2013 Offense/Defense FBS Rankings: Offense: 56th Defense: 22nd
Returning Starters: Offense: 8 Defense: 5
BYU is coming off an up and down 2013, but this squad will look to be a college playoff buster in 2014. The Cougars face a tough first half going against teams like Texas, Houston, Utah State, UCF, Nevada, and Boise State, but if BYU can get through portion of their schedule unscathed the Cougars will likely go undefeated with a very easy slate of games in November. BYU ranked 10th in the nation in rushing in 2013 and the Cougars return their top two rushers with QB Taysom Hill and RB Jamaal Williams. With defenses geared to focusing their attention on Hill, Jamaal Williams should be able to capitalize and have another highly successful season. The defense is stout up front and that should help improve the run defense. BYU lost LB Kyle Van Noy, but converted D-lineman Kaufusi will look to replace the former standout.
2. Notre Dame
2013 Offense/Defense FBS Rankings: Offense: 75th Defense: 27th
Returning Starters: Offense: 6 Defense: 5
The Irish are in their second season removed from the National Title game and Notre Dame will look to recreate some of that magic with QB Everett Golson returning. On offense the Irish are loaded at RB with Tarean Folston, Greg Bryant, and Cam McDaniel, but there is inexperience at receiver with standouts TJ Jones and Troy Niklas moving on. The left side of the O-line must be replaced and it will be interesting to see how Ronnie Stanley replaces LT Zack Martin who moved on after starting 52 straight games for Notre Dame. The defense loses 5 of their 7 starters up front including Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt who anchored the Irish defensive unit. The secondary looks to be a strength with 3 starters returning and high end talent at every spot in the back end of the defense.
2013 Offense/Defense FBS Rankings: Offense: 36th Defense: 40th
Returning Starters: Offense: 8 Defense: 7
The Midshipmen are coming off a successful 2013 which saw them go 9-4 with a bowl win over MTSU. Navy won their last 5 games to close out 2013 and that was a confidence builder going into the offseason. The offense ranked 2nd in the nation in rushing yard per game last season and Navy will be right up towards the top of college football in rushing again this year behind their dangerous triple option attack. Junior QB Keenan Reynolds returns and he's been outstanding in the first half of his Navy football career. Navy also returns an experienced O-line along with a number of weapons at the skill positions. With the Midshipmen looking primed to put up big offensive numbers in 2014 I'm very interested to see how they perform against Ohio State's defense in week one. Navy has to replace their two starting inside linebackers and leader tacklers from 2013 and that is easier said than done given the importance of these two positions in the 3-4 scheme.
2013 Offense/Defense FBS Rankings: Offense: 94th Defense: 92nd
Returning Starters: Offense: 9 Defense: 8
New head coach Jeff Monken will continue to run the triple option at Army, but the different terminology of his system presents a challenge for the returning players. There's a QB battle between last season's starter Angel Santiago and AJ Schurr who has displayed a better arm. It would be a surprise if the experienced Santiago lost out to Schurr. Army will be a top rushing team again in 2014 with highly skilled RBs Raymond Maples and Terry Baggett returning from injuries. Monken will keep the 3-4 scheme despite its lack of success last season for the Black Knights. The defense returns 8 starters, but there is inexperience in the LB corps.