Staples - Fearless Projections for 2014

Looking deeply into the crystal ball, Jason Staples gives his fearless predictions for 2014.

The Big Ten will effectively be out of the national championship hunt after Week 2: LSU beats Wisconsin opening week and then in Week 2, Oregon comfortably beats Michigan State, and Virginia Tech shocks Braxton Miller-less Ohio State in an ugly, offensively-challenged game.

The SEC Champion will have (at least) two losses. The bottom and middle of the conference has gotten better while the top of the conference is not quite as dominant as it has been. This should make for a very entertaining SEC campaign full of upsets.

There will be much hand-wringing over whether the SEC could be left out of the playoff (and calls to expand to 8 teams if it happens), but the SEC champ will still make the playoff in the end.

Marcus Mariota will win the Heisman Trophy. The media will be looking for someone other than Winston to win the award, and Mariota sits in the best position to claim the trophy. Brett Hundley of UCLA also has a good shot.

Jameis Winston will have the second best single-season passing efficiency rating in NCAA history. He will approach but not quite exceed Russell Wilson’s 191.78 rating from 2011.

Karlos Williams will average almost 8 yards per carry on his way to a 1,500 yard season on the ground. The dominance of the FSU running game will actually hurt Winston’s chances of repeating as the Heisman winner.

Mario Pender and Dalvin Cook will combine for another 1400+ yards on the season. FSU will split its carries between its backs, and I would expect all three backs to be over 600 yards.

The ACC Coastal will finish in a four-way tie for first place, with no team better than 9-3 overall. This one’s going deep into the tiebreakers, folks.

Texas will win the Big 12. Oklahoma is the trendy pick here after the bowl win over Alabama, but I think Charlie Strong will have the Longhorns playing much more physical football, resulting in a conference title.

Clemson will beat Georgia for the second season opener in a row. Despite losing key playmakers from its offense last year, Clemson will actually be a bit more consistent at the QB position and the improvement on defense will be enough to hold off the Bulldogs, who will quickly learn it will take Jeremy Pruitt longer than a year to turn around a defense lacking Florida State’s ridiculous talent levels across the board.

Florida bounces back with an 8-4 regular season. Will Muschamp does just enough to save his job, with the Gators pulling a couple conference upsets and contending for the SEC East before getting pounded by Florida State in the season finale.

Louisville will struggle more than expected in its inaugural ACC season and finish 7–5. The Cards simply aren’t as talented as many believe, and the transition year will be a bumpy ride.

The coaching carousel hits Ann Arbor, Charlottesville, Morgantown, and Lawrence, KS. Michigan finally gets impatient with mediocre results and MSU’s resurgence, Virginia’s quarterback issues doom London, West Virginia’s defense continues to give up absurd numbers, and Charlie Weis will have to take his decided schematic advantage somewhere else.

Florida State enters the playoff at 13-0 after a historically dominant regular season. This is a stronger team than the 2013 team that won it all a year early.

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