The Amway preseason college football rankings have been released and there are no real surprises at the top of the polls.
The defending champion Florida State Seminoles are No. 1 and perennial national championship contenders, the Alabama Crimson Tide are No. 2. The Noles and Tide are just two of the teams that must have their seasons end with a title to call the campaign a success.
More than ever, these early rankings are to be seen, but not relied upon with too much confidence as it relates to college football's bottom line.
Ultimately, the College Football Playoff Committee will decide which four teams vie for the national championship in January. Nevertheless, here's a look at the preseason Top 25:
Run it Back
When a team has gone undefeated the previous season and returns the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, as well as several other offensive weapons and disruptive forces on the defensive side of the ball, anything short of a repeat national championship would be an epic failure.
That is, of course, the situation the Seminoles find themselves in heading into the 2014 season.
Jameis Winston is headed for his sophomore campaign and is expected to be even better than he was when he earned college football's top prize.
Winston was already a leader for his team last season, but judging by this tweet from teammate Tyler Hunter, Winston is taking the next step in the leadership department:
That boy @Jaboowins got me right with the film session yesterday... He got me reading QB 10x better— B. H. ☝️ (@THunterOne) July 24, 2014
The Noles' schedule features just two teams that are ranked in the top 25 in the preseason poll: Notre Dame and Clemson—and both of those games are at home. As Steven Lassan of Athlon Sports states, the Noles are properly set up to repeat:
The Seminoles own arguably the No. 1 roster in college football for 2014, one of the nation’s top coaches in Jimbo Fisher, and the defending Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Jameis Winston. With a favorable schedule and a loaded roster, Florida State is positioned to repeat as college football’s national champions.
In some respects, the new playoff format makes it easier for a team like the Noles. If they do experience one week of flounder and drop a game. It's unlikely the committee wouldn't consider them a top-four team in the nation.
Thus the Noles would still get an opportunity to defend their title in the postseason.
Same Ol' Bama Expectations
Every year Alabama is expected to vie for a national championship. It's one of the most automatic things in all of sports. Credit head coach Nick Saban for the team's success.
The Crimson Tide has rarely disappointed. Because of how dominant Alabama has been, last season's berth in the Sugar Bowl was a bittersweet consolation prize..
The 45-31 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners in the game made it simply bitter. When a team is as good as Bama, critics expect the wins and overreact to the losses.
The team has won three of the last five national championships and despite losing A.J. McCarron and others to the NFL, Bama will still boast one of the most stacked rosters in the nation.
According to 247 Sports, Alabama has had the No. 1 recruiting class ever since 2010. Even then the program was ranked No. 5. Bama is set up to seriously contend for a national championship for the next four years, and there's no sign of the expectations dropping.
The Tide have already received commitments from three 5-star prospects and are currently ranked No. 1 in the 2015 team recruiting rankings.
High Pressure in the Northwest
With a legitimate Heisman candidate in Marcus Mariota and returning players like Arik Armstead and star defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon is again expected to do well.
Unfortunately for Duck Nation, the program has fallen short of the lofty expectations that have accompanied a proven offensive philosophy, and a solid stream of talent over the last five years.
The key game on the Ducks' schedule again this year will be against the No. 11 Stanford Cardinal.
The last two seasons Stanford has handed the Ducks their first loss of the season when the team seemed to be sailing toward a potential berth in the national championship game.
This year, Oregon's schedule is brutal. Before the team even faces the Cardinal, it will play two top-10 squads in Michigan State and UCLA, and No. 25 Washington. If the Ducks are still undefeated by the time they play Stanford it seems almost certain that they will be amongst the top-2 teams in every poll.
Getting over the Cardinal red hump in the road may be the last impediment toward reaching the playoff bracket. Stay tuned.