College football winners, 2022 season losers: Alabama hits the ground under Nick Saban, TCU breaks CFP mold

College football winners, 2022 season losers: Alabama hits the ground under Nick Saban, TCU breaks CFP mold

The regular season is over and the bowl schedule is set, so it’s time to take a look back at the teams and people who will be staying with us starting in the 2022 college football season. If there’s one thing we’ve learned this year – heck, if there’s one thing we learn every year – it’s that so little of what we expect comes to fruition.

Take the College Football Playoff race. A new era emerged as Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma all missed the cut. Ohio State, which didn’t even win the Big Ten East for the second straight year, fought its way as the No. 4 seed. Conversely, Michigan and Georgia clinched spots straight, while TCU became just the second school in the Big 12 to earn a trip to the playoffs.

Looking back Top 25 Pre-Season APs feels like a time machine. Notre Dame and Texas A&M placed 5th and 6th respectively. Baylor and Oklahoma were among the top 10 teams, and Miami, Wisconsin and Arkansas were not far behind. Now, no less than 16 teams from this pre-season poll could find themselves excluded from the final poll after a tumultuous season. It just created even more opportunities for the rest of the sport to grow.

Here are the biggest winners and losers of the 2022 college football season.


TOS: When TCU left Gary Patterson after more than 20 years, having rival SMU’s Sonny Dykes Power Five retread didn’t generate much excitement. A year later, Dykes is set to become one of the smartest rookies in recent memory as he became the first outside coach to steer his program to the college football playoffs in his freshman season – and he did. made in TOS. The Frogs also became the first school in Texas to make the field — and the second in the Big 12 — beating flagships Texas and Texas A&M to the last four. Quarterback Max Duggan went from backup quarterback to Heisman runner-up in one season. It was a Cinderella season for the ages.

Tennessee: Expectations were high as Josh Heupel’s second season approached, but the volunteers exploded through the ceiling. The offense hit the stratosphere behind quarterback Hendon Hooker, who finished as one of the most productive players in the country. The headliner is obvious: the Vols knocked down Alabama for the first time in the Nick Saban era and fired the goal posts on the ground. If not for a horrible November night in South Carolina, Tennessee would be in the college football playoffs right now. Either way, the vibe in Knoxville is impeccable.

The Pac-12: Despite missing the college football playoffs for the sixth straight season, the state of West Coast football hasn’t looked this good in years. Six teams finished in the final CFP regular season standings, the most of any conference. Lincoln Riley’s rise at USC is getting the most attention, but don’t sleep on Jonathan Smith in Oregon State, Jake Dickert in Washington State, and even what Jedd Fisch is doing in Arizona . If the Washington revival hadn’t stumbled against Arizona State, the Pac-12 Championship game would have been a playoff game between the Huskies and USC. USC and UCLA will leave the conference in 2024, creating a huge hole, but the rest of the league is still in good shape with Utah leading the way. Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned Deion Sanders in Colorado.

Kansas: There are almost no stats that can contextualize the depth of the hole the Jayhawks were in during the 2010s. Kansas hadn’t reached a bowling game since 2008 – which almost marked the last time that he even had of them conference wins. From 2010 to 2020, Kansas recorded a cool 21-108. Give Lance Leipold a billion dollars; he took Kansas to a bowling game in his second season! The Jayhawks put together one of the most dynamic offenses in the country behind star quarterback Jalon Daniels, starting 5-0 before Daniels missed some time with injury. With Leipold locked in a long contract term, Lawrence’s future has never looked brighter.

Duke: Don’t look now, but Blue Devils coach Mike Elko has built a Durham contender in no time. Duke won more games in Elko’s first season (8) than in the last two seasons combined (5). Every loss ended in scoring, including three losses by eight points overall in ACC play. Quarterback Riley Leonard jumped off the page with nearly 2,800 yards and 20 touchdowns as a freshman starter. if Elko beats UCF in the Military Bowl, he will join David Cutcliffe as the only coach since World War II to win nine games at Durham. It’s incredibly hard to win at top college schools. Duke hit a home run.

Troy: The Trojans didn’t make the flashiest hire in tapping Kentucky linebackers coach Jon Sumrall — a former associate head coach of Neal Brown — to lead the program. But after a three-year slog under Chip Lindsey, Troy was back in business with a massive 11-2 season and the Sun Belt championship in Sumrall’s first year in charge. Trojans will be a force to contend with in the Sun Belt for years to come. Don’t be surprised to see them enter the New Year’s Six conversation in 2023.


Texas A&M: The Aggies aren’t just the biggest loser of 2022; on the contrary, they rank among the most disappointing teams in modern college football history. Texas A&M entered the season ranked 6th in the AP Preseason Top 25, but became the first team since 2010 to drop from the top six to miss a bowling game. The program hadn’t missed a bowl game in any season since 2008, but picked the season after rocking the No. 1 recruiting class all-time to a new low. There are a few bright spots. Quarterback Conner Weigman showed intriguing tools in strong performances against the then No. 1. 5 USL. The disappointing season also means Fisher is likely to give up his calling duties for the first time in his career. Still, 2022 will be a black mark on a program that seemed to be on the rise.

Miami: The Dark Horse ACC Championship contender was anything but a miserable 5-7 campaign marred by double-digit losses to Middle Tennessee, Duke and Pitt. Aspiring quarterback star Tyler Van Dyke regressed under former Broyles Award offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, and coach Mario Cristobal complained the struggles were the media’s fault for setting expectations too high . Whatever the reason, Miami has only won one of its nine Power Five games by more than one score. Cristobal will rely on a solid promotion in 2023, but will that be enough?

Pre-season Big 12 competitors: Two Big 12 programs entered the year in the preseason AP Top 10: No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 10 Baylor. Two Big 12 programs left the year in the top 10 — and neither Oklahoma nor Baylor. In fact, those teams picked No. 1 and No. 2 in the combined Big 12 preseason poll to finish 12-12, a shocking slump after combining for a 23-4 record in 2021. Oklahoma crumbled under first-year coach Brent Venables as the Sooners finished in the bottom 15 teams in the nation in total defense. Baylor’s tight game chance flipped as the Bears went 2-3 in one-scored games. Some tough questions need to be asked of Norman and Waco.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide received 54 of 63 first-place votes in the preseason AP Top 25 and looked like the overwhelming favorite to win the national championship along with the best offensive (Bryce Young) and defensive (Will Anderson) players in the nation. However, the tide was not as usual on a lackluster 10-2 campaign — a program floor by Alabama standards. Alabama was 1-6 ATS against winning teams and needed choppy finishes just to beat Texas and Texas A&M. It also ranked 127th out of 131 teams in penalties per game. Instead of ending with three consecutive SEC titles, the championship weekend saw Nick Saban claim a playoff spot. With Young being the heart and soul of a flawed team, likely in the NFL, there will be a lot of soul-searching to do in Tuscaloosa.

Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba: Last season, Smith-Njigba hosted perhaps the greatest season by a wide receiver in Ohio State history — and that’s saying something. He set single-season program records for receptions and yards, and capped it with 347 receiving yards in a Rose Bowl win over Utah to set another program record. With any luck, Smith-Njigba could have been the second wide receiver in three years to win the Heisman Trophy in 2022. Unfortunately, we never got to see it. Smith-Njigba suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1 and only played three games. On Monday, he officially shut things down for the season and ended his college career. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka ensured the Ohio State offense was always generational, but Smith-Njigba’s career will have us wondering what could have been.

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