At a time when everyone else is focused on buying new backpacks, shopping “back to school” sales, and selecting their classes for the semester, we’ve got our mind on one thing and one thing only: FOOTBALL. Yes, football is back, and we couldn’t be more stoked about it.
As we all gear up to devote the next few months of our lives to living and breathing everything college football, here’s a rundown of what’s going on and what to watch for this season.
TOP TEAMS TO WATCH
While the college football news cycle has been flooded with stories of conference realignments (more on that below), who’s getting what NIL money, who’s entered the transfer portal, and coaching staff shakeups, not much has really changed in the CFB landscape. The top teams we’ve become abundantly familiar with will continue their dominance this season. Here’s looking at you, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and Ohio State. And many a college football insider would be hard pressed to find other programs that could or would pose a serious enough challenge for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
That said, a panel of the 63 top sports writers and broadcasters at the Associated Press (AP) got together (as they always do) to vote on their top 25 teams to watch for as we head into Week 1 of the 2022 season.
Here’s their top 10 teams to keep on your radar:
1. Alabama (SEC)
It’s tough to envision a world where ‘Bama under Coach Nick Saban isn’t a dominant force in the SEC and in the College Football Playoff (CFP). ESPN predicts the Crimson Tide will go undefeated in the regular season and will beat Georgia (again) in the SEC Championship.
2. Ohio State (Big Ten)
According to experts over at CBS Sports, Ohio State ought to be the top pick. (Let us remind you that last season, all bets were off when Michigan emerged to stomp OSU, win the Big Ten title, and advance to the CFP for the first time.) But in defense of Ohio State this season, the Buckeyes have multiple Heisman Trophy candidates on offense alone, along with a fresh perspective on defense to boot. They’re absolutely a force to be reckoned with.
3. Georgia (SEC)
Similar to Alabama, ESPN has prognosticated that Georgia will play an undefeated regular season. And while Georgia lost a lot of talent after last season, the SEC is a competitive conference, and capturing lightning in a bottle just generally seems like a tough thing to do consistently. Georgia has done nothing but field great teams for the last several years. Does that spell undefeated? Unsure. But we’d wager that Bulldogs fans’ high hopes won’t be let down this season.
4. Clemson (ACC)
It’s hard to argue against Dabo Sweeney’s program. Even when the team was rebuilding last season, they still managed to win 10 games (for the 11th straight year, mind you). This year, the team is without their longtime defensive coordinator, who left for Oklahoma, and their offensive coordinator, who is now with Virginia. But with a rebuilt offense and a killer defensive line, this will be a tough team to beat.
5. Notre Dame (IA Independents)
For all intents and purposes, Notre Dame has a new coach. Marcus Freeman took over for Brian Kelly in December of last year and nearly won the Fiesta Bowl. But we’re looking at this season as the real start of things, and with a bunch of new recruits and a tough schedule ahead, we’re optimistic this will be a fun team to watch, even if it takes some time for this program to really gel. Are they CFP contenders this season? We’re a no on that one. But we have high hopes for this coach and this team.
6. Texas A&M (SEC)
Oh, the drama! Let’s start with a somewhat objective fact: The Aggies, under Coach Jimbo Fisher, just signed what football analysts are calling the greatest recruiting class in modern college football history. Now, how they came to secure such a recruiting class is up for debate. (By now, we have all heard what Nick Saban thinks about the matter.) The question is, regardless of how the Aggies came to “secure” their squad, just how good is this team, anyhow? Good enough to make the CFP? One could easily argue that to do such a thing would require Texas A&M to beat Alabama during the regular season, when the two teams match up on October 8 in Tuscaloosa. Granted, the Aggies did it last year on a last-play field goal, but it was at home. Final answer? Ask us again on October 9.
7. Utah (Pac-12)
The Pac-12 has been left out of the College Football Playoff mix in each of the last five consecutive seasons. In fact, the conference didn’t even generate a first runner-up (in any of those years). The closest it came was Oregon in 2019 at No. 6 in the final CFP rankings. That said, Utah did come in last year at No. 11, and both Oregon and Utah have shined as the two Pac-12 power players over the last four seasons. The Utes continue to field great lines, defenses, and running games under Coach Kyle Whittingham, which we expect to continue this season. But is it enough to nab a spot in the CFP? Doubtful (especially if their season opener against Florida doesn’t go well). Utah’s under intense pressure, facing expectations at an all-time high—this is the first time in Utah’s history that the Utes have been ranked in the preseason AP Top 10. But do we think they’ve got enough horsepower to win a Pac-12 Championship? Yes.
8. Michigan (Big Ten)
The heat is now off Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh after the (aforementioned) momentous win over Ohio State, which clinched the Wolverines a spot in the 2022 CFP. But the team's prospects of repeating are a mixed bag. On one hand, the Michigan offense that was third in the Big Ten in total offense and second in scoring offense last year looks to be even better this year, returning eight starters, adding some exciting new talent, and bringing back players that are primed and ready to dominate. Plus, the best special teams in college football is back, intact. On the other hand, Michigan lost their offensive and defensive coordinators, along with defensive seven starters from last season. Do they have what it takes to sit atop the Big 10 regular season leaderboard? Sure. Clinch a berth in the CFP? Eh….? We’re going to say no and hope this doesn’t bite us in the you-know-where later.
9. Oklahoma (Big 12)
The Big 12 is considered the widest open Power 5 conference in CFB this season, and Oklahoma has been called the preseason favorite. Even so, Oklahoma is a team in transition. They’ve got a new coach in Brent Venables and a good deal of roster turnover, with only nine returning starters this season. It’s possible they could nab the Big 12 Championship, but we don’t see them displacing any of the favorites to make the CFP.
10. Baylor (Big 12)
Much like Oklahoma, Baylor’s got a chance to dominate the Big 12 this season, given the lack of a clear front-runner. The Bears are the reigning Big 12 champions, and a good chunk of what worked so well for them last year makes a return this season. Yes, there have been some key personnel losses, and there are a slew of tough Big 12 road games on the schedule. But without a clear dominant force to contend with, it wouldn’t shock us one bit if the Bears make another run for the Big 12 Championship. That said, for us, their road ends there.
View the full, 25-team list here.
And for a super detailed, predictive look at each conference and who comes out on top at the end of the season, head here.
Sidenote: In case you’re looking to up your football trivia game, here’s a fun fact we had to share: The AP started its college football poll in 1936, and it’s now the longest-running poll out of those that award national titles at the end of the season. That’s quite the run. We salute your dedication to the sport, AP!
In the world of NCAA conferences, there is quite a lot of, shall we say, drama? Rumors? Hullabaloo? In a nutshell, there is a ton going on behind the scenes.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
College football realignment and conference expansion are back in the news, as UCLA and USC have officially joined the Big Ten. The Trojans and Bruins are expected to join in time for the 2024 season.
These two teams joining the Big Ten mark a seismic shift in college football. USC and UCLA give the Big Ten a total of 16 teams to rival the SEC, while significantly hurting the Pac-12 with the loss of two major brands. We can’t say we’re all that surprised, really. Moving to the Big Ten equates to significant increases in revenue and prominence for USC and UCLA. Basically, when it comes to football, being in the Big 10 Conference is kind of a big deal (not to steal your line, Ron Burgundy).
There’s just so much money in the Big 10 right now. The Big 10 recently parted ways with ESPN, announcing earlier this month a new seven-year media rights deal with CBS, Fox, and NBC that will kick off (pun intended) on July 1, 2023, and run through the 2029–30 season. That deal, valued at a record approximate $1.2 billion annually, is believed to be the largest in college athletics history.
The deal awards the Big 10 with three premier time slots to air college football on broadcast television (and maybe we’ll see some streaming on Peacock TV and Paramount+ one day soon?). Fox will air a “Big Noon'' game on Saturdays at noon ET, CBS will follow that up with another game at 3:30 p.m., and NBC will wrap things up each week with the “Big Ten Saturday Night” in primetime.
This news comes after CBS declined to renew its SEC media rights deal back in 2019, making 2023 the final year of the SEC on CBS. Starting in 2024, ESPN will be the exclusive carrier for SEC football and men’s basketball. Seemingly desperate to fill this SEC void, it looks as if CBS made good with its piece of this historic Big 10 deal.
Speaking of “Big” conference news, we’ve got big shakeups in the Big 12 too. It was reported back in June that both the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns would be following in the footsteps of Texas A&M and Missouri, who departed the Big 12 for the SEC back in 2011. It’s expected that Texas and Oklahoma will possibly join the SEC in time for the 2024–25 season, but definitely by 2025. But before they go, we’ll see four new teams—Houston, BYU, UCF, and Cincinnati—join them in the Big 12 for the 2023 season. Is it us or does the Big 12 feel a little bit like a revolving door? It’s hard to keep all these comings and goings straight.
As all of us fans know by now, the best part of college football is the unpredictability of it all. We live for the upsets, the nail-biting moments, and the surprises that happen as the season unfolds. (And we remind ourselves that preseason rankings only mean so much!) When it comes to all things college football, we’re here for it. So fasten your figurative seat belts and get ready, folks! We’re in for a ride!