Top College Football Teams
In less than six weeks, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football will kick off yet another season. The University of Georgia aims to defend its title. Clemson strives to get back on track after a lackluster 2021 season. Alabama hopes to reign the football world as it has done so many times. Let’s take a look at the top college football teams and how this season might unfold.
Atlantic Coast Conference
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) had a unique season in 2021. The ACC Championship featured Wake Forest and Pittsburgh, which is one team that hadn’t been in since 2006. Also, they had never played in the championship before. Usual heavyweights Clemson and Florida State struggle with a multitude of issues, from quarterback (QB) play to turnovers to defense. In this upcoming season, the heavyweights should be back near the top.
Competing for a Championship
For the first time since 2014, Clemson wasn’t selected for the College Football Playoff. DJ Uiagalelei didn’t step up and the offense never really found its groove. Cade Klubnik will be coming in as a true freshman and should push DJ to new heights. Star receiver Will Shipley adds an extraordinary amount of speed and pace to their offense. There should be a high level of motivation and extra fuel going into the off-season/season after the letdown last year. With Brent Venables gone as defensive coordinator, will the defense be able to step up?
2. Wake Forest
Winning its first ACC Atlantic division since 2006, there is a lot of hype going on in Winston Salem, North Carolina for the upcoming season. Sam Hartman broke nearly every school record as a QB last year and will be returning under center. His two main targets from last season will be split in half. A.T. Perry will be returning, putting up a +1,000-yard season in 2021. Jaquarii Roberson has moved on to the NFL. The electrifying air-raid offense should be back in 2022, but the defense has always been the question. The defense gave up over 30 points a game last year. New hire, Brad Lambert, is going to have to find a way to bring this number down if the Deacons want to bring home a ring. Wake plays Clemson in Winston Salem this year.
3. NC State
Devin Leary will be back as quarterback for a Wolfpack team that seemed like it was just on the edge of greatness last season. The ACC Atlantic title came down to their game at Wake Forest in November. A heartbreaking loss cost them an appearance in their first ever ACC championship. This year, Wake Forest must travel to Raleigh to face the Wolfpack, a place where Wake has not been too successful over time. With a conference-high 17 starters coming back, expect the Wolfpack to make this Atlantic race even more chaotic.
The Big Ten
For the first time since 2004, Michigan brought home the Big Ten Championship while also earning a playoff berth. With one playoff team and two New Year’s six teams, it was another strong year for the conference. Expect even more this year, and make sure you get your football tickets to see them.
Competing for a Championship
4. Ohio State
The tandem duo of CJ Stroud and JSN, or Jaxon Smith-Njigba, will wreak havoc across the Big Ten once again. Putting up mind-blowing numbers in 2021, they fell short of a conference championship along with a national championship. A Rose Bowl victory made things a little more manageable, I’m sure. With a fairly easy schedule, expect the Buckeyes to bring the hardware back home.
5. Michigan State
An 11-2 season was huge for the program in East Lansing. In recent years, they have come nowhere near as successful. With the past in the rearview mirror, Mel Tucker looks to build on last year’s top 10 finish. Multiple transfers were brought in over the summer, including Jalen Berger from Wisconsin. Berger should make a tremendous impact from day one. With the departure of Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker, Berger should carry much of the load. Look for a competitive run for the Spartans.
Jim Harbaugh will need to make some big adjustments to his suffocating defense from 2021. With his defensive coordinator leaving the team, questions are flying around the team. As good of a coach Harbaugh is, you can expect nothing less than great. Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy will be fighting for the spot at QB leading up to opening weekend. Aidan Hutchinson’s departure to the NFL leaves a big hole in the defensive line for Michigan, a force once to be reckoned with. With holes to fill, Michigan will need a dominant offensive performance week in and week out.
Georgia stole the spotlight from the heavyweight Alabama in 2021, bringing home its first national championship in over 40 years. Jimbo Fisher looks to get Texas A&M back on the map. Will Georgia be able to submit itself as a dynasty?
Competing for a Championship
The usual reign of the Crimson Tide took a year off in 2021, falling to University of Georgia Athletics (UGA) in the national championship. It was a tough loss to swallow for fans, players, coaches and just about anyone associated with Alabama football. Similar to Clemson, I expect a motivated and fueled off-season, which will lead into a motivated season for this team. Nick Saban expects nothing short of greatness. Bryce Young got a taste of defeat last year and it should take him to a new level this year. With a veteran defense on deck for 2022, the domination of Alabama should be back in full force.
The biggest question surrounding the Bulldogs is their defense. It was a great force in 2021 but replacements are needed. That is not to underestimate the recruiting pull of Kirby Smart, which is a strong factor. Stetson Bennett returns at QB and looks to bring another championship back to Athens, Georgia. The pieces are definitely there, but will they let the success get to their head? Will the motivation still be there?
9. Texas A&M
Nick Saban made a comment at the SEC Media Day that Jimbo Fisher “paid for every single one of his players.” This was made legal during the recent Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) agreement. However, Jimbo didn’t find these comments too appeasing. He lashed back out at Saban, creating a rivalry I don’t think anyone saw coming. After taking down Alabama last year in the regular season, they will have to do it again if they want any taste of the SEC championship. I am a full believer of motivation, and I believe Texas A&M will reap the rewards of such factors this year.