Over at Crystal Ball Run, we've been counting down the first iteration of our preseason power poll for 2014. I'm nothing if not transparent, so here's my ballot:
CrystalBallRun.com Power Rankings Ballot – 2014 Preseason
1. Florida State
5. Ohio State
9. Notre Dame
Just missed the cut: Ole Miss, Baylor, USC
*Whereas I rank during the season based on achievement, I try to order preseason rankings based on pure strength, i.e. who beats whom on a neutral field. Not trying to project out the season.
*The Seminoles are an easy choice at No. 1. FSU has a Heisman Trophy winner and likely top overall pick in the NFL draft at quarterback to go along with a stacked roster. Jimbo Fisher has built himself a monster in Tallahassee.
*Speaking of which, the beat goes on for 'Bama, which is just as loaded as FSU from a talent perspective. Uncertainty at QB knocks the Crimson Tide down to second, although I expect getting Lane Kiffin's expertise will help A.J. McCarron's successor come along quickly.
*In the past, I probably would have ranked Oregon right behind the Tide. I love Marcus Mariota, but that team spooked me down the stretch. If 2013 is any indication, Mark Helfrich is no Chip Kelly.
*Auburn is an enigma. Gus Malzahn inherited a talented roster. Losing Tre Mason and Greg Robinson will. Also, is Auburn more the team that showed up in the second half of the year, or do the Tigers tend towards the squad that muddled through the first half of the year? I'll take the former, but War Eagle was as close to 8-4 as a combatant in the national title game.
*Did you know Ohio St. is losing four starters on the offensive line? I smell t-r-o-u-b-l-e. Also, why should we think the D will improve?
*LSU falls into the FSU/'Bama category. Les Miles just keeps recruiting studs. I shudder to think what this program could do if the Mad Hatter could keep his teams focused.
*Coming into December, OU was looking more like a candidate for the 20-25 range. The Sooners finished the season smoking hot. Their biggest question – who's the quarterback? – now has a pretty clear answer in Trevor Knight.
*I don't like having UCLA in the top 10, but the Bruins have plenty of good players still and a veteran QB in Brett Hundley.
*Can't believe I'm doing this, but I'll roll the dice on the Fighting Irish coming back strong this year. Brian Kelly has recruited consistently well (average annual team recruiting ranking since 2010, per Rivals.com: 11). The '13 team with Everett Golson behind center instead of Tommy Rees is probably two games better than ND actually finished.
*I know that I'm going to regret having Stanford so low, but don't be shocked if the Cardinal dip. David Shaw has brought in great recruits on both lines, but the program has sustained some hits up front. A one-year sabbatical away from the national elite should be expected at this point.