and will pick up all of the experience they need in 2013.

    Finding a quarterback for the year of the playoffs may be the biggest worry for the team, but that has never seemed to stop the Tigers from competing in the past. With a running back in Jeremy Hill and a young offensive line, this unit should be able to stick to its ground game and continue to wear down opposing defenses.

    LSU is one of the few programs that have no issues at all in the recruiting world, and that is why it remains a tough opponent in the SEC each season. It may take its licks next year, but in 2014, it will be off to the races.

Texas

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    You can never count Texas out of a playoff race because of where the program ends up in the preseason poll each and every year. It doesn't matter how the Longhorns looked in the previous years; you just know that a head start in the Top 25 will be given to head coach Mack Brown and his players.

    The Longhorns have a lot of intriguing players on the offensive side of the ball in running back Johnathan Gray and wide receiver Cayleb Jones. Quarterback David Ash will also be eligible to return for his senior season in 2014, providing enough talent on offense to build around for a serious playoff push.

    There are concerns on defense due to the amount of seniors that will start in 2013, but Texas usually has enough depth on this side of the ball anyway to be just fine. With defensive tackle Malcolm Brown and cornerback Duke Thomas looking to make an impact after one season of getting their feet wet, Texas should remain stout on defense.

    Even with the recent struggles, Texas continues to recruit extremely well, and that is good enough to keep this program in the running for a playoff berth.

Georgia

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    Georgia won't have Aaron Murray to count on in 2014, but the offense will be led by a talented backup named Hutson Mason. He would have easily been the starter this upcoming season, but Murray decided to return for his senior year and make everybody wait just a little while longer to see what the kid has got.

    One thing for sure is that he will have plenty of weapons around him in a running back tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

    The Bulldogs remain young defensively, as a lot of starters from the 2012 team left. This youth should help carry over to 2014 and will receive a boost in depth with a recruiting class that is focused heavily on the defensive side of the ball.

    Many would consider this season to be the year Georgia can win the SEC and make a push toward a national title. However, with a reliable quarterback, great running attack and a defense that continues to produce talent, a playoff appearance is not out of the question.

Florida State

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    The Florida State Seminoles have become the Dallas Cowboys of college football. No matter how talented the team is or how much credit it is given before the season, it still finds a way to let everybody down. You keep saying that you are going to stop buying into the team, but every season, you think that this is going to be the year they get back on track.

    Even like that disappointing team in the NFL, there is still too much talent out in Tallahassee to write off the Seminoles in 2014. It will be exciting to see if quarterback Clint Trickett can become the player everybody was hoping for and if the offense can actually get out of its own way.

    Defensively, you know Florida State is going to remain dominant. Sure, a new defensive coordinator is in place, but get to know the names of guys like Mario Edwards and Terrance Smith. New recruits such as DeMarcus Walker and Freddie Stevenson will also look to make an immediate impact next year and be ready to become full-time starters in 2014.

    Head coach Jimbo Fisher needs to start winning with this all of this talent. But even with past disappointment, there is no way you can count the Seminoles out of a potential playoff race.

Florida

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    Much like LSU, Florida lost a lot on the defensive side of the ball from the 2012 season. So in 2013, all of these young athletes will get the experience, and it is time to watch out once the 2014 season kicks off.

    Names on defense that you should be familiar with in 2013 are Jonathan Bullard, Dante Fowler and Brian Poole. But even with those guys also coming back two years from now, you can add all of these defensive players to the 2014 roster once the playoffs begin. Needless to say, this is a defensive unit that should experience very few growing pains once the playoff season begins.

    Offensively, Florida still has to find its playmakers, but we saw just how far this team can go with an amazing defense last year.

    With recruiting classes like that, Will Muschamp and the Gators aren't going anywhere.

Notre Dame

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    Just because Manti Te'o has left Notre Dame does not mean that the Irish are going back to mediocrity. The team has left a lot of meat on the bone heading into this year, with guys such as Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix. Quarterback Everett Golson should eventually develop into a star.

    However, regardless of what happens at quarterback, Notre Dame has many options with Gunner Kiel and 4-star recruit Malik Zaire, who has already enrolled early in South Bend.

    Speaking of elite recruits, the Irish have picked up quite a few of them due to the successful run they had last season. Linebacker Jaylon Smith is a freak athletically, and Max Redfield will quickly develop into that next superstar safety as early as this year.

    All it took was one great season to put Notre Dame back in position to become contenders. Don't think last year was a fluke; this is a program that will continue to remain on the radar for potential national championships.

Texas A&M

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    Head coach Kevin Sumlin has made a believer out of most in college football, and one year of success in the SEC has paid off in a big way recruiting wise. Just look at all of the stars that will be heading to College Station this offseason. If you thought Texas A&M was stealing the headlines in the SEC last year, just wait until all of that talent hits the field.

    With the youth and overall skill that the Aggies should have in a year, the deciding factor would be if Johnny Manziel decides to enter the 2014 NFL draft as a redshirt sophomore. Due to his style of play, I would say Aggies fans don't have much to worry about, but you can never be quite sure.

    Beginning the 2014 season would mean that Sumlin and his troops will now have had two full seasons of SEC experience under their belts. This should remain a scary team for a while, and it will give the rest of the big boys in the division a problem.

Ohio State

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    Urban Meyer was able to go into a new conference, coach guys that he didn't recruit and still run the table in the Big Ten. Just wait and see what he will be able to do once he has a couple of seasons to bring in the elite prospects. I'm talking about the right guys he needs to put the Buckeyes back in the national title picture.

    A lot of the success is going to determine whether or not quarterback Braxton Miller will return for his senior season. If he does, it is party time in Columbus.

    But regardless of what happens with that situation, the Ohio State defense is going to be extremely young this coming year, which means that the majority of the guys will be back next year. Meyer has also been able to do a wonderful job of recruiting playmakers on offense, players who will be able to thrive in his spread offense.

    Meyer has never had a losing season in his head-coaching career and has led his team in the Top Five of the AP Poll the last eight years. It is safe to say that the Buckeyes will be in the conversation come 2014.

Ole Miss

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    Ole Miss. Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs? A couple years ago, the Rebels were just hoping to win a game.

    Well, this is no longer the same Ole Miss program that was run into the ground by former head coach Houston Nutt. What current coach Hugh Freeze has been able to do in just one season is nothing short of remarkable, and he is about to prove it was no beginner's luck.

    The team that won seven games last season is still very young, and the majority of the key guys will be eligible to return in 2014. For the players that do end up leaving, the coaching staff has somehow found a way to put together this talented 2013 recruiting class, which isn't quite finished with the possible commitment of Robert Nkemdiche.

    It may seem impossible to wrap your head around Ole Miss competing for a national title, but the success train is steamrolling through Oxford, and it is going to be mighty hard to slow down for the next couple of years. 

Alabama

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    Wait. Is that Nick Saban actually smiling in public? You bet.

    He is grinning from ear to ear because he knows that the Alabama Crimson Tide are built for long-term success. With three national championships in the last four years, the recruiting is absolutely off the charts and will keep the Tide in the title conversation for years to come.

    As long as Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart continue to work hand in hand, the defense will remain one of the best in the country. Offensively, the running back position is loaded, the offensive line is always solid and the receivers are getting better and better with the addition of Amari Cooper and 5-star Robert Foster.

    Alabama is a team that doesn't need the extra two spots added, but in case of a slip-up during the season, the playoff format almost guarantees that the team from Tuscaloosa will be in the mix.