As the dust settles around the 2022 football season, let’s look ahead to the final AP top 25 college football rankings
Note: this isn’t our ranking of the best teams, but our prediction for how AP top 25 voters will slot them in the official poll
25. Duke. A stellar job for Mike Elko in Year 1, leading the Blue Devils from a meager 3-9 record to a 9-4 mark and a bowl win over UCF, and emerging as the first Duke coach to win at least 8 games in his first season since 1984.
24. Maryland. Eight wins for the Terrapins after capping things off with a narrow, hard-fought win over NC State in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
23. Minnesota. Two straight 9-win seasons, two straight second-place finishes in the division, and two straight bowl wins for the Gophers, who knocked out Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl this year.
22. Pittsburgh. A strong finish to the season, winning four straight games, including a last-second Sun Bowl triumph against UCLA.
21. Fresno State. After losing four straight early on, the Bulldogs rattled off eight straight wins to close out and then trashed Washington State in the bowl.
20. Mississippi State. Zach Arnett opened a new era for the Bulldogs with a close, dramatic win over Illinois in the bowl, a tribute to the late Mike Leach.
19. Troy. The champions of the Sun Belt won 12 games after knocking off a favored UTSA in the Cure Bowl behind a characteristically strong defense.
18. Clemson. Reports of improvement on offense may have been premature after a sluggish showing in an Orange Bowl loss to Tennessee, and Dabo Swinney needs to use this offseason to get the program back on track.
17. Oregon State. An unlikely entry into the top 25 rankings in recent memory, but the Beavers ended the year on a four-game win streak, including a 24-point win over Florida in the bowl to finish 10-3.
16. Notre Dame. An up-and-down debut for coach Marcus Freeman, but a lot of “up” late, winning five straight and finishing with a Gator Bowl win over South Carolina, plus the commitment of transfer quarterback Sam Hartman.
15. LSU. Brian Kelly won 10 games the first time out, including a statement over Alabama. A late loss to Texas A&M ended LSU’s slim College Football Playoff hopes, and it took an L to Georgia in the SEC title, but then smashed Purdue in a 56-point rout in the Citrus Bowl. Jayden Daniels, LSU’s electric quarterback, is also coming back in 2023.
14. Kansas State. The Wildcats overcame three regular season losses, including to Tulane, to beat then-perfect TCU for the Big 12 title. It lost an early lead on Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, but K-State is on a firm foundation.
13. USC. Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy, a climax to a banner first year in Lincoln Riley’s rebuild, but losses to Utah in the Pac-12 title game and to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl repeatedly proved that this defense isn’t ready for primetime.
12. Utah. A second-straight Pac-12 championship for the Utes, but then a loss in the Rose Bowl after Cameron Rising’s injury. The good news: Rising announced he will return to what looks like a Pac-12 loaded with quarterback skill next season.
11. Oregon. A brutal loss to Georgia, eight straight wins, and then a 1-3 finish defined the Ducks’ maiden season under Dan Lanning. But the team also took down North Carolina by a point in the bowl, and got the news that Bo Nix will return for 2023.
10. Tulane. What a statement for the Green Wave, which won the AAC title and then came back against USC, scoring 16 points in the final four minutes to win the Cotton Bowl and finish a strong 12-2.
9. Florida State. The Seminoles recovered from a three-game losing skid midseason, winning five straight and then taking the Cheez-It Bowl over OU, finishing with 10 wins in a statement season under Mike Norvell, with the added bonus that quarterback Jordan Travis and edge rusher Jared Verse both announced they will return.
8. Penn State. A team to watch in the Big Ten next year with five-star quarterback Drew Allar taking the reins behind a solid line and with an improved defense coming back for the Rose Bowl champions.
7. Washington. First-year coach Kalen DeBoer has his quarterback in Michael Penix, who led college football in passing, helped the Huskies to 11 wins, including in the Alamo Bowl over Texas, and will be back in 2023 to try it all again.
6. Tennessee. Joe Milton could be the future at quarterback for the Vols after an important win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl, and Josh Heupel looks to get this team back in College Football Playoff contention again next year.
5. Alabama. A rout for the Tide over Kansas State in Bryce Young and Will Anderson’s last game as they head to the draft, and now Nick Saban has some big holes to fill at important positions, and with Georgia making a case that it’s the new king of the SEC.
4. Ohio State. A tough 1-point loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinal hurts, and while the Buckeyes have some key talent returning, Ryan Day is still facing a big challenge from Michigan coming into 2023.
3. Michigan. For the second straight year, UM lost in the College Football Playoff semifinal, but has two wins over Ohio State and a pair of Big Ten titles to build from, not to mention star running back Blake Corum returning for 2023.
2. TCU. Midnight came quick and hard for Cinderella as the Horned Frogs took an historically ugly loss in the national championship game, but the Horned Frogs are doing well in the transfer portal even if they have to find a new quarterback.
1. Georgia. We’re fast approaching official dynasty territory for the Bulldogs after they won a second-straight national title, a dominant 65-7 demolition against TCU leaving no doubt that Athens is the capital of college football right now.
More college football from SI: Top 25 Rankings | Schedule | All Teams
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