The 2014 college football season can't come soon enough, and along with the excruciating wait comes the infamous preseason top 25 rankings, starting with the Amway Coaches Poll.
The system has received some flak for releasing standings before a single game is even played, and it's typically wise not to look too much into the Top 25 until the season runs its course a bit. But with juggernauts like Alabama, Oregon, Auburn and especially defending champion Florida State at the top, there is plenty to be made about these opening rankings.
With that said, there might be a program not even on the list that will end up representing their school in the first ever College Football Playoff. It's far from fool-proof, as we've seen teams like Auburn go from unranked in the preseason to the cusp of a title months later.
Here is how the first Amway Coaches Poll provided by USA Today:
|Rank||Team (1st-Place Votes)|
|1||Florida State Seminoles (56)|
|2||Alabama Crimson Tide|
|3||Oklahoma Sooners (3)|
|4||Oregon Ducks (1)|
|6||Ohio State Buckeyes (1)|
|8||Michigan State Spartans|
|9||South Carolina Gamecocks (1)|
|17||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|18||Arizona State Sun Devils|
|20||Texas A&M Aggies|
|21||Kansas State Wildcats|
|23||North Carolina Tar Heels|
Breaking Down Top 25
Even before Kelvin Benjamin skied up to make the championship-winning catch that put Florida State over Auburn, there was little doubt the Seminoles would start 2014 as the top team in the land.
Jameis Winston is coming off a Heisman campaign entering his redshirt sophomore year—yes, sophomore. He only looked mortal for about one half of the entire 2013 season, which he quickly rebounded from in the BCS National Championship Game to win it all.
Winston loses a few of his top targets. But with 13 returning starters, stockpiled top recruiting classes and a nasty defense, there's no safer bet than the Seminoles to make the new playoff, as ESPN Stats and Information noted:
According to ESPN Football Power Index, Florida State has a 40% chance of going undefeated during the regular season pic.twitter.com/coTLAeE8CD— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 31, 2014
But if they get there, that will just be the start.
After Florida State, the Top Five is understandably packed with the SEC's elite. Never far behind—if at all behind—is Nick Saban and Alabama at No. 2.
Recent staples like A.J. McCarron and C.J. Mosley are gone, and Saban doesn't even know who his starting quarterback will be entering fall camp. But an incredible stretch of recruiting and depth-building should allow the Crimson Tide to be a force yet again, not to mention the sour taste of ending last year 0-2.
Right in the thick of things with Alabama is No. 3 Oklahoma. The Sooners ended 2013 just about as solid as you can without lifting the national title trophy, convincingly beating the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.
One can never count out Oregon's mix of speed and talent, either. If the three coaches who slotted the Ducks as their No. 1 team are right, Mark Helfrich's squad might rebound from a rocky 2013 to win the Pac-12 and threaten the playoff.
Who is the nation's top team entering the season?
Of course, then there's the rest of the SEC. Alabama has four teams just from the cutthroat SEC West accompanying it in the rankings, including arch-rival Auburn—last year's Cinderella. Steve Spurrier's South Carolina team cracked the Top 10, but other powerhouses like LSU and Georgia are also lurking in the Top 15.
With title-contending schools like No. 6 Ohio State, No. 8 Michigan State, No. 7 UCLA and No. 10 Baylor also in the fold, it's splitting hairs to decide which four teams will survive and advance to the playoff.
Much of the college football world got their wish when the four-team College Football Playoff was announced, and we're only a few gridiron-packed months away from figuring out who it will feature.
But with so many contenders vying for four exclusive spots, the stakes will be enormous from Week 1 all the way to the conference championships.