10 college football teams that could fall back in 2022

Earlier this week, we took a look at some of the teams we thought would be back on their winning ways in 2022. Now’s the time to reveal who we think might be missing out on their achievement in 2022. Here are 10 college football teams we think could see seasons Worse in 2022 than in 2021.

Arizona (8-5 in 2021)

ASU is a program in turmoil entering the 2022 season. An NCAA investigation of recruiting violations looms large on the program’s horizon and five coaches have left, including defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce. The Sun Devils only return with seven junior players from last season’s team that went 3-4. Former Florida QB Emory Jones is hired to replace Jayden Daniels and ASU will need to find some receivers to throw at them.

Andre Johnson performed 12 receptions in 2021 and is the team’s leading return receptionist. Leading striker Kyle Sowell is back but there are only three other players back at his side in an underrated defense in 2021. How would things be different without Pierce?

It could be a long year at Tempe and it could be Herm Edwards’ last year as 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 believe Baylor will never be in the mix again. But this team also looks worse than it did a year ago. Blake Shapen is set to be the team’s starting quarterback after winning the job in the spring. He will have a lot of new talent around him. Baylor lost her top three races and top three receivers in the unofficial season. Replacing Abram Smith and Tyquan Thornton is key. Ben Sims is the only returning player on the roster to have scored more than 10 times in 2021.

Three of the top four contenders also disappeared from the defense including Galen Peter and Terrell Bernard. Dave Aranda’s defense should be fine again, but with games in BYU, Oklahoma and Texas, we’re not sure Baylor has 10 wins this season.

– Nick Bromberg

Cincinnati kicks off the 2022 season with a game in Arkansas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Cincinnati (13-1)

How do the Bearcats track down the College Football Playoff berth in 2022? The sequel should happen without a lot of key parts from this undefeated team until their semi-final loss to Alabama. The biggest alternative comes in the middle with either Evan Prater or Ben Bryant in line to take on Desmond Ryder. Ridder made 36 touchdowns total in 2021. Bryant comes from eastern Michigan and Prater served as Ridder’s backup.

The Bearcats also need a replacement RB Jerome Ford, 1,300 flowing yards, 19 landings and an Alec Pierce pioneer receiver. The top three attackers also disappeared from the defense along with linebackers Coby Bryant and Sauce Gardner. Cincinnati should be doing well in 2022, but it’s also easy to see how the Bearcats are the underdogs in Arkansas to start the season. If Cincinnati wins Fayetteville, it will be very easy to start dreaming about the appearance of six more dishes for the New Year.

– Nick Bromberg

Kentucky (10-3)

Last season was the second time in four seasons that Kentucky won 10 games. Prior to that, the UK had only had double-digit wins twice – in 1950 and 1977. Needless to say, Mark Stubbs is doing a great job and the Wildcats should be bowled again in 2022. But back at 9 or -10 -win feels happy.

Will Levis get a lot of hype in the NFL, but how will he have success without receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and offensive coordinator Liam Coen? Levis is a bruised runner who had some lovely moments as a late last season, but this latest infatuation from the NFL draft casts a shadow over how poorly his performances will be at times in 2021.

Heading into 2022, Kentucky has to replace most of its offensive line, and the wide receiver is the biggest question mark on the list. That’s a lot on the shoulders of Levis and the defense, who have lost their top three men. And with games like Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee all on the way, this feels more like season 7-5.

– Sam Cooper

Louisiana (13-1)

The Ragin’ Cajuns are still the presumptive favorites in the Sun Belt West, but they look set to not dominate as they were in 2021 after ending the season with a 13-game winning streak. Michael DeSormo takes over as head coach with Billy Napier in Florida and QB Levi Lewis needs a replacement as well. Chandler Fields is the default starter and top three receivers for the team from 2021. But the defense will have to replace the top three players and columnist Chauncey Mannack.

The November 19 game against Florida State is a great late-season game without a conference. Louisiana’s only loss came in 2021 against Texas. If Louisiana is better than we think it is in 2022, the victory over Florida wouldn’t be much of a surprise.

– Nick Bromberg

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

Michigan State led by Mel Tucker was one of the surprising teams in 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’s been a sophomore year under Mel Tucker, and calling a year like this “ahead of schedule” for a program with a new coach would be a lighthearted thing. Expecting another season with double-digit wins doesn’t seem very realistic.

The Spartans broke ground last season by adding a running back Kenneth Walker III (1,636 yards, 18 TDs) and will again rely on a host of gate additions on either side of the ball in 2022. Walker’s massive playing ability was a formidable difference-maker on an otherwise mediocre offense . Will employee portal surveys make a big difference again?

In 2021, MSU was 4-0 in single-score games despite having one of the worst passing defenses in the country. It’ll be hard to repeat in 2022. Playing Michigan and Pennsylvania on the road, MSU has had a tough early-season road trip to Washington and has drawn Minnesota and Wisconsin as two of its divisional encounters. That’s a lot of hard games, and it doesn’t even include the home game against Ohio State.

– Sam Cooper

Oklahoma State (12-2)

Oklahoma State won 12-2 last year, beating Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and inches away from the Big 12 and potentially the College Football Playoff berth. For most of Mike Gundy’s time at Stillwater, the Oklahoma State Force was an offensive. Last year, it was defensive. The designer of this defense, Jim Knowles, left for Ohio State and many of the best Cowboys defensive players—particularly quarterbacks and high schoolers—moved forward.

If the defense took a predictable step back, could the attack set up some ground? Spencer Sanders is what he is at this point in his career. He’s a quarterback who can do some outstanding reel performances, but he runs the ball a lot. Ty Martin, Sanders’ top target (so far), is now in the NFL. So do 1200-yard lunge backs Jaylen Warren and Josh Sills, the team’s best offensive tackle. Can Sanders handle a recession? This team will need to score more points to compete for the Big 12 title again, but Sanders’ track record does not inspire much confidence that he will improve dramatically.

– 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 Pearl/Getty Images)

With Kenny Pickett now playing in the NFL in Pittsburgh, are the Panthers preparing for a dip in 2022? (Photo by Justin Pearl/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh (11-3)

There is still a lot to like about Pete in the wake of winning the acc title. The entire offensive line is back and defense has to be one of the best in ACC. But the two biggest stars of the 2021 squad – QB Kenny Pickett and WR Jordan Addison – are no longer with the program. Beckett was a first-round pick while Addison was transferred to USC. These two thrived on Mark Whipple’s singles attack, leading Pitt to his best season in decades.

And not only did Beckett and Addison leave, but Whipple also left. He and coach Pat Nardozzi did not meet face to face – Nardozzi made it very clear – and Whipple left for Nebraska. Although the passing game was pivotal to his team’s success a year ago, Narduzzi wants to run the ball more and bring in Frank Cignetti Jr. From Boston College to perform a more balanced attack. Even as former USC QB Kedon Slovis moves inland, it’s hard not to expect a decrease in the Leopard offensive bombing in 2022. Don’t be surprised if it fades back into the middle of the pack at ACC.

– Sam Cooper

UTSA (12-2)

UTSA was one of the best stories of the 2021 season. The Roadrunners, who only started playing college football in 2011, have amassed 12 wins. UTSA started the year 11-0, won the Conference USA and was easily the best season in program history. In the process, UTSA is advancing with an impressive 6-0 score in single-score matches. That’s not something that can be easily replicated or even over the top, especially with backbone sincere McCormick moving to the NFL. McCormick ran the ball 299 times, the second most in the country, for 1,479 yards and 15 touchdowns. Furthermore, offensive coordinator Barry Looney Jr. left UTSA for Illinois.

Despite those departures, this should remain one of the top teams in the C-USA, which is just under 11 members (UTSA heads to AAC in 2023). There are no more divisions, so the top two teams will compete for the conference title. Expect UTSA to be in the mix, but the difficulty of the non-conference schedule will remove some of the magic from the equation. With Houston, the Army and Texas in weeks 1-3, the Roadrunners aren’t going to lose for long.

– Sam Cooper

Wake Forest (11-3)

Satanic Deacons should be solid again in 2022 although it’s hard to see them repeating their 11-win campaign from a year ago. Wake Forest won the ACC Atlantic thanks to Clemson’s struggle and it’s hard to see the Tigers lose the ACC game for the second season in a row. The defense also needs to replace players like Luke Masterson and Luiji Vilain after stacking 38 sacks in 2021. The schedule is possible; Clemson plays in Winston-Salem, and the two toughest games on the road are in Louisville and NC State. He racked up eight wins in Wake Forest this season as the Demon Deacons must continue their strong football career under Dave Clawson.

– Nick Bromberg

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