Since the college football playoff began to serve as the method of crowing a national champion in division 1 football, only 13 different teams have made up the field. Alabama has made it to the playoff 7 out of 8 times. Ohio State and Oklahoma have each made it 4 times and Clemson has made it 6 out of 8 times. The lack of parity in college football has been blatant the last few years, which makes it easier to know who the real contenders really are before the season even starts. I believe there are about 8 teams who have a realistic shot at making the playoff before the 2022-23 season begins.
1) Alabama Crimson Tide
The Alabama Crimson Tide are the team with the best shot to make the playoff. The program has been absolutely dominant under Nick Saban, winning 6 national championships. Coming off of a loss in the national championship to the Georgia Bulldogs, the Tide are looking as good as ever. Although key wideouts Jameson Williams and John Metchie III departed to the NFL, QB Bryce Young is back for another season and defensive monster Will Anderson is back to lead the defense.
2) Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes are looking as dangerous as ever after a disappointing 2021 season. While the Buckeyes looked scary at times last season, they came out flat against Oregon and Michigan, losing “The Game” for the first time since 2011. The Buckeyes lose star wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, but return standout wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and quarterback CJ Stroud. With the hiring of new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, the Buckeyes defense should be much improved in comparison to their poor performance in 2021. When this team is clicking, the Buckeyes have the offensive firepower to pull away from pretty much any team in the country. The Buckeyes should return to a familiar place atop the Big 10 and return to the playoff for a 5th time.
3) Georgia Bulldogs
The defending national champs come into the 2022 season with one of the nation’s most talented rosters. With many new 5 star recruits getting ready to debut in Athens, it is also important to note that Kirby Smart’s team lost a mind blowing 15 starters from its 2021 championship team. Quarterback Stetson Bennett returns to give the Bulldogs some continuity and direction on offense, but it may take a few weeks for team chemistry to develop after so much turnover. Still, the Bulldogs are better than every opponent they play during the regular season and are likely headed toward another epic clash with the Crimson Tide to determine a playoff spot.
4) Clemson Tigers
The Clemson Tigers had their worst year since 2014-15 under Dabo Swinney during the 2021 season. The Tigers went 9-3 and lost two ACC games for the first time since 2014. After a close loss to eventual national champions Georgia to open the season, the Tigers never looked like an elite team all year long. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei struggled immensely at times, causing the offense to look lethargic for much of the season. Despite their 2021 struggles, the Tigers still have one of the most talented rosters in the country and play in a weak conference. If Uiagalelei can figure it out expect Clemson to be playing in one of the two semifinals come late December.
5) Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines had their best season in the Harbaugh era in 2021 when they finally took down rival Ohio State and won their first Big Ten title since 2004. Losing Aidan Hutchinson will be a huge loss as the Heisman finalist headed to the NFL after a phenomenal senior season. The Wolverines do return both starting Quarterback Cade McNamara and his talented backup JJ McCarthy this season in what should be a fun offense to watch. Losing offensive coordinator Josh Gattis to Miami and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to the NFL also hurts a lot. Michigan’s softer schedule combined with a talented roster should be enough to put the team firmly in the CFP conversation. Ohio State does have a better roster however and thus remains the biggest hurdle to Michigan repeating 2021 and advancing to the playoff for a second straight season.
6) Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M comes into 2022 with a ton of hype around an insanely talented roster. Jimbo Fisher managed to secure the best recruiting class in school history, brining in 8 five star recruits including defensive linemen Walter Nolen and Shemar Stewart. The Aggies also get QB Haynes King back after he missed most of the 2021 season with an injury. There is no doubt that the Aggies have the talent to win a national title, but the fact that they play in the toughest division in college football hurts their chances. The Aggies have been inconsistent during Jimbo Fisher’s tenure, with the team pulling off huge wins only to suffer puzzling losses a few weeks later. While the Aggies are loaded, I don’t see them having enough to win in Tuscaloosa and make a serious playoff push in 2022.
7) Utah Utes
The 2021 Pac-12 champs come into 2022 with a very solid roster despite losing long time star Britain Covey and linebacker Devin Lloyd to the NFL. The Utes return Quarterback Cameron Rising and RB Tavion Thomas in what should be a very physical and effective offense. Utah has the firepower to make a playoff run, but one slip up likely ends their hopes with the Pac-12 not regarded as highly as the other power conferences are. While I contemplated putting the Utes higher, I believe they slip up once during the season and it costs them a shot at a playoff bid.
8) Miami Hurricanes
The Miami Hurricanes experienced quite the offseason turnaround. New head coach Mario Cristobal has already made splashes on the recruiting trail as he continues to reignite life into the Hurricanes program. Miami is by far the most dark horse contender on this list, as they went 7-5 in 2021 and have not been close to a playoff contender in recent years. With QB Tyler Van Dyke and solid overall roster, the Hurricanes have a realistic path to a semifinal berth. An easy ACC schedule could set up a showdown with Clemson in early December to determine a conference title and playoff spot.
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