The 2014 college football season is less than two weeks away, but ever since this year's Amway Coaches Poll was released, fans of the sport have been in constant debates over the preseason's Top 25 teams.
While certain teams appear to be worthy of their early rankings, others begin the season holding onto Top 25 positions many analysts would deem questionable. After all, these teams have undergone plenty of changes over the offseason—some for the better and others for the worse.
Let's go ahead and focus on a few teams listed in the Coaches Poll that are deserving of a higher ranking than they were given. But first, here's another look at the preseason rankings:
|2014 Amway Coaches Poll Results|
No. 5 Auburn
Even though this is still mostly the same team that went 12-2 a season ago, earning a berth in the BCS National Championship and keeping pace with the high-octane Florida State Seminoles, the Auburn Tigers have fallen to No. 5 over the offseason.
Quarterback Nick Marshall has had a turbulent offseason, which had led to a team-imposed partial-game suspension, and the team lost elusive running back Tre Mason to the 2014 NFL draft, but this is still one of the most prolific offenses in the NCAA.
Auburn ranked first in the nation in rushing offense last season, averaging 328.3 yards per game. What makes this team even scarier this year, though, is the development of Marshall as a passer.
He's been showing significant improvement during training camp, and running back Corey Grant shared his impression during an interview with Joel A. Erickson of AL.com.
Said Grant, "Nick seems more comfortable, he's making calls that he didn't make last year or that he was having trouble with."
Marshall's ability as a passer became visible toward the end of the 2013 season. Here's a telling graphic, via College GameDay:
Expect this team to be just as prolific as it was a season ago, rendering Auburn's No. 5 ranking a little low.
No. 8 Michigan State
The Spartans lost some key players over the offseason; however, this is still as complete of a team as it was a year ago.
Michigan State maintained one of the nation's most dominant defenses last season, finishing third in points allowed, third in passing defense, second in rush defense and second in total defense.
While a few players—including cornerback Darqueze Dennard—will not be returning this season, the Spartans defense is comprised of many experienced juniors and seniors. There's no reason to believe this unit will take a big step backward.
On the other side of the ball, the surprising Connor Cook will resume his position as the team's starting quarterback. Last season, Cook went on a tear, completing 58.7 percent of his passes for 2,755 yards and 22 touchdowns against just six interceptions.
Expect Cook to take a step forward once more this season. Here's what he had to say about his offseason, via Chris Vannini of 247Sports:
He'll be joined in the backfield by Jeremy Langford, a durable running back who compiled 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
This is easily a Top Five squad.
No. 10 Baylor
The Bears may be a bit of a surprise here, as being ranked No. 10 to begin the season is a step up from its final 2013 ranking of No. 13. However, this team remained mostly intact over the offseason and will surely contain one of the nation's most feared offenses once more.
Last season, Baylor ranked sixth in passing offense, 13th in rushing offense and first in the nation in scoring offense—the Bears averaged a whopping 53.4 points per game.
ESPN College Football reminded us why that offense was so prolific:
As a junior, Bryce Petty threw for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns against just three interceptions. No stranger to getting things done in the red zone, he also scored 14 rushing touchdowns on just 94 carries.
Petty will pick up right where he left off thanks to a very talented receiving corps led by Antwan Goodley, who racked up 71 receptions for 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
While running back Lache Seastrunk has departed to the NFL, Shock Linwood remains with the team and is poised to become a severe threat this season. Sharing time with Seastrunk last year, Linwood still accumulated 881 yards on 128 carries—an average of 6.9 yards—and eight touchdowns.
This team is every bit as good—and perhaps slightly better—than the 2013 version that went 11-2 and lost to the Blake Bortles-led UCF in a Fiesta Bowl shootout.