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ESPN unveils SP+ preseason projections for 2022 college football season

Griffin McVeigh05/23/22
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(John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Everyone has their own method for projecting how the 2022 college football season will turn out, with most ranking their top 25 teams before the year begins. For ESPN’s Bill Connelly — he uses a formula called the SP+, where he takes returning production, recently recruiting rankings, and recent history into account as well.

Connelly released an updated version of the SP+ after the latest round of transfer portal movement. Based on the formula, there are three teams clearly ahead of the pack when it comes to competing for a national championship. While he ranks the entire FBS, today we’ll look at the top 25.

SP+ Top 10

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes (29.9)

Ohio State missed the playoff last season under head coach Ryan Day but will return one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. The SP+ ranks them as the top in the country, coming in at a 47.9 rating. New Heisman Trophy favorite CJ Stroud will have a loaded receiving core along with one of the nation’s top running backs, TreVeyon Henderson. Their new-look defense under Jim Knowles doesn’t project horribly either at 18.0. A national championship is the goal in Colombus this year and the SP+ favors them in the preseason.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide (28.6)

It’s scary to think about the returning talent Alabama will have at their disposal this season, with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young being the top name. He will lead an offense projected to be second best in the country (41.8), with new weapons surrounding him. Stars are littered throughout the Crimson Tide defense, with Will Anderson and Dallas Turner headlining the pass rush. For the first time in a while, Nick Saban’s defense (13.3, third-best in SP+), could be the anchor during his national championship push.

3. Georgia Bulldogs (27.3)

The reigning national champions, Georgia is not expected to slow down this season according to the SP+. Surprisingly, it’s the offense (41.8) that carries the weight as quarterback Stetson Bennett returns. Based on what the Bulldogs lost to the 2022 NFL Draft on the defensive side (14.5), head coach Kirby Smart will have to reload. Georgia’s recruiting should help solve the issue fairly quickly, as they look to be the first repeat champions in nearly a decade.

4. Michigan Wolverines (20.6)

A huge drop-off from the top three, Michigan is the SP+’s fourth-ranked team in the preseason. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has a lot to replace to replicate what his defense did last season. Not only on the field but defensive coordinator Jesse Minter will be with the program for his first season. The defense has a 19.7 defense and it’s the offense that carries the Wolverines (40.3). Harbaugh is not interested in slowing down their progress and will push for another CFP appearance.

5. Oklahoma Sooners (20.3)

The first school with a first-year head coach, Brent Venables will be taking over in Norman. A program traditionally near the top of the SP+, the same holds true this season, despite a lot of changes. The production of quarterback Dillon Gabriel with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby has the offense ranked high (40.7), while the calculation thinks Venables will have some work to do with his defense.

6. Clemson Tigers (20.3)

It’s a big bounce-back season for Clemson and Dabo Swinney. The SP+ ranks them as the second-best defense at 11.5, while the offense still needs work at 31.8 (39th). The Tigers are used to competing for national championships and look to do so this year.

7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19.6)

Marcus Freeman takes over as the head coach after previously serving as the defensive coordinator. His former unit is why the Fighting Irish rank so high, coming in at 15.5. Freeman decided to keep offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to continue their success. The SP+ is not a huge fan of the offense, having a 35.2 ranking.

8. Texas A&M Aggies (18.5)

Arguably, no team will have more eyeballs on them this season than Texas A&M. Off-the-field storylines will create on-the-field pressure for head coach Jimbo Fisher. Similar to last year, the SP+ has the defense carrying the load for the Aggies (14.3). A quarterback competition will likely determine how effective their offense (32.8) turns out to be.

9. Tennessee Volunteers (18.5)

Could this finally be the year Tennessee breaks out and competes in the SEC East? The SP+ certainly thinks so, ranking their offense at No. 4 with a 41.4. However, their projected defensive output is second-worst of anybody inside the top 25 (43). A huge season ahead in Knoxville.

10. Wisconsin Badgers (18.2)

Stop me when you have heard this one before but Wisconsin is expected to be an elite defensive team (11.2) while having some ground to make up on offense (29.5). In fact, the SP+ does not have a defense ranked higher, with the Badgers earning the No. 1 spot.

Spots 11-25

11. Cincinnati Bearcats (16.8)

12. Utah Utes (16.6)

13. Penn State Nittany Lions (16.3)

14. Miami Hurricanes (15.6)

15. Mississippi State Bulldogs (15.6)

16. Michigan State Spartans (15.1)

17. Ole Miss Rebels (14.9)

18. NC State Wolfpack (14.9)

19. Pittsburgh Panthers (14.8)

20. Kentucky Wildcats (14.8)

21. Minnesota Golden Gophers (14.2)

22. Auburn Tigers (14.0)

23. Florida Gators (13.9)

24. Oregon Ducks (13.8)

25. BYU Cougars (13.1)