In this college football era, massive roster turnover occurs each offseason. Teams can quickly improve or decline with the transfer portal.
Due to offseason losses and challenging schedules, several notable schools will have less success in the 2022 season.
- Cincinnati Bearcats
The Bearcats come off a historical 13-1 season with a College Football Playoff appearance. Key departures include Desmond Ridder, Ahmad Gardner, Coby Bryant, Myjai Sanders, Bryan Cook, Alec Pierce and Jerome Ford.
NFL-caliber players on Group of 5 teams are a rare sight. Cincinnati had five players taken in the first three rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft. It is unreasonable to think the Bearcats will not stumble without familiar star power. Moreover, Cincy has a tough Week 1 challenge vs. Arkansas. The Bearcats also play Indiana in Week 4. Cincinnati will still be a power in the American, but finishing the regular season undefeated looks unlikely.
- Baylor Bears
Dave Aranda had a stellar debut year at Baylor, finishing at 12-2 — which was the program’s first 12-win season. The Bears won their third Big 12 Championship aftey defeating Oklahoma State, 21-16. In the postseason, Baylor won the Sugar Bowl over Ole Miss (21-7) in a defensive battle. This was the program’s first New Year’s Six bowl win since its introduction in 1998.
In 2021, the Bears allowed 18.3 points per game, which ranked second in the Big 12. Their offense was ground and pound led by running backs Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner. The duo combined for 2,400 rushing yards.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 13, 2021
Baylor lost Smith, Ebner and key defensive players, like Jalen Pitre. The run game will decline without Smith, one of the best backs of 2021. In addition, the Bears are undergoing an overhaul in the secondary, replacing four starters.
- Oregon Ducks
The Ducks were in position for a College Football Playoff berth in 2021. They started the season with a terrific road win over Ohio State. At 9-1, Oregon lost three of its final four games. Two were beatdowns courtesy of Utah. Finishing at 10-4, the Ducks underachieved after a great start.
Entering 2022, Oregon has a meager outlook. First and foremost, they lost a great Head Coach in Mario Cristobal. Superstar edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux entered the NFL Draft, and Travis Dye, who had 3,980 career scrimmage yards, transferred to USC. The Ducks replaced QB Anthony Brown with Auburn transfer Bo Nix, who is a serviceable starter. The Pac-12 will be better with USC and Utah leading the pack. Plus, Oregon has a tough non-conference schedule, including games against Georgia and BYU.
- Oklahoma State Cowboys
Under Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State has been an air raid offense with a porous defense. However, that completely changed. In the 2020 & ‘21 seasons, the Cowboys had one of the Big 12’s best defenses. They probably had the second-best defense last season, behind Georgia. OSU ranked fourth in opponent yards per game (290.2 yards) and yards per play (4.3 yards).
After a 12-2 season, the Cowboys lost several defensive pieces. Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles and veteran safety Tanner McCalister relocated to Ohio State. All-American linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez headed to the NFL. Plus, OSU lost two All-Big 12 corners: Kolby Harvell-Peel and Jarrick Bernard-Converse. Harvell-Peel entered the NFL Draft, while Bernard-Converse transferred to LSU. Oklahoma State’s defense could return to its porous days.
- Pittsburgh Panthers
Finishing 11-3, the Panthers won their first ACC Championship since 2010. Pittsburgh played in the Peach Bowl without star QB Kenny Pickett and lost to Michigan State, 31-21. The Panthers had an explosive offense, ranking sixth in points per game (38.7 points) and eighth in passing yards per game (328.3 yards). For the 2022 season, the defending ACC champs are looking to revamp their passing attack.
Pickett, a 2021 Heisman finalist, was drafted by the Steelers in the first round. Jordan Addison was Pittsburgh’s lead receiver with 1,593 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. He transferred to USC, another major loss. Acquiring USC transfer QB Kedon Slovis with over seven returning starters on both units keeps the Panthers relevant. However, winning the ACC with 11+ wins looks unlikely.
- Ole Miss Rebels
Behind a high-powered offense, 2021-22 Ole Miss went 10-3 with a New Year’s Six appearance. The Rebels ranked sixth with 480.9 yards per game leading to 32 points per game (29th). Defensive Coordinator D.J. Durkin reshaped Ole Miss’ poor 2020 defense. Last year, the Rebels allowed 424.3 yards per game, compared to 2020’s 519 yards allowed per game.
This offseason, Offensive Coordinator Jeff Lebby joined Oklahoma and Texas A&M hired Durkin. Furthermore, the Rebs saw several stars enter the NFL Draft, like QB Matt Corral and DE Sam Williams. Corral produced back-to-back 3,000+ passing yard seasons; that’s not easy to replace. Lane Kiffin made noise in the transfer portal, acquiring Jaxson Dart and Zach Evans.
Zach Evans. Gone. And hopefully many more plays like this to come in Fort Worth for the 5-star. pic.twitter.com/NiSXx4YiK5
— Dean Straka (@DWStraka49) December 13, 2020
The Ole Miss offense will be productive, but a declining defense causes concern.
- Michigan State Spartans
Mel Tucker quickly changed Michigan State’s program and was promptly rewarded with a 10-year, $95 million extension. Last season, the Spartans shocked the CFB world with an 11-2 record. Kenneth Walker, the 2021 Doak Walker Award winner, led the offense with over 1,700 scrimmage yards. MSU was in playoff contention most of the season and won the 2021 Peach Bowl.
After entering the NFL Draft, Walker is the notable offseason loss. The Spartans landed transfer RB Jalen Berger. The former four-star recruit showed potential at Wisconsin. Plus, MSU added Jarek Broussard who ran for 1,556 yards over two seasons at Colorado. The passing game has potential with star WR Jayden Reed, but QB Payton Thorne is inconsistent. Michigan State will miss Walker’s star power.
- Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners stumbled through 2021 with many close games. Spencer Rattler struggled, leading to Caleb Williams taking over. Oklahoma lost two of its final three regular-season games. After missing the title game, OU’s six-year Big 12 Championship streak was snapped. The Sooners finished 11-2 after defeating Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.
Oklahoma’s program is going through a year of change. Lincoln Riley jumped ship, taking over at USC. He poached OU, taking several players and coaches to California. Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch, WRs Coach Dennis Simmons, Director of Operations Clarke Stroud and Strength Coach Bennie Wylie followed Riley. Furthermore, Caleb Williams, Mario Williams and Latrell McCutchin transferred to USC.
Brent Venables was hired as Head Coach. The Sooners added quality coordinators with Lebby, Ted Roof and Todd Bates. Transfer QB Dillon Gabriel will lead the offense with his high-level accuracy.
Dillon Gabriel ✈️ Brayden Willis 🤯
The toe drag 🔥🔥
— 247Sports (@247Sports) April 6, 2022
Oklahoma recovered well in the transfer portal, but there are too many losses.
- Michigan Wolverines
With Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines have consistently fallen short in crucial games. In the 2021-22 season, that finally changed. Of course, the 42-27 win over rival Ohio State was huge. Michigan physically dominated the Buckeyes, earning a Big Ten Championship berth. The Wolverines won their first Big Ten title game, followed by the program’s first College Football Playoff. While Georgia embarrassed Michigan in the semifinals (34-11), the season was a success.
With four returning starters, the defense will look dramatically different. The Wolverines lost Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald, Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo and Daxton Hill. Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis left for Miami. Most of the offensive line stayed intact, plus, Blake Corum & Donovan Edwards form a good RB duo. If the former five-star J.J. McCarthy takes the starting QB job, Michigan’s stock will dramatically increase. Michigan needs new players to step up.
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish
After finishing 11-1, Notre Dame had a drama-filled postseason. Brian Kelly was hired by LSU after the regular season. The Fighting Irish named Marcus Freeman as Head Coach ahead of the Fiesta Bowl. In Freeman’s debut, ND blew a 28-14 lead vs. Oklahoma State. The Irish were outscored 23-7 in the second half, leading to a 37-35 loss.
Notre Dame returns seven starters on both units. Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne are battling for starting quarterback. The offensive line figures to be one of CFB’s best. Safety Kyle Hamilton and halfback Kyren Williams leave big holes. This season, the Fighting Irish will face Ohio State, BYU, Clemson and USC. Freeman’s first full season as Head Coach will be filled with challenges.
- Georgia Bulldogs
It’s hard to beat 2021-22 Georgia’s 14-1 record. The defending champs replace seven starters on their historical defense. The linebacker unit could be a weakness with three new starters. Thanks to Jalen Carter, the defensive line should remain dominant. Overall, Georgia’s defense will be good, as always.
On offense, Georgia looks nearly the same. Stetson Bennett returns as starting QB. The running back room took a hit after losing James Cook and Zamir White to the draft. Kendall Milton, the talented junior RB, will need to step up. Brock Bowers, Arik Gilbert and Darnell Washington form a loaded tight end group.
Brock Bowers in 2021:
▫️888 receiving yards
Most by a P5 TE since 2018 🐶pic.twitter.com/JWLbHVe92O
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 11, 2022
Overall, the Bulldogs won a national title thanks to a historic defense. This will still be a run-heavy team that requires elite defense. Can Georgia’s defense dominate explosive offenses like Alabama or Ohio State? It looks unlikely with many new starters.