2022 College Football Pre-Season Rankings

Top 25

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Projected Record: 13-0

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Heisman trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young leads a very talented Alabama team. However, this year’s team may be led more by their defense. The strength is at edge rusher where Will Anderson, Dallas Turner, and Chris Braswell are all dangerous. The Crimson Tide still has strong units outside of this on the defense including secondary, linebacker and defensive line. As for the offense, transfer wide receivers Jermaine Burton, Tyler Harrell, and running back Jahmyr Gibbs will all step in and be major contributors. The major question mark and weakness of this team is at offensive tackle after Evan Neal was drafted in the top ten. Expect transfer offensive tackle Tyler Steen to fill in at left tackle, but right tackle remains wide open. Regardless, expect one of the better Nick Saban teams this year with the expectation being an appearance in the National Title.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Projected Record: 13-0

The Buckeyes were uncharacteristically bad on defense last year finishing 59th overall. Now Ryan Day has brought in new DC Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State to change that. There are still questions on how good this defense can be with linebacker and cornerback being a mystery. The defense will be heavily reliant on Sophomore defensive linemen like JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, and Tyleik Williams. Offensively, Ohio State will be one of the best in the nation with the top receiving group, top running back (TreVeyon Henderson), and a top quarterback (CJ Stroud). The great offense will be enough to get through the Big Ten, but the defense will need to step up if the Buckeyes want to be legitimate national title contenders.

3. Georgia Bulldogs

Projected Record: 12-1

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Georgia is back after their 2021 national championship win. However, the Bulldogs lost a ton on the defensive side. They still have plenty of talent to star on this team including one of the best defensive lineman in the country Jalen Carter. Nolan smith and Rober Beal also return as the starting pass rushers. The concern remains at inside linebacker as they lost three guys who were all drafted in the first three rounds. Also there is a question on who starts opposite of star cornerback Kellen Ringo. On offense, returning quarterback Stetson Bennett is efficient. But he struggled against elite defenses by often turning the ball over and is the least talented starter on offense. Georgia’s skill positions are deep with studs including Adonis Mitchell and Arian Smith at wideout. Georgia also has by far the deepest, most talented tight end room with Brock Bowers, Arik Gilbert, and Darnell Washington. The offensive line is also one of the best in the nation. Overall, this has a team with enough talent to make the college football playoffs again. But replacing that much defensive talent to the NFL won’t be easy and may lead to an early College Football Playoff exit.

4. Texas A&M Aggies

Projected Record: 10-2

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Texas A&M comes into the year with the overall number one recruiting class and a loaded roster. This is especially true on the defensive side of the ball where they finished in the top ten last year. The secondary returns almost anybody including talented corner Jaylon Jones and safety Antonio Johnson. The question on that side of the ball is who steps up at defensive line after losing their top four guys off last year’s team? Lucky for the Aggies they have six five star freshman coming in and talented returning guys in Tunmise Adeleye, and McKinley Jackson. As for the offense, the Aggies have wide receivers ready to step in, but the best of the bunch might be true freshman Evan Stewart. Expect the offensive line to also be a solid, deep unit. There is one major question keeping this football team from reaching their potential… quarterback. The Aggies need Max Johnson, Haynes King, or Connor Weigman to step up if they want a chance at the SEC West or even the playoff. My gut tells me they’re not going to get that type of production and they’ll drop a few games during SEC play.

5. Utah Utes

Projected Record: 12-1

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Utah was very close to a Rose Bowl victory last year against Ohio State. Now Utah returns their starting quarterback, Cam Rising, who had Utah playing as a top ten offense last year. The  offense will be led through the tight ends Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid. On defense, Utah’s strength is at linebacker with Lander Barton and Mohamoud Diabate. It should be a strong unit, but they will need to find an edge rusher (Van Fillinger could be that guy). Overall, this should be the favorite in the Pac-12 and a potential College Football playoff team.

6. Clemson Tigers

Projected Record: 12-1

Clemson had an incredibly disappointing year last year and still finished 10-3. The problem last year was the offense as they finished 100th in yards per game. Whether they improve will be a major indicator on how far this team goes. If DJ Uiagalelei continues to decline look for true freshman Cade Klubnik to take over. On defense this is one of the greatest defensive lines in the country and, even after losing some key pieces in the secondary, Clemson should still finish as a top ten defense in the nation. Overall, I expect this team to be carried by the defense and the offense to improve from last season. Expect them to be on top of the ACC and be a college football playoff contender.

7. Michigan Wolverines

Projected Record: 10-2

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The Wolverines are coming off a great season where they won the Big Ten and made the playoffs. The offense will be good again with either JJ McCarthy or Cade McNamara leading the group. Michigan has one of the deepest groups in the Big Ten at wide receiver, second to Ohio State. The question this year will be how Michigan replaces a ton of key leaders to their defense. The defensive line is especially thin and could keep Michigan from returning to the playoffs. Overall, this is a good team, but replacing that much defensive talent will be tough to make a return trip to the playoffs.

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Projected Record: 9-3

The Marcus Freeman era starts at Notre Dame. Notre Dame is led by a strong offensive and defensive line. Tyler Buckner will take over as the starting QB along with a questionable wide receiver room. Overall, expect the Fighting Irish to be led by their defense. But the offense will need to step up if they want to be a legitimate playoff contender.

9. Oklahoma Sooners

Projected Record: 11-2

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The Brent Venables era starts in Norman with a ton of turnover. The Sooners have the most talent in the Big 12, but return only eight starters from last year’s team. On offense UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel takes over at quarterback and instantly becomes one of the best in the conference. He has two talented receivers to throw to in Marvin Mims and Theo Wease. The offense will be explosive with new OC Jeff Lebby, but will need to get better offensive line play. On defense the Sooners are coming off a year where they finished 79th overall. The secondary was a huge issue last year and Brent Venables will have his hands full fixing it. Oklahoma will rely on a few transfers on the defensive line Jeffery Johnson from Tulane and Jonah La’ulu from Hawaii. Overall, this Oklahoma team is a mystery heading into the year where their success will depend heavily on the defense. The expectation should be Big 12 champions, but there are many contenders in the conference that can compete with this team.

10. NC State Wolfpack

Projected Record: 10-2

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The Wolfpack have a really solid team going into 2022 and they are led by the best quarterback in the ACC, Devin Leary. If NC State opens up the passing game and lets him throw more, this is a team that could take down Clemson in the ACC Atlantic. Especially,  because this team is so good defensively with ten returning starters to a top 20 defense. The defense is led by one of the best linebacker duos in college football between Drake Thomas and Payton Wilson. Overall, if I knew NC State would open up the offense a little more I would trust them to take down Clemson… but even if they don’t I still see this team with a good chance of getting to double digit wins.

11. Miami Hurricanes

Projected Record: 10-3

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Miami found their quarterback of the future with the emergence of Tyler Van Dyke last year. Along with Van Dyke, Miami also has a solid offensive line and some talented tight ends. On defense this team was young last year, but return a ton of starters and added quality players via the transfer portal. The strength will be in the secondary after Miami played three talented freshman last year. West Virginia transfer Akheem Mesidor and Leonard Taylor make up a solid defensive tackle duo. Overall, in Mario Cristobal’s first season as head coach he has a solid team. If the defense matures quickly and the offense continues their momentum from last year… this is a legitimate ACC contender.

12. USC Trojans

Projected Record: 10-3

The Lincoln Riley era starts at USC. Coming with Riley are a ton of impact skill position transfers and quarterback Caleb Williams. The offense should be one of the nation’s best. Defense is another story. The linebackers, Alabama transfer Shane Leee and Romolo Heights were the best players on the defense in the spring. But the secondary and defensive line are not strong units. Overall, the offense will put up almost 40 points per game. But the defense will keep this team from being a playoff team.

13. Penn State Nittany Lions

Projected Record: 9-3

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Penn State is coming off two disappointing years including finishing 7-6 last year. Starting quarterback Sean Clifford is back again for his super senior season, but there are questions on what his ceiling is. The offensive line has to make an improvement as they struggled last year, especially in the run game. Even with the loss of Jahan Dotson, Penn State still has quality receivers including Parker Washington, Keandre Lambert-Smith, and Michael Tinsley (transfer from Western Kentucky). Defensively, the Nittany Lions lost five guys to the NFL Draft along with losing defensive coordinator Brent Prye. Despite the losses, expect a very good defense, especially in the secondary. Overall, look for James Franklin to turn it around and compete with Michigan for the number two spot in the Big Ten East.

14. Oregon Ducks

Projected Record: 9-3

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Dan Lanning enters his first season with quite a bit of talent leftover from Mario Cristobal. The offensive line is by far the strength with four strong starters returning. The skill positions and whether Auburn transfer QB Bo Nix can thrive in the Pac-12 are the main questions. Another position of strength is the front seven where Oregon has legitimate defensive lineman and linebacker sprinkled throughout. On defense the secondary will be the question, but getting transfer cornerback Christian Gonzalez from Colorado will help. Overall, do not expect much of a drop off as Oregon is still a legitimate Pac-12 contender.

15. Ole Miss Rebels

Projected Record: 9-3

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Ole Miss is coming off a very good season where they finished in the top 10-15 team with a Sugar Bowl appearance. Last season will be tough to repeat after losing Matt Corral. Quarterbacks Jaxon Dart and Luke Altmyer will compete for the starting job. While Ole Miss did lose their starting quarterback, they were aggressive in the portal and pulled Zach Evans and Ulyssess Bentley to make up a great RB room. As for the pass catchers Jonathan Mingo leads the unit with help from Jordan Watkins from Louisville and a high upside TE in Michael Trigg. The offensive line could be improved as well led by Jeremy James at left tackle. The question will be can the defense repeat as an effective unit after finishing in the top 35 last year.  The Achilles heel of last year’s team was a poor run defense. JJ Pegues from Auburn will attempt to help as they are playing him at nose tackle. Cedric Johnson will also be a key defensive player on the edge after a solid 6.5 sacks last year. The Rebels should be solid at defensive back again, but linebacker is a major question. Overall, this is a talented team whose success will be dependent on how Dart or Altmyer replaces Matt Corral.

16. Pittsburgh Panthers

Projected Record: 9-3

Coming off an ACC title, Pittsburgh returns 14 starters. However, they are losing first round quarterback Kenny Pickett and Biletnikoff award winner WR Jordan Addison. Still, with their entire offensive line coming back and a good replacement in USC transfer QB Kedon Slovis, Pittsburgh is in a good position to repeat as the ACC Coastal champion. This is especially true on defense where they return almost all of their defensive lineman and a solid secondary. Also returning is Habakkuk Baldonado who finished with 9 sacks last year. Overall this is a really good team, but I worry about coach Pat Narduzzi getting too conservative after his Offensive Coordinator Mark Whipple left for Nebraska.

17. Texas Longhorns

Projected Record: 9-4

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Texas is coming off a disappointing 5-7 season. But there is huge optimism in Steve Sarkisian’s second season. The offense is loaded and has a top five receiving group in the country with Xavier Worthy, Jordan Whittington, and Isaiah Neyor. Add in top running back Bijan Robinson and highly ranked QB Quinn Ewers, this offense has a chance to be special. However, offensive line is a huge issue where the Longhorns might have to start two true freshman offensive tackles. Defensively, they were awful last year finishing 100th in total yards per game. The interior defensive line isn’t bad with Keondre Coburn and Alfred Collins, but I do not see any premier pass rushers on the roster. The Longhorns also are weak at linebacker as they’ve been searching the transfer portal all offseason. The secondary remains shaky as well, but Ohio State transfer Ryan Watts will help the improvement. Overall, with an inexperienced offensive line and average defense I don’t see Texas as a college football playoff contender. However, they have enough offense to be in the mix for a Big 12 title.

18. Tennessee Volunteers

Projected Record: 9-3

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When Hendon Hooker took over at starting quarterback for the Vols last year, this became a legitimate top ten offense. Expect a similar explosive offense. The offensive line was good last year and now returns four out of the five starters. The key will be filling in the left tackle spot with Darnell Wright moving back to right tackle. The wide receiver room is also solid with Cedric Tillman coming off a 1000 yard season and transfer Bru McCoy could be a wildcard. As for the defense, the Vols unit finished in the top 50 last year. The defense will have some work replacing their top three defensive lineman and try to improve what was an inconsistent pass rush from last year. One guy that will be relied on to be a key rusher is defensive end Byron Young. Another stud on the defense is linebacker Jeremy Banks, but the Vols will need another linebacker to step up (possibly Juwan Mitchell after only playing 3 games last year). This defense needs to improve in the secondary after finishing near the bottom of the SEC in passing yards against. Expect this defense to finish in the middle of the SEC conference. Overall, this is a quality team who has a legitimate shot at finishing second in the SEC East.

19. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Projected Record: 9-4

The Golden Gophers return a bunch of starters on offense and defense coming off a nine win season. However, the offense needs to improve, especially quarterback Tanner Morgan. Luckily for Minnesota they get back Kurt Ciarrocca at offensive coordinator from their successful 2019 season. Mohamed Ibrahim is also one of the best running backs in the Big Ten back from an Achilles injury, while Chris Autmen-Bell is one of the conference’s top receiver. The defense was a top ten defense last year, but lost a few guys. However, they have enough talent still left to finish on top of the Big Ten West. Overall, expect this to be one of coach PJ Fleck’s most talented teams.

20. Wisconsin Badgers

Projected Record: 9-3

The Badgers had an absolute beast of a defense in 2021. But now they have to replace some key pieces at linebacker and in the secondary. Wisconsin went in the transfer portal to grab three cornerbacks to help out. They have a strong defensive line led by Keanu Benton. But the offense will have to make major improvements this year, led by star running back Braelon Allen, if they want to win the Big Ten West. Overall, expect a strong defense that will most likely be held back by an average offense from being a top team in the nation. However, they still will be the favorite to win the Big Ten West.

21. BYU Cougars

Projected Record: 9-3

BYU returns almost everyone back to what was a 10-3 team last year. The Cougar offense finished in the top 20 in offensive yards per game after a great season by quarterback Jaren Hall. The offense should be fantastic again, but it is defensively where BYU needs to improve. With ten starters coming back expect that to happen. Overall, BYU is very talented and will give the premier teams on their schedule trouble (Baylor, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Arkansas).

22. Kentucky Wildcats

Projected Record: 8-4

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Coach Mark Stoops has done a phenomenal job keeping Kentucky a steady 8-9 win team the last few years. Even with the new offensive coordinator, expect this to be your classic run-first team. Specifically behind talented, tough-nose running back Chris Rodriguez. Despite the offensive line losing three starters, the coaching staff seems confident in a few former four star recruits stepping up. What continues to be the concern is at wide receiver. Virginita Tech transfer Tayvion Robinson from Virginia Tech will be the top guy, but the complimentary pieces are unknown. Last but not least, quarterback Will Levis will need to improve his efficiency. He has all the tools with even a few publications projecting him as a first round NFL pick. Defensively, there are a few concerns including the defensive line and defensive back. Specifically at cornerback, someone needs to step up other than Carrington Valentine. The strength is Justin Rogers on the defensive line and the outside linebacker unit. Overall, this seems like another classic Kentucky team reliant on the run game and decent defense. But hopes of the SEC East title are too ambitious.

23. LSU Tigers

Projected Record: 8-4

Brian Kelly enters his first year as LSU’s head coach. The LSU team will look different from last year with only around six starters returning. The strength on offense is at the wide receiver position especially with one of the best in the nation, Kayshon Boutte. With very little tight end depth, expect LSU’s offense this year to go with more four wide receiver sets. Who is throwing the ball to the receivers is a major question going into the season with a three quarterback battle brewing between Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels, Garrett Nussmeier, and Myles Brennan. The offensive line is also a concern as the Tigers lost all four of their snap count guys from last year. On the other hand, the defense has a chance to be solid with a talented defensive line that features Jaquelin Roy and Mason Smith. The edge is also a position of strength with rushers Ali Gaye and Ben Ojulari. A key position on the defensive side of the ball is defensive back where they lost 4 out of their five top defensive backs. LSU brought in four defensive back transfers including Arkansas transfers Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks to help the back end. Overall, LSU is still a talented team. But the questions at quarterback, offensive line and defensive back keeps them in the middle of the pack of the SEC West.

24. Arkansas Razorbacks

Projected Record: 8-4

The Razorbacks are coming off an excellent 9-4 season. There is a reason for excitement in Fayetteville as the starting quarterback KJ Jefferson returns after a quality season. Also retuning is the entire offensive line. The skill positions took a hit trying to replace first round pick Treylon Burks. But Oklahoma transfer Jaden Haselwood and breakout candidate Ketron Jackson will help at wideout. Look for Dominic Johnson to be the premier running back in the offense coming off a 500 yard season. Expect him to have an even bigger season as this offense likes to focus on establishing the run game. On defense the Razorbacks will be playing a 3-2-6 base. The defense had some key losses including losing their top three defensive lineman and two impact linebackers from last year. While the defensive line remains a concern, the same can’t be said at linebacker with Bumper Pool and Alabama transfer Drew Sanders starting. The secondary is scattered with new talent including Latavious Brini from Georgia at safety and Dwight McGlothern from LSU at cornerback. Jalen Catalon also returns at safety after a disappointing year following a 2020 first team SEC season. Overall, this should be your classic, hard-nosed, Sam Pittman team that focuses on running the ball and good defense. Expect a pesky team in the SEC West.

25. Iowa Hawkeyes

Projected Record: 8-4

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The Hawkeyes are coming off a 10-4 season despite having an absolute terrible offense (ranked 94th). Iowa needs Spencer Petras to improve if they want to compete at the top of the Big Ten West. Defensively, the group brings eight starters back to a talented group from last year. The linebackers are all back including Jack Campbell. Overall, Iowa will be a tough out, but the lack of offense puts a cap on their ceiling.

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