If the 2014 college football season runs true to Sports Illustrated’s preseason crystal ball projections, the Oklahoma Sooners and Alabama would meet in a rematch of their January 2014 BSC Sugar Bowl game in one of the two College Football Playoff national semifinal contests that go into effect for the first time this season.
The Sooners are ranked No. 3 in SI’s 2014 Preseason Top 25 rankings, behind top-ranked defensing national champion Florida State and the Crimson Tide. Ohio State completes the tip four in the SI preseason poll, with UCLA on the dubious five line, which sits on the outside looking in at the four schools that would qualify for the national playoff if the CFB selection committee, for example, were to hypothetically reach the same conclusion in it selection of the four playoff teams.
As in most preseason national polls, Baylor is projected as the second best team in the Big 12 this coming season. The Bears, who rolled to their first Big 12 football championship last season, are also ranked in the top 10 in the SI preseason poll, at No. 10. Kansas State, the 2013 Big 12 champion in football, is the only other Big 12 teams ranked in the SI Preseason Top 25. The Wildcats come in at No. 21.
SI.com writer Ben Glicksman says, “Oklahoma’s win over Alabama in last season’s Sugar Bowl showed what this yeat’s Sooners could be. (Against Alabama) the Sooners rolled out an aggressive defense and a passer (redshirt freshman Trevor Knight) with Johnny-Manziel-like improvisation. Now they need to add a sense of consistency.”
“There are heightened expectations in Waco after Baylor won its first Big 12 championship last year, ” writes Colin Becht of SI.com in assessing Baylor coming into the 2014 season, “especially because senior quarterback Bryce Petty returns. Petty will have help from returning redshirt sophomore back Shock Linwood, who gained 6.9 yards per carry last fall, second in the Big 12…The Bears also bring back five of Petty’s top six targets, a group that accounted for 75 percent of the 2013 receptions.”
The only thing you have to say about why Kansas State deserves to be ranked 21st in the Sports Illustrated preseason poll is two words: Bill Snyder. The dean of the Big 12 football coaches knows how to win and he is able to get the very most out of whatever talent he has. Plus, the Wildcats return arguably the Big 12′s second best quarterback in senior Jake Waters, along with one of the nation’s most exciting all-purpose receiver/returner Tyler Lockett.
To fulfill its (top-25 ranking), “Kansas State needs a comprehensive ground game after losing its top two rushers, as well as production from four viable new starters in the front seven to complement Big 12 defensive player of the year Ryan Mueller,” says SI.com writer Brian Hamilton.
At the same time Sports Illustrated announced its top 25 preseason college football top-25 poll, the magazine also came out with its preseason All-America team, which includes three Big 12 players as first-team selections: senior wide-receiver Antwan Goodley of Baylor on offensive, Oklahoma junior linebacker Eric Striker on defense and Kansas State senior Tyler Lockett on special teams.