Four is the magic number for CFB

Potential spoilers from non-Power Five conferences

1. Marshall Thundering Herd (Conference USA)

Quarterback Rakeem Cato is back after throwing for 3,916 yards with 39 touchdowns last season. The Thundering Herd might be the best bet to go unbeaten -- they don't play an opponent from a Power Five conference.

2. Cincinnati Bearcats (AAC)

If Kiel or Munchie Legaux, who is coming back from a bad knee injury, provides stability at quarterback, the Bearcats are probably the team to beat in the AAC. They'll get two chances to make some early noise with road games at Ohio State on Sept. 27 and Miami on Oct. 11.

3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Independent)

The Fighting Irish get back Golson and they're really excited about redshirt freshman tailback Greg Bryant, who missed most of last season with a knee injury. But ND's schedule is again a bear, with road games at FSU, Arizona State and USC and home games against Michigan, Stanford and North Carolina.

4. Houston Cougars (AAC)

The Cougars lost four of their last five games in 2013 (three to ranked opponents), but an 8-5 finish was a nice turnaround in coach Tony Levine's second full season. With quarterback John O'Korn and receiver Deontay Greenberry coming back, Houston's offense will be difficult to stop.

Programs rising

1. UCLA Bruins

The Bruins have a hot coach (Jim Mora) and a Heisman Trophy contender (quarterback Brett Hundley). With USC still fighting the effects of scholarship reductions from NCAA probation, UCLA has suddenly become the hot team in L.A.

2. Florida Gators

After a 4-8 disaster in 2013, in which the Gators lost to FCS foe Georgia Southern at the Swamp, Muschamp needs a big year. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper might be just what the doctor ordered -- if quarterback Jeff Driskel stays healthy.

3. Kansas State Wildcats

After winning a Big 12 title in 2012, the Wildcats took a step back last season, losing four of their first six games and finishing 8-5. Coach Bill Snyder won't let complacency and entitlement be factors this season.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions

Former Penn State coach Bill O'Brien kept the program afloat through NCAA sanctions, and now James Franklin seems poised to make it a Big Ten contender again. If quarterback Christian Hackenberg sticks around for four years, the Nittany Lions' future looks really bright.

Programs falling

1. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

It's hard to believe that it has been only three years since Greg Schiano was chopping wood at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have fallen off the map without him, going 15-11 under Kyle Flood. It won't be any easier in the Big Ten.

2. Texas A&M Aggies

It's hard enough to move on without Manziel and Evans. The Aggies will also have to try and survive in college football's toughest division without an SEC-caliber defense. They might take a big step back in 2014.

3. Louisville Cardinals

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and coach Charlie Strong are gone. Sure, Bobby Petrino is a heck of a football coach, but can the Cardinals survive without Bridgewater in their first season in the ACC?

4. Utah Utes

Page
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...