10 college football teams who could take a step back in 2022


Earlier this week we took a look at some teams that we thought would get back to their winning ways in 2022. Now it’s time to reveal who we think may underachieve in 2022. Here are 10 college football teams that we think could have worse seasons in 2022 than they did in 2021.

Arizona State (8-5 in 2021)

ASU is a program in tumult entering the 2022 season. An NCAA investigation for recruiting violations looms over the program and five coaches have left, including defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce. The Sun Devils return just seven starters from last season’s team that went 3-4 down the stretch. Former Florida QB Emory Jones is set to replace Jayden Daniels and ASU will need to find some receivers for him to throw to.

Andre Johnson had 12 receptions in 2021 and he’s the team’s leading returning receiver. Leading tackler Kyle Soelle is back but there are just three other starters back alongside him on a defense that was underrated in 2021. How will things be different without Pierce?

It could be a long year in Tempe and maybe the final one for Herm Edwards’ as the Sun Devils’ coach.

– Nick Bromberg

Baylor (12-2)

The Big 12 looks wide open at the top in 2022 and there’s no reason to think that Baylor won’t be in the mix again. But this is a team that also looks worse than it was a year ago. Blake Shapen is set to be the team’s starting quarterback after winning the job in the spring. He’ll have a lot of new skill position talent around him. Baylor lost its top three rushers and top three receivers in the offseason. Replacing Abram Smith and Tyquan Thornton is key. Ben Sims is the only returning player on the roster who had more than 10 catches in 2021.

Three of the top four tacklers are also gone from the defense including Jalen Pitre and Terrel Bernard. Dave Aranda’s defense should be very good again, but with games at BYU, Oklahoma and Texas, we’re not sure Baylor gets to 10 wins this season.

– Nick Bromberg

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Luke Fickell of the Cincinnati Bearcats stands on the sidelines during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at AT&T Stadium on December 31, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Cincinnati starts the 2022 season with a game at Arkansas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Cincinnati (13-1)

How do the Bearcats follow up a College Football Playoff berth in 2022? The sequel will need to happen without a lot of key parts from that team that was undefeated until a semifinal loss to Alabama. The biggest replacement comes at quarterback where either Evan Prater or Ben Bryant is in line to take over for Desmond Ridder. Ridder accounted for 36 total touchdowns in 2021. Bryant comes over from Eastern Michigan and Prater served as Ridder’s backup.

The Bearcats also need to replace RB Jerome Ford and his 1,300 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns and leading receiver Alec Pierce. The top three tacklers are also gone from the defense along with cornerbacks Coby Bryant and Sauce Gardner. Cincinnati should be good in 2022, but it’s also easy to see how the Bearcats are underdogs at Arkansas to start the season. If Cincinnati gets a win in Fayetteville, then it’ll be very easy to start dreaming about another New Year’s Six bowl appearance.

– Nick Bromberg

Kentucky (10-3)

Last season marked the second time in four seasons that Kentucky won 10 games. Before that, UK had only reached double-digit wins twice — in 1950 and 1977. Needless to say, Mark Stoops is doing a fantastic job and the Wildcats should be bowl-bound once again in 2022. But getting back in the 9-or-10-win range feels lofty.

Will Levis is getting plenty of NFL hype, but how will he fare without do-it-all receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and offensive coordinator Liam Coen? Levis is a bruising runner and had some nice moments as a passer late last season, but this recent infatuation from NFL draftniks is overshadowing how poorly he played at times in 2021.

Entering 2022, Kentucky has to replace most of its offensive line and wide receiver is the biggest question mark on the roster. That’s a lot on the shoulders of Levis and the defense, which lost its top three linemen. And with games like Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee all on the road, this feels more like a 7-5 season.

– Sam Cooper

Louisiana (13-1)

The Ragin’ Cajuns are still the presumptive favorites in the Sun Belt West but look primed to not be as dominant as they were in 2021 after ending the season on a 13-game win streak. Michael Desormeaux takes over as head coach with Billy Napier at Florida and QB Levi Lewis needs to be replaced, too. Chandler Fields is the presumptive starter and the team’s top three receivers from 2021 return. But the defense has to replace its top three tacklers and leading sacker Chauncey Manac.

A Nov. 19 game vs. Florida State is a fascinating late-season non-conference matchup. Louisiana’s only loss of 2021 came against Texas. If Louisiana is better than we think they are in 2022, then a win over Florida State isn’t going to be much of a surprise.

– Nick Bromberg

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 30: Michigan State Spartans head coach Mel Tucker and players stream on to the field before the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl between the Michigan State Spartans and the Pitt Panthers on December 30,2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Mel Tucker’s Michigan State was one of the surprise teams of 2021. Will they stay at the top of the Big Ten in 2022? (Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Michigan State (11-2)

Michigan State came out of nowhere to have an 11-2 season in 2021. It was Year 2 under Mel Tucker, and to call a year like that “ahead of schedule” for a program with a new coach would be putting it lightly. Expecting another season with double-digit victories does not seem very realistic.

The Spartans hit a home run last season by adding running back transfer Kenneth Walker III (1.636 yards, 18 TDs) and they will again rely on an array of portal additions on both sides of the ball in 2022. Walker’s big play ability was a huge difference-maker on an otherwise average offense. Will the staff’s portal scouting make a big difference yet again?

In 2021, MSU was 4-0 in one-score games despite having one of the worst pass defenses in the country. That’ll be tough to replicate in 2022. MSU plays Michigan and Penn State on the road, has a tricky early-season road trip to Washington and drew Minnesota and Wisconsin as two of its cross-division matchups. That’s a lot of tough games, and doesn’t even include the home game vs. Ohio State.

– Sam Cooper

Oklahoma State (12-2)

Oklahoma State went 12-2 last year, beating Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and coming inches away from a Big 12 championship and possible College Football Playoff berth. For most of Mike Gundy’s time in Stillwater, Oklahoma State’s strength has been offense. Last year, it was defense. The architect of that defense, Jim Knowles, left for Ohio State and many of the Cowboys’ top defensive players — particularly at linebacker and in the secondary — have moved on.

If the defense takes an expected step back, can the offense make up some ground? Spencer Sanders is what he is at this point in his career. He’s a quarterback who can make some highlight reel plays, but he turns the ball over way too much. Tay Martin, Sanders’ top target (by far), is now in the NFL. So are 1,200-yard rusher Jaylen Warren and Josh Sills, the team’s top offensive tackle. Can Sanders pick up the slack? This team is going to need to score more points to contend for the Big 12 title again, but Sanders’ track record doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that he will significantly improve.

– Sam Cooper

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 30: Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Panthers and head coach Pat Narduzzi take the field before the game against the Miami Hurricanes at Heinz Field on October 30, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

With Kenny Pickett now playing in the NFL in Pittsburgh, are the Panthers primed for a step back in 2022? (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh (11-3)

There’s still a lot to like about Pitt on the heels of winning the ACC title. The entire offensive line is back and the defense should be one of the ACC’s best. But the two biggest stars from the 2021 team — QB Kenny Pickett and WR Jordan Addison — are no longer with the program. Pickett was a first-round pick while Addison transferred to USC. Those two thrived in Mark Whipple’s pass-happy offense, leading Pitt to its best season in decades.

And not only are Pickett and Addison gone, Whipple left too. He and head coach Pat Narduzzi didn’t see eye-to-eye — Narduzzi has made that abundantly clear — and Whipple left for Nebraska. Even though the passing game was pivotal in his team’s success a year ago, Narduzzi wants to run the ball more and brought in Frank Cignetti Jr. from Boston College to implement a more balanced offense. Even with ex-USC QB Kedon Slovis transferring in, it’s hard not to project a drop-off in offensive explosiveness for the Panthers in 2022. Don’t be surprised if they fade back into the middle of the pack in the ACC.

– Sam Cooper

UTSA (12-2)

UTSA was one of the best stories of the 2021 season. The Roadrunners, who only began playing college football in 2011, put together a 12-win season. UTSA started the year 11-0, won Conference USA and had easily the best season in program history. In the process, UTSA went a remarkable 6-0 in one-score games. That’s not something to easily replicate or even top, especially with workhorse running back Sincere McCormick moving on to the NFL. McCormick ran the ball 299 times, the second-most in the country, for 1,479 yards and 15 touchdowns. On top of that, offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. left UTSA for Illinois.

Despite those departures, this should still be one of the better teams in C-USA, which is down to just 11 members (UTSA is headed to the AAC in 2023). There are no more divisions, so the top two teams will compete for the conference title. Expect UTSA to be in that mix, but the difficulty of the non-conference schedule is going to take some of the magic out of the equation. With Houston, Army and Texas in Weeks 1-3, the Roadrunners won’t be undefeated for long.

– Sam Cooper

Wake Forest (11-3)

The Demon Deacons should be solid once again in 2022 though it’s hard to see them repeating the 11-win campaign from a year ago. Wake Forest won the ACC Atlantic thanks to Clemson’s struggles and it’s hard to see the Tigers missing out on the ACC title game for a second consecutive season. The defense also needs to replace players like Luke Masterson and Luiji Vilain after amassing 38 sacks in 2021. The schedule is doable; Clemson plays in Winston-Salem and the two toughest road games are at Louisville and NC State. Pencil us in for eight wins for Wake Forest this season as the Demon Deacons should continue their run of solid football under Dave Clawson.

– Nick Bromberg



Leave a Reply