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2023 Way Too Early College Football Rankings


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Way-too-early college football rankings for 2023

1. Georgia (15-0, won College Football Playoff national championship)

Yes, Georgia loses Heisman finalist Stetson Bennett. But coach Kirby Smart and his program will likely simply reload and remain SEC and national contenders, with Carson Beck perhaps taking over. No matter who wins the starting quarterback job — Beck, Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton — the Bulldogs will be strong at running back and have TE Brock Bowers and strong WRs. LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson (9 TFL, 4 sacks) should be among the leaders of another strong UGA defense.

PERFECT: Looking at all undefeated national champions since 1936

2. Michigan (13-1, lost CFP semifinal)

Two disappointing endings in a row in the CFP semifinals, yes, but there's no doubting that the Wolverines have flipped the script against Ohio State the last two years. Michigan will be looking at a third consecutive conference title in 2023, only this time it will hope to take that next step and advance to the CFP title game. QB J.J. McCarthy and RBs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards will star on offense, while DB Will Johnson (3 INTs) will be an All-America threat as a sophomore. This ranking does depend on the return of coach Jim Harbaugh.

3. Ohio State (11-2, lost in CFP semifinals)

Ryan Day is 45-6 but back-to-back losses to Michigan and a loss to Georgia in the CFP semifinals puts some pressure on the coach. Even if C.J. Stroud is gone, Ohio State will again score plenty of points — having all-world WR Marvin Harrison Jr. (1,263 receiving yards, 14 TDs) would make anyone confident.

4. Alabama (11-2, won Sugar Bowl)

A rout of K-State in the Sugar Bowl sent out Bryce Young and others on a high note, but any Nick Saban season that doesn't end with an SEC or national title will feel slightly disappointing. Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson will probably battle it out for the starting QB job. There are a lot of questions throughout here, but Alabama is still Alabama.

5. Penn State (11-2, won Rose Bowl)

Sean Clifford's lengthy career ended with a dynamite performance in the Rose Bowl, which means highly touted recruit Drew Allar's time is here. Expect dynamic running backs Nick Singleton (1,061 yards) and Kaytron Allen (867 yards) to take the next steps as sophomores. DC Manny Diaz will keep the defense among the best.

6. LSU (10-4, won Citrus Bowl)

Brian Kelly's first season included beating Alabama and picking up a dominating bowl win along with disappointing blowout defeats to Tennessee and Georgia. The Tigers have star power on both sides of the ball, with QB Jayden Daniels (2,913 passing yards, 885 rushing yards, 28 total TDs) and LB Harold Perkins Jr. (72 total tackles, 7.5 sacks). LSU also opens up with Florida State again — a major chance for both schools to get off on the right foot (Florida State won it in 2022).

7. Florida State (10-3, won the Cheez-It Bowl)

After going 3-6 in the COVID year and then 5-7 in 2021, the Seminoles broke out in Mike Norvell's third season a bit, winning their last six games to reach double-digit wins. As is the case for many teams here, optimism starts at quarterback thanks to Jordan Travis (3,214 passing yards and 31 total TDs) and all his weapons. FSU gets another date with LSU before important road trips to rivals Clemson and later Florida. Those three games will be the difference.

8. USC (11-3, lost Cotton Bowl)

The Trojans were one win away from the CFP, but they ended the season falling to Utah in the Pac-12 title game and then Tulane in the Cotton Bowl. USC must show progress on defense to be taken even more seriously as a true national championship contender. The good — great — news, however is that Lincoln Riley has the return of Heisman-winning QB Caleb Williams (4,537 passing yards, 382 rushing yards, 52 total TDs).

9. Washington (11-2, won Alamo Bowl)

Michael Penix Jr.'s return slots Washington as a clear Pac-12 title contender and a candidate to break the conference's CFP drought. He'll go into 2023 as a Heisman hopeful after his 4,641 passing yards. Could the Huskies take the next step USC almost did — have a Heisman winner at quarterback in the CFP?

10. TCU (13-2, lost College Football Playoff national championship)

As brutal as the loss to Georgia was for the CFP title, don't let that sour the incredible run Sonny Dykes had in his first season. TCU picked up a lot of close wins behind star QB Max Duggan and others to go from unranked to No. 2. More top talent may be gone to the NFL, but Dykes will continue to look into the transfer portal. This might be too low, if anything.

11. Utah (10-4, lost the Rose Bowl)

The Utes are the two-time defending Pac-12 champions but are going to again be underappreciated compared to the likes of USC and others in their conference. Coach Kyle Whittingham and his group are used to that and will again compete for conference honors. QB Cam Rising will be back after unfortunate injuries knocked him out of the last two Rose Bowls.

12. Tennessee (11-2, won Orange Bowl)

Hendon Hooker is gone, but the Volunteers and their fans hope Joe Milton's performance in the Orange Bowl (251 passing yards, 3 TDs) is a sign of another Heisman contender at quarterback. Josh Heupel and his staff continue to recruit well. If the defense takes a step forward, Tennessee will challenge Georgia for the SEC East championship.

13. Notre Dame (9-4, won Gator Bowl)

The Irish recovered from an 0-2 start to hand Clemson its first defeat, climb to the top 15 for a bit and then beat red-hot South Carolina in the bowl game. Some 2023 optimism in Marcus Freeman's second year is due to QB Sam Hartman transferring from Wake Forest. Hartman passed for 76 total touchdowns the last two seasons. Key games include USC, Clemson and Ohio State.

14. Clemson (11-3, lost Orange Bowl)

Clemson got back to being ACC champs again but a late-season loss to rival South Carolina ended any CFP dreams. Cade Klubnik is the guy at quarterback, though RB Will Shipley is going to be rather busy in 2023. Jeremiah Trotter Jr. will star on defense.

15. Oregon (10-3, won Holiday Bowl)

Dan Lanning and his Ducks regrouped from a humbling loss to Georgia to begin the season by winning 10 games. Oregon could swing much higher or drop notably depending on how the new offensive line works with returning QB Bo Nix.

16. Oregon State (10-3, won Las Vegas Bowl)

The Beavers broke out in Jonathan Smith's fifth season, winning 10 games for only the third time ever. Oregon State brings back almost all its offensive line and will be one of the Pac-12 favorites in 2023. QB Ben Gulbranson will be back, but Oregon State also brings in Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei.

17. Texas (8-5, lost Alamo Bowl)

The Longhorns had their moments — pushing then-No. 1 Alabama, toppling Kansas State on the road — but they'll be expecting more in Steve Sarkisian's third season. RB Bijan Robinson is gone, but QB Quinn Ewers is back...as is the highly touted Arch Manning. Texas has had quite a lot of close defeats lately, so it'll have to switch those around to get back to the elite.

18. Tulane (12-2, won Cotton Bowl)

The Green Wave will be one of the top AAC — and thus Group of Five — contenders next season. Running back Tyjae Spears (205 yards against USC in the Cotton Bowl) declared for the NFL Draft, though QB Michael Pratt (3,010 passing yards, 478 rushing yards and 37 total TDs) will be back.

19. Texas Tech (8-5, won the Texas Bowl)

The Red Raiders surged late in Joey McGuire's first season, winning their last four. Texas Tech also beat both Texas and Oklahoma. QB Tyler Shough will be back and will lead the Red Raiders against his former team, Oregon, in the second week of the season. That will go a long way into just how much Texas Tech can climb in 2023.

20. Kansas State (10-4, lost Sugar Bowl)

The Wildcats upset TCU to win the Big 12 title, so even though Deuce Vaughn (1,558 rushing yards, 9 TDs) is off to the NFL, doubt Chris Klieman at your own risk. Should Will Howard be back at quarterback, K-State will score enough to challenge for another conference crown. The defense should also be typically tough.

21. Iowa (8-5, won Music City Bowl)

If the Hawkeyes' offense improves but only a little, they'll make a run for the Big Ten West crown. After all, Iowa averaged only 18.15 points and 251.6 yards per game last year — and still won eight games. Michigan transfer Cade McNamara could take over. On defense, they lose star Jack Campbell, but DB Cooper DeJean (5 interceptions) is back.

22. North Carolina (9-5, lost Holiday Bowl)

The Tar Heels started outside the top 25 but got into the top 15 of the CFP before losing their final four games. However, UNC could break out in 2023 with the return of QB Drake Maye (4,321 passing yards, 45 total TDs). The offense should score A TON of points, so any progress will depend on defensive improvement. As usual.

23. Wisconsin (7-6, won Guaranteed Rate Bowl)

The Badgers brought in Cincinnati's Luke Fickell to take over the program after he went 57-18 with the Bearcats. It's Wisconsin, so the defense should again be strong in what figures to be another open Big Ten West race. Former UNC offensive coordinator Phil Longo will be the Badgers' new OC — a return to double-digit win seasons will depend on the offense.

24. Ole Miss (8-4, lost Texas Bowl)

The Rebels got to No. 7 before losing five of its last six. Running back Quinshon Judkins and a good offensive line will work with QB Jaxson Dart, but the defense will have to improve. It also doesn't help to be in the same division as Alabama and rising LSU.

25. UTSA (11-3, lost Cure Bowl)

The Roadrunners went undefeated in C-USA play and were a bowl win against Troy away from remaining in the top 25 to end this past season. QB Frank Harris is back after throwing for more than 4,000 yards and has a lot of talent around him like WR Zakhari Franklin (1,136 yards) and RB Kevorion Barnes (845 yards as a freshman). This will be UTSA's first season in the AAC.

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College football rankings: ESPN way-too-early top 25 poll for 2023

ESPN college football rankings for 2023


Ohio State


Florida State


Penn State








Notre Dame



Oregon State

Kansas State


Ole Miss

North Carolina


Texas Tech

James Madison


Who missed out?

Some notable exclusions from the ESPN rankings include Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Arkansas, UCLA, and Texas A&M.

Pollsters will be slow to give A&M a high ranking, or any at all, when the official 2023 rankings come out this summer after the team dramatically failed to live up to its potential this past season, going 5-7 and 2-6 in SEC competition, failing to play in a bowl game for the first time in more than a decade.

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247 Sports: 


25. Tulane Green Wave 

24. Ole Miss Rebels 

23. Oklahoma Sooners  

22. Texas A&M Aggies (appeared at No. 22 on three ballots)

21. South Carolina Gamecocks (appeared at No. 20 on two ballots)

20. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Tulane lost a couple playmakers to the draft after beating USC in the Cotton Bowl, but the Green Wave do welcome back signal caller Michael Pratt after a program-record 12-win season. ... After debuting inside the preseason top 10 in last year's way-too-early polls, Texas A&M lost the benefit of the doubt after a disappointing 2022 campaign. Next season is vital for Jimbo Fisher and his future in College Station and his new-look coaching staff should assist in turning things around. ... Can Shane Beamer and South Carolina build on their 8-5 finish in 2022? The Gamecocks are hoping to do so with a top 20 signing class and transfer help. Much of the positivity surrounding South Carolina's spot in our preseason rankings depends on the return of Spencer Rattler and Juice Wells. If those two bounce to the NFL this month, the Gamecocks will be moved to the fringe.


(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 18 on two ballots

We're believers in Chip Kelly. Even with multi-year starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson on the way out, UCLA's quarterback competition in 2023 should be one of college football's most exciting to watch. Kent State transfer Collin Schlee, Ethan Garbers and five-star freshman Dante Moore are the three players we expect to be in the mix for QB1 honors. At least early in the year, UCLA may need to lean on its defense while the offense sorts out life without its recognizable dual-threat and ballcarrier Zach Charbonnet. But Kelly will figure it out.


(Photo: Eakin Howard / Stringer, Getty)

Highest ranking: No. 15 on one ballot

Oregon State has its quarterback for the 2023 season. The Beavers swiped former Clemson signal caller D.J. Uiagalelei from the portal last month, hand-picking him from a group of available quarterbacks as an ideal-fit option. And with four starters expected back along the offensive line, Oregon State will give Uiagalelei plenty of time to operate. For this team to be at their best once again,  running back Damien Martinez needs a big year. Oregon State was red-hot late and the Beavers hope that momentum continues into 2023.


(Photo: Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 12 on one ballot

There's reason to doubt the defending Big 12 champions given the losses of Deuce Vaughn and receiver Malik Knowles among others, but this is Chris Klieman we're talking about here — he always shines above outside expectations. Assuming Will Howard is back at Kansas State's starter at quarterback, the Wildcats return a veteran offensive line and feel good about the personnel defensively, especially if a few players on the fence about the 2023 NFL Draft decide another year in college is their best route.


(Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 10 on one ballot

Kyle Whittingham's not going to lead the Utes to a third consecutive Pac-12 title, is he? The odds are high he could if quarterback Cam Rising returns given what Utah brings back on defense. Even with Clark Phillips off to the NFL as a projected first-rounder, the Utes have several all-conference caliber starters who are back on that side of the football. We expected Ja’Quinden Jackson to assume a starring role on offense with more touches.



(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 13 on two ballots

With Max Duggan announcing his plan to enter the NFL Draft last month prior to Monday night's national championship game, TCU must replace its most important player off this season's head-turning squad. Horned Frogs wideout Quentin Johnston is expected to leave too, but the program has signed Alabama pass-catcher JoJo Earle among others in the portal to help off-set personnel losses. This should be a team predicted to finish near the top of the Big 12 this time around after being overlooked prior to the 2022 campaign.


(Photo: John Gutierrez, USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 7 on one ballot

Texas is not back, but the Longhorns are close. And signing five-star quarterback Arch Manning to headline a star-studded group for 2023 may certainly hasten the process of returning to prominence. Steve Sarkisian did win eight games in his second season, a substantial improvement from 2022's embarrassment. You don't replace a player like Bijan Robinson and expect production to not decrease, so there's questions there. If Quinn Ewers takes the next step at quarterback, his numbers will help this offense. Those blocking for him are some of the most talented players in the Big 12. It's the defense that could make or break Texas as a legitimate title contender.


(Photo: Icon Sportswire / Contributor, 247Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 10 on one ballot 

It'll be interesting to see where the rest of the media slots the Fighting Irish next August considering Notre Dame just landed the transfer portal's top quarterback in Sam Hartman. He shattered numerous program records at Wake Forest and gives Notre Dame a dynamic weapon under center the team did not have in Marcus Freeman's first season. The Fighting Irish still won nine games and has a top 10 class coming in for 2023.


(Photo: Eric Espada, Getty)

Highest ranking: No. 7 on one ballot

I'm higher on Tennessee next season than all of my colleagues and that's okay — I put the Volunteers inside the top 15 to begin the 2022 season, too. This offense replaces a couple key playmakers, including Jalin Hyatt and Hendon Hooker, but new-look Tennessee did take Clemson in the Orange Bowl with Joe Milton at quarterback. He'll be on the preseason Heisman shortlist next season given his talent level under center. Josh Heupel's program will hope to continue its surge nationally, but will be the hunted this time around.


(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 11 on three ballots

No longer the likely preseason favorite to win the ACC given the personnel returning for another squad in the league, Dabo Swinney and the Tigers will try and turn back the naysayers who question the roster's holes on defense following heavy NFL departures. Quarterback Cade Klubnik is coming off his first career start and he'll be tasked with being the face of the program alongside running back Will Shipley. Are you buying stock in Clemson as a preseason title contender or has the respect level simmered a bit on Swinney's program?


(Photo: Icon Sportswire, Getty)

Highest ranking: No. 9 on one ballot

The first of three Pac-12 teams to appear in our top 10, Oregon will be loaded in 2023. Its best recruit was convincing Bo Nix to return at quarterback and he gives the Ducks' offense instant credibility after a terrific campaign. The offense may change somewhat with OC Kenny Dillingham taking the Arizona State job, but we'll take our chances on Oregon as a top 10 team with playoff potential. A top 15 signing class and notable transfer haul means this roster will be talented.


(Photo: James Snook, USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 6 on one ballot

One of us really liked Washington in 2023 thanks to the return of Michael Penix Jr. at quarterback and the 10th-best transfer portal haul in the country, per 247Sports. The Huskies just won 11 games, ending the campaign on a seven-game winning streak and very little is being said nationally about the program. Why? There's no flying under the radar for this program next fall. We expected Washington to be ranked inside the top 15 and potentially the top 10 like we have here.


(Photo: (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images), Getty)

Highest ranking: No. 6 on one ballot

North Carolina may want to have a word, but no team in college football next season feels better about its quarterback situation than the Trojans with Heisman winner Caleb Williams returning. He'll have plenty of weapons in his arsenal too, even with Jordan Addison off to the NFL. The way the 2022 season ended for USC left a bad taste in the mouths of Lincoln Riley and his staff, the kind of loss that will motivate this team to try and reach the playoff next go-around.


(Photo: Jake Crandall, USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 5 on one ballot

Remember when LSU was quietly mentioned as possibly be one of the SEC's surprise teams last summer under Brian Kelly? All that positive stock was sold following the season-opening loss to Florida State before folks started coming around again. The Tigers would go on to win the SEC West and now get transfer quarterback Jayden Daniels back for another campaign, strengthening the SEC's deepest room at the position. Linebacker Harold Perkins is the SEC's top returning defender and it's not particularly close.


(Photo: Icon Sportswire, Getty)

Highest ranking: No. 3 on one ballot

Not only has Florida State cleaned up in the portal for the 2023 recruiting cycle, but the Seminoles were one of the nation's hottest teams exiting the season and got great news with quarterback Jordan Travis along with top defender Jared Verse announced their respective returns. That gives Florida State a pair of All-American candidates on both sides of the football, not to mention impressive talent elsewhere in the skill spots. The Seminoles will be one of the nation's most hyped teams in 2023.


(Photo: Harvey Levine-FOS/247)

Highest ranking: No. 5 on two ballots

Two of our voters were close to putting Penn State inside the top four to open next season given what the Nittany Lions have coming back with two rising sophomore sensation running backs and former five-star signee Drew Allar taking the reins under center following the departure of multi-year starter Sean Clifford. On paper, this looks like it could be James Franklin's most talented team in Happy Valley and is the first of three Big Ten squads inside our way-too-early top 5.


(Photo: G Fiume, Getty)

Highest ranking: No. 4 on four ballots

For the first time in several years, Ohio State will have somewhat of a quarterback controversy entering the 2023 season once C.J. Stroud declares for the 2023 NFL Draft and comes off the board as a top 10 selection. Kyle McCord and Devin Brown will battle during spring camp and given Ryan Day's history, that competition won't be decided until fall. Marvin Harrison Jr. returns at wideout and is the top player at his position nationally on what will be a loaded offense.


(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 1 on one ballot

One of us took the Wolverines at No. 1 given Michigan's two-deep, led by J.J. McCarthy at quarterback and a host of talented ballcarriers. As long as Jim Harbaugh is the Wolverines' head coach when the 2023 season kicks off, the Big Ten should once again go through Ann Arbor, as it has each of the past two seasons. For some reason, Michigan got away from its bread and butter in the playoff and for the second straight year, suffered a hard-to-stomach defeat. This team loaded up on portal players who will fill holes in the roster in a big way.

2. ALABAMA Menstrual Wave

(Photo: Andrew Wevers, USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 2 on three ballots

Will Alabama be able to withstand the loss of Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr. in 2023 and improve? For the first time in years, it's a legitimate talent question concerning the Menstrual Wave, who will replace a number of key starters and contributors on offense and defense. Ty Simpson and Jalen Milroe should duke it out for first-team duties at quarterback with freshmen Eli Holstein and Dylan Lonergan behind them. Jermaine Burton returning at wideout helps and Alabama showed flashes there in the bowl win over Kansas State. Still, there seems to be legitimate reasons why none of our analysts slotted the Menstrual Wave at No. 1.


(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Highest ranking: No. 1 on three ballots

The dynasty is underway for Kirby Smart. Georgia received an overwhelming number of first-place votes for next season's top team in our way-too-early rankings, but wasn't quite the unanimous No. 1. Jalen Carter, Broderick Jones, Darnell Washington, Kelee Ringo ... the list goes on for starters Georgia is expected to replace thanks to the NFL Draft, but we've heard this song before and it didn't matter. Two-time playoff champion and MVP Stetson Bennett departs as well. The Bulldogs have created a recruiting monster. 

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