Clay Travis: Florida State leads early Top 25 for 2014
Jan 08, 2014 1:00a ET
First top 25 for 2014
Already missing college football? Good, because with the 2013 season behind us, it's time to argue about the best teams entering 2014. Clay Travis offers his first early look at next season's top 25.
Photo: Ronald Martinez/Harry How/Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Yeah, yeah, I'm crazy, I know.
But, guess what, Florida's still going to have a really good defense. And I happen to believe that Jeff Driskel, when healthy, is a good college quarterback.
That means the Gators can rise from the college football dead this year. Photo: Joel Auerbach / Getty Images North America
24. Notre Dame
It's a good thing Everett Golson is back because the Fighting Irish’s 2014 schedule is totally brutal, featuring 10 bowl teams — plus Northwestern, who won 10 games in 2012 before losing every close game this past season.
Good luck, Brian Kelly, you're going to need it. Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery / Getty Images North America
Remember wunderkind head coach Chris Petersen?
I feel like most haven't realized he's taken over at Washington.
The Huskies lose QB Keith Price and RB Bishop Sankey, but they've got one of the best defenses in the Pac 12. Photo: Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images North America
Yes, the Hurricanes have to replace departing senior quarterback Stephen Morris, but Miami will retain a number of skill position players, and the woeful defense should be much improved next season.
So far Al Golden has kept things together with smoke and mirrors at Miami; starting in 2014, there will be a bit more depth in place. Photo: Joel Auerbach / Getty Images North America
21. Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy's reached a point in time when his program deserves a top 25 ranking even when you're not really sure how they're going to shake out in 2014.
We'll find out about the Cowboys early when they open with — gulp — Florida State in Dallas. Photo: Stacy Revere / Getty Images North America
Sure, senior QB Tajh Boyd is finally gone — and Sammy Watkins probably is too — but Chad Morris, assuming no one hires him, will have the offense in good shape. The defense should be solid as well.
But Clemson has a tough draw on the schedule again, highlighted by meetings with Georgia and South Carolina plus a trip to Tallahassee to face FSU.
Madness. Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images North America
19. Texas A&M
The Johnny Manziel era is all but over in College Station, but, thankfully, so is the 2013 defense.
Kevin Sumlin has recruited well in his two years in charge and now's the time for some of that young depth to start proving itself.
Will it? Photo: Joe Robbins / Getty Images North America
Look at it this way: Last year a USC team coached by three different guys won 10 games.
Now that Steve Sarkisian is in charge, the talent's not actually that bad.
Sophomore QB Cody Kessler played great in the bowl game while the defense returns solid depth. Photo: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images North America
17. Ole Miss
QB Bo Wallace returns for his senior season to lead an offense that should be very explosive. But it's the defense that might well have Rebel fans on their feet screaming, "Hotty Toddy."
With a forgiving schedule — Vanderbilt and Tennessee as the SEC East opponents, and Alabama and Auburn both coming to Oxford — could this be the year the Rebels finally contend for the SEC West? Photo: Wesley Hitt / Getty Images North America
16. Arizona State
Todd Graham's crew won the Pac 12 South, but just couldn't handle Stanford's brute force in the conference championship. Well, that will probably still be the case in 2014, but with QB Taylor Kelly returning, the offense should be even more explosive.
But about that defense... Photo: Robert Stanton / USA TODAY Sports
Wisconsin doesn't play Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan in 2014.
So who in the world is going to beat them in the Big Ten?
If Wisconsin can get past LSU in the season opener, we're talking about a team whose toughest remaining games would be at Northwestern and at Iowa. Photo: Jamie Sabau / Getty Images North America
A healthy RB like Todd Gurley is enough alone to make most teams fit in the top 15.
Assuming Georgia returns its players with injuries, keeps starters on defense from being suspended, and QB Aaron Murray’s replacement Hutson Mason proves decent, the Bulldogs should be a bit of a sleeper in 2014. Photo: Scott Cunningham / Getty Images North America
The Maty Mauk era is about to begin, and the rising sophomore may have the best receiver in the country in Dorial Green-Beckham. That's good news considering Mizzou will need to score quite a bit for a defense taking big hits this offseason. Photo: Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports
12. Michigan State
Look out: Connor Cook belongs atop quite a few Heisman ballots coming into 2014. While the defense won't be as stout as it was this past season, the offense should be good.
But good enough to win at Oregon? Photo: Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY Sports
The Tigers lose a quarterback, two stud receivers, and several defensive linemen.
Guess what that means?
LSU will still be very good in 2014.
How? The Tigers return their entire offensive line and have a bevy of running backs. Plus, defensive coordinator John Chavis will organize a stellar defense. Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images North America
With QB Brett Hundley back for his third year at the helm, it's reasonable to believe the Bruins could finally challenge Oregon and Stanford for the Pac 12 crown.
We'll know more once the full conference schedule is released. Photo: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images North America
9. Ohio State
Head coach Urban Meyer still hasn't beaten a top 15 opponent during his tenure at Ohio State. But with QB Braxton Miller back under center, odds are the Buckeyes may finally pull off that feat this year. Photo: Brian Spurlock / USA TODAY Sports
8. South Carolina
Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks have won 11 games for three straight seasons. Sure, QB Connor Shaw and DE Jadeveon Clowney are gone, but this team still returns a great deal on both sides of the football.
QB Dylan Thompson is well schooled in Spurrier ball, and the Gamecocks have proven they can beat elite teams.
Until Spurrier leaves or a season goes off the rails, the Gamecocks belong in the top ten in every preseason poll. Photo: Peter Aiken / Getty Images North America
Oklahoma returns 17 starters from a team that mauled Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. So why didn't the Sooners play like that all season? Uncertainty at the quarterback position.
Freshman QB Trevor Knight played the game of his life against 'Bama in the Sugar Bowl. It sure looks like Oklahoma has found its offensive leader. Photo: Chuck Cook / USA TODAY Sports
So long as coach Art Briles and QB Bryce Petty are a tandem, you know points will follow.
Sure, the Bears lose a bunch on the offensive line and many top defensive playmakers are gone. But, if you've got a top quarterback and a top coach, you win big in college football.
Baylor has both. Photo: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images North America
A healthy Marcus Mariota will be back to lead an offense that looked unstoppable through eight games this season.
Then the wheels fell off.
There are no real concerns on offense, but that defense? We'll see. Photo: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images North America
The Cardinal are a blue-collar machine, and for the past several years Stanford has been next man up.
That will remain the case in 2014, with a likely date at Oregon determining the champ of the Pac-12 North. Photo: Harry How / Getty Images North America
Sure, Alabama loses AJ McCarron and LB CJ Mosley, but did you see TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry at running back? And what about a healthy Amari Cooper at wideout? ‘Bama needs to find a quarterback, but here's betting that Nick Saban can do so.
The defense, meanwhile, will remain stout. Photo: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images North America
Auburn returns virtually its entire offense — assuming RB Tre Mason stays — and now QB Nick Marshall gets an entire offseason to learn Gus Malzahn's playbook.
Look out, you ain't seen nothing yet. Photo: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images North America
1. Florida State
The last defending national champion and Heisman trophy winner to return at quarterback was Matt Leinart.
That turned out nearly perfect for USC, as the Trojans advanced to the 2006 BCS title game before losing to Vince Young and Texas.
With Jameis Winston back at Florida State, the Seminoles are odds-on favorites to repeat. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA TODAY Sports
Ordering 2013 bowl games from ultimate snoozer to top marquee matchup