After what felt like an endless wait over a lengthy offseason, we finally find ourselves on the periphery of the 2014 college football season. On Wednesday, Week 1 will officially commence when Abilene Christian visits Georgia State in the first FBS game of the year.
Even though a single team has yet to take the gridiron, a pecking order has already been established. Two separate polls have been released—the Amway Coaches Poll and Associated Press Poll—giving us the nation's Top 25 teams, according to eligible voters.
These rankings are certainly highly debatable, as we have yet to witness the 2014 versions of these squads—every team is in flux over the offseason due to key departures and new arrivals. That said, let's take a look at both polls, note the differences and let the debate rage on into the regular season.
It's difficult to argue the fact that the Florida State Seminoles begin the season as the nation's top team. The reigning national champions will be carrying over a great deal of their talented 2013 roster—most notably Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston.
Nick Saban's Alabama squad is one of the country's top teams each year. Despite a quarterback controversy, the Crimson Tide's depth and experience make them a logical selection for the No. 2 team on each poll.
Here's where things get interesting.
While the coaches poll saw Oklahoma claim the No. 3 spot—and gain three first-place votes in the process—the AP poll concluded with Oregon obtaining the third ranking. This appears to be a debate between offense and defense.
Marcus Mariota and the Ducks ran the nation's second-most prolific offense one year ago, averaging 565 yards per game. This high-octane style of play could be even more dangerous in 2014 due to the team's well-rounded signal-caller.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller thinks rather highly of Mariota, pitting the quarterback first in his 2015 draft rankings:
Someone asked for this earlier: My 2015 NFL draft top 5—1. Mariota 2. Williams (USC) 3. Gregory (NEB) 4. Scherff (Iowa) 5. Winston (FSU)— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 25, 2014
On the other hand, we have Oklahoma's 20th-ranked defense from last season. The team allowed an average of 350.2 yards per game despite playing against several talented offenses. The question mark here could be the progression of quarterback Trevor Knight.
Ohio State and Auburn swap the No. 5 and No. 6 positions in the two polls, with the Buckeyes claiming the fifth seed in the AP poll and the Tigers on top in the coaches poll.
Both of these teams have some quarterback trouble heading into the season. Nick Marshall will be suspended for part of Auburn's first game due to a citation for possession of marijuana. Ohio State is in far worse shape after news broke that quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the 2014 season due to a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
Head coach Nick Saban is still confident in new starting quarterback J.T. Barrett, according to Ben Axelrod of Bleacher Report:
Urban Meyer confirms that J.T. Barrett is a little bit more of a natural leader than Braxton Miller. Very confident.— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) August 25, 2014
We'll see if these teams can maintain their poll positions in the absence of their starting signal-callers.
The final debate over varying positions in these polls is the absence of Missouri in the coaches poll and Texas in the AP poll.
Missouri finished 26th in voting in the coaches poll, obtaining 126 points and missing out on a Top 25 ranking by 16 points—Texas was ranked 24th. On the flip side, the Longhorns were the 28th-ranked squad in the AP poll with 86 points, finishing behind unranked UCF and Florida—Missouri was ranked 24th.
Many observers felt the Tigers deserved a Top 25 ranking due to a strong showing in 2013, finishing 12-2 while defeating five ranked teams along the way—including Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.
Sports Illustrated sure feels good about Missouri, ranking the team 22nd in their power rankings:
While Missouri did lose some talented players over the offseason, the team appears to be more deserving than a Texas team that was crushed by a score of 30-7 by Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. This, like every other preseason rankings scenario, is highly debatable.
Luckily, the regular season is just around the corner, and we're about to receive some clarity.
All poll information courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.