The Georgia Bulldogs are back-to-back national champions, earning the No. 1 spot in the consensus 2023 college football rankings. After the reigning champs. though, there is plenty of debate about who will be the best college football teams in 2023.
Powerhouse teams like the Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes certainly merit consideration. With two of the best coaches in college football, history suggests they will be in the College Football Playoff race in November. However, departures at quarterback create uncertainty.
Predicting the breakout teams isn’t easy as no one saw the TCU Horned Frogs or Tennessee Volunteers reaching the success they achieved in 2022. As we look around the country, though, there are a few programs on the radar that could exceed expectations and surprise the nation.
Let’s dive into our 2023 college football rankings.
25. Iowa Hawkeyes
No one has ever questioned the Iowa Hawkeyes defense. Acquiring quarterback Cade McNamara provides some hope in 2023, especially now that a young offensive line gained some much-needed experience. However, Iowa also lost six defensive starters and regression is well within the cards.
24. North Carolina Tar Heels
Drake Maye gives the North Carolina Tar Heels a shot to win every game, which says a lot about his talent level. UNC lost top receivers Josh Downs and Antoine Green. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Phil Longo is gone. For as much as we love Maye and NFL teams will focus on him, the rest of the Tar Heels roster holds them back in our 2023 college football rankings.
23. Ole Miss Rebels
A 7-0 start for the Ole Miss Rebels quickly became nothing more than a memory with five losses in six games. Fortunately, the Rebels will get their star players back on offense this fall and the addition of Pete Golding should help the Ole Miss defense. As long as Lane Kiffin doesn’t get recruited by another program during the season, the Rebels should be competitive in the SEC.
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22. Wisconsin Badgers
The Wisconsin Badgers made arguably the best hiring of the 2023 coaching carousel with Luke Fickell and he quickly built a strong staff t support him. Tanner Mordecai should perform well in Longo’s offense, especially with Braelon Allen dominating on the ground.
21. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Stability and continuity are two important factors shaping our 2023 college football rankings. With 17 starters returning from an eight-win team, the Texas Tech Red Raiders are in an excellent position to be a formidablle threat in the Big 12 Conference next season. If there is improvement from Tyler Shough, Texas Tech’s offense could erupt.
20. South Carolina Gamecocks
The South Carolina Gamecocks land in our 2023 college football rankings based off potential, much like a year prior. Shane Beamer has done an excellent job thus far through two seasons and Spencer Rattler showed some outstanding flashes late in the year. With Rattler and Juice Wells coming back, combined with the additions made through the transfer portal, nine wins in 2023 is possible for the Gamecocks.
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19. Kansas State Wildcats
Deuce Vaughn declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft takes a huge hit out of Kansas State’s offense for next season. However, quarterback Will Howard will be back under center and head coach Chris Klieman’s track record means the Wildcats will win at least eight games, all while providing tough fights for the best teams in the Big 12 Conference.
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18. TCU Horned Frogs
The TCU Horned Frogs should feel confident about starting quarterback Chandler Morris in 2023, who actually opened 2022 as QB1 ahead of Max Duggan. However, coach Sonny Dykes lost Kendre Miller and Quentin Johnston to the NFL, along with some key losses on defense. After winning 13 games in 2022, we’ll set our expectations for TCU at nine victories next fall.
17. Oregon State Beavers
The Oregon State Beavers closed the 2022 season on a strong note, deliverign statement wins over Oregon and Florida. Before that, they went toe-to-toe with the USC Trojand and Washington Huskies. Now quarterback DJ Uiagalelei takes over the offense, with a change of scenery and less pressure potentially putting him in a position to play like a high-end starter. With a majority of the starters returning, the Beavers should hang around in the top 25 rankings all season.
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16. Tulane Green Wave
After winning just two games in 2021, including a 1-7 conference record, the Tulane Green Wave rebounded with an astonishing 12-2 record last fall. Losing Tyjae Spears, Deuce Watts and She Wyatt leaves glaring holes to fill in this offense, but quarterback Michael Pratt is coming back. Another double-digit win season is possible, but Tulane will have to fight to remain in the 2023 college football rankings with a season opener against Ole Miss.
15. Clemson Tigers
Just like last season, we remain pessimistic with our outlook of the Clemson Tigers in our early 2023 college football rankings. Dabo Swinney strengthened his reputation off some of the greatest quarterbacks in ACC history and the dynasty ended without them. Continuity on the offensive line will help Cade Klubnik and Swinney made the right call hiring Garrett Riley as the play-caller. However, we need to see the Tigers prove themselves first.
14. Tennessee Volunteers
Many viewed Josh Heupel as a band-aid for the Tennessee Volunteers, brought in to provide stability when the program was at one of its lowest points. Instead, he turned every Vols’ game into a must-watch event, ending the losing streak vs Alabama and leading Tennessee to its best season in two decades. The future looks bright with Nicholaus Iamaleava developing under Heupel’s coaching, but he’s a year away from starting.
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As for Joe Milton, he’ll make highlight throws with the strongest arm in football, but his accuracy issues will prevent Tennessee from reaching its heights from last season. If he makes an unprecedented leap, then the Volunteers will ascend quickly up the 2023 college football rankings.
13. Texas Longhorns
The Texas Longhorns still aren’t back, but the football team is at least on the upswing. While the departure of running back Bijan Robinson is a crushing blow to this offense, quarterback Quinn Ewers could be a darkhorse Heisman candidate if he stays healthy and develops with another year in Steve Sarkisian’s system. Facing Alabama in early September, it’s a litmus test for both teams.
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12. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Marcus Freeman survived a rough stretch at the opening of the 2022 season and finished with nine wins, all of this despite Notre Dame’s quarterback situation. With Sam Hartman expected to take over as the Fighting Irish quarterback in 2023 and continuity on the offensive line, Notre Dame’s offense should prove far more consistent next fall. The special teams’ luck won’t continue, but the Fighting Irish could surprise Ohio State on Sep. 23.
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11. Utah Utes
The Utah Utes won back-to-back Pac-12 titles, just another accomplishment on Kyle Whittingham’s impressive resume. However, the team heads into the 2023 offseason with quarterback Cam Rising rehabbing a leg injury and major holes to fill at cornerback (Clark Phillips III), tight end (Dalton Kincaid) and running back (Tavion Thomas). For a program that didn’t play well defensively, it heightens the concerns with this team. We’re just not betting against Whittingham winning double-digit games for the fourth time in five years.
10. Washington Huskies
The Washington Huskies exploded in 2022 with transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and first-year coach Kalen DeBoer. With the duo returning for the 2023 campaign, helping convince several other starters to forego the NFL Draft, Washington boasts the talent to repeat the success it just achieved last season. Road trips to USC and Oregon State will be challenging, but the Huskies’ schedule balances out with the Oregon Ducks and Utah Utes coming to Husky Stadium.
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9. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes will land a lot higher in the consensus 2023 college football rankings. However, the likely decline in quarterback play is our biggest hesitation with Ryan Day’s program. Ohio State’s offensive firepower – TreVeyon Henderson, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka – gives it a shot at having one of the best offenses in college football next season. However, the uncertainty surrounding how quarterback Kyle McCord will perform puts a cap on our expectations entering the summer.
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8. Oregon Ducks
Getting quarterback Bo Nix back for the 2023 season puts the Oregon Ducks in the conversation for a Pac-12 title and a CFP Semifinal appearance. While there are some red flags with the offense, specifically an offensive line lacking continuity, Oregon’s defense was a major concern. A second season under Dan Lanning might help, but talent deficiencies on that side of the ball could hold the Ducks back late in the year.
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7. Alabama Crimson Tide
Nick Saban certainly has demonstrated in his career that the Alabama Crimson Tide deserves to be near the top of the 2023 college football rankings. However, losing quarterback Bryce Young and edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. are two huge blows on both sides of the ball. Jalen Milroe might be the favorite to start for Alabama in 2023, but his turnover issues last season are a major concern. It’s the uncertainty at quarterback that pushes the Crimson Tide down the preseason rankings.
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6. LSU Tigers
Brian Kelly is an excellent coach and he helped the LSU Tigers overcome some rocky moments in 2022 to win 10-plus games for only the third since 2014. Looking at the 2023 campaign, quarterback Jayden Daniels will be throwing to future NFL receivers. Defensively, the combo of Maason Smith and Harold Perkins Jr. headline a potentially destructive front seven. Fortunately, we will see LSU tested early with a season opener on Sep. 3 against Florida State.
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5. USC Trojans
Lincoln Riley’s decision to retain defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will almost certainly backfire. The USC Trojans defense single-handedly prevented them from playing in the CFP Semifinal in 2022. A year later, even with more talent added, the same threat exists. Caleb Williams is a generational talent but even another Heisman-caliber season might not be enough to overcome one of the worst defenses in college football.
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4. Penn State Nittany Lions
The Penn State Nittany Lions finally have a quarterback worth getting excited about. While Sean Clifford provided stability, he also put a ceiling on Penn State’s offense. That should change with Drew Allar under center in 2023. The Nittany Lions will still be led by their ground game, with Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen leading one of the best running back tandems in college football. Pair a more explosive offense with a top-flight defense and you’ve got one of the best Nittany Lions teams in years.
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3. Florida State Seminoles
Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis erupted in the 2022 season, making outstanding leaps from his first season as a starter. Mike Norvell is settling in, having just led the Seminoles to double-digit wins for the first time since 2016. If Travis maintains his year-to-year improvement and FSU’s additions via the transfer portal gel early, the Seminoles will win the ACC and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
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2. Michigan Wolverines
The Michigan Wolverines made it through Jim Harbaugh’s annual flirtation with the NFL and emerged with most of their core returning for the 2023 season. J.J. McCarthy should take a step forward with a full summer to prepare as the starter and running back Blake Corum remains an excellent Heisman Trophy candidate when healthy. Michigan also added to its defense through the transfer portal, but the NCAA investigation and the dismissal of play-caller Matt Weiss raise some questions before the 2023 season.
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1. Georgia Bulldogs
While the Georgia Bulldogs lose Stetson Bennett, Jalen Carter, Kelee Ringo and Darnell Washington, it just opens the door for new five-star talent to take their place. Georgia quarterback Carson Beck earned rave reviews last spring and he’ll have Brock Bowers along with Rara Thomas and Dominic Lovett. There’s a legitimate shot at the Bulldogs pulling off the three-peat.
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