The 2022 college football season kicks off in a matter of weeks, but before the games can begin, a tradition as engrained in the sport as any must take place: preseason rankings. Our starting point for the season is the CBS Sports 131 -- our comprehensive ranking of every team at the FBS level, now including James Madison -- which has last year's College Football Playoff runner-up Alabama holding the No. 1 spot with all but one voter choosing the Crimson Tide as the top team in the nation entering the season.
No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Georgia follow for a top three is not going to draw much debate. But one does not have to dirve much further down the Preseason CBS Sports 131 rankings to find some teams to debate.
With a Pac-12 championship trophy in the case and a stellar quarterback returning in Cameron Rising, Utah sits in the next spot at No. 4. The Utes have been strong under coach Kyle Whittingham for the last couple of years, but they are in rare territory here knocking on the door of the top three. Behind Utah are some more familiar top-five and top-10 programs, including Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma.
Remaining in the top 10 from the 2021 postseason are Michigan and Baylor. On the other side of the coin is, Texas A&M, one of the bigger rises among teams in the top 25 after finishing last season at No. 28 and moving all the way up to No. 9 to start 2022. That adjustment is not the largest move within this new set of rankings as USC, Miami and Tennessee all saw bigger jumps. Check out more on those adjustments, as well as some of the biggest year-to-year changes outside the top 25, in the Mover's Report below.
Most of the teams at the top of the Preseason CBS Sports 131 are entering the year with momentum after respectable showings in 2021. There is clearly a projection for some regression from Cincinnati, Michigan State and Pittsburgh after excellent (if not breakthrough) seasons, but there's still a high floor for the expectations for all three given what they accomplished. On the other end of the spectrum, a team like Penn State did not have as many wins as it would like, falling to fourth place in its own division, but our voters still like the pieces in place for James Franklin's squad and have the Nittany Lions inside the top 20.
Of course, these rankings compiled from our experts at CBS Sports and 247Sports will change once we get through Week 0 and Week 1. Some teams may even see dramatic shifts based on how they come out of the gate. Once Week 1 comes to a close, the CBS Sports 131 will be back with our first major update, but for now, these rankings are locked in to set the stage for season ahead.
College football experts from CBS Sports and 247Sports contribute ballots each week, which are averaged together for our rankings. You can see the top 25 below and 26-131 on our rankings page.
Preseason CBS Sports 131 college football rankings
|Final 2021 Rank
- No. 12 USC (+73): One common thread for the teams in this section is coaching changes, as the struggles of 2021 led to a change at the top. Lincoln Riley alone doesn't boost USC from No. 85 into the top 15, but his star-studded transfer class led by an instant-impact quarterback in Caleb Williams certainly does.
- No. 30 Florida (+40): The bottoming-out moment for the Gators came with a loss to UCF in the bowl game, but it began much earlier in the season and impacts how we view 2021 Florida against the potential of 2022 Florida. Billy Napier comes with his own hype factor, but any kind of shake up to the system should put a product on the field better than the 6-7 squad from a year ago.
- No. 29 Texas (+31): I know this is going to come as a huge surprise, but Texas is starting a college football season with some hype a year after falling short of preseason expectations. Year 1 with Steve Sarkisian was decidedly average; the Longhorns went 5-7 and finished 60th in our final rankings. But with Quinn Ewers added to the quarterback room and another year of development for a strong now-sophomore class, Texas is back (to being inside the top 30 nationally).
- No. 31 LSU (+28): Another coaching change brings a major boost in ranking. Brian Kelly has been a winner at multiple levels of college football, and now he takes on the toughest test in the sport trying to win in the SEC West. How much of the BK bump will we see in Year 1? Our voters see the talent on the roster and think it won't take long to improve from last season's 6-7 finish.
- No. 19 Miami (+26): Mario Cristobal comes in with a track record of contending for conference titles at Oregon. He also inherits a roster ready to challenge Clemson immediately in the ACC. Reigning ACC Rookie of the Year Tyler Van Dyke should have the offense humming again, and the Hurricanes defense has a strong combination of young breakout players from last year and new transfer portal additions. If all the pieces gel, this adjustment won't look so dramatic.
- No. 24 Tennessee (+20): Bringing back QB Hendon Hooker and key pieces of the offense set up Tennessee to once again have one of the most successful offenses in the SEC, but can the Volunteers get enough stops for a big step forward? This ranking position suggests our voters believe Tennessee is in the mix for second place in the SEC East, which would be an impressive step forward for Josh Heupel's program.
- No. 9 Texas A&M (+19): The Aggies check nearly every box for national championship contention; they just need to hit on quarterback and improve the explosiveness in the passing game to take the next step. Without that next step, Texas A&M will have the same small margins that make it possible to both beat Alabama while also losing to games to unranked SEC foes. It's still a ceiling that can hang with the Tide, which is why we see Texas A&M up in the top 10 after going 8-4 last season.
- No. 27 Ole Miss (-15): If coaching changes are a common thread for the big moves up, losing a starting quarterback is one for some of the big moves down. Ole Miss has capable options with Jaxson Dart joining the quarterback room, but the turnover in the wake of Matt Corral's absence has resulted in our voters downgrading the Rebels from a top-15 team to a top-30 team heading into the season.
- No. 61 Louisiana (-41): Last year's 13-1 season was the culmination of years of building by Napier, his staff and more than a dozen super seniors. That memorable year had the Ragin' Cajuns finishing 17th in our rankings, but a roster reset and the change from Napier to Michael Desormeaux was bound to result in a major adjustment. Louisiana is still expected to compete for another Sun Belt title -- it was picked by the media to win the Sun Belt West for a fifth consecutive season -- but our voters believe they will slot much closer to the middle of the pack nationally.
Check out the rest of the CBS Sports 131: Teams ranked 26-131
* UMass (currently listed as "others receiving votes" due to technical error) is the 131st team