South Carolina in second tier of preseason rankings; Clemson follows in third grouping

South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson, center, scrambles out of the pocket away from Clemson's Travis Blanks (11) during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

CLEMSON - The consensus continues: South Carolina and Clemson won't pick up where they left off after sensational 2013 campaigns, but both remain in the mix for potential College Football Playoff runs.

South Carolina is ranked No. 11 in the Fox Sports preseason top 25 released Thursday morning, while Clemson checks in at No. 14.

Fox Sports writes of No. 11 South Carolina: "If Georgia doesn't win the SEC East, it will most likely be because the Gamecocks did something to mess it all up. South Carolina has never won the league, but it has a chance to do it this season behind exceptional running back Mike Davis. Many will focus on the loss of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and how DC Lorenzo Ward copes with that loss by shifting more of the defensive burden on his linebackers, but perhaps more important is how senior Dylan Thompson handles the starting quarterback job. Connor Shaw has departed Columbia, and we might see now how valuable he really was."

Fox Sports writes of No. 14 Clemson: "Clemson got waxed at home against Florida State last season, but the Tigers couldn't have finished the season any better than by beating Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. How they replace Tajh Boyd at QB and Sammy Watkins at WR is the pressing question this fall, but coach Dabo Swinney doesn't seem to be concerned with the turnover. He has two of the best coordinators in the country - Chad Morris on offense, Brent Venables on defense - and a fresh crop of talent. We'll know more about Clemson after Week 3, when it has visited Georgia and FSU."

This is the closest the in-state rivals are located to each other in a number of major publications' preseason rankings. South Carolina is No. 9 and Clemson No. 16 in both the USA Today coaches poll and in ESPN's college football preview magazine.

South Carolina is tenth in Phil Steele's top 25 and No. 11 in Sports Illustrated's preview magazine. Clemson is No. 16 in both those prognostications.

Clemson opened the 2013 season ranked No. 8 in both the AP and USA Today polls; South Carolina started last year No. 6 via the writers, No. 7 via the coaches. Both teams went 11-2; the Gamecocks were fourth in the final AP poll, and the Tigers finished eighth.

Looking in-depth at the five major publications' preseason polls - USA Today, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Phil Steele and Fox Sports - the same 17 schools appear unanimously in some order within the top 17, therefore creating an initial short list of teams expected to compete for one of the inaugural Playoff's coveted four spots. Also, the top eight in all five polls consist of the same eight teams.

Those top eight schools are, in rough order of their ranking: Florida State, Alabama (Nos. 1 and 2 unanimously), Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA, Ohio State, Auburn and Michigan State.

The next tier follows with Baylor, South Carolina, Georgia and Stanford - those four make up No. 9 through 12 in some order in all five rankings. Following are LSU, Southern Cal, Wisconsin, Clemson and Notre Dame to round out the top 17.

The Associated Press poll will be released Sunday. The first College Football Playoff pecking order won't be announced from the committee - which includes Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich - until Oct. 28.