The college football rankings are the bottom-line determination of a team’s fate. Beginning with the Associated Press and coaches polls, and followed by the College Football Playoff rankings, the college football pecking order becomes clearer as the season goes on.
At Sportsnaut, we’ll continue to spice up your college football rankings leading up to the 2022 campaign. Instead of sticking to the status quo of the AP or Amway polls, or even the CFP rankings, check out our own editorial NCAA gridiron hierarchy.
The Georgia Bulldogs are reigning national champions, but every program in the country is now preparing for the 2022 college football season. As spring practices arrive, we’re evaluating the top-25 teams in 2022 with our latest college football rankings heading into the summer.
25. South Carolina Gamecocks
Programs usually take a step forward in their second year with a head coach. If South Carolina wasn’t already excited about how this team would look with Shane Beamer in 2022, he provided everyone with two more reasons to be optimistic. Adding quarterback Spencer Rattler, along with his Oklahoma teammate Austin Stogner, should make the Gamecocks’ offense more explosive this fall. It could certainly translate to eight-plus wins, all while Tanner Bailey waits in the wings to take over in 2023.
24. Iowa Hawkeyes
Kirk Ferentz is an excellent college football coach and there’s not a single doubt Iowa’s defense will play at a high-level next season. But the Hawkeyes’ offense was atrocious this past season, ranking outside the top 100 in nearly every category. With two key starters on the offensive line gone, we’re not betting on Iowa to win 10 games.
23. Pittsburgh Panthers
It’s one thing to lose Kenny Pickett, but the likely departure of Jordan Addison could prove even more significant. While Kedon Slovis is a lot better than plenty of college football quarterbacks, he may not have a No. 1 receiver and Pitt lost some of its top coaches on that side of the ball. Some have the Panthers as a top-15 team in early college football rankings, we’re not nearly as high on this team.
22. Cincinnati Bearcats
The Cincinnati Bearcats are poised to take a step back in 2022, it’s inevitable. Desmond Ridder, Jerome Ford, Ahmad Gardner and Myjai Sanders are all NFL-bound. While Luke Fickell is an outstanding coach, the depletion in Cincinnati’s talent makes an undefeated season unlikely. The Bearcats will still be the AAC champs, but the playoff appearance was a one-year moment.
21. Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky is no longer just a basketball school. Coming off a 10-win season, head coach Mark Stoops should be excited for potential growth from quarterback Will Levis. If he elevates his game and Chris Rodriguez Jr. delivers another 1,000-yard season, Stoops’ team can finish with nine wins in 2022.
20. NC State Wolfpack
Led by quarterback Devin Leary (3,433 yards, 35 touchdowns), the NC State Wolfpack delivered a nine-win season with a 6-2 conference record. There will be a hole on the offensive line in 2022 with Ikem Ekwonu off to the NFL and several other contributors on offense are departing. But the Wolfpack’s quarterback play, coaching and returning defensive starters certainly make them a top-25 team.
19. Ole Miss Rebels
There’s certainly a challenge ahead for Lane Kiffin with Matt Corral headed to the NFL and Jeff Lebby joining the Oklahoma Sooners. But he already pulled in running back Zach Evans from the transfer portal. With a void at quarterback, Kiffin reeled in former USC starter and four-star recruit Jaxson Dart. Losing both the offensive and defensive coordinator is a blow, but the incoming talent keeps Ole Miss in the top-20 of our college football rankings.
18. Houston Cougars
The Houston Cougars get to tear through the AAC one last time before likely departing for the Big 12. It’s going to be a fantastic year for coach Dana Holgorsen. He fortified the offensive line to better protect quarterback Clayton Tune. Unfortunately, the Alton top-25 football rankings.
17. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Many are optimistic about Oklahoma State in 2022 and for good reason. Spencer Sanders is returning along with a majority of the starts on offense. It’s great news for Mike Gundy, who continues to prove he can win even without pulling in top recruits. But losing Jim Knowles, responsible for overhauling the Cowboys’ defense, gives us enough doubt to push Oklahoma State down our top-25 college football rankings entering the summer.
16. Tennessee Volunteers
Expectations for the Tennessee Volunteers were on the floor entering the 2021 season. But Josh Heupel’s offense became a bright spot and quarterback Hendon Hooker (36 total touchdowns) emerged as one of the SEC”s best quarterbacks. If Tennessee’s defense improves, the Vols could finish the season in the top-15 of college football rankings. The future is even brighter in Knoxville thanks to five-star quarterback Kicholaus Iamaleava committed to the team.
15. Arkansas Razorbacks
Buy stock in the Arkansas Razorbacks. Sam Pittman took over a program that won four total games in two seasons under Chad Morris. In 2021, the Razorbacks went 9-4 with Pittman at the helm. Losses in the front seven are concerning, but the arrival of receiver Jadon Haselwood from the portal shows top talent wants to play for Pittman. The Arkansas schedule will be tougher in 2022 (Cincinnati, BYU), but this is a team on the rise and the Razorbacks can take down the Bearcats.
14. Oregon Ducks
Most first-year head coaches walk into a program that needs work, that won’t be the case for Dan Lanning. The architect of Georgia’s defense heads to Eugene, taking over a talented Oregon Ducks roster with a majority of the starters returning. We’re expecting this to be one of the best defenses in the nation next season, with Oregon’s Pac 12 title hopes dependent on how well Bo Nix plays.
13. Michigan State Spartans
There will be plenty of pressure on Mel Tucker in 2022, especially after he signed a massive contract extension. The departure of running back Kenneth Walker III is massive, but we’ve learned that Tucker is better than almost anyone at pulling in talent from the transfer portal. The real question will be how Michigan State’s defense looks in 2022. It will determine whether this is a future top-10 team or a 20-25 team in college football.
12. Baylor Bears
Dave Aranda is building one of our favorite college football programs. Unfortunately, the Bears had to slide from No. 7 in our April college football rankings due to the departure of RJ Sneed and a few more questions about the lost skill talent. With that said, Aranda’s coaching provides enough reason to think Baylor will overcome it.
11. Clemson Tigers
The Clemson Tigers desperately need quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei to live up to his reputation when he arrived at the program. Dabo Swinney lost both of his top coordinators this offseason, thrusting the jobs onto young coaches. While the new hires add a layer of uncertainty, the biggest reason we have Clemson lower in our top-25 college football rankings is that we haven’t seen any reason to trust Uiagalelei thus far. The Tigers can move up if that changes.
10. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma should be elated about its college football program in 2022. Brent Venables is one of the smartest defensive minds in college football and he will have this unit looking drastically better this season. While the departures of Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley hurt, quarterback Dillon Gabriel is a proven starter and Jeff Lebby is one of the best offensive coordinators in the sport. With eye-popping talent at running back and receiver, we’re confident about the Sooners being worth the No. 10 spot in our college football rankings.
9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Marcus Freeman era got off to a rocky start, but there’s plenty of reasons to believe in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish next season. With more experienced starters the offensive line projects tof are even better this fall, opening things up for the new rushing attack and either quarterback Drew Pyne or Tyler Buchner. Whichever passer starts, they’ll have a great offensive line and tight end Michael Mayer, a future first-round pick.
Related: Notre Dame football schedule
8. Michigan Wolverines
Jim Harbaugh is sticking it out with the Michigan Wolverines, a smart decision. After riding his defense to the College Football Playoff Semifinal a season ago, the offense will pave the road to success this fall. Blake Corum is one of the best running backs in college football and this unit should be more well-rounded in 2022 thanks to a deep receiving corps. The Wolverines could become a top-five team, but that requires quarterback J.J. McCarthy being ready to start.
7. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
While Clemson might be the favorite to win the ACC in 2022, Wake Forest is our early pick. Dave Clawson’s program rebounded from a four-win season in 2020, delivering a Gator Bowl victory and a 11-3 record in 2021. With quarterback Sam Hartman returning this fall and the Deacons hosting Clemson at home, don’t be surprised if this program is the king of the conference.
6. USC Trojans
Right now, we’re willing to buy stock in the USC Trojans hype. Caleb Williams is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country. He’ll also be surrounded by some great weapons, making life even easier in the Lincoln Riley offense. The ceiling for USC is extremely high, but this is also a program that could plummet outside the top-20 college football rankings by November.
5. Utah Utes
Credit to Kyle Whittingham and the entire Utah Utes football program for playing so well after losing two teammates within a year. Following a 1-2 start, the Utes finished the season with a 10-4 record and took Ohio State to the wire in the Rose Bowl. Heading into the 2022 college football season, Utah is the best team in the Pac 12 and expectations should be high for quarterback Cameron Rising after an outstanding stretch to end his sophomore season. If a new-look defense plays up to expectations for this program, Utah can compete for the College Football Playoff.
4. Texas A&M Aggies
It all comes down to the quarterback battle between Haynes King and transfer Max Johnson. The Texas A&M Aggies brought in the 247 Sports’ top recruiting class in 2022 and there is explosive talent on both sides of the ball, including running back Devon Achane. Ultimately, this comes down to who is QB1 and whether or not they can take advantage of this golden opportunity.
3. Georgia Bulldogs
The Georgia Builldogs lost a historic level of talent on the defensive side to the NFL. But even after those departures, defensive lineman Jalen Carter might be the best player in the program and his life is made easier with a phenomenal secondary behind him. What Georgia lacks at receiver it makes up for with the three-headed monster at tight end of Arik Gilbert, Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington. We might not view the Bulldogs as the best team in college football right now, but that can change quickly this fall.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
Even with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson off to the NFL, the Ohio State Buckeyes will have one of the best offenses in college football. C.J. Stroud should take another step forward in 2022, a top candidate in the 2022 Heisman Watch and Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the best receiver in college football. Throw in Marvin Harrison Jr., All-American running back TreVeyon Henderson and a reshaped defense under coordinator Jim Knowles, the Buckeyes can win a college football title this season.
1. Alabam Crimson Tide
Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide will use the CFP National Championship Game loss as fuel. For Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, there will be even more put on his shoulders this year following the departures of Jameson Williams and John Metchie. We’re excited about running back Jahmyr Gibbs and cornerback Eli Ricks, great talents added via the transfer portal. With Young and Will Anderson Jr, the Crimson Tide deserves to open season No. 1 in the 2022 college football rankings.
Related: Alabama football schedule 2022