We are only 4 weeks away from college football kickoff and it’s about time we release our preseason college football top 25.
Another team with a new head coach are the Miami Hurricanes. The Canes have one of the better rosters going into the season. Miami alum and former Oregon Head Coach, Mario Cristobal, returns home to turn Miami back into a championship program. The Hurricanes return a lot of offensive talent including projected 2023 NFL Draft 1st rounders quarterback Tyler Van Dyke and offensive tackle Zion Nelson. With the added veteran depth along the O-Line, D-Line, and linebacker position groups through the transfer portal, the Canes have a great shot at making a run at the ACC Championship in Coach Cristobal’s first season leading his alma mater.
It seems like it was just yesterday when we saw LSU dominate college football with arguably the great college football team ever. Joe Burrow and company are now in the NFL, and LSU has a new head coach running the tigers. Former Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly takes over a team with great talent compared to most programs in the country. But with Alabama and Georgia in the SEC, LSU is relatively average. Depending on who starts at quarterback for Coach Kelly will determine how well the Tigers do this season.
Hype would tell you that USC is a top 15 school, but top 25 is good enough at this point. Head Coach Lincoln Riley will have his hands full turning around USC. In his first year he brought in his quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Mario Williams from Oklahoma to make the transition on offense a little smoother than usual. USC was able to lure 2021 Biletnikoff award winner wide receiver Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh as well. The offense will be the exciting to see, but Coach Riley’s offense was never an issue at Oklahoma, it was his defense that was terrible. If the defense can hold and show growth along as the season goes, I could see USC finishing this season in the top 10.
Arkansas returns one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country with KJ Jefferson. He lead Arkansas in passing and rushing in 2021. The Razorbacks were 9-4 last year with the 4 losses coming to 3 ranked opponents that included Georgia and Alabama who played for the National Championship game. One of the more impressive wins were their dominating performance over Texas and Texas A&M in 2021. Arkansas should be able to take the next step under Head Coach Sam Pittman in 2022 with LSU making a transition and getting Alabama at home. Remember, the Razorbacks lost by 7 points to Bama in 2021.
At 21 is the first Group of 5 program to reach the College Football Playoffs. The Bearcats will enter their last season apart of the AAC, but with a team looking for new stars to emerge. Key contributors to the 2021 season were quarterback Desmond Ridder, corners Sauce Gardner and Kobe Bryant, and running back Jerome Ford are all off to the NFL. Head Coach Luke Fickell will have his work cut out for him, but the Bearcats should be favorites in most games in 2022. The Bearcats will rely on a very good defensive line in 2022 to create a difficult situation for opponents. They start their season off with Arkansas which will be another huge measuring stick for the Bearcats.
20. NC State
Last years Wolfpack made huge steps forward in 2021. NC State returns one of the top quarterbacks in 2022 Devin Leary. Leary will be essential to NC State winning some of the bigger game this season. The Wolfpack return a lot of starters from 2021 and will be difficult to beat. While Clemson and Miami are the on paper favorites, it was NC State that snapped the Clemson winning streak over ACC opponents in 2021. Clemson will once again be their biggest game of the year, if they can get passed the Tigers in back-to-back seasons, the Wolfpack will be favorited in every other game.
The Longhorns come in at 19 because of the flashes of greatness they showed in 2021. Coach Steve Sarkisian brought in a price transfer at quarterback in Ohio State transfer Quinn Ewers. Ewers was the top QB recruit in the 2020 recruiting class. Although a quarterback is nice, the defense for Texas was the issue in 2021. The Longhorns let too many teams comeback in the second half to win games. The defense allowed for 201 yards a game on the ground. The linebacking core and the edge rushers left much to be desired. If Texas has sured up those faults in 2022 this is a sure fire top 10 team, on paper. The last ingredient needed for the Longhorns in 2022 will be their mentality as a team. When you let so many teams comeback and beat you in the second half of games shows a lack of mental fortitude. That must be fixed for the Longhorns to have a successful season.
The Wildcats are arguably the second best team in the east of the SEC. They have a very good quarterback in Will Levis. Head Coach Mark Stoops has built his program on a tough defense and a hard noise running game. Having a quarterback like Levis is the cherry on top. In order for the Wildcats to take that next step it will take for them to beat the teams they should beat and upset Georgia. Kentucky was able to beat Florida last year and will get the Gators in week 2 of this year. I mention the Gators because they have been a huge hurtle for any program in the East. Also, Florida could be a trap game in 2022. With a talent like Anthony Richardson under center for the Gator, he could pose a huge problem for Kentucky; ultimately, upsetting the Wildcats before the year even begins. On paper, the Wildcats could finish the regular season 11-1.
Honestly hour, the Badgers are one of the most consistent programs in all of college football, which means they’re good enough to be ranked every year. The sad news is that is that they will never be great enough to win the National Title in this era of football. Their players are good enough to consistently go off to the NFL, but they haven’t done anything worth wild to say they will compete for a title. As long as Ohio State is in the Big Ten, the Badgers will always be good enough to start and finish ranked 2 or 3 in the Big Ten standings. The Badgers need speed.
The highest ranked program out of the state of Florida are the Knights. The Knights return a very lethal offense and a defense that will be difficult to stop for any program in the AAC. Heading into their last year as a member of the AAC, the Knights will be favorites to win the conference. Quarterback Mikey Keene returns as the starter after putting up decent numbers as a freshman. Although he is the returner, Ole Miss transfer John Rhys Plumlee will be pushing him for playing time. Kemore Gamble, another transfer from the University of Florida, will be a go to weapon for both quarterbacks through out the season. The dynamic threat is Ryan O’Keefe; the do it all wide receiver who is a game changer. The Knights could be another Group of 5 program to make it to the college football playoffs.
Oklahoma will be going through a head coaching change for the second time in 5 years. Former Oklahoma assistant and most recent Clemson defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, takes over as Head Coach. Oklahoma will start 2022 without a starting quarterback with experience and a true number 1 receiver. The biggest weakness for the Sooners over the last 10+ years has been their defense in big games. Coach Venables is one of the best defensive minds in all of college football, he will have that defense right by year 2, but heading into 2022 he will have an uphill battle. The good thing is that Oklahoma has always recruited well enough to have the talent on the roster. Venables will need to upgrade the scheme, but he I expect the Sooners to be much better defensively in 2022. Offense has never been a real issue for the Sooners, and we should see no difference in 2022. New offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has had top-5 offenses in each of his three seasons as a coordinator. He was once the coordinator for UCF when they average 541 yards a game.
The Hawkeyes fall into the same category as the Wisconsin Badgers. Although they field a good tough team every year, the Hawkeyes can never get over the hump. After a 10-4 record in 2021, the Hawkeyes are looking to get better quarterback play from returning starter Spencer Petras. Petras completed only 57% of his passes, threw only 10 touchdowns, but also threw 9 interceptions. That is terrible for a team hoping to take the next steps. If the quarterback position is solved in 2022, the Hawkeyes will be in the conference championship game.
The Bears and third year Head Coach Dave Aranda will be relying heavily on the defense to be strong this year. Most of the skill position talent from 2022 has graduated, and the Bears will need new stars to emerge. Baylor will have a new starting quarterback as well. Blake Sharpen beat out returning quarterback Gerry Bohanon in the spring which led to Bohanon transferring. The offense should still have the talent to make another run at the Big 12 title. Nevertheless, the defense will be the reason why Baylor is contending for a college football playoff birth.
The Utes come into our 2022 rankings at 23. The Utes return a really good quarterback in Cameron Rising. The defending Pac-12 champions will have a target on their back but are picked to win the conference championship again this year. Their week 1 matchup against the Florida Gators might be a measuring stick game, but after what we saw in the Rose Bowl last year against Ohio State, the Utes have enough fire power to keep up against the best.
11. Ole Miss
Lane Kiffin and the Ole Miss Rebels didn’t finish the season with a win in the All State Super Bowl, but they did build some much needed momentum heading into the 2022 season. Last years quarterback Matt Corral is off to the the NFL, both coordinators accepted positions elsewhere, and the Rebels still look formidable for 2022. The Rebels brought in a few transfers; USC transfer quarterback Jaxon Dart, TCU star running back Zach Evans, SMU running back Ulysses Bentley IV, Louisville transfer receiver Jordan Watkins, and UCF transfer receiver Jaylon Robinson. These additions gave Ole Miss the top transfer recruiting class. The group of veteran additions coupled with an easy start to the schedule should play into the favor of the Rebels. They could very well be 4-0 going into a possible top-15 undefeated match-up against Kentucky.
10. Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons come in as a top-10 team with a very good quarterback returning. Quarterback Sam Hartman lead the Deacons to a runner up finish in the ACC championship game against Pitt. Although they loss, the Deacons in 2022 return a lot from their 2021 team. The 21′ team scored a lot of points, and only loss to teams who had better athletes on the field. With that being said, some may consider the 21′ season for the Deacons as a fluke or an anomaly. The expectations will be high for the Deacons to not only make the ACC championship game, but win it all. Clemson comes to town early in the season, with away game to Florida State right after. 10 years ago, that would be two brutal losses, but in going into 22′ these games are both be winnable.
9. Michigan State
Coming off an 11-2 record, the Spartans will be a very dangerous team to face in 2022. The Spartans reached as high as 3 in the rankings in 21′ only to be stopped by Purdue and Ohio State. Without the Doak Walker award winner for 21′, quarterback Payton Thorne will be pushed do more. However, the Spartans have been a dominant running team for years, I would expect another back to step up in Walkers place in 22′. The biggest problem from 21′ was the pass defense. In the two losses, the Spartans allowed 968 yards and 9 touchdowns. If the defense for the Spartans has improved, then we should see a dominant force all year long in the Big Ten.
8. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish got hit with the coaching carousal this offseason. Head coach Brian Kelly left for LSU, and now the Marcus Freeman era begins. The Fighting Irish will have a strong defense in 2022, but will it show up in the games that matter. We have come to know the Irish as frontrunner and fail to meet expectations. It will be up to Coach Freeman to get Notre Dame over the hump to compete against the best whenever the Fighting Irish are set to play a big game. Honestly, the test will come fast in week 1 against Ohio State. We won’t know what the Irish might be until the end of that game.
New head coach Dan Lanning inherits a really good football team offensively and defensively. The Ducks have played for the PAC-12 title 3-years in a row, winning twice. Coach Lanning helped build one of the best defenses in college football last year at Georgia. It shouldn’t take Lanning long to reengineer an already good defense and make them great. Returning star linebacker Noah Sewell will make the transition a smooth one. Offense will go as far as their quarterback takes them. Auburn transfer quarterback Bo Nix comes in with a lot of experience and will look to take the starting job. The Lanning’s era begins against Lanning’s former employer and the defending national champions the Georgia Bulldog.
5. Texas A&M
Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies come into the 22′ season with as much momentum and expectations as any one in the country. After last years win over Alabama, the Aggie would fall short Ole Miss and LSU. We’ve come to notice that the Aggies play down to competition every year. If they’re able to block that bad habit, the Aggies will have a great season. Maybe a playoff birth as well. Depending on who is named the starter at quarterback, we can assume that the season will come down to a victory over Alabama.
Jim Harbough and the Wolverines had a great year in 2021. Finishing the year as the Big Ten champions and a college football playoff birth. As for 22′, the Wolverines will have a new offensive coordinator and the defense will be without defensive end Aiden Hutchinson. Although those are two big departures, the defense should be better than last season. The offense will look a little different scheme wise, but the key players are still there. Harbaugh will have to decide who will be the quarterback starting week 1, but both quarterbacks are solid enough to help Michigan make another run at a Big Ten Championship
2021 was an odd year for the Tigers. Some believe Clemson’s run at the top is coming to an end if they do not win the ACC this season, but I think otherwise. The Tigers did take a some lumps last year after their two biggest stars from 2020 left for the NFL. Returning starter, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, will have to show progress compared to last season. Clemson’s roster is one of the best overall rosters in college football. DJ will be pushed by a incoming freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik. We’ve seen in the past that head coach Dabo Swinney will make the switch at quarterback if need be. Again, Clemson will go as far as their quarterback leads them.
The defending champs will be looking to break in some new starters on both sides of the ball. The NFL took a lot of players, but with the insane recruiting job Kirby Smart and his staff has done, the Dogs shouldn’t drop off by much. Returning starter, quarterback Stetson Bennett. will most likely have more responsibility on his shoulders because of the drop in experience from the new starters. However, Georgia as a program is on the level of reloading not rebuilding. Georgia will be favorites to win the SEC East and appear in the college football playoffs.
2. Ohio State
Quarterback C.J. Stroud is the legit Heisman Trophy candidate. The returning leader of the Buckeyes grew into a star as the year went along. The Buckeyes have an elite offense with a subpar defense. If the defense can catch-up to the offense, the Buckeyes will be very difficult to beat. Furthermore, receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba made his name known in the season finally Rose Bowl. A unbelievable performance where we saw the young receiver go for 347 yards. Week 1 match up against Notre Dame will be a great test.
The Crimson Tide as always will be very difficult to beat. The Tide return star quarterback and heisman trophy winner Bryce Young, star edge rushers Will Anderson and Dallas Turner, Georgia Tech transfer running back Jahmir Gibbs, and a host of young receivers. This will be the best team in college football, and the best chance to beat them will be early on. Young’s ability to remain calm and patient throughout a game is remarkable. This is also why he is considered the #1 overall prospect for the 2023 NFL draft. The Tide will be coming into the year with a lot to prove. It will be interesting to see how many games they score over 40 points this year.