Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs!
Jim Mora may not have liked early postseason discussion, but that's what makes Week 1 of the 2014 college football season even more intriguing. With the new format, four teams—voted on by a selection committee—have the opportunity to play on the year's biggest stage. That means College Football Playoff (CFP) implications start now.
This year's Top 25 teams have already been established, per the AP Poll, but those rankings are set to change quickly, as some squads will be upset early and others will surge up the standings—simply take a look at the result of No. 9 South Carolina against No. 21 Texas A&M as a prime example.
The nation's top-four teams will qualify for the CFP at season's end, and based on their Week 1 matchups, they are all expected to begin the season with wins. However, could strength of victory be enough to shift the rankings before Week 2? Let's discuss.
No. 1 Florida State is looking for a successful title defense and kicks off the season against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were once known for a prolific offense, but uncertainty at the quarterback position may have changed that.
Head coach Mike Gundy told ESPN Radio (via Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com) junior signal-caller J.W. Walsh will get the start against the Seminoles in Week 1.
Said Gundy, "J.W. has taken the majority of the [first-team] reps and will be the guy that goes out there and starts for us."
Walsh had a bit or a roller-coaster showing last season, completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns against five interceptions. While those numbers aren't terrible, it will certainly be a tall task to keep up with reigning Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston and Florida State's vaunted defense.
Here's a look at a great comparison for the impending contest, via ESPN College Football:
Expect Florida State to roll here.
No. 2 Alabama has a quarterback quandary of its own. According to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, the team will start Blake Sims against West Virginia. However, another report noted the Crimson Tide could utilize Jacob Coker in a two-quarterback system as well.
Regardless of this situation, the matchup is simple: We have Alabama's fifth-ranked defense from a year ago facing a team that won only four games in 2013. Still, the Crimson Tide can't sleep on West Virginia, as the Mountaineers did upset No. 11 Oklahoma State in September last season.
Both of these teams have undergone significant changes from the 2013 season, and in this case, it's very difficult to bet against Nick Saban's very strong recruiting classes—and a potential feud with a certain quarterback, via this tweet from USA Today Sports:
WVU QB says his first kiss was with Nick Saban's daughter: http://t.co/vHsICIdc7N "So yeah... I don't know if I should have said that."— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) August 27, 2014
No. 3 Oregon is set to face a South Dakota team that gave up a slew of points last season—the Coyotes were defeated by North Dakota State 42-0 in their season finale. Taking that into consideration, imagine what the Marcus Mariota-led Ducks offense will do.
Oregon had the nation's second-ranked offense one season ago, averaging an astounding 565 yards per game. Mariota is expected to be in the Heisman running this year, and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal to make a strong statement out of the gate.
Mariota already finds himself in some elite company, per SportsCenter:
Alabama may need to start looking over its shoulder in short order.
No. 4 Oklahoma finished the 2013 season in style, defeating No. 6 Oklahoma State and No. 7 Alabama in consecutive games. Quarterback Trevor Knight was a big part in the team's late success, throwing for four touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl.
Now a sophomore, Knight can be expected to take a significant step forward. He's a dual-threat player who can beat defenses with his arm and his legs. Louisiana Tech's defense ranked 94th in the nation last season and shouldn't be a formidable threat for the signal-caller.
Bryan Fischer of NFL.com noted coach Bob Stoops' prowess with many quarterbacks in the Big 12:
Bob Stoops has eight Big 12 titles with six different quarterbacks. Going for another with Trevor Knight in 2014.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) August 25, 2014
The Sooners will easily maintain their No. 4 ranking when the dust settles after Week 1.
With all four of the top-ranked teams expected to win by significant margins on Saturday, don't expect to see any shifts in the updated CFP rankings. If you're looking to see these standings shaken up, waiting at least another week will be necessary.