College Football Shootaround: 2014 Predictions We’re Bound to Regret

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The 2014 college football season is rapidly approaching. Are you excited? We’re excited! We’re also here to help you prep for the impending campaign with a steady stream of preview content. So check back daily (well, not on weekends!) for more on the players, teams, leagues, trends, and emojis destined to define this season. Roll Tide. Or War Damn Eagle. Whichever.

Today: Grantland’s college football enthusiasts offer their forecasts for the 2014 playoff participants, national champion, and Heisman winner, and share their outlandish predictions. We’re all prepared to look very dumb in a few months; are you prepared to join us?

Holly Anderson

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Playoff Participants

Florida State: As much as I’d like to see Duke football make the big time, I live in the world.

UCLA: My concern about the personnel turnover on defense is overridden by a schedule that gives the Bruins a couple of warm-up weeks and stacks most of the scariest games at or after the season’s midpoint. (This makes facing Texas in the Jerry Dome and Arizona State on the road in September the “easier” games, which, welcome to the Pac-12.)

Baylor: This could just as easily be an Oklahoma pick; all I’m comfortable counting on out of the Big 12 is a terrifically fun cannibal fight to watch in November.

South Carolina: This is one of those times when I’m counting on all of you to clap your hands if you believe in the Gamecocks, so that we might all be treated to the spectacle of Steve Spurrier press conferences well into January.

National Champion

Florida State

Heisman Trophy Winner

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: An already preternaturally gifted player will be further elevated by wagonloads of surrounding talent and experience, and by a schedule that helpfully spaces out marquee games with many sure blowouts.

Outlandish Prediction

I’m doubling down on my prediction for an undefeated Navy season. The misfortunes striking both Ohio State and Notre Dame over a single week suggest powers beyond our understanding shaping events to fall the way of the Middies — unless you’re prepared to suggest the gods are Michigan fans, and I think we all recognize that’s far-fetched. Best of all, if you disagree with me, you are anti-American.

Matt Hinton

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Playoff Participants

Florida State: No. 1 beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Oregon: The Ducks look as good as ever on paper. If this isn’t the year, with Marcus Mariota in (presumably) his final tour at quarterback, then when?

Oklahoma: I’m not sold that Trevor Knight has turned the corner for good, but I am sold on the defense and the respectable-but-not-too-tough schedule.

USC: Believe me, I know. I was prepared to go with Ohio State before the Buckeyes’ season entered code red. But the Trojans remain the gold standard for raw talent west of the Mississippi, they have a relatively manageable schedule (no Oregon or Washington from the Pac-12 North), and we saw over the back half of last season how high their ceiling is when they’re no longer burdened by Lane Kiffin. I could go on — Leonard Williams! Nelson Agholor! A competent quarterback! — but do you really need to hear more than “fired Lane Kiffin”?

National Champion

Florida State

Heisman Trophy Winner

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: I realize this pick is as infuriating to Florida State fans as it is boring to everyone else, but with all due respect to Jameis Winston’s game, it’s nearly impossible for a reigning Heisman winner to repeat under any circumstances. As long as he’s healthy, Mariota is a known quantity whose time has come.

Outlandish Prediction

The SEC will be shut out of the playoff. Capitals will burn if this happens, but none of the contenders in God’s Own Conference looks like an obvious choice to run away from the pack. Most of them — Alabama, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M — are breaking in new quarterbacks in place of wildly productive, multiyear starters. The defending champ, Auburn, got by on the skin of its teeth in 2013, and with a relatively atrocious defense. (You wouldn’t know it from the preseason polls, but the Auburn offense also lost a Heisman finalist in the backfield and the second overall pick in the draft on the offensive line.) Missouri lost the core of the lineup from last year’s surprise run to the conference championship game. Florida is coming off its worst season in decades. Ole Miss is beginning to close the talent gap, but is still a year away from a real breakthrough. And the perennial problem: They all have to play each other. Alabama is the de facto pick to win the conference because the Crimson Tide are the equivalent of a safe, blue-chip stock. Just as likely, though: No front-runner will emerge, every team will suffer multiple losses, and the playoff committee will opt for teams with fewer scars from the other dogs in their own leagues.

Andrew Sharp

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Playoff Participants

Florida State: Obviously.

Georgia: Even if the Bulldogs split the first two weeks (versus Clemson and at South Carolina), there’s a decent chance they could run the table from there. They don’t play Bama or LSU, and winning the East Division and SEC championship game would put Georgia in the playoff. On the other hand, something always goes wrong with this team, so there’s a 70 percent chance this spot could be Bama’s instead.

UCLA: The Bruins get Oregon, USC, and Stanford at home, and they have another year of Brett Hundley and Myles Jack. Why not?

Oklahoma: Whichever side wins the November 8 Baylor-Oklahoma game should be the fourth team here, and it’s in Norman, so … Oklahoma it is!

National Champion

Georgia1

Heisman Trophy Winner

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: My heart says Leonard Fournette runs for 2,000 yards and becomes the first true freshman in history to win. My head says 12 of the last 14 Heismans have gone to quarterbacks. Let’s split the difference and say Todd Gurley.

Outlandish Prediction

Bob Stoops will go on medical leave. It’ll just be a minor health scare, but rest will be mandatory, forcing Stoops to leave Oklahoma for a few months starting around October. This’ll clear the way for Barry Switzer to charge down from the mountaintop and back to the sidelines to guide the Sooners through the second half of the season. He’ll work three days a week, he’ll coach every game with a loaded gun tucked into his waistband, and he’ll take this whole team further than anyone ever imagined. Actually, forget FSU and Georgia and UCLA and anyone else: Switzer’s coming back and Oklahoma’s winning it all.

Chris Ryan

charlie-strong-tri

Playoff Participants

UCLA: Because the Bruins will survive the Pac-12 dogfight.

Michigan State: Because of Rich Homie Quan.

Florida State: Because all the Seminoles have to do is crab-walk past the Cowboys in the first week and the Gators in the last one.

Alabama: Because even I know to say Alabama. I’d like to imagine an outsider bombing into this gang of four and making things interesting — an Auburn kind of team. But for the first year of the playoff, I’m going to be a little boring. The two top preseason teams, and a pair from just outside the top five.

National Champion

Alabama

Heisman Trophy Winner

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA: Just because every time I hear him talked about on sports radio by folks who have been attending UCLA’s practices, they make him sound like Dan Marino in Tecmo Bowl.

Outlandish Prediction

Texas will finish in the top 10. I know it’s a little early for Charlie Strong to turn this program around, and the Longhorns certainly haven’t had what could be called a “good” summer, but I have a weird feeling about this team. I think the Horns will take one off of either UCLA or Oklahoma, and I think they’ll beat Baylor on October 4. I have no real rationale for this. Sometimes the universe just speaks to you.

Bryan Curtis

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Playoff Participants

Florida State: Ctrl+V from 2013.

Alabama: Ctrl+V from 2013.

Oregon: This feels like the SEC’s second slot, but I can’t figure how Oregon isn’t going to make it.

Oklahoma: We’ll learn quickly that college football doesn’t produce four legit national-title teams in one year. OU feels like the 10-2 team that sneaks in.

National Champion

Alabama

Heisman Trophy Winner

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: How’s this for a mishmash of un-sabermetric wisdom? Hundley has the Troy Aikman–in-’88 season (great pro audition, but no Heisman). T.J. Yeldon has too few carries. Todd Gurley has the Garrison Hearst–in-’92 season (too many losses). The voters register their unease with the non-prosecution of Jameis Winston at the ballot box. Which leaves Mariota. Unless he has the Joey Harrington–in-’01 season.

Outlandish Prediction

Kenny Chesney produces a documentary about Steve Spurrier. Wait, that already happened?! I’ll turn homeward: Texas fans who’ve been saying “Charlie Strong doesn’t care what the media says” realize Strong has been working the media, quite expertly, all along.

Michael Weinreb

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Playoff Participants

LSU: Because the Tigers get Bama at home, and because the SEC will most likely revert to its smashmouth roots this season, and because I’ve been consuming graminoids for fun.

Florida State: Reverting to classic Seminole tradition, they’ll beat Oklahoma State and thrash Clemson, then lose in overtime to NC State after several players are suspended for allegedly receiving free double meat at a Chipotle.

Oregon: Honestly, it’s not impossible to imagine Oregon losing four games, because the Pac-12 is such a fascinating gantlet of quirks and tics that it almost makes Mike Leach seem relatively normal. And yet …

Alabama: Because if there isn’t a second SEC team in this playoff, then, like, why are we here on this planet in the first place?

National Champion

LSU

Heisman Trophy Winner

Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State: Because the last four Heisman Trophies have been awarded to quarterbacks who were largely unknown heading into the season, and because I like to imagine that Keeton’s magical season will result in a major revival of Rickie Lee Jones’s “Chuck E.’s in Love.”

Outlandish Prediction

A commissioner whose conference is shut out of the playoff will initiate a physical altercation in public with a commissioner whose conference earns two playoff spots, resulting in injuries to several bowl executives, a mascot, and Brent Musburger. The playoff will still be considered an unqualified success, though the best bowl game of the season will be the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl, which will end on a series of laterals that makes the Cal-Stanford play seem sedate, and which will cause at least nine heart attacks within the region.

Shane Ryan

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Playoff Participants

Florida State: Because sports have shown us time and time again that (ALLEGEDLY) bad people prosper.

Alabama: Because sports have shown us time and again that (PROVEN) boring monomaniacs prosper.

Notre Dame: Because sports have shown us time and again that (CHRONIC) hypocrites prosper.

Boise State: What a quirky, fun story!

National Champion

Alabama

Heisman Trophy Winner

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: Because life is going to make us all sit through another speech about beating the odds and overcoming adversity, just to make sure our gag reflex stays at “hair-trigger alert.”

Outlandish Prediction

I’ll stop being cynical about football at the ACC championship game, when the glorious Blue Devils of glorious Duke get glorious revenge for last year’s thumping at the hands of non-glorious Florida State, and then go on to defeat Notre Dame in the semifinals as I mock all my Catholic relatives, and then literally reduce Nick Saban to tears by beating Alabama in the championship game, to the point that all he can say to Holly Rowe (or whomever) is: “I thought beauty was a myth.”

Matt Borcas

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Playoff Participants

Florida State: The Noles are Joey Chestnut, and the rest of the ACC is $32 worth of Publix crab legs.

Stanford: Condi Rice being on the selection committee all but assures this.

Ohio State: Little-known fact: When your second-toughest conference opponent is coached by Brady Hoke, you can get by with an unremarkable redshirt freshman at quarterback.

South Carolina: The top SEC West teams will cancel each other out, and Steve Spurrier in the inaugural College Football Playoff is what this country needs right now.

National Champion

Florida State

Heisman Trophy Winner

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: With Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill, and Odell Beckham Jr. off to the NFL, this true freshman really will need to be LSU’s version of Michael Jordan — or, at the absolute minimum, Adrian Peterson.

Outlandish Prediction

Is it really outlandish to suggest that a second consecutive midseason firing may be in the cards for Lane Kiffin? Alabama’s offense reportedly looked putrid in the spring, and presumed QB1 Jacob Coker still hasn’t managed to beat out Blake Sims for the starting job. On top of that, there are compelling reasons to believe the Crimson Tide’s dynastic run is coming to an end, especially after Oklahoma’s complete undressing of Bama in the Sugar Bowl. I’m not saying the Tide will necessarily lose two games before the calendar turns to November, but if they do, there’s going to be a scapegoat, and it won’t be Nick Saban. For maximum job security, Kiffin would be wise to discard all the passing plays in his playbook and subsist entirely on a diet of Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon. Of course, he has way too much pride to do that, and it might cost him another job.

Ed Feng

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Playoff Participants

Florida State: Remember when we expected this team to choke away an ACC game every year?

Alabama: Only Auburn’s version of Harvey Updyke will be able to stop this train.

Oregon: The Ducks get Stanford and Michigan State at home, and will show program strength as Chip Kelly’s Eagles regress.

Georgia: This’ll be the season that makes Dawgs fans wonder how Mark Richt was ever on the hot seat in Athens.

National Champion

Florida State

Heisman Trophy Winner

Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford: He showed his ability to complete passes downfield against a stout Michigan State defense in last season’s Rose Bowl, and he’ll benefit this year from three fast receivers returning.

Outlandish Prediction

TCU will win the Big 12. The Horned Frogs lost close games last season, but as I recently discussed while writing about Wisconsin, that doesn’t matter the next year. The defense should be elite, while the offense will improve thanks to a QB competition between Matt Joeckel and Trevone Boykin. Plus, the Horned Frogs get overrated Oklahoma at home.

Mallory Rubin

stefon-diggs-tri

Playoff Participants

Florida State: The ACC may have produced the 2013 national champion, but it’s not quite ready to produce a regular-season gantlet. FSU could run the table, and if that happens, a selection committee tabbing will be a mere formality.

Alabama: T.J. Yeldon might be the best running back in the country … or the second-best back on his own team. Nick Saban’s squad doesn’t stay down for long, so expect the Tide to reload and recharge once again.

Oregon: The Ducks’ annual stumble could come earlier than usual this year, in Week 2 against Michigan State, but Marcus Mariota & Co. get Stanford at home and should be primed for redemption after a gut-wrenching, season-defining tumble in Palo Alto last year.

UCLA: It’s hard to know whether to be more excited about Brett Hundley or Myles Jack. And how about Jim Mora, lurking somewhere in the shadows of their preseason hype, and quietly on the brink of doing much more than merely ending the football monopoly in L.A.?

National Champion

Alabama

Heisman Trophy Winner

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: Sure, a clear, recent pattern has emerged of the trophy going to the quarterback from the best or most exciting team. But another pattern has emerged in tandem: The trophy going to a fresh-faced newbie who comes out of nowhere to take the sport by storm. Fournette may not be able to outrun the hype, which is far greater than what greeted Johnny Manziel or even five-star recruit Jameis Winston, but if he can, he’ll be a potentially historically productive contributor on a national contender. The only question is what Les Miles will chew on at the ceremony. Carpet?

Outlandish Prediction

Because picking a true freshman currently facing 66-1 odds to win the Heisman isn’t enough: Maryland will win 10 games in its first year in the Big Ten! Yes, I grew up in Maryland. And yes, this falls more in line with “certifiably insane” than merely “outlandish.” But whatever. Have you seen Stefon Diggs play? If nothing else, he’s good enough to make seven wins feel like 10.

Filed Under: 2014 College Football Preview, College Football, College Football Preview, College Football Playoff, 2014 College Football Playoff, Heisman Trophy, Florida State Seminoles, Alabama Crimson Tide, Oregon Ducks, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, LSU Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, South Carolina Gamecocks, Baylor Bears, Georgia Bulldogs, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Stanford Cardinal, Texas Longhorns, Ohio State Buckeyes, Boise State Broncos, TCU Horned Frogs, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Todd Gurley, Kevin Hogan, Chuckie Keeton, Nick Saban, Charlie Strong, NCAA, NCAAF, Grantland Staff

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