College Football

Preseason College Football Rankings 2014: Teams That'll Validate Hype in Week 1

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 07:  Quarterback Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles passes against the Duke Blue Devils during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2014

Experts think they know which teams will dominate college football on a yearly basis, but nothing is for certain until they actually take the field.

The season is now officially underway, and the bulk of the teams ranked in the Top 25 will have an opportunity to show what they can do on Saturday.

Some ranked teams are bound to lose, but others will definitively prove that they are forces to be reckoned with. Conference titles and bowls can't be won in the first week of the season; however, they can often be lost.

Here are three teams in particular that will validate the preseason hype and get the year started in ideal fashion.

 

College Football Rankings

2014 AP Preseason College Football Rankings
RankTeamPoints
1Florida State1496
2Alabama1361
3Oregon1334
4Oklahoma1324
5Ohio State1207
6Auburn1198
7UCLA1106
8Michigan State1080
9South Carolina1015
10Baylor966
11Stanford885
12Georgia843
13LSU776
14Wisconsin637
15USC626
16Clemson536
17Notre Dame445
18Ole Miss424
19Arizona State357
20Kansas State242
21Texas A&M238
22Nebraska226
23North Carolina194
24Missouri134
25Washington130
Associated Press

 

Teams to Watch in Week 1

Florida State

On the heels of an undefeated season in which it won the national championship, expectations for Florida State are through the roof. Although the Seminoles did lose some key players to the NFL, there is still a great deal of talent in place for head coach Jimbo Fisher.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston tops the list at quarterback, and he will likely be the biggest key to Florida State's success once again in 2014. The Seminoles' first test in terms of establishing themselves as title favorites will come on Saturday night against Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys aren't ranked in the top 25, but they have consistently been among the nation's best teams in recent years, and they aren't to be taken lightly.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Florida State will be to avoid complacency. Almost every win came easily for the 'Noles last year, as evidenced by this statistic courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:

Being that dominant probably isn't sustainable over the course of two seasons. Florida State should certainly strive to reach that level, but the players have to understand that there will be some major challenges along the way.

Oklahoma State is an ideal team to start with since it went 10-3 last year but isn't necessarily among the elites in 2014. Florida State will look to make a statement in its first game since winning the national championship, and it will do so by beating the Pokes in fairly convincing fashion.

 

Oklahoma

After shocking Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl to cap off last season, Oklahoma is very much in the College Football Playoff mix. The Sooners are favored to win the Big 12, and they have the horses on both sides of the ball to vie for a national title.

Few gave Oklahoma a chance to beat the Crimson Tide last season, but quarterback Trevor Knight came of age in that game. In just the fifth start of his career, he passed for 348 yards and four touchdowns against one of the country's most dominant defenses.

Asking Knight to put up those numbers on a weekly basis is a bit too much, but he is looking forward to the challenges that 2014 will present, per Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (h/t NCAA.com):

It was fun to play like that and get a big win. But now, the Sugar Bowl is a baseline for us. That's the foundation. You want to build off that and get better every game. ... We're back on top, preseason No. 1 in the Big 12, and that's where we want to be. You come to Oklahoma to play in big games and have those predictions and to live up to them.

Oklahoma's season will begin Saturday with what should amount to a tune-up game against Louisiana Tech. The Sooners can afford to take their opponent lightly, but there isn't much of an upset threat present in this contest.

Sooner fans will essentially look for Knight and the offense to find a rhythm, and for the defense to be stout as it traditionally is. As long as those things happen, there will be plenty of excitement surrounding the Sooners after the opening week.

 

UCLA

There is no question that UCLA is among the most intriguing teams in the country this season. The Bruins are coming off a 10-win season, and they are possibly the biggest threat to knock Oregon from its perch atop the Pac-12.

Potential first-round NFL draft pick Brett Hundley is UCLA's biggest weapon. The dual-threat quarterback racked up over 3,800 total yards and 35 touchdowns for the Bruins in 2013. If his steady improvement continues in 2014, he will clearly be among the top Heisman Trophy candidates in the nation.

Along with Hundley, Myles Jack is bound to make life miserable for the opposition. Jack is primarily a linebacker, but he also lined up at running back last season and scored seven touchdowns in the process. No player in the country has as big of an impact on both sides of the ball as Jack does, which makes him a Heisman dark horse in his own right.

The one thing working against UCLA is that it hasn't proved to be a dominant team over multiple seasons. In fact, 2013 marked the Bruins' first double-digit win campaign since 2005. With so little winning experience on the team, Dan Wolken of USA Today views them as a somewhat unprecedented entity:

UCLA will have a chance to prove that it is for real in Week 1 against a tricky Virginia team. The Cavaliers were extremely poor last year in going 2-10, but they have a lot of talent on defense and are bound to improve.

Even so, this figures to be a showcase game for Hundley and the Bruins, and it will establish them as College Football Playoff contenders.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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