This year’s college football season - potentially the last season before major conference realignment starts to take shape - is shaping up to be a memorable one. Of course, the traditional powerhouse programs have their eyes on the prize, but there are smaller programs also aiming to make some noise. Let’s take a gander at our college football picks and which teams may dominate and which ones may fall short of expectations during the 2022 college football season along with college football championship odds.
There’s a lot of money in the preseason moving toward Alabama, giving the Buckeyes plenty of value. Quarterback C.J. Stroud had a special season in 2021 and should be just as good this year after being a Heisman finalist. With a bit of improvement on defense, the supporting cast around Stroud should be championship-worthy as well. As a future pick, they have respectable NCCA football championship odds making them a worthwhile pick.
OSU has remained dominant in head coach Ryan Day’s three seasons in charge, with a 34-4 record, and a single loss in the Big Ten. It looks as though Day has built a program that’s finally ready to win a national title in 2022.
In light of Pitt’s ACC title last year, fading the Panthers will probably be a smart play. Prior to last season, the Panthers hadn’t won more than eight games in a season since 2009. Not only is history not on their side, but the Panthers also have some serious rebuilding to do, as QB Kenny Pickett and top playmaker Jordan Addison are both gone. To make matters worse, Pitt also faces tough non-conference games against West Virginia and Tennessee, while most of their ACC games will be tossups.
It’s starting to look like the 2021 season was an aberration for the Pitt Panthers.
The Wildcats are a bit of a long shot, but the Big 12 is crowded and lacks a clear favorite. As a result, K-State offers a lot of value. Nebraska transfer Adrian Martinez is a natural fit for the offense at quarterback, and will benefit from the attention defenses will have to pay to running back Deuce Vaughn. That will allow the Wildcats to keep pace in shootouts, while still leaning on a typically solid defense. More than half the league has a chance in the Big 12 this year, so why not take a longshot price on a solid program like Kansas State?
Despite failing to top four wins each of the last three seasons, the Cardinal deserve the benefit of the doubt. Stanford has stuck with head coach David Shaw, and that consistency should pay off. Also, all five starters on the offensive line are back. Behind them, junior QB Tanner McKee, who flashed some upside last season, could have a nice season. The Cardinal look like a solid offensive team and should push for a bowl bid, with at least five wins.
Though they’re the favorites in the NCCA football championship odds, there’s enough quality in the SEC to add a bit of value to Alabama’s conference championship odds. The Tide return the reigning Heisman winner and a characteristically super-talented supporting cast. Plus, you just know that Nick Saban’s not happy about losing the national title last season. He’s going to make sure his team is sharp and doesn’t take anything for granted.
Traditionally one of the top teams in the MAC, year in and year out, making them the likely candidates for college football win predictions. Toledo has now turned in four straight seasons with fewer than eight wins. Look for that to change in 2022. The Rockets return eight starters from one of the conference’s best defenses and could have one of the MAC’s best quarterbacks in Dequan Finn.
Of Toledo’s six losses last year, four came by three points or less, including a close loss (32-39) against Notre Dame. It’s reasonable to think that a couple of those close losses can become wins in 2022, making nine or 10 wins a possibility.
The betting odds are tight in the Pac-12. With that much uncertainty, the benefit of the doubt out West goes to the team that’s a model of consistency. Kyle Whittingham has been the head coach at Utah for 17 seasons, and has led the Utes to the Pac-12 Championship Game three times in the last four seasons, and finally notched a win last year.
Lincoln Riley and USC are getting all of the publicity in the Pac-12, but it’s Utah that brings back most of its key offensive players, and has a roster that’s accustomed to winning. In a tight race, that pushes the value toward the Utes.
How can Georgia not suffer some drop-off from last season? They just had fifteen players selected in the NFL Draft! No matter how well Kirby Smart has recruited, replacing five first-round picks on defense - as the Bulldogs must - is a huge challenge. If that’s not tough enough, the run-heavy Georgia offense also lost its two leading rushers to the NFL.
Georgia should still win the SEC East, but with the usual SEC gauntlet and Oregon on the schedule, topping 10 wins will be tough.
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