The season is upon us, and a handful of “Week Zero” games kicked things off. Alabama and Ohio State are the heavy favorites to play for the national title, with defending national champion Georgia the consensus No. 3. The Buckeyes, Clemson and Oklahoma, all regulars in the playoff, all missed their respective conference title tilts and are hungry to return in 2022. Will there be some more new blood? Or will order be restored? Enjoy the journey … the starting pistol has fired.
1. Alabama – The Crimson Tide are loaded and aiming for another run at a great season. Bryce Young, the Heisman winner last year, is back to lead the offense. Will Anderson is a standout at outside linebacker. Alabama opens with Utah State then heads to Texas.
2. Ohio State – The program that has dominated the Big Ten in the 21st century got knocked off by Michigan last year. The talented Buckeyes are hungry to get back to the top of the league and the CFP. Notre Dame comes to Columbus for the opener.
3. Georgia – College football’s 2021 national champions, had a record 15 players drafted, but still returns a lot of talent. Brock Bowers and Jalen Carter are headliners. The opener is with Oregon in Atlanta, where the Dogs would love to play twice more this year.
4. Clemson – The Tigers also open in Atlanta, tangling with the Yellow Jackets on Labor Day Night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The ACC has some programs on the rise, but Clemson still has the most talent, led by an outstanding defensive line.
5. Oregon – The Ducks will be inside on the fast track at Mercedes Benz for a big battle with the Bulldogs in Atlanta. First year head coach Dan Lanning faces his former team, and brings a fantastic offensive line and talented defense. Bo Nix is in the QB mix.
6. Notre Dame – The Fighting Irish face a challenging schedule. Notre Dame opens at Ohio State and closes against Southern Cal in the Coliseum. Pretty fair traditions there. Marcus Freeman has had a rapid rise, and heads into his first full season at the helm.
7. BYU – The Cougars also have a tough slate, including an October showdown with Notre Dame in Las Vegas, but return a lot of talent and experience. Brigham Young opens at South Florida, then hosts Baylor before going to Oregon.
8. Texas A&M – The Aggies and Jimbo Fisher were front and center for “talking season,” aka the offseason. A highly touted freshman class and talented returnees have A&M confident they can dethrone the Tide in the SEC West. They play October 8 in T-Town.
9. Southern Cal – Lincoln Riley is the new head coach. Caleb Williams is the new quarterback. Could USC make a run at the PAC-12 and a playoff berth in year one? The Trojans open against Rice and then go to Stanford. USC and Oregon don’t play this year.
10. Tennessee – Expectations are ramped up for Josh Heupel’s team heading into his second season. The Volunteers open at Ball State then go to Pitt. The chips will be pushed all in on September 24 when the Gators visit Neyland Stadium.
11. Oklahoma – It was a staggering offseason for the Sooners, who lost their head coach and quarterback to USC. There were certainly some hard feelings but Brent Venables has hit the ground running. The Sooners are hungry to get back to the top of the Big XII.
12. Utah – Kyle Whittingham’s Utes won the PAC-12 last season, defeating Oregon in the conference title game, then lost a heartbreaking Rose Bowl to the Buckeyes. They have a lot back on offense. The opener is tough, hot and humid with Florida in The Swamp.
13. Michigan – The Wolverines had a magical victory in the snow over Ohio State and rolled Iowa for the Big Ten crown. Michigan has a lot to replace. The schedule is way soft in September. Can they improve, build and put themselves into position again?
14. LSU – The Tigers last three head coaches led them to a national championship. Now Brian Kelly takes over. The Tigers have talent, as always. The opener is against Florida State in New Orleans on Sunday night. LSU goes to Auburn, Florida, the Hogs and A&M.
15. Oklahoma State – Mike Gundy’s Cowboys were inches away from a Big XII title last year. They’re once again amongst the favorites in 2022. The road schedule is tough, featuring trips to Baylor and Boomer Sooner. Okie State opens with Central Michigan.