Each new college football season gives teams a chance to improve on the previous year’s results. In some cases, teams have something to prove when they take the field in the first week.
There have been a few programs in 2021 that didn’t quite live up to expectations, whether it was taking part in the national championship or just playing the bowl. However, these disappointments remain in the rearview mirror, and time heals all wounds.
Now, there are only a couple of months left before these units get a chance to redeem themselves with great campaigns in 2022. All of the teams we’re reviewing today should be on a mission as soon as things start later this year.
Here are eight teams that have a lot to prove in the 2022 college football season.
Clemson managed to win 10 games last year, and the fact that it’s been a somewhat disappointing season for the program shows just how far they’ve come under Dabo Sweeney. With an unprecedented off-season change in coaching staff, Sweeney must return the Tigers to championship contender status with a new coordinator on each side of the ball. In addition, quarterback DJ Uigalaelei will be trying to bounce back after struggling through much of the 2021 campaign, and he should do so alongside five-star freshman Cade Strawberry trying to win the starting role.
When Nebraska hired Scott Frost as its head coach, the excitement around the program was palpable. However, the Cornhuskers have yet to record a winning season with Frost at the helm, and in that time they are 15-29. Last season, Nebraska was 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in conference play. However, eight of those losses came to just one account. The Huskers were way better than their track record indicated, but that’s very little consolation for the fans in Lincoln. As Frost enters her fifth season as the team’s head coach, Nebraska needs to show she’s made some progress on the grid.
Resin North Carolina Heels
The 2021 season seemed to be preparing North Carolina for the run. Sam Howell became quarterback again and the team had several talented players such as running back Ty Chandler and Josh Downes. However, the Tar Heels struggled defensively and finished 6–7 overall with a 3–5 record in ACC play. With the Coastal Division potentially up for grabs in 2022, North Carolina has an opportunity to redeem itself and compete for a place in the conference title game even if Howell doesn’t lead the offensive.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Over the past two seasons, the Nittany Lions have led 8-10 conference games. They finished fourth in the Big Ten East last year behind Michigan, Ohio and Michigan. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, but Penn State also wants to compete for the championship. With more experience as a quarterback in the form of Sean Clifford, the offense, which finished 90th in points per game last season, should improve. With road games against Auburn and Michigan in the first six games, Pennsylvania could make a big announcement ahead of Halloween.
After just one season as head coach at the Auburn, Brian Harsin may have found himself in the spotlight. In Harsin’s first year with the Tigers, the Tigers went 6-7, but how they achieved that record was worrying. Auburn was 6-2 in eight games and then the program lost five games in a row, ending the year. This ending left a sour taste in the mouths of everyone in the Plains, so Harsin and the rest of the team must find a way to recover this fall. It would have muted some questions about Harsin’s long-term future in the Tigers.
Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma, a perennial college football playoff contender, for an opportunity to rebuild USC. This alone makes him and the Trojans act right at the gate. That doesn’t necessarily mean USC has to win the national championship in 2022, but it does mean the team needs to improve on the poor 4-8 record it ended last fall. Riley has been one of the most aggressive managers on the transfer portal and this has allowed him to upgrade his squad quickly. This means he will be under the microscope when the Trojans take to the battlefield.
Texas A&M Eggies
Jimbo Fischer and Aggie are at the center of some drama this offseason. Fischer and his former boss, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, had a war of words after Saban essentially accused Fischer of buying his historic 2022 autograph class. That alone is drawing attention to Fischer and his team this fall, but that’s not the only reason Texas A&M will have something to prove. Under Fischer, Aggie didn’t compete in the SEC championship, and he’s paid for conference titles. Texas A&M beat Alabama last fall, but the team went 4-4 in the conference and finished fifth in the division. This year, with a talented line-up on the field, Aggie will try to climb to the top of the standings.
No one thought it would take Steve Sarkisian just one year to turn things around in Austin, but a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season resulted in a disappointing 5-7 record. Having skipped the bowl game in 1st grade, Sarkeesian appears determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The Longhorns hit the transfer portal hard, adding Ohio State quarterback Quinn Evers, Alabama tight end Jalil Billingsley, Wyoming wide receiver Isaiah Neyor and four others. These new faces should make an immediate impact, and Texas wants to show that last year was just a blip on the radar.