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College Football Rankings Week 15: Georgia No. 1, massive shakeup before CFB Playoff

The 2022 college football schedule is drawing to a close with conference championship weekend serving as the set-up to the CFB Playoff announcement. Before the AP and CFP rankings are released, dive into Sportsnaut’s final college football rankings.

Losses by the USC Trojans and TCU Horned Frogs certainly came as a surprise, turning a secured top-four group into a mix of uncertainty. There will be endless debates over who are the best teams in college football and we’ve taken a variety of factors into consideration.

Related: College Football Playoff rankings

Let’s dive into our college football rankings after conference championship weekend. Come back next spring for our 2023 top 25 rankings.

Dropped from Week 15 College Football Rankings: Mississippi State Bulldogs (23), Boise State Broncos (24), UCF Knights (25)

25. UTSA Roadrunners

NCAA Football: Conference USA Championship-North Texas at Texas-San Antonio
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Unranked
  • UTSA Roadrunners record: 11-2, C-USA champs

Frank Harris put the perfect end note on a fantastic two-year run. Teaming up with head coach Jeff Traylor, the quarterback-coach duo went 23-4 over the last two seasons with Harris accounting for 62 passing touchdowns and 16 rushing touchdowns during that stretch. In the Conference USA Championship Game, the senior quarterback scored five total touchdowns and proved why UTSA was the best team in Conference USA for the last two years.

24. Fresno State Bulldogs

NCAA Football: Wyoming at Fresno State
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Unranked
  • Fresno State Bulldogs record: 9-4, MWC champs

Jeff Tedford’s first season back at Fresno State began with a 1-4 record, losing to Oregon State, USC, UConn and Boise State. The Broncos needed to win out in order to have a shot at revenge on the Broncos. Sure enough, the Bulldogs bit back to win the Mountain West title.

23. Troy Trojans

NCAA Football: Army at Troy
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: Unranked
  • Troy Trojans record: 11-2, Sun Belt champs

The Troy Trojans capped off one of their best seasons in program history winning the Sun Belt Championship Game to earn only their second 11-win season in program history. First-year coach Jon Sumrall has returned Troy to the peak it reached under Neal Brown and there are a lot of reasons to think Sumrall will soon be on the coaching radar for other programs.

22. NC State Wolfpack

NCAA Football: Boston College at North Carolina State
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 22nd in college football rankings
  • NC State Wolfpack record: 8-4

With Devin Leary’s future at NC State uncertain, the 2023 season seems destined to belong to MJ Morris. He showed some incredible flashes in limited time, posting a 7-1 TD-INT ratio and 148.3 QB rating. As long as Dave Deoeren remains with the team, the Wolfpack should be a top-25 threat next season.

21. Texas Longhorns

NCAA Football: Baylor at Texas
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 21st in college football rankings
  • Texas Longhorns record: 8-4

The Texas Longhorns will have plenty of regrets from his season, just a few mistakes prevented them from reaching double-digit wins for the first time since 2018. The good news is, Quinn Ewers returns in 2023 and he could be the key to Texas emerging as a Big 12 title contender.

20. LSU Tigers

NCAA Football: SEC Football Championship-Louisiana State vs Georgia
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 14th in college football rankings
  • LSU Tigers record: 9-4

The first year of the Brian Kelly experience proved to be a roller coaster ride. From a season-opening defeat vs Florida State followed by a 40-33 loss at home vs Tennessee. On the brink of collapse, LSU ripped off five consecutive victories and reached the SEC title game. However, getting blown off the field by the Aggies and then pushed around by Georgia leaves a nauseating feeling to end the year.

19. South Carolina Gamecocks

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Clemson
Anderson Independent Mail-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 20th in top 25 rankings
  • South Carolina Gamecocks record: 8-4

It was an unconventional 2022 season for the South Carolina Gamecocks. There’s no great way to explain how a team that lost by two scores to Arkansas and Mizzou beats Tennessee and Clemson. Although, the final two games did show some of the flashes of what optimists projected in a best-case scenario for USC this fall. One interesting storyline will be who eventually becomes Gamecocks’ quarterback in 2023

18. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Southern California
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 19th in top 25 rankings
  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish record: 8-4

View the 2022 college football season as a stepping stone for Marcus Freeman and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Freeman went through his growing pains as a first-year head coach, but his program showed a lot of fight late. If the Fighting Irish can find a quality quarterback in the transfer portal, it could challenge for a top-12 spot in 2023.

17. UCLA Bruins

NCAA Football: UCLA at California
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 17 in top 25 rankings rankings
  • UCLA Bruins record: 9-3

As Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s UCLA career draws to a close, it’s worth reflecting on his incredible senior season. After so many roller-coaster years, DTR played like one of the best college football QBs in 2022, carrying the Bruins in some big moments. We’re curious to see how Chip Kelly’s program looks without DTR in 2023.

16. Oregon Ducks

Syndication: The Register Guard
Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: 16th in top 25 rankings
  • Oregon Ducks record: 9-3

The Oregon Ducks await Bo Nix’s decision, hoping the star quarterback returns in 2023. Losing offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham might not help matters, but Oregon proved to be the perfect landing spot for Nix. Considering his NFL future isn’t especially promising, the best move for everyone might be running it back in 2023.

15. Florida State Seminoles

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 15th in college football rankings
  • Florida State Seminoles record: 9-3

After losing three consecutive games, things looked worrisome for Florida State. Mike Norvell had a 12-16 record at that point, sparking debate about his future. Led by quarterback Jordan Travis, the Seminoles role a five-game winning streak and closed out the regular season with a victory over Florida. The late run should buy Norvell another year, but another slow start in 2023 could fire up the hot seat.

14. Tulane Green Wave

NCAA Football: American Athletic Conference Championship-Central Florida at Tulane
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 18th in college football rankings
  • Tulane Green Wave record: 11-2, AAC champions

The Tulane Green Wave are conference champions for the first time since 1998. While there have been plenty of unexpected seasons this year, going from 201-0 to 11-2 with an AAC title seems unfathomable. Tulane has largely been off the national radar all year, but that should change with its upcoming bowl game.

13. Oregon State Beavers

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Stanford
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 19th in college football rankings
  • Oregon State Beavers record: 9-3

Oregon State’s resume this season is pretty impressive. It had one-score losses to USC and Washington, two of the best teams in college football since October. The Beavers are one of the pleasant stories from the 2022 season and ending the regular season with a Civil War victory served as the perfect bow to wrap things up before a huge bowl game.

12. Washington Huskies

NCAA Football: Washington at Washington State
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 9th in college football rankings
  • Washington Huskies record: 10-2

After winning a combined seven games with Jimmy Lake, Kalen DeBoer delivered 10 regular-season wins in his first year with the Washington Huskies. He also struck gold in the transfer portal with Michael Penix Jr., who played an instrumental role in some of Washington’s upset wins this season.

11. Clemson Tigers

NCAA Football: ACC Football Championship-Clemson at North Carolina
  • Previously: 13th in college football rankings
  • Clemson Tigers record: 11-2, ACC champions

We went into the 2022 season pessimistic about the Clemson Tigers because of the quarterback situation and the lack of continuity on the coaching staff. In the ACC Championship Game, Cade Klubnik provided us with more optimism for the Tigers than we’ve felt all season. Clemson isn’t close to returning as a college football powerhouse, but it could be much better than this in terms of consistency and look next year.

10. Penn State Nittany Lions

Syndication: York Daily Record
  • Previously: No. 8 in college football rankings
  • Penn State Nittany Lions record: 10-2

Admittedly, all we can think about with the Penn State Nittany Lions is the future. After being held back by quarterback Sean Clifford, Happy Valley gets the Drew Allar and Nicholas Singleton backfield tandem in 2023. An offense with Allar, Singleton and Kaytron Allen paired with a quality Penn State defense could make the Nittany Lions a legit conference threat next fall. As for why Penn State drops; Kansas State and Utah have signature wins and we’ve viewed USC as the superior team for most of the season.

9. USC Trojans

NCAA Football: PAC-12 Football Championship-Southern California at Utah
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 4 in college football rankings
  • USC Trojans record: 11-2

The USC Trojans outscored Utah 28-10 in the first quarter of their matchups this year. Outside of that, it could never get a handle on the Utes. It’s fair to say the Caleb Williams injury didn’t help in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but defense is a far bigger reason for the loss. Fortunately, an 11-win season in the first year with Williams and Lincoln Riley is a smashing success.

8. Utah Utes

NCAA Football: PAC-12 Football Championship-Southern California at Utah
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 11th in college football rankings
  • Utah Utes record: 10-3, Pac-12 champions

Kyle Whittingham does it again, taking home the Pac-12 title for the second consecutive year. While the Utes’ defense never quite had Williams’ number this year, Cameron Rising and Utah’s offense scored 90 points in two wins. The Rose Bowl is the perfect way for the Utes to close out a season that looked bleak a few times this year.

7. Kansas State Wildcats

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Texas Christian at Kansas State
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 10 in college football rankings
  • Kansas State Wildcats record: 10-3, Big 12 champions

It’s beyond time to recognize Kansas State coach Chris Klieman, who has done a sensational job since replacing Bill Snyder. The Wildcats had some missteps this year – losing to Tulane and Texas (34-27) – but it settled in late and did just enough on both sides of the ball to stun TCU. Kudos to Kansas State on its first Big 12 title since 2012.

6. Alabama Crimson Tide

NCAA Football: Auburn at Alabama
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 9 in top 25 ranking
  • Alabama Crimson Tide record: 10-2

Find the marquee win on Alabama’s schedule this year. It lost to Tennessee and LSU and narrowly defeated Texas, Texas A&M and Ole Miss. Nick Saban might believe this is a different team since Bryce Young got healthy, but it doesn’t mean much when your resume is still worse than at least five other teams.

5. Tennessee Volunteers

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Vanderbilt
George Walker IV-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 7th in college football rankings
  • Tennessee Volunteers record: 10-2

Once the playoff is taken out of the equation, we rank the teams based on overall performance this season. The Tennessee Volunteers crushed LSU and Kentucky along with a victory over Alabama. Accomplishing a 10-2 record with the head-to-head advantage over Alabama earns the No. 5 spot.

College Football Playoff

4. Ohio State Buckeyes

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: No. 5 in college football rankings
  • Ohio State Buckeyes record: 11-1

If not for Hendon Hooker’s injury, Tennessee would rank above Ohio State. The Buckeyes have a quality season-opening win over Notre Dame and they beat Penn State in Happy Valey. Outside of that, there isn’t anything impressive on their resume. However, this remains one of the best teams in college football and one loss vs the No. 2 team shouldn’t put Ohio State behind Alabama.

3. TCU Horned Frogs

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Texas Christian at Kansas State
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 3 in college football rankings
  • TCU Horned Frogs record: 12-1

Max Duggan and the TCU Horned Frogs lost out on the perfect season, but it shouldn’t prevent them from making the playoff. TCU entered with a better resume than Ohio State and it’s played better football over the last month. Besides, no one wants to see the Buckeyes lose to Michigan twice within a few weeks.

Related: Best College Football Stadiums

2. Michigan Wolverines

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: No. 2 in college football rankings
  • Michigan Wolverines record: 13-0, Big Ten champions

The season-ending injury for Blake Corum is a massive blow for the Michigan Wolverines offense. If there are any positives from his absence, the Ohio State win showed what J.J. McCarthy and Donovan Edwards can accomplish on their own. As long as this defense is healthy, the No. 2 Wolverines have a shot against any opponent in the CFP Semifinal.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

Syndication: Online Athens
  • Previously: No. 1 in college football rankings
  • Georgia Bulldogs record: 13-0, SEC champions

In the SEC Championship Game, the Georgia Bulldogs looked like the team we saw vs Tennessee. It means the version of the Bulldogs that played with their food (Kentucky, Missouri games) has flipped a switch. Georgia is the best team in college football and it should be a double-digit favorite against whoever it faces in the CFB Semifinal.