January 12, 2022

Lines' 2022 Way-Too-Early College Football Top 25 Ranking

Congratulations to the Georgia Bulldogs for winning their first National Championship since 1980. It was a great college football season, and It stinks that we are now in the offseason.

However, that means it is time to start looking ahead to the 2022 season, and what better way to start than with a way too early preseason top 25 for the 2022 season? while the SEC once again dominated the college football world, there are a lot of promising teams in 2022, and we may have our first non-SEC Champion since Clemson took down Alabama in 2019. 

It is always fun to look ahead with some rankings and projections, and that is exactly what we will do here. Preseason rankings rarely come true, so if your favorite team did not make the cut, do not worry. We are still in the first week of the offseason, and things are certain to change in the coming months. 

Here is our way too early preseason top 25 for the 2022 season.

25. USC Trojans

The Trojans were a mess in 2021, but luckily Lincoln Riley is on his way, and he might be bringing some backup. As of this moment, Caleb and Mario Williams are expected to follow their former Oklahoma head coach to Southern California.

USC still has a long way to go, but the recruiting has already picked up, and if they get these guys from the portal, they can make a little noise in the Pac 12 this season.

24. South Carolina Gamecocks

Shane Beamer's first season with South Carolina went very well. They finished with a 7-6 record and then took down North Carolina in the Duke's Mayo Bowl.

The Gamecocks hit the transfer portal hard and came out with former Oklahoma Sooners, Spencer Rattler, and Austin Stogner. They will reunite with Beamer who was at Oklahoma during Rattler and Stogner's freshman seasons.

23. Kentucky Wildcats

Another year is in the book, and Mark Stoops continues to lead the Kentucky program to heights they haven't seen in a long time. The Wildcats won 10 games, which is only the fourth time in Kentucky history they reached double-digit wins.

A good majority of their starters are returning, and they did a fairly good job on the recruiting trail. The Wildcats should once again be a contender to win 10+ games in 2022.

22. Miami Hurricanes

Like USC, the Hurricanes were able to pluck a top-tier coach away when they hired Mario Cristobal to be the new head coach. Also like USC, they still need some help, and it will likely be a few years before Cristobal gets Miami back to prominence.

However, quarterback Tyler Van Dyke was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in college football last season. Maybe they can make a little bit of a cinderella run this season, but I wouldn't hold my breath. However, they certainly deserve some respect.

21. Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin started the season 1-3, and after getting embarrassed by Notre Dame and Michigan, all hope was lost for 2021. But with the top-ranked defense (in terms of total yards) settled in, and the Badgers finished with a 9-4 record, and a win over Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

11 starters are expected to leave the program, and Graham Mertz has still yet to take that next step as the quarterback for the Badgers. The defense should still be good enough to keep them competitive, and that is why they cracked our top 25.

20. Tennessee Volunteers

Hendon Hooker will be returning to take the snaps for Josh Heupel and the Volunteers in 2022, and that makes Tennessee an interesting team this coming season. The offense was explosive, but they still need more time for Heupel to build his team. As of now, he seems to have Tennessee heading in the right direction.

19. Ole Miss Rebels

Hiring Lane Kiffin was a roll of the dice for Ole Miss, but it paid off immediately. The Rebels finished 10-3, and they were a real player for the playoffs earlier in the season. Unfortunately, they ran into Alabama, and any hope of competing for a National Championship was lost.

They still turned in a nice season, and Matt Corral was one of the most fun players to watch this season, especially in Kiffin's offense. They are losing a lot to the draft, including Corral. However, they have hit the transfer portal hard, and they even came out with the best running back to hit the portal so far, TCU's Zach Evans.

18. Arkansas Razorbacks

When the Razorbacks hired Sam Pittman to be the next head coach of the Hogs, there were a lot of raised eyebrows. Instead, Arkansas went 9-4, and they took down three ranked teams in the process.

They are only expected to return nine total starts, but KJ Jefferson will be back taking the snaps, and All-SEC safety Jalen Catalon will return for one more season.

17. Cincinnati Bearcats

The first Group of 5 conference team to make the playoffs is losing most of the great players, and they will take a step back this season, but Luke Fickell and the Bearcats deserve some respect for what they have accomplished over the last few seasons.

They will lose Desmond Ridder, Ahmad Gardner, Coby Bryant, and Jerome Ford so there is a lot of production on both sides of the ball to replace. Cincinnati will turn to Evan Prater, who was Mr. Football in Ohio for 2019 to take the snaps in 2022.

16. Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma has been gutted, but they are still incredibly talented.

It is hard to project what the Sooners will be in 2022, but Brent Venables has been one of the most respected coordinators in college football for over a decade now, and he is returning to Oklahoma to be the new head coach.

A lot of players have entered the transfer portal, but they are also bringing in a lot of players via the portal for this season. With Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler both gone, the Sooners will turn to UCF transfer, Dillon Gabriel who racked up over 8,000 passing yards in his three seasons.

15. Oregon Ducks

Oregon has also been gutted but to a much lesser extreme. With coach Cristobal now at Miami, the Ducks hired Dan Lanning from Georgia to be their next ball coach. He led the best defense in the country at Georgia and played a big role in their National Championship.

He won't have a talent like Kayvon Thibodeaux to coach up, but with Noah Sewell, Popo Aumavae, and Dontae Manning returning for the Duck's defense, Lanning will have plenty of talent to try and recreate an elite defense for Oregon.

He also will have Auburn transfer, Bo Nix taking the snaps, so while a playoff run is unlikely, the Ducks can be competitive in 2022.

14. Iowa Hawkeyes

Kirk Ferentz once again led the Hawkeyes to a 10 win season, but in some ways, this was a disappointing season for Iowa. Heading into the Penn State game, Iowa was the second-ranked team in the country, and the defense was playing as good as anyone.

A loss to Purdue derailed everything, and Iowa fell off the map. Even with a terrible offense, Iowa reached the Big Ten Championship Game. With over 15 starters coming back, Iowa should be a tough team to beat once again.

13. BYU Cougars

BYU won 10+ games for the second season in a row, and all 11 starters on the defensive side o the ball are expected to return for 2022. On the offensive side of the ball, they are losing running back Tyler Allgeier, but with 19 total starts coming back, and one of the top tackles in the country, Kingsley Suamataia transferring over, BYU will be a darkhorse contender in 2022.

12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The Demon Deacons won 11 games for only the second time in their history, and they will return Sam Hartman, who led one of the top offenses in all of college football. The defense might keep them out of contention, but they should still be in the mix to win the ACC this season.

Wake Forest might be in the middle of their greatest run in school history. Not only is the hype real, but so is the talent.

11. Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans won nine-more games in 2021 than they did in 2020, and a big part of that is the emergence of Wake Forest transfer, Kenneth Walker III. Unfortunately, he will forgo his senior season for the draft, and he is one of six starters on offense that will not return.

Mel Tucker has built a significant amount of momentum heading into his third year with the Spartans, and this season, he will have to rely on an experienced defense. Like a lot of teams that are losing a lot of their production, Michigan State hit the portal hard, and they came out with Wisconsin running back, Jalen Berger to replace Walker.

10. Clemson Tigers

The good news for Clemson is that they are returning all 11 of their offensive starters. the bad news is that their offense was terrible last season. After a lot of hype heading into last season, D.J. Uiagalelei was probably the worst power five quarterbacks in the country. He threw only nine touchdowns and had 10 interceptions on the season.

With highly-rated quarterback Cade Klubnik coming into the program this season, he will battle for the starting job. The defense will not only say goodbye to longtime defensive coordinator Brent Venables, but Xavier Thomas, James Skalski, Nolan Turner, Mario Goodrich, and Andrew Booth Jr. will all be gone as well.

Still, the Tigers have a lot of promise on both sides of the ball, especially on offense with Will Shipley and Joseph Ngata.

9. North Carolina State Wolfpack

There may not be a more experienced team than the Wolfpack heading into 2022.

NC State will bring back eight starters on offense and 10 starters on defense, including all of their top tacklers from last season. However, the players they are losing were the best on the roster. Ikem Ekwonu will likely be a top-10 pick, and he will be hard to replace on the offensive line. But with quarterback Devin Leary and four starting linemen returning, the Wolfpack should once again be competitive in a weak ACC.

8. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Pokes were one yard away from a Big 12 Championship, and a possible date with the CFP. Instead, they settled for a thrilling win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

Quarterback Spencer Sanders and six other offensive starters will return for Oklahoma State next season, but they will say goodbye to half of their defense, and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles who left for the same position at Ohio State.

Their road schedule includes games against Baylor, Oklahoma, and TCU, so this talented bunch will be tested often this season.

7. Utah Utes

It was an incredible season for Utah as they won the Pac 12 for the first time, and also made their first-ever appearance in the Rose Bowl. While they ended up losing to Ohio State, there is a lot to be happy about with the Utes.

Kyle Whittingham had to deal with a lot over the past few seasons, and that includes the tragic deaths of two players. Utah was able to rally around the tragedies, and they are building a lot of momentum as a program.

Quarterback Cameron Rising lit the Pac 12 on fire, and before getting knocked out of the Rose Bowl, he had the Utes in a good position to take down Ohio State. With Devin Lloyd, Nephi Sewell, Britain Covey, and TJ Pledger leaving, Whittingham has a lot of work to do to replace those players.

However, 13 total starters are returning, and the Utes have been constantly great over the past few years.

6. Michigan Wolverines

Is Michigan back? Well, maybe not, but this was their best season since 1997.

Jim Harbaugh finally took down Ohio State, and then led Michigan to a Big 10 Championship and an appearance in the CFP. Only 11 total starters are returning, and their one-two punch of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo off the edge will be hard to replace.

It feels like the Wolverines will take a step back this year, especially with all the rumors surrounding Harbaugh and the NFL, and with all of their top players leaving for the draft. However, the combination of Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy at quarterback worked well last season, and both will be back for 2022.

5. Texas A&M Aggies

The Aggies took a massive step back this season, but hey, they beat Alabama.

Only 10 starters will return, but Haynes King is fully healthy and ready to take over the starting job once again. He will compete with LSU transfer Max Johnson, but in his limited playing time last season, King looked very good for the Aggies.

With one of the best recruiting classes of all-time coming in, Texas A&M is on the right track under Jimbo Fisher. The hype heading into the season will not be as strong this season, but the future looks bright for the Aggies, especially this season.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Marcus Freeman era did not go as planned as the Irish blew a lead to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. Do not look too much into this as this was not Freeman's team. With a full offseason, I expect Notre Dame to be fighting for the playoffs once again in 2022.

The quarterback position is a question as Jack Coan is graduating, and neither Tyler Buchner nor Drew Pyne has separated from one another. There are still some decisions to be made, but as of now, Notre Dame should be getting seven starters back on both sides of the ball.

Notre Dame losing Kyle Hamilton was a big blow, but they added Northwestern Safety Brandon Joseph, via the transfer portal to replace him.

3. Georgia Bulldogs

The day after Ohio State lost to Alabama in the 2021 National Championship Game, I said that Georgia was going to win it all in 2022, and that is exactly what they did.

One of the most dominant defenses in history will be losing Nakobe Dean, Travon Walker, Devonte Wyatt, Jordan Davis, and Derion Kendrick, but they will be adding Tykee Smith and Jaheim Singletary.

The defense will not be as good as they were this past season, but you would be hard-pressed to find a better defense in 2022. Offensively, Georgia will need to figure out their quarterback situation with Stetson Bennett, J.T. Daniels, and Brock Vandagriff.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

It was a weird season for the Buckeyes. The loss to Oregon early in the season was deflating, but they responded by just demolishing teams with their offense led by CJ Stroud, Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson. That train derailed against Michigan, and Ohio State was left out of the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

Ohio State will be bringing back Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson, and a plethora of receivers including Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who set practically every Rose Bowl record.

The Buckeyes will welcome Notre Dame into Columbus to start the season, and with a lot of returning production, and another top-five class, Ryan Day and the Buckeyes are once again the favorites to win the Big 10, and get back to the playoffs.

The defense is young, but they will be improved this coming season. Biases aside, Ohio State may be the most likely team to win the National Championship in 2022, but one team deserves more respect in our way too early rankings. 

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

This was one of the weakest Alabama teams under Nick Saban in quite some time and they still made the National Championship and had the Heisman Trophy winner in Bryce Young.

It was pretty clear after Jameson Williams went down with an injury in the first half of the Championship game that Alabama just didn't have the talent in the receiver room this season. That same concern is there for 2022, but like every offseason, Alabama is going to just reload.

Along with Williams, Evan Neal, John Metchie, Josh Jobe, Jordan Battle, and Brian Robinson will head for the NFL. The Crimson Tide hit the portal hard and came out with Jahmyr Gibbs and Eli Ricks, so Alabama is absolutely a contender in 2022, and they could be the favorite with Will Anderson and Dallas Turner still in the fold on defense.

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