- Georgia: The back-to-back National Champs deserve the No. 1 spot not just because of what they’ve done, but because of the team they have this year. QB Stetson Bennett is gone, but they don’t need a Trevor Lawrence or Tua Tagovailoa to win. They just need someone to make good decisions and let their overwhelming talent advantage win the day.
- Michigan: Like Georgia, Michigan has not only earned this right, but seems likely to reach 11-0 before The Big Game. With QB JJ McCarthy and RB Blake Corum coming back, they could be even better than last year.
- Ohio State: Ohio State pushed Georgia to the brink and probably should have won. They lost QB CJ Stroud, but Coach Ryan Day has a good track record with QBs and Kyle McCord was extremely highly-rated.
- Alabama: The Crimson Tide lost to both LSU and Tennessee and then lost their two best players in the first three picks of the NFL draft (i.e., Bryce Young and Will Anderson). I don’t know if they’re the fourth best team, but they get Texas, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and LSU all at home so they could run the table and face Georgia in a near meaningless SEC Championship game.
- LSU: QB Jayden Daniels returns to a team that should be very good, but has to play FSU in Orlando and Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
- USC: The reigning Heisman trophy winner returns to a squad that should get better defensively. The bottom of the Pac-12 is awful, but the top is quite strong. They have to play Utah (who has their number), Oregon, and Washington. If they do well enough to reach the conference championship, they will likely play one of them again. Can they escape with only one loss? I doubt it, but if this poll is a power ranking — as it should be — they deserve this ranking.
- Penn State: Drew Allar takes over at QB and will need to be a top flight QB if they’re going to at least split with Michigan and Ohio State. It’s hard to judge them because the rest of the schedule is relatively soft. Iowa and at Maryland are their next toughest opponents. If they go 10-2 are they really good or just above average?
- Florida State: The Seminoles won six straight to finish last season at 10-3. The only problem is those wins came against GT, Miami, Syracuse, Louisiana, Florida, and Oklahoma. None of those teams were remotely good and the last two were close games. The offense is good. There’s no doubting that. QB Jordan Travis is back and will have upgraded playmakers thanks to the transfer portal. Their defense isn’t bad, but will it match the offense?
- Clemson: The Clemson Tigers clock in at #9 and I don’t have a ton of complaints. They finished 1-2 down the stretch so putting them any higher is really a bet than Klubnik and OC Garrett Riley will be better than Uiagalelei and OC Brandon Streeter. This seems like an easy bet to make though. We can question why Uiagalelei was playing so much at the end of the year or why Streeter was hired — things we did wonder at the time — but nevertheless Coach Swinney has made the changes that should propel this team forward. If perception is that they’re the 9th best team in the country, we’ll see what happens if USC and Clemson are one-loss conference champions battling for the last spot in the playoff field.
- Washington: A treacherous schedule that includes road trips to Michigan State, USC, and Oregon State (plus Oregon and Utah at home) will make cracking the playoff field difficult, but Michael Penix Jr threw for 4,641 yards last year. He and the Huskies deserve respect and this top 10 ranking is just that.
- Texas: They lost to Alabama by 1, Texas Tech by 3 (in OT), Oklahoma State by 7, TCU by 7, and Washington by 7. Those are some close losses. Its also a lot of losses. They also were without Quinn Ewers for an extended period due to injury. With him back, they are likely to improve at least somewhat. I wouldn’t have them this high, but I’m not scandalized by their No. 11 ranking either.
- Tennessee: What else do you want from the Volunteers? They lost to Georgia, which almost doesn’t count, and dropped a late season game to U of SC when QB Hendon Hooker injured his knee. They proved they can put up points with new QB Joe Milton when they beat Clemson to finish 11-2. I’d have them several spots higher.
- Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish had wins over UNC, Clemson, and U of SC, but lost four times including to Marshall and Stanford. They get a huge upgrade at QB with Sam Hartman so this ranking feels reasonable.
- Utah: The Utes will do just what is needed to keep the Pac-12 out of the playoff.
- Oregon: The Ducks get Bo Nix back and should be formidable in the Pac-12.
- Kansas State: The defending Big 12 champs should be right back in the mix in 2023.
- Texas Christian: The Horned Frogs lost a ton from their surprising National Championship runner-up team. They had eight players drafted and lost their OC to Clemson. No more WR Quintin Johnson, RB Kendre Miller, or Heisman Finalist QB Max Duggin. They deserve a ton of credit for what they accomplished last year, but repeating is extremely unlikely.
- Oregon State: This feels right for the Beavers. They’re not in the same tier as USC, Washington, Utah, and Oregon, but they’re right there under them with former Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei being the big X-factor.
- Wisconsin: Let’s hope they enjoy their last year in the West Division. Life will be much more difficult for them when they are grouped in with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and USC.
- Oklahoma: I normally don’t cheer for the Sooners, but I want to see the Venables do well, especially in light of Julie Venables cancer diagnosis.
- North Carolina: This ranking is definitely fair, I just don’t believe in UNC. I expect NC State to be better.
- Ole Miss: The Rebels were the flavor of the day for a while last season, but faded when they started playing good teams. They lost four of five to close the season.
- Texas A&M: The Aggies are consistently talented, but usually not very good. Maybe Bobby Petrino can get things going as their OC, but I still have them no higher than 5th in the SEC. I highly recommend watching the Johnny Manziel documentary on Netflix though.
- Tulane: A school that should have been considered for an ACC invite over Cal finds themselves in the rankings.
- Iowa: If their offense is decent, they’ll win the Big Ten West. With Cade McNamara at QB, they really ought to be. If not, you almost have to look at OC Brian Ferenz as either a goner or the worst nepotism case in major athletics.
First AP Poll Released: Penn State & FSU Above Clemson
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