1 Word for Every College Football Top 25 Team's OffseasonJanuary 28, 2022
1 Word for Every College Football Top 25 Team's Offseason
The offseason is all about perception.
No matter the outlook—positive, negative or somewhere in between—it's always an educated guess. Expectations need to factor in new coaches, returning starters, transfers in, transfers out, incoming recruits and outgoing seniors.
There simply is no foolproof method to measure those changes. Or, if there is, nobody has shared it with us.
What we can do, however, is consider all of those factors and find a suitable word to describe the entirety of a team's situation. This perception is built on a program's performance in 2021, early offseason changes and initial expectations for 2022.
The order is a reflection of the postseason AP Top 25.
25-21. San Diego State, Utah State, Iowa, Oregon, Arkansas
25. San Diego State Aztecs: Steady
After alternating between Lucas Johnson and Jordon Brookshire at quarterback in 2021, SDSU has a vacancy at the position. Both players entered the transfer portal, while Virginia Tech starter Braxton Burmeister chose the Aztecs. In theory, his arrival will end SDSU's uncertainty at the position and give the offense a stable presence as the unit replaces a majority of its starters.
24. Utah State Aggies: Rejuvenated
The past decade has been a bit of a roller coaster for Utah State. Gary Andersen led the program to an 11-win season in 2012 but bolted for Wisconsin. Matt Wells oversaw an 11-win team in 2018 but exited for Texas Tech. Blake Anderson inherited a 1-5 team yet guided the Aggies to an 11-win record and Mountain West title. And, most importantly, he's not going anywhere.
23. Iowa Hawkeyes: Reassured
For several years, speculation about Kirk Ferentz retiring has occasionally popped up. However, he recently signed a contract extension through the 2029 season. The succession plan is still a delicate topic, but Ferentz may be around for several years.
22. Oregon Ducks: Revamped
Exactly zero on-field coaches from the 2021 staff remain at Oregon. Head coach Mario Cristobal and several of his assistants left for Miami, and Dan Lanning—previously the defensive coordinator at Georgia—hired a brand-new 10-man crew. They're not complaining about it, but this transition will be immensely difficult.
21. Arkansas Razorbacks: Busy
Few programs have experienced as much noteworthy activity in the transfer portal as Arkansas. While starting defensive backs Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks Jr. transferred to LSU, the Razorbacks picked up immediate-impact replacements with Oklahoma receiver Jadon Haselwood, Alabama edge-rusher Drew Sanders, LSU cornerback Dwight McGlothern and Georgia safety Latavious Brini.
20-16: NC State, BYU, Kentucky, Houston, Louisiana
20. North Carolina State Wolfpack: Encouraged
NC State hasn't reached the conference championship game since the ACC split into divisions in 2005. However, the Wolfpack effectively came a three-point loss to Wake Forest shy of snapping that streak in 2021. They return quarterback Devin Leary and a heavy majority of the defense, so expectations won't really be dropping after a nine-win season.
19. BYU Cougars: Adapting
Changing league affiliation is not a foreign concept for BYU, which shifted from the WAC to the Mountain West in 1999 and from the MWC to independent status in 2011. As entrance to the Big 12 looms, though, the program's long-term plans—everything from roster management to resources—need to be adjusted, too.
18. Kentucky Wildcats: Hopeful
Prior to Mark Stoops' arrival in 2013, the 'Cats had managed two 10-win years in program history. They've recorded two in the past four seasons under Stoops, and an experienced group of returning players has a reasonable shot at a third. Georgia remains the definite SEC East favorite, but Kentucky should be a thorn.
17. Houston Cougars: Capitalizing
Similar to BYU and AAC counterpart Cincinnati, Houston is entering the all-important phase of preparing for the Big 12. Also like BYU and Cincy, the Cougars—who finished 12-2 with a bowl victory over Auburn—are selling their success in 2021 at the same time. What happens this offseason will be a substantial factor in how Houston initially performs on the power-conference stage.
16. Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns: Confident
Although head coach Billy Napier left for Florida with a few assistants and top players, Louisiana hasn't panicked. New coach Michael Desormeaux has resisted the appeal of diving into the transfer portal to pad the roster. Instead, the Ragin' Cajuns are relying on the returning group to contend for a Sun Belt crown in 2022.
15-11. Wake Forest, Clemson, Pitt, Utah, Ole Miss
15. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Upbeat
Defensive coordinator Mike Elko accepted the head-coaching job at Duke, and he's a significant loss. However, the Demon Deacons only need to replace a handful of starters while returning star quarterback Sam Hartman, who propelled them to an Atlantic Division title. They'll be a well-respected team in the preseason.
14. Clemson Tigers: Adjusting
Elsewhere in the ACC Atlantic, the longtime power is replacing two coordinators. Brent Venables returned to Oklahoma, and Tony Elliott went to Virginia. Dabo Swinney chose in-house replacements for both coaches, but they'll bring a new flavor to established ideas.
13. Pitt Panthers: Pleased
There is an important distinction to make; pleased is not satisfied. The program undoubtedly wants to achieve more than an ACC title. However, the Panthers had never accomplished that before, and breakout quarterback Kenny Pickett is off to the NFL. Pitt's expectations for the future have risen, even if 2022 isn't quite as great.
12. Utah Utes: Optimistic
Utah started slowly in 2021 yet finished 10-4 with a Pac-12 championship and narrow loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. While wideout Britain Covey and linebacker Devin Lloyd are huge departures, the Utes otherwise return a healthy majority of their top contributors. Utah is very likely to land a handful of predictions to make the College Football Playoff next season.
11. Ole Miss Rebels: Anxious
Lane Kiffin has something cooking. Maybe. Star quarterback Matt Corral is NFL-bound, but Kiffin has targeted Oklahoma transfer Caleb Williams and USC transfer Jaxson Dart as possible replacements. There's also the looming decision of 5-star Arch Manning, the nephew of NFL legends Peyton and Eli. Ole Miss fans are eager—well, hopeful and nervous—for a marquee addition.
10-6. Oklahoma, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Ohio State
10. Oklahoma Sooners: Resetting
Brent Venables replaced now-USC coach Lincoln Riley. As of this writing, the Sooners have 10 outgoing—including star quarterback Caleb Williams—and nine incoming transfers. The 2022 recruiting class didn't fall apart, but a handful of blue-chip prospects decommitted after Riley's departure. What we expected to see at OU has changed dramatically; the offseason will be a much-needed time to reassess the wild two-month stretch in Norman.
9. Michigan State Spartans: Ecstatic
Having lived around MSU fans for most of my life, they're a delightfully delirious group when the team is successful. The surge from 2-5 in 2020 to 11-2 with a win over Michigan last season injected plenty of optimism about Mel Tucker's tenure. They'll spend the next few months planning out a Big Ten championship run even as MSU focuses on fixing the nation's last-ranked secondary.
8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Energized
Marcus Freeman is a players' coach. Look no further than the reactions of current players and high schoolers for a mountain of evidence. Notre Dame already had a tremendous start to the 2023 recruiting cycle, and Freeman's promotion is only going to increase the excitement. Whether that translates to on-field success in 2022 is also important, but the Irish are going to win the offseason.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys: Reconstructing
Given that Oklahoma State has five 10-win seasons in the past nine years, Mike Gundy has earned considerable benefit of the doubt. Nevertheless, the Cowboys are rebuilding the back seven of a defense that also has a new voice. Derek Mason will replace Jim Knowles, who left for Ohio State, as the coordinator.
6. Ohio State Buckeyes: Awakened
Let's not be hyperbolic. Though the 2021 season was disappointing (relative to typical expectations), Ohio State posted an 11-2 record and won the Rose Bowl. That's pretty darn solid for a "down" year. Still, the team's inconsistency led to a flurry of changes on the defensive staff in hopes of regaining the Big Ten crown.
5-1. Baylor, Cincinnati, Michigan, Alabama, Georgia
5. Baylor Bears: Excited
Baylor engineered a major turnaround in 2021, improving from a two-win year to securing a Big 12 championship. And next season, the Bears should have another great opportunity. Seven super-seniors, including four starters on the offensive line, will bolster the roster in 2022.
4. Cincinnati Bearcats: Timely
Two separate developments have created a key offseason for Cincinnati. Not only did the Bearcats make the College Football Playoff, but they also landed an invite to join the Big 12 no later than 2024. It's imperative that Cincinnati takes full advantage of the recent success to prepare for a substantial jump in competition.
3. Michigan Wolverines: Complicated
The Maize and Blue finally broke through, toppling Ohio State and winning the Big Ten. Early in the offseason, rumors have suggested Jim Harbaugh would take the Las Vegas Raiders job if offered. Really? After that incredible season? Expect questions about Harbaugh's desire to stay in Ann Arbor for a long period, even though—to me, maybe not you—it'd be surprising if he leaves.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide: Driven
As long as Nick Saban is around, Alabama will be expected to contend for national titles. The 2022 season isn't a "closing window" or anything like that. However, it should be the Crimson Tide's final season with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young and record-setting edge-rusher Will Anderson Jr. before they head to the NFL. And they'll be determined to atone for a loss in the title game.
1. Georgia Bulldogs: Celebratory
Yeah, they're rebuilding the defense. Several key contributors on offense left for the NFL or transferred. Lanning went to Oregon, and offensive coordinator Todd Monken figures to receive NFL interest. But you know what? Georgia won its first national title in 41 years. Can't bring the Dawgs down right now.
All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.