It marked a changing of the times in college football. The 2014 season was the first in the new College Football Playoff era and what it a season it was. Here is a recap of some of the highlights as well as the lowlights from 2014.
The Wisconsin running back had one of the most amazing seasons in recent history nearly breaking Barry Sanders’s single-season rushing record. In a Nov. 15 matchup with then 16th-ranked Nebraska, Gordon set an NCAA single-game rushing record with 408 yards. The record would last just a week but helped the 6-1, 207-pound Gordon wind up with 2,587 yards on the year. He capped his season with a record-breaking 34-carry, 251-yard performance against Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
The Todd Gurley Saga
Georgia junior RB Todd Gurley started the season with 773 yards and eight touchdowns in the Bulldogs first five games. He was an early Heisman Trophy favorite until being suspended for four games for taking compensation for his autograph. Gurley made it back just in time for Georgia’s stretch run but tore an ACL in his first game back against Auburn after having run for 138 yards on 29 carries. He and Gordon will most likely be the first two RBs taken in the 2015 NFL Draft.
The State Of Mississippi
Third-year head coach Hugh Freeze led Ole Miss to a 7-0 start, a No. 2 ranking, and one of the program’s biggest victories in history – a 23-17 win over SEC power Alabama. Over in Starkville, Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State squad started 9-0 before dropping out of the playoff picture with two losses in the final three weeks of the season. After victories on Oct. 4, the state of Mississippi had the top two ranked FBS programs in the nation.
A Heisman-Worthy Season
Oregon Ducks QB Marcus Mariota had been on the Heisman Trophy radar since a fabulous freshman season. As a junior this year, the 6-4, 219-pounder has thrown for 4,121 yards and 40 touchdowns. Oh, and he has rushed for another 731 and 15 scores. He led the Ducks to the Pac-12 title and will have a chance at winning the school’s first-ever national championship in early 2015.
TCU Or Baylor?
The Big 12 touts itself as the one conference in all of college football that proclaims a true champion. “One True Champion” is the conference motto, but this season after league heavyweights Baylor and TCU each wound up with one loss after conference play the league declared co-champions. The league also effectively shut either team out of the College Football Playoff. Each school in the 10-team Big 12 plays every other school. Baylor lost to West Virginia, and TCU’s loss was to Baylor. In most cases, head-to-head competition is the first tie-breaker, but TCU was ranked higher than the Bears in the CFP rankings. In the end, it was Ohio State that wound up as the fourth entrant in the first-ever CFP.
The Ohio State Quarterbacks
When Braxton Miller went down in training camp with a shoulder injury, many college football pundits wrote off the Buckeyes 2014 season. Head coach Urban Meyer knew better when he plugged freshman J.T. Barrett into the starting lineup. Barrett broke Miller’s Big Ten total offense record throwing for 2,834 yards and rushing for another 938. He also accounted for 45 touchdowns, so when he went down in the Buckeyes’ season finale against Michigan, it appeared Ohio State’s postseason hopes were in jeopardy. Meyer then went to his third option, 6-5, 250-pound Cardale Jones. All Jones has done is lead the Buckeyes to a Big Ten Championship and a berth in the national title game.
Big Time Programs With New Coaches
Some of the biggest names in college football – Michigan, Florida, Nebraska – all said goodbye to head coaches before the year’s end and welcomed in new ones. The nation’s winningest program, Michigan, showed Brady Hoke the door after a 5-7 campaign. As soon as the firing was announced, the “Hire Harbaugh” campaign started. By Dec. 31, the Wolverines had the coach they wanted in former Michigan QB and 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Jim McElwain, who was an assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama, returned to the SEC after a stint at Colorado State and Mike Riley, the long-time head coach at Oregon State, left Corvallis for Lincoln, Nebraska after the firing of Bo Pelini.
The Perils Of Jameis Winston
The Florida State QB was a constant source of news. After winning the 2013 Heisman Trophy, Winston was involved in a sexual assault investigation. He was eventually cleared, but he returned to the news when he allegedly stole crab legs from a local grocery store. Winston was suspended by head coach Jimbo Fisher and Florida State administrators after making vulgar comments in the Seminoles’ student union. He missed the Clemson game as a result and then his name came up in an investigation involving receiving compensation for autographs. Winston was still able to lead FSU to another ACC championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff. He will continue to be in the news as he will have to decide whether or not he will be entering the 2015 NFL Draft.
The Bowl Season
The bowl season provided some memorable matchups and the first-ever College Football Playoff semifinals. The mighty Southeastern Conference sent 12 of its 14 teams to bowl games. The entire SEC West Division, arguably the toughest in college football, sent all of its teams to the postseason. Surprisingly, the only two teams to win their bowl games were the teams that finished at the bottom of the division – Texas A&M and Arkansas. The Rose and Sugar Bowls served as this year’s national semifinals propelling college football into an entirely new era.