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The 100 things we're most excited for in the 2014 college football season (Nos. 40-21)

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Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (25) averaged a staggering 7.8 yards per carry in 2013.

This Monday marked the 100-day countdown to the start of the 2014 college football season. Abilene Christian visits Georgia State to kick things off on Aug. 27, when the road to the inaugural College Football Playoff begins in earnest. Catch up on TV shows now. Try new restaurants, or pick up new hobbies, or spend time with the in-laws. In a little over three months, college football -- in all of its glory -- will return.

Over the course of this week, Campus Union is unveiling the 100 things it is most excited for in the 2014 season. Here are 40-21. Click the following links for 100-81, 80-6160-41 and 20-1

40. Marshall’s shot at perfection. Don’t snicker. This is a thing that could actually happen. Have you seen the Thundering Herd’s schedule? OK, before moving on, take a second and look at it. The reason an unbeaten season seems plausible has a lot to do with quarterback Rakeem Cato. The rising senior has started since day one and will own virtually every school record by the time he leaves campus. There’s no BCS to bust anymore, but that doesn’t mean Marshall can’t make some serious noise in 2014. -- Martin Rickman 

39. Botched clock management. Coaches are responsible for preparing their team, managing their roster, studying film and coming up with a game plan. It seems almost trivial to worry about something as silly as time, which is merely a social construct, anyway. But a second can mean everything, as fans learned during the Iron Bowl. Coaches will inevitably forget, and it could prove the difference between winning and losing and this. -- MR

38. Rutgers and Maryland join the Big Ten. Rutgers and Maryland may feel like unnatural fits for the Big Ten, but with lucrative conference payouts and an expanded league footprint in major television markets, the additions make sense on the bottom line. While neither the Scarlet Knights nor the Terrapins figures to be an immediate contender, there’s another perk: The schools forced the Big Ten to reconfigure its alignment, bringing a merciful end to the cringe-worthy Leaders and Legends divisions. -- Colin Becht

37. The ever-evolving Heisman Trophy race. Remember when a freshman had never won the Heisman? Well, that was only two seasons ago. Since then, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston have thrown at least one of the award’s historical limitations out the window. There’s no telling what will happen next. Can a non-quarterback emerge? Will an exclusively defensive player make it to New York? In today’s landscape, any barrier could fall. -- Zac Ellis

36. Jerry Kill’s presence at Minnesota. Kill’s battle with epileptic seizures took a turn last fall, when Minnesota's coach took a leave of absence to focus on his health. A revitalized Kill is set to return to the sidelines this season, and he’s armed with a roster that won a surprising eight games in 2013. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner is more experienced. Can the Gophers ride last year's momentum to continued success? -- ZE

35. Two-way stars. Guys play offense and defense all the time in high school, because high school coaches know it’s smart to use their best players as often as possible. At the college level, things are different; almost every Division I player was the best at his high school somewhere. That’s why it’s so fun watching UCLA’s Myles Jack (who played linebacker and running back in 2013) and Washington’s Shaq Thompson (a linebacker who took snaps at running back this spring). When someone has the versatility to make an impact on both sides, it’s like an eclipse: rare and oh-so-beautiful. -- MR

34. The endlessly quotable Steve Spurrier. Still hatin’, after all these years. Who knows when Spurrier will strike next? No target is safe, not Nick Saban, not his own players (like Jadeveon Clowney) and especially not Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Spurrier may reference retirement here and there, but he still has a few more good years, and jokes, left in him. -- MR

33. Georgia … finally healthy. Entering last season, the Bulldogs returned 10 offensive starters and had BCS title aspirations. Yet an opening-week loss to Clemson and a host of ill-timed injuries -- including to star tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and wide receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell -- crushed those championship dreams. The Dawgs will be without veteran quarterback Aaron Murray (who tore his ACL in last November’s win over Kentucky) in 2014, but a healthy roster and the addition of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt could reverse Georgia’s fortunes. -- ZE

32. T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry in the same backfield. Over the last few seasons, Alabama has consistently featured two great backs: Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, Richardson and Eddie Lacy, Lacy and Yeldon. The Crimson Tide’s 2014 tandem could be the best of the bunch.  Yeldon averaged 6.0 yards per carry last fall while rushing for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns. Henry broke out in the Sugar Bowl for 161 all-purpose yards and two scores. Saban, who isn’t known to dish out compliments, told reporters Henry had a “fabulous spring.” Defenses, you’ve been warned. -- Ben Glicksman

31. Kliff Kingsbury’s second season. Kingsbury’s offseason has been defined by surface-level storylines. There were his pretty impressive dance moves and the tidbit about him flirting with recruits’ moms. However, after starting 7-0 last fall, Texas Tech dropped five straight. For Kingsbury to make the impact he desires, his program will have to play well for the entire campaign. -- BG

30. Clemson’s new-look offense. The holes on the Tigers’ depth chart are obvious: Gone are Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. If prized coordinator Chad Morris, the nation’s highest-paid assistant, hopes to challenge Florida State in the ACC, he'll need to come up with some solutions. Quarterback Cole Stoudt appears to be the man to replace Boyd, but Morris still needs a go-to receiver and running back. Look for players such as Adam Humphries, Germone Hopper, Charone Peake and D.J. Howard to take on increased roles. -- CB

29. Chuckie Keeton, back in action. Keeton was on a few watch lists heading into last year, and for good reason: The dynamic quarterback is one of the most exciting players in college football. However, a knee injury suffered against BYU in October shut him down for the season. He has been recovering ever since. But fret not, Keeton is on track to be 100 percent entering the fall. Suddenly, Utah State’s opener at Tennessee on Aug. 31 is a whole lot more interesting. -- MR

28. Melvin Gordon. Watch him run. Gordon was nearly unstoppable for the Badgers last season. His 7.8 yards-per-carry average was tops among running backs with at least 1,500 rushing yards, and he reeled off seven 100-yard games. The redshirt junior could take on an even bigger workload this fall, something that could help Wisconsin -- which also features a blossoming star in Corey Clement -- make a run in the Big Ten. -- ZE

27. High-profile nonconference games. With the new College Football Playoff placing added emphasis on teams’ strength of schedule, big-name out-of-conference clashes should become more and more frequent. This year is no exception. Among the games to look forward to:

• Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (Aug. 30 in Arlington, Texas)

• LSU vs. Wisconsin (Aug. 30 in Houston)

• Alabama vs. West Virginia (Aug. 30 in Atlanta)

• Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)

• UCLA at Texas (Sept. 13)

Don’t say these teams ain’t played nobody, pawwwwl. – BG

26. Tailgating and superfans. We touched on these topics in our Between The Hashes series, but tailgating and superfans set college football apart from every other sport. Sure, NFL guys can party, and hockey fans are insane (in a good way!). But there’s something about dressing up like a stormtrooper, painting a dog like a tiger and grilling an alligator before a matchup with Florida that make fall Saturdays uniquely special. -- MR

25. Uniforms. There is the good, like Oregon and sometimes Maryland. There is the bad, like Maryland and sometimes Oregon. There are the helmets with red accents highlighting the fact that Horned Frogs can shoot blood from their eyes. Then there is the inexplicable, like this NC State helmet combining the aesthetic qualities of a salmon and a wolf. -- BG

24. Stanford’s next wave. Aren’t fans past the point of worrying whether Stanford can reload? Sure, many of the keys to the Cardinal's lockdown defense are gone, as are tailback Tyler Gaffney, defensive coordinator Derek Mason and four of five starters on the offensive line. Still, the philosophy that allowed the program to shrug off even bigger losses, including Jim Harbaugh, Andrew Luck and Stepfan Taylor, remains. Stanford should be fine this time around, too. -- CB

23. Chris Petersen arrives at Washington. So this is what was required for Petersen to leave Boise State: A chance to oversee one of the Pac-12’s sleeping giants in Seattle. He inherits a roster that won eight games last season and brings back quarterback Cyler Miles (reinstated after a suspension following an offseason arrest) and potential two-way star Thompson. Petersen is now at a school that can compete for blue-chip recruits. If his Boise tenure was any indication, the sky is the limit. -- ZE

22. A more experienced Nick Marshall. Last season made it clear: Auburn’s Gus Malzahn plays chess while other coaches play checkers. After taking over a program that went 3-9 in 2012, Malzahn led the Tigers to the brink of a national championship, only falling short when Winston connected with Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of the BCS title game. Heisman finalist Tre Mason is gone, but Marshall -- who finished the '13 campaign with 3,044 total yards (1,976 passing, 1,068 rushing) -- is back. The scariest part? In nine seasons as a college coordinator or head coach, Malzahn has never previously returned his starting quarterback for a second season. -- BG

21. The new state of Louisville (From friend of the blog Mark Ennis). Even with the departure of Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL, Bobby Petrino inherits weapons. Most of the key offensive linemen, receivers and backs from last season return. A much tougher conference schedule, however, means no sleepwalking to a 10-win campaign. Athletic director Tom Jurich is gambling he can get the offensive evil genius he knew before without also getting the coach with a perpetually wandering eye. -- Mark Ennis

Click the following links for 100-81, 80-6160-41 and 20-1.

 

RICKMAN: Florida State, Alabama headline post-spring Power Rankings

 

ELLIS: Way-too-early Heisman Watch: A look at the potential 2014 field

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