Every February over the last 14 years I have projected the AP Top 10 SIX MONTHS in advance right here on philsteele.com.
My predicted AP Top 10 has been a PERFECT 10 for 10 each of the last FOUR years! When I predict the AP Top 10 in February (about a HALF YEAR ahead of the actual AP poll), I have now hit on 125 out of 130 over the last 13 years! That means hitting all 10 teams in eight of the thirteen years and missing by just one team in the other five years. Once again, predicting the top ten teams in the AP poll SIX MONTHS in advance, the record is now 125 out of 130 or 96.2%!
Here are the ten teams that back in February I felt would be in the 2022 AP Preseason Top Ten. Back in February I just listed the teams and today I will give you the reasoning behind my selections. I will go a little less on the obvious three at the top and go a little more in depth on teams 4-10.
My 2022 Projected AP Preseason Top 10 in February.
- Alabama – The Tide returns the Heisman winner in Bryce Young and arguably the best defensive player in college football in Will Anderson. I rank the units in the front of the magazine and the “lowest” rated unit is the Offensive Line at #13 in the country. Most teams do not even have a single unit rated #13 or higher! Alabama is a doubl- digit favorite in every game.
- Georgia – Back in February I had the Bulldogs #2 but now I believe they will be #3 to open the year with Ohio State at #2. Georgia lost eight NFL draft picks from their record setting defense. They allowed just 10 ppg last year and that included allowing Alabama 41 in the SEC title game. They gave up just 8.6 ppg in the other 13 games. This year my computer is calling for them to drop to allowing 16.0 ppg which would still be #1 with Clemson #2 at 16.3 ppg. Georgia will be a double-digit favorite in every game this year.
- Ohio State – As mentioned above, I now feel Ohio State will be #2 in the Preseason AP poll in August, but this is where I had them in February. The Buckeyes have three Heisman candidates in QB CJ Stroud, RB TreVeyon Henderson and WR Jaxson Smith-Njigba and the top offense in the country. The defense should be improved with Jim Knowles as the new defensive coordinator. Ohio State is currently a double-digit favorite in every game this year.
- Clemson – Yesterday’s blog talked about how I expect the big boys to return to power (Blog Click here). Clemson has the nation’s best D-line and my #2 rated defense coming into the year. The Tigers have an improved offensive line and deep set of skill players. The biggest difference will be a much improved at the QB position. QB DJ Uiagalelei has dropped 20-25 lbs making him more mobile and an emphasis in the spring was having him get rid of the ball quicker and take less sacks. If he is not he will be pushed by Cade Klubnik (PS#1) who looked great in the spring. I have Clemson favored in every game with one toss up and that being a trip to Notre Dame. I have Clemson making the playoff.
- Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher has been doing a tremendous job recruiting in his five years and the Aggies and they have a roster that is on par with Alabama and Georgia in depth and talent. The only knock-on Texas A&M is they are #124 on my Experience Chart but they may be 5-0 when they face Alabama and by that time their young squad will have five games under their belt. Right now, in Las Vegas the Aggies are favored in 11 of their 12 games. I have them a dog at Alabama and E at Auburn. They probably won’t be as high as #5 in the August poll but are clearly one of the 10 most talented teams in the country.
- Notre Dame – Marcus Freeman takes over and the team was excited for him to get the job. Unlike most first year head coaches, Freeman was the defensive coordinator here at ND last year and knows the personnel inside and out. The Irish have eight starters back on defense and my computer is calling for them to allow just 302 ypg and 19 ppg among the best in the country. The offense has my #9 Offensive line and some very talented QB’s and will be potent. I do have them a dog at Ohio State and have two tossup games on the schedule at home vs Clemson and at USC. My Power Poll has them at #6 in the country and I expect a double-digit win season.
- Michigan – Expectations have changed for the Wolverines as they went from 2-4 in 2020 and unranked in the preseason last year. They went all the way to winning the Big Ten and making the playoff. The Wolverines lose a lot of talented players off the defense but much like Georgia will go from being dominant and allowing 331 ypg and 17.4 ppg to 342 ypg and 22.3 ppg. The Wolverines have my #1 rated Offensive Line and #1 rated Special Teams and two talented experienced QB’s. The schedule is also perfect. They have just 3 road games in the first 11 games with those at Indiana, Rutgers and Iowa. Michigan is favored in Vegas in their first 11 games so could be 11-0 when they travel to Columbus.
- Utah – Last year the Utes opened up the season 1-2 then Cam Rising took over at QB and the offense took off. Utah not only won the Pac 12 conference but they beat a very good Oregon team 38-10 in the Pac 12 title game. They almost beat Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Utah has my #6 rated O-line, QB Rising and my #12 set of RB’s. Overall, they have a top ten offense and top ten defense and are strong at the line of scrimmage. I have Utah favored in every game with a toss up at Oregon. Utah would have been my #1 Surprise team this year as an undefeated Pac 12 champ will make the playoff and I feel they have a great shot at doing so this year. Unfortunately, my Surprise team list is only for teams that are NOT in the AP Top Ten and I expect the Utes to be in the preseason Top 10.
- Oklahoma – As mentioned in yesterday’s blog (Click Here) I think this year we will see a return to the powers at the top of the conferences. Last year Baylor had practically the entire team back and Oklahoma St had almost the entire defense back and had their QB back as well. Oklahoma had to play both on the road and that was the Sooners two losses last year. While Oklahoma only has 10 returning starters this year, Baylor has just 12 and Oklahoma St just 11 so they are on an even playing field. The Sooners added in QB Dillon Gabriel. In 2019 Gabriel led UCF to 43.4 ppg and 540 ypg and his offensive coordinator that year was Jeff Lebby. His offensive coordinator this year is Jeff Lebby so he knows the offense well. Brett Venables knows defense and inherits three units that all rank in my top units on defense. I actually have Oklahoma favored in all 12 games as they both get both Baylor and Oklahoma St at home and in the last three non-Covid years the Sooners are 20-0 at home. While Baylor was the media’s pick to win the Big 12, Vegas has Oklahoma as the pick to win the Big 12 and as mentioned they are favored in all 12 games.
- Oregon – Mario Cristobal did a great job recruiting at Oregon and this roster is stacked with talent. The Ducks have appeared in the last 3 Pac 12 title games and won two of them. They have my #5 rated Offensive Line and #4 rated Defensive Line in college football! I love teams that are strong at the line of scrimmage. The biggest knock-on Bo Nix while he was at Auburn was that he was not as good a QB on the road as he was at home. Last year he led road wins over LSU and Arkansas (two very tough venues). A check of the schedule also shows that most of the Ducks toughest games are all at home. They do open with a big game vs Georgia in Atlanta but could be favored in the remaining 11 games as they get BYU, UCLA and Utah at home. The Pac 12 title game takes the top two teams this year and Oregon should be in it as currently in Vegas they are favored in 11 of their 12 games.
There you have the ten teams that back in February I had making the Preseason AP Top 10. The order will likely be a little different but here it is the end of July and I still feel that all 10 teams will make the AP Top 10 when it is released in a couple of weeks.