Turns out theis not going to be slowed by a simple calendar. Just take a look at this list of teams to watch for 2023. There are more inspirational stories to be told.
We already gave you the, so now let's focus on the group of schools just outside that list. They have a lot in common: rebounds. Rather, potential rebound seasons.
Thanks to the transfer portal and the one-time transfer rule, teams have been able to remake themselves quicker than plastic surgery. Just look at 2022 with USC, Tulane and TCU, the latter of which became the first to go from losing program to College Football Playoff National Championship appearance.
Get used to it. Those coaches who have mastered the portal the quickest seem to have prospered the most. Among the list of 12 schools below that could creep into the top 25, three had sub-.500 records in 2022. Another two finished 7-6. Five improved by at least two games from 2021, proving the point that turnarounds can happen in a hurry.
Be reminded, this is one of the most volatile sports on the planet. As they say in financial management, past performance does not guarantee future results.
|This is the football version of a rebranding. Gone is the plodding offense (we think). Gone is the coach with the 72% winning mark (Paul Chryst). New coach Luke Fickell has hired North Carolina's Phil Longo, an Air Raid disciple, as offensive coordinator. Adding quarterback Tanner Mordecai from SMU sent the message that this isn't going to be your grandfather's (or Barry Alvarez's) Badgers. A top-10 ranked transfer class included nine offensive players. Don't be surprised if Wisconsin is favored to win the Big Ten West after a depressing fall to 7-6. |
|The defending Sun Belt champions won 12 games and ended with their first AP Top 25 ranking ever (No. 19). The school proudly proclaimed it had the most wins of any program in the state of Alabama. (Ouch.) The defense carried the Trojans and should again after they held all 14 opponents under their season average. The battle to replace linebacker Carlton Martial should be interesting. The 5-foot-9 Martial leaves as the FBS all-time tackles leader. Coach Jon Sumrall is a rising star entering his second season. Only Georgia has a longer active winning streak than Troy's 11 straight. |
|Taulia Tagovailoa's decision to return was a huge boost. With Tua's younger brother at QB, the Terrapins were able to squeeze out eight wins, their most in 12 years. Coach Mike Locksley has helped Maryland post back-to-back bowl wins for the first time since 2003. There's plenty to like at a program surrounded by talent in its region. Locks, an offensive mastermind, also gets back All-Big Ten honorable mentions running back Roman Hemby (924 yards), tight end Corey Dyches (35 catches) and offensive tackle Delmar Glaze. |
|The Broncos should be favored to take the Mountain West after a 10-win season in 2022. Some of the losses were baffling: against UTEP and Fresno State at home in the MWC Championship Game. (Boise had won four of the last five in the series.) Andy Avalos heads into his third season having won 12 of the last 13 regular-season titles. Redshirt sophomore QB Taylen Green (24 total TDs) returns, as does RB George Holani (career-high 1,157 yards). |
|The Aggies always seem to win the offseason, so why not continue the tradition? Jimbo Fisher lost 25 players in the transfer portal, including 18 blue-chippers. Seven of those are members of the No. 1-ranked class in 2022. But the Aggies can't be 5-7 bad again, can they? They're settled at QB with Connor Weigman. Wideout Ainias Smith is back from injury but still has time to declare for the draft. Just rebounding from the injuries that impacted 2022 might be enough for an 8-4 season. The addition of Bobby Petrino at offensive coordinator will be a sideshow in itself. If the Aggies don't improve significantly from five wins, Jimbo's monster buyout might not matter. |
|Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett was the logical choice to replace Mike Leach after a nine-win season. He knows the personnel, the recruiting and the defense, which finished a surprising third in the SEC in yards per play. There are hints the Air Raid may become more balanced with new offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay, hired away from Appalachian State. Fourteen times (in 25 games) Barbay's offenses have scored 30+ points the last two seasons. Leading SEC passer Will Rogers is back and that gives the Bulldogs a chance to outscore, well, everybody. |
|Mike Elko had an immediate impact as a first-time coach. The Blue Devils won at least nine games for only the second time since 1941. Duke added five transfers in the early signing period including Miami legacy Al Blades Jr. Entering his sixth year of eligibility, Blades has 15 career starts. Stanford offensive lineman Jake Hornibrook has 25 career starts. Duke gets Clemson and Notre Dame (perhaps both top 10 preseason) at home. Watch defensive tackles Ja'Mion Franklin and DeWayne Carter. |
|Tulane just set the one-year turnaround record going from 2-10 to 12-2. USC played for the Pac-12 and went to the Cotton Bowl a year after going 4-8. So, no, this isn't outrageous as it seems. Deion Sanders has brought his "Louie" in the form of 19 transfers (so far). His son, Shedeur Sanders, will have a lot of pressure on him at quarterback. The schedule is tough, but so is life. It's time for Coach Prime to walk the walk right away. A bowl is almost expected considering what Sanders has said and done in recruiting so far. Anything beyond 6-6 would be amazing gravy. |
|Any evaluation has to be tempered with the Knights moving up a weight class into the Big 12. We know QB John Rhys Plumlee (almost 3,500 total yards) can play at the highest level. Once again, Gus Malzahn has given up the play-calling duties. This time to Darin Hinshaw, last at UAB and a UCF analyst in 2021. Back-to-back nine-win seasons under Gus suggest the Knights are going to be competitive in the Big 12 right away beating a better class of competition. |
|If the Jayhawks get better in the defensive line, they will be a bowl team again this year. Lance Leipold knows this. He is addressing it. That deficiency helped lead to a 1-7 finish after the Jayhawks became an early season darling. The offense is set with second-team All-Big 12 qb Jalon Daniels who threw for 555 yards at five TDS in the Liberty Bowl against Arkansas. |
|The Razorbacks need to shore things up on defense where the unit gave up more than 30 points per game. The secondary in particular was one of the worst in the country. That was the difference in the Hogs being a factor in the SEC West and finishing 7-6. KJ Jefferson and Rocket Sanders give Arkansas a chance on offense. Check the schedule. Squint and you can pick out eight wins. |
|Noticing a trend here? Kentucky is the fourth SEC school in this list. The loss of QB Will Levis is softened by NC State transfer Devin Leary, who was considered the top-ranked transfer QB available having thrown for 35 TDs in 2021. Now where do the Wildcats go from here? They underachieved at 7-6 after only their fifth-ever preseason ranking. Kentucky could be 4-0 coming out of September with games early against Ball State, Eastern Kentucky, Akron and Vanderbilt. The problem is having to beat South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia as well as the rest of the SEC East. |