College Football Preseason Top 25 Rankings Post-2022 Early Signing Period
Four teams are in the hunt for the national championship as the College Football Playoff semifinal games loom large. But most teams out of the playoff are turning their attention to the 2023 season.
The three-day early signing period wrapped up Friday, and coaching staffs across the country have a better idea of what their rosters will look like next season.
It's obviously very early in the offseason with transfer and recruiting battles ahead, but it's never too soon to look ahead at 2023 rankings. Instead of putting together a pure top 25, let's think about key programs, how we'll likely perceive them in 2023 and separate them into suitable tiers.
These will evolve over time as more rosters get finalized, but let's take a look at 2022 performances, recruiting impact so far and X-factors that will stay the same to rank teams heading into 2023.
Author's note: These rankings have been updated to include Washington.
Tier 6: The Last of the 25
25. Mississippi State
2023 will likely be a tough season for the MSU program. Earlier this month, Bulldogs head coach and legendary offensive mind Mike Leach died unexpectedly. The Bulldogs will continue on with head coach Zach Arnett, who was MSU's defensive coordinator under Leach.
The Roadrunners finished the season 11-3, winning Conference USA before losing to Troy in the Cure Bowl. The great news for UTSA is starting quarterback Frank Harris will return in 2023. Harris finished the 2022 season with 4,063 yards passing with 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions, along with 602 yards rushing and nine more scores. Don't be surprised if head coach Jeff Traylor leads this team to a third consecutive season of double-digit wins next year.
23. NC State
The Wolfpack have a chance for consecutive nine-win seasons for the first time since 2017-18 with a victory over Maryland on Dec. 30 in the Duke's Mayo Bowl. The biggest task remaining for head coach Dave Doeren, who has been at NC State for 10 seasons, is being an ACC title contender. That might be harder to do next season since longtime signal-caller Devin Leary is transferring out of the program.
First-year head coach Jon Sumrall had about as great a season as you could possibly have in 2022. The Trojans won the Sun Belt title by beating Coastal Carolina in the championship game. But Troy wasn't done there—the Trojans reached a program-high 12 wins with a come-from-behind Cure Bowl victory over UTSA. Troy is off to a flying start with Sumrall. Losing top receiver Tez Johnson to the transfer portal will be a big blow for 2023, but Kentucky transfer Chris Lewis is a great addition to Troy's 2023 class.
Tier 5: Non-Conference Champions That Will Reload Big in 2022
21. South Carolina
The Gamecocks finished third in the SEC East, but South Carolina had two incredible wins to close out the regular season. First, South Carolina upset Tennessee 63-38 to knock the Vols out of playoff contention. A week later, South Carolina beat Clemson for the first time in eight meetings and successfully dropped the Tigers from playoff contention as well.
The biggest challenge for Shane Beamer in year three will be making his team a contender in the East for 2023, meaning the Gamecocks will have to beat the likes of Tennessee, Florida and Georgia. That might be difficult after offensive stars like receiver Jaheim Bell and running back MarShawn Lloyd entered the transfer portal. Quarterback Spencer Rattler hasn't made a decision on his 2023 intentions, but the Gamecocks' 16th-ranked 2023 recruiting class should add depth.
The Longhorns didn't keep up with TCU in the Big 12 title race but saw a lot of positives during Steve Sarkisian's second year in Austin. Texas almost knocked off Bama early in the season, and if the Longhorns beat Washington in the Alamo Bowl, it'll be their best finish since 2018. They have 2023's No. 3-rated recruiting class, including 5-star quarterback Arch Manning, so the future looks bright in Austin.
Regardless of whether the Bruins beat Pitt in the Sun Bowl, UCLA has had its best season since Chip Kelly's arrival in 2018. But with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and running back Zach Charbonnet departing, the Bruins offense will have to replace its two most dynamic playmakers. We'll see if Kelly can lead UCLA to a Pac-12 title game for the first time since 2012.
LSU surprised folks in 2022. In Brian Kelly's first season in Baton Rouge, he put to rest a lot of doubts about his ability to compete in the SEC. Not only did the Tigers win the West and play in the SEC title game, but LSU also knocked Alabama out of the playoff by beating the Tide in overtime. But Kelly was hired to win championships at LSU, not just play for them, so SEC and national titles will be the goal in 2023.
The Tigers could contend for them next season thanks to the return of quarterback Jayden Daniels. The former Arizona State signal-caller has 2,774 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, and he leads LSU in rushing yards with 818 yards and 11 touchdowns. Not to mention LSU's 2023 recruiting class ranks third in the SEC.
Tier 4: 2022's Surprise Breakout Teams
The Tulane Green Wave are coming off a remarkable season and will play USC in the Cotton Bowl. Tulane won the AAC for the first time, beating UCF in the championship game. The Green Wave also cracked the playoff Top 25 rankings for the first time in school history. Starting quarterback Michael Pratt, who has thrown for 2,775 yards and 25 touchdowns this season, will return in 2023.
16. Kansas State
The Wildcats were a pleasant surprise in the Big 12. K-State made it to the championship game and became the first team to beat TCU this season. The win gave Kansas State its first conference championship since 2003. The Wildcats' 2023 recruiting class ranks fifth in the Big 12 and 29th overall, the best for K-State in the modern recruiting era. The future looks very bright in Manhattan.
15. Oregon State
The Beavers reached 10 wins for just the third time in school history by beating Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl. The next step for head coach Jonathan Smith is to lead his team to a Pac-12 Championship Game. Still, finishing 10-3 is an impressive improvement from the 2-10 record during Smith's first season in 2018. Oregon State will return four of its five starting offensive linemen next season. The Beavers will also bring back quarterback Ben Gulbranson and are likely to add former Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei.
The Vols had a remarkable season in 2022, highlighted by their first win over Alabama in 16 seasons. Although losses to Georgia and South Carolina put a damper on any playoff hopes, it has been a great season for head coach Josh Heupel in his second year in Knoxville. Replacing quarterback Hendon Hooker and leading receiver Jalin Hyatt will be tough. But Tennessee's 2023 top-10 recruiting class, the first for the Vols since 2015, should help. The class includes 5-star QB Nicholaus Iamaleava.
Tier 3: Teams Building on Momentum That Could Lead to Playoff Contention in 2022
13. Florida State
It looks like head coach Mike Norvell finally has things figured out in Tallahassee. If the 'Noles beat Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl, it'll be the first 10-win season for FSU since 2016. Clemson has been underwhelming the last two seasons, so it wouldn't be surprising if the 'Noles emerge as a dark-horse playoff candidate in 2023. Quarterback Jordan Travis' return in 2023 makes that even more of a possibility.
The Huskies have a chance to reach 11 wins with an Alamo Bowl victory over Texas later this month. It's been a very successful year in Kalen DeBoer's first season as head coach in Seattle.
But the biggest reason Washington can be a playoff contender in 2023 is the return of quarterback Michael Penix Jr. next season. The Huskies signal-caller played lights-out all season long, throwing for 4,354 yards and 29 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.
Although Penix could have declared for the NFL draft after this season, his return to Washington for the 2023 campaign makes the Huskies a definite contender heading into next season.
The Ducks failed to reach the Pac-12 title game in 2022, but it was still a successful year for first-year head coach Dan Lanning. Oregon can finish with 10 wins with a victory over North Carolina in the Holiday Bowl. It looks like the Ducks will be absolutely loaded in 2023. Starting quarterback Bo Nix, who has thrown for 3,388 yards and 27 touchdowns this season, announced he's returning next year, and the Ducks' 2023 recruiting class is first in the Pac-12 and ranks 11th nationally.
The Trojans nearly made it to the playoff in Lincoln Riley's first season in Los Angeles. Although USC's No. 15 2023 class ranks behind rival Oregon, the Trojans' transfer class, featuring Oklahoma State linebacker Mason Cobb and Arizona receiver Dorian Singer, checks in at fourth. Riley did well in the transfer portal last offseason, landing Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison, so USC should be a contender once again in 2023.
Tier 2: Traditional Powers
9. Penn State
The Nittany Lions' losses to Ohio State and Michigan kept Penn State out of the playoff conversation. But a 10-win campaign with a chance to win the Rose Bowl against Utah doesn't make this season a poor one in Happy Valley. Penn State's 2023 recruiting class ranks second in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and 14th nationally.
8. Notre Dame
Opening the season 0-2, including a shocking home loss to Marshall, put a damper on Marcus Freeman's first year at Notre Dame. But the Irish rebounded well, beating three ranked opponents, including handing Clemson its first loss. ND's 2023 class ranks eighth nationally, and although Freeman lost a few key targets this cycle, the Irish will be a playoff contender again in 2023.
Utah won the Pac-12 for a second consecutive season and beat USC twice. As long as head coach Kyle Whittingham is in Salt Lake City, the Utes will be a contender in the Pac-12. The next big step for Utah is being a playoff contender. The Utes entered the season as a dark-horse playoff candidate, but the loss in Week 1 to unranked Florida damaged those hopes.
Utah's 2023 class ranks third in the Pac-12. The Utes will have to replace playmakers like quarterback Cameron Rising and running back Tavion Thomas, so we'll see how Whittingham can rebuild.
For the second consecutive season, the Tigers missed out on the playoff. The good news for Dabo Swinney is the system is expanding to 12 teams, so a two-loss conference champion like Clemson would make it starting in 2024. Clemson's 2024 class ranks second in the ACC behind Miami's loaded one. Although Swinney faced several questions this season about sticking with quarterback DJ Uiagalelei instead of switching to freshman Cade Klubnik, it's Klubnik's offense now.
Tier 1: The Contenders
TCU surprised everyone in head coach Sonny Dykes' first year in Fort Worth, earning a playoff berth after a 12-1 season. The Horned Frogs' 2023 class is the highest-ranked class in school history, checking in at 18th nationally. It looks like Dykes could make TCU into a consistent contender. Replacing quarterback Max Duggan, who's headed to the NFL draft after the playoff, will be key.
4. Ohio State
The Buckeyes lost to Michigan for a second consecutive season but can still win a national title. Ohio State produces top NFL draft picks every season, so head coach Ryan Day is no stranger to reloading. Replacing a quarterback like C.J. Stroud will be a tough task, however.
Every season Alabama misses out on the playoff, the conversations about if the dynasty is dead come up again. But Nick Saban and the Tide aren't going anywhere, especially given that Bama has the No. 1 overall recruiting class for 2023.
The Wolverines beat Ohio State for a second consecutive season for the first time since 1999 and 2000, and Michigan can win a national title this year. Jim Harbaugh has officially made Michigan a consistent national contender again. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy and running back Donovan Edwards should both be back in 2023.
Death, taxes and the Georgia Bulldogs being just as dominant after losing a ton of talent to the NFL draft. Kirby Smart has this Georgia program looking like a clone of Alabama, and it won't slow down anytime soon. Defensive lineman Jalen Carter and tight end Darnell Washington, among others, are likely headed to the NFL, as is quarterback Stetson Bennett, but Georgia should be fine reloading with the nation's No. 2 overall recruiting class.
All recruiting rankings from 247Sports.