Ten predictions for 2014


The BCS era ended Monday night, with No. 1 Florida State defeating No. 2 Auburn 34-31 in the final BCS National Championship, halting the SEC's string of seven consecutive national titles.

This coming season, college football's national championship will be decided by a new four-team playoff, and it's never too early to look ahead.

While I have missed some predictions over the last few seasons, I did get quite a few things right in 2013. I told you Auburn would be the most improved team in the country, although I'll admit I didn't think Gus Malzahn would guide the Tigers to the title game in his first season as their coach.

Here's what else I got right: The Big Ten would (fortunately) rename its divisions, USC would fire coach Lane Kiffin, Ohio State wouldn't go undefeated again, and Atlanta and Dallas would be the big winners in the new playoff. I correctly had Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Stanford and Ohio State playing in BCS bowl games, although their specific destinations weren't exactly accurate.

Here's what I got wrong (among many other things): Alabama defeating Oregon to win its third consecutive BCS national title; Michigan, Notre Dame and Texas playing in BCS bowl games; and Purdue's Darrell Hazell being the next big thing (whoops).

Well, it never hurts to keep trying, so here are 10 bold predictions for 2014:

1. An SEC team won't win a national championship for the second season in a row: After incorrectly picking USC to win a national championship in 2012, I told myself I'd pick an SEC team every year until someone knocked the league from its lofty perch. Well, Florida State finally did it by beating Auburn at the Rose Bowl on Monday night, and I think the Seminoles are going to be the team to beat again in 2014. With quarterback Jameis Winston coming back, FSU will be a popular choice as the No. 1 team in the country heading into this coming season.

The SEC is going to go through a transition in 2014 with so many experienced quarterbacks leaving. Among the high-profile passers moving on: Alabama's AJ McCarron, Georgia's Aaron Murray, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, South Carolina's Connor Shaw and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, who is presumably leaving the Aggies to enter the NFL draft. There will be a lot of inexperienced SEC quarterbacks under center next season, so the high-scoring football that resembled the Big 12 in recent seasons should be a thing of the past.

2. Changes will be made to the targeting rule: College football's new targeting rule had a big -- and mostly positive -- effect on the game this past season, as officials tried to eliminate head-to-head collisions and above-the-shoulder hits on defenseless players to curtail the risks of concussions.

But the most controversial part of the new rule was that if a targeting penalty was overturned by replay, the offending player wasn't ejected from the game, but his team was still hit with a 15-yard penalty. The sport's rule-makers have to change the rule during the offseason to not only overturn an ejection, but also the 15-yard penalty if a foul wasn't actually committed.

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