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KSL Sports’ Way-Too-Early Top 25 For 2022 College Football Season

Jan 10, 2022, 9:56 PM | Updated: 10:17 pm
Way-Too-Early Top 25 2022...
Alabama, Ohio State, BYU, and Utah are four of the teams appearing in the KSL Sports Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2022. (Photos courtesy of Getty Images, Illustration by KSL Sports)
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images, Illustration by KSL Sports)

SALT LAKE CITYΒ – The KSL Sports team is already moving on to next year with our Way-Too-Early Top 25 for the 2022 college football season.

Georgia Bulldogs are the National Champions, but the KSL Sports crew is still rolling with Bama at No. 1.

A total of seven people from our KSL Sports staff participated in this Way-Too-Early poll. Here are the results.

Way-Too-Early Top 25

Let’s dive into the rankings.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Alabama

2021 Record: 13-2

Alabama falling to Georgia in the National Championship game doesn’t suddenly end the dynasty that the Tide have built under Nick Saban. If anything, Saban is energized more than ever.

The Tide will be back, so will Heisman winner Bryce Young, and now they’ll have a massive chip on their shoulder.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Ohio State

2021 Record: 11-2

We got a dress rehearsal look at the talent the Buckeyes will have in 2022 during the epic Rose Bowl game. QB C.J. Stroud and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be one of the best tandems in college football next season.

Marvin Harrison Jr. looks poised to step into a prominent role within the Buckeye offense as well. The questions will lie on the defensive side, but bringing in Jim Knowles as defensive coordinator should do a world of good for the Buckeyes.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Georgia

2021 Record: 14-1

The Georgia Bulldogs are National Champions for the first time since 1980. Kirby Smart has established himself as likely the nation’s second best coach behind only Saban. The way Smart accumulates talent, might put him atop the profession right now.

It will be interesting to see how Georgia handles being a defending National Champion. There’s zero questions about the talent they have between the hedges.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Clemson

2021 Record: 10-3

A dip year at Clemson these days is 10-3. But don’t be surprised if Dabo Sweeney pulls the β€œlittle β€˜ol Cleoleon” card again next season. They have the best talent in the ACC and now they are starting to offer players out of the Transfer Portal.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Texas A&M

2021 Record: 8-4

Jimbo Fisher pulled down the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class in the 2022 cycle. But will Jimbo finally get some answers at the QB position? Max Johnson, son of former Super Bowl Champion Brad Johnson, transfers from LSU to A&M to lead the talented Aggies.

Fisher has a National Championship pedigree, and they proved they could take down Alabama. A top-five ranking in this Way-Too-Early poll is based on their potential. Now can they seize the opportunity?

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Oklahoma State

2021 Record: 12-2

Mike Gundy has proven that he can adjust to his personnel. Once a high-flying offense, the Pokes have a nasty identity on the defensive side. They lost defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to Ohio State, but whoever gets the DC job inherits a group built to contend for a Big 12 title and maybe the Playoff.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Michigan

2021 Record: 12-2

Jim Harbaugh proved he could get Michigan over the Ohio State hurdle. He led the Wolverines to their first College Football Playoff. But will Harbaugh return, or is he headed back to the NFL? In addition, there will be some questions on how to replace do-it-all defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Notre Dame

2021 Record: 11-2

Brian Kelly is off to the bayou to lead LSU. Stepping in, first-time head coach Marcus Freeman. Notre Dame players vouched hard for Freeman, who elevated from the defensive coordinator role to head coach.

Who replaces Jack Coan at quarterback will be the big storyline for the Irish aside from Freeman.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Utah

2021 Record: 10-4

The defending Pac-12 Champions return key personnel, including quarterback Cam Rising, who had the Utes rolling by season’s end. Tight end Brant Kuithe surprised many announcing he would return for another year.

Utah opens the season in SEC country against Florida in a game that could give the Utes an inside track as an early pick to go to the Playoff.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Wisconsin

2021 Record: 9-4

Two of Wisconsin’s four losses in 2021 were against teams that appeared in the Top 5 of the final College Football Playoff rankings. Graham Mertz returns at quarterback and Braelon Allen looks poised to be the next great Badger running back.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Wake Forest

2021 Record: 11-3

Wake Forest was so close to winning an ACC title in 2021. However, in this way-too-early top 25, they look poised to be in the mix again in 2022. Pretty much everyone returns next year, including QB Sam Hartman, plus the schedule appears favorable with a weak non-conference slate and Clemson comes to Winston-Salem.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Baylor

2021 Record: 12-2

The defending Big 12 Champion Baylor Bears maintained Dave Aranda, who had his name tossed around for nearly every job in the Coaching Carousel this past fall. One of the more cerebral coaches in college football, Aranda, has created an identity of physical football in Waco. One of the headliners of that physicality is nose tackle Siaki Ika, who once was a star at East High in Salt Lake.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Oklahoma

2021 Record: 11-2

No one on this Way-Too-Early Top 25 has probably gone through more change than the Oklahoma Sooners. With Lincoln Riley in L.A., Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione tapped into a familiar well for finding his next head coach, an established star defensive coordinator. It worked 23 years ago when they hired Bob Stoops from Florida; they hope Brent Venables from Clemson produces similar dominance.

The QB situation is interesting as Caleb Williams leaves, while former UCF gunslinger Dillon Gabriel steps in as the assumed QB1.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Arkansas

2021 Record: 9-4

Fire up that jukebox; Sam Pittman has the Hogs feeling like an SEC contender again. In two years, Pittman has overhauled the trajectory of an Arkansas program that was mired in obscurity under Chad Morris. QB KJ Jefferson is massive at 6-foot-3, 245-pounds.

The Hogs might not be good enough to win the entire SEC, but they sure will be one of the toughest teams to take down.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Penn State

2021 Record: 7-6

Penn State locked in head coach James Franklin to a massive contract extension. With that big 10-year deal, expectations are going to be elevated. QB Sean Clifford returns for a sixth year to lead a Nittany Lions team that lost by 21 points in all five of their regular losses, including games against Ohio State and Michigan.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Oregon

2021 Record: 10-4

Oregon hired heralded Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning to be the head coach. Lanning’s first test? His former team in the Bulldogs at Atlanta. Oregon picked up a commitment from Auburn QB Bo Nix out of the Transfer Portal.

Way-Too-Early-Top 25 - Michigan State

2021 Record: 11-2

Mel Tucker was another beneficiary of the wild Coaching Carousel. He’s locked in on the banks of the Red Cedar for the next decade. Sparty surprised everyone with an 11-win season in 2021; now, the challenge will be to replicate that success next season. The defense should be tough as nails again and the likely heir apparent to Kenneth Walker at running back is Wisconsin transfer, Jalen Berger.

BYU

2021 Record: 10-3

Back-to-back double-digit win seasons for BYU have the Cougars feeling good about the program’s direction under head coach Kalani Sitake. 2022 will be BYU’s final season as an FBS Independent before moving to the Big 12 Conference.

BYU’s offense this fall has the makings to be explosive with QB Jaren Hall, WR Puka Nacua, and a deep, talented offensive line.

Iowa

2021 Record: 10-4

Iowa is the model of consistency under the nation’s longest-tenured head coach in Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeyes defense had many believing in them to go to the Playoff in 2021 potentially, but the offense let them down. So it will be make-or-break time for QB Spencer Petras.

USC

2021 Record: 4-8

USC was the biggest winner of the Coaching Carousel landing Lincoln Riley. For the first time since Pete Carroll roamed the sidelines in L.A., the Trojans feel like they have the chance to be great again. If they land Caleb Williams out of the Transfer Portal, they could immediately contend in the Pac-12 in Riley’s first year.

Tennessee

2021 Record: 7-6

Tennessee appears to have some stability with Josh Heupel as the head coach. The Vols had an explosive offense averaging nearly 40 points per game. In addition, they received some good news when quarterback Hendon Hooker announced he was returning for a sixth year.

Cincinnati

2021 Record: 13-1

The Cinderella Cincinnati Bearcats don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon under Luke Fickell. Will anyone predict them to go to the Playoff? No, as evidenced by the No.22 ranking in this Way-Too-Early Top 25 ranking, but Fickell has built a consistent winner that has the attitude they can hang with anyone.

The most significant loss to replace will be cornerback “Sauce” Gardner, who might be the No. 1 defensive back in the 2022 NFL draft.

Houston

2021 Record: 12-2

Houston coach Dana Holgorsen saw his seat getting a little bit warm entering the 2021 season, but that cooled off significantly with a 12-win season. With Clayton Tune back at QB, Houston could take off as the team to beat in the AAC.

Miami

2021 Record: 7-5

Mario Cristobal brings a ton of energy and excitement to his alma mater that is desperate to get back in the national conversation. The good news for Cristobal is that he inherits one of college football’s top young QBs in Tyler Van Dyke, who should have Miami in a spot to contend for the Coastal Division in Mario’s first year.

Miami has also been an attractive destination for Transfer Portal players over the years; the Canes could make a rise in this Way-Too-Early Top 25 depending on who they add from here on out.

Ole Miss

2021 Record: 10-3

Lane Kiffin has made Ole Miss a cool destination. Unfortunately, the Rebels lose QB Matt Corral, but the good news for Hotty Toddy is that they landed No. 2 running back Zach Evans out of the portal, which should keep the high-powered offense rolling on The Grove.

Receiving Votes

Listed in alphabetical order

Air Force, Auburn, Coastal Carolina, Fresno State, Iowa State, Kentucky, LSU, NC State, Pitt, Texas, Utah State.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter:Β @Mitch_Harper.

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