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The 5: Reasons I can’t wait for the 2014 football season

As I write this, it’s been 162 days since the Seattle Seahawks humiliated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

It’s been 189 days since Florida State rallied to beat Auburn in the BCS Championship Game in Pasadena.

The sheer length of time that’s passed coupled with the fact that LeBron James finally made up his mind has got me jonesing big-time for some football.

Here are the five reasons I’m geeked for the 2014 season:

5. Fantasy Football – Wanna know one of the big reasons why football is a religion in the United States? Fantasy Football. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 33.5 million Americans participated in the game in 2012 — a number that will undoubtedly rise with each passing season.

I’m not one of those 33.5 million, however. I have soured on pro-based Fantasy Football, mostly due to the reaction of frustrated players who find it necessary to Twitter-bomb pro athletes to inform them that a 13-yard performance against the Chargers may jeopardize them winning the year-end windfall of $250.

But I do still play Fantasy Football — only it’s in a Pac-12 league. Myself and five friends are heading into the sixth year of our league. With less teams and players, it’s more challenging than NFL-based fantasy. We don’t play for money. We play for pride and the coveted Van Raaphorst Trophy. And with players like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, ASU’s Taylor Kelly and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion putting up ridiculous numbers each week, it’s a lot of fun too.

But the best part, coming up with my ASU-centric team name. This year it’s ‘Bananas Foster’ in honor of Sun Devil running back D.J. Foster. Here’s hoping he goes bananas in his junior season!

4. Put up or shut up – The answer is: Everyone and their mother. The question is: Who has claimed that he is the best cover cornerback in the National Football League this offseason?

Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie and Brandon Flowers have all made that boast since the 2013 campaign ended. I’m sure a few others believe they are, as well.

My pick right now is Sherman, but I can’t wait to see how offensive coordinators will attack the boisterous All-Pro this season. I’m no fan of San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree, but I’d love to see him go off for about 13 catches and 200 yards when the Niners meet the Seahawks in Week 13.

And I’m curious to see how Peterson continues his upward trend. With a stud like Cromartie playing the other side, this might be the season the über-talented Peterson stakes his claim as the best cornerback in the league.

3. Postseason progress – Ding-dong the witch is dead! After serving as an unsightly blemish on the face of college football for 16 years, the pus-filled zit that is the Bowl Championship Series has been removed!

The College Football Playoff makes its debut in January and while its still not a perfect solution, it will pit four teams in a mini-tournament to determine the sport’s national champion.

Personally, I’d much rather see an 8- or 16-team playoff to crown the top dog, but slow progress is still progress, right?

2. No more ‘Johnny Offseason’ – The man’s name is Johnny Football, damn it. Well, you know what I mean. Johnny Manziel is arguably the most famous and most polarizing player ever to come into the league, but the offseason has been nothing but off-field scrutiny for the former Heisman winner. Seriously, I’ve had on-air discussions about his pool party habits, his group photo with Justin Bieber and Floyd Mayweather, his use of a stack of dollar bills as a prop, his being photographed apparently rolling a $20 bill and whether or not his toned-down appearance at Fenway Park was ‘orchestrated.’

It’s exhausting. I just want to find out if Manziel can play a lick at the next level. Now, if he can only beat out Brian Hoyer for the starting job in Cleveland…

1. Local optimism – The Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State Sun Devils have shared the Valley’s football landscape for 26 years. Both teams experienced success in 2013. The Cardinals won 10 games and narrowly missed the playoffs and the Devils won 10 games and the Pac-12 South title. Believe it or not, it’s the first time both squads are coming off winning seasons.

Improving on their 2013 campaigns will be a challenge for both teams. The Cardinals will be without linebackers Karlos Dansby, who signed with Cleveland in free agency, and Daryl Washington, who was slapped with a yearlong drug suspension. And, yes, they still play in the rugged NFC West. And the Sun Devils are looking to replace nine defensive starters.

But under the tutelage of head coaches Bruce Arians and Todd Graham, both teams have their fan bases jacked for the future.