NCAAF College Football Futures Update: 5 Teams That Could Surprise in 2022

By Sidelines May 5, 2022

NCAAF College Football Futures Update: 5 Teams That Could Surprise in 2022

College football has become a year-round sport, even when there’s no action on the field. There’s several National Signing Days now, spring practices, coaches carousels, the transfer portal, and name-in-license (NIL) agreements that can send players off to new teams in the blink of an eye. 

With the way college football has been, it’s very difficult for a team to breakthrough into playoff contention, but it’s not impossible. Just look at Cincinnati last year, and Michigan also reached the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014. 

Of course, the mighty SEC is always going to be a threat, so for the purposes of this article that talks about teams that might be a surprise to people in 2022, we’ll skip Alabama and Georgia. There will be plenty of time to talk about them before September!

So now that the dust has mostly settled, spring practices are over, and teams know what they’re going to have in the fall, let’s take a look at futures odds and five teams that might be surprisingly good in 2022. 

Utah Utes

Odds to Win 2022-23 College Football Championship Game: +5000 (Bet MGM)

USC grabbed the offseason headlines by luring head coach Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma, and while Oregon had an SEC infusion with head coach Dan Lanning (Georgia defensive coordinator) and Buddy Nix (transfer quarterback from Auburn), the Ducks open the season by playing the defending national champions, which will likely set them behind the 8-ball when it comes to making the playoffs.

Enter Utah, who won the Pac-12 last year by taking it to the Ducks twice and then narrowly lost their first Rose Bowl appearance to Ohio State in a shootout. The Utes, however, will have veteran leadership where it counts because quarterback Cam Rising and 1,100-yard rusher Tavion Thomas are both returning. 

A non-conference test awaits Utah right off the bat in Gainesville, but the Florida Gators are rebuilding and have a new coach, so it’s a chance for the Utes to get a nice win over a name opponent to start their season.

Oklahoma Sooners

Odds to Win 2022-23 College Football Championship Game: +3000 (DraftKings Sportsbook)

Oklahoma was blindsided by the departure of head coach Lincoln Riley to USC, and he took some top recruits (including a quarterback) with him to Southern California. But the team rallied around former coach Bob Stoops, who took the reins for the Alamo Bowl in a win over Oregon to finish the year 11-2. The program has also been energized by the hiring of Brent Venables. 

Before Venables led Clemson’s defense, where he was the second-highest-paid assistant in the sport, he worked under Stoops at OU from 1999-2011. The Sooners acquired former UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel from the transfer portal, and he will be working with his former offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. 

Looking at the Sooners’ schedule, non-conference opponents UTEP, Kent State, and (at) Nebraska are all manageable, and the Big 12 provides enough competition that even one loss gives them an okay shot of getting into the playoffs. With Venables, an improved defense could also go a long way in a conference that’s typically known for its wide-open offenses. 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Odds to Win 2022-23 College Football Championship Game: +4000 (Points Bet)

Like Oklahoma, Notre Dame lost their longtime head coach when Brian Kelly accepted the job at LSU in the middle of a recruiting trip. The Fighting Irish quickly named defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman as the new head coach, and the team rallied around him. After the team’s only regular-season loss was to Cincinnati, the Irish led by 21 over Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl before losing by two points.

Despite the tough loss, the Irish’s coaching staff has remained intact, and Freeman has landed a consensus top-10 recruiting class this year. 

The reason for the long odds for the Irish, aside from the coaching change, is likely due to a difficult schedule. The Irish open at Ohio State and also play at North Carolina before September is over with. There are also home games against BYU and Clemson before finishing up at USC. 

Looking on the bright side, however, is that even if the Irish fall to the Buckeyes in the opener, they can likely absorb that loss if they run the table since outside of the SEC, this is likely the most difficult schedule in the country.

Texas A&M Aggies

Odds to Win 2022-23 College Football Championship Game: +2500 (Bet 365)

The Aggies have arguably become the best college football team in the state of Texas since hiring Jimbo Fisher as head coach, winning at least eight games in each of his four years and going 3-0 in bowl games (the team had to pull out of the Gator Bowl last year due to too many players with COVID-19 as the Omicron variant struck). While last season wasn’t as successful as Texas A&M’s 9-1 record in 2020 and a fourth-place finish in the polls, the Aggies did defeat Alabama last season in the regular season. 

Fisher has been a consistently good recruiter at both Florida State and in College Station, but now, many recruiting services say he has amassed the best recruiting class…ever. At quarterback, Max Johnson comes over from LSU to lead the offense. They’ll have to get past Alabama again, but this could be the year the Aggies make the big leap.

Clemson Tigers

Odds to Win 2022-23 College Football Championship Game: +1200 (Caesars Sportsbook)

It wouldn’t be a surprise per se to see Clemson back atop the ACC, but if you’re looking to bet on the Tigers, now might be the best time do so because if they look strong out of the gate, those odds are going to drop. 

It took about half the season for the Tigers offense to come together after the departure of Trevor Lawrence, but after starting at 4-3 and scoring more than 21 points just once in those seven games, Clemson picked up the pace, scoring at least 30 each week after that to finish the regular season on a five-game winning streak and also picking up a 20-13 win over Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando. 

The reins of the offense will be handed to D.J. Uiagalelei, who struggled a bit last fall but was a five-star recruit in high school. We’ll see how an offseason studying the playbook and working with his teammates will treat him. Defending ACC champion Pittsburgh is also expected to decline with the departure of Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett, so the conference is once again up for the taking Dabo Swinney’s team. 

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