It turns out 25 is not enough. At least not when it comes to the college football rankings during the vastness of the offseason.
We gave you the way-too-early top 25 earlier this month. Now comes the rest of the story: 10 programs knocking on the door. History has proven this whole ranking thing is an inexact science. (Surprise!) Four teams that started in the top 10 of the 2021 Preseason Top 25 finished outside of that grouping. A staggering 14 teams in preseason top 25 finished unranked. So, yes, this is list is meaningful.
In the group below, you'll see seven teams that won at least 10 games last season. You'll see five Group of Five teams. You'll see two from the SEC. You'll see a team with a Heisman Trophy finalist. You'll see Lincoln Riley, who will have to make a splash near the Pacific Ocean almost immediately at USC. One problem: He doesn't have a proven quarterback … yet.
Ah, but with the transfer portal, anything is possible. Because of that, this is also a fluid list with National Signing Day coming next week. For now, consider these the top 10 contenders for the top 25 as we spend the next eight months looking ahead to the 2022 season.
The Cougars could be a 2022 New Year's Six bowl participant after winning 12 games and playing for the AAC title in 2021. Much of Dana Holgorsen's powerful offense returns, including quarterback Clayton Tune and running back Alton McCaskill. The Cougs scored 31+ points in 10 of 14 games, but the defense — led by a rising star in coordinator Doug Belk — was a huge surprise finishing first in the American total defense and sacks. All of it bodes well for the transition to the Big 12. Houston has won at least 10 games four times since 2009.
The Hawkeyes are hard on the eyes. Even the most rabid Iowa supporter has to admit that. The offense ranked mostly in the 100s in most meaningful metrics. But as long as Iowa has defensive coordinator Phil Parker, it has a chance. Last season marked the fourth straight year of at least a top 16 D. They just sort of piece it together on offense. Quarterback play will have to get better, but Iowa State, Michigan and Wisconsin come to Kinnick Stadium. Kirk Ferentz was extended through 2029 (age 73) after his second 10-win season in three years. The man is Teflon. Despite a massive scandal in the summer of 2020 that led to a former player calling for his removal and that of athletic director Gary Barta recently, football wags the tail in Iowa City.