College football is back. After Week 0 gave us a brief look, the action really picks up starting tonight, with West Virginia vs. No. 17 Pitt and Penn State vs. Purdue as the headliners. Future power rankings will be on Tuesdays, and the season, as usual, should deliver plenty of twists and shuffling in the rankings throughout the year.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
In Nick Saban’s 15th year at Alabama, the Crimson Tide is clearly atop the polls, and rightfully so. Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young is back after a year of experience during which he helped his team get to the national title game. Young is surrounded by a plethora of transfers including former Georgia Tech running back Jahmyr Gibbs, and the Crimson Tide defense is headlined by star pass rusher Will Anderson.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State also brings back a star quarterback entering his second year as the starter, with C.J. Stroud leading an offense that is stacked, with Rose Bowl star Jaxon Smith-Njigba and super talent Marvin Harrison Jr. (son of the Hall of Famer) at receiver. After losing to Michigan last season and missing out on the CFP—as if winning the Rose Bowl is somehow a disappointing season—the expectations are sky high in Columbus.
3. Georgia Bulldogs
You could argue the defending champions should or could be in the top two, but they lost an awful lot of talent from last year’s special team—particularly on the memorable defense with a bunch of players that went to the NFL. But expect Kirby Smart to be able to reload and push for a repeat in 2022-2023. The offense has championship quarterback Stetson Bennett back, along with star tight end Brock Bowers.
4. Clemson Tigers
A “bad” year for Clemson included getting to double-digit wins and winning their bowl game, but they have probably heard the noise and are looking to get back into the College Football Playoff mix this season. Despite the haters, Dabo Swinney remains one of the best coaches in the nation. We’ll see how the Tigers deal with the loss of great defensive coordinator Brett Venables.
5. Texas A&M Aggies
The headlines for Texas A&M this offseason came from head coach Jimbo Fisher’s angry response to comments made by Nick Saban, but the Aggies are a very talented squad looking to take the next step to compete for a conference title this year. A&M opens with Sam Houston State and Appalachian State before facing Miami and then dealing with the SEC. The most anticipated matchup of the season is October 8 when the Aggies face the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
6. Michigan Wolverines
Michigan is another team that lost a lot—most notably, Heisman runner-up Aidan Hutchinson at defensive end—after making the CFP last season. There seems to be some sentiment that last year was somewhat fluky, but Jim Harbaugh has done an excellent job of bringing his alma mater “back”. You know what you’re going to get from a tough Michigan team—except maybe for playing time at quarterback, where time will be split between Cade McNamara and J.J McCarthy, each set to get a start in the first two games.
7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Brian Kelly abruptly left for LSU, so the highly regarded Marcus Freeman is now leading the program—and he’ll be thrown right into the fire when the Notre Dame faces Ohio State. Fortunately, the Fighting Irish are loaded with seniors on defense, and the unit can help them get back into the CFP.
8. Utah Utes
Coming off the epic Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, the experienced Utah offense led by Cameron Rising at quarterback should be extremely confident entering this season. The defense also boasts veteran players, and the entire team will be tested immediately in a matchup at the Swamp.
9. North Carolina State Wolfpack
This is higher than consensus and the polls, but NC State could be a team ready to make a leap in 2022. Third-year starting quarterback Devin Leary is one of the best players in the country playing behind a strong offensive line, and they’ll work with an exciting defense led by one of the best linebacker groups in the nation.
10. Oklahoma Sooners
Brett Venables might be the guy to get Oklahoma to consistently play strong defense, and his Sooners should immediately compete for a conference title in an intriguing Big 12. The competition for roles under Venables will hopefully lead to results on Saturdays—but UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel has been locked in as the starting quarterback and will look to have a big campaign on that side of the ball.