The NCAA Football season may be over, but with the transfer portal running rampant across the country some teams have gotten better, while some have gotten worse. Although the season doesn’t start for another eight months, here is a way-too-early ranking for 2022.
Yes, the Tide did lose the National Championship last season, but if Alabama has been anything as of late, it’s consistent. Quarterback Bryce Young is returning next season, as well as top defensive player Will Anderson.
Head Coach Nick Saban has the amazing ability to turn his recruits each year into first-round NFL talent, and there are no signs of that ending anytime soon. The Crimson Tide knows what it takes to be number one, so expect to see Alabama in the College Football Playoff yet again.
2. Ohio State
Ohio State was a top-four team in the nation last year until suffering a painful loss to their main rival Michigan that ended their hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff. With an upgraded defense, and Heisman challenger C.J Stroud next year, the Buckeyes will look to make a run in the standings.
A key player to watch for next season is star wider receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba after he put up 347 receiving yards in the Rose Bowl against Utah.
3. Texas A&M
The Aggies shocked the College Football world last season when they upset then-No. 1 ranked Alabama in a 41-38 walk-off field goal thriller. Injuries prevented the Aggies from reaching their full potential last season as they finished 8-4.
D.J Durkin will take over as the new defensive coordinator for A&M, and LSU transfer QB Max Johnson is set to become QB1. Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has an elite recruiting class that is poised to be a threat in the SEC West next season.
The Dawgs are coming off their first CFB Championship in decades, but it’s the loss of talent to the NFL Draft that earns them the #4 spot. QB Stetson Bennett is set to return for the 2022 season, and head coach Kirby Smart has yet another great recruiting class.
Georgia’s defense this season will be relatively younger than the 2021 team, which makes it tough to rank them. Georgia will still be a contender for the playoffs, but this team will be different than that of last season.
5. Oklahoma State
This may be a surprise, but the Cowboys have slowly been trending upwards as of late. The Big 12 Conference as a whole was weak last season with the exception of Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Oklahoma. With Oklahoma losing their head coach and QB, the only competition for OK State is Baylor, and maybe Texas.
The Cowboys lost their defensive coordinator to Ohio State, but their QB Spencer Sanders will be back. OK State lost the Big 12 title game to Baylor, but expect them to win it this season.
6. Notre Dame
Notre Dame is one of the more confusing teams in the standings. They do well in the regular season but typically collapse in the CFP, which is why they’re ranked sixth.
The Irish show lots of promise for next season, but with Ohio State, USC, BYU, and Clemson on the schedule, we’ll see just how good Notre Dame really is.
Michigan finally beat Ohio State last season, but crushing losses to Michigan State and Georgia shows that the Wolverines still have lots to work on. Michigan has some questions offensively at QB, and their defense will lose some players, but Michigan should still be a top ten team.
One of the biggest surprises of last season was Utah’s ability to compete with some of the other great schools. Much like other teams, Utah has lost some players to the NFL Draft, but they’re still considered the favorites to win the Pac-12 Conference.
A key player to watch this season is running back Tavion Thomas, who’d likely want to repeat his 21 touchdown performance from last season.
Clemson had a bit of a down year last season, yes they won 10 games, but for a program like Clemson ten isn’t enough. This year may be a tough year for the Tigers as they lost both their Offensive and Defensive coordinators to other schools. Clemson is still considered a favorite to win the ACC, but don’t hold your breath.
The Bears shocked everyone last season by upsetting Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship, as well as beating Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl. The Bears will have both of their QBs back alongside a strong offensive line. If all goes well, Baylor has a strong chance to repeat in the Big 12.
Oregon gained former Georgia DC Dan Lanning during the offseason, as well as former Auburn QB Bo Nix from the transfer portal. The Ducks still have a lot to prove but will look to remain consistent. Perhaps their biggest test is Week One when they face Georgia.
12. Michigan State
The Spartans were on the verge of the CFP until suffering losses to Ohio State and Purdue last season. MSU will be without star RB Kenneth Walker III, which is a big loss. The Spartans’ defense will need to do better against the pass, but Michigan State will still be competitive in ’22.
13. Wake Forest
Much like some teams on the list, Wake Forest surprised everyone. From starting the season unranked, going 8-0, to finishing 11-3, the Deacons have some high expectations going into 2022.
QB Sam Hartman will be back this season after a 39 touchdown performance last year. Wake Forest is a favorite to win the ACC, but they will have to challenge Clemson yet again.
Houston seemingly came out of nowhere last season. Starting the season 0-1 following a loss to Texas Tech, Houston went on an 11 game win streak that ultimately ended in the AAC title game to then-ranked-no. 4 Cinncinati.
The Cougars didn’t lose any key pieces offensively but got younger on defense. Houston is poised for another run at the conference title in ’22.
Is Texas back? That’s the question we’ve been asking for years, and in 2022 we might just get an answer. 2021 wasn’t pretty for the Longhorns after finishing 5-7 under new HC Steve Sarkisian.
Texas struggled to maintain leads during games and had a horrific six-game losing streak. After a strong recruiting class and some talented transfers, Texas will look to be a threat in the Big 12.
Texas’s biggest threat this season is their week two showdown with Alabama that will tell if Texas is truly back.
The Panthers finished the 2021-22 season 11-3 and will look to repeat that effort. Pitt is gaining USC transfer Kedon Slovis, who will look to make an impact offensively.
The Panthers don’t have very many holes to fill going into next season and seem to have only gotten better. Expect Pitt to be good.
USC has the chance to make a serious run in the standings. Former Oklahoma HC Lincoln Riley joins the Trojans alongside many new transfers.
USC will definitely get better, but it will take some time. Riley had OU competing for a spot in the CFP every year, making it three times. USC given time will likely return to its glory days.
Arkansas will be tested, however, having to face Cinncinati, Texas A&M, and Alabama in three of their first five games of the season.
The Wildcats are coming off a strong recruiting class and will have QB Will Levis back heading into the season. Kentucky had a productive season in ’21 beating rival Louisville as well as winning a bowl game. The Wildcats will look to repeat their past success from last season.
The Sooners will be without QB Spencer Rattler and HC Lincoln Riley heading into 2022. With a new head coach in Brent Venables and QB Dillion Gabriel, OU will look to compete for yet another Big 12 title.
A new era of football begins in Baton Rouge with the hire of HC Brian Kelly. The Tigers will look to erase the results of the past two seasons and look to return to their 2019 form.
Be on the lookout for LSU in the SEC West this season; they won’t be down for long.
This will be BYU’s last season as an independent team before officially joining the Big 12, so it’s only right that the Cougars give it their all.
With a schedule that consists of Baylor, Oregon, Arkansas, Notre Dame, and Stanford, the Cougars will definitely be an interesting team to watch,
Wisconsin fell just one game short of the Big 10 conference game after a 1-3 start on the year. The Badgers still have a great defense, but with many players set to join the NFL, the defense may not be as dominant as last year’s. Nonetheless, Wisconsin will still be a force to be reckoned with.
Iowa cruised to the number two spot in the rankings last year before suffering a 4-4 record to close out the season. If last year proved anything, it’s that the Hawkeyes have what it takes to hang with the big schools, and they’ll look to make it well known next season.
The Bearcats last season finished fourth in the rankings and earned a spot in the CFP. Although they got beat by Alabama in the semi-finals, their defense proved that they can slow down some of the best teams in the nation.
With a rising Houston in the AAC, the Bearcats will need to be on their A-game if they hope to repeat as conference champs.
Agree with my picks? Let me know in the comments below!
Also, don’t forget to check out the OTH Football Podcast on Spotify and YouTube!
Main Image Credit