The 2022 college football season has carried a theme of tying together the familiar with the new, binding history with an eye on the future as we move through a period of transition in the sport. The end of 2021 saw a wild coaching carousel reset the clock at several blue-blood programs, conference realignment got crazy again in the summer, and the College Football Playoff saw its expansion efforts stalled, resumed and eventually finished by the time we got to the end of the calendar.
And while the Nick Saban vs. Jimbo Fisher spat in May -- plus Bryan Harsin's late-spring hot seat fiasco at Auburn -- provided interesting conversation to go with the big-picture shifts in the sport, many college football fans were happy to see the focus return to the actual games in the fall. That's where college football showed up to command our attention with the reminders of the familiar and an introduction to the new.
Georgia returned to action as reigning champion and has done nothing to dispel its status as the top
dog dawg in the sport, while Michigan has proven that not even two coordinator changes and a new quarterback will shake its newfound position as the Big Ten power. Ohio State was back in the familiar spot of being just one loss away from controlling its own destiny, though this year fell in line with 2014 and 2017 where a one-loss Buckeyes profile was still strong enough to make the playoff.
But there's also the new in 2022 as this is the first College Football Playoff to not involve Alabama or Clemson, while TCU is making its first CFP appearance after getting left out with an 11-1 record in 2014. The 2022 season marks the first year the Big Ten has gotten two teams in the four-team playoff, though even that comes with some familiarity as the Buckeyes third appearance in four seasons with Ryan Day as coach.
You could be attracted to the new hires -- like Sonny Dykes at TCU, Lincoln Riley at USC and Brian Kelly at LSU -- all making conference championship games, or the outlook of the sport's future as the transfer portal, NIL and playoff expansion continue to churn off the field. But there were also epic games with Alabama and Clemson falling, a wild ride to 6-6 for Oklahoma and a renaissance season for Tennessee. College football's past and future were connected in 2022, and now it's time to but a bow on it honoring some of the best of the best in the sport. Don't miss our 2022 CBS Sports / 247Sports All-America team.
2022 CBS Sports college football awards
Coach of the Year: Sonny Dykes, TCU
It's tough to follow in the footsteps of a coach who has a statue outside the stadium, but Sonny Dykes found magic in a group that went 5-7 a year ago and helped lead one of the most successful seasons in TCU history. TCU recorded 12 regular-season wins for the first time since 2009-10 when Gary Patterson led the Horned Frogs to BCS bowl games and top-six finishes in the polls. Now in the College Football Playoff for the first time in program history -- avenging some of the frustration from a snub in 2014 -- TCU has its best chance to compete for a national championship, and Dykes' leadership in those efforts has been worth rewarding here at the season's end.
Consider how calm TCU was during the final, frantic moments of its 29-28 win in a rivalry game at Baylor. The Horned Frogs had no timeouts, ran the field goal team on in the final seconds with a running clock and executed perfectly to maintain an unbeaten regular-season record. Dykes said after the game there was no panic thanks to the team's practice, but no amount of reps can prepare a team for that moment as much as the confidence that's instilled by a coach and his staff on and off the field.
TCU overcame second-half deficits in five of its 12 wins this season -- and nearly did it again in the Big 12 Championship Game before coming up just short in overtime against Kansas State. This is a resilient team that does not waver, and by many accounts, this comes from the top with Dykes' influence on the locker room. Long regarded as a top offensive mind in the game, Dykes has seemingly mastered the intangibles with TCU this season and earned our nod as the Coach of the Year.
Player of the Year: Caleb Williams, QB, USC
The arrival of Williams, in step with coach Lincoln Riley and a host of other transfers, helped USC improve its win total by seven games from 2021 to 2022, matching the most significant single-season turnaround in program history. Williams has 47 total touchdowns (37 passing, 10 rushing) and just four interceptions, breaking single-season school records for total touchdowns and total offensive yards. That's in addition being the most productive USC quarterback in terms of rushing yards on record.
But it hasn't just been Williams adding his name to the upper echelon of college football royalty through the USC record books -- where he may also join the Trojans' fraternity of Heisman Trophy winners -- but also his standing among his peers in 2022. Williams is No. 1 nationally in passing touchdowns (37), No. 1 in points responsible per game (21.7), No. 3 in yards passing (4,075), No. 6 in passing efficiency (167.94) and No. 7 in yards per attempt (9.1). USC's offense remained productive despite suffering multiple injuries at key skill positions. With their QB1 in the lineup, the Trojans finished the regular season ranked in the top five nationally in both scoring and total offense.
Williams was also at his best in some of the biggest games throughout USC's 11-win campaign. He threw for 381 yards and five touchdowns at Utah, threw for 470 yards and totaled three touchdowns at UCLA, totaled four touchdowns the next week at Notre Dame, and threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns against Utah in a Pac-12 Championship Game that may have looked quite different if he didn't pop his hamstring in the first quarter. In other words, Williams was great all year but also able to step his game up to another level when it mattered the most.
Freshman of the Year: Quinshon Judkins, RB, Ole Miss
Lane Kiffin may have enjoyed holding the crown as the "Portal King" in the offseason, but his most important newcomer was a three-star running back recruited out of Alabama in the Class of 2022. Judkins was the star of one of the nation's most productive rushing offenses, leading the SEC and ranking in the top 10 nationally both total touchdowns (17) and yards rushing per game (123.0).
The Ole Miss rushing attack as a group ranked No. 3 nationally in average yardage and broke the program's single-season rushing record (3,139), a mark that stood in record books since 1957. Judkins individually has already set Ole Miss single-season records for yards rushing (1,476) and rushing touchdowns (16). He put together one of the best seasons by an SEC freshman running back in conference history, ranking among the likes of Herschel Walker and Nick Chubb in yardage.
Judkins' breakout arrived unexpectedly not just because of his high school rating but a crowded running back room that included top transfers from TCU (Zach Evans) and SMU (Ulysses Bentley IV). But by the time Ole Miss got into the meat of its SEC schedule, it was Judkins that emerged as the alpha. He averaged 25.8 rushing attempts and 149.2 yards rushing across the final six games of the season. Plenty of other true freshman made splashy plays or put together standout games, but no one was as vital to their team's success as Judkins in Oxford, Mississippi.