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College Football Top 131 Team Rankings for 2022

Athlon Sports' College Football Top 131 Rankings

College football's 2022 season is slated to start in late August, but it's never too early to project where all 131 teams will finish at the end of the year. Athlon Sports released its top 25 in May and now it's time to project the rest of the teams 26-131. Alabama takes the top spot at No. 1, with Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson as the other projected playoff teams. Texas A&M, Michigan, Notre Dame, Utah, USC and Oregon round out the top 10.

Cincinnati ranks as the projected top Group of 5 team this fall, with Houston joining the Bearcats in the projected top 25. Boise State, Air Force and Fresno State rank just behind the two AAC teams but any of the three could easily exceed our preseason expectations and finish in the top 25. UCF, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina and Utah State headline the next tier of teams from the Group of 5 ranks. 

Conference Predictions

Power 5: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Group of 5: American | C-USA | MAC | MW | Sun Belt

DISCLAIMER: This is not a preseason 131 ranking of teams going into the season. Instead, this ranking takes into account where we project teams to finish after the national championship in January. Athlon Sports projects where every team will finish in the final rankings at the conclusion of the upcoming season:

College Football Top 131 Team Rankings for 2022

131. UMass
Don Brown is the perfect coach to lead UMass, but the Massachusetts native is likely to find the going a little tougher in his second stint in Amherst. The Minutemen went 43-19 under Brown from 2004-08 – a far step ahead of the 2-26 mark the program has recorded over the last three years. FBS Independence isn’t easy for UMass, but a new staff and a roster returning 14 starters should be able to show some signs of progress. The strength of the offense resides at running back with Ellis Merriweather (1,138 yards last season), and a receiving corps has potential options, including Rico Arnold, Jermaine Johnson and tight end Josiah Johnson. The quarterback battle between Brady Olson and Zamar Wise will continue into the fall. Improvement on offense (16.3 points a game in ’21) is likely, but the Minutemen have greater concerns on a defense that surrendered 43.1 points a contest and 7.3 yards per snap last fall. Brown’s track record and the addition of a couple of transfers should provide some optimism, however. A schedule that features only one Power 5 opponent creates opportunities to surprise. But the goal in Brown’s first year should be small signs of progress on both sides of the ball and more overall competitiveness on the scoreboard.

130. New Mexico State
It’s no secret New Mexico State is one of the toughest jobs in college football, but things might be looking up in Las Cruces. The Aggies are joining Conference USA in 2023, which should make scheduling and overall competitiveness at the FBS level a little easier for a program currently playing as an FBS Independent. Also, the hire of new coach Jerry Kill was one of the best in an active carousel. Kill has a track record of success at every stop – including at lower levels of college football and FBS from stints at Northern Illinois and Minnesota – and knows how to maximize resources. The ’22 season is all about setting the foundation for success, and Kill has successfully mined the portal for help on both sides of the ball and looked to the junior college ranks for immediate contributors. One of those players could be quarterback Diego Pavia, who will battle for the job with Weston Eget and Dino Maldonado in the fall. The Aggies gave up 40.4 points a game last fall, so similar to the offense, plenty of work is ahead for Kill and his staff. However, the cupboard isn’t bare here with seven returning starters, including a pair of active linebackers in Trevor Brohard and Chris Ojoh. The schedule features three games against Power 5 opponents, but the rest of the slate gives NMSU a chance to be competitive right away in Kill’s debut.

129. UConn
The Huskies are just 4-32 over their last three seasons (did not play in 2020), and with a ’22 slate featuring four Power 5 opponents along with tough matchups against Utah State, Fresno State, Liberty and Army, there’s no easy fix for new coach Jim Mora. New play-caller Nick Charlton inherits an offense that averaged 15.8 points a game last season and only 4.04 yards per snap. Two transfers – Cale Millen (Northern Arizona) and Ta’Quan Roberson (Penn State) – are the front-runners to start at quarterback. If the staff can solidify the line (40 sacks allowed in ’21), and the quarterback play is better, UConn has capable skill talent to generate overall improvement. Nathan Carter (578 yards) and junior college transfer Will Knight anchor the backfield, with Keelan Marion, Cameron Ross, Nigel Fitzgerald and Kevens Clercius headlining a solid receiving corps. The Huskies allowed 38.5 points a game and finished ’21 by giving up 40-plus points to each of their last four opponents. Replacing lineman Travis Jones won’t be easy, but Mora and coordinator Lou Spanos added a couple of talented transfers – including former Kentucky linebacker Marquez Bembry – to give the defense a boost. The return of linebacker Jackson Mitchell (120 tackles) is another reason of optimism for UConn this fall.

128. FIU
New coach Mike MacIntyre has experience turning around programs from stops at San Jose State and Colorado and is the right coach at the right time for FIU. The Panthers are 1-16 over the last two seasons and ’22 is all about resetting the foundation for the future with just four returning starters. Big-play receiver Tyrese Chambers (23.9) and tight end Rivaldo Fairweather are two pieces of a talented receiving corps, and running back Lexington Joseph gives FIU a solid replacement for D’vonte Price. Duke transfer Gunnar Holmberg is likely the favorite to start at quarterback. A line that allowed 41 sacks and returns just one starter (Lyndell Hudson Jr.) is a major concern. The Panthers ranked last in Conference USA in points allowed (39.7), rush defense (228.5 yards per game), and 13th in pass efficiency defense last season. This unit does have a few talented pieces returning, including sophomore linebacker Gaethan Bernadel, end Davon Strickland, as well as defensive backs Pierce Withers and Willie Reid (Central Michigan transfer).

127. Hawaii
Timmy Chang is a great fit and hire at his alma mater, but the former record-setting quarterback may need a few years to rebuild this program. The Rainbow Warriors return only five starters and are navigating scheme changes on both sides of the ball. New offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker returns four starters, including three along the line of scrimmage. A quarterback battle between Brayden Schager and a couple of transfers Joey Yellen (Pitt) and Cammon Cooper (Washington State) will continue throughout the summer and into fall camp. Running back Dedrick Parson should be one of the top playmakers for Shoemaker, but overall, Hawaii will be breaking in a revamped receiving corps. The Rainbow Warriors surrendered 31.4 points a game and 5.8 yards per play on defense last season. This unit brings back just one starter – linebacker Penei Pavihi – and features a handful of transfers likely to see significant time. The ’22 season is clearly a rebuilding year in Honolulu. 

Related: Mountain West 2022 Preview and Predictions

126. ULM
There was considerable progress in Monroe last year under new coach Terry Bowden. ULM finished 2010 with a disastrous 0-10 record but improved to 4-8 with two wins in Sun Belt play last fall. Exceeding preseason expectations once again wouldn’t be a surprise with Bowden’s ability to get the most out of the roster. But the Warhawks will have to overcome new (but experienced) play-callers on both sides of the ball (Matt Kubik and Vic Koenning) and plenty of roster concerns. Quarterback Chandler Rogers (1,674 total yards) showed promise last year and top target Boogie Knight (44 catches) is back on the outside. Better play along the line of scrimmage (38 sacks allowed) and ground game (3.1 yards per carry) is a must. ULM’s defense surrendered 33.5 points a game, ranked last in the Sun Belt in pass efficiency defense, and finished eighth against the run last year. Koenning has some heavy lifting to do in order to get this group to the middle of the conference, but there are building blocks in the front thanks to the return of lineman Caleb Thomas and linebacker Zack Woodard. The post-spring departure of cornerback Josh Newton was a setback for the secondary.

125. Akron
The Zips are just 3-27 over the last three years, but the program took a big step towards improvement this offseason. The hire of former Mississippi State and Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead as the program's new leader should have Akron more competitive in the MAC in short order. However, the Zips have some ground to make up after averaging only 20.3 points a game and allowing 37 in league games last fall. Moorhead improved the roster with portal additions in quarterback Jeff Undercuffler (UAlbany), running back Cam Wiley (Minnesota), wide receivers Shocky Jacques-Louis (Pitt) and Alex Adams (LSU) and defenders Tim Terry (LB), KJ Martin (S), and Victor Jones and Curtis Harper (DL). Linebacker Bubba Arslanian's return (missed eight games) is huge for a run defense that allowed nearly 250 yards (248.9) a game in '21.

124. New Mexico
The Lobos are in rebuild mode under third-year coach Danny Gonzales, but there’s optimism for improvement in ’22. The defense limited teams to 5.34 yards per play – down from 6.8 in ’20 – and returns seven starters this fall. Of that group, end Jake Saltonstall leads the way up front, and the linebacker and secondary units should continue to improve as both return largely intact. New Mexico needs to lean on its defense with the offense still looking to find the right pieces after averaging only 12.2 points a game last fall. Additionally, this group averaged 3.9 yards per snap and connected on seven plays of 40-plus yards. Kansas transfer Miles Kendrick is the front-runner at quarterback, and Nathaniel Jones is back at running back after missing ’21 with a redshirt year. The offensive line allowed 34 sacks last season and returns only one starter. A bowl is likely out of reach, but New Mexico should show some improvement and be a tougher out in the Mountain West in ’22. 

123. Rice
The Owls are coming off their best season (4-8) under coach Mike Bloomgren. However, another step forward to produce the program’s first winning mark since 2014 will require big-time improvement on offense. Rice averaged only 21.5 points a game and 5.3 yards per play last fall and scored 31-plus points just one time against FBS opponents in ’21. More production on the scoreboard starts with better play under center from either Wiley Green or TJ McMahon, and the winner of the job has capable weapons on the outside with Bradley Rozner back from injury, Cedric Patterson III (38 catches), Tulsa transfer Sam Crawford and former quarterback Dylan McCaffrey competing for catches. Bloomgren wants to build a physical style of play, and there’s optimism along a line returning four starters. Ari Broussard (569 yards) is back to lead the way at running back. In addition to more production out of the offense, Rice needs an experienced defense (10 returning starters) to improve after surrendering 36.2 points and 6.7 yards per play in ’21.

122. Temple
New coach Stan Drayton inherits a team that went 3-9 and won just one conference game (Memphis) in league play last fall. The Owls are just 4-15 over the last two seasons, which snapped a streak of six consecutive non-losing records (2014-19). Getting the program back on track requires major improvement on both sides of the ball. Temple averaged 16.3 points a game last fall and returns quarterback D’Wan Mathis, receivers Jose Barbon and Amad Anderson Jr., along with running backs Darvon Hubbard (Texas A&M transfer), Edward Saydee and Iverson Clement. Just two starters return in the trenches. The outlook on defense was just as iffy last fall. The Owls surrendered 37.5 points a game, ranked 11th in the AAC against the run, and allowed 6.2 yards per play in conference games. This unit has concerns again up front, but the secondary is likely to be a bright spot with cornerbacks Cameron Ruiz and Keyshawn Paul returning to anchor the pass defense.

121. Buffalo
Taking over a program after spring practice is no easy assignment, so first-year coach Maurice Linguist should be graded on a curve after he replaced Lance Leipold following his departure to Kansas in late April. However, improving off last season's 4-8 mark for Linguist isn't going to be easy. After losing a handful of players to the portal, the Bulls return only nine overall starters and have big concerns to address on both sides of the ball. Buffalo did mitigate some of the departures to the portal with additions from the transfer ranks, including receivers Justin Marshall (Louisville) and Boobie Curry (Arizona), quarterback Cole Snyder (Rutgers) and a handful of pickups to bolster the offensive line (Nick Hartnett, Desmond Bessent and Sidney Walker) and the defense. Left tackle Gabe Wallace is the only returner up front, but the strength of the offense should be a ground game anchored by Ron Cook Jr. and Mike Washington. Snyder and senior Matt Myers will battle to start at quarterback. Buffalo's defense should be solid in the front thanks to the return of Athlon Sports' All-MAC selections in linebacker James Patterson and linemen George Wolo, Max Michel and C.J. Bazile. Transfers Caleb Offord (Notre Dame), Jahmin Muse (Boston College) and Elijah Blades (Florida/Texas A&M) will aim to improve the secondary under new defensive coordinator Brandon Bailey.

Related: Grading College Football's New Coach Hires for 2022

120. Ohio
Replacing Frank Solich in mid-July was a tough assignment for Tim Albin in his first year as head coach. With a full and normal offseason, the hope is for Albin to lead the Bobcats to big improvement after a 3-9 mark - the program's lowest win total in a full season since '03. A return to a winning record will require improvement out of an offense that averaged 22.6 points a game and struggled with turnovers, third-down offense and coming up with big gains. Quarterback Kurtis Rourke (212.8 total yards a game) has to play better, and Ohio needs a new No. 1 running back to emerge with De'Montre Tuggle departing. Finding more targets at receiver and getting better play up front are two other priorities for Albin. New coordinator Spence Nowinsky has work to on a defense that allowed 6.0 yards per play and 27.9 points a game in MAC contests last fall. Nine starters are back, but this unit ranked near the bottom of the conference in pass efficiency defense and seventh against the run. Considering the level of experience returning, this unit may need to lead the way until the pieces fall into place on offense.

119. Ball State
The Cardinals are 13-8 and have made back-to-back bowl trips, but coach Mike Neu's squad has question marks to address in order to reach six victories once again. The biggest among them is at quarterback. John Paddock is the front-runner to replace three-year starter Drew Plitt under center, but the senior has attempted only 34 passes since '18. Overall, the offense has room to improve after averaging only 5.24 yards per play in MAC games and 24.1 points a contest over the entire year. If Paddock (or another QB) settles under center, there's a lot to like about the skill talent, which includes running back Carson Steele and receivers Yo'Heinz Tyler and Jayshon Jackson. Also, five starters and plenty of experience is back up front. The Cardinals allowed only 24 points in MAC games last fall and return six starters for rising star coordinator Tyler Stockton. Clayton Coll and Brandon Martin lead a solid linebacker unit, and cornerback Amechi Uzodinma II is a second-team All-MAC selection by Athlon Sports for '22. However, three starters must be replaced in the secondary.

118. Arkansas State
The Red Wolves bottomed out in Butch Jones’ debut last year, as the 2-10 record was the program’s lowest mark since ’01. But the news in Jonesboro wasn’t all bad, as Arkansas State inked one of the top recruiting hauls in the Sun Belt to provide hope for the future. With the program in rebuilding mode, small signs of progress will be welcomed in ’22. The roster isn’t completely bare either. An offense that ranked fifth in the Sun Belt in scoring (25.2 points a game) and yards per play (5.5) has a good starting point with the return of quarterback James Blackman and receivers Jeff Foreman and Te'Vailance Hunt. However, just one starter returns along a line that allowed 48 sacks and averaged 2.8 yards per carry. The Red Wolves also need marked improvement on defense after a porous ’21 season. This group surrendered 38.6 points a game, ranked last in the Sun Belt against the run (260.9 yards allowed) and in yards per play (7.2). There’s major turnover at all three levels, but linebacker Kivon Bennett (eight sacks) returns, and Jones has sought immediate improvement through the portal.