College Football Rankings 2014: Official Preseason Polls and Playoff Projections

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College Football Rankings 2014: Official Preseason Polls and Playoff Projections
Phil Sears/Associated Press

The NCAA football Top-25 polls are virtually guaranteed to look almost nothing like their preseason iterations by the end of the season, but they still serve as a good primer on which teams will be in the running for the majority of the year, especially when you focus on the Top 10 or 15 and those highly coveted playoff spots.

The back end of the polls will without a doubt be unrecognizable in just a matter of weeks, but the top teams listed as of right now will surely be in the mix for a high-profile bowl game one way or another.

Let's take a look at the updated Top-25 preseason polls and make some predictions regarding which teams will have the pleasure of christening the inaugural post-BCS College Football Playoffs.

Preseason AP and Amway Top 25 Polls
Rank Associated Press Top 25 Amway Coaches 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

 

Playoff Projections

Florida State Seminoles

No sense in writing off the defending champions this year. With the electrifying Jameis Winston back in the fold, the Seminoles should have no trouble running the table in the ACC and catching the eye of the CFP selection committee this season.

Winston is coming off a season in which he threw for 40 touchdowns and a shade over 4,000 yards. His presence alone makes the Seminoles a great bet to show up in the national title game again, let alone the playoffs.

Sports Illustrated's Zac Ellis gave this breakdown on Winston's Heisman Trophy chances, which also doubles as a referendum on the 'Noles potential to repeat as national champions this year:

Despite the heightened scrutiny, the cards aren’t stacked entirely against Winston. Florida State opens with a primetime matchup against a beatable Oklahoma State team. The ‘Noles’ biggest games of the season thereafter -- ClemsonNotre Dame, Florida -- are in Tallahassee, save for a Thursday night trip to Louisville. Florida State returns 13 starters from the ACC’s best offense and defense last season. History may say otherwise, but the Heisman is Winston’s to lose.

Barring a spate of injuries, the Seminoles are perhaps the surest bet to compete in this year's playoffs. In fact, look for Winston to lead his teammates to the national championship game for the second year in a row.

 

Alabama Crimson Tide

Head coach Nick Saban is known for his obsessive nature and dogged demeanor, but all his meticulous preparation was undone by Auburn's Chris Davis in the 2013 Iron Bowl in a matter of seconds. The return of the missed field goal was a play so unbelievable that one could almost call it a fluke if only that word didn't have such a derisive connotation (and if the play itself weren't so ridiculously awesome). 

The Crimson Tide should have no trouble rolling through their schedule this season and should be the class of the SEC. There are still some unanswered questions surrounding this team, with the quarterback battle between Blake Sims and Jacob Coker most prominent among them.

The Associated Press' John Zenor reported via Twitter that the two signal-callers were listed as co-starters on the team's depth chart, proving that the situation is far from settled:

Saban hinted at possibly switching up quarterbacks within games, via Zenor:

This situation could prove untenable as the season progresses, but as long as a clear starter and leader emerges, the Crimson Tide can ride a crushing defense led by safety Landon Collins to the playoffs.

 

Oregon Ducks

Former head coach Chip Kelly's departure to the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles did little to slow down Oregon's blitzkrieg offense last season. Head coach Mark Helfrich kept the good times rolling, overseeing a team that put up an astonishing 45.5 points per game in 2013.

The Ducks should have no trouble repeating their high-scoring success this year, with players like quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Byron Marshall (1,038 yards, 14 touchdowns in 2013) back in the fold. Wide receiver could be a problem, but the system should help unearth some talent for Mariota to play with.

Helfrich wants his players to work hard, and the players have blue collars on the gray t-shirts they wear under their pads this year, per The Oregonian's Jason Quick.

"I think it's self explanatory: He wants that blue-collar worker, a guy who is going to come to practice and work. He told us he wants to be unable to tell if we like games or practices more," said Marshall, via Quick.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The UCLA Bruins are the greatest threat to the Ducks' Pac-12 dominance, but they keep losing great defensive players to the NFL, and although they have clearly done a fantastic job of reloading in recent seasons, it may put too much pressure on superstar quarterback Brett Hundley this season.

Honestly, it's tough enough for teams to keep their heads above water when playing the Ducks, such is the power and efficiency of their offense. It can be quite demoralizing for teams to play against, and the Ducks should have no trouble rendering the majority of their opponents powerless on their path toward the national championship game.

 

Michigan State Spartans

The unfortunate injury to Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller shakes up the race for Big Ten supremacy this season. The Spartans are No. 8 in both the AP and Amway preseason polls, but they have plenty of talent and could surprise plenty of college football fans this season.

Look out for a stifling defense that returns some excellent talent to keep this team's playoff dreams alive. Last season, the Spartans defense allowed just 20 offensive touchdowns and gave up 4.37 yards per play, via NCAA.com. Shilique Calhoun is a menace at defensive end and the star of the unit, finishing last season with 37 tackles and 7.5 sacks.

Mark A. Cunningham/Getty Images

The Spartans will also return star quarterback Connor Cook, who finished last season with 2,755 passing yards and 22 touchdowns against just six interceptions.

They have a big test against the aforementioned Ducks this season, which could hinder their chances if a team like Oklahoma manages to stay perfect (or close to it), but as long as they keep that contest close, they have a fantastic outside shot at getting the fourth playoff bid. After all, head coach Mark Dantonio knows in order to be counted among the best, you have to beat the best.

"I've never really said, 'Oh, no, I don’t want to play those guys,'" he said regarding Oregon, via Brian Bennett of ESPN.com. "I just feel like, if you're going to be a champion, you have to be willing to take on all comers."

New playoffs, new system. The opportunity is there for the taking for the Spartans.

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