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Ten storylines to follow during 2014 college football season


We're about four weeks from the first game of the college football season, but with many fall camps set to open this weekend, the 2014 campaign is about to get underway.

Before things get started, though, let's set the table -- here's a look at 10 storylines to watch during the '14 college season.

1. College Football Playoff selection committee stares down tough task

The first-ever playoff has the attention of the college football world. We know there's a well-respected selection committee in place, but it has a heck of a charge on its hands in choosing the four teams that will compete in the playoff. They've laid out their criteria. However, we still have to see it all come to fruition. Everything still has to truly be defined, and it's going to be fascinating to see how it plays out in Year One.

2. Jameis Winston's second act

Florida State has an opportunity to repeat as the national champion, which is obviously a big deal, but Jameis Winston alone is a huge storyline. Returning from an offseason that was quite turbulent at times, how will the reigning Heisman winner respond?

3. Pac-12 set to put on air show

Quality quarterbacks can be hard to find, but that's not the case in the Pac-12 this season. Oregon's Marcus Mariota is considered a top Heisman contender, and UCLA's Brett Hundley is among the best in the country. There's plenty of excitement about Oregon State's Sean Mannion, Stanford's Kevin Hogan, and Cal's Jared Goff, too. One who gets overlooked but deserves more attention -- Arizona State's Taylor Kelly.

4. New role for Baylor

How will Baylor respond to having a target on its back? The Bears are no longer the hunter -- they're the hunted and enter the season as defending Big 12 champs for the first time in the program's history.

5. Playoff or bust for UCLA

The Bruins think they're built not just to win the Pac-12, but to make a real run at the national title. They'll be disappointed if they're not one of the four teams in the playoff. Things have changed there in a short amount of time under head coach Jim Mora.

6. Will Auburn get its due?

The Tigers won the SEC last year and played for a national championship in Gus Malzahn's first season as head coach. They have their quarterback and a lot of other key players returning, yet they're still picked second to Alabama in the SEC West Division in most polls. It's a safe best this team will be operating with a chip on its shoulder in 2014.

7. Which conference is college football's best?

Everyone seems to have an opinion when it comes to this long-running debate. To me, the SEC is still king heading into '14. Here's how I rank the other "Power Five" leagues: No 2., Pac 12; No. 3, ACC; No. 4, Big 12; No. 5, Big Ten.

8. Can Duke do it again?

Duke won the ACC Coastal Division last season. It would be easy to dismiss the "basketball school" as a one-hit wonder, but guess what? The Blue Devils could easily win the division again. Head coach David Cutcliffe's team is loaded with returning talent.

9. What teams will surprise in conference-title races?

I like to call these "shake-up" teams -- people might not be all-in on them, but they could contend for a conference title. We saw Auburn do it last season in the SEC. Now, none of these teams would make as big of a jump as Auburn did going from zero conference wins to SEC champs, but here's one to keep an eye on in each of the "Power Five" leagues -- Ole Miss (SEC), North Carolina (ACC), Iowa (Big Ten), USC (Pac-12) and Texas Tech (Big 12).

10. Will Knight pick up where he left off?

At last check, Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight was shredding Alabama's defense for 348 yards passing and four touchdowns on the way to being named MVP of the Sugar Bowl. However, Knight couldn't hold onto the starting job during the regular season. Was the Sugar Bowl performance more indicative of the kind of player he's going to be? For a team with national-title aspirations, it's banking on the answer being a definitive yes.

Follow Charles Davis on Twitter @CFD22.

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