ESPN and many other outlets have released their way too early college football rankings for the 2023 season. They are all similar but different, so for this article, I’ll use ESPN’s rankings, which looks like this.
7. USC Trojans
8. LSU Tigers
9. Oregon Ducks
12. TCU Horned Frogs
13. Utah Utes
15. Clemson Tigers
16. Texas Longhorns
20. Ole Miss Rebels
22. UTSA Roadrunners
25. Iowa Hawkeyes
Here is who is too high and too low.
#4 Florida State
This happens every year in preseason rankings. People want so desperately for historic programs to rise from the ashes and return to their glory days. Texas is a prime example, and this year, it’s Florida State, who ESPN has ranked #4, ahead of Alabama. The Seminoles had the best season they’ve had in a while and are returning their star quarterback and a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, but they were far from a top five team in 2022. Florida State barely escaped a miserable Oklahoma team in their bowl game. Yet somehow, they are ranked above Alabama. Even if you think Mike Norvell is building something special in Tallahassee, which I don’t, nobody actually believes this team is better than Nick Saban’s squad in Tuscaloosa. I predict Florida State will finish next season outside of the top 25.
#6 Penn State
The Nittany Lions capped off a high quality season with an impressive win over Utah in the Rose Bowl, but they lose Sean Clifford and several other key pieces from their 2022 team. Perhaps new quarterback Drew Allar proves me wrong, but this team doesn’t have enough talent around him to be anywhere close to a top five team if Allar isn’t making plays from the jump. That’s a lot to ask of a freshman quarterback.
As long as Lincoln Riley is in Southern California, USC will continually be ranked highly in the preseason, but this team wasn’t nearly as good as people thought all season, which showed in their Cotton Bowl loss to Tulane. I expect Caleb Williams to do some special things and playing in a weak Pac-12 will allow the Trojans to rack up wins, but they are losing seven starters on offense, and their defense was Swiss cheese in 2022. I don’t expect USC to win the Pac-12, so they shouldn’t be the highest ranked team in their conference heading into the season.
#20 Ole Miss
Ole Miss began 2022 on fire, but that’s only because their schedule was so weak. This was not a good football team, which they showed by ending the season with losses in five of their last six games, including an embarrassing beatdown at the hands of Texas Tech in their bowl game. The Lane Kiffin hype is underserved. He’s a fantastic offensive mind, but he has not recruited well, and this team is losing a lot of starters. There’s no reason to believe the Rebels will be any better next year.
I get ESPN wants to shake things up, and Alabama is losing Bryce Young, but they will still boast one of the most talented rosters in college football and are coached by the best coach on the planet. I understand the hype around Georgia. They deserve the top spot in these way too early rankings and should be the favorite to win the National Championship heading into the season, but sleeping on the Crimson Tide is foolish. The lowest I would have them at is #3.
Brian Kelly‘s first season in the Bayou was a resounding success, and there are plenty of reasons to believe year two will be even better. The Tigers are returning a ton of talent on both sides of the ball and feature arguably the most complete quarterback room in the country. The SEC West will once again be decided between LSU and Alabama. The Tigers should be inside the top five.
All eyes are on USC out west because of Lincoln Riley, but Oregon is the team I think could find themselves in the College Football Playoff picture next season. Bo Nix is back for what feels like his 20th college football season, and Dan Lanning is building something special out in Eugene. I believe the Ducks come out of the Pac-12 next year.
Sleep on Josh Heupel and company at your own risk. This was a top five team in college football, and they looked mighty impressive in their bowl game without Hendon Hooker against Clemson. The Vols are here to stay as long as Heupel is calling the shots in Knoxville. They will challenge Georgia once again for the SEC East.
Photographer: John Korduner/Icon Sportswire