Much to the surprise of no one, the Florida State Seminoles will open the season right where it finished in 2013—at the top.
Florida State received 57 of the 60 first-place votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released on Sunday, making them the team to beat during the upcoming 2014 season.
Take a look at the poll results:
For comparison, also check out the Amway Coaches Poll, via USA Today:
It makes a lot of sense to see Florida State atop both polls. Heisman winner Jameis Winston is returning after a stellar first season in college football. He tossed 40 touchdowns and racked up 4,057 yards through the air during his freshman campaign, and he'll be looking for even more as a sophomore.
Kelvin Benjamin, one of his favorite targets last season, is now in the NFL, but he still has more weapons to play with. The Seminoles are returning a majority of their players on both offense and defense, meaning we could see a strikingly similar team.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher has the same goals this year as he did last year—win the national championship. Fisher told Tess Quinlan of USA Today that he appreciates the No. 1 ranking in the Amway Coaches Poll, but his team still has to work:
We're very excited about being No. 1 and happy to be No. 1, but we understand that we have to play like No. 1 and play great football. That's going to be our objective. We're proud to start there and now we just have to go play great football.
There is no added pressure. Our goal every year is to win the national championship. That's why we're at Florida State.
Another notable team in the AP poll is Oregon. The Ducks were one of the top teams in the nation last year before a pair of disappointing losses in November derailed their hopes for the national title. Marcus Mariota is back this season hungry for more, however.
Figured to be one of the top picks in the 2015 NFL draft, Mariota needs to improve his completion percentage this year to open more eyes in the NFL. He went from 68.5 percent completions as a freshman to 63.5 percent as a sophomore. Now a junior, it's time for the quarterback to shine.
ESPN College Football likes Mariota as a Heisman favorite:
He's already one of the most talented players in the nation, and other head coaches have recognized that:
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian says on SportsCenter Marcus Mariota is the best offensive player he's coached against in the Pac-12, ever.— Sean Michael Meagher (@sean2m) August 15, 2014
A Heisman trophy would be just what Mariota needs to cap his stellar career and move on to the NFL.
A final team to note is Texas A&M. In the post-Johnny Manziel era, the Aggies will turn to sophomore Kenny Hill to lead the charge, as the team announced on its official Twitter account on Saturday.
The decision took months to happen, as head coach Kevin Sumlin waited for both Hill and Kyle Allen to showcase their skills:
.@CoachSumlin: (1/2) “Competition was close and that competition will continue to help us improve."— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) August 16, 2014
.@CoachSumlin: (2/2) "“I have talked to both quarterbacks as well as the team and we will prepare with Kenny getting the first-team reps.”— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) August 16, 2014
We'll learn a lot about the Aggies when they open their season on August 28, as they'll face the South Carolina Gamecocks, No. 9 in both the Amway and AP polls.
With a bevy of quality teams this season, college football is set to usher in its new playoff system in grand form. It will be interesting to see if Florida State can maintain the top spot or if another team will rise up and take down the defending champs.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR