The college football season is underway, and there are a handful of programs that look like legitimate College Football Playoff contenders.
In what will be the final season of an era of college football before major conference realignment and an expanded playoff, teams across the country will be competing in competitive conferences for just four playoff spots at the end of the year. This year features some legitimate stars for playoff contenders, including the likes of USC's Caleb Williams and Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr..
While we've seen a sneak preview at a couple of contenders in Week 0, we can still roll out our College Football Playoff predictions before the season fully kicks off, selecting the top four teams and the first two out.
College Football Playoff Predictions
1. Georgia Bulldogs
With back-to-back national championships under their belt, the Georgia Bulldogs continue to look like an unstoppable juggernaut. While the team has lost significant talent to the NFL draft, the Bulldogs still have talented returning players including Brock Bowers, Kendall Milton, Tykee Smith, and Javon Bullard.
Along with some strong returning talent, the Bulldogs won't play a currently-ranked opponent until November, when they take on both Ole Miss and Tennessee in back-to-back games. That should give new starting quarterback Carson Beck plenty of time to work out any first-year struggles before the Bulldogs need to be firing on all cylinders.
Kirby Smart has built a powerhouse. Expect them back in the College Football Playoff for the third straight season.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes announced that Kyle McCord will be their starting quarterback in Week 1 against Indiana, but regardless of who is playing under center, Ryan Day should has the talent to get his team back to the College Football Playoff.
McCord has two of the most talented wide receiver in college football to throw to in Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, along with a seasoned veteran tight end in Cade Stover. Defensively, the Buckeyes have one of the best inside linebackers in the country on Tommy Eichenberg and a potential first-round cornerback in Denzel Burke.
With so much talent surrounding a new quarterback, along with a strong schedule that can give Ohio State the grace of one (or possibly even two) losses, the Buckeyes should be able to compete for a national title.
3. Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles haven't made the College Football Playoff since their disappointing exit in the first year of its existence. After a perfect 13-0 season behind quarterback Jameis Winston, the Seminoles ran into an Oregon Ducks team that they just couldn't get past.
Florida State hasn't been back to the CFP since, but that could change in 2023. Led by Jordan Travis at quarterback and Jared Verse at defensive end, the Seminoles are loaded with talent in a wide-open ACC. Roadblocks like Clemson and LSU in their season opener are in the way, but even a one-loss Seminoles team has a real chance at making it into the playoff this year thanks to brutal schedules for top-tier programs around the country.
4. Texas Longhorns
Behind Quinn Ewers and head coach Steve Sarkisian, the Texas Longhorns have a chance to finally declare that "Texas is back" in 2023.
The Longhorns went a respectable 8-5 last season, with their most impressive game being a narrow loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Texas will have a shot at revenge in Week 2 as they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on a Crimson Tide team that still has yet to name a starting quarterback.
With a star-studded offense and a schedule with enough competition, the Longhorns could sneak into the playoff as long as they can maintain double-digit wins heading into conference championship weekend.
Last Two Out
5. Michigan Wolverines
The Michigan Wolverines keep making noise thanks to back-to-back wins over the Ohio State Buckeyes on the final weekend of the regular season. Expectations are sky-high for the program thanks to quarterback JJ McCarthy and Blake Corum, but their talent may not be enough to surpass the other teams previously mentioned.
Roster turnover, Jim Harbaugh's three-game suspension, and uncertainty surrounding Corum's health after missing the end of last season with a knee injury feels like it leaves Michigan with too many questions that need answering early this season before they can establish themselves as a solidified College Football Playoff contender.
6. USC Trojans
Caleb Williams may be the best player in college football, and he has a real chance to lead the USC Trojans to a national title.
However, there are simply too many roadblocks in the way for the Trojans due to a loaded Pac-12 in what might be the final year of the conference's existence. Coming out unscathed in matchups against Notre Dame, Utah, Washington, and Oregon would all but guarantee USC's bid into the playoff, but that's easier said than done. USC's defense allowed 28 points in Week 0 to San Jose State, leading to concerns that Alex Grinch's unit may not be able to carry their weight for the Heisman Trophy favorite in 2023.
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