Alabama’s hated arch-rival Auburn is one of three teams featured in the top five of this preseason poll. The trio of teams that comprise the rankings from six to four are all poised to compete for a national championship. The teams enter on different notes. For some, they hope to build upon an outstanding campaign. For others, they hope to wash away the tears of disappointment; set-backs and untimely defeats ultimately costing them a chance for the crystal ball. Here is a look at teams six through four.
6. Michigan State Spartans – Many argue that Michigan State should have held the runner-up crown in 2014. However, Sparty finished third overall in the final polls. The Spartans enter 2014 with Big 10 and National championship, fresh on their mind. The ruthless squad from East Lansing, Michigan has lost many key players who comprise their “No Fly Zone” secondary. The defensive backfield is a collegiate fan’s “Legion of Boom.” Michigan State will hope to build on their Rose Bowl victory in their upcoming campaign.
5. Auburn Tigers – The “Team of Destiny” and arch-rival of the Alabama Crimson Tide is featured in the top five of this preseason poll. The Tigers will look to atone for a crushing defeat in the BCS National Championship against Florida State. With less than a minute remaining, War Eagle surrendered the lead and lost the affair in crushing fashion. Coach Gus Malzhan and quarterback Nick Marshall hope to contend yet again in 2014. The Tigers constructed the ninth ranked squad of freshmen and transfers nationally, while returning many essential starters on both sides of the ball. The Orange and Blue will be missing defensive-end Dee Ford and running back Tre Mason who have graduated and declared for the NFL Draft. Auburn will also have to navigate a cannibalistic SEC West Division. The country will watch and see if War Eagle can pull off the miraculous antics that allowed them to circumvent defeats to both Georgia and Alabama, en route to their SEC and championship game berth.
4. Oregon Ducks – The Duck Dynasty is poised yet again to vie for a national title in the upcoming season. Stanford has been the major hurdle for the Quack Attack to overcome in recent seasons. Stanford’s relentless defense has dominated what many call the greatest offense in the history of college football. Oregon is known for scoring more points than minutes in a game, and they do it fast and swiftly. These assassins of the gridiron will be spearheaded by Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariotta. The scoreboard will inevitably light up when the Ducks take the field. The question remains in Eugene whether that field will be in Arlington, Texas come season’s end.
Three more teams each with three different quests. The new college football playoff format allows for the possibility of several of these teams to clinch one of four berths in the new bracket. While some may not vie for national supremacy, these teams are strong candidates to be selected to one of the other major bowl games on New Years Day. There are several key match-ups that will play a role in determining the fate of these three. Michigan State will face Ohio State in the regular season, from these rankings this would create a #6 vs #7 contest. Additionally, besides the Oregon/Stanford title bout expect … The Civil War. This is none other than the cross-state rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State. In recent years, the game has been settled on the final drive. This year, the next edition will take place in Corvallis, Oregon, home of the Oregon State Beavers. This can set up a possible upset and a potential trap game for the Ducks. Finally, there is Auburn: Alabama’s arch-rival is proud to be featured in the top 5 preseason poll. The “Iron Bowl” can likely be another huge showdown with enormous implications. Tomorrow, a look at the top 3.
By Keith Fuchs