College football is back again! Just eight months removed from a huge shakeup of the college football world, with Georgia capturing the National Championship, Group of Five Cincinnati & Michigan making the playoffs, and the last year of expected normalcy in the sport, we return with shaky grounds and a very uncertain (but hopeful) future. With conference realignment starting next season, the 2022 College Football Season is the last chance at a season of what we know… but also brings in perhaps the most intriguing season in recent history. With the final year of many “extra year of eligibility” coming up this year, and young players finally getting a full year under their belt, the fusion of talent and age comes together in what will present itself as a great year for both up and coming programs and perennial champions. The SEC looks to be one of the closest years in a long time while the ACC looks to rebound with a very strong QB class. Meanwhile, the Big Ten tries to shake up the table again with more improving programs while the Big 12 and Pac-12 look to get back to the big boy table with squads that are ready for a playoff run. And will the Group of Five be able to build off last season’s success with Cincinnati and find themselves back in the hunt once again? The 2022 College Football Season presents itself with many questions and few answers this preseason. Tagline Sports takes you on a season preview – ranking the prospective best teams in the nation, taking a look at potential conference winners and previews, and a look at the most anticipated games of the upcoming season.
Alabama, Ohio State, and Utah return a lot of talent and will be three of the most dominant schools to deal with throughout the year. Georgia looks to follow up its Championship season with another successful year with depth at all positions. Big 12 darlings Baylor and Oklahoma State aim to continue their upward trend, while ACC hopefuly NC State and perennial contender Clemson try to put the conference back on the map. And the two up and coming SEC programs round out the Top 10 as Kentucky and Texas A&M look to find their way into the playoff hunt.
PRESEASON TOP 25
|1||Alabama Crimson Tide|
|2||Ohio State Buckeyes|
|6||NC State Wolfpack|
|7||Oklahoma State Cowboys|
|10||Texas A&M Aggies|
|13||Wake Forest Demon Deacons|
|14||Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|18||Ole Miss Rebels|
|21||Coastal Carolina Chanticleers|
SCHOOLS ON THE RISE
Maybe calling this program on the rise is an insult, but the Utes have finally found themselves in the right spot coming off their first Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl appearance. Now, they get a highly awaited matchup with Florida to open the season in the Swamp, national attention, and perhaps a smooth path to the Pac-12 title game again with the chaning format. A dangerous defense led by CB Clark Phillips and an offnese that won’t let up led by QB Cam Rising will be a one-two punch that no one will want to go against.
NC State Wolfpack
Dave Doeren has spent years building up this Wolfpack squad and with QB Devin Leary this looks to be the year. Hopes are high after a win last year over Clemson as well as a combination of many dominant wins… but also close losses. The schedule isn’t easy, especially with a trip into Death Valley, but get around that, and the sky is the limit for this team that keeps a ton of talent. This is a group that is built to sustain, with a strong offense and a veteran defense – year’s of taking little steps forward will finally provide the success they’ve been looking for.
Keeping things in the ACC – Pitt may have to find a way to keep up the momentum without Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison, but they return pretty much everyone else and get Kedon Slovis in to start. With the expectation of a more balance offense and a schedule that leans to be easy (but with revenge games on the slate at Western Michigan and at Miami), this can be a continued move forward for a Pitt team that is trying to take over a constantly shifting ACC.
If any school is to shake things up this season, it’s the boys from West Lafayette. Aidan O’Connell may very well be the third best quarterback in the country and leads a veteran offense through a schedule that will allow them to make noise. Opening on a Thursday night against Penn State is the perfect showcase of their talents. The Purdue defense will be their kryptonite, but you only need so much when you have a high powered offense.
SCHOOLS ON THE DECLINE
Losing pretty much all of the stars of this Wolverines defense will provide a huge hit to a team that was built on defense. The offense led by Cade McNamara and Ronnie Bell will need to find the late season magic they found last year to overcome the numerous defensive holes they have. Luckily, the schedule leaves a lot of wiggle room – one of the easiest in the country – which is likely to only feature matchups against 2 or 3 ranked teams at most.
This will be Luke Fickell’s toughest test as a Cincinnati’s head coach – finding a way to not let the momentum stop. Losing nine of their top players, including Sauce Gardner and Desmond Ridder, to the NFL Draft will take huge toll on their offensive and defensive strength, and they get no easy start to figure things out, with an opener against the Razorbacks. While success should be had this year, the Bearcats will be taking a huge step back and will need to retool ahead of their move to the Big 12.
Michigan State Spartans
Another group losing a ton, the Spartans were one of the nation’s slowest performing teams when the ball wasn’t in Kenneth Walker III’s hands. Payton Thorne was a mess when needing to lead the offense and will need to find ways to score against the continuing to strengthend defenses in the Big Ten. After overachieving last year, it looks for Mel Tucker to finally see his squad take a step back.
Iowa State Cyclones
Take away Hall, Purdy, and Kolar and this Cyclones squad just isn’t the same. Matt Campbell has done a great job building and keeping consistency with Iowa State over his last six seasons there, but this will be his ultimate test. Recruiting has been near the bottom of the Big 12 the last few seasons and transfers just aren’t brining in enough talent to match up with the loss. For a group with so much promise the last few years, this looks to be another underperforming year… and with trips to Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma State, and TCU this year, a bowl trip might be a stretch for this group that has made five straight.
CONFERENCE OUTLOOK PREDICTIONS
ACC: NC State Wolfpack over Pittsburgh Panthers
Big Ten: Purdue Boilermakers over Ohio State Buckeye
Big 12: Baylor Bears over Kansas State Wildcats
Pac-12: Utah Utes over UCLA Bruins
SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide over Kentucky Wildcats
American: Houston Cougars over SMU Mustangs
C-USA: UTSA Roadrunners over Charlotte 49ers
MAC: Central Michigan Chippewas over Miami (OH) Redhawks
Mountain West: Fresno State Bulldogs over Air Force Falcons
Sun Belt: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers over Texas State Bobcats
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PREVIEW
(1) Alabama Crimson Tide
(2) Utah Utes
(3) Baylor Bears
(4) NC State Wolfpack
The College Football Playoff will find itself in familiar territory yet foreign grounds this year. As we’ve see the College Football Landscape change shape the last few years, so has the quest for the top. With a nearly brand new CFP grouping last season, with two suprisers in Michigan and Cincinnati, another surprise could be in store this year.
The Crimson Tide, led by Bryce Young and Will Anderson, will be the most difficult team to play week in and week out (when are they not). This may be one of their toughest schedules in years, with road trips to Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU, and Ole Miss, and a mid-season tilt against Texas A&M, but the talent on this team just makes it a force to be reckoned with. Hard to see a home loss on the schedule and even an in-conference loss will be tough. Expect this Alabama group to roll into the playoffs unscathed.
Kyle Whittingham has been one of the top coaches and most underrated coaches in college football since he took over Utah 17 seasons ago. He has taken the Utes to great heights, including a Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl Game appearance last season. QB Cameron Rising leads an army of top caliber talent through a challenging but doable schedule that will put them near the top. A championship is in reach if they can run the table in the Pac-12.
Baylor looked very different with Blake Shapen under center last year, and led a strong offense to a win in the Big 12 Championship Game. This group had a strong kick on offense that should lead them to season success. The schedule on hand is managable with most of their tough tests at home. And their defense continues to get better, led by DT Siaki Ika.
NC State will be the shocker here, but will take a bit of luck and a nice ACC schedule to the plate and try to knock down the door to the playoffs. QB Devin Leary was able to build himself into a college QB last year in his first full season of starting, after a redshirt year and an injury lost year. This development was key in helping him evolve into the quarterback that he has been trying to become. NC State will be better with him this year, and Dave Doeren has built a talented and hungry team around him. Carter-Finley will be rocking in a way unlike any other, and if thye can find a way past Clemson in Death Valley on October 1st, this group will be punching their ticket ot the CFP.
(1) Alabama Crimson Tide vs Utah Utes (2)
It will be an East vs West test in SoFi Stadium come January, as the SEC and the Pac-12 face off. These teams have all the makings of champions and will continue to find success throughout the year. But unfortunately for the Utes, the size of Alabama will get to them and the Crimson Tide will take home another National Title.