New Year's Resolutions For Every Top 25 College Football Team
The beginning of January is a convenient time to set goals, but that doesn't only apply to you and me. College football teams can make their own New Year's resolutions, too.
Scanning the latest AP Top 25, the nation's best programs in 2022 have a handful of several key trends.
For one team, there's a coaching change. Some rosters are set to deal with considerable turnover or need to replace a few top contributors—perhaps even a couple of All-Americans. Other programs are looking back on recent years and seen a continued struggle to overcome a certain on-field flaw or maybe a particular opponent.
While the resolutions may be humorous, the topic should be a serious matter of conversation for these programs.
25-21. NC State, Mississippi State, Troy, UTSA, Texas
25. North Carolina State Wolfpack: Get Healthy
This poor offense, man. Injuries wrecked the quarterback room in 2022, holding standout Devin Leary—who's since transferred to Kentucky—to just six appearances. Along with Leary, Ben Finley, MJ Morris and Jack Chambers all attempted 64-plus passes. NC State managed an 8-5 record anyway, but the Pack desperately missed a stable year at QB.
24. Mississippi State Bulldogs: Make a New Routine
While the overall tone of this piece is light, Mississippi State's situation is entirely serious. Head coach Mike Leach died in December, and the school promoted defensive coordinator Zach Arnett to replace him. The emotions around the program are complicated and will remain that way for a while. But there will be a new season with a new coach and a new culture, and Mississippi State has to adjust.
23. Troy Trojans: Be Consistent
In the last decade, Troy has proved it can be a regular winner. Neal Brown oversaw three straight 10-win seasons from 2016 to '18 before three campaigns of six-plus losses led to Chip Lindsey's exit and Jon Sumrall's hiring. Armed with a talented defense, his debut year featured a program-record 12 wins and a Sun Belt title. That standard will be tough to meet annually, but Troy can be built to aim for it.
22. UTSA Roadrunners: Try Something New
UTSA, which departs Conference USA as a back-to-back league champion, is headed to the American (AAC). It'll be a fresh situation with unfamiliar challenges for the Roadrunners. Granted, they'll be confident thanks to the return of record-setting QB Frank Harris for his seventh season.
21. Texas Longhorns: Ditch a Bad Habit
Through two years of the Steve Sarkisian era, the Longhorns have posted a combined 13-12 record. That is frustrating enough, but Texas is an ugly 4-10 in games decided by eight points or fewer. Texas simply must start winning close games to start a true national ascent.
20-16. South Carolina, Notre Dame, UCLA, Oregon State, LSU
20. South Carolina Gamecocks: Wake Up Earlier
Shane Beamer is quickly becoming a fan favorite. The year before his arrival, the Gamecocks finished 2-8. They finished 7-6 last season and climbed to 8-5 in 2022 with key November upsets of Tennessee and rival Clemson. But in both years, South Carolina lost September games to Georgia and a second SEC opponent. Next season, the Gamecocks play North Carolina, UGA, Mississippi State and UT in the opening month. Good luck!
19. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Get a New Look
Sure, we could be talking about the QBs after Drew Pyne's transfer to Arizona State. Tyler Buchner can return, and Notre Dame is reportedly eyeing Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman. However, it won't much matter who's behind center if the Irish don't bolster the receiving corps quickly. All-American tight end Michael Mayer and veteran receiver Braden Lenzy will be gone, leaving the Irish with two targets who surpassed 300 yards in 2022.
18. UCLA Bruins: Make a New Friend
On the other hand, it's time to talk QBs here. Save for injury absences, Dorian Thompson-Robinson has been the Bruins' only starter of the Chip Kelly era. DTR has exhausted his eligibility, so UCLA needs a new signal-caller. Will the Bruins turn to incoming 5-star Dante Moore immediately, or will a returning player, such as Ethan Garbers, win the job?
17. Oregon State Beavers: Be More Social
Jonathan Smith has done a phenomenal job in Corvallis. In the three seasons prior to his arrival, the Beavers went 7-29. Fast-forward to 2022, and they finished 10-3. While in-house development has been a key to the Beavs' success, the program's base talent level needs to rise. OSU, which just signed the first two 4-star prospects of Smith's tenure, must be a bigger threat for blue-chip talent.
16. LSU Tigers: Get Organized
Even before the Citrus Bowl, only six offenses in the country had surrendered more sacks than LSU's 45. It certainly wouldn't hurt the Tigers to protect Jayden Daniels more effectively next season. Although some players could transfer, every key offensive lineman has remaining eligibility and may return to LSU in 2023.
15-11. Oregon, Tulane, Florida State, Washington, Kansas State
15. Oregon Ducks: Learn a New Language
Gone is offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who took the Arizona State head coaching job. His departure will create a crucial offseason for Oregon, even as breakout quarterback Bo Nix returns for a final year. Nix will be running an offense led by Will Stein, who helped UTSA develop a prolific offense over the last few seasons.
14. Tulane Green Wave: Be More Responsible
With the football, that is. Tulane has lost 10 fumbles, which ranks tied for 91st nationally. Fortunately for the Green Wave, the giveaways didn't ruin results like they did in 2021 when Tulane lost 12 fumbles—tied for the country's sixth-worst total—and 10 games. But the shaky ball security is an issue that must be corrected.
13. Florida State Seminoles: Overcome Your Fears
Florida State put a disappointing 8-13 start to Mike Norvell's tenure in the rear-view mirror with a 10-3 campaign. Yet the 'Noles again fell to Clemson, and their skid in the rivalry hit seven straight losses. FSU likely has to clear the Clemson-sized obstacle to win the ACC.
12. Washington Huskies: Learn a New Hobby
Similar to Michigan State in 2021, part of this can be attributed to a successful team forcing its opponent into passing situations. Washington's pass defense was a problem this season, though. While nabbing only seven interceptions, the Huskies ceded 7.8 yards per attempt and 26 touchdown passes—both of which are sub-100 rankings nationally. Washington needs to be much better in coverage.
11. Kansas State Wildcats: Meet New People
Because of 2020's eligibility pause, some seniors could return for another year. However, the Big 12 champions are likely to lose upward of a dozen key seniors—plus potential NFL departures in running back Deuce Vaughn, left guard Cooper Beebe and edge-rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah. The depth chart may have an overhauled look in 2023.
10-6. Clemson, Penn State, USC, Utah, Tennessee
10. Clemson Tigers: Learn to Cook
Defense isn't a major concern for Clemson, which yielded 20.9 points per game in 2022. Among this Top 25, only three offenses averaged fewer yards per snap than Clemson's 5.6. Second-year quarterback DJ Uiagalelei could not sustain a nice start and ended up transferring. Hyped freshman Cade Klubnik, who started the Orange Bowl, will be QB1 next season and attempt to spark this offense.
9. Penn State Nittany Lions: Be a Mentor
Penn State has a QB transition to handle, too. Sean Clifford used up his eligibility, and Drew Allar—also a 5-star with Klubnik in the 2022 recruiting class—is the heir. Allar made regular garbage-time appearances for the Nittany Lions in 2022 but will be going through his own learning curve.
8. USC Trojans: Learn Self-Defense
On the opposite side of Clemson's predicament, USC has the whole scoring thing covered. Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams will return to lead the offense in 2023. But the Trojans rank 81st in points allowed per game and 119th in yards allowed per play. Want to win a national title? The defense can't be that bad.
7. Utah Utes: Take More Road Trips
While this is a familiar resolution for Utah, it's nonetheless an essential area of needed improvement. During the last five regular seasons, the Utes are a stellar 26-2 at home but a problematic 15-10 at road/neutral sites. Utah has become an undeniable Pac-12 power. Becoming a national contender will require wins in uncomfortable environments.
6. Tennessee Volunteers: Grow Something
Two years ago when Josh Heupel took the Tennessee job, the outlook was understandably bleak. The arrival of Hendon Hooker altered the program's trajectory in remarkable fashion. Did he spark an entertaining one-year surge? Or will the Vols build on their breakout season despite his exit for the NFL?
5-1. Alabama, Ohio State, TCU, Michigan, Georgia
5. Alabama Crimson Tide: Be More Disciplined
For multiple reasons, 2022 was a frustrating year for Nick Saban. Beyond the absence of an SEC or national championship, the Tide committed a ton of penalties. They set a Saban-era single-game record with 17 flags in a loss to Tennessee and ultimately tied for the nation's fourth-worst mark at 7.9 penalties per game.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes: Let Go of Grudges
And how does that happen? Beat Michigan. Yes, the rest of the season—and, notably, a September game at Notre Dame—will matter. If the Buckeyes fall short of a championship, Ryan Day won't regain his slipping popularity. As long as Ohio State knocks off Michigan and takes home a Big Ten crown, though, it'll at least be a step in the right direction.
3. TCU Horned Frogs: Stop Being Late
The penchant for second-half comebacks has carried TCU into the national title—perhaps to a championship. Nevertheless, facing early deficits is typically a great way to lose games. Georgia likely won't be forgiving if that happens in the national title game. Plus, looking ahead, TCU can't fall back on NFL-bound quarterback Max Duggan in 2023.
2. Michigan Wolverines: Get Over an Ex
Emotions can be valuable in understanding the present and approaching the future. Those same emotions can also be destructive. A second straight loss in a College Football Playoff semifinal can fuel the Wolverines into 2023, but they need to strike a proper balance of using that as offseason motivation and shifting their focus to a new campaign.
1. Georgia Bulldogs: Join a Club
Never before has Georgia won national titles within 35 years of each other. That could change with a win over TCU. Looking ahead, only two programs have officially won three straight championships—and not since Minnesota in 1934-36. That would be a heckuva club.