The AP poll just released its first Top 25 ranking for the upcoming college football season, and the two-time reigning Georgia Bulldogs sit atop at #1.
Kirby Smart has his program primed to become the first program to win three consecutive National Championships since Minnesota did like 100 years ago. Carson Beck is going to be under center for the Dawgs and will have plenty of talent surrounding him to take his team back to the College Football Playoff.
Unlike some schools, Smart’s efforts on the recruiting trail have effectively made the school a machine at replenishing its own talent. There wasn’t a drop-off from 2021 to 2022, and there’s not likely to be one from 2022 to 2023. As long as Beck can be serviceable, the supporting cast should carry him, led by future top draft pick Brock Bowers.
However, if there were a team to put an end to Kirby Smart’s illustrious run, who would it be? Let’s look at some options from the recently released AP Top 25.
(All odds courtesy of BetMGM and are subject to change)
National championship odds for each AP Top 25 team
1. Georgia +225
2. Michigan +800
3. Ohio State +700
4. Alabama +600
5. LSU +1200
6. USC +1400
7. Penn State +2500
8. Florida State +1800
9. Clemson +1800
10. Washington +4000
11. Texas +2000
12. Tennessee +3500
13. Notre Dame +3000
14. Utah +8000
15. Oregon +3500
16. Kansas State +15000
17. TCU +20000
18. Oregon State +15000
19. Wisconsin +6000
20. Oklahoma +6000
21. North Carolina +12500
22. Ole Miss +12500
23. Texas A&M +4000
24. Tulane +35000
25. Iowa +20000
Jim Harbaugh has now led the Wolverines to two straight Big Ten titles as well as back-to-back College Football Playoffs berths. It’s the most talented roster Harbaugh has had since taking over in Ann Arbor, with the most experienced quarterback he’s ever had in JJ McCarthey. It’s a loaded defense with a running back duo that can go toe-to-toe with any in the country. The Wolverines look to be one of the biggest threats right now.
Georgia fans like to dunk on Ohio State, and rightfully so. The Buckeyes collapsed in what should’ve been a statement victory in last year’s College Football Semifinal. They were a made field goal or a defensive stop away from punching their ticket to face TCU, which I think most people would assume would’ve been similar to what actually happened with Georgia. Like Alabama, Georgia, and Michigan, Ohio State brings in talent very few can compete with. They’ll be right there in the thick of things once again. Their quarterback situation gives me pause, though.
Nobody should underestimate Nick Saban. I know people say that all of the time, and it feels like Dawgs fans are mocking it now. College football is mostly recruiting, and Alabama is still bringing in star-studded classes. Only a fool from Athens would disregard the monster brewing in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide’s question at the quarterback position is the only reason to be down on Saban’s team this year. Georgia will likely be undefeated going into the SEC Championship, so it’s not a prerequisite that they need to win that game to make the CFP, so long as they don’t slip up in the regular season.
The only other team in the SEC that has a shot at unseating the Georgia Bulldogs is the Bayou Bengals. Brian Kelly unexpectedly won the SEC West in his first season at LSU and is looking to capitalize on bringing back a loaded team, led by Jayden Daniels and Harold Perkins. It’s an extremely talented group, but the depth isn’t as established as the aforementioned challengers because Kelly just arrived in Baton Rouge and hasn’t been able to stack recruiting classes just yet. Nevertheless, it’s a great team that is capable of making the CFP and winning the school’s fourth title since the turn of the century.
We are now getting to the less likely teams. USC has a much more straightforward path to the CFP than any other school on this list because the Pac-12 isn’t exactly stacked with unbelievably talented teams. At Lincoln Riley’s disposal is the best quarterback in the country, who will surely go first overall in next April’s draft. The Trojans feature a high-powered offense that defenses can only hope to slow down. However, that’s never been an issue with Riley’s teams; it’s the defense, which is needed to beat Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs. I don’t see that changing this year.
James Franklin is wildly overrated, in my opinion. The guy doesn’t compete with Ohio State and Michigan with very similar resources. If there were ever a year in which Penn State comes out of the Big Ten, it’s 2023. This roster is incredibly talented and can make it to the CFP. Manny Diaz’s defense features four to five first-round picks at premium positions like cornerback and pass rusher. They’ll have the best offensive line of Franklin’s tenure as well and should have the firepower to beat one of Ohio State and Michigan. Only time will tell, though.
Week 1 in Orlando against LSU will tell us a lot about the Seminoles. With quarterback Jordan Travis leading an explosive offense, along with the bulk of the defense returning, Mike Norvell’s squad is looking to build off a successful 2022 campaign that ended with double-digit wins. However, the road to the CFP is difficult. LSU won’t be an easy task, and they have to go to Clemson. They’re a long shot to beat the Georgia Bulldogs but can win the ACC and easily punch their ticket to the CFP at least.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Dabo Swinney’s squad. The Tigers have underachieved in recent years, but they haven’t on the recruiting trail. Clemson is still producing elite talent. Cade Klubnik made his share of freshman mistakes, but his raw talent was undeniable. The Tigers return four of five starters along the offensive line and eight starters on the defensive side of the ball. Much like Alabama, Clemson’s track record speaks for itself. They have as good of a chance as Florida State to make the CFP.
Photographer: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire