Jordan Lee: Florida State, Melvin Gordon to impress in 2014 college football season

College football is back. Which means football is back. Football season kicks off Thursday – and this weekend – when the majority of teams play their first games of the season. I’m just going to ignore the riveting Georgia State vs. Abilene Christian game from Wednesday, as I’m sure you did.

A lot has transpired since Florida State defeated Auburn for the national championship in January. Johnny Manziel swaggered his way to the Cleveland Browns’ bench, the Heisman Trophy winner shoplifted a bunch of seafood and soccer reigned supreme for a brief period in America.

But now we can put all of that behind us and turn our attention to the 2014 season. Thank goodness. Here are some of my thoughts on the upcoming year in college football.

Football’s Final Four:

Now that the universally derided Bowl Championship Series is out and the College Football Playoff is in, it’ll be interesting to see how the 13-person college football playoff selection committee chooses the four teams for this year’s inaugural playoff. With Condoleezza Rice, Archie Manning and a host of athletic directors among others, chances are the committee will try and keep it politically correct this year and choose the four teams with the best records from the power conferences, even if a two-loss team from, say, the Pac-12 or the SEC is more deserving. Both those conferences are loaded with talent from top to bottom, so navigating either without suffering a blemish or two will be quite the challenge. There’s also the ever-familiar possibility that an undefeated mid-major could crash the party and screw everything up. Whomever the committee ends up choosing, I’m sure no one will have any disagreements and all the problems of the old system will be resolved. Yeah, and Lane Kiffin will receive Knoxville’s key to the city.

My Four In: Oregon, Florida State, Michigan State, Alabama

Florida State: Probably the biggest no-brainer of the bunch, the defending champs will return with quarterback Jameis Winston and a number of talented skill players on offense. A couple of NFL prospects on defense don’t hurt the Seminoles chances either.

Alabama: Sure it hasn’t decided on a quarterback yet, but this team is always loaded with talent and coach Nick Saban is still fuming from last year’s Iron Bowl – not to mention the Sugar Bowl drubbing Oklahoma gave them.

Oregon: The team has a Heisman favorite in quarterback Marcus Mariota and seemingly everyone is picking UCLA to be here instead. At some point this team has to win it all, right? I have a hard time accepting that Darron Thomas at quarterback was this team’s peak.

Michigan State: The Spartans will once again have one of the top defenses in college football while quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford return on offense to guide a strong group.

Heisman Dark Horse: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

A running back hasn’t won the Heisman Trophy since 2009 and probably won’t again this year, but if one does, it might as well be Gordon. He certainly has the talent and plays in a system that allows running backs, like Montee Ball, James White and P.J. Hill, to flourish. The injury to Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller also helps his case, as the votes from Midwestern Heisman voters that would’ve been promised to the Buckeye quarterback may go to Gordon instead.

Surprise Team: Florida Gators

OK, so it won’t exactly shock the world if the Gators make a return to the upper echelon of college football after their worst season in 34 years. There are plenty of reasons to like the Gators, as the team is perennially stocked with talent. And while many in the SEC are breaking in new quarterbacks, Florida returns Jeff Driskel, who missed the majority of last season after breaking his right leg.

Disappointing Team: Oklahoma Sooners

This prediction could look very stupid by season’s end, but I’ll roll with it for now. Since Bob Stoops took over as coach in 1999, this team has been pretty much a lock for 10 wins a year. Though sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight tore up Alabama in last year’s Sugar Bowl, I’m not yet convinced that this team will be one of the four teams left standing at the end of the season – which is the expectation for a team that enters the season ranked No. 4 in the country.

Player You’ve Never Heard of But Will Know by January: Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall

Not only does Cato have a pretty awesome name that will ensure you’ll remember him, but he’s got the play to do it too. As the best quarterback outside of the Power 5 conferences, Cato has averaged 38 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards passing over the last two seasons. He could better those stats as the Thundering Herd plays alongside the likes of Tulsa and UTEP – not exactly world beaters – in Conference USA. Marshall may run the table, and while that may not be enough to get into a premier bowl game, it could be enough to earn Cato a trip to the Heisman ceremony in January.

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