6 College Football Teams That Are Locks to Win 10 Games in 2014
The 2014 college football schedules are all but set in stone, with only a few teams still seeking out one more non-conference game and only one league (the American Athletic Conference) yet to release its official rundown of dates for its conference slate.
The first official game of the 2014 season isn't until Aug. 27, when Georgia State hosts Abilene Christian, but that doesn't mean some lofty projections can't be made regarding this fall's outcomes.
Namely, which teams are locks to reach double-digits in wins.
Last season saw 27 schools reach the 10-win mark, though seven of those needed a conference title victory and/or a bowl triumph to get there.
It stands to reach that another two dozen or so teams will get to at least 10 wins in 2014, but only a few seem guaranteed to hit that mark based on the schedules they have lined up in front of them. For debate's sake, we've identified six such schools.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Walkover wins: Florida Atlantic, Southern Mississippi, at Arkansas, at Tennessee, Western Carolina
Losable games: at Ole Miss, at LSU, Auburn
Alabama's 2014 schedule is very similar to last year's in that it begins with a neutral-site game against an overmatched opponent (vs. West Virginia in Atlanta), but the Crimson Tide don't need to open SEC play on the road this time around. The first road game isn't until Oct. 4 at Ole Miss, which other than LSU will be its toughest away test.
The Auburn game is in Tuscaloosa this year, but considering how revived that rivalry got in 2013, the venue won't matter much.
Unless the Tide suffer a major hiccup along the way, 10 wins shouldn't be a problem.
Walkover wins: SMU, Northwestern State, at Buffalo, TCU, Kansas
Losable games: at Texas, at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, vs. Texas Tech (in Arlington, Tex.)
Baylor's non-conference schedule is only slightly better than last year if only because it includes a road game, but that will be against a Buffalo team that is replacing a potential first-round pick in linebacker Khalil Mack off a team that lost 70-13 in Waco in 2013.
The Bears have a much tougher start to Big 12 play this time around, though, opening with three of four on the road. Granted, two of those are at Iowa State and West Virginia (with a visit from TCU thrown in), but they have to visit Texas early as well.
The three-game November stretch of Oklahoma, OK State and Texas Tech is very likely to produce a loss, but with pretty much the same team that went 11-1 in the regular season last year, it's not a stretch to say Baylor will do no worse than 10 wins in 2014.
Florida State Seminoles
Walkover wins: The Citadel, Wake Forest, Virginia, Boston College
Losable games: vs. Oklahoma State (in Arlington, Tex.), Clemson, Notre Dame, at Louisville, at Miami (Fla.)
There should be far less talk this time around about whether Florida State has played anybody heading into the postseason, as the Seminoles' schedule is stacked with tough opponents. But the defending national champs, who are almost a shoo-in to be the preseason No. 1 team in every poll, appear to be as good as last year.
The opener against OK State could prove a challenge because of the whole "pressure to defend the crown" situation, but after that it's mostly smooth sailing until mid-October when Notre Dame comes to Tallahassee. A trip to ACC newcomer Louisville comes 12 days later, and two weeks after that is a visit to Miami.
Seminole Nation would probably scoff at any suggestion that FSU would even lose one game this year, let alone enough to make 10 wins an uncertainty. We don't see less than 10 being an issue, but another undefeated run certainly isn't a given.
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
Walkover wins: Southern, Louisiana Tech, Georgia State, at New Mexico State, Appalachian State
Losable games: at Ole Miss, at Boise State, Arkansas State, at Troy
Of all our "locks," this is the one that's the most rusty, if you will. But considering Louisiana-Lafayette has gone 9-4 each of the last three seasons and the Ragin' Cajuns return 18 starters from last year's Sun Belt and New Orleans Bowl champs, all signs point to 2014 being this program's breakout.
The September back-to-back trek to Ole Miss and then Boise State will be the Cajuns' toughest stretch, as was last year's September trips to Arkansas and Oklahoma. But the Sun Belt is softer than ever, with the departure of Western Kentucky and the addition of two transitioning FCS programs as well as FBS doormats Idaho and New Mexico State.
ULL was 8-2 last year before quarterback Terrance Broadway broke his hand during the start of a two-game skid to end the regular season. Assuming no similar injuries befell Broadway or the Cajuns, look for them to breeze through the Sun Belt and hit that 10-win plateau.
Marshall Thundering Herd
Walkover wins: at Miami (Ohio), Rhode Island, at Florida International, at Southern Mississippi, at UAB
Losable games: Middle Tennessee, Rice, Western Kentucky
Marshall has the best quarterback hardly anyone has heard of in senior-to-be Rakeem Cato, as well as a schedule that's heavy on easy road games and tougher opponents at home. Those are two of the key ingredients to a 10-win season.
The Thundering Herd's four losses last season were all on the road, and all to teams that went to bowl games. This year it gets to avenge those setbacks to Ohio, Middle Tennessee and Rice at home, while last year's road loss to power conference member Virginia Tech is replaced with an Akron team that considered going 5-7 as a really good year.
The rest of the road slate features teams with records of 0-12, 1-11 (two) and 2-10 from a year ago.
Add in a late November visit from Conference USA newcomer Western Kentucky—possibly the toughest opponent on the schedule—and there's no reason to think Cato and the Herd shouldn't get at least 10 wins.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Walkover wins: Kent State, Rutgers, Illinois, Indiana
Losable games: vs. Navy (at Baltimore), at Penn State, at Michigan State, at Minnesota, Michigan
Ohio State answered the critics who said last year's non-conference schedule was far too soft by beefing up the 2014 pre-Big Ten slate. But for the Buckeyes that means facing Navy in a neutral site game and bringing mid-level teams like Cincinnati and Virginia Tech to Columbus.
The unplanned difficulty comes in the conference schedule, which sends OSU to Penn State, Michigan State and Minnesota in a four-week span from late October until mid-November. The Buckeyes' only back-to-back roadies in 2013 were to Illinois and Purdue, but a bye in between.
But OSU avoids Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin in division crossover games, and it must be said that Urban Meyer is 16-0 in Big Ten play (as long as you don't count the conference title loss to Michigan State last year). While running the table doesn't look very likely, dropping more than two is also not a bet we'd risk taking.