2014 Pre-Preseason Rankings No. 5-20
UCLA Brett Hundley
UCLA Brett Hundley
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 14, 2014


The very, very early look at the teams as spring ball kicks in - No. 5-20

2014 Spring Football Preview & Analysis
- The Four Best-Looking Teams Going Into Spring
- In the Hunt For College Football Playoff - No. 5-20
- The Very, Very Good, But Not Quite Elite - No. 21-30
- The Teams On The Verge Of Really Big Things - No. 31-40
- The Mid-Level Teams - No. 41-50 | No. 51-60
- Will Fight For A Bowl - Rankings No. 61-70 | No. 71-80
- Teams That Will Struggle - Rankings No. 81-90 | No. 91-100
- Automatic Wins - Rankings No. 101-110 | No. 111-120
- The Bottom 8 - Rankings No. 121-128
Follow us this offseason for latest posts ... @ColFootballNews

20 Texas
2013 Record: 8-5, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 41

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Most of the reasons Texas should've been better in 2013 are why it actually might be better in 2014. There's still a boatload of experience back from a team that was among the most experienced last year, and there's depth, skill, and a renewed energy.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Can Charlie Strong turn the Longhorns into killers? Yes, there's a ton of skill, and yes, there's NFL talent all across the board, but is there the dominant attitude a top team needs? This is still the team that got ripped apart by decent ground games. Offensive, can the team rely on David Ash staying healthy?
The 2014 Team Is Trending … impatient. Texas should've won the Big 12 title last year, and it should've been far stronger in key games other than Oklahoma. Every coach in America would dream about the team, facilities and potential that Strong now has, and he needs to win a national title yesterday.

19. Mississippi State
2013 Record: 7-6, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 53

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Dan Mullen's program has been waiting for this. With ten starters back on defense and eight back on offense, the team that closed out last year with a three-game flourish should be terrific – and dangerous. The defense will be among the best in the nation after allowing fewer than 350 yards per game last year, while the Bulldog attack will be dangerous as long as Dak Prescott is upright.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower:There's experience, but the talent doesn't compare to the rest of the SEC West. A bum slayer over the years, the Bulldogs will whack all the mediocre teams on the slate, but can they get past an Alabama? An LSU? Auburn? Ole Miss (again)? Maybe, but there might not be enough offensive pop to get to ten wins.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … shhhhhhhhh. With this defense and with Prescott under center, this is going to very, very quietly be a team that could sneak up on everyone over the course of the season. Mullen's team will be a factor.

18. Nebraska
2013 Record: 9-4, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 40

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The return of RB Ameer Abdullah gives the Husker offense an All-America star to work around, and the experience QB Tommy Armstrong got last year should go a long way to making the already balanced offense a bit stronger and sharper. The linebacking corps has the potential to be terrific, while the front four could be fantastic if all-star end Randy Gregory gets a little help.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: The secondary that was so good at times has to replace three starters including corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste. It's Nebraska, so the running game should turn out to be outstanding, but the offensive line is rebooting with four new starters.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … stressful. After all the Bo Pelini drama throughout last year, he got a vote of confidence with his contract, but the pressure is on more than ever to be a player in the national title chase – 9-4 doesn't play in Lincoln.

17. Ole Miss
2013 Record: 8-5, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 36

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: 2013 was just the beginning. With nine starters back on defense, and a tremendous young group of stars from last year's recruiting class about to mature, there's a lot to get excited about. The linebacking corps will be great, and the offense should be good with a rising group of sill players.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: It doesn't help to lose RB Jeff Scott, workout warrior WR Donte Moncrief, and three starters on a good offensive line. The young stars might be growing up, but there will still be some growing pains.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … blazing hot. Forgetting the duds against Missouri and Mississippi State to close out the regular season, there's so much talent, depth and potential that an SEC West title isn't totally crazy. There's still work to do, but the Rebels will be a tough out.

16. Florida
2013 Record: 4-8, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 91

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The 2013 team was a wee bit better than you think, and there's no way, no how the 2014 team will get hit by the same injury bug. 18 starters are back, and now there's more depth after so many players got to see playing time - the results should be far better. Even with all the problems, the defense still finished eighth in the nation, but …
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Is Jeff Driskel really going to be able to make the offense roll? There's no downfield passing game, and the offensive line has to figure out a set front five for an attack that finished 112th in the nation in scoring and didn't score more than 20 points in any of the eight losses.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … rebound. It might not be pretty, and it'll be a tough sell for most, but the results should be far, far better. With just a little bit of offense, 8-4 could be 4-8, or far better.

15. Michigan
2013 Record: 7-6, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 57

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The recruiting classes are about to kick in. It always takes a few years for top classes to mature, and while there wasn't a huge splash right away from the 2013 haul, there's more than enough four and five-star types to upgrade the talent level and the overall play. With 15 starters back, the experience is there to be more consistent.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Can the team actually play? Brady Hoke has amassed the skill and he brought in the talent to potentially hang around with anyone in the country, but it didn't seem like it last season. There's still a long way to go for a rushing attack that didn't do anything, and now it has to improve despite the loss of Taylor Lewan.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … desperate. After losing five of the last six games, and following the total dud of a bowl loss to Kansas State, the Wolverines have to come out roaring. While Hoke might not be fired unless the year goes into the tank, it's ten wins or bust.

14. Wisconsin
2013 Record: 9-4, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 31

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The offense should be devastating – at least the ground game should be great. The offensive line only loses guard Ryan Groy and there's good, strong depth to provide a few position battles this offseason. The return of Melvin Gordon for another year is a huge gamebreaking boost to the backfield, The secondary – after a rough year against the better quarterbacks – should be far, far better.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Who's going to catch the ball now that Jared Abbrederis and TE Jacob Pedersen are gone? The defensive line has to undergo a complete overhaul, and there's absolutely no replacing Chris Borland from the linebacking corps.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … predictable. You know exactly what you're getting. The ultimate bum slayer, the Badgers will obliterate the mediocre to bad teams on the schedule, but the season starts out against LSU. In the easier West division, though, Gary Andersen's team should be the favorite.

13. Clemson
2013 Record: 11-2, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 13 

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Dabo Swinney has the Tigers operating like a machine, recruiting and developing talent well enough to avoid any annoying rebuilding years. The D-line could be the ACC's best, schooling opposing offenses with DE Vic Beasley and a slew of other quality linemen.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: This can't possibly be the same team without Tajh Boyd behind center. Leading rusher Roderick McDowell and top receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant are also off to the NFL, but it's Boyd's leadership and big-game heroics that'll be missed the most in 2014.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … down slightly. Clemson is fine in the big picture, but the gap with Florida State is likely to widen now that a new quarterback needs to be broken in. This is one of those seasons that could end in the Chick-fil-A Bowl instead of a marquee event.

12. Georgia
2013 Record: 8-5, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 30

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The defense that was so inconsistent and so underwhelming last year – and for all the talent, 2012, too – at least returns experienced with ten starters back. On the other side of the ball, Todd Gurley could be the best player in America.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Yeah, the Bulldog D is full of veterans, but will that really mean a change in production? The quarterback situation will be fine, but Aaron Murray turned into a special player who made everyone around him better last year. Hutson Mason, if he takes the job, will operate behind a rebuilding line.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … better. Injuries were a legitimate excuse, killing a team that should've been playing for the SEC championship, and maybe more. There's always pressure around Mark Richt and the program, and at some point the luck will be there. First, the defense has to step up and produce.

11. Texas A&M
2013 Record: 9-4, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 22

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The defense will be better, and not just because it can't be much worse. With ten starters returning and more of a push to get into the backfield, the Aggie D should be able to hold serve just enough to let the high-powered O do its thing. And yes, the offense will still be explosive and deadly even though …
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: How do you replace Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans? Kevin Sumlin and his staff know how to get an offense moving, but the loss of five starters including, maybe, the best offensive lineman in the draft in Jake Matthews, an all-timer of a legend and a first round-caliber wide receiver will obviously sting a little bit.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … just fine. There might not be the magic of Manziel anymore, but the running backs should be able to pick up the slack behind a line that should be just fine without Matthews – get used to the name Cedric Ogbuehi. The defense is never going to be Alabama's, but it'll be far better.

10. LSU
2013 Record: 10-3, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 19

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Lose NFL prospects, replace them with more NFL prospects. The Tigers, as always, lost some great players to the NFL, but the secondary should be terrific with a little bit of time, the offensive line should be devastating, and the linebacking corps will be outstanding.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: There will be a bit step back offensively. LSU always has running backs, but Jeremy Hill was by far the best of the lot. The passing game that was so sensational loses Zach Mettenberger along with his top targets Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. Sure, there's talent on defense, but it was an underwhelming and uneven year.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … Leonard Fournette. The Tigers have their superstar to build the offense around after bagging the nation's top running back recruit. It's LSU – you know what you're going to get. Even with the turnover and a few concerns, the Tigers will win ten games, and with a little bit of luck and the right breaks, they'll be in the hunt for really big things.

9. South Carolina
2013 Record: 11-2, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 2

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: People will dog the Gamecocks a bit after losing high-profile guys in Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw, but they're still loaded with nine returning offensive starters and enough playmakers back on defense to be solid. The receiving corps will be loaded South Carolina doesn't have to rebuild at this point.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: You don't get better by losing three starters on the defensive line, especially when NFL talents Clowney and Kelcy Quarles are taking off to the next level. Shaw can be replaced talent-wise, but he had a special quality that went above the tools.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … better than it'll get credit for. The Gamecocks beat UCF, Missouri, Clemson and Wisconsin last year, and even after losing a few key parts, the program is bigger than Jadeveon. Out of this team, winning the SEC title isn't asking for the moon.

8. Ohio State
2013 Record: 12-2, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 6

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The Buckeyes are better. It's Ohio State, so there are always going to be NFL talent losses, but Urban Meyer has recruited at the highest of levels and the shelves are restocked. There's depth, speed, skill, and ... Urban. The team really was that good last season - it was a good half away from playing for the national title.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Sure, Ohio State always rebuilds without missing a beat, but the offense still has to replace four starters off a great line that paved the way for a great year from Carlos Hyde, who's also gone. The secondary was just okay, and now it has to come up with three new starters. Tackling machine Ryan Shazier is gone from the linebacking corps.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … 2015. Meyer hasn't cared too much so far about timetables - 2012 proved that - but the team might be one more year away from not only playing for the national title, but winning it. The 2013 team would've lost to Florida State, but this year's team needs way too many big things to happen to be good enough to win it all.

7. Auburn
2013 Record: 12-2, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 3

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Has anyone figured out how to stop this thing? The offense should keep on rolling without Tre Mason, and with eight starters returning, the music probably won't stop. The recruiting classes of the last few years have been good enough to restock the shelves – last year wasn't a fluke.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Yeah, it's the system, but the players have a little bit to do with it. Mason will be an NFL starting running back, and Greg Robinson might be the best offensive lineman in the draft. The rotation on the defensive line was good enough to overcome the loss of a player or two, but Dee Ford was the star of the show.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … maddening. The Auburn offense made Nick Saban's brain melt and thoroughly confused Gary Pinkel, and it should be fantastic again. However, don't forget how many miracles it took to have the near-dream season. The Tigers will still be great, but this time around that might mean 9-3.

6. Michigan State
2013 Record: 13-1, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 4

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Is there any question that the Spartans are going to reload the defense? The track record has been fantastic over the last few years, and while the loss of some key parts might hurt, the pass rush should still be outstanding with Shilique Calhoun returning on the other side of Marcus Rush. The offense should be more explosive and consistent with eight starters returning.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Okay, so the offense is going to be better, but it has a long way to go before it's truly dangerous with three starters gone up front. How can the defense not be a little worse without LB Max Bullough and CB Darqueze Dennard? The linebacking corps has to undergo an overhaul.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … red hot. Was the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl win a culmination or a beginning? The Spartans are still going to be terrific, but the division is tough and now they're the hunted. With this defense, they can handle the pressure.

5. UCLA
2013 Record: 10-3, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 18 

Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Beginning with the return of QB Brett Hundley, the parts are in place for the Bruins to make a serious run at a Pac-12 championship in 2014. In two years, head coach Jim Mora has succeeded in changing the culture in Westwood, signing young stars, like LB Myles Jack and DT Eddie Vanderdoes.
Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: All bets are off if the O-line can't protect the franchise. UCLA allowed 36 sacks in 2013 to rank next to last in the Pac-12. The unit was painfully young, and it'll no longer rally around all-star Xavier Su'a-Filo, who passed up his final season of eligibility.
The 2014 Team Is Trending … up. Mora has a good thing going at UCLA, and he caught a huge break when Hundley came back for his junior season. This could be the breakout year the Bruins have been after for more than a decade.

2014 Spring Football Preview & Analysis
- The Four Best-Looking Teams Going Into Spring
- In the Hunt For College Football Playoff - No. 5-20
- The Very, Very Good, But Not Quite Elite - No. 21-30
- The Teams On The Verge Of Really Big Things - No. 31-40
- The Mid-Level Teams - No. 41-50 | No. 51-60
- Will Fight For A Bowl - Rankings No. 61-70 | No. 71-80
- Teams That Will Struggle - Rankings No. 81-90 | No. 91-100
- Automatic Wins - Rankings No. 101-110 | No. 111-120
- The Bottom 8 - Rankings No. 121-128
Follow us this offseason for latest posts ... @ColFootballNews