2014 NCAA Football Preview: Final Thoughts

August 28, 2014

Every year I get closer and closer to actually releasing my Final Thoughts article before the season starts. I’ll take publishing it on the same day the season kicks off as a win considering the amount of work I’ve had to do this week.

Those of you who are familiar with the rundown, things are pretty much the same. For those of you new to the site, here’s what I’ll cover in this post:

Heisman Trophy Short List

Things I Think Will Happen

Playoff Picture/Access Bowl predictions

My Top 10

And if you’re interested in being one of the guest prognosticators for the Weekend Preview posts that will be published before each Saturday of the college football regular season, shoot me an email, Tweet or Facebook message. I’d love to have you on as a guest.

Heisman Trophy Short List

5. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama running back

Yeldon can thank the Crimson Tide both for being a Heisman Trophy contender as well as for ultimately keeping him from winning the greatest individual prize in college football. Despite his talent and obvious contributions to the Alabama offense, there is also a lot of talent around him. Sometimes it will be difficult to tell whether Yeldon is the best player on the field or just a product of his peers. Hard to call that a drawback, but in the case of winning the Heisman, it is a factor.

4. Bryce Petty, Baylor quarterback

There may not be a quarterback in the country with better stats than Petty by the end of the regular season, and that’s what will get the senior an invitation to New York City. This guy has control of one of the most potent offensive attacks in the country, and a lot of that success can be contributed to him. But not enough of it. Art Briles is an offensive mastermind and has been getting a lot out of his offense long before Bryce Petty showed up in Waco. RGIII may have won a Heisman for Baylor, but Petty won’t have the rushing numbers to go along with the insane passing stats he’s likely to post.

3. Jameis Winston, Florida State quarterback

Unless the pressure just gets to him or he doesn’t take this season as seriously as the last, there is no reason to suggest that Winston can’t have another year like 2013. But we’ve seen before that former Heisman winners can actually better their stats from one year to the next and not win a second trophy. It is my opinion that the committee doesn’t want to hand out a second Heisman Trophy to anyone but Archie Griffin, and that’s just fine by me. Winston will have a good year, perhaps a great year, but he won’t win it back-to-back. Still, he belongs on the list, just in case.

2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin running back

In Gordon you’re talking about a guy who is just as good as Yeldon but doesn’t have the team around him that the Alabama star does. The Wisconsin back will be expected to carry the team offensively in the biggest games of the year, and whether he delivers will determine how high on the voters’ list he climbs. Gordon will probably have to be one of the top five rushers in the nation (he was No. 10 in the country last season) to be a serious contender, but I think he’ll get there.

1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon quarterback

The goal for the Ducks this season is to make it back to the pinnacle of the college football world, and in order to do so Mariota will need to play like a Heisman contender all season. He chose not to enter the NFL Draft early, and while that was a good decision he also needs to avoid getting hurt. That means more pocket passing and less running around. If Mariota stays healthy, not only do I think that Oregon makes the playoff (spoiler alert), but its best player will walk away with the hardware.

Things I Think Will Happen

Four different conferences will make the playoff

SEC fans would like to think that its second best team will have just as good a shot at making the playoff as any other conference’s champion. Sorry guys, but that won’t happen in the inaugural year of the new system. There is enough talent elsewhere that we won’t need to double dip from any league in order to fill the four spots available. It is also quite possible that the SEC won’t even have the No. 1 overall seed, because if any school goes undefeated this year it will probably be from a different conference.

A mid-major school will win an “access bowl”

Since the access bowls are essentially the equivalent of a BCS bowl, this is a pretty big deal. The crop of decent mid-major squads looks to be pretty large this year, which increases the chances that we’ll see one of them shock one of the big boys. But this prediction is based heavily on the Marshall Thundering Herd. The Thundering Herd are exciting offensively and have a very capable leader at quarterback in Rakeem Cato who will keep the team focused. If Marshall ends up playing in one of those bowl games, don’t expect the team to be overwhelmed at all.

The playoff system will still confuse everyone and we’ll be calling for a change by the end of the season

Okay, so four teams are better than two and the semifinal games on New Year’s Day will allow college football to re-capture the holiday it once owned. But if the powers that be actually believe that we’ll be satisfied with the current system for another two decades, they’re crazy. The fifth team, better referred to as the first team on the outside, will more than likely have a very convincing argument for why they should have made the cut. And as I’ve argued since I started this blog, eight teams would not cause any more strain on the current setup of the regular season. We’ll try to enjoy this because it’s better than the past, but it’s just so difficult not to complain.

Playoff/Access Bowl Predictions

Orange Bowl – Alabama vs. Michigan State

Peach Bowl – Marshall vs. Miami (FL)

Fiesta Bowl – Kansas State vs. UCLA

Cotton Bowl – Georgia vs. Texas

Sugar Bowl (Semifinal 1) – Florida State vs. Auburn

Rose Bowl (Semifinal 2) – Oregon vs. Oklahoma

National Championship – Florida State vs. Oregon

My Top 10

10. Wisconsin


8. Ohio State

7. Georgia

6. Michigan State

5. Oklahoma

4. Alabama

3. Auburn

2. Florida State

1. Oregon

As I always do, I’ve really enjoyed writing these college football previews. Since I’m normally wrong in my predictions, please feel free to let me know what you think is going to happen, because there is a good chance it will probably be more accurate. You can comment on any one of my conference previews, send me an email at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, shoot me a tweet @KBecks_ATC or comment on Around The Corn’s Facebook page. I truly appreciate those of you who have read even one of my posts over the past month, and I hope that you’re as ready for an entertaining season of college football as I am! Thanks everyone.

– K. Becks

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