By the time the clock hit zero at the national championship game, all but one school had turned its attention toward next season.
With a 42-20 win over Oregon, Ohio State has proved itself as the best team in college football for the 2014 season. Aside from those residing in Big 12 territory, there is very little debate over this year's champion.
However, there will be many more questions going forward about which teams will be the best in 2015. Plenty of big stars across the nation are either graduating or moving on to the NFL, greatly impacting how things will look next season.
Obviously, a lot can change before August, from players leaving schools to recruiting battles and more. Still, here are early projections for the preseason Top 25 for next fall.
|Predicted Preseason Top 25|
|Rank||Final AP Poll||Predicted Preseason Poll|
|1||Ohio State||Ohio State|
|5||Michigan State||Michigan State|
|6||Florida State||Florida State|
|11||Mississippi State||Ole Miss|
|16||Boise State||Texas A&M|
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There are plenty of reasons to doubt Alabama going into next year. The Crimson Tide lost to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl as part of a disappointing bowl season for the SEC West. Top playmakers Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Landon Collins have all decided to enter the NFL draft.
There will also be a change at quarterback after Blake Sims' year under center.
While a team like Oregon will see some drop-off after losing stars, Alabama should once again be a top contender for a national championship no matter who stays or goes.
Over the past five seasons, Nick Saban's team has been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in every preseason poll. This is not an accident or giving Alabama too much respect; it's a realistic goal based on the fact that this team reloads every offseason.
Jacob Coker appears set to take over the starting quarterback role, or one of a number of highly recruited players will challenge him. Derrick Henry will become the next star running back to carry the offense. Alabama also currently has the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports, which would match the rank for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
There will be plenty of inexperience, but the talent will still be there to go with arguably the best coach in college football. Challenging for another national title is a good possibility for this program.
After dropping from No. 3 to No. 6 in the final rankings and missing out on the College Football Playoff, TCU has every right to be disappointed. Keeping mentally strong after a devastating moment is difficult.
However, head coach Gary Patterson knew the Peach Bowl against Ole Miss could be a stepping stone for next season, via Heather Dinich of ESPN.com:
Like I said before we played Ole Miss, why was that game important? Because it could be a jump-start to this season. It’s part of your resume. As far as I’m concerned, that bowl game was part of this football team’s resume for next year. Everybody says you have to build a resume. To me, that’s what that game was.
With a 42-3 win over a team that had the lowest scoring defense in the nation, the Horned Frogs sent a serious message to the rest of the nation. You can overlook them if you want, but they are for real.
TCU will once again be led by Trevone Boykin, who still has plenty of room to improve at quarterback after switching positions from earlier in his career. Considering the Dallas native passed for 3,901 yards, rushed for 707 yards and totaled 41 touchdowns for one of the top offenses in the nation, that's a scary thought.
Suzanne Halliburton of the Austin American-Statesman explained why that unit could be even better in 2015:
TCU can go from odd man out to title favorite over the course of next season.
Considering all three players performed admirably under center, there remains a mystery as to who will be the man next season. As former Buckeyes star Troy Smith noted before the national championship, though, that is not necessarily a problem:
No matter who gets the starting job next season, the team will be confident it can continue its recent string of success.
Of course, you could probably put almost anyone at quarterback, and this group would still be one of the best in the nation in 2015.
Jason McIntyre of Yahoo Sports recently examined all of the talented youngsters who will be returning next season:
Ezekiel Elliott has proved in the postseason he is one of the top running backs in the nation, while Joey Bosa has the skills to be a Heisman Trophy candidate on the defensive side of the football.
While most teams will be losing impact players to the NFL draft, Ohio State's stars will be returning and getting better. After surprising almost everyone with a national title, this team should be ready to repeat in 2015.
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