Breaking Down The 2014 Preseason AP Poll
Posted Aug 18, 2014

Breaking Down The 2014 Preseason AP Poll - The target on Florida State's back just got a lot bigger.

By Rich Cirminiello

The target on Florida State’s chest this offseason just keeps getting larger.

The Seminoles’ affirmation as the team to beat in 2014 continued on Sunday, as the AP poll tabbed the defending champs as the preseason No. 1 program in a near unanimous fashion. This coming just a couple of weeks after the Coaches Poll also had the ‘Noles in the top slot. FSU is followed by Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma, which each received one of the 60 first place votes.

In the new era of semifinal games in the postseason, all eyes remain fixed on the top four teams in the rankings. While neither the Coaches Poll nor the AP poll will directly factor into the inaugural College Football Playoff, it’s worth noting that both rankings have the Seminoles, the Tide, the Ducks and the Sooners nestled within the top four. Hypothetically, the AP poll would generate a New Year’s Day matchup between Florida State and Oklahoma, a rematch of the 2000 BCS National Championship Game, and a first-ever meeting between Alabama and Oregon.

Among the Power Five conferences, Ohio State will begin the season with the most to prove. The Buckeyes are No. 5, just ahead of 2013 national runner-up and SEC champ Auburn. Rounding out the top 10 is UCLA, Michigan State, which soundly beat the Buckeyes for the Big Ten title last December, South Carolina and Baylor. The Bears have curiously jumped three spots since the end of last year, despite finishing the season with an awful Fiesta Bowl loss to UCF.

Florida State will have to buck history to finish the season where it’s starting it. Since 1998, only two programs, 1999 Florida State and 2004 USC, went wire-to-wire in the AP poll. On the flipside, five teams travelled the long journey from outside the top 10 to capturing a national championship, including last year’s preseason No. 11 ‘Noles. The strongest candidates to rise up out of the teens in 2014 are No. 11 Stanford, No. 12 Georgia, No. 13 LSU and No. 15 USC, each of which harbors the talent base and staff to blow past expectations once the season begins. Notre Dame stands at No. 17, but media ballots were cast and counted a couple of weeks before the Irish academic scandal broke on Friday.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, the SEC leads the way with eight ranked members, five from the West Division alone, followed by the Pac-12 with six. Missouri crept in at No. 24, swapping spots with Texas for the only team deviation between the two major polls. Overrated schools at this juncture of the offseason? Has anyone bothered to drill down on how many key veterans No. 19 Arizona State lost to graduation, particularly on D? And what’s with the infatuation over No. 23 North Carolina? Sure, the Heels will score, but they have serious issues to work out on both lines. Iowa and Mississippi State will finish the season ranked higher than both ASU and UNC.

No Group of Five team will start the season ranked. Nor should it. The schools with the best chance of cracking the Top 25 with a September upset are UCF, Marshall, Boise State, Louisiana and Cincinnati.

Although the AP poll won’t technically be a component of the committee’s evaluation process, it will be an important barometer for the fans and the media throughout at least the first five weeks of the season. The 13-person committee will begin dispensing its take in October, so prior to that point the AP is going to get its opportunity to sway hearts and minds as schools begin jockeying for playoff positioning.