11 of our finest Stadium Rant writers have worked together to create the official Stadium Rant College Football Preseason Top 25. This poll will be released every Monday morning with the hopes of sparking conversation and debate about our differing opinions from other college football rankings.
Let’s get into the preseason rankings! The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of first-place votes received by each team.
Here are the counts by conference: SEC (7), ACC (4), Big 12 (4), Big Ten (4), Pac-12 (3), AAC (2), and Independent (1).
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (9)
Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide will be on a revenge tour this season after falling two-quarters short of their second National Championship in as many seasons. They return arguably the two best players in college football in quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson. Saban calling this team “a fun group to coach” is not a great sign for the rest of college football.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes (1)
The Ohio State Buckeyes will be on a revenge tour themselves after falling to their arch-rivals from Ann Arbor for the first time since 2011. The Buckeyes sport the 2022 Heisman favorite in quarterback CJ Stroud as well as unarguably the best receiving corps in the country. They are loaded with a three-deep of blue-chip recruits in Columbus and are poised for a dominant 2022 season.
3. Georgia Bulldogs (1)
Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs lost 14 of the 22 starters that helped lead them over the hump for their first National Title since 1980. However, the term to use in Athens is ‘reload’ not ‘rebuild’. Defensive lineman Jalen Carter might be the best lineman the Bulldogs have produced in the Smart era which speaks volumes. The offense will once again have a capped ceiling with Stetson Bennett at the helm, but hey, he was good enough to win it all last year, why can’t he do it again?
4. Clemson Tigers
Last season Clemson ended an incredibly impressive streak of six consecutive ACC titles and six consecutive College Football Playoff berths. Dabo Swinney’s squad is looking to bounce back in a big way in 2022. Whether the starting quarterback is incumbent DJ Uiagalelei or true freshman Cade Klubnik will not change the fact that the Tigers have the best defensive line in the country. Look for sophomore running back Will Shipley to emerge as one of the best in the country at his position as the Tigers retake their rightful position atop the ACC.
T-5. Baylor Bears
Coming off of a 12-2 Big 12 Championship season, pundits are very high on Dave Aranda’s Baylor Bears. After winning the Big 12 Championship game MVP, quarterback Blake Shapen will have the keys to this offense for all of 2022. With that said, the Bears’ defense, led by their front four, should push them into College Football Playoff contention. If they can find enough offensive playmakers, Baylor is a real threat to push their way into the CFP.
T-5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Expectations are high in South Bend in the first year of the Marcus Freeman era. The energetic 36-year-old has provided a spark on the recruiting trail, but it is now time to see how his Irish will perform on the field. Whether it’s Tyler Buchner or Drew Pyne at quarterback, the Irish will be led by their offensive and defensive line. Notre Dame has the hardest schedule in the country which may ultimately cost them a chance at a CFP berth.
7. Texas A&M Aggies
The pressure is on Jimbo Fisher to find the right quarterback to lead one of the best rosters in all of college football. The Aggies are loaded on the offensive and defensive lines, have an elite running back in Devon Achane, and experience in the secondary. The Aggies are above-average quarterback play away from making a real run at the College Football Playoff.
8. Michigan Wolverines
Coming off of their best season under Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines are looking to parlay their 2021 success to this coming fall. Whether Cade McNamara or JJ McCarthy wins the starting quarterback job, Michigan will be in good hands.
Elite wideout Ronnie Bell is back after missing all of 2021 with an ACL injury and running back Blake Corum will be the lead back behind one of the best offensive lines in college football. Replacing Aidan Hutchinson David Ojabo, and Dax Hill on the defensive side of the ball will be a very tall task. I think this offense will be explosive, but the Wolverine defense will ultimately control the ceiling in Ann Arbor.
9. Utah Utes
The Utah Utes had one of the most memorable bowl losses in recent memory when they took Ohio State to the wire in the 2021 Rose Bowl. Quarterback Cameron Rising proved himself to the country with the best performance of his first starting season. The Utes return most of their offensive weapons as well as three starting offensive linemen. The defense under Kyle Whittingham will be stout, but there are major questions in the linebacker room. The Pac-12 this season runs through Salt Lake City.
10. Oregon Ducks
After leading a National Championship-level defense at Georgia, Dan Lanning received his first collegiate head coaching gig. Coach Lanning is an incredible defensive mind and has a tremendous amount of talent in his front seven. The linebacking duo of Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell is not being talked about enough. These two are aggressive, mean, and talented linebackers who will meet anyone in the hole.
The quarterback competition between Bo Nix and Ty Thompson is still ongoing, though I do not believe either guy drastically raises the ceiling or lowers the floor for this Ducks team.
11. Oklahoma Sooners
A new coaching regime is leading the Oklahoma Sooners after Lincoln Riley bolted for Southern California back in January. New Sooners head coach Brent Venables has seemed to galvanize his locker room and fanbase and is looking to continue Oklahoma’s dominant run in the Big 12. UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel will put up gaudy numbers at the quarterback position, but will that lead to wins? To truly get his system in place, Venables will need a few seasons to get his recruits in. In the meantime, however, the Sooners still have a great chance to win the conference they have dominated for two decades.
12. USC Trojans
The aforementioned Lincoln Riley is now the leader of the USC Trojans, having brought along star quarterback Caleb Williams to Los Angeles. This team is littered with talented transfers, but it is yet to be seen how these players will gel together. Riley will have his offense terrorizing Pac-12 defenses, but will his own defense be able to keep up? That will be the difference between USC being a top-15 team or a CFP contender in 2022.
13. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Spencer Sanders is back at quarterback for his final season in Stillwater as he finally looks to put it all together and get his Cowboys over the hump. Mike Gundy’s squad was led by their stout defense last season, but unfortunately for them, they only bring back two of their top eight tacklers. The offense should be just fine, if not better than a year ago. The question is on defense where the Cowboys have lost a ton of talent as well as defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
14. North Carolina State Wolfpack
The Wolfpack are one of the most under-appreciated teams heading into the 2022 college football season. Dave Doeren returns a ton of upperclassmen who are taking advantage of their extra year of eligibility due to COVID. Strength in numbers is key, but having an elite quarterback is even more important. NC State certainly has that in junior Devin Leary. Leary, who threw for 35 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions last season, could easily play his way into the Heisman conversation in 2022. I expect the Wolfpack to be one of the few teams to challenge Clemson in the ACC this season.
15. Michigan State Spartans
What a turnaround it was in Mel Tucker’s second season as the Spartans posted a 2021 record of 11-2. Peyton Thorne is a legit top-ten quarterback in college football and the defense has to improve after giving up the most passing yards in the nation a season ago. With that said, the departure of Doak Walker winner Kenneth Walker III will be a major loss, and a major factor in why the Spartans’ win total will likely decrease from a season ago.
16. Miami Hurricanes
There are high expectations in Coral Gables in year one under Mario Cristobal. Although Cristobal does not have his crop of recruits just yet, this Miami team is very talented. Junior quarterback Tyler Van Dyke is one of my favorites at the position in the country. The inexperience of the Hurricanes’ defense in 2021 may turn into a strength in 2022. Cristobal seems like the perfect fit to bring ‘The U’ back to glory, but will it happen in year one?
17. Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas is amidst a resurgence under head coach Sam Pittman. After winning nine games a season ago, the Razorbacks are confident they can be even better in 2022. KJ Jefferson is back for his second season leading this offense. His willingness to take on contact as a quarterback is the epitome of Arkansas football under Pittman. The defense must retool at all three levels, but this team is one that I expect to be in a rock fight in every game they play.
18. Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin is looking to get back to its rightful position atop the Big Ten West as turnovers plagued them in big moments in 2021. Sophomore running back Braelon Allen is the next great Badger ball carrier. He should have 250+ touches in 2022 and will help stabilize quarterback Graham Mertz. The defensive side of the ball will always be a strength for the Badgers, but they must replace virtually the entire secondary.
19. Pittsburgh Panthers
Even after losing quarterback Kenny Pickett and star wide receiver Jordan Addison, the expectations for Pat Narduzzi’s Pitt Panthers is still high in 2022. I believe USC transfer Kedon Slovis will steady this Pitt offense and be a top-half quarterback in the conference. With that said, this defense is what makes the Panthers a preseason top-25 team. Narduzzi returns six All-ACC selections from a season ago. The defensive line, led by Calijah Kancey, was second in the nation in sacks in 2022.
20. Kentucky Wildcats
Mark Stoops has done an incredible job turning around this Kentucky football program. He has led them to two ten-win seasons over the past four years, something the Wildcats accomplished just twice in their 98-year history before Stoops. Quarterback Will Levis is where most of the hope for the 2022 season lies. Levis has a great chance to be a top-ten pick in the 2023 NFL Draft should he have a solid season in Lexington.
21. Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss must replace the heartbeat of its team in quarterback Matt Corral, but Lane Kiffin is in a great spot to do so. Whether Luke Altmyer or Jaxson Dart gets the nod at QB, I expect this Rebel offense to once again be a thorn in the side of SEC defenses. Kiffin is using a top-ranked transfer class to replace his team’s 11 lost starters, but how will they all mesh together?
22. Cincinnati Bearcats
Cincinnati truly had a once-in-a-century season in 2021 as they ran the table and reached the College Football Playoff as a Group of Five team. Luke Fickell must replace a ton of talent, including quarterback Desmond Ridder and 2022 fourth overall draft pick Sauce Gardner.
With that said, Fickell has turned his program into a factory of talent with holes ready to be plugged by upperclassmen who have been waiting in the wings. Returning all five starting offensive linemen, including three All-AAC Selections, will help steady this offense who turns to a new starting quarterback and running back.
23. Tennessee Volunteers
I am very high on the Tennessee Volunteers; much higher than the #23 spot they averaged out to in our Stadium Rant preseason poll. Josh Heupel is an offensive mastermind and quarterback Hendon Hooker is the exact guy he wants running his system. I see Hooker as a dark-horse Heisman contender in 2022. The Vols will score a ton of points this season, but it will be up to their defensive line and secondary to hold their own against the SEC’s best.
24. Texas Longhorns
The first year under Steve Sarkisian certainly did not go to plan as the Longhorns missed out on a bowl game for the third time in seven seasons. With that said, the Horns are a lot closer to contention than their 5-7 record in 2021 showed.
Former 1.0000 rated quarterback recruit Quinn Ewers was just named the starter and raises this offense’s ceiling to one of extreme heights. Bijan Robinson is the best running back in the country, and Xavier Worthy very well may be an All-American at the receiver position. The ball security of Ewers and the inconsistency of the defense will decide the Longhorns’ fate in 2022.
25. Houston Cougars
After winning 12 games a season ago, Dana Holgorsen seems to have the Houston Cougars rolling as one of the top Group of Five programs in the country. Senior quarterback Clayton Tune is the best at his position in the conference and has a bevy of talented receivers to throw the ball to. The Cougars’ defensive line has a ton of talent and will wreak havoc on AAC offensive lines all season long.
Others receiving votes: Wake Forest, Penn State, BYU, Kansas State, UCLA, Iowa, Florida, LSU, and Purdue.