College football rankings: These top 25 unranked AP preseason teams could finish in the top 10

College football is sometimes hit for its predictability at the top. Look no further than a rematch of the SEC Championship game between Alabama and Georgia in last season’s College Football Playoff National Championship for supporting evidence. However, a closer look at the 2021 season reveals how surprises are still part of the fabric of the sport, even at the highest levels.

After losing seasons in 2020, Baylor, Michigan and Michigan State began their 2021 campaigns without being ranked in the AP Top 25. At the end of the season, however, the trio was ranked in the top 10 in the latest AP poll after playing in the New Year’s Six Bowl Games. Baylor won the Big 12 and the Sugar Bowl; Michigan won the Big Ten and made a playoff semifinal against Georgia; and Michigan State won the Peach Bowl while producing an unexpected Heisman Trophy contender in running back Kenneth Walker III.

The collective success of this group should give some hope to programs starting the 2022 away season looking ahead. pre-season AP poll. In fact, the “others getting votes” category is made up of so many big names that it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few of them become factors on the national stage – just like the Bears, Wolverines and the Spartans did it last season. .

As the start of the 2022 season draws closer and closer, here’s a look at the five unranked teams with the best chance of finishing the 2022 season in the top 10.

With an 11-11 record (8-10 in the Big Ten) the past two seasons and a 2-6 finish through 2021, Penn State was easy for voters to ignore. However, that line of thinking ignores the Nittany Lions’ 5-0 start last fall — which could have been 7-0 had quarterback Sean Clifford not suffered an injury against Iowa.

The departure of defensive coordinator Brent Pry to become Virginia Tech’s head coach would have been cause for concern – he and coach James Franklin coached together for more than a decade – but Franklin hit a home run by hiring Manny Diaz to replace Pry. With offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich in his second season, plus a healthy Clifford with a loaded squad of talented players around him, the Nittany Lions are capable of beating anyone on their schedule. That includes No. 2 Ohio State at home on Oct. 29. The offensive line is the biggest question mark, but if that group can facilitate even a usable rush attack, it can be a top 10 team.

Texas somehow managed a No. 18 ranking in the coaches’ preseason poll — with a vote for first place, no less — which belies the season program’s 5-7 record. last. Clearly, the coaches (or anyone casting ballots on their behalf) are riding the wave of annual hype surrounding the Longhorns. PA voters are taking a more sensible approach, which is to wait and see if this team can pull it all together.

If we assume that Texas will lose to top-ranked Alabama in Week 2, the program’s bid for a top-10 finish will likely hinge on how they fare against No. 9 Oklahoma. (October 8), at No. 12 Oklahoma State (October 22) and against No. 10 Baylor (November 26). Wins against two of those three would put the Longhorns in prime position to climb in the polls throughout the season. Texas finished 0-3 against this group last season by a combined 22 points in a brutal October. Those games are spaced out further this season, giving a team that has already proven injury-prone in pre-season training a chance to breathe. With Quinn Ewers officially under the centerthe Longhorns are expected to have the key ingredients to compete for a Big 12 title and just their second top 10 finish in the AP Poll since 2009.

PA voters poured cold water on one of the best offseason darlings by leaving the Volunteers out of the preseason poll. Trips to No. 17 Pittsburgh, LSU and No. 3 Georgia — in addition to home games against Alabama, Florida and No. 20 Kentucky — could leave this team struggling to improve by compared to last season’s 7-6 mark. But coach Josh Heupel’s high-octane offensive philosophy also makes the Volunteers capable of beating anyone on their schedule.

Because of this team’s reliance on quarterback Hendon Hooker and how uncertain the defense seems, this group qualifies as one of the most unpredictable teams this season. Then again, the same could have been said about Ole Miss last season. The Rebels also had a sophomore coach, a questionable defense and a singularly important star quarterback. But they finished 10-3 and ranked No. 11 at the end of the season. The Flights could follow this plan if the breaks continue in 2022.

USL

When LSU won the 2020 CFP title, it did so with 64% Blue Chip Ratio, which is 247Sports’ way of measuring a program’s overall talent. The metric looks at how many four- and five-star prospects a program has signed in the previous four recruiting cycles, and LSU actually has a higher BCR in 2022 (66%) than when it won the national title. . The Tigers also have a better coach, with Brian Kelly making his SEC debut after a highly successful run at Notre Dame. Joe Burrow isn’t walking through that door to play quarterback, but if Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels can find the promise he showed as a rookie in 2019, then LSU might have what it takes. to be a national postman sooner than expected under Kelly.

While the schedule makes a top-10 finish difficult, a Nov. 5 game against Alabama appears to be the only definite loss. Even that one could get weird if it’s a Death Valley night game. As usual, a high level of variance is possible with this program; games against Southern, New Mexico and UAB appear to be the only definite wins. As we saw in 2019, however, the benefits of this program are as high as it gets. A 10-3 record is just as possible as a repeat of last season’s 6-7 mark.

Florida

Florida is all the way down tied for No. 37 in the AP poll. The Gators received just 14 votes after a 6-7 season and the coaching transition from Dan Mullen to Billy Napier. However, that program is also less than a calendar year away from defeating eventual SEC champion Alabama and less than two years away from winning SEC East.

The Gators have a potential star at quarterback in Anthony Richardson and an appearance record under first-year coaches. The last seven UF coaches led their teams into the top 15 at some point in their first season, and six of those seven coaches had the Gators as high as the top 10. Only Mullen and Galen Hall finished their firsts. seasons with a top 10 team, but that’s still an incredible success rate in a league as tough as the SEC.

A cross-divisional trip to No. 6 Texas A&M the week after facing Georgia, along with a tough opener against No. 7 Utah and Kentucky, make for a big-boy schedule in 2022, but those oddities also offer huge opportunities for Florida. become a surprise player on the national scene.

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