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College Football Rankings after Week 0: Notre Dame impresses, USC raises huge concerns

The 2023 college football season is officially underway with this past Saturday representing the first games of the regular season. While we only got to see the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and USC Trojans play, there’s still some movement in our college football rankings after Week 0.

It’s always important to never overreact to a single game, so there won’t be massive changes to the top 25 college football rankings after Week 0. However, USC’s defense and Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman did provide plenty of material to think about as we head into September.

Let’s dive into our college football rankings after Week 0.

Top 25 college football rankings after Week 0

25. South Carolina Gamecocks

It’s possible this could be buying in too much to how South Carolina closed out the 2022 campaign. Victories over Tennessee and Clemson followed by a close loss to Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl suggested the Camecocks were more talented than their record (8-5). There’s firepower in this offense with quarterback Spencer Rattler, running back Dakereon Joyner and wide receiver Juice Wells. The litmus test for this defense will come in Week 1 against Drake Maye and North Carolina.

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24. Florida Gators

There are a few factors working against the Florida Gators. First, they have the toughest schedule in college football this year. Second, the Gators’ quarterback situation is unsettled and Graham Mertz (127.7 QB rating, 38-26 TD-INT, 59.5% completion rate) doesn’t have the track record to inspire confidence. A daunting SEC schedule with tremendous uncertainty at quarterback and a transfer-heavy football team, that’s the recipe for a team that could be out of the top 25 rankings by Sep. 1.

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23. Oregon State Beavers

The Oregon State Beavers might’ve been one of the most underrated college football teams in 2020. Under head coach Jonathan Smith, Oregon State went toe-to-toe with USC (17-14 loss), was narrowly defeated by Washington (24-21) and beat Oregon (38-34). The Beavers return 13 starters total on offense and defense, with a strong belief internally that quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has even more to offer. Unfortunately, the season-ending injury to Skyler Thomas was the first domino to fall in what could be a setback year for Oregon State defensively.

22. Wisconsin Badgers

The Wisconsin Badgers had to make changes after the growing frustrations with Paul Chryst. After a lengthy coaching search, the Badgers struck gold with Luke Fickell and he made things even better by landing Phil Longo as his offensive coordinator. We’re confident a team coached by Fickell with a top-shelf defense and an offense built around Braelon Allen can be a top-25 team. Whether or not Wisconsin can be even better rests on the shoulders of quarterback Tanner Mordecai.

21. TCU Horned Frogs

The 2022 TCU Horned Frogs season was one to remember, especially for the fans who are able to block out the national championship game. Sonny Dykes’ offense transformed TCU’s fortunes, turning a five-win team into a 13-2 club within a year. There’s a scenario where Chandler Morris shines and the incoming transfers (RB Trey Sanders, OT Tommy Brockermeyer) hit the ground running. We might even see TCU head into late October with a perfect record, but regression and the second half of the schedule (@ Kansas State, @ Texas Tech, vs Texas, vs Baylor and @ Oklahoma) raise concerns.

20. Kansas State Wildcats

The Chris Klieman era is off to a strong start. In four seasons as the Kansas State head coach, the Wildcats are 30-20 with three seasons of eight-plus wins. Kansas State welcomes back quarterback Will Howard, who was excellent (15-4 TD-INT, 82.5 QBR) in limited action last season and safety Kobe Savage is now healthy. Some losses are unavoidable for Kansas State – at Texas Tech, at Texas – but Howard and Klieman can deliver eight wins once more.

19. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech got red hot late in the 2022 season and returns 15 starters (8 offense, 6 defense) from that group. The Red Raiders’ defense will be relying on a lot of transfers, but the buzz out of spring practices was extremely positive. Whether or not Texas Tech remains a top-25 team over the course of the season will depend on senior Tyler Shough, who showed glimpses of promise but needs to clean up his accuracy and. decision-making for the Red Raiders to win nine games.

18. Tulane Green Wave

It took time for everything to come together at Tulane for Willie Fritz, but it happened in 2022. The Green Wave went 12-2, finishing with a Cotton Bowl victory to cap off arguably the best season in program history. Losing Tyjae Spears is an undeniable blow, but quarterback Michael Pratt is back. Tulane should be the best Group of Five team in college football this season.

17. North Carolina Tar Heels

Elite quarterbacks can change everything for a team. While that’s more so the case at the highest level than in college, Drake Maye is the reason we’re confident enough to put North Carolina this high in our 2023 college football rankings. Maye is a generational talent and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey has a track record to believe in. If there’s one thing that prevents North Carolina from being a top-25 team this fall, it will be the offensive line.

16. Oklahoma Sooners

The first season of Oklahoma Sooners football with Brent Venables didn’t go quite as well as everyone hoped. Oklahoma posted a losing record (3-6 in conference) for the first time since 1998. Finishing with the 123rd defense in the nation is alarming given Venables’ track record, but there’s hope the arrivals of defensive linemen Trace Ford and Dasan McCullough can change that. We’ll give Venables the benefit of the doubt, but Dillon Gabriel and the Sooners’ offense doesn’t project to be dominant enough to overcome a bottom-50 defense for the second consecutive year.

15. Washington Huskies

The Washington Huskies have one of the best offenses in college football heading into the 2023 season. Michael Penix Jr. was a revelation for the Huskies, recording 4,641 passing yards with 35 total touchdowns. He’ll return, teaming up with one of the top receiving duos in the country (Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze). All of those ingredients with head coach Kalen DeBoer putting it all together create a high-scoring unit that will delight fans every Saturday.

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Unfortunately for Washington, its defense simply isn’t good enough to be viewed as a top-10 team. There are also now concerns offensively after starting running back Cameron Davis suffered a season-ending leg injury just a few weeks out from the opener. It was enough to drop the Huskies several spot in the college football rankings.

14. Oregon Ducks

NCAA Football: UCLA at Oregon
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Bo Nix returns to Oregon after a 2022 season that resurrected his college football career. Coming back was an easy decision, because the Pac-12 is home to some of the worst defenses in the Power 5 and Nix will have both receivers Tez Johnson and Troy Franklin at his disposal this fall. The Ducks’ offense should reach the heights we saw last fall, but Dan Lanning’s defense was Oregon’s Achilles heel in 2022 and not enough has changed this offseason to suggest things will drastically improve.

13. Utah Utes

The best-case scenario for the Utah Utes in 2023 is a repeat of what happened the past two seasons. Led by coach Kyle Whittingham and quarterback Cam Rising, Utah has won the Pac-12 conference for consecutive years with double-digit seasons each time. The Utes suffered close losses in 2022 (20-17 to Oregon, 32-32 to UCLA) and it beat USC twice. If Utah can beat Florida in Week 1, it’ll bode well for matchups later this fall against USC and Oregon. Based on the team’s history, though, three losses seem likely.

12. Clemson Tigers

The Clemson Tigers aren’t the same without a generational talent at quarterback. Dabo Swinney has still delivered a combined 21-6 record over the last two seasons, but Clemson has also lost big games to Notre Dame, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and NC State over that span. Unless Cade Klubnik becomes the next Deshaun Watson or Trevor Lawrence, we don’t view the Tigers as a playoff contender.

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11. Tennessee Volunteers

The Tennessee Volunteers returned to relevancy in 2022 thanks to Josh Heupel and Hendon Hooker. While losing the 2022 Heisman candidate is a definitive blow, quarterback Joe Milton is arguably more physically gifted as a passer. However, the strongest arm in college football only has a 57.8 percent completion rate in his career. If Heupel does for Milton what he did for Hooker, Tennessee can climb its way into the top 10 of our college football rankings. Until shown otherwise, though, we’re not betting on it.

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10. Florida State Seminoles

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Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis could be viewed as one of the best players in college football by the team the season is over. That’s based on his skill alone. What puts Travis in the mix to win the Heisman Trophy is an offense loaded with weapons, continuity in the system and outstanding chemistry with his offensive line and teammates. Plus, the Seminoles’ defense is flying under the radar. Florida State is the dark horse pick to win a national championship this season.

9. Penn State Nittany Lions

Syndication: York Daily Record

The time has finally arrived for the Penn State Nittany Lions. It’s the Drew Allar era and while there will be growing pains for the young quarterback, he’ll have an experienced offensive line and an excellent run game to support him. If defensive coordinator Manny Diaz can kelp the Nittany Lions’ defense to maintain its level of play and Allar exceeds expectations, Penn State might be a College Football Playoff contender a year earlier than expected.

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8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Previously: 9)

NCAA Football: Navy at Notre Dame
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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a star quarterback and that changes everything. We’ve seen Notre Dame be competitive with ‘quality’ college quarterbacks, but it’s been years since they had “the guy” who could put this offense on his back and truly attack defenses, striking fear into defensive coordinators. Sam Hartman is that guy. He’s playing behind an offensive line we trust, operating in a proven system and his track record is more than enough. The Fighting Irish have one of the best quarterbacks in college football and that makes them a lot more dangerous than we’ve seen in recent years.

7. Michigan Wolverines

Syndication: USA TODAY

It’s fitting that the NCAA’s discipline for Jim Harbaugh is a four-game season. The Michigan Wolverines won’t need Harbaugh in the first month, matchups against East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green and Rutgers should all result in double-digit victories. On offense, this should be an electric offense with running back Blake Corum returning and quarterback J.J. McCarthy taking another step forward as a passer. The Wolverines also strengthened their defense and offensive line through the transfer portal. Michigan is one of the best teams in college football, it’s just a tier below the elite programs in our eyes.

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6. LSU Tigers

Syndication: The Tennessean
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The LSU baseball and women’s basketball teams won national championships less than two years after hiring new head coaches. Heading into 2023, the Tigers’ football program is hoping for the same success with Brian Kelly. LSU will be led offensively by quarterback Jayden Daniels and he’s supported by an offensive line with great rapport and a top receiver (Malik Nabers) that he has chemistry with. If Maason Smith and Harold Perkins play up to their talent level, LSU will be one of the best college football teams in 2023.

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5. USC Trojans (Previously: 3)

NCAA Football: San Jose State at Southern California
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It’s the same USC Trojans as before. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams is fully capable of winning any game on his own, he’s a once-in-a-generation talent. USC’s offense, both its play-calling and the weaponry around Williams, make this one of the best offenses in the nation. Yet, we just saw the Trojans’ defense allow 200 rushing yards and 7.3 yards per carry to a San Jose State offense that averaged 95.8 rushing yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry in 2022. If that’s how USC is performing defensively right now, we’re alarmed by what will happen in October (Notre Dame, Utah) and November (Washington, Oregon).

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4. Ohio State Buckeyes (Previously: 5)

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
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The Ohio State Buckeyes are going to have one of the best offenses in college football this season. When you can keep putting the football in the hands of Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Julian Flemming, Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson, scoring points will be relatively easy. However, the biggest games are determined by quarterbacks. Right now, Ohio State is choosing between two unproven options (Kyle McCord and Devin Brown), with the winner operating behind an offensive line that has some concerns. Those two factors combined are the source of our concern with the Buckeyes.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide (Previously: 4)

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Kansas State at Alabama
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The Alabama Crimson Tide are a lot higher in the consensus top 25 college football rankings. Admittedly, it’s never wise to bet against Nick Saban. However, Alabama replaced both of its coordinators this offseason, Bryce Young is in the NFL and multiple blue-chip talents on defense are now playing pro football. There are just too many questions on both sides of the ball to view Alabama as a top-three team, especially in a tough SEC.

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2. Texas Longhorns

Syndication: Austin American-Statesman

Believing this much in the Texas Longhorns could quickly backfire. Quinn Ewers and Co. will face the Alabama Crimson Tide on Sep. 9, the perfect litmus test for both teams at Bryant-Denny Stadium. However, Texas has the clear quarterback advantage and he’s starting behind an experienced offensive line with one of the best receiving corps in the nation. It will all come down to the Longhorns’ ground game and defense, but there’s enough talent on the roster for Ewers – or Arch Manning – to make Texas dangerous.

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1. Georgia Bulldogs

Syndication: Online Athens

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The Georgie Bulldogs are the best team in college football and enter the fall No. 1 in our 2023 college football rankings. Even after losing Stetson Bennett, Jalen Carter, Broderick Jones, Nolan Smith, Darnell Washington and several other key players, Georgia is on top of the world. Brock Bowers is the best tight end in the nation, a rushing attack led by Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards should be dominant and this defense will be one of the best in the nation. If Carson Beck can execute the offense as Bennett did, Georgia will three-peat.