There is always an excitement when the first college football top 25 coaches poll is released, but this season feels different for various reasons. The adoption of the four-team playoff system undoubtedly is at the top of the list.
As much as we look forward to the release of the polls, it's important to remember that no one knows anything at this point. All the rankings are based on last year's results and talent potential for the upcoming season.
That's also what makes analyzing the poll so much fun, because we know how dramatically the entire top 25 is going to shift throughout the year that it's fun to look at what's expected to happen before the first snap.
We are going to criticize, critique and praise the first coaches poll of the 2014 season, looking at which schools are getting too much love by reputation, which school is underrated because of history and things in between.
|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|
Best Selection: Florida State at No. 1
Even though it seems easy to put Florida State as the top team in the country coming off a national championship season and returning Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, look at the quality depth around college football.
Alabama has played in the BCS five of the last six years, had the top-ranked recruiting class in 2014 according to 247Sports.com and Nick Saban is still coaching the Crimson Tide. Oregon has won at least 11 games in each of the last four years and returns quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Despite all of those obstacles, the Seminoles pass the smell test for a team that can go back to back. A deep study of the schedule shows Florida State is still the favorite to win the 2014 national championship, per ESPN.com's Stats & Info on Twitter:
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
Some of the confidence in Florida State likely comes from a softer ACC schedule than what Alabama will see in the SEC (at LSU, vs. Auburn) or Oregon will see (vs. Michigan State, vs. Stanford, at UCLA).
However you want to slice it, the Seminoles have earned their spot at the top and will be up there until someone knocks them off their perch.
Overrated Selection: Oklahoma at No. 3
What's the biggest story from the 1st 2014 Coaches Poll?
This is a clear-cut case of voters overrating one win last year in a bowl game after Saban said the Sugar Bowl was basically a glorified "consolation game" for Alabama following that heartbreaking loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Whether that means Alabama players weren't focused is another story that we will never know the answer to, but when you go from the high of nearly playing for a national title to "settling" for another bowl game, regardless of its profile, and have more than a month in between games to hear people talk about how crushing the Auburn loss was, there will be some lingering effects.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was more than happy to fire back at Saban during Big 12 media days in July, via ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy:
Stoops on Saban’s consolation game quote: “So if I’m not in a national championship game, that means I’ve got a built in excuse"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 23, 2014
Yet, where is the signature regular-season win for Oklahoma in the last four years? Maybe Oklahoma State in 2010, though the Cowboys haven't played defense since Mike Gundy took over as head coach. Florida State in 2011 when the Seminoles were an overrated No. 5 team?
This isn't to say that Oklahoma is a bad team—far from it. But putting the Sooners ahead of Oregon, Michigan State, UCLA or even conference rival Baylor is a gross misrepresentation of how good the team is going to be.
Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com asked the question about Oklahoma being significantly higher than Baylor in his analysis of the coaches poll:
Oklahoma will boast an experienced and athletic defense, but voters are blindly assuming that Trevor Knight and the offense will look more like they did that one night in January than the 12 games before that, ranking 81st nationally in yards per attempt (6.8).
Put it this way: What happened over the offseason that lifted OU seven spots higher than a Baylor team that won the Big 12 last season and beat the Sooners 41-12?
Consistency from year to year is a hallmark of Stoops' tenure in Oklahoma. The team has won at least 10 games in each of the last four seasons and been in the top 10 twice, but never higher than sixth.
The Sleeper: Clemson at No. 16
There's always a team that starts outside the top 10, puts together a fantastic year no one saw coming and finishes inside the top 10. Last year, Florida State was 12th in the initial coaches poll and won the national title. Two years ago, Notre Dame wasn't even ranked when the season started and wound up playing for the national title.
This year, while there are solid options to choose from—Georgia being a good example—the team that immediately jumps out is Clemson at No. 16. The Tigers have a lot of talent to replace, with quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant going to the NFL.
Eddie Timanus of USA Today noted some of the issues Clemson will face in trying to replace all that talent before putting a positive spin on things:
New signal caller Cole Stoudt is a senior who's been in the system but never started a game. WR Mike Williams could emerge as the new deep threat. There's better news on defense, where DEs Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford and DT Grady Jarrett will create havoc in opposing backfields.
This is where we see the strength of Dabo Swinney's underrated and overlooked defense play a key role for the Tigers in 2014. That front seven was fantastic, and the team finished with 42.5 sacks and 24th in points allowed per game.
All-American defensive end Vic Beasley will anchor one of the best front fours in the ACC, and Cole Stoudt is not without experience at quarterback, with 119 attempts over the last three years and a completion percentage of 72.3 with eight touchdowns and one interception.
If the Tigers are going to be a contender in 2014, we will know right away. Their first three games are at Georgia, home against South Carolina, at Florida State and home against North Carolina.
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