SB Nation

SB Nation College News | August 20, 2014

2014 College Football Guide

You're not ready for college football season without these 128 massive team guides and six feature stories.


Tier 1


The Knights needed some good fortune and a great quarterback to finish 12-1, but even without Blake Bortles, UCF is still the surest thing in the new-look AAC. George O'Leary has built the fastest, deepest program in the conference.

Tier 2


East Carolina has itself a stellar quarterback and stars at receiver and on the defensive front. Can the Pirates overcome offensive line and secondary losses -- not to mention a step up to the AAC -- to replicate last season's success?


Tommy Tuberville teams have a tendency to surprise, for better or worse, and now he's in charge of the most hard-to-figure team in a hard-to-figure conference. 11-1? 4-8? It's all on the table.


A young UH team benefited from some incredible luck and almost won the AAC in 2013. Can the Cougars' experience offset regression to the mean in the "lucky bounces" category?

Tier 3


2013 was a Year-Zero situation for Willie Taggart at South Florida. Almost nothing went well on the field, but with his system now in place and a great recruiting class coming to campus, the Bulls might be capable of turning around quickly.


A new stadium, a 2013 bowl bid, and some solid recruiting have given Green Wave fans more hope for the future than they've had in a long time. But turnover and a tough schedule will make traction hard.


The Hurricane offense began to crack in 2012 and fell apart in 2013. It was the primary source of a collapse to 3-9, and despite what should be an outstanding defense, it could hold Tulsa back in its first year in the AAC.


Southern Methodist has been basically the same team for most of the last five years, and despite some key parts leaving, should be pretty similar again. Does June Jones have a big run in him at some point?


Justin Fuente inherited a destitute program in 2012, but his squad has taken healthy steps forward in each of his first two years. Another step could follow, but a rough schedule could still prevent a serious bowl run.


The Huskies showed decent growth after Paul Pasqualoni's firing but must replace quite a few defensive weapons. How quickly can new head coach Bob Diaco craft something interesting and attract attention at this basketball school?


The Owls have a potential star in sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker, but it might take another year for the pieces to fall into place. Despite a 2-10 campaign, there's a future here, but it probably doesn't start until 2015.


Tier 1

Florida State

FSU is the reigning national champion. The Seminoles have the reigning Heisman winner. They will probably have more players picked in the 2015 draft than any team of the last 20 years. We'll go out on a limb and say they're officially back.

Tier 2


The Tigers lose the two most visible stars from last year's Orange Bowl squad, but they return one of the best defensive lines -- and perhaps the best set of coordinators -- in the country. They are deep and fast and might not need a rebuilding year.

Tier 3


Bobby Petrino was brought back to Louisville to do one thing: win. And he'll probably do so. He inherits a strong stable of offensive weapons, and though the defense will regress, the Cardinals are immediately one of their new league's best teams.

Virginia Tech

With a Bud Foster defense and a schedule that features only one team projected better than 30th, the Hokies could once again win 10+ games ... if their offense can at least be mediocre. But it wasn't even mediocre the last two years.

North Carolina

UNC has been hailed as a sleeping giant for the last 50 years. Larry Fedora's Tar Heels return an extraordinary amount of offensive talent, but will shaky defense and quarterback play hold them back?


After four years of fielding the same team, Duke broke through in 2013. We now live in a world in which "Can the Blue Devils reach the ACC title game again?" is a legitimate question.


Expectations are a funny thing for a program with both a brilliant history and NCAA issues. Wherever the bar is set, it's going to be hard for Al Golden to clear it unless his defense improves.


The starting 22 for Paul Chryst's third Panthers team could be full of youth and upside. But any unit could get decimated by just a few injuries. The potential is high and will only get higher in 2015.

Georgia Tech

After winning 20 games in his first two seasons, Paul Johnson has settled into the seven-win groove Chan Gailey patented in Atlanta. But with less experience and more upside, the Jackets appear more likely to win either five or nine games in 2014.

Tier 4

Boston College

Steve Addazio inherited an experienced lineup and a late-blooming superstar at running back. He rode that to a five-win improvement. What happens now that the big names are gone?


Syracuse could be fun, with a high-paced offense and a TFLs-or-bust defense. But a more experienced roster will need to overcome the inconsistency that held the Orange back.

NC State

Dave Doeren inherited a roster with perilous depth, and injuries had blown up the two-deep by the end of September. With better luck, the Wolfpack will bounce back, but they're a year away from making serious noise.


Mike London has reached Year 5 because of potential and potential alone. His Cavaliers have won six games in two years, but recruiting means upside, and Virginia has it. They did last year too, though.

Tier 5

Wake Forest

Dave Clawson has three successful rebuilds on his résumé; he might pull off a fourth, but it will take us a year or two to figure that out. Barring a miraculous offensive turnaround, 2014 is going to be rocky.

BIG 12

Tier 1


OU was both lucky and good. The Sooners have the easiest conference schedule of any Big 12 contender, but can they prove that last year's holes have been plugged enough to reach the College Football Playoff?


In today's Big 12, a sentence like "survive an upset bid in Austin, and Baylor could be positioned well for another conference title run" actually makes sense. The Bears have some worries on defense, but they're not far from another championship.

Kansas State

K-State returns difference makers from a squad that played at a top-20 level after September. Does that make the Wildcats a Big 12 dark horse, or simply an outright contender?

Oklahoma State

Mike Gundy has a lot to replace and faces a rough schedule away from home. So 2014 might shape up a lot like 2012, meaning the Cowboys take their lumps, play at a high level, and keep winning.

Tier 2


From defensive toughness to offensive identity to quarterback health, Charlie Strong's first Longhorns have plenty of questions to answer. And depending on the answers, a middle-heavy schedule could mean a gaudy record in either direction.


Tight losses have held TCU back since the Frogs' move to the Big 12. Can a new QB, new offensive co-coordinators, and yet another fantastic defense change the narrative? They're close to high-caliber play.

Texas Tech

The last time we saw Texas Tech, the Red Raiders were delivering one of the best performances of bowl season. Was that a sign of a bigger, better 2014? Probably not, but it's hard not to dream big with Kliff Kingsbury leading the way.

Tier 3

West Virginia

WVU has lost 14 of 20 games and, in terms of advanced stats, has regressed for five of the last six years. Dana Holgorsen has the X-and-O prowess, but will his Mountaineers have enough pure talent to stop the slide?

Iowa State

The offense might have more upside now than at any time in recent history, but it won't get much help from a rebuilt defense. ISU isn't doomed, but the Cyclones are probably in for another down year.

Tier 4


Charlie Weis sacrificed long-term stability for short-term gains by signing a JUCO-heavy recruiting class in 2013 ... and Kansas didn't improve at all. Can a new offensive identity bring hope to a program at its most hopeless state?


Tier 1

Ohio State

The offense won't be as efficient as it was last year, and the defense has both immense upside and countless question marks. The Buckeyes aren't a sure thing, but they're still the safest bet in the Big Ten.

Michigan State

MSU has to replace a few defensive heroes and shouldn't be quite as good after a magical 2013. But if the Spartans beat Ohio State at home, that might not make a difference.

Tier 2


That dominant front seven must rebuild, and there are even more questions about the passing game than before. But the Badgers are still more proven than any of their West rivals and are the division favorite until proven otherwise.


Awful offensive line play and youthful defensive mistakes turned a solid start into a feckless finish. Can a more experienced Wolverines squad, replete with a new offensive coordinator, bounce back?


Decent run game, great defense. Iowa once again played like Iowa, doubling the previous season's wins and setting the Hawkeyes on a new trajectory. Can they take advantage of a shaky schedule despite losses on D?

Penn State

Sanctions are easing up, and with the hiring of a local, charismatic, and successful new head coach, it's easy to see the future brightening for the Nittany Lions. But what does that mean right now?


The Huskers have needed both frustrating losses and miraculous wins to craft this strange streak of six consecutive four-loss seasons. And with a couple of standouts and a lot of rebuilding in the trenches, four losses are again in range.


It's been a strange 12 months, from injuries and tight losses on the field to union drama off of it. Pat Fitzgerald's experienced Wildcats will recover, but is the magic of 2012 gone?


In an injury-free utopia, Randy Edsall's Terrapins could be deep, experienced, and all sorts of athletic. They'll need to be just that, as their first Big Ten schedule is daunting.


Under fourth-year coach Jerry Kill, Minnesota might be able to pull off something it hasn't achieved in quite some time: a third straight forward step. Kill's squad is low on star power but has experience and depth on its side.


The most explosive running back and the most experienced offensive line in college football? As long as a reconfigured defense doesn't somehow get worse (if that's even possible), the Hoosiers should be both fun and more successful.

Tier 3


Rutgers was young, explosive, and all sorts of erratic. The Scarlet Knights move to the Big Ten with more experience, serious athletic potential ... and reason to doubt that potential turns into production.


Take the name off of the jersey, and everything about Illinois looks like a team that will still be about the country's 70th-best. But Illinois seems addicted to huge surges, backward and forward. Which will it be in Tim Beckman's third season in Champaign?

Tier 4


We can't hold the Boilermaker's awful 2013 against first-year head coach Darrell Hazell. But it's hard to see how Purdue will end up a whole lot better. Still, an improved record could be on the way.

Conference USA

Tier 1


The offense could be a legitimate top-25 unit, the defense should be aggressive and fun, and wow, is the schedule cake. Marshall's 2014 season could be one for the ages. In fact, it will be disappointing if it isn't.

Tier 2


The team from San Antonio boasts 38 seniors on its 2014 squad. The ambitious Roadrunners have come a long way in a short amount of time, and with experience and continuity galore, they could be the team to beat in the Conference USA's West.


A year and a half ago, it looked like David Bailiff's time at Rice was just about over. But the Owls have won 15 of 19 and are the defending C-USA champions. Can they make changes in the backfield and run at a second title?

Florida Atlantic

Despite coaching turmoil, and despite about five straight years of increasingly bad football, FAU is close to competing for the C-USA title. Can ace recruiter Charlie Partridge prove his coaching bona fides?

North Texas

A significant step forward in 2013, Dan McCarney's third year in charge. The Mean Green have to account for quite a few departed difference-makers but should have enough remaining to reach another bowl.

Middle Tennessee

Following a disastrous 2011, Rick Stockstill has put together back-to-back eight-win seasons. A third is within reach if MTSU can avoid too much of a drop-off at quarterback and on the offensive line.

Western Kentucky

WKU has either improved or held steady for most of the last five years. The Hilltoppers move to Conference USA with a new coach and a rebuilt defense; 2014 will represent quite a test of that improvement.

Tier 3

Old Dominion

In the seven years since Bobby Wilder was hired to built ODU's football program from scratch (literally), he has aimed high and reached even higher. With reasonable defensive competence, his Monarchs could immediately challenge.

Louisiana Tech

Fortunes change quickly in Ruston, LA, and after an awful first season, Skip Holtz looks to some new blood on defense (on both the field and sideline) and in the receiving corps to liven up a team didn't have much life.


2013 was an outright disaster, fraught with horrific attendance and a defense patched together with duct tape. With health, depth, and a new, local coach, the Blazers might find a sliver of hope.

Southern Miss

The Golden Eagles lost 25 games in five years, then lost 23 in two. They are officially starting over, and while improvement is almost guaranteed, Todd Monken's squad has a ways to go.


Head coach Sean Kugler's first year in El Paso was doomed by poor depth, experience, size, and health. But hey, other than that, it went pretty well!

Tier 4

Florida International

FIU has collapsed. There is no quick way to rebound from the level of ineptitude the Panthers showed last fall. In Ron Turner's second year, the goal simply has to be planting the seeds for competence in 2015 or 2016.


Notre Dame

With new coordinators and new on-field leaders, the second act of Brian Kelly's Notre Dame career begins in 2014. Can his Irish survive a top-heavy schedule, or do they have to wait until 2015 to make another big-time run?


BYU has been a top-30 team on paper for each of the last two seasons, but has only back-to-back 8-5 records to show for it. Can Bronco Mendenhall's Cougars break through against a weaker schedule this time around?


The Midshipmen have a theme, a hell of an option quarterback, and a rather navigable schedule. Ken Niumatalolo's team should expect to win at least nine games for the sixth time in 13 years.


It's Jeff Monken's turn to try to turn West Point football around. Can he attract enough athletic talent to overcome the Black Knights' eternal lack of size in the trenches? And can he craft a few wins from a fun schedule?


Tier 1

Bowling Green

Dino Babers inherits a team that might be perfectly suited for his up-tempo offense and aggressive defense. The run defense prevent his Falcons from being the slam-dunk MAC favorite, but one has to like the chances of a repeat.

Northern Illinois

Most of NIU's recent strengths get stronger. The skill units are overflowing with options, the offensive line is fantastic, and the linebackers are strong. But there's still the matter of one of the best players in MAC history leaving.

Ball State

Pete Lembo is one hell of a program pilot, but as he enters his fourth year, he faces a pretty stiff challenge: life without quarterback Keith Wenning. If a passer emerges and the defense can stay healthier, the Cardinals could again challenge for the MAC title.


Matt Campbell's third Toledo squad has as much depth and potential as any in the conference. But will the loss of quite a few stars prevent the consistent Rockets from ending a decade-long run without a conference title?

Tier 2


Under Frank Solich, Ohio has established a higher level of play than at any time in its FBS history, but with frustrating November collapses in each of the last two years. We'll see if the Bobcats can find traction, or if this season's main purpose is to build toward 2015.


For the first time in almost a decade, Akron seems to be building something. Terry Bowden might need one more year to get the Zips into the MAC's upper echelon. But they are relevant and exciting, and if they pull an early-season upset, look out.

Tier 3

Central Michigan

The Dan Enos era will not be one of mystery for much longer. The Chippewas return about as many starters as any team in the country, including a star at wide receiver. Can they take advantage and crack .500 again?


Jeff Quinn's fifth squad returns 12 starters, including the quarterback, from the program's second eight-win FBS team. But the Bulls lose almost all of their star power, and only a squishy schedule gives them a shot at another bowl.

Tier 4

Kent State

The win total dropped from 11 to four in 2013, and now the Golden Flashes must replace a couple of truly unique stars. Depth is decent, and if they withstand a brutal early schedule, they could approach bowl eligibility.

Western Michigan

WMU's freshman class might be the best in MAC history. But that won't mean much for a Bronco squad that is completely rebuilding at the skill positions and in the defensive front seven.

Eastern Michigan

Last year wasn't any fun for EMU, on or off the field. The goal for new head coach Chris Creighton will be to restore direction, enjoyment, and some sense of momentum for a program that doesn't tend to have much of any of those things.

Miami (Ohio)

The Cradle of Coaches hasn't had much hiring success of late. Former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will look to turn around this once-successful program, but it might take him a while.


In replacing Charley Molnar, UMass went with a coach who not only has a lot of experience, but has experience coaching at UMass. Mark Whipple returns to Amherst for his second go-round as head Minuteman. Godspeed, coach.

Mountain West

Tier 1

Boise State

Boise State is quite a bit easier to beat than it used to be, but the Broncos have more proven entities than any team in the conference. Bryan Harsin and his energetic staff have a very good chance of engineering a MWC title in their first year.

Fresno State

Derek Carr or no Derek Carr, Tim DeRuyter's third Bulldogs team should look a lot like his first two, with lots of pace and ball distribution on offense and all sorts of defensive aggression.

Utah State

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton is expected to return at 100 percent for Utah State in 2014. But the Aggies' success in the Mountain West will depend on their ability to account for losses, especially in the secondary and on the offensive line.

San Diego State

After winning 34 games from 2000-08, San Diego State has won 34 in the last four years. The Aztecs are recruiting well and have an outstanding run defense, but offensive efficiency and pass defense will dictate whether they soar to 10+ wins.

Tier 2

Colorado State

CSU must replace its two best players and rebuild on both lines. But Jim McElwain has recruited well, and his Rams both return an exciting roster and face an easy schedule. A second straight bowl bid is probably in the cards.


It took a while, but Bobby Hauck was able to build a deep, exciting (and, yes, flawed) squad in his fourth year. The Rebels are experienced heading into 2014.

San Jose State

The Spartans withstood the loss of head coach Mike MacIntyre without a collapse. Now they're are tasked with weathering the loss of star quarterback David Fales. Survive 2014, and SJSU could thrive in 2015 and beyond.

Tier 3


It's just about the most dubious distinction one can imagine, but Hawaii was the best 1-11 team you'll ever see last year. The Warriors were far better on paper than in the win column; does that translate to a leap forward in 2014?


The last time Chris Ault left, Nevada fell apart in short order. And in the first year following his re-retirement, the Wolf Pack didn't lend a lot of confidence to the idea that things will be much different this time around.

New Mexico

UNM has one of the best running games in the country and finally has some depth on defense. Can the Lobos' defense improve enough to get out of the offense's way in Bob Davie's third season in charge?


Craig Bohl had nothing left to prove at North Dakota State. So he moved on to Wyoming, where he inherits an offense without its leader and a defense that struggled with efficiency. How quickly might he get things turned around in Laramie?

Air Force

The Falcons have regressed for four straight years now, and the decline sped up in 2012 and 2013. With two years remaining on his contract, can head coach Troy Calhoun engineer another program turnaround? There is reason to be skeptical.


Tier 1


Oregon has only one proven play-maker in its front seven and less experience at safety. And its go-to receiver is out for the season. The Ducks also have Marcus Mariota, a superb offensive line, and a workable schedule. They'll be alright.


We can talk about Oregon and UCLA and the Pac-12's incredible depth, but Stanford is the conference king until proven otherwise. And despite a brutal slate of road games, the Cardinal have a solid shot at a third straight league title.


UCLA should have too little depth and too few game-changers to be a national title contender. But the Bruins have come too far in two years under Jim Mora to write them off just yet, especially with such a home-friendly schedule.


Last year, stats pointed to Michigan State and Oklahoma State as the country's biggest sleepers. This year, the answer's a lot more boring. USC is still thin and breaking in a new coach, but the Trojans are going to be really, really good.


The Huskies have only been truly good once in the last decade, but they return a number of exciting pieces from a 9-4 squad. And it doesn't take many ifs to turn Chris Petersen's first UW squad into a conference contender.

Tier 2


If you assume that a Rich Rodriguez team is going to produce functional quarterbacks and running backs no matter what, then Arizona could have a spectacular offense. The defense will hold it back, but UA should be quite fun.


Utah improved rather dramatically on paper, but close losses and a key injury prevented most people from noticing. Can the Utes take another step forward? And will it matter with 10 bowl teams on the schedule?

Arizona State

With almost all of last year's defensive studs gone, Arizona State probably won't be a Pac-12 South contender. But if the Sun Devils hold steady on offense and play well at home, the drop won't be steep.

Oregon State

After a pair of bumpy seasons, Mike Riley and Oregon State have reattained a steady level of quality in Corvallis. That should remain the story, though there are questions in the trenches and receiving corps.

Washington State

Wazzu improved 45 spots in last year's F/+ rankings and reached a bowl for the first time in a decade. Mike Leach has made the Cougars interesting again. But how much higher can they climb in an increasingly daunting Pac-12?

Tier 3


The Buffaloes might have been the worst team in the country in 2012. So the simple fact that the Buffs were able to win four games and play occasionally competitive ball in 2013 was cause for celebration. What happens in Mike MacIntyre's second season?

Tier 4


Cal started a true freshman quarterback and couldn't keep 11 defenders healthy at a time. In the elite Pac-12, this resulted in total disaster. The Bears should improve quite a bit, but will it matter in the win column?


Tier 1


For all of the talk of Alabama's weaknesses and Nick Saban's struggle against the hurry-up, it still took a miracle finish to keep the Tide out of the SEC Championship. And it might take a similar level of misfortune to keep them out of the Playoff.


In 2013, Auburn got better, then got lucky. What happens to an experienced Tigers team after the greatest run of good fortune since the 1990 Colorado Buffaloes? What magic does Gus Malzahn have prepared for one of the country's most brutal schedules?

South Carolina

Carolina must replace most of last year's top names but returns virtually everyone else. Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks are experienced, fast, and physical, and with a kind SEC schedule, they should be considered the favorite in the East.


Les Miles' 10th Tigers team might be his youngest and most athletic. That could make for a huge range of results and plenty of excitement and absurdity. And really, what else would we want from the Mad Hatter and the Bayou Bengals?


UGA has incredible skill position talent, one of the best coordinator duos in the country, and a threatening front seven. The Dawgs also have serious questions at offensive line and defensive back. Good luck figuring them out.

Tier 2

Ole Miss

With a superb defense alone, the Rebels should be able to match last year's eight wins in Hugh Freeze's third season. The offense will dictate whether the ceiling is eight, nine, or something far greater.

Texas A&M

A&M has enough experience, especially on the offensive line, to assure that the bar doesn't fall too low in this post-Manziel universe. Still, the Aggies will have a young quarterback facing a brutal schedule. That sets the bar around 8-4.


Considering the losses, you'll recognize more names than you think on this year's Mizzou. But the Tigers have to fill some pretty big holes at receiver, linebacker, and cornerback if they are to make a run at a second straight East title.


Can a new offensive coordinator and a healthy quarterback cure what ailed Florida? And with a projection of 7-5, one has to start asking how many wins it will take to save the Will Muschamp era in Gainesville.

Mississippi State

Through 10 games in 2013, MSU was 4-6 and Dan Mullen was on the hot seat. Three games later, the Bulldogs had hype and expectations. Are they ready to back it up?

Tier 3


Extreme turnover in the trenches should prevent the Vols from doing much better than about 6-6 in Butch Jones' second season in Knoxville. But great recruiting and increasing experience could make for high 2015 expectations.

Tier 4


In Bret Bielema's second year in charge at Arkansas, his Razorbacks should be excellent at running the football and solid at defending the pass. But that isn't enough to make serious headway against a brutal schedule.


Derek Mason has the perfect résumé for continuing Vandy's winning ways in James Franklin's absence. But while the defense has some exciting play-makers, the offense will be a question mark. (Thank heavens for a ridiculously easy non-conference slate.)


Mark Stoops improved Kentucky on the field (from awful to bad) and in recruits' living rooms (top-20 recruiting class) in his first year on the job. His Wildcats won't be bowling in Year 2, but there's opportunity.

Sun Belt

Tier 1

UL Lafayette

The Cajuns claimed a conference title and won nine games for the third straight year. Can they storm the gates with 10 or 11 wins and a non-conference upset in Terrance Broadway's senior season?

Tier 2

Arkansas State

Including interims, Blake Anderson will be the sixth ASU head coach in 41 games, once he leads ASU onto the field against Montana State on August 30. He inherits a team with question marks in the trenches and riches on the outside.

Tier 3

UL Monroe

ULM struggled to get rolling in 2013. The offense cratered, in part because of injuries, and the defense couldn't pick up the slack. The Warhawks have one of the country's most experienced two-deeps but must replace their long-time starting quarterback.

South Alabama

Surprise! USA was quite salty last year, but some close-game struggles probably kept you from noticing. Regardless, the Jaguars could very well be a Sun Belt contender in just their third FBS season.


Head coach Larry Blakeney's legacy at Troy is set already, but if he has one more rise to Sun Belt power in him, it begins this year. His Trojans have problems at quarterback and on defense, but Troy's got some play-makers.

Texas State

TXST's defense was a major liability in 2012. The Bobcats improved dramatically on that side of the ball last fall but regressed on offense. Is this the year both units move forward at the same time?

Georgia Southern

In Georgia Southern's final game as an FCS team, the Eagles took down Florida. That was a grand statement, but with a new head coach, changes to the offense, and a lack of size on the lines, are the Eagles ready to compete consistently at the FBS level?

Tier 4


Paul Petrino signed 16 junior college transfers for his 2014 recruiting class in the hopes of making quick progress in a tough rebuilding project. Will the risk pay off, or will that just speed up the arrival of the NEXT Idaho rebuilding job?

Appalachian State

Appalachian State makes the leap to FBS, but are the Mountaineers doing so a few years too late? Timing the jump is hard, and ASU comes to the FBS off of its worst season in 20 years.

Georgia State

Georgia State's first FBS season went about as poorly as expected, but the Panthers showed verifiable improvement in November. Do enough key pieces return for that growth to become a starting point?

New Mexico State

Doug Martin isn't looking to take shortcuts in building a program. He's recruiting high schoolers, building slowly, and accepting short-term pain to hopefully win in a few years.

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