Looking Ahead to College Football in 2014 (Part Two)

What's in store for the Ducks with Mariota returning at quarterback?

On Tuesday, I gave you part one of a look towards the 2014 college football season. Yes, I’m aware the paint isn’t even dry from the 2013 season yet, but don’t act like you aren’t just a little interested in what college football could bring us this coming fall.

In my first part, I looked at burning questions for the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12. Today, the focus shifts to the Pac-12, Mountain West, American Athletic and Independents so let’s get started shall we?

Pac-12 – For a good part of the season it looked as though the Pac-12 would have at least one team in the BCS Title game and would easily have two teams in BCS bowl games. Unfortunately a domino effect took place that saw Stanford lose at Utah, Oregon lose to Stanford, The Cardinal then lose to USC and finally, Oregon was whipped by Arizona. No BCS title shot and only one BCS team and that being champion Stanford.

Burning Questions for the Pac-12… With Marcus Mariota returning, what can we expect from the Ducks? Is Steve Sarkisian really a step up from Lane Kiffin at USC? Will the improvement by the two teams in the desert continue? Is UCLA a title contender with Brett Hundley returning and will Colorado finally be a factor in this conference?

Can Bryan Harsin return Boise State to its' lofty expectations?

Mountain West – Boise State had a rather pedestrian 8-5 this past season and now Chris Peterson has headed off to Seattle to coach Washington. The Broncos were always seen as a team where anything less than 11 wins was a disappointment. Now they are finding out that life in the MWC has been a more significant step up than they might have thought. They will look to join Utah State and Fresno State at the top in 2014.

Burning Questions for the Mountain West… How will Fresno replace 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards passing with the departure of Derek Carr? Can Air Force bounce back from a very unusual 2-10 season? Will Boise State return to form under a new coach or will they continue to struggle in the MWC? Will Colorado State and San Diego State continue to be teams on the rise and will Nevada get back on track as well?

American Athletic Conference – Conference champion Central Florida did the league proud by beating Big 12 champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and now what can the Knights do for an encore? The AAC changes drastically for 2014 as Rutgers heads to the Big Ten and Louisville goes to the ACC. East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa enter the AAC this coming season and Navy comes on board in 2015.

Burning Questions for the AAC… Blake Bortles appears to be headed to the NFL and that begs the question, where does UCF go from there? Will ECU, Tulane or Tulsa have any impact on the race for the title? Is Cincinnati the odds-on-favorite to win the AAC? Can UConn and Temple bounce back from poor seasons and will Houston be a factor as well?

Independents – When you think about it, Notre Dame’s 9-4 record really wasn’t that bad considering they entered the season without Everett Golson at QB and had to replace numerous players on both sides of the ball from their 12-1 season in 2012. BYU played a difficult schedule and did well to finish 8-5 and Navy enters their final year as an independent and comes off a 9-4 record and more dominance over rival Army.

Burning Questions for the Independents… Can Army finally return to glory under a new coach and can they finally beat Navy? Can the Irish win road games at Arizona State, Florida State and USC? How far will Old Dominion come in their second year of FBS? Are the BYU Cougars capable of a 10-win season with their schedule and can Idaho get over the ‘one-win’ hump in 2014?