Breaking news, rankings, predictions and analysis all in one place.

2022 College Football Way-Too-Early Top 25

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Georgia finally rid themselves of the program's long-standing demons earlier this week, taking down Alabama in the finale of the 2021-22 college football season. As we embark on the long and arduous journey that is the college football offseason, it's always fun to speculate which teams are likely to dot preseason Top 25s next fall. Of course, with the sport changing so rapidly and the transfer portal swirling, plenty is going to change between now and September. However, this way-too-early Top 25 gives an idea of which teams and storylines to watch over the coming months.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Clearly, Nick Saban's dynasty in Tuscaloosa is not slowing down anytime soon, and the Tide will be back with a vengeance in 2022. Alabama will have two viable Heisman Trophy candidates on both sides of the ball in Bryce Young and Will Anderson, the betting favorites to be the top selections in the 2023 NFL Draft. Young may be in store for a slight transition period as most of his supporting cast departs, but the Tide are blessed with an impressive group of young receivers ready to emerge. Keep an eye on the trio of Ja'Corey Brooks, JoJo Earle, and Agiye Hall; any of the three could emerge as the alpha on the outside. Coordinator Pete Golding will have to do some reloading defensively, particularly in a linebacker corps likely to be hit hard by NFL defections, but the talent is in place to still be a productive unit. Anderson will be the big name, but others such as "Kool Aid" McKinstry, Dallas Turner, and Malachi Moore are likely to provide this team with a nice core to work with. It will be interesting to see how this coaching staff evolves over the offseason, as Saban has had to do shuffling just about every year this decade. Will Bill O'Brien return to the NFL after a one-year stint as the play-caller? What about Doug Marrone, who had an underwhelming year as the team's offensive line coach? Either way, Saban has proven he can reload better than just about anybody in college football and his early dominance in the portal indicates the Crimson Tide will be the betting favorite to win it all once again next fall.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State's thrilling win in the Rose Bowl over Utah provided a glimpse of what the future will look like in Columbus. Third place Heisman finisher C.J. Stroud will be back for another year under center and should benefit from a full season of experience under his belt. He'll launch the ball all over the field to a talented and dynamic receiver corps that includes budding superstar Jaxon Smith-Njigba. However, Smith-Njigba is far from the only Buckeye wide out that should give defenses nightmares in 2022; expect Julian Fleming, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Emeka Egbuka to all see expanded roles. Out of the backfield, TreVeyon Henderson is back after a record-setting freshman campaign, while Miyan Williams returns in a support role. The defense is the greater question after a down 2021 that saw Ryan Day change play-callers, but this is Ohio State, so talent is no issue. After a couple down seasons on the D-Line, at least by Ohio State standards, expect 2022 to be a resurgent campaign, even with Zach Harrison and Haskell Garrett likely off to the NFL. J.T. Tuimoloau, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2021, didn't see a ton of playing time this past season but could be one of the sport's breakout stars in 2022.

3. Texas A&M Aggies

Is 2022 the year Texas A&M finally asserts themselves as the greatest threat to Alabama in the SEC West? After beating them this past fall, the Aggies are hoping to finish the job and take the division in what will be Jimbo Fisher's fifth year in College Station. They'll start anew at quarterback after this year's starter, Zach Calzada, transferred to Auburn, but it's likely they'll upgrade at that position, whether it's LSU transfer Max Johnson or Haynes King, who missed nearly all of '21 with a fractured leg. Whoever does take over at QB will have plenty of toys to play with, namely do-it-all Ainias Smith, one of the sport's most exciting players. Devon Achane is expected to take over lead back duties from the productive Isaiah Spiller, but somebody will have to emerge as the team's top pass-catcher, with tight end Jalen Wydermyer almost definitely going pro. The defense will have a new coordinator after Mike Elko took the Duke HC gig, as the controversial D.J. Durkin is set to take over. Durkin will have to rebuild the front seven, but the secondary is loaded with talent and the nation's top recruit in the Class of 2022, Walter Nolen, is a massive addition up front. Nolen headlines a 2022 Class that will go down as the one of the greatest of all-time; how quickly they acclimate to the college game will determine whether A&M is a Playoff contender in 2022 or a year too early.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

It's a new day in South Bend, as defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman takes over as head coach following Brian Kelly's shocking departure to LSU. Freeman will have to replace the team's best defensive player in safety Kyle Hamilton, but the team's core should still be good enough to keep them in CFB Playoff contention. Expect Chris Tyree, one of the sport's fastest players, to take over for Kyren Williams as lead back, while tight end Michael Mayer is likely to be the Mackey Award favorite after being snubbed as finalist in 2021. There will be some holes to fix along the O-Line and the Irish will have to break in a new QB, but people around the program are extremely high on Tyler Buchner, who showed flashes in limited playing time his fall. Hamilton is obviously a massive loss on defense, but the Irish got a nice consolation prize when they managed to convince Northwestern transfer Brandon Joseph, an All-American in 2020, to come to South Bend. The toughest aspect of Notre Dame's 2022 season might end up being their schedule, which could be among the most difficult anywhere in college football next season. The Irish welcome Cal, BYU, and Clemson to Notre Dame Stadium and also have to go on the road to face USC, Ohio State, and North Carolina.

5. Georgia Bulldogs

Like many teams coming off a National Title, Georgia is likely to undergo extensive reloading in 2022, but with the way the staff has recruited, a repeat is not out of the question. This year's record-setting defense will look a bunch different this fall, starting with the coordinator, as Dan Lanning took the Oregon job. Additionally, stars such as Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, Devonte Wyatt, Derion Kendrick, and Lewis Cine are almost all likely to go pro. The front seven will be young but talented, while the secondary could take over as the defense's strength. Kelee Ringo, who had the game-clinching interception in the National Championship, will become a headliner, as will Jalen Kimber and a healthy Tykee Smith. The Bulldog offense will be a fascinating watch over the coming months, as it could go a number of different directions. Quarterback will be particularly intriguing; Stetson Bennett is eligible to return, but will be able to hold off J.T. Daniels and Brock Vandagriff? Does Daniels potentially search out a third school after losing his job in Athens? Running back should still be in good hands with Kendall Milton set to break out and I love the pass-catchers, which will include Jermaine Burton, Brock Bowers, Darnell Washington, and more.

6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

This is no typo, Wake Forest will enter 2022 as an ACC favorite and a legitimate candidate to compete for a CFB Playoff berth. Dave Clawson's team will lose one of their top playmakers in Jaquarii Roberson and top back Christian Beal-Smith entered the portal, but every other big name should be back in Winston-Salem. That includes quarterback Sam Hartman, who is likely to break just about every single Wake passing record in 2022 (he already leads in career touchdowns and total offense). Hartman may miss Roberson, but still has one star likely to be left over in A.T. Perry, while freshman Jaydn Girard could make an immediate impact. The defense will miss a few key names, including Miles Fox and Ja'Sir Taylor, but Clawson made one of the most underrated hires of the off-season by bringing in Purdue DC Brad Lambert to run his defense. Leading tackler Ryan Smenda should be back for his senior season to lead Lambert's defense, while Jasheen Davis led the team in sacks in his second year on campus and is ready for more.

7. Clemson Tigers

2021 was a down year by Clemson standards, but expect Dabo Swinney's team to return to national contention this fall. The offense will be spearheaded by Will Shipley, who will emerge as one of the best running backs in college football as a sophomore, and the defense is loaded with freaks. Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee will both be healthy and form a potent trio on the D-Line, while safety Andrew Mukuba is coming off an extremely productive freshman campaign. There are still questions around the program that will need to be addressed, most notably quarterback. D.J. Uiagalelei was shockingly bad in his first full season as starter and will have to fend off highly touted newcomer Cade Klubnik. Additionally, Swinney saw both of his coordinators take head coaching jobs, as Brent Venables finally made the jump and returned to Oklahoma, while Jeff Scott goes to Virginia. For a program that has been a masterclass in stability and continuity, there will be some work to be done. 

8. Michigan Wolverines

Jim Harbaugh and Michigan finally had their long-awaited breakthrough in 2021, even if their Playoff defeat at the hands of Georgia cast a shadow on the season. Even though Harbaugh has been rumored for potential NFL job openings, I firmly expect him to be back in Ann Arbor leading a Wolverine team that should be in contention to repeat as Big Ten Champs. Michigan will lose two of their best players in Heisman runner-up Aidan Hutchinson and his sidekick David Ojabo, but most of their other names will be returning. Cade McNamara will be back as the starting quarterback, but may face a test from J.J. McCarthy, who impressed in limited playing time this fall. Blake Corum will take over at running back with Hassan Haskins set to depart, but UM also has a rising youngster there in Donovan Edwards. Whether it's McNamara or McCarthy at QB, they'll be blessed with a nice collection of young receivers ready to shine, plus a healthy Ronnie Bell. The defense will undergo a rebuild without Hutchinson, Ojabo and star safety Daxton Hill, but coordinator Mike MacDonald did a superb job with this group this fall and will have them ready to roll in 2022.

9. Utah Utes

While USC will be getting most of the offseason attention following the Lincoln Riley hire, the Pac-12 South runs through Salt Lake City. After a slow start to 2021, the Utes ended the season on fire and went toe-to-toe with Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. They will be a tough out once again in 2022, thanks in large part to the return of QB Cam Rising and star tailback Tavion Thomas. The Utes will lose a key program cornerstones in Britain Covey and Devin Lloyd, but Kyle Whittingham is among the most underrated recruiters in the game right now, and reinforcements are ready to roll. Tight end Brant Kuithe is back and will operate as Rising's top weapon in the passing game now that Covey is gone, while corner Clark Phillips is ready to take the next step and become one of the best defensive backs anywhere in college football.

10. Michigan State Spartans

Mel Tucker engineered one of the most surprising seasons in recent college football history when he led Michigan State to an 11-2 season and New Year's Six victory. MSU will go from the hunters to the hunted in 2022, but they will still be a major factor in the Big Ten East. Kenneth Walker III departs after a tremendous one-year stop in East Lansing, but the Spartans landed a potential replacement in Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger, who flashed significant upside in 2020. Payton Thorne will once again man the quarterback position, and while he'll miss big-play threat Jalen Nailor, Jaylen Reed is expected to return and youngster Keon Coleman could be one of the Big Ten's breakout stars. Defensively, Jacub Panasiuk is a major loss, but Michigan State could actually improve. Frankly, the pass defense can't get much worse than it was in 2021, and Tucker managed to bring in a pair of key linebacker transfers in Aaron Brule from Mississippi State and Jacoby Windmon from UNLV. 

11. NC State Wolfpack

After a down year in 2021, the ACC Atlantic could quietly be one of college football's toughest divisions next fall. In addition to Wake Forest and Clemson, NC State has legit New Year's Six potential, and Florida State could field their best team in years. The Wolfpack won nine games in 2021 before their bowl meeting with UCLA was cancelled and they'll look to reach double-digits in 2022. Quarterback Devin Leary has emerged as one of the ACC's best signal-callers, but he will have to do even more next year with Ricky Person, Zonovan "Bam" Knight and Emeka Emezie all expected to depart. Expect receivers Devin Carter, Thayer Thomas, and Porter Rooks to all fill Emezie's shoes, and the defense may be the best in the conference next year. Star linebacker Payton Wilson and safety Tanner Ingle have already announced their intentions to return to Raleigh, giving defensive coordinator Tony Gibson a great core to work with.

12. USC Trojans

Preseason USC hype is a West Coast tradition at this point, but there's reason to believe that 2022 could be a different story in Los Angeles. Lincoln Riley arrives and brings several big names from his coaching staff with him, including defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. He's also hoping to bring a couple massive players from his Sooners team with him, notably Caleb Williams. Williams entered the transfer portal a week ago and has fielded interest from across the country, but his connection with Riley seems to peg USC as the favorite. The possibility of Williams coming to LA seems to already have made an impact as young QB Jaxson Dart hit the transfer portal himself recently, opening the door for the former OU five-star. Even if they don't land Williams, the Trojans have a nice collection of offensive talent to work with, even as Drake London moves on. Receivers Tahj Washington and Gary Bryant are likely to put up monster numbers in a Riley offense and there's still a chance Bru McCoy could finally live up to his potential after missing all of 2021 with off-field issues. Grinch will have his work cut out for him on defense, but there's no shortage of talent. Korey Foreman, one of the highest-rated players in the 2021 cycle, could become the team's star on that side of the ball.

13. Oklahoma State Cowboys

I will be the first to admit I was not very high on Oklahoma State going into 2021, but Mike Gundy and the Cowboys certainly proved me wrong, going 12-2 and coming within inches of a Big 12 Title. A slight step back may be expected, but Oklahoma State has far less questions entering the offseason than other Big 12 contenders like Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas. Is 2022 the year Spencer Sanders finally puts it all together for a whole season? He was much improved this past fall and had a tremendous showing in the bowl win, but if he can become even more consistent, he may be the best signal-caller in the Big 12 in '22. Sanders will miss tailback Jaylen Warren and top wide out Tay Martin, but there are others waiting to step up, including Brennan Pressley and Blaine Green at receiver. The defense was the story of 2021 for the Cowboys, but there's no denying there are some major losses here. Not only does OSU lose star linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, coordinator Jim Knowles took the same job at Ohio State. The good news is that the Cowboys do have one of the Big 12's rising stars in Collin Oliver, who had 11.5 sacks as a freshman in 2021 and will benefit from a whole offseason in the weight room.

14. Oregon Ducks

Oregon is a program in transition as we hit the offseason, as Mario Cristobal left for Miami and both sides of the ball suffered heavy losses. New head man Dan Lanning will benefit from the fact that Cristobal was recruiting like crazy during his time in Eugene, upping the talent level for the Ducks and keeping them entrenched as the Pac-12 North favorite. Quarterback is going to be a fascinating watch over the offseason, as Bo Nix transfers in from Auburn. He'll be the favorite to replace the frustrating Anthony Brown, but former high-profile prospect Ty Thompson remains very interesting. The Ducks are likely to lose both tailbacks Travis Dye and C.J. Verdell, but expect Byron Cardwell to become a serious breakout candidate. Receiver is also going to be a growing pain with several major names departing, but youngsters like Kris Hutson and Troy Franklin have shown potential. Kayvon Thibodeaux is a massive loss defensively, but there's still plenty to like on that side of the ball. Noah Sewell has emerged as one of the Pac-12's best linebackers and corner Dontae Manning has significant upside. The Ducks also hope Justin Flowe can finally stay healthy and deliver on his former five-star billing. Opening the season with Lanning's former employer and the reigning National Champs won't be a fun way to begin his tenure, but the Ducks are still far and away the most talented team in the North Division.

15. Houston Cougars

After a season-opening loss to Texas Tech, Houston ripped off 12 wins in their next 13 games, with their lone loss coming to Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference Championship. The Cougars capped that off with a victory over Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl, providing even more momentum for Dana Holgorsen's program as they look ahead towards 2022. Houston will once again have an explosive offense, as the trio of QB Clayton Tune, back Alton McCaskill, and wide out Nathaniel Dell all return. Dell in particular should cement himself as one of the best receivers in college football and a genuine Biletnikoff Award frontrunner. On the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars are going to lose ultra-versatile Marcus Jones and top sack-getter Logan Hall, but most of the other big names return, including top tackler Donovan Mutin. Another reason to buy into Houston's chances in 2022? Cincinnati is almost definitely going to take a sizable step backwards, opening the door for Holgorsen's team to run the AAC.

16. Arkansas Razorbacks

I don't think even the most optimistic Arkansas fan thought Sam Pittman would've led this program to nine wins in just his second season on campus. But, the longtime OL coach has done a spectacular job with the Razorbacks and the prognosis for 2022 looks good. Quarterback K.J. Jefferson will be back to run the offense after a solid first season as starter; he's going to be flanked by a nice 1-2 punch at running back in Trelon Smith and Raheim Sanders. Treylon Burks is a massive loss out wide, but Arkansas is very excited about newcomer Jadon Haselwood, who comes over from Oklahoma. Haselwood is a former five-star recruit who had some moments in Norman, but injuries prevented him from reaching his full potential. The Razorbacks might be even better defensively, where most of their core returns, as does DC Barry Odom, who has flirted with other jobs. Tackling machine Bumper Pool has already announced he'll be back for a final season with the 'Hogs, and the secondary is loaded with talent. Jalen Catalon should be back fully healthy and safety Myles Slusher took massive steps forward in his sophomore campaign. Frankly, the only things standing in the way of the Razorbacks are the SEC West and the schedule. In addition to the brutal league slate, Arkansas also has to play Cincinnati, BYU, and Liberty in the non-conference. They will once again be a top contender for the toughest schedule in college football.

17. Baylor Bears

The reigning Big 12 Champion Baylor Bears will suffer some notable attrition this offseason, but their most important returnee? That would be head coach Dave Aranda, who was on the short list for several high-profile jobs, but signed a massive extension to remain in Waco. There will be work that needs to be done on both sides of the ball for Aranda, as the offense loses its top rusher and a pair of top receivers and the defense will be without Terrel Bernard and Jalen Pitre. Gerry Bohanon returns at QB after starting the majority of the season for Baylor, but he could be pushed by youngster Blake Shapen. Running back is a concern, as will wide receiver, but the O-Line may be the best in the Big 12 and there's enough to like about this defense. The Bears are hopeful Dillon Doyle, a former Iowa transfer who was second on the team in tackles this fall, will be back after a breakout 2021 campaign.

18. Oklahoma Sooners

As one of the most consistent programs in college football the past decade, Oklahoma deserves the benefit of the doubt and regular placement inside the Top 15-20 every year, no matter what. With that being said, the Sooners face more questions entering an offseason than they have in a long time. For one, Lincoln Riley is gone and took a lot of the staff with him to USC. Brent Venables was a great hire who knows the school well, but he'll likely have to make do without a number of key contributors from last year's team. Caleb Williams is the big one, but the Sooners are also likely to be without Kennedy Brooks, Marvin Mims, Mario Williams, and more. Landing UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel was a great consolation prize after losing Williams and Spencer Rattler, but Gabriel will have to find new targets to throw to. Luckily, he was a prior relationship with new play-caller Jeff Lebby, and his big arm could wreck serious damage in the Big 12. The defense wasn't as good as hoped in 2021, but also suffered significant injuries on the back-end. With Nik Bonitto, Perrion Winfrey, and Isaiah Thomas all set to depart, Venables will have his work cut out for him in Year One.

19. Tennessee Volunteers

Josh Heupel had a great debut campaign in Knoxville, rejuvenating a program that was in the dumps following the disastrous conclusion to the Jeremy Pruitt era. Even greater things will be expected for an encore, but the Vols should have the tools to be dangerous. Hendon Hooker will be back to run the offense after a great first season with Tennessee; he has the talent and plays an offense that could deliver Heisman Trophy consideration. Only helping Hooker is the fact that his top target, Cedric Tillman, will be back, as will a capable back in Jabari Small. The defense was the big issue for Heupel and UT in Year One, but there's reason to believe there could be improvement here. Trevon Flowers' decision to return in the secondary was massive, but Tennessee could be in play for some grad transfers to beef up a front seven that isn't on par with most of the other SEC top dogs. The timing also works out great for the Vols to make a push for an SEC East crown; while Georgia is still the favorite, they suffer notable losses. Kentucky, South Carolina, and Florida will all be tough, but it isn't crazy to think UT will be the greatest threat to Kirby Smart and the 'Dawgs in 2022.

20. Miami Hurricanes

Don't be surprised if Miami is another team with a new coach that receives plenty of hype this spring and summer. The 'Canes were a much more talented team than what they put on the field in 2021 and the hope is that Mario Cristobal can elevate their recruiting even more. Miami is very excited about young QB Tyler Van Dyke, who played well beyond his age as a true freshman in 2021. He notched 2,931 yards and 25 touchdowns and while he will have a new play-caller, even greater things should be expected next season. Van Dyke will be without his top two targets from this fall, as Charleston Rambo declared and Mike Harley is set to graduate, but Key'Shawn Smith could be one of the ACC's breakout stars. The defense needs work, but the team's top two tacklers, linebackers Corey Flagg Jr. and Waynmon Steed, will be back. Tyrique Stevenson, a former Georgia transfer, will take on an even larger role on the back-end with safeties Amari Carter and Bubba Bolden officially gone. Missing out on Alabama transfer Marcus Banks, who seriously considered Miami but instead opted for Mississippi State, does hurt, but I expect the 'Canes to still be in the transfer market defensively.

21. Minnesota Golden Gophers

While Iowa, Wisconsin, and even Purdue will all firmly be in the hunt, the reality is that the Big Ten West is as wide open as it has ever been looking ahead to 2022. After coming close in 2019 and 2021, the time is now for P.J. Fleck to deliver a West Division Title to the Twin Cities. The offensive skill positions are stacked with experience, as QB Tanner Morgan returns for a sixth season, Mo Ibrahim returns from an Achilles tear, and star receiver Chris Autman-Bell comes back for a final year. Ibrahim, the 2020 Big Ten RB of the Year, will likely need some time as he recovers from such a significant injury, which is where Mar'Keise "Bucky" Irving comes in. Irving split time with Ky Thomas following a rash of running back injuries in 2021 but with Thomas set to transfer, expect Irving to become an even larger factor in the offense. On defense, Minnesota signed coordinator Joe Rossi to an extension after a tremendous season and there's a lot to like about the back-seven. There's experience, with guys like Mariano Sori-Marin and new transfers Ryan Stapp and Beanie Bishop, as well as budding young talent in the form of Justin Walley and Braelen Oliver. If there is a weakness on this Gophers team as we hit the offseason, it has to be on both lines of scrimmage. The O-Line was the most experienced in the country a season ago but suffers major losses, and the D-Line will be without Senior Bowl invitees Boye Mafe and Esezi Otomewo.

22. Pittsburgh Panthers

2021 was a dream season for Pittsburgh, as they won the ACC and had a Heisman Trophy finalist, but there's reason to believe the program has staying power. Kenny Pickett is obviously a huge loss and will likely be a first-round NFL Draft selection, but the program has high hopes for backup Nick Patti. Patti will have to learn a new offense after OC Mark Whipple left for Nebraska, but he has the benefit of working with the reigning Biletnikoff winner, Jordan Addison. He will also operate behind one of the league's most experienced offensive lines, plus leading rusher Israel Abanikanda to take the pressure off. The defense loses a host of graduates and will likely watch leading tackler SirVocea Dennis go pro, but there's still hope on this side of the ball. Captain Deslin Alexandre has already announced his decision to return and head coach Pat Narduzzi has a knack for rebuilding this side of the ball. 

23. UCF Knights

After going 9-4 and winning a bowl game in Gus Malzahn's first season, UCF could be even more dangerous in 2022. Dillon Gabriel is gone, but QB Mikey Kenne looked more than capable of running the offense in his absence, and might actually be a better fit for what Malzahn wants to do. Leading rusher Johnny Richardson should join Keene in the backfield, while Ryan O'Keefe, one of the nation's most underrated receivers, highlights the pass-catchers. The Knights are also going to get Jaylon Robinson, who had 979 yards in 2020 before an injury-plagued 2021, back and they also added a dynamic offensive weapon in Ole Miss transfer John Rhys Plumlee. The defense is hopeful it will bring back several key pieces on the defense, namely leading tackler Tatum Bethune and defensive back Divaad Wilson. Big Kat Bryant, who followed Malzahn from Auburn and had six sacks in 2021, will be a big loss on the D-Line.

24. Wisconsin Badgers

Despite a shaky 1-3 start to 2021, Wisconsin ended the year strong before a rivalry loss to Minnesota cost them a shot at the Big Ten Championship. They'll be in the West Division Title hunt once again, although the defense suffers some significant losses. Badger fans are hoping 2022 is finally the breakthrough season for Graham Mertz, who has had a rollercoaster of a career in his first two seasons as starter. Even if it isn't, tailback Braelon Allen demonstrated he could carry the load offensively, and a healthy Chez Mellusi will give this team a potent 1-2 punch. Jim Leonhard will reload on defense, a group that allowed just 4.1 yards per play this past fall, but there's no denying how massive the losses of Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal are. Expect Nick Herbig to take over as the leader in the heart of the defense, fresh off a 2021 in which he tallied 64 tackles. One other notable loss to keep an eye on is the departure of Joe Rudolph, the OL coach and former play-caller. Rudolph played a big role in the recruitment and development of the Badger line for years and years, so his absence could have an immediate and long-reaching impact on the offense.

25. BYU Cougars

Everyone expected a rebuilding year from BYU in 2021, but the Cougars instead went 10-3 and went a perfect 5-0 against the Pac-12. Head coach Kalani Sitake has built a program with serious staying power, and the Cougars look like they'll challenge for double-digit victories once again. QB Jaren Hall returns to lead an efficient offense that will include top pass-catcher Gunner Romney and most of the physical offensive line. Tailback Tyler Allgeier is a huge loss in the backfield, but BYU has consistently proven they can develop the position, and they welcome in Cal transfer Christopher Brooks as a potential replacement. The defense is always well-coached and disciplined, returning experience at every level for 2022.

Just Missed the Cut

Cincinnati Bearcats -- Can the Bearcats make it an unprecedented three straight undefeated regular seasons? While Luke Fickell's program deserves all the credit in the world, few programs in college football will have the personnel losses they suffer. Program staples like Desmond Ridder, Jerome Ford, Alec Pierce, Ahmad Gardner, Coby Bryant, and more. Fickell has recruited well enough for the Bearcats to remain in the New Year's Six hunt, but it's hard to imagine them being as good in 2022 as previous campaigns.

Iowa Hawkeyes -- The reigning Big Ten West Champions lose several big names on both sides of the ball, including Ty Goodson and Tyler Linderbaum offensively. Expect Gavin Williams to take over for Goodson in the backfield, but Iowa needs more production from the QB spot. If they get it, this offense genuinely has the potential to be pretty good, especially considering the fact this team has a really fun collection of pass-catchers.

Ole Miss Rebels -- Lane Kiffin is a controversial coach, but there's little denying the superb job he has done in Oxford. He guided Ole Miss to their first 10-win regular season in school history and developed Matt Corral into a Heisman candidate and likely first-round NFL Draft selection. A slight rebuild may be in the cards as Corral moves on, but TCU transfer Zach Evans, a former five-star recruit, could be in store for a monster 2022. The defense has to be better and losing coordinator D.J. Durkin doesn't help, but there should still be a lot returning at every level.

UCLA Bruins -- The cancellation of the Holiday Bowl blocked any possibility of UCLA ending the year on a high note, but the Bruins should still feel good about a 8-4 2021. While Utah and USC will receive the preseason hype inside the division, Chip Kelly's club could be the dark horse. Dillon Gabriel pulled out of his decision to transfer to Westwood, but Dorian Thompson-Robinson is back for one final run, as is leading rusher Zach Charbonnet. On the outside, the expectation is that Greg Dulcich will leave, but top receiver Kyle Phillips will likely be back to help guide DTR. The defense was veteran-laden in 2021 so the losses will be severe, but it doesn't need to be perfect for this team to be a contender in the South.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers -- Coastal Carolina has gone 22-3 over the last two seasons under Jamey Chadwell and they are likely to enter 2022 as the Sun Belt favorite. Chadwell has received interest for Power Five jobs the last two off-seasons but has stayed put and returns his star QB Grayson McCall, who quietly set the NCAA's single-season record for passing efficiency in '21. The losses around McCall are notable, but expect Reese White to step up in the backfield and on defense, names like Jerrod Clark and Shi'heem Watkins are going to have to emerge.

No comments:

Theme images by LUGO. Powered by Blogger.