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Top 25 college football rankings 2022: Best teams in college football before Week 1

Matt Johnson
College Football rankings
Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

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.

Also Read: NFL Sunday Ticket – Pricing, How to Buy, and it’s Future

Removed from top 25 college football rankings: Iowa Hawkeyes

25. South Carolina Gamecocks

Syndication: The Oklahoman
Spencer Rattler (7) and Austin Stogner (18) are transferring from Oklahoma to South Carolina, reuniting with former Sooner assistant Shane Beamer.Lx11126

There should be excitement in South Carolina. The arrival of quarterback Spencer Rattler and tight end Austin Stogner is a huge lift for this offense. There’s also a lot of buzz surrounding RS sophomore tight end Jaheim Bell (497 receiving yards, five touchdowns in 2021), all for an offense already armed with receivers Josh Vann Xavier Legette, Corey Rucker and Dakereon Joyner. We’re betting on Shane Beamer proving us right for putting South Carolina in our top-25 college football rankings.

24. Pittsburgh Panthers

NCAA Football: Arizona at Southern California
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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 lost No. 1 receiver Jordan Addison and several Pitt coaches left the program. We’ll need to see something against West Virginia and Tennessee earlier in the year to keep Pitt in the top-25 college football rankings.

23. Cincinnati Bearcats

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl Classic-Cincinnati at Alabama
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a steep drop in the 2022 college football rankings for the Cincinnati Bearcats heading into the season. A top-five team in January, quarterback Desmond Ridder is in the NFL and so many of the great players who made this one of the best college football teams also departed. As of now, per Justin Williams of The Athletic, the quarterback battle between Evan prater and Ben Bryant is still ongoing. No matter who starts, the lost talent on both sides of the ball are a devastating blow.

22. Ole Miss Rebels

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Mississippi at Baylor
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

There are intriguing elements with the Mississippi Rebels heading into the 2022 season. A running tandem of Zach Evans and Ulysses Bentley IV could be one of the most explosive in the country, with coach Lane Kiffin building the offense around them. This doesn’t even account for the upside the passing game might have if Jaxson Dart achieves his potential. We are concerned about Dart’s consistency and the Ole Miss defense, enough so that the Rebels come in quite low in our top 25 college football rankings.

21. Kentucky Wildcats

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky at Iowa
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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. Realistically, this team should have a great shot to take down the Florida Gators at The Swamp in Week 2.

20. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Previously: 7)

NCAA Football: ACC Media Days
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Sam Hartman injury is devastating for Wake Forest, forcing a catastrophic plummet in the college football rankings. Without a timetable for his return from this medical condition, it’s difficult to know if we’ll even see the standout quarterback on the field this year. Considering the backups behind him are Michael Kern and Mitch Griffis, the Demon Deacons could drop from the top-25 college football rankings early in September.

19. Houston Cougars

NCAA Football: Birmingham Bowl-Houston at Auburn
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

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. Even if there are issues defensively, an offense with Thune and wideout Nathaniel Dell will deliver a few wins. It’s just a shame that star running back Alton McCaskill (torn ACL) will now miss the 2022 season, delivering a blow to Houston in the rankings.

18. Oklahoma State Cowboys

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Oklahoma State at Notre Dame
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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. You’ll find the Cowboys higher in other college football rankings, we’ll wait until they prove themselves against Baylor on Oct. 1.

17. Arkansas Razorbacks

NCAA Football: Missouri at Arkansas
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

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.

16. NC State Wolfpack (Previously: 20)

NCAA Football: North Carolina at North Carolina State
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

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 is a hole on the offensive line in with Ikem Ekwonu off to the NFL and several other contributors on offense gone. But the Wolfpack’s quarterback play inspires a lot of confidence in this program. It should be an early riser in the 2022 college football rankings thanks to a September schedule against East Carolina, Charleston Southern, Texas Tech and UConn.

15. Michigan State Spartans

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Michigan State at Pittsburgh
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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.

14. Tennessee Volunteers

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Purdue at Tennessee
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

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.

13. Miami Hurricanes (Previously: Unranked)

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Miami
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

“The U” is back in the top 25 college football rankings, just maybe not quite as high as some want to see. There’s no denying quarterback Tyler Van Dyke is a top 2022 Heisman candidate and head coach Mario Cristobal is assembling some nice talent to strengthen the program. We just need to see the Hurricanes prove it. The test arrives on Sept. 17 against Texas A&M, with the outcome having a massive influence on our Week 3 college football rankings.

12. Oregon Ducks

Syndication: The Register Guard
New Oregon football coach Dan Lanning takes questions from media after being formally introduced as the head coach for the Ducks Monday Dec. 13, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon.Eug 121321 Lanning 05

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.

Expectations for the Georgia game shouldn’t be especially high. While Lanning will have some great things schemed up to stop the Bulldogs’ offense, there is better talent in Georgia. While we do anticipate Oregon losing in Week 1, it also means there wouldn’t be a huge drop in the college football rankings.

11. Baylor Bears

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Mississippi at Baylor
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

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.

10. Clemson Tigers

NCAA Football: Clemson Spring Game
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

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.

9. Oklahoma Sooners

Syndication: The Oklahoman
BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

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.

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

NCAA Football: Notre Dame-Spring Practice
South Bend Tribune-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Marcus Freeman era got off to a rocky start, but there are plenty of reasons to believe in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish next season. With more experienced starters the offensive line projects to be even better this fall, opening things up for the new rushing attack. With quarterback Tyler Buchner officially named the Notre Dame starting quarterback, there is added excitement surrounding the Fighting Irish heading into the season. Best of all, a matchup of top 10 teams in the college football rankings is the perfect start to Week 1.

Related: Notre Dame football schedule

7. Michigan Wolverines

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

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.

6. USC Trojans

NCAA Football: Southern California Spring Game
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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, especially after it added Jordan Addison to the offense.

Maybe buying the hype backfires, everyone has been disappointed before after putting the Trojans too high in the preseason college football rankings. With that said, things feel different this year with the talent on offense and the new coaching regime. We still put USC behind Utah and Oregon’s defense could push it ahead, but there is confidence riding with the Trojans this summer.

5. Utah Utes

NCAA Football: Utah Spring Game
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

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

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Louisiana State
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

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

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Georgia at Michigan
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Related: College football games today – 2022 college football schedule

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

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.

There was serious consideration to putting Ohio State atop the college football rankings before Week 1. However, we need to see Stroud thrive against the Fighting Irish. If the Buckeyes can open their schedule with a statement victory, that will push them ahead of Alabama.

1. Alabam Crimson Tide

NCAA Football: Alabama Spring Game
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

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

As for the early portion of the 2022 schedule, there isn’t a ton that stands out. While the Texas Longhorns are rising, the Crimson Tide shouldn’t have much trouble rolling through Austin. Holding the stop spot in the top 25 college football rankings for now, Alabama’s floor in September is No. 2.