College Football Teams That Could Be in for a 2014 Letdown
Many of the top players from the 2013 college football season are heading off to the NFL, leaving some of the sport's best teams in position for a dip in 2014.
Texas A&M will be entering a new era next year as quarterback Johnny Manziel goes to the pros. South Carolina could be in the same position with stars Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney heading to the next level.
Meanwhile, some squads will go into 2014 with elevated expectations after strong finishes to last year.
We'll break down a few of each over the next nine slides.
Note: Team rankings based on final 2013 AP poll.
Texas A&M Aggies
2013 Record: 9-4
2013 Rank: No. 18
Texas A&M will start a new era next season after the departure of quarterback Johnny Manziel, who has been the face of the Aggies for the better part of two years.
He has been the No. 1 fuel source for the Aggies offense, which will be a mystery going into 2014.
No. 1 receiver Mike Evans and starting running back Ben Malena will also be gone from A&M, as will All-American lineman Jake Matthews.
Offense has been the team's biggest strength in its successful first two seasons in the SEC.
With that side of the ball in question, A&M could be in for a rebuilding season.
2013 Record: 11-2
2013 Rank: No. 6
Expectations will be through the roof for Oklahoma in 2014 after its momentous Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.
The Sooners finished strong with that victory and a win over Oklahoma State to close the regular season, but they'll still face some serious questions next year.
OU was extremely inconsistent last season, and much of that was due to the inconsistencies at the quarterback position.
If the Sooners and quarterback Trevor Knight can play at their Sugar Bowl level on a consistent basis, they'll be a contender for a playoff slot.
But if they can't, they'll fall far short of expectations.
2013 Record: 11-2
2013 Rank: No. 8
Clemson will lose the two biggest parts of its offense: quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins.
Boyd accounted for 4,251 total yards and 44 touchdowns last year, throwing to Watkins 101 times for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Tigers must also replace their No. 2 receiver, Martavis Bryant.
Bryant elected to go pro after catching 42 passes for 828 yards and seven scores.
Clemson could still have strong play at the quarterback position, as three talented options—Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly and Deshaun Watson—will compete for the starting job.
South Carolina Gamecocks
2013 Record: 11-2
2013 Rank: No. 4
South Carolina will be decimated by injury in 2014.
Star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be gone, as will fellow defensive lineman Chaz Sutton.
The Gamecocks will also take a hit in the secondary, as top corner Victor Hampton decided to skip his senior season and head to the NFL.
Wide receiver Bruce Ellington did the same after tallying 913 all-purpose yards in 2013. But perhaps the biggest loss will be quarterback Connor Shaw.
With so many critical losses, USC might be in for a down year.
Michigan State Spartans
2013 Record: 13-1
2013 Rank: No. 3
Michigan State was one of the surprise teams in the nation last year, as it came on strong to win the Big Ten conference.
With one of the nation's top defenses, the Spartans also won the Rose Bowl, completing an excellent 13-1 run.
MSU's expectations will be high next season, but that outstanding defense will have to endure some significant losses.
Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard, linebackers Denicos Allen and Max Bullough will all be gone, as well as a few other departures. That trio alone accounted for 236 tackles, 29.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, 25 hurries, four interceptions, 13 pass breakups, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
The Michigan State defense will return some talent, but it might not be enough to make up for losing three of its foremost leaders.
Arizona State Sun Devils
2013 Record: 10-4
2013 Rank: No. 21
Arizona State had a great 2013 season, winning the Pac-12 South Division title.
The season didn't come to a close like the Sun Devils had hoped, as they fell in the Pac-12 title game and the Holiday Bowl.
Part of that rough ending came because of the late-season injury to running back Marion Grice, and now the offense will have to replace the senior permanently.
Even worse will be the vast defensive losses. Nearly ASU's entire starting lineup will be gone, including Pac-12 defensive player of the year Will Sutton, linebacker Carl Bradford and defensive back Alden Darby.
The defense was ASU's edge during Pac-12 play last year, so next year could be rough without that edge.
2013 Record: 12-2
2013 Rank: No. 5
Missouri wasn't expected to do much last year in SEC play but ended up as East Division champions.
The Tigers lose quarterback James Franklin and two of their top receivers, L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas, who combined for 1,585 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns last year.
The defense will also have to work through several key losses, including All-SEC corner E.J. Gaines, All-SEC defensive end Michael Sam and leading tackler Andrew Wilson.
While enduring losses on both sides of the ball, another SEC divisional title might not be in the works.
2013 Record: 11-3
2013 Rank: No. 11
Stanford's biggest strength last year was its offensive front. Next year, the Cardinal will have to replace four starters along the offensive line.
Stanford's second-biggest strength was its defense. Next year, the Cardinal will have to replace several key starters, including a trio of All-Americans: safety Ed Reynolds and linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov.
The Cardinal should be set up to reload with some new talent, but replacing those losses won't be as easy as plugging in new blood.
The Pac-12 will be intense again next year, and Stanford could have some trouble keeping up while searching for new leaders.
2013 Record: 12-1
2013 Rank: No. 15
Louisville got some good news when top receiver DeVante Parker decided to return for his senior season.
However, that bit of good news won't outweigh the bad for the Cardinals. Not only will they need to replace star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but they'll also have to do so without head coach Charlie Strong.
UL will still have a capable coach in Bobby Petrino, but he'll be in a tough situation breaking in a new quarterback in a new conference.
Several teams have shown that conference realignment can require significant adjustment time, and Louisville is bound to encounter that next year.