Return a college football is almost here, so it’s time to update our top 25 rankings for 2022. News of the conference realignment has taken center stage, but the moves won’t take effect for another couple of years. So, let’s focus on the 2022 season and discuss the top teams that will light up TV screens across the country.
No top 25 list can be taken seriously without Alabama and Ohio State competing for the crown, but the rankings below them are constantly changing. Z The NFL Draftgraduation and transition portal, which will lead to massive changes in the rosters of many programs, new contenders may appear, and incumbent leaders may lose some spots.
25) Fresno State Bulldogs
After a 10-3 campaign, Cullen DeBoer parlayed his success in the Mountain West Conference into an opportunity to become Washington’s next head coach. But the man replacing him at Fresno State is no stranger to Bulldogs fans. Jeff Tedford recorded winning seasons (10-4 and 12-2) in his first two years with the program, starting in 2017. Then a 4-8 record and health issues led to Tedford’s retirement in 2019.
Now reunited with his former program and seemingly in good health, Tedford hopes to retrace his path as a QB guru with Jake Hanner under center. After flirting with the transfer window, Haehner decided to return to Fresno for another go-around. With Jalen Cropper and Josh Kelly catching passes and Dontay Bull and Co. defending up front, FSU’s offense should put up plenty of points.
24) Florida alligators
It all starts and ends with redshirt sophomore Anthony Richardson in The Swamp. He’s undoubtedly an electric runner and a howitzer for a right hand, but can he consistently pass with touch and accuracy? That remains to be seen, though we do know that the supporting cast around him is better than it deserves.
Billy Napier takes over after three straight seasons of double-digit wins at Louisiana. He brings with him Sun Belt Freshman of the Year RB Montrell Johnson and a star lineman O’Cyrus Torrens. with Jervon DexterWith Brenton Cox Jr., Ventrell Miller, Trey Dean III and Rashad Torrence II anchoring the defense, Florida could surprise in 2022.
23) Miami Hurricanes
Can Mario Cristobal bring Miami their third 10+ win season since 2003? Like Florida, Miami’s success hinges on their QB: Tyler Van Dyke. While the receiving corps is loaded with underclassmen, Canace has drawn Clemson to lead Frank Ladson Jr.’s squad. Backroom loaded: Ole Miss transfer Henry Parrish Jr. joins Jaylon Knighton and Donald Chaney Jr. The defense is a little less reliable, though UCLA transfers LB Caleb Johnson and DE Mitchell Agud are the opening-day starters in the front seven.
22) Tennessee Volunteers
The Josh Heupel era began with a bang in Tennessee, as the Vols quickly turned a 3-7 record in 2020 into a 7-6 record last season. Much of this reversal of fortune has to do with the play of QB Hendon Hooker. With a possible entry into the 2023 NFL Draft Cedric Tillman outside and lightning rod Jalin Hyatt across from him, Hooker could once again prove his power in the SEC, especially with RT Darnell Wright himself prepared for the big season.
21) Kentucky Wildcats
Entering his 10th year under Mark Stoops, expectations are high for Kentucky, fresh off its second 10-win campaign since 1977. Will Lewis usually seen at the beginning first round mock drafts and hopes to live up to the hype in 2022. He has the arm talent and overall athleticism to carry the offense. Still, Lewis’ consistency (both in the game and in the fundamentals) will ultimately decide how high the Wildcats finish the season in the top 25 rankings in college football.
20) Ole Miss Rebels
With Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss will put up a ton of points. Transfer of RB Zach Evans (TCU) and Ulysses Bentley IV (SMU) form one of the best duos in the country. Former USC QB Jackson Dart flashed at times last season and has the skill set to lead Kiffin’s offensive scheme. But can the defense hold up its end of the bargain? They will have to even maintain their position in the top 25 in a loaded SEC.
19) BYU Cougars
BYU returns eight starters on offense and every starter on defense. This is an unheard of continuity. QB Jaren Hall has all the talent to be the top signal caller in the 2023 class, but his injury history is a concern.
Additionally, BYU’s 2022 schedule includes home games against Baylor and Arkansas, road games against Oregon, Boise State and Stanford, and a matchup with Notre Dame in Las Vegas. The road won’t be easy, but a win over these teams will put the Cougars in the top 10.
18) Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Sam Hartman led Wake Forest to an 11-3 record, the program’s best since 2006. However, the Demon Deacons should expect to regress this season, as last year’s run at the ACC Championship was probably their peak.
But the offense only lost three starters, AT Perry is one of the best WRs in the country, and new defensive coordinator and former Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert has several key moves to make to rebuild the defense. So while the team’s final record may pale in comparison to last year, they can actually improve in many ways.
17) Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State ends one of the best seasons in school history. However, they will be using an entirely new defense, with only four members returning and a new DC in town. And offensively, RB Jaylen Warren and WR Tay Martin are gone. Spencer Sanders isn’t the most accurate QB, but the offense doesn’t need him. He’s a legitimate threat with his feet, rushing for 668 yards and six scores in 2021.
Mike Gundy has a lot of work to do, but he hasn’t had a losing season since 2005 (his first as OSU’s head coach). So don’t expect the Cowboys to drop too much in 2022.
16) Pittsburgh Panthers
Out goes Kenny Pickett and in goes ex-USC Trojan Kedon Slovis. Meanwhile, OC Mark Whipple is headed to Nebraska, taking his pass-happy offense with him. Frank Cignetti Jr., known for his QB mentorship and pro offense, will take over the punter duties. It will be a more balanced approach this season, but you will lose your offensive architect, a first-round QB and a Biletnikoff-winning WR in Jordan Addison may sound the death knell for the panthers.
However, LT Carter Warren and Akron transfer Connaught Mumpfield should help support the new-look offense. And under the tutelage of HC Pat Narduzzi, Kalia KansiSirVocea Dennis, Deslin Alexandre and Habakkuk Baldonado will make life difficult for the opposition.
15) Oregon ducks
As with the other half of the college football top 25 rankings, Oregon State will look very different in 2022. Georgia State defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is the new head coach and will bring a national championship with him.
A change of scenery for former SEC Freshman of the Year QB Beau Nix could do wonders, especially with his former OC Kenny Dilling running the offense. But the real show happens on defense, where Noah Sewell, Justin Flavand Co. tend to accept Lanning’s instructions.
14) Baylor Bears
Jerry Bohannon put together a 10-2 campaign last year, but it was Blake Shapen who led the Bears past Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship. With Bohannon now at USF, Shapen has Waco to himself. There has also been a changing of the guard at running back, with Abram Smith and Treston Ebner moving on to the NFL. Fortunately, Baylor has an elite offensive line led by OT Connor Galvinso fast lanes shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Halen Pitre and three other secondary starters must be replaced, but Saki Ika and Jaxon Player are a disruptive duo on the D-line. Dave Aranda’s team has a wide range of results in 2022, but their 12-2 record in 2021 is more indicative of Baylor’s future than their 2-7 outing in 2020.
13) Houston Cougars
Clayton’s tune. Nathaniel Dell. Know names; you’ll be hearing a lot of them this season. Every year at least one Group of Five team wins the nation’s heart. In 2022, that team could be Houston. After 4-8 and 3-5 campaigns to begin his tenure, Dana Holgarsen led the Cougars to a 12-2 finish in 2021. With Tune-to-Dell adding another year of experience, the offense could carry a defense that lost Logan Hall, Marcus Jones and David Anenich to the AAC title.
12) Michigan State Spartans
QB Peyton Thorne and WR Jaden Reed are back in the passing game. Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard are primed to bowl over defenders in the rushing attack. And HC Mel Tucker hopes to build off the 11-2 season that earned him a 10-year, $95 million extension. Nine starters return on defense and key components on the other side of the ball are in place. Even with Ohio State and Michigan in the same conference, No. 12 could be Michigan State’s floor in the top 25 college football rankings.
11) Clemson Tigers
Whether it’s DJ Uiagalelei or early enrollee Cade Klubnik under center, Clemson’s offense should improve this season. Death Valley is down to ten contestants, and Uiagalelei reportedly lost 25 pounds this offseason. There are two new coordinators and the defense has lost a ton of leadership and experience — primarily on the second and third levels. nevertheless Miles Murphy, Brian Brazee, Trenton Simpsonand Andrew Mukuba provide day 1/2 NFL draft potential and will elevate the rest of the unit.