With just over a month until the 2022 college football season kicks off, teams are putting in the summer work, while fans’ excitement, and perhaps anxiety, reaches a fever pitch, leading up to …
With just over a month until the 2022 college football season kicks off, teams are putting in the summer work, while fans’ excitement, and perhaps anxiety, reaches a fever pitch, leading up to the season’s start.
What storylines will dominate this season?
Will Alabama strike back at Georgia?
Will Tennessee continue its rise to prominence under Josh Heupel?
While it’s still the middle of summer, there are plenty of bold takes one what will crop up this season.
Here are five bold predictions for the upcoming 2022 college football season:
Tennessee beats either Georgia or Alabama
Tennessee is in the middle of arguably the best rise from ashes in recent memory in the college landscape.
The mess Jeremy Pruitt left behind, which ultimately led to his firing and 18 Level I violations, left the Tennessee administration scrambling to find his replacement.
With Phillip Fulmer on his way out of the administrative role as well, Tennessee turned to then-UCF athletic director Danny White, who in turn brought in Josh Heupel from UCF.
The tandem from Central Florida made sense as a package deal, but it was clear given the implications under Pruitt, Tennessee was going to be hit with a mass exodus of players due to the violations and recruiting restrictions.
Needless to say, the cupboard was fairly bare when Heupel stepped foot in Knoxville.
While expectations a season ago were essentially non-existent, Heupel and his staff put forth one of the more competitive seasons by Tennessee with a ragtag roster and finished 7-6, and was one blown call away from winning the Music City Bowl against Purdue.
Not only was Tennessee knocking on the door of an eight-win season, the Vols were in a dog fight at Alabama and at one point in the fourth quarter, was within a single score of knocking off Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Eventually, Alabama’s depth wore down Tennessee and put the game well out of reach by scoring 21 unanswered points to close out the game.
Now a year into Heupel’s tenure and a full year of recruiting, it’s clear his system worked a season ago.
The emergence of Hendon Hooker as a bonafide star gives the Vols a real threat under center.
Last season, Hooker played in 13 games for the Vols and nearly hit the 3,000-yard barrier. He tossed 31 touchdowns and had just three interceptions, while completing 68% of his passes.
The Vols certainly have enough talent to play with the big boys in the conference and the preseason media poll has the Vols picked to finish third in the SEC East.
It’s certainly a tall order for a rebuilding Tennessee team to beat the defending national champs, or the other team that played for a national title.
But Heupel runs a warp-speed offense and that’s enough to gas even the best defenses in the nation.
Now that Tennessee has a little depth on its roster, and Hooker entering his second season in the system, it shouldn’t be a stretch to think the Vols can knock off either of the SEC’s two top dogs.
USC makes the College Football Playoff
Lincoln Riley sent shockwaves throughout the college football landscape late last fall when he announced his departure from Oklahoma, where he averaged over 10 wins per season, where he spent five years that included four-straight Big 12 Championships and two Heisman Trophy winners in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
After putting together a win percentage of .846, Riley was lured away from Norman to the West Coast to USC.
Since then, Riley has been on an absolute tear, compiling perhaps the most talented roster via the transfer portal.
He also took with him highly-touted former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams.
As a freshman, Williams eventually took over quarterback duties from Spencer Rattler, who struggled to effectively become the Sooners’ leader.
Williams played in 11 games and completed 64.5% of his passes and threw just over 1,900 yards.
He was effective in the downfield game as he threw 21 touchdown passes against just four interceptions.
In addition to landing Williams, 2021 Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison transferred from Pitt to USC.
Addison totaled 1,593 receiving yards and hauled in 17 touchdown passes.
With the depth Riley built around USC, the Trojans basically became a playoff contender overnight.
It’s no secret the Pac-12 has been the weakest of the Power 5 conferences for several years.
The last playoff appearance from a Pac-12 team came in the 2016-2017 season when Washington locked up the No. 4 seed, and then was promptly booted from the playoffs by Alabama in a 24-7 domination.
Other than Oregon, the Pac-12 is essentially a cakewalk for a roster loaded with that much talent and arguably the best, “young” coach in the nation.
With a favorable schedule, with a loaded roster, USC will have a say in not just how the Pac-12 shakes out, but arguably the final College Football Playoff rankings.
Other than Utah and Oregon, USC should be able to easily take care of business and reach the 10-win barrier, if not more.
Given the 2022 landscape of college football, the usual cast of suspects will be in the mix for the four-team playoff, including Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia and Clemson.
But Clemson has a major issue that’s holding it back entering 2022—QB.
D.J. Uiagalelei entered 2021 as one of the highest touted quarterbacks in the game.
What he did for the Tigers a season ago was anything but stellar, completing just 55.6% of his passes for 2,246 yards.
He also only had nine touchdowns against 10 interceptions.
As such, Clemson suffered ACC losses to NC State and Pitt and despite finishing with a 10-3 overall record, the Tigers didn’t play for an ACC title and was left out of the College Football Playoff.
Given that void a season ago, and the rise of USC, the Trojans should be able to make a quick rise back to the national conversation with Riley at the helm and make the playoffs.
C.J. Stroud unseats Bryce Young as Heisman winner
Last season, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young put together one of the best seasons in history and led the Crimson Tide to the College Football National Championship game against Georgia.
Young eventually was named the Heisman Trophy winner with a stellar stats line.
He completed just shy of 67% of his passes and he went for 4,872 passing yards.
He also posted a 47-7 TD-INT ratio.
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud wasn’t far off the mark a season ago and as a freshman, completed nearly 72% of his passes for 4,4435 yards and 44 touchdowns against six interceptions.
Taking nothing away from Young, who barring injury, is poised for a big junior season.
Young will certainly put forth another spectacular year and there’s not much to indicate otherwise.
Alabama was the preseason favorite to win the SEC West and with good reason.
Another year in the system under Nick Saban, Young should have another stand out year.
But this year, it’s Stroud’s turn to hoist the top award in college football.
Ohio State returns the bulk of its team that went 11-2 a season ago.
The Buckeyes suffered a loss to Oregon in Week 2 last season, but then rattled off nine-straight wins before Michigan upset Ohio State and ended its run at a College Football Playoff bid.
Having taken a loss to its arch-rival a season ago, Stroud enters his sophomore campaign with a Michigan-sized chip on his shoulder, and that should terrify any team with Ohio State on the schedule this season.
While Young will have another stellar season in what figures to be his last season in Tuscaloosa, it will be Stroud hoisting the Heisman Trophy this fall.
Vols reach 10 wins for first time in 15 years
Tennessee fans have spent years in football purgatory.
It’s been 15 years since the Vols have won 10 games in a single season, which came last under Phillip Fulmer in 2007.
Since then, Tennessee has gone 85-88 overall and have gone through five head coaches, searching for the right fit on the sidelines to bring the Vols back into the national spotlight.
After former coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired for what eventually came to be 18 Level I violations, the Tennessee athletic administration hired Josh Heupel out of USC, who came to Knoxville with a 28-8 record over three seasons.
With the era of college football changing from a ground-and-pound offense, play solid defense style, to which team can turn every game into a track meet with up-tempo offenses and scoring as much as possible, Heupel’s offense seemed to be a natural fit in Knoxville.
With a patchwork roster depleted in depth from an exodus of players amid the Pruitt fallout, Heupel orchestrated perhaps one of the most unexpected seasons in recent history for the Volunteers.
Butch Jones put together back-to-back nine-win seasons for Tennessee in 2015 and 2016, but then fell from grace before being replaced with Pruitt.
Pruitt never was able to gain his footing among the Rocky Top faithful, nor the athletic administration—notably former head coach Phillip Fulmer, who was the Tennessee athletic director at the time.
Even with depth issues throughout the roster, Tennessee was fairly close to putting together a nine-win season ago.
A Week 2 loss to Pitt came on the heels of a huge second-quarter for the Panthers.
Pitt only escaped Knoxville with a seven-point win.
Fast forward to the Music City Bowl, Purdue edged out a three-point win over Tennessee in arguably the most entertaining bowl of the whole season.
Still, Tennessee sat within one score of another win.
If Tennessee caught a bit of luck in either of those two losses, the Vols could well have reached the nine-win plateau for the first time in five years and the first time with Heupel at the helm.
A quick glance at the schedule has Tennessee opening up with a favorable record through the first two months of the season.
Sandwiched between Ball State and Akron, Tennessee makes the trip to Pittsburgh, looking for revenge for a close loss from a season ago.
From there, Tennessee will shrug the bugaboo of playing Florida and move to 4-0 on the season.
The Vols will follow with a trip to Baton Rouge and will pick up a win against LSU, searching for an identity under first-year coach Brian Kelly.
After moving to 5-0, Tennessee will have a tough stretch, with three of its next four games coming against Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia.
While Mark Stoops has Kentucky trending upward, including four-straight bowl wins, Tennessee has dominated the series against the Wildcats, including a 45-42 upset last season in Lexington.
Tennessee should be able to defend its home turf against Kentucky this season, which leaves Alabama and Georgia as the two remaining juggernauts left on the Vols’ schedule.
Tennessee played Alabama to within one score in the fourth quarter with a depleted roster last season in Tuscaloosa.
While improbable, Tennessee is primed to upset one of its two biggest rivals this season.
After the October gauntlet, Tennessee gets Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt left on the schedule.
Missouri and Vanderbilt should both be chalked up as wins for the Vols, but South Carolina remains as a trap game for Tennessee after quarterback Spencer Rattler transferred from Oklahoma to give the Gamecocks a legitimate quarterback threat.
In the end, Tennessee will take care of the games its supposed to, aside from a possible late-season upset, and pick up a win it shouldn’t en route to its first 10-win season in 15 years.
Ohio State beats Georgia in the national championship
It’s mid-July, so it only seems natural we should know who will be playing for a national championship, right?
Throughout the tenure of the College Football Playoff, it’s been a mainstay to expect certain teams in the mix for a national title.
The greatest football coach of all time, Nick Saban, typically has the Tide not just in the playoffs, but playing for a national title.
Since taking over as the Georgia head coach, former Saban assistant Kirby Smart has had Georgia in the thick of the playoffs as well.
in five seasons in Athens, Smartt has went 66-15 and finally was able to overcome his former mentor last season and win his first national title.
He was handsomely rewarded for bringing a title to Georgia with a 10-year, $112.5 million contract to secure his future as the Bulldogs’ head coach.
Another team that continually finds itself in the playoff mix is Ohio State.
In 2014, Urban Meyer took the Buckeyes to the national championship and delivered its first title in 12 years.
Since the implementation of the playoff format, the Buckeyes have made four playoff appearances, including two after Meyer’s departure for “health reasons.”
Since then, Ryan Day has taken over the program and has continually delivered and in four seasons as the Buckeyes head coach, has posted a 31-4 overall record.
While Georgia returns to 2022 as the reigning national champions, Ohio State was in the mix for a playoff berth a season ago, and had it not been for an upset loss to Michigan, the Buckeyes would have taken the No. 4 seed over Cincinnati.
In 2022, Ohio State returns arguably the most complete roster in the nation, highlighted by sophomore C.J. Stroud.
For years, Georgia has relied on its top-tiered defense that allowed just 10.4 points per game.
While the offense wasn’t a record-breaking system by any stretch, the managerial style play of Stetson Bennett was efficient enough to lead Georgia to the College Football Playoff championship.
Georgia’s brand of football is in stark contrast of much of the nation that wants to spread the field and push the ball downfield at will.
Ohio State is the polar opposite of Georgia football, having led the nation with 45.7 points per game a season ago.
It seems destiny should await the proverbial immovable object with an unstoppable force meeting for college football glory in the national championship this year.
While Georgia certainly has the experience of winning a national title in its repertoire, Stroud will put together a Joe Burrow, circa 2019, caliber season and lead the Buckeyes to an unbeaten season.
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