Looking Ahead to College Football in 2014 (Part One)

How will Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M fare without Johnny Football in 2014?

Last night officially brought an end to the 2013 college football season (and the BCS) with Florida State’s dramatic 34-31 win over Auburn. Today I find myself no better than the folks who feel it necessary to look forward to the following season before the teams even leave the field from the BCS Title game. I’m going to take a look at what we can look forward to in CFB in some major conferences next year.

Note: The Pac-12, Mountain West, American Athletic and Independents will follow on Thursday.

SEC – Despite the streak of national titles ending at seven, I think the Southeastern Conference is still in good shape. The exception of course is that the play of quarterbacks is likely to be down with Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger, A.J. McCarron and Johnny Manziel off to the NFL.

Burning Questions for the SEC – How will LSU and Georgia fare with new signal-callers under center? Can Will Muschamp survive a poor start in Gainesville with the pressure he is under? How good can we expect Texas A&M to be in year one post-Manziel? Can Bret Bielema survive another down year in Arkansas and can Auburn top their run from 2013?

The Terps, and Rutgers, join the Big Ten for the 2014 season.

Big Ten -The Big Ten, which previously had 12 members, now has 14 and is still called the Big Ten. No wonder American kids are terrible at math. Rutgers and Maryland join the Midwest’s premier conference and with them comes realignment. Gone are the ‘Legends and Leaders’ divisions and in their place are the East and West. The Scarlet Knights and Terrapins will join Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State in the East.

The West will be Illinois, Purdue, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. The conference will also move to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016.

Burning Questions for the Big Ten… Who will replace Bill O’Brien at Penn State where the Nittany Lions still have two years of probation left? Can Ohio State rebound from two straight losses after their 24-game winning streak? Can Michigan State repeat as conference champion? Can Brady Hoke survive another mediocre season in Ann Arbor and can Jerry Kill stay healthy enough in Minnesota to keep coaching?

Big 12 – The biggest news from the Big 12 comes from Austin where the Texas Longhorns appear to have found their man to replace Mack Brown. Louisville’s Charlie Strong has agreed to become the next coach of the Longhorns and he will immediately be under the microscope by the burnt orange faithful. Not only does Strong have to compete with conference foes for recruits but his Longhorns have played second fiddle to rival Texas A&M the last two years as well and that never sits well in Austin.

Burning Questions for the Big 12… Does Oklahoma enter as a prohibitive favorite based on how they finished their season with wins over Oklahoma State and Alabama? With Bryce Petty and Art Briles both back in Waco what can we expect from Baylor? Is there a surprise team on the rise like Iowa State or Kansas and can Mike Gundy and the Cowboys finally get over the hump?

ACC – The Seminoles have wrestled the title away from the SEC and now will look to repeat but they know it won’t be easy as many guys will head to the NFL. Clemson will be in a similar predicament with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins gone. With a year under their belts in the ACC, Syracuse and Pitt are out of the newlywed phase and expectations will be higher.

Burning Questions for the ACC… What will David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils do for an encore after a great 2013? Does Virginia Tech bounce back or does another average season spell the end for Frank Beamer? What will newcomer Louisville bring to the table in the ACC without Charlie Strong and Teddy Bridgewater? If Al Golden returns to his alma mater of Penn State who takes the reins in Miami? Who plays QB at Clemson and how will Dave Clawson fare in year one at Wake Forest?