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Change is in the air for Texans, UT, and college football as 2014 season nears

mike keeney“Change” is definitely the word in these parts when it comes to the 2014 football season.

Houston Texans fans got the change they asked for when longtime head coach Gary Kubiak was fired last December and replaced by former Penn State, and Bill Belichick acolyte, Bill O’Brien in January. University of Texas fans got the change they clamored for when Mack Brown stepped down after 16 years leading the Longhorns and was replaced by former Louisville head football coach Charlie Strong.

And college football fans finally got the change they had been asking for when the highly unpopular Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was done away with and the College Football Playoff was born. The new system will pit the top four rated teams chosen by a selection committee made up of individuals with coaching experience, student-athletes, collegiate administrators and current athletic directors. The committee will choose the top four teams for the playoff, rank them (1-4) and assign them to the semifinal games. The selection committee will choose the four national semifinalists based on strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents and other factors.

This year’s semifinal games will be held on Jan. 1 and will be the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. The No. 1 and No. 4 seed will meet in the Rose Bowl, while the No. 2 and No. 3 seed will meet in the Sugar Bowl. Each year, the national semifinals will rotate among those two bowls and the Fiesta, Orange, Cotton and Peach bowls in coming years.

The inaugural national championship game will be played on Monday, Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium (formerly known as Jerry World). Read on to see who yours truly thinks will be the four teams to be this year’s semifinalists and the overall national champion, along with a number of other predictions.

While University of Texas fans are hoping their team will be making the trek to Arlington for the national title game, they might be getting a bit ahead of themselves. The ‘Horns still have some holes in their team, but I have a feeling UT fans will like what they see from their new head coach. The no-nonsense Strong laid down the law right off the bat and dismissed seven players from the team during the spring and summer for violating team rules. I have a feeling Texas will be a more disciplined team in 2014 and will be much better on defense. The key to how far they go will center on quarterback David Ash, who missed a majority of the 2013 season with a concussion. He followed that injury up by breaking his foot during spring drills, but has been cleared for the upcoming season. The 6-4 Ash has talent and speed and if healthy would be a huge plus for the UT offense, which should field a strong running game led by the powerful Malcolm Brown and the speedy and elusive Johnathan Gray, who is coming off an Achilles injury but has also been cleared to play this season.

Texas should be in the Big 12 mix, but it appears Oklahoma and Baylor are the class of the league heading into the season. Bob Stoops’ Sooners finished off the 2013 season in impressive season by blasting Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl was a coming out party for quarterback Trevor Knight and he should be ready for a big season in 2014. The offense is loaded and so is the defense as nine starters return this year.

Scoring won’t be a problem for Art Briles’ Baylor Bears, who won the Big 12 last year and return a pretty fair signal caller in Bryce Petty, who set a school passing record last season. He has plenty of weapons to call on once again, but the big question in Waco will be how much improved will the Baylor defense be? That unit was exposed in the Fiesta Bowl by Central Florida and the Bears will face much better offenses than CFU with the likes of OU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas on their schedule.

Not only will Baylor be looking to win a second straight league title, but they will also be opening a new stadium, named after former Houston Astros owner, and major Baylor contributor Drayton McLane Jr.

Please read below for how one person thinks the major conferences will shake out this year.

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Bowl Game previews

Florida State hopes to end SEC’s run of BCS title run

The bowl season is well underway, but the big games begin on New Year’s Eve when Texas A&M faces Duke in the Chik-fil-A Bowl in what could be Johnny Manziel’s final game for the Aggies.

Locally, both Rice and the University of Houston will be bowling this season as the 10-3, Conference USA champs Owls will face Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl on New Year’s Eve, while the 8-4 Cougars will also be facing a SEC team when they face Vanderbilt in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 4.

The Big 12 champion Baylor Bears will be playing in their first BCS bowl ever when they face 11-1 Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.

But the game everybody is waiting for will be the BCS Championship game, which will pit No. 1-ranked Florida State and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston against No. 2-ranked Auburn and their potent run offense. Auburn was one of the best stories of the 2013 season. The Tigers were coming off a 3-9 season in 2012 and had a new head coach in Gus Malzahn. Malzahn installed his run-happy offense and the Tigers piled up gaudy numbers en route to an 11-1 season, which included two last-second wins over Georgia and Alabama that saved their season.

While Auburn was pulling out heart stoppers, Florida State pretty much dominated every team they played on their way to a 13-0 season and the Atlantic Coast Conference title. Winston was a threat with his arm and his legs, but this team is not a one-man show. There is talent on both sides of the ball and it appears head coach Jimbo Fisher has brought the Seminoles back to being one of the top teams in college football as they were for decades under former head coach Bobby Bowden.

There should be a lot of good games to watch  over the next week for college football fans, but before we take a look at what’s on tap, let’s review last week’s record. A 5-4 record brought the season record to 116-61 (66%).

Now, let’s see what the bowl season has to offer.

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