By Brian Kalchik @RantsportsBrian on May 30, 2014
The 2013 college football season was filled with many intriguing storylines that made the season memorable. From Auburn's resurgence to Jameis Winston's quest for the Heisman Trophy, these storylines made each and every week of the season can't miss. The 2014 season is shaping up to be even more memorable than 2013, and here are the 25 main storylines to follow heading into the season.
For his first two seasons in Lawrence, Charlie Weis has not had many great moments with the Jayhawks. Just last year, things were so bad that Weis was given a Gatorade bath after the Jayhawks defeated West Virginia, which went 4-8. Now in year three, Weis will have to prove that he can turn the Jayhawks into winners or else the former Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator will be looking for yet another job.
Last season, teams like Auburn and Iowa came out of nowhere to have great seasons. With both teams looking to maintain their momentum from a year ago, there will be other teams who will emerge as sleepers this season. Some teams destined to fulfill this role could include the likes of Ole Miss, Pittsburgh and even Arizona, but there will always be that one team no one saw coming that will make major noise this season.
After four seasons of sub .500 football, Jerry Kill and the Minnesota Golden Gophers had a breakout 2013 season. The Gophers went 8-5, with a loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl. 2014 will be harder for the Gophers now that teams won't be taking them lightly anymore. Kill lost key defensive players like Ra'Shede Hageman and Brock Vereen to the NFL, but the team returns key offensive players like Donnell Kirkwood and Mitch Leidner.
Utah State was a solid pick last year to be a Cinderella team, but a season-ending injury to star QB Chuckie Keeton derailed their season. With Keeton now back and healthy, the Aggies will once again be a favorite to be the Cinderella team this season. Things won't be easy, though, as they face an improved Tennessee team on the road to begin their season.
Coach David Cutcliffe and the Duke Blue Devils stunned the nation last year by winning the ACC Coastal Division. But their season would end with a disappointing bowl loss to Texas A&M. For the Blue Devils, who were mainly a laughingstock in the past, can they ride the momentum from last season and sustain it over a long period of time?
Last year's 3-9 season was a disaster for both Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks. In his first season with the Razorbacks, Bielema's team lost nine games in a row, including all eight of their SEC games. Things aren't going to get any easier this season as Bielema lost his two best players from a year ago to the NFL in center Travis Swanson and defensive end Chris Smith.
Whether they like it or not, the Northwestern Wildcats football team is now the face of college sports unionization. The off-field attention has made everyone forget about last season’s collapse. After starting 4-0. the Wildcats dropped seven consecutive games to miss out on a bowl game. Can coach Pat Fitzgerald turn things around in Evanston or will the Wildcats be too focused on politics?
Kliff Kingsbury started off 2013 with seven consecutive wins in his first season at Texas Tech, but when the competition improved late in the season, the Red Raiders lost five consecutive games before winning the Holiday Bowl. Kingsbury retains QB Davis Webb, who some feel could be the next Johnny Manziel, but lost two solid pass catchers in Eric Ward and Jace Amaro to the NFL. Can Kingsbury make the Red Raiders real contenders in the Big 12?
The Vanderbilt Commodores have been mostly a laughingstock in the SEC, but after James Franklin arrived, the Commodores became a very good team. Now that Franklin departed for Penn State, former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason will take over as head coach. While Mason comes from a very stable program at Stanford, he will be asked to keep the Commodores winners despite a sexual assault case that has clouded the program.
After having an 11-2 debut season in 2011, Michigan coach Brady Hoke has seen his team regress the past two seasons. Hoke's teams won only eight and seven games, respectively, in the past two seasons. The key position to fix for Hoke will be the offensive line, which was downright pathetic last year despite having Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. With another poor season in 2014, this might be Hoke's last in Ann Arbor.
Michigan State became the third-ranked scoring defense in the nation last season, but with several key players now in the NFL, the Spartans' defense will look way different this year. Gone are star cornerback Darqueze Dennard and standout linebacker Max Bullough, but the Spartans do retain players like Shilique Calhoun and Trae Waynes. Can the Spartans count on their defense again in 2014 or will the offense have to carry more of the load?
Oklahoma State and coach Mike Gundy were so close to winning the Big 12 last season, but a last-second loss to Oklahoma and a loss to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl made the year a bitter disappointment. 2014 won't get any easier as the Cowboys lose one practice per week due to low test scores. On top of that, the Cowboys get defending National Champion Florida State to begin their season.
Jim Mora Jr. has done a nice job building UCLA back into a good team, but if any year were the year to contend for the Pac 12 title, it would this year. Despite losing the likes of Anthony Barr, Xavier Su'a-Filo and Shaq Evans to the NFL, the Bruins return Heisman candidate Brett Hundley, two-way star Myles Jack and most of their offensive line. Can the Bruins overtake Stanford and Oregon atop the Pac 12 or will they be left behind?
Bobby Petrino had a good first stint with the Louisville Cardinals, but controversy has clouded him since. Petrino blew up both the Atlanta Falcons and the Arkansas Razorbacks with numerous bad decisions. This year, Petrino will not only have to lead the Cardinals into a new conference this season (ACC), but he will be doing so without star QB Teddy Bridgewater and a top pass rusher in Marcus Smith.
For the past three seasons, Tajh Boyd has quarterbacked the Clemson Tigers and Sammy Watkins has been Clemson's best offensive playmaker, but both are now gone to the NFL. For coach Dabo Sweeney, the Tigers will not only miss both Boyd and Watkins, but they will also be without Martavis Bryant, who also went to the NFL. If the Tigers want to contend in the ACC, they will have to reload fast.
After last season's disappointing 8-5 finish, coach Chris Petersen finally did what he was expected to do several seasons ago and jumped ship. After going 92-13 in the past eight seasons, Petersen is now with the Washington Huskies. With Bryan Harsin now taking the reigns for the Broncos, can he and the Broncos get back to their elite days or has their fall from college football's radar already begun?
In last year's Sugar Bowl, Trevor Knight had his coming out party as he and the Oklahoma Sooners torched one of the nation's best defenses in Alabama. Before his spectacular bowl game performance, Knight was benched during the season due to poor play. With Oklahoma expecting to be a contender once again, which quarterback will the Sooners get this season: The one in the Sugar Bowl or the one who was benched?
Ohio State was within minutes of playing for the National Championship last season, but a loss to Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship game and an Orange Bowl loss to Clemson made last season a disappointing year. Coach Urban Meyer has Heisman candidate Braxton Miller back, but he lost several key players like Carlos Hyde, Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby to the NFL. Ohio State will also have to replace four starters on their offensive line.
Bill O'Brien did an extraordinary job for two seasons at Penn State before becoming the Houston Texans' head coach this offseason. Now former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin will be asked to continue what O'Brien did and bring Penn State back to national prominence. Although still in the midst of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Franklin will have to replace several key players from last year in Allen Robinson, John Urschel and DaQuan Jones.
Johnny Manziel led Texas A&M to the two most exciting seasons in the program's history, but with Manziel gone as well as Mike Evans, can Texas A&M rebuild on the fly? Coach Kevin Sumlin will definitely earn his contract this year as he tries to prove that he is more than the coach who rode Manziel's coattails to success. Sumlin also lost other key offensive players in Jake Matthews along with several key backs and receivers.
Notre Dame lost any chance of getting back to the National Championship game last season when QB Everett Golson was suspended for academic violations. Now Golson is back, but he loses key offensive players in Zack Martin, T.J. Jones, George Atkinson III and Troy Niklas all to the NFL. Not only will Golson have to shake off a year of rust, but he will also have to connect with a new group of receivers.
After becoming a head coaching prodigy when at Texas, Will Muschamp has been mostly a flop at Florida. Last season, the Gators had one of the worst seasons in recent memory, including a 26-20 loss to FCS Georgia Southern. Despite AD Jeremy Foley's confidence in Muschamp, another subpar season won't be enough to save his job.
After turning Louisville into a BCS team, Charlie Strong now takes his show on the road to Austin, Texas. With one of the elite programs in college football, Strong will be expected to win now and contend for a National Championship right away. Strong will also be expected to recruit better than in years past as the Longhorns have not had much talent in recent years.
If last year showed us anything, it showed that Auburn will be around for a long time. With coach Gus Malzahn having Nick Saban's number in both 2010 and 2013, it is quite possible that the Tigers will reign atop the SEC once again. Auburn returns a majority of their players from a year ago, while Alabama lost key players like A.J. McCarron, C.J. Mosley and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the NFL.
With Jameis Winston back and plenty of offensive firepower returning, the Seminoles should once again be the favorites to win the inaugural College Football Playoff this year. Despite several key losses on defense, the Seminoles and coach Jimbo Fisher still have plenty of big-time players on that side of the ball. With another championship season, Florida State could become the next college football dynasty.
July 4, 2015 by Mike Gibson
With the AAC being the most high-profile Group of 5 league, it can make a statement it belongs with the Power 5 with wins in any of these five games. Read More
July 3, 2015 by Dan Escalona
After missing most of 2014 due to injury, former Ohio State four-star recruit Johnnie Dixon is healthy once again. The speedster promises to put the Buckeye offense into overdrive in 2015. Read More
July 2, 2015 by brookshooley
Penn State's 2015 season is right around the corner, but waiting isn't easy for Nittany Lions fans. This list of the top 10 plays from last season will help pass the time. Read More
July 2, 2015 by Tyler Brett
Utah may have a major issue reloading their secondary in 2015 after the arrest of Dominique Hatfield. Read More
July 1, 2015 by Dan Escalona
In Northwestern's quarterback competition, Clayton Thorson gives the Wildcats the best chance to be a surprise in Big 10 football and a return to conference relevance. Read More
July 1, 2015 by Barrett Pfeiffer
Here are the rankings for the starting quarterbacks in the SEC East heading into the 2015 college football season. Read More
July 1, 2015 by brookshooley
Ohio State's 2015 season is right around the corner, but waiting isn't easy for Buckeye fans. This list of the top 10 plays from last season will help pass the time. Read More
Here are the rankings for college football quarterbacks in the SEC West. Read More