Let’s be honest—releasing a Top 25 for the 2014 college football season in January is pretty ridiculous. There are still many draft decisions, recruit signings, and coaching hires to be made, and then all of spring football and summer workouts before we can really begin to figure out who the nation’s elite teams will be this fall. However, what’s the harm in guessing?
Here is College Spun’s Top 25 for the 2014 season:
25. North Carolina – After a brutal 1-5 start to 2013, the Tar Heels will look to take momentum from their 6-1 finish into 2014. They return quarterback Marquise Williams, who was surprisingly effective after taking over for Bryn Renner midway through the season, as well as their top wide receiver Quinshad Davis, who should be among the best in the ACC.
24. Texas – New head coach Charlie Strong should bring renewed energy to a roster that, while not perfect, has some serious talent. The Longhorns won’t be ready to win the Big 12, but they should be more exciting than the last few Mack Brown teams.
23. Washington – The Huskies probably upgraded at head coach, bringing in Boise State’s Chris Peterson to replace new USC head coach Steve Sarkisian. The offense loses some fire power, but one of the Pac-12’s best defenses remains almost wholly intact.
22. Texas A&M – The Aggies won’t be the same team without the duo of Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans. On the bright side, the defense probably can’t be worse than it was this season, as most of the young players on that side of the ball should develop.
21. Clemson – The Tigers lose Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, and Martavis Bryant, but Chad Morris will have some intriguing quarterback options in Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly, and top ranked true freshman Deshaun Watson to chose from as Boyd’s heir. Clemson’s defense should improve with most of its key players returning.
20. Notre Dame – The Irish will be led by 2012 starting quarterback Everett Golson, who returns after a year away due to academic issues, and they’ll need all the help they can get. Notre Dame’s schedule features ten 2013 bowl teams, and the defense will likely experience a step back after losing a number of top front seven players.
19. Oklahoma State – The Cowboys lose a lot of talent on defense, but the offense shouldn’t take a huge hit, even with the graduation of Clint Chelf. J.W. Walsh has a lot of starting experience, while Desmond Roland should have another big year as Oklahoma State’s featured back.
18. Ole Miss – Bo Wallace’s return should signal good things for the Rebel offense, while the young, talented defense has a year under its belt and should be one of the best units in the country. The SEC West isn’t getting any easier, but the Rebels’ schedule is somewhat manageable, by division standards at least.