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USA Today Way-too-early college football Top 25: Georgia, Michigan out front in look at 2023 season
Georgia will chase a third consecutive national championship in 2023 as the favorite in the USA TODAY Sports way-too-early Top 25 for next season, ahead of the familiar run of teams that have come to dominate the Bowl Subdivision.
The Bulldogs are followed by No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Florida State and No. 5 Penn State. After an impressive win against Utah in the Rose Bowl and with quarterback Drew Allar set to take over, the Nittany Lions are the pick for second place in the Big Ten ahead of No. 6 Ohio State.
Several teams that showed promise this season are poised to take the next step in 2023. That includes No. 7 Notre Dame, which will get an enormous boost from the addition of quarterback Sam Hartman from Wake Forest.
The Pac-12 is led by No. 9 Southern California. USC will bring Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and should be better on defense, though the Trojans can't get much worse. Joining the Trojans from the Pac-12 are No. 10 Washington, No. 12 Oregon, No. 19 Oregon State and No. 22 Utah.
But once again, the expectation is that every team will be chasing the Bulldogs.
1. Georgia (2022 record: 15-0)
With Stetson Bennett gone, there will be a decision to make at quarterback among Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff, Gunner Stockton and potentially an unknown transfer, should Kirby Smart bring an outsider into the mix. The Bulldogs will also lose standouts such as defensive tackle Jalen Carter. But look for Georgia to reload and be up for the challenge of making history with a threepeat. An easier September — Tennessee-Martin, Ball State, South Carolina and Alabama-Birmingham, all at home — will help the new cast of contributors survive the early learning curve before turning to the heart of SEC action.
2. Michigan (13-1)
Will Jim Harbaugh be around? He's received NFL interest and could opt to leave his alma mater after back-to-back Big Ten titles and College Football Playoff berths. If he does return, Michigan could be highly motivated by a Fiesta Bowl loss to TCU and again roll through Big Ten play with a physical running game and suffocating defense. The Wolverines have quarterback J.J. McCarthy and running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, and will rebuild on the offensive line with multiple transfers. The floor for this team is probably 10 wins due to an easy non-conference schedule and only a trip to Penn State and home game against Ohio State that seem dangerous.
3. Alabama (11-2)
There's a mammoth hole at quarterback with Bryce Young off to the NFL and no way to feel truly comfortable in the position until Jalen Milroe, Ty Simpson or a possible transfer proves capable of handing the load. But talent abounds on both sides of the ball, including an influx of athletes from this year's top-ranked signing class. And then there's this math: Alabama hasn't gone more than two seasons without a title since Nick Saban arrived in 2007. The last championship? In 2020. A big test comes early with a home game against Texas on Sept. 9.
4. Florida State (10-3)
Are the Seminoles ready to dethrone Clemson in the ACC after winning 10 games for the first time since 2016? Quarterback Jordan Travis is back and set to make a Heisman push. He's just one of several contributors who decided to come back to Tallahassee in 2023, including a likely preseason All-America pick in defensive end Jared Verse. The biggest challenge for Mike Norvell may be managing his team's expectations given its not been in this position recently. FSU will kick things off with a neutral-site game against LSU on Sept. 3.
5. Penn State (11-2)
The hype train is about to take off for the Nittany Lions after the Rose Bowl win and bounce-back season under James Franklin. Joining Allar in the backfield is second-year running back Nick Singleton, who is set to make a Heisman run after a very strong rookie season. Penn State needs receivers but will be very good on the defensive side in the second year under coordinator Manny Diaz. The Nittany Lions draw Illinois and Iowa from the Big Ten West, get Michigan at home but face Ohio State in Columbus.
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