Top 25 Poll
Others receiving votes: Northern Illinois, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin
Dropped from the rankings: Northern Illinois (15), Wisconsin (18), Fresno State (19), Marshall (22)
25 (NR). North Texas (9-4) – The Mean Green finished with a top 10 defense and a couple really nice wins on their schedule. They were the best of the mid majors.
24 (20). Duke (10-4) – The Blue Devils got handled by Florida State, yet they put a serious fight into Texas A&M with the whole country watching. It took a furious “last hurrah”-type comeback from Johnny Football to take them down.
23 (NR). Texas A&M (9-4) – Whether Manziel returns or not, this team will never reach the top of the SEC without focusing on defense.
22 (NR). Nebraska (9-4) – Beating Georgia did wonders for this team, who was heading into another disappointing offseason with potentially four straight bowl losses. Now they have some momentum and a host of returning players.
21 (NR). USC (10-4) – They stifled that potent Fresno State offensive attack and completed a nice year, given the early season struggles. Coach Sark should get them back to the top of the conference in a couple years.
20 (10). Arizona State (10-4) – They ended their season with a couple bad losses. They were looking at a potential Rose Bowl, instead they end with a bad loss against the freefalling Red Raiders. They were just a different team when Grice was healthy.
19 (NR). Notre Dame (9-4) – They are the only team that defeated Michigan State. Looking back on their results, they had an impressive run. It was definitely not a disappointment after losing their starting QB before the season. When he returns, they could make their way back into the National Championship picture.
18 (25). Washington (9-4) – They looked mighty impressive in their bowl win over a solid BYU club. With Chris Petersen taking over the program, they could move from the second tier to the elite within a few years. Watch out next year even.
17 (21). LSU (10-3) – The team took out its counterpart in the Big Ten, which was a hard-fought and entertaining game. Without a rash of injuries, this team could have been one of the truly great teams out there. Cam Cameron did wonders for that offense.
16 (5). Oklahoma State (10-3) – After the Bedlam loss and getting taken apart by the Missouri offense, the Cowboys still had a good season. Mike Gundy usually wins his big games, so don’t count on a collapse next year. He needs to settle on one QB in the offseason and let him lead, though. What he did this year killed the rhythm of the team.
15 (8). Baylor (11-2) – They got shell-shocked by UCF, who blew the doors off the solid Bears defense. They are always just one or two games away from being great every year. If Petty returns, then they should be in the preseason top 5.
14 (14). UCLA (10-3) – I still believe that this team can beat anyone on any day. They are just too inconsistent. Watch out for Brett Hundley returning for his junior year…he should dominate the conference alongside Myles Jack.
13 (2). Ohio State (12-2) – Two straight losses after 24 in a row? Nice. That defense was pretty terrible in their last three games. With any help on that side of the ball, this team would not have lost at all.
12 (13). Clemson (11-2) – The Orange Bowl win proved that this team was a lot better than we originally thought. That is two straight big bowl wins for Dabo Swinney and company, proving that the ACC is not really all that bad.
11 (9). Stanford (11-3) – The Cardinal had another great year, beat Oregon, and still had those couple preventable losses that prevent us from seeing them finally compete for a national title.
10 (4). Alabama (11-2) – I really thought this was still maybe the best team in the nation, right up until kickoff of the Sugar Bowl. Their defensive inefficiencies were eye-opening.
9 (17). Louisville (12-1) – The Cardinals had another impressive win a key bowl game against a Florida school. This team will be a real threat in the ACC next year.
8 (6). Missouri (12-2) – The Tigers showed that their defense was overrated in the SEC Championship Game, and they showed that it was actually pretty good in the Cotton Bowl. Their success is the most damning evidence against the SEC’s perceived dominance of the sport.
7 (16). UCF (12-1) – Whipping Baylor the way they did showed not only that they were legitimate, but that the conference may have been as well. Who knew?
6 (11). Oregon (11-2) – The Ducks ended with another easy win over a team with a lot of motivation. If only they hadn’t tripped up in Arizona, we would have been talking about another BCS trip for the guys in green.
5 (24). Oklahoma (11-2) – Who really thought the Sooners had a chance to beat Alabama? Hell, who thought they could score a point after that head-scratching Bedlam win? Not me. They looked like they could beat anyone on that day.
4 (12). South Carolina (11-2) – This is one of the most confusing and tough-minded teams I have come across. They still make no sense, but looking at their wins, they must have been something special.
3 (3). Auburn (12-2) – The miracles finally came to an end for the Tigers, who had probably the most impressive turnaround in college football history.
2 (7). Michigan State (13-1) – They might be the best team in the nation, and probably would have won a tournament if there was one (and if they were invited). All they do is convert 3rd downs and prevent offenses from doing so. They among the most unglamorous and nasty teams I have seen.
1 (1). Florida State (14-0) – They are National Champs and had perhaps one of the most dominant seasons in the BCS era.
Top 3 Worst Preseason Predictions
3. Butch Jones as Coach of the Year in the SEC and a National Coach of the Year Candidate
2. Duke finishing last in the ACC Atlantic
1. Missouri finishing last in the SEC East
Top 3 Best Preseason Predictions
3. Entire Pac-12 North correctly ranked, with only the top 2 teams flipped
2. AJ McCarron as 2nd in the Heisman
1. Texas A&M finishing 4th in the SEC West, despite a preseason top 10 ranking
Top 5 Coaches of the Year
5. George O’Leary, UCF – The school’s first year in a “major” conference could not have gone better. Honestly, they were a South Carolina comeback away from being unbeaten and having a real argument for being in the BCS Championship Game…
4. David Cutcliffe, Duke – He took a school that doesn’t care about football and won the division. This is a team who had almost two decades between bowl games. He should get himself a real job in the near future.
3. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State – The landmines that the team has experienced the past few years were not only dodged, but became completely irrelevant. Until the championship game, they didn’t win by less than 2 touchdowns.
2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn – 3-9 with ZERO conference wins to playing for a national championship. That is all there is to say. He is an offensive genius.
1. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State – Early in the year, they could not move the ball. They ended with an efficient offense and still dominated the line of scrimmage on defense. Dantonio did more with less than I have ever seen. If Connor Cook had been starting all year, they would be national champs.
2014 Heisman Trophy Watchlist
5. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin – He had a huge year, and next year the backfield will be all his. He could have a 2000 yard season if they totally commit to the run the way they should behind that O-line.
4. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor – Their offense is always going to be humming. He is going to have a second year under the tutelage of Art Briles, so he could be even more efficient. Look for some RGIII-level stats next year.
3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon – He was the frontrunner this year, yet a couple midseason losses took him out of the running. He will return for his junior year, which promises to just as good as his outstanding first two seasons.
2. Myles Jack, RB/LB, UCLA – He is the most versatile player in the country, and when he started playing offense, that team took it to another level. The kid is a freak.
1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State – The reigning Heisman winner and national champion will be in the spotlight all offseason and all of next season…just like Johnny Manziel was. I get the feeling that he is going to handle the pressure better, as will his coaching staff and teammates, given how the midseason scandal was taken care of.
Top 5 Games of 2013-2014
5. Clemson 38 – Georgia 35 – It was Week 1, and it was a matchup of top 10 teams. This was a huge game in the national landscape at the time, well before both teams were exposed defensively. This felt like a monster game, and it lived up to the hype. There is nothing quite like a night game in Clemson. It was a memorable scene and a brilliant display of potent offenses.
4. Ohio State 41 – Michigan 40 – It is always a nice idea to go for 2 and the win, but it almost never happens. Brady Hoke rolled the dice and came up short, but it was tremendous to watch. It is why we all love college football. One team is looking for a perfect season, and the other team is not great. They are rivals, so they both play their best and it is the most important game of the year for both teams. This is their most memorable matchup since the #1 vs #2 game back in ’06.
3. UCF 38 – Louisville 35 – At the time, this might not have been on anyone’s radar. After seeing UCF against South Carolina, it was clear that they were under-the-radar and maybe for real. This game proved to have a lot of twists and turns, and looking back on the year, there might not have been a more important October matchup. It was a back-and-forth affair, and it was decided in the final minute. Who would have thought this game would feature potentially the top 2 QBs in the NFL Draft?
2. Michigan State 24 – Stanford 20 – The Rose Bowl looked like the best bowl game heading in, and it turned out to be just that. It was the most brilliant display of pure football all year. If these two teams met 10 times, it would be a one-score game every time. They are mirrors of each other. There was no better matchup for the 100th Rose Bowl.
1. Auburn 34 – Alabama 28 – This was maybe the best game of the BCS era. If there was a better one, it would be the Texas-USC National Championship, but this was definitely the best regular season game I have ever seen. The quality of play, drama, and final sequence of plays…it exemplifies what college football is and what it means to so many people.
Thoughts on the season? Your favorite moments/games? Let me know!