10 Contenders for the College Football Playoff in 2023

Max EscarpioJanuary 3, 2023

10 Contenders for the College Football Playoff in 2023

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) talks with head coach Lincoln Riley during the Pac-12 Conference championship game between the Utah Utes and the USC Trojans at Allegiant Stadium on December 2, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The 2022 college football season will soon come to and end after the finale between TCU and Georgia on Jan. 9. Focus will then shift toward the top contenders for the 2023 title as teams across the country build their rosters.

    Programs like Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State seem to be in contention every year, but a couple teams may have championship rosters. Historic programs like USC and Florida State seem to be be turning a page, and teams like LSU and Oregon will benefit from the second year in their head coaches' systems.

    While the 2022 season has yet to be concluded, we're going to list the top 10 contenders for the 2023 national title.

Georgia Bulldogs

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs against the LSU Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Georgia Bulldogs have turned into a national powerhouse under head coach Kirby Smart. He's been with the Bulldogs since 2016, and since then UGA has appeared in two CFP National Championships, with their third appearance upcoming.

    Smart has led the Bulldogs to double-digit wins in five seasons and won the SEC Championship in 2017 and 2022. Georgia may be the only team in the nation that has passed Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide to put themselves in a position to win a title every season. They've been ranked in the preseason top five for five straight seasons, and that likely won't stop soon.

    Georgia will say goodbye to veteran quarterback Stetson Bennett after this season, which may hurt the program, but it seems like offensive coordinator Todd Monken's system can pretty much be plug-and-play. They also have a couple quality options behind Bennett, including former blue-chippers Carson Beck and Brock Vandagriff. They'll spend the 2023 offseason figuring out who will be under center, but the rest of the roster will simply be renewed by a different set of highly touted prospects already on the roster.

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on December 31, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    As long as Nick Saban is in Tuscaloosa, never count out the Alabama Crimson Tide. Teams are possibly catching up to the Tide, but Saban will still constantly field some of the top players in college football. In a down year for Alabama, they finished the season with the best overall record in the SEC West at 11-2.

    They'll miss the production of their top two players in Bryce Young and Will Anderson, who declared for the 2023 NFL draft following the Sugar Bowl, but there's always an up-and-coming star waiting for their turn to enter stardom in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

    Alabama was seconds away from having the necessary resume to make the CFP, but an overtime loss to LSU and a game-winning field goal by Tennessee pushed them out of the playoffs. Their biggest issue in the 2022 season was discipline and open-field coverage, but the disappointment could come to a halt when the Crimson Tide look for vengeance.

Michigan Wolverines

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    ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 03: Donovan Edwards #7 of the Michigan Wolverines and J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines embrace after McCarthy scored a touchdown against the Colorado State Rams during the second half at Michigan Stadium on September 03, 2022 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
    Nic Antaya/Getty Images

    After another year of losing in a top-level bowl game, Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines have to watch the national championship game from their couches. They have now lost six straight bowl games and have just one postseason win in Harbaugh's tenure with the Wolverines.

    Michigan has displayed some of its best football under Harbaugh in the past two years, but it hasn't been able to climb over the hump of reaching the National Title game. The Wolverines looked nearly untouchable, perhaps other than a narrow win over Illinois at home. They were able to win the Big Ten title handily and walked all over their conference rival Ohio State in Columbus.

    A 13-1 record is definitely something to cheer for, but the aim was the program's first national championship since 1997. 2023 will bring another run with quarterback J.J. McCarthy and Donovan Edwards, while 2022 Heisman candidate Blake Corum is weighing his professional options.

    Michigan shouldn't lose vital production to the draft or transfer portal, but it's bringing in the No. 4 transfer class and No. 17 high school class, which should make an immediate impact next season.

USC Trojans

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26: USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) talks with head coach Lincoln Riley during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the USC Trojans on November 26, 2022, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The USC Trojans were extremely talented in their first year with Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams, but an abysmal defense kept them on the ropes for most of the season. Williams led the Trojans offense to 41.1 points per game and can be expected to achieve similar in 2023, but USC needs to make a change on the defensive end to become a legitimate contender.

    The No. 1 team in the Pac-12 was bullied into a Cotton Bowl appearance by the Utah Utes, and they'll have a couple more teams to worry about next season in the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies.

    But they'll have a more experienced roster in Riley's second year with the program, which should make a huge difference in their next run. Riley needs to find a replacement for star receiver Jordan Addison and could stand to beef up the trenches, possibly through the transfer portal, but USC will certainly be fighting its way into title contention.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 31: Marvin Harrison Jr. #18 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after a touchdown during the second quarter in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Ohio State is the closest team to the level of Georgia and Alabama's dominance. They haven't lost over two games in a season since 2011, despite having two head coaches in that time span. Ryan Day has led the Buckeyes to one championship appearance, which ended in a loss, but he's been able to win two Rose Bowls and one Sugar Bowl.

    The Buckeyes have been competing with Michigan to see who will be crowned the Big Ten champion in the past several seasons, but both teams are still searching for a title under their head coaches. Ohio State was having a normal year in Columbus, which consists of mostly blowouts and conference battles, but this season they didn't seem to have the "it" factor against higher-level opponents.

    They were 0-2 against top-five teams Michigan and Georgia, but the Buckeyes were ultimately a field goal away from a trip to the championship. They'll likely be without Heisman candidate C.J. Stroud as he looks to enter the draft, but there are a couple of blue-chip prospects waiting their turn on the sideline in Devin Brown and Kyle McCord.

Florida State Seminoles

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    TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 19: Jordan Travis #13 of the Florida State Seminoles throws a pass during the first half of a game against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 19, 2022 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
    James Gilbert/Getty Images

    Florida State was one of the biggest surprises in college football this season. The Seminoles went 10-3, securing their first 10-win season since 2016 and their first bowl game win since 2017. They finished the year with the No. 2 record in the ACC, winning their final six games of the season.

    The Seminoles were bound to improve in Mike Norvell's third season, but a leap this big wasn't expected. A lot of that success had to do with the development of quarterback Jordan Travis, who finished the season with 31 total touchdowns and 3,214 passing yards and an 85.8 QBR. He was able to make an impact in both the pass and run game, making Florida State's offense one of the most explosive in the country.

    Norvell and his staff have worked hard to make 2023 the "return year" for many of their stars, bringing back Travis and key starters Trey Benson, Fabien Lovett and Tatum Bethune. With a veteran lineup in their back pocket, FSU also has the No. 1 transfer class in the nation. The Seminoles should be in line to take over the ACC and win the conference title next season.

LSU Tigers

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    BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 22: Harold Perkins Jr. #40 of the LSU Tigers celebrates a sack during the first half against the Mississippi Rebels at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2022 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    After a honeymoon year in 2019, the LSU Tigers have gone through a confusing stretch. They hired a brand new face in Brian Kelly to start the 2022 season, which featured some stunning moments, like upsetting Ole Miss and Alabama in back-to-back weeks, but also downfalls like losing to Texas A&M in the final regular-season game.

    The Tigers were stomped in the SEC Championship Game by Georgia and ended the 2022 season with a 10-4 record, obliterating the Purdue Boilermakers in the Citrus Bowl. They'll likely have a top-15 matchup to start the 2023 season when they face Florida State in a neutral site match; the outcome of the game will be huge for both teams' playoff hopes.

    They may lose some skilled pieces to the NFL draft, with Kayshon Boutte already confirmed to be leaving, but the Tigers have the No. 7 high school class and No. 3 transfer class. Kelly will also welcome quarterback Jayden Daniels back, along with young stars like Harold Perkins who should improve after gaining experience.

Oregon Ducks

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    EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 19:  Running back Bucky Irving #0 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates after his touchdown during the first quarter of the game against the Utah Utes at Autzen Stadium on November 19, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Ali Gradischer/Getty Images)
    Ali Gradischer/Getty Images

    Oregon has had incredible production and talent throughout its roster for years, but the Ducks haven't been able to find the necessary pieces to lock themselves in a playoff spot. After a couple of solid seasons from Mario Cristobal, the Ducks hired Dan Lanning as his replacement after Cristobal bolted for Miami.

    They recorded a 10-3 record in Lanning's first season with a Holiday Bowl victory against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Most of their success came from a potent offense behind quarterback Bo Nix and running back Bucky Irving.

    The Ducks seem to have more obvious holes than other contenders, notably on the defensive line, but their performances on offense keeps them in with a chance. Their 2023 classes in both high school and the transfer portal will be major deciding factors in the trajectory of the program.

Washington Huskies

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 29: Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) throws the ball against the Texas Longhorns during the Valero Alamo Bowl football game at the Alamodome on December 29, 2022 in San Antonio, TX. (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Veteran quarterback Michael Penix Jr. took a massive step forward for the Washington Huskies in 2022. After some incredible years in Chris Petersen's final leg in Seattle, the Huskies spent the last few seasons searching for a spark. Penix finished this year with 31 touchdowns and 4,641 passing yards and heard his named mentioned in Heisman conversations.

    The 2022 season was test for the Huskies in Penix and head coach Kalen DeBoer's first season, and they finished with an 11-2 record and an Alamo Bowl win against the Texas Longhorns. DeBoer has a history with evolving offensive schemes and is replicating the success he had with Fresno State prior to his arrival in Washington.

    The Pac-12 isn't a grueling conference, but the Huskies will still have to deal with a couple of talented rosters like USC and Oregon. One of the major factors to the Huskies being in the mix for a title is the maturity from their roster, with Penix returning for his sixth year in college football and his second year with the Huskies.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Marcus Freeman of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish directs his team against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Kenan Memorial Stadium on September 24, 2022 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Notre Dame won 45-32. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    A couple of the teams listed in this ranking spent the 2022 season feeling out new coaching staffs, including USC, LSU and Oregon. One of the biggest unsettled teams that has the power to compete for a chip is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who also had a first-year head coach in 2022. .

    Marcus Freeman was handed the keys to the Fighting Irish after the departure of Brian Kelly. Notre Dame won six of their last seven games after starting 0-2 and had three ranked wins under their belt, and that number should only rise next season.

    ESPN's Pete Thamel reported Notre Dame is the likely destination for Wake Forest transfer QB Sam Hartman. He would take the Fighting Irish to another level with his experience in the ACC.

    High school and transfer class rankings courtesy of 247Sports.