Now that the 2022 college football season is over, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2023.
As always, this is just a first look. Everything will change. And that’s just for entertainment purposes.
We’ll have a better idea of what teams will look like over the next few weeks as players announce the NFL Draft before the January 16 early registration deadline and coaches continue to add transfers and complete their sets in February.
Even with that said, it’s time to make the first guesses on what the top 25 will look like ahead of the 2023 season.
Georgia will have a new starting quarterback in 2023. But if Kirby Smart can win two national championships with Stetson Bennett, you’d have to think the Bulldogs might be up for another one with one of the young and highly ranked QBs on the roster. Carson Beck was Bennett’s understudy this year, and Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton are also likely to be in the starting lineup. Brock Bowers has returned to the tight end and there have already been a few additions to the portal at the far end. On defense, there’s always another group of coveted prospects poised to take on more prominent roles, as high-profile players like Jalen Carter, Keli Ringo and Nolan Smith all seem to be connected to the NFL. The Bulldogs already had quite a few juniors starting defensively in 2022, and guys like Mykel Williams and Malachy Starks looked like future stars. Combine the overall talent in this roster with yet another easy schedule and it would be a shock if UGA didn’t make it back to the playoffs next season.
Alabama always reboots, but what will Crimson Tide be without Bryce Young and Will Anderson? Young could be number 1 in the NFL Draft. Jalen Milro and Ty Simpson look like prime candidates for the quarterback role. Milro showed flashes when filling in for an injured Young, but also struggled with losses. Simpson, meanwhile, was ranked among the top 40 recruits in the class of 2022. The skill positions look good on paper, and there are burgeoning stars all over the defense, including Dallas Turner, Malachi Moore and Kool-Aid McKinstry. After LSU visits Bryant-Denny Stadium, can Alabama return to the top of the SEC West?
Jim Harbaugh’s recent NFL romance continues to loom, but from a roster standpoint, Michigan should be back in contention for another Big Ten title next fall. The Wolverines have won the conference over the past two seasons and brought back JJ McCarthy, Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards on offense and Will Johnson, a new star at quarterback. Michigan has also added several quality players to the transfer portal, including former Nebraska linebacker Ernest Hausmann, former Coastal Carolina pass rusher Josiah Stewart and three potential starters in the offensive line.
4. Ohio State
How will Ryan Day and Ohio State react to a heartbreaking loss to Georgia in the CFP Semi-Finals? The Buckeyes are picking up at such a high level that it’s hard to imagine a decline, especially with the likes of Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, TreVion Henderson and Cade Stover coming back on the offensive. The big question will be the quarterback as CJ Stroud will almost certainly move to the NFL. Kyle McCord and Devin Brown seem to be the two candidates who will compete for the starting position. On defense, the Buckeyes move into Year 2 with coordinator Jim Knowles. This division has made strides, but there is still room for improvement if Ohio State wants to return to the top of the Big Ten and win a national title.
Brian Kelly won the SEC West in his first year at LSU and the Tigers should be better in their second season. Jayden Daniels is back at quarterback, linebacker Harold Perkins and defenseman Mason Smith will be on the defensive again, and there’s a large group of skill players ready to take another step forward in their development. Kelly also took a dip in the transfer portal to strengthen his team, especially in the defensive line. If the offensive line shows improvement, LSU could return to the conversation about the college football playoffs.
USC will have high targets in 2023 after losing the Pac-12 title game and simply missing out on the College Football playoffs. The USC offense should once again be one of the best in the country, with Heisman winner Caleb Williams back at quarterback. The Trojans also added several major portal elements, including former South Carolina runner MarShon Lloyd and former Arizona wide receiver Dorian Singer. But the main issue remains defense. The Trojans won 11 games despite having one of the worst defenses in the country. Even a small improvement can make a big difference in 2023.
7. Penn State
Is Penn State ready to take the leap to the top of the Big Ten? PSU hasn’t won a conference since 2016 and is ending the season 11-2, culminating in an impressive Rose Bowl win. The only two losses came at the hands of the states of Ohio and Michigan, but there is reason to be optimistic in Happy Valley with so much talent returning. Many of the team’s top players were juniors, including real-life freshman running back Nick Singleton and Kytron Allen, and linebacker Abdul Carter. If quarterback Drew Allar justifies his recruiting bill, PSU could become a truly dangerous team. The Nittany Lions could also use the help of the receptionist with the departures of Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley.
Oregon won 10 games in their first year under Dan Lanning thanks to an explosive offense under QB Bo Nix. The Knicks are set to return for their second season with the Ducks, but offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham is now Arizona State’s head coach. UTSA’s Will Stein will be playing next year and the Ducks will be working in many new faces ahead. The addition of Rhode Island transfer Ajani Cornelius – arguably Portal’s best offensive lineman – should help this cause. Lanning will continue to be in charge of defense, and in 2022 the unit has had its ups and downs. Given the level of quarterback play in the Pac-12, Lanning will need to work with new talent to challenge for the championship. Some of the stars in his top 10 recruiters may have entered the field earlier.
9. State of Florida
Florida State fans expect the Seminoles to take a big step forward. There are many reasons to feel this way. In Mike Norvell’s three seasons, FSU went from 3-6 to 5-7 and 10-3. Can the Seminole return to the top of the ACC in 2023? So many of the former Soviet Union’s top players have opted to return, including linemen Jared Vers and Fabienne Lovett, quarterback Jordan Travis, wide receiver Johnny Wilson and RB Trey Benson. FSU has also attempted to fill in some gaps in the transfer portal by adding players such as ex-Virginia CB Fentrell Cypress and ex-Western Michigan DT Braden Fiske. This will be one of the most hyped teams in the offseason. How will the Seminoles deal with expectations?
Even without Hendon Hooker, Jalyn Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, the Tennessee offense looked good in their Orange Bowl win over Clemson. Joe Milton replaced Hooker at quarterback and showed what was arguably the strongest hand in college football. Can it play just as well against top level SEC competitors? Or will five-star freshman Niko Yamaleava push him into starting work? Josh Hupel brought Tennessee back into the national conversation faster than expected. The challenge for the Vols will now be to maintain that level of success before eventually trying to outrun Georgia in the SEC East.
Kalen DeBoer inherited a team that went 4-8 in 2021 and led the Huskies to 11 wins in 2022. With Michael Penix Jr. back as quarterback, can Washington still challenge for the Pac-12 title in 2023? Penix will enter the season with some buzz around Heisman, and he should be surrounded by a lot of offensive talent. Prior to DeBoer’s arrival, Washington was better known for its defense. The Huskies have finished in the top three in the Pac-12 in overall defense for eight consecutive seasons.
12. Mother of God
The first season of the Marcus Freeman era had many ups and downs, including a poor 2-0 start. But the Irish bounced back and ended up winning nine games, so there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic in 2023. The addition of Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman as a quarterback is a big deal, as is a great recruiting class and a rich stable of runners. . The receiver is still in question, especially with All-American tight end Michael Mayer moving to the NFL. The protection must again be reliable, and this unit will again be tested by the State of Ohio and USC on schedule.
It looks like this could be a turning point for Clemson. For most programs, a 21-6 overall record over the last two seasons would be an achievement. But for the standard program that Dabo Sweeney installed, it was a step backwards. The defense was solid, but nowhere near as strong as many expected. The offense was better than in 2021, but was still mediocre at best. Cade Strawberry and Will Shipley have the talent to be a great QB-RB duo in the ACC, but it looks like the whole circuit needs an update. If that doesn’t happen, Clemson will likely remain one of the best in the ACC, but not one of the best in the country.
Utah has won back-to-back Pac-12 titles, and in 2023, the Utes may appeal to many. Kyle Whittingham’s program is consistently good both defensively and offensively…