- Who could make their first College Football Playoff appearance in 2022?
- DrafKings Sportsbook is offering odds to make the College Football Playoff for a list of teams
- Check out our college football betting picks for three teams
There are a number of factors that make college football a fantastic product and so different from what the NFL offers. In the National Football League, everyone’s goal is to win the Super Bowl. In NCAAF, a National Championship isn’t a realistic outcome for the majority of teams. It’s bowl eligibility, winning their rivalry game, winning their division, and the list goes on. For some, it’s making the College Football Playoff, we’ll be looking at a few teams who could do that in 2022.
Last season we saw both Michigan and Cincinnati accomplish that feat. They did that with a litany of talent on defense, namely Aidan Hutchinson and Ahmad Gardner. Michigan found an opening thanks to a horrendous Ohio State defense in the BIG10. Meanwhile Cincinnati may not have been able to become the first group of 5 program to crack the playoff if it weren’t for Oklahoma State coming up inches short of a BIG-12 Championship.
What we’ll need to do to ensure this exercise is as successful as possible is look at power 5 conferences that are missing that no-brainer champion. This season those look to be the BIG12, PAC-12 and ACC. Those teams also didn’t have a CFP bid last season, but I think that’s an unlikely outcome on a year-to-year basis.
The Favorite: USC Trojans
Is this a team that’s ready to compete for a National Championship? Far from it. But after going through the schedule’s of the top teams in the PAC-12, it’s hard to deny they have the best shot. They avoid Oregon, who’s been carrying the conference in recent years. USC also avoids Washington, who although experience a down year have been recruiting at a really high level.
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) December 16, 2021
Utah will provide a major test in October, but it really is no surprise that they are the favorites in the PAC12 Championship odds. They look like they will be the college football betting favorite in 10 of their 12 games with the exceptions being Utah and Notre Dame. That could very well change as those games will be well into the season.
The offense, led by Lincoln Riley, is the most talented in the PAC-12. It isn’t really close either when you look at the skill positions. Riley brings along Caleb Williams, who was an instant star in his true freshman season at Oklahoma. Now he’s got the Biletnikoff winner in Jordan Addison to throw to along with Caleb’s former teammate Mario Williams. Then there’s Travis Dye, who is one of the conferences best running backs, and left Oregon for USC. This group is stacked.
The problem lies in their defense as they’ve tried to fill plenty of holes through the transfer portal. The biggest concern is the defensive line, especially if they want to get by the Utah Utes. Riley bringing defensive coordinator Alex Grinch with him helps for sure. Now sophomore DBs Calen Bullock and Jaylin Smith should be able to see improved play with an improved coaching staff. All this defense needs to do is not give up 40 because USC may be able to just show up and score 30 points offensively.
DraftKings Sportsbook is actually offering odds on whether or not the USC Trojans will make the College Football Playoff. If you want to back them to make it their odds are +400.
Sleeper: North Carolina State Wolfpack
The Wolfpack enjoyed a fantastic season in 2021, recording their best single-season winning percentage since 2002. The quarterback for that 2002 season was Phillip Rivers, so Devin Leary has some big shoes to fill in 2022. He flew under the radar in 2021, throwing 35 TDs to just 5 INTs. The junior QB has a victory over Clemson under his belt, and a trip to the College Football Playoff doesn’t seem far off.
NC State has a fairly light schedule, with East Carolina, Charleston Southern, Texas Tech and UConn in their out of conference games. While also avoiding Miami and 2022 ACC Champion Pittsburgh. The biggest test of the season will come against Clemson in week 5. To make the playoff I think they’ll need to run the table. A loss to Clemson as a division rival may keep them from playing for the conference championship, which they’ll need for their case.
What’s really exciting for the Wolfpack is their returning production. They rank 12th overall and on defense they rank 5th with 88% of their production returning. The team ranked 14th in SP+ last season and they’re the only top-15 team to return top-15 level production as well.
The offense has some rebuilding to do, the most glaring being Ikem Ekwonu going 6th overall in the NFL Draft. Emeka Emezie leaves a hole at wide receiver and both running backs Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person depart. The rushing attack was pedestrian at best though, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Junior Jordan Houston will be able to fill that role without issue. Devin Carter is more than capable of becoming the #1 receiving option along with Thayer Thomas in the slot as a 5th year senior.
NC State is listed at +1400 odds to make the College Football Playoff at DraftKings Sportsbook. They have one of the most experienced and tested defenses in the country. This defense allowed just 20.8 points per game last season. They can take down Clemson again, but this time avoid a slip up and win their conference for the first time since 1978.
Longshot: Penn State Nittany Lions
Most people are going to have the Ohio State Buckeyes written in pen on their College Football Playoff bracket. But like the SEC last year, perhaps we could see two BIG10 teams sneak into the National Championship tournament. Although Penn State is coming off a down season, they have the recruits for an immediate bounce-back in 2022.
CBS’ Bud Elliott releases his ‘Blue Chip Ratio‘ every summer, it is defined as signing more four- and five-star recruits (AKA “Blue Chips”) than two- and three-star players over the previous four recruiting classes. The last 10 National Champions have been listed in the BCR. In the last three years, 11 of the 12 playoff teams were listed under the BCR (the exception being Cincinnati in 2021). The Nittany Lions are on the list this year and most years.
Penn State doesn’t benefit from a ton returning production as they’re consistently sending talent to the NFL Draft, but there is still plenty to work with. Jahan Dotson’s departure feels like a major loss, but if you watched any of Parker Washington last season there should be no concerns. There are losses on defense too in Arnold Ebiketie and Jaquan Brisker. A healthy season from PJ Mustipher on the defensive line along with the return of Ji’Ayir Brown and Joey Porter in the secondary will go a long way in easing those losses.
Sean Clifford has played a replacement type level in his career, some want to see incoming 5-star freshman Drew Allar usurp him for the job. But Clifford has had to deal with a new offensive play-caller in every season as the starter, in 2022 he benefits from the same scheme under Mike Yurcich. Not to mention that the rushing attack was horrific last season, averaging an embarrassing 3.3 yards per carry. Now they’ll replace Noah Cain with 5-star, #1 RB recruit Nick Singleton.
A trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium would be a tall task most years, but Auburn is in shambles. Penn State also gets three of their four toughest opponents in Minnesota, Ohio State and Michigan State at home. With the fourth being a trip to the Big House on October 15th. Penn State is listed as long as +10000 to win the National Championship, but an appearance in the College Football Playoff is on the table with their recruiting chops.