The USA Today preseason coaches poll has arrived, which can only mean one thing: the 2022 College Football season is on the horizon.
Fans of top-tier programs like Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State probably weren't too surprised by their rankings as other schools, but the further down the list you go, the more insight you may find. Nick Saban's squad can almost always find themselves at the top of the list, but it's schools like Ole Miss and Kentucky that make these polls interesting.
But from the Buckeyes to the Demon Deacons, this first preseason USA Today Sports AFCA Coaches Poll has given us a glimpse into how the leaders of prominent college programs see their competition heading into the season.
No Surprises: The Crimson Tide Tops the List
Things Alabama loves: Nick Saban and winning national championships.
Things Alabama doesn't love: Auburn and losing national championships to a conference rival.
After their SEC heavyweight battle against the Georgia Bulldogs in the national title game, it was clear that Alabama had revenge on their minds heading into the season. From Alabama's participation trophy to Nick Saban's comments in the offseason, Alabama's primed to leave no doubt in anyone's mind that 2021 was a fluke, and they're the top dog in the South. So far, their 54 first-place votes (no others receiving votes in double-digits) show that the rest of the league knows they're out for blood.
A Tiger Changes Its Spots: Clemson Lands at No. 4
The first surprise of this poll is that Dabo Swinney and Clemson find themselves in the fourth position. If the season ended right now, Clemson would be headed to the College Football Playoff. Think about that.
Clemson has been in the national spotlight for the some time now, but last season was not its best. In fact, the Tigers finished the season 10-3, good enough for third place in the ACC behind Pittsburgh and Wake Forest. Also, when looking at Clemson's record, there's a glaring discrepancy between their record away from Death Valley, and that's an issue. At home, Clemson was undefeated but split six road games, 3-3. That has to change for this ranking to hold true.
However, if DJ Uiagalelei and the Clemson defense can live up to the hype, perhaps there's a kernel of truth to this.
Utah Gets Some Respect
The Utes were a team that surprised a lot of people during last season, and with UCLA and USC set to leave the Pac-12, Utah could not be positioned better to take over the conference. With Oregon working towards returning to their former glory, Utah has the opportunity to really set the tone for the next few years out West.
The Cincinnati Bearcats Barely Make It
Houston, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Miami can all expect to be on the backend of this poll, but for Cincinnati in the season after their inaugural CFP appearance, No. 22 is not a good landing spot.
Cincinnati lost nine of its top players to the NFL draft after their loss to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, and it appears they weren't able to recruit or draw transfers based off of their success. Yes, losing Desmond Ridder, Alec Pierce, Sauce Gardner and Bryan Cook are big losses, but did Cincinnati think they'd play there forever? No matter how you slice it, this is a tough pill to swallow for the Bearcats.
Kentucky Makes the List
Kentucky is known for finding themselves on preseason coaches polls for other sports like basketball, but this is a good sign for Wildcat Nation that the hopes of a competitive football program are real. While other schools like Michigan State, Baylor, Texas A&M, NC State, Oklahoma State and Mississippi are just happy to not slip down the rankings, Kentucky's just glad to be here.
This could also be a warning shot from other coaches saying, "we know you're good. The gloves are coming off." Perhaps that's exactly what Will Levis and the Wildcats want.
LSU with Brian Kelly? No, Thanks. Notre Dame Without Brian Kelly? Yes, Please.
LSU's new head coach Brian Kelly made headlines when he left Notre Dame to take over an LSU program that couldn't get away from the Ed Orgeron Era fast enough. The former Fighting Irish head coach has an uphill battle in Baton Rouge, and the coaches poll only proves that point. However, it also sheds light on what Kelly left behind.
Notre Dame starting the season at fifth in the coaches poll is a good sign for South Bend fans who are ready to see what the future holds for the Irish. In the capable hands of Marcus Freeman, who led the Notre Dame defense last season, the Irish look poised to get back into the playoff spotlight, while LSU just hopes to crack the top-25 rankings.