- Phil Steele, ESPN Staff Writer
In the past five college football offseasons, I have come up with a projected preseason AP poll on my website several months in advance of the poll's official release and have had some great results, including hitting all 25 teams in each of the past two years.
I do this by taking into account several aspects of how the AP votes. Those include:
• Most AP voters look at the number of starters the team has coming back, particularly at the offensive skill positions.
• And voters often weigh heavily the performance of the team in its most recent bowl game.
If you need a complete breakdown of all my considered factors, you can check out my original preseason AP top 10 projection from February.
Before I get to the rankings, it's important to make the point that this is not my preseason top 25 for 2014, but rather what I am projecting the AP Top 25 will look like to start the season. If you're familiar with my college football preview magazine (discounted for ESPN Insiders), you will know that every year I tend to go out on a limb for a couple of the teams in my top 25, and this year will be no different.
Now let's take a look at this year's projected preseason AP Top 25.
The Seminoles were my No. 1 surprise team a year ago and they went on to end the SEC's reign of seven straight national championships by winning their first title since 1999. They are clearly poised to stay on the top in 2014 and it starts with the return of 13 starters led by the Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Jameis Winston. Despite some early departures to the NFL draft, the Noles have a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball and they added another top-five recruiting class, signing 13 players from the ESPN 300.
The schedule will be more difficult than last year, however. It starts with the opener against Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas. Thankfully, Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida all have to travel to Doak Campbell Stadium and the Seminoles have a bye prior to their road trip to Louisville. They have also beaten rival Miami (FL) four consecutive times on the road. Add it all up and the Seminoles are clearly the favorites heading into the first year of the college football playoff, and the AP poll should reflect it. They could be a touchdown-or-greater favorite in all 12 of their games.