It's officially kickoff week for the 2014 college football season, and preseason polls have been pouring in as experts try to sort out where every team belongs despite no games to judge off of just yet.
You can't look too much into any preseason Top 25 poll considering the massive changes it's sure to see when the action starts to unfold. With that said, a number of schools have proven through last year and the offseason that they're a class above the rest. Those few may dominate the top of rankings lists all season long, while pretenders fall out of the Top 25 completely.
The Associated Press and Amway Coaches have both released preseason polls, and though there is little difference between them, both spur plenty of talking points and hot takes entering the new season.
Let's take a look at both the AP and the Amway preseason Top 25 and break down what the rankings mean.
|Rank||Associated Press Top 25||Amway Top 25|
|1||Florida State Seminoles||Florida State Seminoles|
|2||Alabama Crimson Tide||Alabama Crimson Tide|
|3||Oregon Ducks||Oklahoma Sooners|
|4||Oklahoma Sooners||Oregon Ducks|
|5||Ohio State Buckeyes||Auburn Tigers|
|6||Auburn Tigers||Ohio State Buckeyes|
|7||UCLA Bruins||UCLA Bruins|
|8||Michigan State Spartans||Michigan State Spartans|
|9||South Carolina Gamecocks||South Carolina Gamecocks|
|10||Baylor Bears||Baylor Bears|
|11||Stanford Cardinal||Stanford Cardinal|
|12||Georgia Bulldogs||Georgia Bulldogs|
|13||LSU Tigers||LSU Tigers|
|14||Wisconsin Badgers||Wisconsin Badgers|
|15||USC Trojans||USC Trojans|
|16||Clemson Tigers||Clemson Tigers|
|17||Notre Dame Fighting Irish||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|18||Mississippi Rebels||Arizona State Sun Devils|
|19||Arizona State Sun Devils||Mississippi Rebels|
|20||Kansas State Wildcats||Texas A&M Aggies|
|21||Texas A&M Aggies||Kansas State Wildcats|
|22||Nebraska Cornhuskers||Nebraska Cornhuskers|
|23||North Carolina Tar Heels||North Carolina Tar Heels|
|24||Missouri Tigers||Texas Longhorns|
|25||Washington Huskies||Washington Huskies|
AP source: ap.org / Amway source: USA Today
Top 25 Outlook
The 2014 season will begin just as last year's ended—with the college football world looking up at Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles.
Coming off an undefeated, national-championship season that included a Heisman Trophy, the Noles nabbed the No. 1 spot in both preseason polls. It's far from surprising, considering Jimbo Fisher still has a stacked cupboard of talent on both sides of the ball that will more than alleviate the burdens of losing Kelvin Benjamin, Devonta Freeman and Tim Jernigan.
Few have forgotten about another school stacked with talent that has been running things in college football for awhile. Alabama comes in at No. 2 despite ending last year with two straight losses. How the quarterback position develops with either Jacob Coker or Blake Sims will decide whether the Tide are truly title contenders this year.
Both the Seminoles and Tide will be hard-pressed to make it a two-man race—especially entering the first season of the College Football Playoff. Oregon, Oklahoma and Ohio State are the favorites from their respective conferences and could be in line to make the first-ever CFP.
The Sooners are generating plenty of talk, even notching the No. 3 spot on one preseason poll. If Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops continues his success over the Top 25 as ESPN's Jake Trotter shows, his team could win it all:
Bob Stoops’ career winning percentage against Top 25 teams is 68%; The rest of the Big 12’s coaches combined: 35% http://t.co/eSfiodR8ai— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) August 20, 2014
It will be easier said than done for the Buckeyes, who recently suffered a crushing blow by losing Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller for the season with a shoulder injury. The Columbus Dispatch's Tim May noted Ohio State's 2014 expectations among experts have tumbled since the news.
That might open things up for the Michigan State Spartans, who received a favorable Top 10 ranking and have last year's Big Ten Championship victory over the Buckeyes—and a Rose Bowl win—to build confidence off of.
But as much as some fans and even experts love to crown the top teams before the season begins, the teams just outside of the top five schools might be the most dangerous of them all.
The Auburn Tigers, last year's national runner-up who returned quarterback Nick Marshall, come in at a sneaky No. 6 in AP (No. 5 in Amway). Considering the Tigers were nowhere near ranked when last season began and it ended in Pasadena, they probably won't mind the ranking either way.
UCLA is much more than a dark horse in threatening Oregon's run at the Pac-12 title with Brett Hundley at the helm, and even a South Carolina or a Baylor could pull off the upset and win their conference with high early season aspirations.
But those who take the polls most seriously, or at least take most offense to them, are the schools that failed to be included at all.
The Michigan Wolverines were of that demographic, as quarterback Devin Gardner spoke some confident words in the wake of the Top 25, per Radio One Detroit's Lauren Beasley:
QB Devin Gardner says doesn’t care about preseason top 25. Only cares about where #Michigan is ranked at the end of the season.— Lauren Beasley (@LBeasley313) August 25, 2014
The rankings and polls are all fun and good, but nothing compares to the opportunity for these teams and players to make their own impact on said rankings. It's hard for some teams to be knocked off their perch in a certain poll, but through 12-plus games, each team will have its chance to make a mark.
With college football entering a new era of the CFP, though, the top of those rankings will be analyzed and critiqued more than ever, as four teams will stay alive for a national title when it's all said and done.