Georgia’s thrashing of TCU on Monday night marked the end of the 2022 season of college football. Additionally, even though the offseason hasn’t quite begun, the countdown to ’23 has already begun. There won’t be many calm moments in the college football world for the next few months because of the transfer portal, recruiting and signing day, and eventual spring practice. While there is still plenty of time for the college football community to analyze preseason arguments and rankings, a few themes have already captured our interest for the following season. A few themes to watch in ’23 include Coach Prime’s arrival at Colorado, a probable change of leadership in the ACC, and new quarterbacks at major contenders.
The season of 2023 will be the final one of its kind
By the start of the 24 season, college football will look very different. By then, Oklahoma and Texas will probably join the SEC, and USC and UCLA will undoubtedly join the Big Ten in time for ’24. As if the realignment of conferences wasn’t enough, the CFB Playoff will grow to 12 teams that season. For a number of reasons, the ’23 season will be the last of its sort because the upcoming ’24 season will see some substantial changes to the sport.
At the top teams, new quarterbacks are installed
You will recognize some of the teams at the top of Athlon’s Way-Too-Early College Football Top 25 for ’23. The defending champion Georgia is ranked first, and Ohio State, Michigan, and Alabama all make it into the top six as expected. The Bulldogs, Buckeyes, and Crimson Tide are all likely to have new starting quarterbacks even though those teams should be in the running for a postseason spot until late November. In Athens, Carson Beck is the front-runner; in Columbus, Kyle McCord and Devin Brown will compete (provided C.J. Stroud declares for the NFL draft); and in Athens, Bryce Young’s replacement, Ty Simpson and Jalen Milroe, will face off. Top teams replacing star quarterbacks in previous years hasn’t really caused much of a drop-off. Will that still be true in 23?
An Athens Three-Peat?
In college football, it’s difficult to win consecutive championships. Georgia, however, made it seem simple when it checked that box by crushing TCU 65-7 on Monday night. Can the Dogs win three games in a row? Since the BCS era, no team has ever won three consecutive national championships. However, with a strong roster and an advantageous schedule, coach Kirby Smart’s squad has a chance to win a third straight championship. Georgia will face challenges and receive every team’s best effort, but with the talent on its roster, winning another national championship wouldn’t be unexpected.
Mountain Coach in Boulder
With Deion Sanders in charge, Colorado will be a weekly must-watch on television. Coach Prime in Boulder will not only provide excitement to a school in need of a spark—the Buffaloes are 9-21 over the last three years—but this club should also advance as a result of the inclusion of multiple players from the portal. Given the difficult schedule, Sanders should start with a bowl game. But make no mistake, we will watch every week to see what Coach Prime can do in his debut season as a head coach at Boulder, even if Colorado finishes 3-9.
Ohio State and Penn State versus Michigan?
The road to the Big Ten championship passes via Ann Arbor after Michigan won the conference and participated in back-to-back visits to the CFB Playoff in each of the previous two years. J.J. McCarthy, one of the Big Ten’s finest quarterbacks, as well as running backs Donovan Edwards and Blake Corum are both returning for the Wolverines. Coach Ryan Day must hope the defense keeps improving under coordinator Jim Knowles and the offense soon reloads behind a new quarterback (Kyle McCord or Devin Brown) and a reconstructed line. Ohio State won’t be far behind its enmity rival. Even though The Game will probably determine the East’s champion, there will likely be three teams competing, with Penn State joining the fray. From a squad that finished 11-2 in ’22 and included future stars like quarterback Drew Allar, running backs Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton, the Nittany Lions have a strong core of players returning.
The ACC’s New King?
In seven of the last eight years, Clemson has won the ACC. However, may the ACC see a change in leadership in ’23? After finishing 10-3 this year, Florida State should generate a lot of preseason buzz as the favorite to win the conference. Coach Mike Norvell’s Seminoles are unquestionably improving, and they welcome back quarterback Jordan Travis, running back Trey Benson, and defensive end Jared Verse. Another outstanding transfer class is also coming to Tallahassee. Florida State-Clemson might meet twice during the regular season and once more in the ACC championship game as a result of the divisions being eliminated. Is 23 the year that Florida State reclaims first place in the ACC and the College Football Playoff?
William Caleb Defend the Heisman and guide USC to the CFB Playoff in back
Caleb Williams, the USC quarterback, raised the bar in his first season in Los Angeles. What will be the encore? Williams won the Heisman Trophy and nearly guided his team to the CFB Playoff in his debut season with the Trojans, throwing for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns and rushing for 382 yards and 10 more. It will once again depend on Williams’ right arm if USC wants to advance and make the four-team playoff in ’23. Coach Lincoln Riley made the decision to bring back defensive coordinator Alex Grinch after the defense had a difficult year overall in ’22, but particularly against Utah in the Pac-12 championship game and Tulane in the Cotton Bowl. The Trojans still need to upgrade the personnel on this side of the ball, despite their concerns about the scheme, and acquisitions made through the portal might provide them another quick boost. Williams’ return and a potent attack might lead to a Pac-12 championship and a trip to the CFB Playoffs with better defense. The Pac-12, which has a number of possible Top 25 teams including Washington, Oregon, Utah, UCLA, and Oregon State, will present several challenges in USC’s path to the playoffs.An Update in Lincoln
New Rhule in Lincoln
Scott Frost was thought to be the best coach to get Nebraska back on track in the Big Ten, but the former ‘Husker quarterback’s stint ended with a 16-31 record overall and only 10 victories in Big Ten play. Since 2015, Nebraska has only had one winning overall and Big Ten season, and the 4-8 record in ’21 was the program’s sixth straight season with five losses or fewer victories. Matt Rhule, a former head coach for Baylor and the NFL, is what Trev Alberts, the athletic director, is counting on to make things better, but patience is required. Rhule had a 1-11 record in his Bears debut in 2017, but improved to 7-6 the following year and 11-3 in 2019. How much will Nebraska advance under Rhule in his first campaign?
Another Tight Race for the Big 12 Title?
TCU improved from 5-7 to reach the Big 12 championship and CFB Playoff. Could a another team do what the Horned Frogs did the next season? According to the numbers, the Big 12 looks to have another open season in ’23. Texas will be given some credit for being the favorite after increasing their win total from ’21 by three games. Oklahoma should improve in coach Brent Venables’ second season, while opponents to watch include Texas Tech and the Big 12’s defending champion Kansas State. The Horned Frogs must also be mentioned, despite the fact that coach Sonny Dykes’ team is dealing with a lot of upheaval. With Baylor attempting to rebound after a disappointing 6-7 year, Kansas on the upswing, and four newcomers in UCF, Houston, BYU, and Cincinnati, the Big 12 is just getting more interesting.