Over the past month or so, I’ve been collecting key information for my 2022 college football power ratings. This annually involves analyzing the returning players/coaches, making adjustments based on last year’s records and current perception, then ensuring I have not assumed anything out of the normal window for each team’s recent history and/or conference strength.
For example, after last year’s “super senior” season in which there was a record number of returning starters, this season brings the opposite — a vast amount of inexperience across the country. I feel this is going to have a big impact and will lead to greater separation once again between the haves and the have-nots. Teams such as Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia figure to be a notch above anyone else. In fact, on my BOY power ratings, I have the Tide at 73, the Buckeyes at 72.5 and the Bulldogs at 69.5. These ratings are a bit higher than I typically have for my top three teams. For the record, no other team is listed higher than 64.
Prior to last season, I called for an “upset” to the College Football Playoff proceedings. I figured some of the recent fringe playoff teams that were bringing back more seniors could make a run at the playoffs. This came to fruition when Michigan and Cincinnati formed half of the playoff field. Sure, both teams lost as big underdogs in their playoff games, but making it there was an achievement, particularly for the Bearcats out of the American Athletic Conference. This fall, I expect a return to normalcy, with Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State the favorites to make the CFP, and other regulars such as Clemson and Notre Dame to be in the running for most of the season. As you study the ratings chart below, you’ll see this perception is reflected in the numbers.
I will continue to monitor teams and happenings across the country and make any tweaks necessary prior to opening week. For now, though, I’ve taken my adjusted power ratings for 2022 and have run them against the complete schedule to project the season standings. You can find that, plus my projected power-rating lines for every game for all 131 FBS teams, in this week's edition of Point Spread Weekly, coming out Wednesday.
Before you dive into Point Spread Weekly — and if you're not a subscriber, I hope you become one — let’s look at some of the highlights from the analysis:
— According to my figures, for the second straight season, Arkansas plays the nation’s toughest schedule, at least as it stands now. The Razorbacks are ranked just ahead of Georgia Tech and Mississippi State in that metric. Besides facing their usual tough SEC West foes, they face Cincinnati and BYU in non-conference play. Second year coach Sam Pittman’s program is coming off a 9-4 season, Arkansas’ most wins since 2011. However, my projections show Arkansas taking a step back to 7.0-5.0 against a DK win prop of 7.5, with the tough slate expected to take a toll. Interestingly, Georgia Tech’s non-conference schedule figures to be tougher than its ACC slate, with games against Ole Miss, UCF and Georgia. I have the Yellow Jackets winning 3.2 games against a 3.5 DK prop.
— UTEP hands over the reins of the easiest schedule to Conference USA counterpart Florida International, a program that is reeling after winning just one of 17 games over the last two seasons. The Panthers turn to new coach Mike MacIntyre in hopes of getting it turned around. The DraftKings win prop is 3.0, the exact number I have projected, which would be a two-game improvement over 2021 and a testament to the weak schedule more than anything else. Toledo checks in at No. 130 in terms of strength of schedule, which could help the Rockets return to the top of the MAC. Other programs with lighter schedules in 2022 include Central Michigan, Army and Fresno State, all bowl teams last season.
— Ohio State has the highest win projection of any team at 11.3, a bit better than Alabama (11.2), Georgia (11.2) and Clemson (10.3). The only other double-digit win projection is for Cincinnati, which became the first Group of 5 team to make the CFP last season. The Bearcats are again the favorite in the AAC but have to replace several key starters who moved on to the NFL, including QB Desmond Ridder. The other four teams in double digits bring back their starting quarterbacks, including the Tide with Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
— Assuming the projections play out accurately, the other Power 5 teams — besides Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma — expected to contend for a playoff spot are Oregon, Utah, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Michigan, all of which are projected to win at least nine games. Some long-shot contenders include NC State, USC, Texas A&M and perhaps even BYU.
— Cincinnati (10.0), Toledo (8.8), Western Kentucky (8.7), Appalachian State (8.6) and Louisiana-Lafayette (8.6) have the highest projected win totals among the Group of 5 teams, with each facing a test or two that could prevent them from going undefeated. The Bearcats’ toughest games figure to be the opener at Arkansas and conference games at SMU and UCF.
— In terms of teams expected to improve from last season, Nebraska is showing 8.0 wins after going just 3-9. The Cornhuskers, who figure to turn to Texas transfer Casey Thompson at quarterback, lost a lot of close games last season, a strong indicator for a team poised to improve. Tulane is coming off a 2-10 season but is projected to win 6.8 games behind QB Michael Pratt, who has produced solid numbers in back-to-back seasons. The other team of note is USC, which attempts to rebound from a 4-8 season under new coach Lincoln Riley. The Trojans have recruited very well the last two seasons and bring in transfer QB Caleb Williams from Oklahoma. I have USC slated for 8.2 wins, but that could be a conservative projection based upon the expectations surrounding the program.
— No team is expected to drop off more than James Madison, which joins the FBS ranks in the Sun Belt Conference after being a perennial FCS power in recent years. UTSA could also experience a natural regression after a special season in 2021. The Roadrunners were 12-2 after having never won more than eight games in an FBS season. They have a good supply of starters back, including QB Frank Harris, but meeting the standard set last year could prove difficult. Other teams expected to win four or fewer games than they did last season include San Diego State, Baylor, Utah State, Louisiana and Oklahoma State. Replacing numerous key starters will be a huge task for all five of those programs coming off successful seasons.
In the charts in Point Spread Weekly, you’ll find my projected standings for each conference. Teams are sorted by conference wins. You’ll also find season win totals from DraftKings, each team’s Steve Makinen Power Rating, home and road ratings, schedule strength and national rankings, plus overall and conference record projections.
Following that you’ll find all of the team schedules with projected lines based on my power ratings. Use these to find betting options on game lines that have already been released at several books, including DraftKings. You’ll find some distinct differences when analyzing the numbers.