We are only five weeks away from the 2014 debut of the Southern Football Report. The SEC Media Days are behind us and we are only six weeks away from the first full weekend of high school and college football. This is the time of eternal optimism because every team is undisputed and undefeated and with the new College Football Playoff taking the place of the BCS, there is as much excitement for the upcoming college football season as ever before. Its only a matter of time before thee smell of boiled peanuts and fresh cut Bermuda grass fill the air and we at the Southern Football Report cannot wait for that smell to get here.
This is also the time of year for preseason polls and the Southern Football Report is no different. Beginning on Monday, July 21st, the Southern Football Report will unveil our Preseason Top 25 one team at a time, starting with our number 25 team exclusively on Sowegalive.com.
Just like any preseason poll, there are always those teams on the outside looking in and our poll is no different. Below are a few teams that did not make the cut and the reasons why, in no particular order.
Missouri: The 2013 SEC East Division Champions only return 8 starters from last season, even though they do return Maty Mauk who filled in very nicely for the injured James Franklin last season. The loss of Dorial Green-Beckham will hurt because he would have been the only returning wide receiver with more than one touchdown catch. Defensively the Tigers lost 6 of their 9 top tacklers and have road games at South Carolina, Florida and Texas A&M.
Washington: The Huskies lost their three year starting quarterback in Keith ‘Teeth’ Price but new Head Coach Chris Petersen is an incredible quarterback’s coach and will have Sophomore Cyler Miles ready to play. Defensively, Washington returns three players who had 70 or more tackles in 2013 including team sack leader Hau’oli Kikaha. The Huskies were 9-4 in 2013, so Petersen inherits a good football team but they drew UCLA, Arizona State and a road game at Arizona from the Pac-12 South.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions were completely written off when the NCAA levied sanctions against Penn State in 2012 but have had nothing but winning seasons since (8-4 in 2012, 7-5 in 2013). Christian Hackenburg was as good as advertised as a true freshman and will be much improved in his sophomore season. They do get Ohio State at home after a bye week but Maryland comes to Happy Valley the following week for a classic trap game.
Kansas State: Head Coach Bill Snyder heads into his 23rd year at Kansas State and has one of the most well coached team in the country year in and year out. Senior quarterback Jake Waters accounted for 24 touchdowns in 2013 but the Wildcats need to find a starting runningback to round out the offense. Senior defensive end Ryan Mueller had 62 tackles, 11.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss in 2013 and will anchor a defense with 4 other returning starters. An early home win against Auburn will help but late road games at Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor are going to be tough.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils gave up almost 30 points per game in 2013 and STILL won ten games. The offense will be just as good, if not better in 2014 with the return of Senior quarterback Taylor Kelly who threw 28 touchdown passes and had 9 touchdowns on the ground. Defensively, they will need to grow up quickly with only 2 returning starters but they will also benefit from a good home schedule with Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA on a Thursday night.
Clemson: The Tigers lost 1707 rushing yards, 3851 passing yards and 2292 receiving yards to graduation and the NFL Draft. I don’t care what team you are, those are tough numbers to replenish. The good thing is the Clemson defense will be better as they have seven returning starters including middle linebacker Stephone Anthony (131 tackles in 2013) and defensive end Vic Beasley (13 sacks in 2013). The Tigers have two tough road games early opening the season at Georgia and at Florida State in late September.
UCF: Head Coach George O’Leary was due a great season in Orlando and he finally got it in his 10th year with a 12-1 campaign that ended with a Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor. Momentum of that season will take the Knights a long way but losing quarterback Blake Bortles will be tough. The Knights do bring back a solid receiving corp, 9 starters on defense and have a manageable schedule after the month of September where UCF must travel across the pond to Ireland to play Penn State (what?) and to Columbia, Missouri, to play the reigning 2013 SEC East champions.
Marshall: The Thundering Herd return 8 starters from a defense that had 32 sacks by committee (the most sacks by one player from that defense was 4.5) and senior quarterback Rakeem Cato will be a household name by the end of the season. Cato threw for 39 touchdown passes for over 3900 passing yards in 2013 and gets his favorite wide reciever Tommy Schuler back (106 catches, 1165 yards, 10 TDs). Marshall will benefit from a super easy schedule and will most likely be undefeated or have only one loss toward season’s end but they won’t be in consideration for the new College Football Playoff.
TCU: The Horned Frogs had a rough go of it in their 2nd year in the Big 12 but will benefit from Senior transfer quarterback Matt Joekel (from Texas A&M) this season and 16 returning starters, 8 on each side of the ball. Head Coach Gary Patterson always fields a good defense and this one may be one of his best ever. It all comes down to a two-week span where the Horned Frogs play Oklahoma at home and Baylor on the road. If TCU can steal one or win both, they will be in the hunt for their first Big 12 title.
Make sure you stay logged on to Sowegalive.com for the Southern Football Report Preseason Top 25 beginning on Monday, July 21st with Team #25. The Southern Football Report will have weekly updates on our very own Top 25 Poll as well as articles and opinions on high school and college football throughout the season.