The 2022 college football season is now in the books. It's all over. The final game has been played. The Georgia Bulldogs have won back-to-back national championships, hammering the TCU Horned Frogs by 58 points in Monday's title game in SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
An SEC team winning the national title is hardly new. Kirby Smart winning the national title isn't, either. A Southern team winning the national title is not a plot twist, to be sure. Plenty of college football realities remain intact and are likely to stay intact for the next few years. We do have the 12-team playoff just around the bend in 2024, which will change the landscape of the sport, but we have one more season with a four-team playoff in 2023. Let's focus on where the sport stands at the end of 2022, heading into another fascinating offseason loaded with plot points and, to be sure, some transfer-portal dramas which will change the competitive calculus across the country.
GEORGIA AND OHIO STATE WERE THE TWO MOST TALENTED TEAMS
Dec 31, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs players celebrate as Ohio State Buckeyes place kicker Noah Ruggles (95) misses a 50 yard field goal in the final seconds of the second half of the Peach Bowl in the College Football Playoff semifinal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch
This doesn't mean they were the two best teams. Ohio State lost by 22 points at home to Michigan and played poorly when it really mattered … but seeing the Peach Bowl semifinal game, it was clear that Ohio State was the one team which could stand up to Georgia in terms of overall elite athleticism and skill. The Buckeyes really missed a golden opportunity this season.
GEORGIA WAS BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE, BUT NOT A TRANSCENDENT TEAM
Jan 9, 2023; Inglewood, CA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs offensive lineman Broderick Jones (59) and quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) and long snapper Payne Walker (right) celebrate after winning the CFP national championship game against the TCU Horned Frogs at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In 2021, Georgia and Alabama were far, far better than the rest of the field. In 2022, Georgia was No. 1, but it barely beat Ohio State. It scored only 16 points against Kentucky, and beat Missouri by only four points. UGA allowed 22 points to Kent State at home. This was not one of the great college football teams of all time. Ohio State outplayed Georgia for most of the Peach Bowl, then wilted late.
There were several really good teams in college football this year. Georgia was the best of those really good teams. There was no awesomely great team. Some seasons work out that way.
TCU BELONGED IN THE NATIONAL TITLE GAME
TCU wide receiver Taye Barber (4) runs for a touchdown against Michigan during the first half at the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022.
Syndication Detroit Free Press
If you think a 58-point loss means TCU didn't belong in the national championship game, you're overthinking it.
TCU belonged in the title game because it won in the semifinals. The semifinal winners play in the national championship game. By definition, they belong. If TCU didn't belong, Michigan would have made sure of that, but the Wolverines blew their chance to make that statement.
BIG TEN OFFENSES SKEWED PERCEPTIONS OF MICHIGAN AND OHIO STATE
WE DIDN'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT MICHIGAN BASED ON ITS SCHEDULE
THE LANDSCAPE WAS VERY FLUID THIS SEASON
OFFENSE IS STILL KING
TURNAROUNDS POWERED BY OFFENSE
Nov 19, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) passes against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
USC and TCU weren't the only teams which authored huge turnarounds thanks to a high-powered offense. Tennessee and Hendon Hooker (and then in the Orange Bowl versus Clemson, Joe Milton) significantly improved thanks to an offense which was very hard to stop.
USC AND OHIO STATE ARE IN THE SAME BOAT
Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley reacts against the Utah Utes in the first half of the Pac-12 Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
USC and Ohio State have ridiculous amounts of high-end talent on offense, and they had bad defenses which imploded in the most important games of the season. If either team can field a defense which can hold good opponents to 30 points in a game of considerable importance, they will play for national championships … but a lot of people rightly think that won't soon happen.
PAC-12 QB PLAY IS AS GOOD AS IT HAS EVER BEEN
Jan 2, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) throws a pass that is intercepted by Tulane Green Wave defensive back Jarius Monroe (not pictured) during the first half in the 2023 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Caleb Williams. Michael Penix. Bo Nix. DTR. Cam Rising. Pac-12 quarterback play was tremendous this season, and it's only going to get better for 2023 with the incoming players at Colorado and Oregon State joining the returning stars.
UTAH'S DEPTH MATTERED
Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah Utes wide receiver Money Parks (10) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Southern California Trojans during the second half of the PAC-12 Football Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
When USC's backup offensive linemen went up against Utah's backup defensive linemen in the Pac-12 Championship Game, Utah's backups were better. USC has to catch up to the Utes in terms of building quality depth up front.
DABO SWINNEY ISN'T FIGURING IT OUT
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney during the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia Monday, September 5, 2022.
Nick Saban had a down year at Alabama, but that was after making the national title game in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. At Clemson, Dabo Swinney hasn't made the national title game since the 2019 season, and he has missed the playoff in consecutive years. His team lost three games in consecutive seasons. He has a lot to prove entering 2023.
FLORIDA STATE IS 2023'S MOST INTERESTING TEAM
Oct 15, 2022; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; Clemson Tigers running back Will Shipley (1) runs during the second half against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak S. Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
Is 2023 the year Florida State regains its place atop the ACC? The Seminoles might be the most fascinating program in the country next season, after they won 10 games in 2022.
HUGE YEAR FOR BRENT VENABLES
At the Duncan stop of the OU Coaches Caravan, Sooners football coach Brent Venables and other coaches spoke about the NIL guidelines and other topics.
Oklahoma definitely has to make significant progress in 2023 for the Sooners to feel comfortable under Brent Venables. The more fascinating and complicated question is if Venables can lift the Sooners to the playoff or at least a Big 12 championship. Going 8-4 would be an improvement, but not what Oklahoma is expecting. A 10-2 season is probably where Sooner fans think the program should be 11 months from now.
PAC-12 HAS RAISED THE BAR
Sep 17, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) and head coach Kalen DeBoer talk during the fourth quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Kalen DeBoer at Washington, Jonathan Smith at Oregon State, Dan Lanning at Oregon. These coaches and programs join USC and Utah in giving the Pac-12 a lot of high-end quality. The conference will be loaded and very hard to win in 2023. The league has grown by leaps and bounds from 2021, when it was legitimately mediocre.
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines during action against the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 at Michigan Stadium.
Will Jim Harbaugh bail on Michigan or stick it out? He keeps flirting with the NFL, and if he does leave, that will shake up the Big Ten. It's the biggest offseason domino to fall first. Other offseason questions will be answered later.
BIG 12 CHANGES
Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Deshawn Pace (20) pressures Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) in the second quarter during the College Football Playoff semifinal game at the 86th Cotton Bowl Classic, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The flood of newcomers into the Big 12 will create a fascinating new landscape.
Jan 2, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Tulane Green Wave head coach Willie Fritz walks on the sidelines during the game against the USC Trojans in the 2023 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Will Tulane be able to remain a powerhouse, or was 2022 a one-time surge for the Green Wave, who beat USC in the Cotton Bowl?
NOW OR NEVER
Southern California head coach Lincoln Riley, left, talks with defensive coordinator Alex Grinch during an NCAA college football practice Thursday, March 24, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
USC seems intent on keeping Alex Grinch. That's not a surprise, either. Grinch would not have come to USC if he knew he would get canned after one season. Fans will be disappointed by that, but it's reality.
We can all agree: 2023 has to be a lot better than 2022. A huge key: USC has to get many more reinforcements.
It's the biggest game-changer in college football. The portal can immediately restock a roster when used well, and it can instantly drain a program if there is a massive exodus. USC and Lincoln Riley have used the portal well, but they have to get a lot more defensive talent. We'll see.
Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire
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