Preseason College Football Ranking 2022: B/R's Super Early Top 25

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2022

Preseason College Football Ranking 2022: B/R's Super Early Top 25

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    The celebrations of Georgia's national championship are only beginning, but the rest of the college football world is moving on.

    Goodbye, 2021 season. Hello, 2022.

    As you'd expect, both Alabama and Georgia are heavily respected teams as the offseason formally starts. Behind the annual SEC powers, the usual suspectsOhio State, Oklahoma, Clemson and Notre Dameheadline the rest of the Top 25.

    Look, this is nowhere close to a final ranking. The transfer portal alone will shake up programs throughout the next several months, along with NFL draft departures and February's traditional signing day.

    While the confetti is raining down on the Dawgs at Lucas Oil Stadium, though, we're taking an early peek at the 2022 season.

25-21. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Miami, Houston, NC State

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    25. Pittsburgh Panthers
    24. Cincinnati Bearcats
    23. Miami Hurricanes
    22. Houston Cougars
    21. North Carolina State Wolfpack

    Over the last seven seasons, Pittsburgh has consistently hovered near the back of the polls. Winning another ACC title may be a lofty goal, but USC transfer Kedon Slovis replacing Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett keeps the Panthers as a Top 25 threat.

    Cincinnati has a greater transition on the way, including at quarterback with Desmond Ridder leaving for the NFL, but a 44-7 record since 2018 demands respect. The two-time defending AAC champs should be a league-title contender again.

    Mario Cristobal's arrival has renewed long-term optimism at Miami. However, he's also inheriting a potential star QB in Tyler Van Dyke, who finished the season with 2,931 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions after replacing an injured D'Eriq King.

    Houston will return a few terrific pieces on offense, including quarterback Clayton Tune and top receiver Nathaniel Dell. So, too, does NC State, which is bringing back quarterback Devin Leary, wideout Thayer Thomas and a heavy majority of the defense.    

20-16. Ole Miss, BYU, Kentucky, Iowa, Wake Forest

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    20. Ole Miss Rebels
    19. BYU Cougars
    18. Kentucky Wildcats
    17. Iowa Hawkeyes
    16. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

    After cracking the 10-win mark in 2021, Ole Miss and BYU are most in danger of slipping. Ole Miss has to rebuild its offense, and BYU will face a difficult schedule. Both situations can be handled, but this is an important offseason for the programs.

    Kentucky and Iowa, meanwhile, are steady teams with a defined upside. They should comfortably reach a bowl. But UK has a Georgia-sized obstacle in the SEC East, and Iowa has a tough path to winning the Big Ten if the offense is a below-average unit again.

    Wake Forest returns star quarterback Sam Hartman to lead a pursuit of a second straight ACC Atlantic crown. Clemson should be better in 2022, but Wake has another manageable schedule.

15-11. Penn State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Wisconsin, Clemson

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    15. Penn State Nittany Lions
    14. Oklahoma State Cowboys
    13. Oregon Ducks
    12. Wisconsin Badgers
    11. Clemson Tigers

    Welcome to the unintentional but not necessarily coincidental group of "if the quarterback plays well" teams.

    Sean Clifford is returning to Penn State for a sixth season, and Spencer Sanders will probably be back at Oklahoma State. While both are quality players, they're liable to have pretty uninspiring performances against strong competition.

    Oregon will likely be moving on from Anthony Brown, whose 2021 fit a similar mold to Clifford and Sanders.

    Wisconsin and Clemson need to determine if Graham Mertz and DJ Uiagalelei, respectively, are the right options. Both are once-touted prospects who shined early in their careers, but they mostly struggled on defense-driven teams in 2021.      

10-6. Michigan, Baylor, Michigan State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma

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    10. Michigan Wolverines
    9. Baylor Bears
    8. Michigan State Spartans
    7. Texas A&M Aggies
    6. Oklahoma Sooners

    Like the previous teams, Michigan has a QB conundrum (in addition to swirling Jim Harbaugh rumors). Cade McNamara led the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff semifinal, but he'll be battling recent top prospect J.J. McCarthywho held a regular, minor rolefor the starting job as the defense reloads.

    Breakout teams Baylor and Michigan State have the challenge of sustaining that success. Return-eligible seniors and the transfer portal, respectively, will have a significant influence on their perceptions.

    Texas A&M is already an offseason winner because of its star-studded recruiting class that ranks No. 1 nationally, and the arrival of quarterback Max Johnson from LSU solidifies the hype.

    Oklahoma, for now, remains a high choice because of Caleb Williams. Though he's entered the portal, it's possibleeven if unlikelythat he'll return. If Williams leaves and UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel takes over, OU will probably dip into the Top 15 range.

5-1. Utah, Notre Dame, Georgia, Ohio State, Alabama

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    5. Utah Utes
    4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
    3. Georgia Bulldogs
    2. Ohio State Buckeyes
    1. Alabama Crimson Tide

    Utah has reached the Pac-12 Championship Game in three of the last four seasons, only missing in the pandemic-altered 2020 campaign. Pending some NFL or transfer decisions, the reigning Pac-12 champions are built to contend nationally.

    Although the Marcus Freeman era began with a disappointing bowl loss after head coach Brian Kelly left for LSU, Notre Dame finished 11-2 and has a wave of return-eligible seniors coming back to South Bend.

    The three highest-ranked programs should be no surprise.

    Georgia is bracing for a stream of NFL departures, but a stockpile of blue-chip recruits are up next. Michigan snapped Ohio State's four-year Big Ten championship streak, but QB C.J. Stroud and wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba will headline a high-powered offense. Alabama returns Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young and edge-rusher Will Anderson Jr., who have a strong case as the nation's two best players.