The 2014 college football season is rapidly approaching. Are you excited? We’re excited! We’re also here to help you prep for the impending campaign with a steady stream of preview content. So check back daily (well, not on weekends!) for more on the players, teams, leagues, trends, and emojis destined to define this season. Roll Tide. Or War Damn Eagle. Whichever.
Today: Grantland’s college football enthusiasts offer their forecasts for the 2014 playoff participants, national champion, and Heisman winner, and share their outlandish predictions. We’re all prepared to look very dumb in a few months; are you prepared to join us?
• Florida State: As much as I’d like to see Duke football make the big time, I live in the world.
• UCLA: My concern about the personnel turnover on defense is overridden by a schedule that gives the Bruins a couple of warm-up weeks and stacks most of the scariest games at or after the season’s midpoint. (This makes facing Texas in the Jerry Dome and Arizona State on the road in September the “easier” games, which, welcome to the Pac-12.)
• Baylor: This could just as easily be an Oklahoma pick; all I’m comfortable counting on out of the Big 12 is a terrifically fun cannibal fight to watch in November.
• South Carolina: This is one of those times when I’m counting on all of you to clap your hands if you believe in the Gamecocks, so that we might all be treated to the spectacle of Steve Spurrier press conferences well into January.
Heisman Trophy Winner
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: An already preternaturally gifted player will be further elevated by wagonloads of surrounding talent and experience, and by a schedule that helpfully spaces out marquee games with many sure blowouts.
I’m doubling down on my prediction for an undefeated Navy season. The misfortunes striking both Ohio State and Notre Dame over a single week suggest powers beyond our understanding shaping events to fall the way of the Middies — unless you’re prepared to suggest the gods are Michigan fans, and I think we all recognize that’s far-fetched. Best of all, if you disagree with me, you are anti-American.
• Florida State: No. 1 beyond a shadow of a doubt.
• Oregon: The Ducks look as good as ever on paper. If this isn’t the year, with Marcus Mariota in (presumably) his final tour at quarterback, then when?
• Oklahoma: I’m not sold that Trevor Knight has turned the corner for good, but I am sold on the defense and the respectable-but-not-too-tough schedule.
• USC: Believe me, I know. I was prepared to go with Ohio State before the Buckeyes’ season entered code red. But the Trojans remain the gold standard for raw talent west of the Mississippi, they have a relatively manageable schedule (no Oregon or Washington from the Pac-12 North), and we saw over the back half of last season how high their ceiling is when they’re no longer burdened by Lane Kiffin. I could go on — Leonard Williams! Nelson Agholor! A competent quarterback! — but do you really need to hear more than “fired Lane Kiffin”?
Heisman Trophy Winner
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: I realize this pick is as infuriating to Florida State fans as it is boring to everyone else, but with all due respect to Jameis Winston’s game, it’s nearly impossible for a reigning Heisman winner to repeat under any circumstances. As long as he’s healthy, Mariota is a known quantity whose time has come.
The SEC will be shut out of the playoff. Capitals will burn if this happens, but none of the contenders in God’s Own Conference looks like an obvious choice to run away from the pack. Most of them — Alabama, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M — are breaking in new quarterbacks in place of wildly productive, multiyear starters. The defending champ, Auburn, got by on the skin of its teeth in 2013, and with a relatively atrocious defense. (You wouldn’t know it from the preseason polls, but the Auburn offense also lost a Heisman finalist in the backfield and the second overall pick in the draft on the offensive line.) Missouri lost the core of the lineup from last year’s surprise run to the conference championship game. Florida is coming off its worst season in decades. Ole Miss is beginning to close the talent gap, but is still a year away from a real breakthrough. And the perennial problem: They all have to play each other. Alabama is the de facto pick to win the conference because the Crimson Tide are the equivalent of a safe, blue-chip stock. Just as likely, though: No front-runner will emerge, every team will suffer multiple losses, and the playoff committee will opt for teams with fewer scars from the other dogs in their own leagues….Share on Facebook