Moller: Way-too-early predictions for 2022 college football season
Nate Moller | Tuesday, January 25, 2022
With the college football season coming to a close a couple of weeks ago, it’s time to look ahead to the 2022 season and group the teams into tiers. Although tier one has all of the blue bloods that have dominated the sport as of late, there are only three teams that stand out to me as elite at the moment. That gives plenty of room for teams in tier two and three to break into this elite group and get a College Football Playoff bid next season.
Tier 1: The Elite
Despite a disappointing loss in the national title game, Bama should find themselves right back in the elite group in 2022. Heisman winner Bryce Young will surely be hungry to prove that he can win a title with the Tide, and I view Bama as the preseason favorites to reclaim the national title. With a defense that is anchored by linebacker Will Anderson as well, this figures to be a tough team to beat.
The Buckeyes will also have a very talented roster returning in 2022. Although they lose some of their talent on the offensive side of the ball, they return Heisman finalist C. J. Stroud, who was sensational in the team’s Rose Bowl victory. Wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba also had a breakout game in the Rose Bowl and could be the Buckeyes’ top wideout this coming season.
Of course the defending national champions have to be in this group. For as much hate as quarterback Stetson Bennett has received, he will be returning for the Bulldogs, and he has proven now that he can perform and win on the biggest of stages. The Bulldogs are poised to have one of the top defenses in the country again, so this will be a tough team to beat.
Tier 2: The Contenders
The Aggies had a bizarre year in 2022. While they finished a disappointing 8-4, they were able to upset Alabama in one of the most stunning victories of the season. This team has been on the verge of greatness for a while, and 2022 is a great chance for them to finally break through and compete for a national title.
The Tigers could be sneaky good next season. Although they had a down year last season, I expect next year’s team to be fired up after starting the season under the radar. It will be interesting to see who starts at quarterback, but there is a lot of top tier talent on both sides of the ball that will make this team tough to play against.
The Cowboys’ offensive performance in the second half of this year’s Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame was very impressive. Quarterback Spencer Sanders has all the skills necessary to lead his team to victory against a weak Big 12 schedule.
The Utes kept getting better as the season went on, as they proved in a close game against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. They should be able to win a lot of games against subpar Pac-12 opponents.
Tier 3: Outside looking in
The Irish return a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but the question marks of a new coach and quarterback are worrisome. The Irish also play Ohio State, Clemson and USC, which might be too much for the Irish to handle.
The Wolverines finally beat Ohio State, but they were embarrassed in the College Football Playoff. There is a lot of potential, but it will be tough to beat their rivals down south for a second consecutive season.
I might be premature putting the Trojans in this group, but this team just keeps winning in the transfer portal and recruiting trail since the introduction of Lincoln Riley as head coach. The talent is building in Los Angeles, and this program is going to be contending for national titles soon.
The Ducks will have their work cut out for them with a new head coach, but Oregon always seems to find its way to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Getting quarterback Bo Nix in the transfer portal could be huge for the Ducks as well.
Replacing Kenny Pickett with Kedon Slovis was a good move for the Panthers, and they should be in contention for another ACC title. The Panthers avoid Clemson in the regular season as well, which is huge.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.