When one college football season ends, it gives us a chance to look ahead towards next year. Anytime a Way Too Early College Football Top 25 comes out, it distracts us from the fact that the current campaign is almost over.
The 2021 season gave us so much. A Group of Five team made it to the College Football Playoff. Alabama pushed to call themselves underdogs. A defensive player got some serious support for the Heisman. While we close the book on this year, it’s time to look ahead. PFN’s 2022 Way Too Early College Football Top 25 Rankings are here!
Keep in mind there’s a ton of volatility in the transfer portal, so the landscape could look different in the coming days and weeks. Also, these rankings are not projections of how teams will finish, but rather where they’ll stand right before the 2022 season begins.
2022 Way Too Early College Football Top 25 | 13-25
Who deserves to be in the top 25? Remember, everyone gets a fresh slate, so let future excitement gauge your analysis rather than 2021 results.
25. Tennessee Volunteers
Josh Heupel and the Vols lead off our Way Too Early College Football Top 25. Heupel did a solid job with Tennessee in his first season. The Volunteers essentially replicated what he did at UCF in the SEC. Now, they’re looking to take a step forward in the SEC East.
Hendon Hooker’s return surprised the fanbase, leaving the offense in good hands. Linebacker Jeremy Banks comes back to lead a defense that must turn things around in order to help Tennessee compete.
24. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Jamey Chadwell’s squad slipped against Appalachian State early in the season and couldn’t defend their crown. Luckily, they’ll get a chance to get back in 2022.
Grayson McCall could have turned pro or even transferred, but he decided to return for another year. He’ll be joined by Braydon Bennett and Shermari Jones in the backfield, but he’ll have to find new weapons in the passing game.
23. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
It certainly helps when Clemson takes a step back, but give Wake Forest credit. They took that opportunity and ran with it. Dave Clawson continues to wow us by getting his team to overachieve, but now he faces a new test: being a favorite. With quarterback Sam Hartman returning, the offense won’t skip a beat.
Wide receiver A.T. Perry returns to help lessen the blow of losing Jaquarii Roberson to the NFL, and the uber-athletic Donavon Greene comes back. The offensive firepower will be needed to help a defense that gave up nearly 30 points a game.
22. Iowa Hawkeyes
At this point, doubting Iowa just isn’t smart. Sure, they may take a step back — but every year, this team continues to be one of the toughest to beat. Kirk Ferentz keeps the formula the same: run the ball and play tough defense. As coach Herman Boone said in Remember the Titans, “it’s like Novocaine, it always works.”
Spencer Petras was solid for most of the year but struggled at times with consistency. Losing running back Tyler Goodson and center Tyler Linderbaum to the NFL hurts. But getting a target like Sam LaPorta back helps, and the Hawkeyes defense returns a number of key players that will keep them in contention.
21. LSU Tigers
Brian Kelly may have the worst Southern accent of all time, but the man knows how to win football games and gets the Tigers into our Way Too Early College Football Top 25. Kelly left South Bend to take the Tigers job, a position he said is one you can’t turn down. It’s easy to see why. Just two years removed from a national championship, LSU still has the talent to compete in the SEC.
Myles Brennan doesn’t get enough credit for his talent. Before he got hurt three games into the 2020 season, Brennan was on pace to throw for over 4,400 yards and 44 touchdowns. His return offers the program some stability, and it gives Kelly a veteran to lean on early in his tenure. Star receiver Kayshon Boutte, once considered the best in college football, also returns.
20. Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin needs to address some big losses on defense, but this is another program that sticks to the same formula. Running the football is the top priority for the Badgers, and handing the ball off to a back like Braelon Allen is a luxury most programs don’t possess. Keep in mind Allen will only be 18 years old when the 2022 campaign begins and already has a full season under his belt.
The biggest question, once again, remains the quarterback play. Graham Mertz came into Madison with a ton of hype, but that quickly died. Now, Badgers fans are wondering if he’s just another guy. Defensively, linebackers Leo Chenal and Jack Sanborn are all but gone to the NFL, leaving many to wonder who will step up to lead that side of the ball.
19. Pittsburgh Panthers
No one outside of Pittsburgh thought the Panthers would win 10+ games, let alone win the ACC. Kenny Pickett elevated his game to a new level in 2021 and put himself in the first-round conversation for the 2022 NFL Draft. Losing him left a big gap in the offense, one that Pat Narduzzi filled with USC transfer Kedon Slovis. Slovis has solid arm talent when healthy should be a good fit in the offense.
Wide receiver Jordan Addison received most of the benefits from Pickett’s improvement, but he needs someone else to step up in 2022 to take some pressure away from him. The defense is talented again. DT Calijah Kancey (PFN’s first-team All-ACC), DE Habakkuk Baldonado (second-team), and LB SirVocea Dennis (honorable mention) all return.
18. Houston Cougars
While nearly everyone will put Cincinnati in their top 25, it’s actually Houston that brings the most potential from the AAC heading into the 2022 season. Clayton Tune took major strides in 2021, and the offense is poised to be one of the best in college football.
Running back Alton McCaskill had a historical freshman season, and he’s joined again by Ta’Zhawn Henry. The two are great complements to each other to give defenses a different look. Wide receiver Tank Dell was unguardable in 2021, but someone else must step up to take this offense to a new level. Jeremy Singleton and Christian Trahan are two great candidates.
Defensive coordinator Doug Belk gets the luxury of coaching this defense again. The defensive line is so deep that some really talented players will sit. Derek Parish is back for one more year, and we’ll finally get to see what D’Anthony Jones can do as a starter. Latrell Bankston and Chidozie Nwankwo man the middle. That’s good for Belk as he needs a new starting linebacker and two new starting corners.
17. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma lost Caleb Williams, Jadon Haselwood, Spencer Rattler, Austin Stogner, and Mario Williams to the transfer portal. Both Williams’ haven’t decided on their future programs yet, but new head coach Brent Venables didn’t waste time finding a new quarterback. Former UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel flipped his commitment from UCLA once Venables was able to get Jeff Lebby from Ole Miss.
If Eric Gray returns, he’ll be the undisputed starter at running back. Wide receiver Marvin Mims is still one of the best in college football, which helps considering every other major contributor is gone. The defense saw a mass of departures too, but Key Lawrence and Woodi Washington have some exciting potential in the secondary.
16. NC State Wolfpack
Dave Doeren’s teams typically work best as underdogs, but now they’re listed in the top 25 of our Way Too Early College Football Rankings. The Wolfpack will be a tough team to beat again in 2022. Quarterback Devin Leary returns after throwing for 3,433 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2021. Emeka Emezie is gone, but Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter give Leary reliable targets.
15. BYU Cougars
Before Tyler Allgeier decided to turn pro, BYU returned nearly every returning starter for next year. Lopini Katoa is back to take Allgeier’s spot, so the offense won’t take a step back. Quarterback Jaren Hall didn’t pretend to be Zach Wilson, and that’s what helped him most last year. He gets top targets Gunner Romney, Puka Nacua, and Isaac Rex back as well to take another step forward in 2022.
14. Baylor Bears
Dave Aranda took Baylor from a two-win team in his first season to a 12-win, Big 12 champion squad in Year 2. Now, they have a target on their backs. With the talent returning to Waco, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Gerry Bohanon and Blake Shapen will compete for the starting quarterback job. The winner must work with replacements at both running back and wide receiver. Connor Galvin gave the offensive line a boost by returning, giving them four starters back.
While the defense loses the entire secondary and linebacker Terrel Bernard, there’s still a ton of talent returning. Defensive tackle Siaki Ika is one of the best at his position — he’s a freak athlete who moves incredibly well for someone that weighs 350 pounds. Dillon Doyle will take over for Bernard at linebacker after finishing second on the team in tackles.
13. Miami Hurricanes
Mario Cristobal comes to Miami with crazy expectations, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Ranking the Canes anywhere in a Way Too Early College Football Top 25 is sure to get some attention, which is what Cristobal wants. Miami has been hurting for a great season, and they paid a lot of money to get their guy back home. He’ll get some key pieces to work with, but also gets a chance to mold the roster.
Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke played strong towards the end of the season. In his final six games, he averaged 349 yards passing and threw 20 touchdown passes. He’s joined in the backfield by Jaylan Knighton, who took the starting job late in the season as well. The defense needs work, but Tyrique Stevenson has stud potential at corner.