This article originated as a pretty standard "Let's talk about the top college football games of 2014" but while looking at the upcoming fall schedule I started wondering..
Will 2014 be completely awesome?
As Notre Dame fans that kind of depends on how the Irish perform, right? At the very least, I could make an arguments that this 2014 Notre Dame team has a lot of potential to be fun to watch and should be a reasonably competitive top 20-ish team. For the You're Either First or Last crowd a fun 2-loss (dare I say 3 loss) season most certainly won't be awesome but that type of campaign combined with a wonderful college football season on the national level could be very endearing.
Let's not forget the 4-team playoff begins this upcoming season too. I think it will win many of its skeptics over rather quickly. The bowl games are nice because there is more football to watch after the season but now we're adding an extra game that actually has meaning. More non-exhibition games!
What's more, have you seen the slate of games for the first month of the 2014 season? We're in for a real treat to begin the year. Just looking at the first month doesn't even get into the traditionally best games of the year either. Check out this Top 25 list from Athlon, for example. Not a single game from the first month is in their top 10 and just 5 early-season games crack the entire list.
Normally you'd think that doesn't speak too well to the early season games but let's take a look at the scheduling for college football in 2014:
- 8/28 Boise State at Ole Miss (Georgia Dome)
- 8/28 Texas A&M at South Carolina
- 8/30 FSU at Oklahoma State (AT&T Stadium)
- 8/30 UCF at Penn State (Dublin, Ireland)
- 8/30 West Virginia at Alabama (Georgia Dome)
- 8/30 Utah State at Tennessee
- 8/30 Fresno State at USC
- 8/30 Georgia at Clemson
- 8/30 UCLA at Virginia
- 8/30 Cal at Northwestern
- 8/30 Wisconsin at LSU (Reliant Stadium)
- 8/30 Ohio State at Navy (M&T Stadium)
- 9/6 Virginia Tech at Ohio State
- 9/6 BYU at Texas
- 9/6 Michigan State at Oregon
- 9/13 Tennessee at Oklahoma
- 9/13 UCLA at Texas (AT&T Stadium)
- 9/13 Minnesota at TCU
- 9/13 UCF at Missouri
- 9/13 Arkansas at Texas Tech
- 9/13 West Virginia at Maryland
- 9/18 Auburn at Kansas State
- 9/20 Miami at Nebraska
- 9/20 Northern Illinois at Arkansas
- 9/20 Bowling Green at Wisconsin
- 9/20 Clemson at Florida State
- 9/20 Iowa at Pitt
Is this the best opening month in college football in 15 years or more?
That list doesn't even include the Michigan at Notre Dame game or an intriguing re-match of the bowl game between Louisville and Miami who are now fellow conference members.
There's so much to be excited about for this upcoming season and it certainly seems like the anticipated emphasis on resume and schedule strength coming from the playoff format has made teams step outside their comfort zone a little more in the past.
Here are some story lines I'm thinking about for 2014:
What will FSU look like with a target on its back having officially returned to elite status? Same goes for Jameis Winston as the returning Heisman winner. Can he repeat?
Will Al Golden finally take Miami to the next level? The Canes did take a step forward last year but it's still been 10 straight years with at least 3 losses for the program.
Is Baylor (29-10 since 2011) due for a step back or is Briles' recruiting going to keep the Bears among the Big 12 elite? What's the dynamic between Texas and Oklahoma going to look like now? Heck, what's Texas going to look like in general.
Can anyone in the Big Ten beat Ohio State during the regular season? Does Franklin ride a lot of recruiting momentum through the New Year for Penn State? Is this Hoke's last season in Ann Arbor? Michigan State has won 11+ games in 3 out of the last 4 years--can they keep it up in a bloated-sized conference?
Does the Pac-12 cement itself as the deepest conference in the country? With a number of young, successful, and new coaches how does the pecking order sort out among the West Coast programs?
What is the SEC going to look like with so many unproven quarterbacks? Will this finally be the year the SEC really struggles to lay claim to the title as the best conference in the country?
What's life going to be like for the non-major conference teams in the playoff-era setting? Northern Illinois and UCF lost some key pieces, Boise State lost their head coach, and Louisville's move to the ACC severely weakens the AAC. Who is going to get the mid-major auto bid to the non-semifinal major bowl game and how competitive will they be?
Will Notre Dame defeat Michigan in the last game of the scheduled series?
I'm feeling an awesome year for college football.