The Greatest Wild-Card Teams of the 2022 College Football Season | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats & Rumors

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    spencer sander | Chris Coduto/Getty Images

    College football has a love-hate relationship with expectations.

    Throughout the offseason, fans and the media formulate their respective opinions on the programs. Overall, the general population of CFB also does a fairly decent job.

    In the eight years of the college football playoff era, 32 teams participated in the championship-clinching tournament. Within this group, 26 of these programs held a Top 10 preseason ranking and 20 were in the Top 5. We can usually project the best of the best.

    However, there are still a handful of teams that stand out as the most difficult to project. They are good, but are they good at the championship level? One or two bad bounces also seem like they could trigger a spiral in the other direction.

    While the picks are subjective, the focus is on expected conference and national title contenders.

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    Jaren Hall | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Cincinnati shattered the PCP’s glass ceiling for Five-Year-Old programs last season. However, BYU already had a plan as an independent through 2018 Notre Dame.

    And if BYU’s opponents hold their end of the bargain, the program could have a similar story in 2022.

    ESPN Bill Connelly noted that Bowling Green returns more production than BYU. Over the past two campaigns, the Cougs have gone 20-3 in the regular season, including a 5-0 clip against Pac-12 opponents last year.

    More importantly for a freelancer, the slate will not be easy.

    BYU hosts Baylor and Arkansas, plays Notre Dame at a neutral site and travels to Oregon, Boise State and Stanford. Add in defending Mountain West champion Utah State and the Cougars again have — on paper — a schedule no less challenging than a typical Pac-12 school.

    Yes, the Cougs should come out of this slate unscathed, but they’ve been sitting on the brink of national discord for two years now.

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    Devin Leary | Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    If you’re not a fan of North Carolina State, the ACC, or a hardcore quarterback, you might not even know Devin Leary.

    Consider this a formal hello.

    Last season, Leary completed 65.7% of his passes for 3,433 yards, 35 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He guided the Pack to a 9-3 record, and the program finished the season in the AP Top 25 for only the fourth time since 1994.

    Leary is the headliner, but NC State should also have one of the best defenses in the ACC. The unit gave up just 19.7 points per game in 2021 and fires a good majority of those contributors. This combination, in addition to last year’s record, will likely see the Wolfpack soar into the Top 10 of the preseason.

    However, Clemson gets in the way of the Wolfpack. And if NC State can’t cause another upset, this time in October on the road, its advantage will soon be capped.

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    David Aranda | Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Let’s do a recap.

    Baylor: The defending champions replace just about everything except the offensive and defensive lines. But hey, if Dave Aranda can take a team from 2-7 to 12-2, the Bears could compete again.

    Oklahoma: Major personnel and player changes following Lincoln Riley’s exit from USC. Very talented, but all these new pieces have to fit together perfectly.

    State of Oklahoma: As quarterback Spencer Sanders returns, the Pokes have lost a bunch of key contributors. On the other hand, they were literally inches away from a possible CFP spot last season. Oklahoma State might not fall too far.

    Texas: It’s Texas. Lots of hype and lots of talent. As always, will this lead to positive results this season?

    If any of these programs burst into national controversy, the reaction might just be, “Hey, they actually put the whole thing together.” Then again, a regular season of four or five losses wouldn’t be surprising either.

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    Jim Harbaugh | Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    How do you feel about Michigan?

    After reaching the CFP in 2021, the Wolverines have gone through an unstable offseason. Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald left for the NFL and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis flew to Miami after Jim Harbaugh flirted with the pros.

    JJ McCarthy’s shoulder injury in the spring meant quarterback competition with Cade McNamara couldn’t begin until now. The offensive line should be a strength, but the run defense can be a serious problem.

    Michigan only travels four times in 2022 and its schedule is generally favorable. However, two games – Iowa and Ohio State – will be played in notoriously tough venues for UM.

    The Wolverines should be good, maybe even great. But they also have a not-so-complicated path to a 9-3 record.

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    Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley | Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

    Michigan State showed in 2021 how a transfer-fueled roster can compete at a high level. New USC head coach Lincoln Riley is hoping for even more success.

    But Trojans have a ton new parts.

    Michigan State has hooked up a few players in key locations. USC, on the other hand, will likely have transfers representing a third of its names on the two-deep chart.

    Don’t get me wrong, Riley has improved the roster significantly. It certainly doesn’t hurt to bring in Caleb Williams, a sophomore who is already one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

    However, we cannot know what to expect from USC. We’ve literally never watched this group of players in competitive play.

    USC is the wildest joker of the bunch.

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The most likely Preseason Top 5 team on the roster, Texas A&M, has a very big question to answer.

    So, uh, who’s the starting quarterback?

    Haynes King first got the job in 202, but a leg injury ended his year almost immediately. His replacement, Zach Calzada, was traded, while Max Johnson — who threw for 2,815 yards and 27 touchdowns for just six interceptions on a mediocre LSU team — headed to College Station. The Aggies also signed a 5-star rookie Conner Weigman.

    The hope is that an upgrade to quarterback will be the last championship piece for Texas A&M, which is a perfect example of how hard it is to be a contender. Last season, the Aggies upset best and future national runner-up Alabama a week after falling at home to Mississippi State.

    Jimbo Fisher and Co. understands how to beat the best. The trick is to avoid the other losses.

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