10 college football teams poised for a bounce back in 2022

·9 min read

Who is going to have a much better 2022 than 2021? There are a number of teams across college football looking to rebound from disappointing 2021 seasons. Here are 10 teams that we think will show some significant year-over-year improvement. The teams below are listed in in alphabetical order.

Boise State (7-5 in 2021)

Did you know that 2021 was Boise State’s first five-loss season since 1998? The Broncos had never lost more than four games in a season in 23 years until dropping to 7-5 last season. We have doubts that another five-loss season is in the cards in 2022. Seventeen starters are back for the Broncos, including QB Hank Bachmeier. He played through a knee injury in the second half of 2021 and a healthy Bachmeier easily raises the ceiling for Boise State.

The Broncos also bring back safety JL Skinner (92 tackles and two interceptions) and all but two starters on the defense. The first half of the schedule in 2022 features Oregon State, Fresno State and San Diego State. If Boise State wins all three of those games, watch out.

- Nick Bromberg

Billy Napier, head football coach at Florida, and quarterback Anthony Richardson chat March 17, 2022, during one of the Gators' spring practices. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Will Florida rebound in Billy Napier's first season? (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Florida (5-7)

The 2021 season disintegrated quickly for Florida. The Gators won 29 games in Dan Mullen’s first three seasons but they completely collapsed midway through last season, leading to his firing. UF subsequently hired Billy Napier from Louisiana and he’s the kind of coach who can quickly stabilize things and get the program on the right track. Oh, and having Anthony Richardson at quarterback helps.

Richardson is one of the most explosive players in the country and a home-run threat on every play. Richardson’s ability can make up for some of the personnel deficiencies Florida may have on other parts of the offense. Defensively, Florida fans are thrilled to move on from the Todd Grantham era. That unit returns a lot of experience, but the line is a concern.

Six of Florida’s first seven games are at home and there are a handful of 50-50 games on this schedule as well. If UF takes care of business in close games, we could certainly look up and see an 8-4 or 9-3 team at the end of the year.

- Sam Cooper

Louisville (6-7)

The Scott Satterfield fit at Louisville hasn’t been great thus far, but there’s still time to turn things around. The Cardinals went 6-7 in 2021 and four of those losses came by six points or fewer. With Malik Cunningham back at quarterback, along with an underrated group of play-makers and an experienced line around him, this offense has the chance to be really, really good.

Satterfield very much relied on internal development during his time at Appalachian State, but he embraced the transfer portal this offseason to bolster his defense. That unit struggled in 2021 and dealt with injuries to key players. Both the secondary and D-line got significant overhauls. If those additions make the impact the coaching staff hopes, the Cardinals have a chance to be back up in that eight- or nine-win range.

- Sam Cooper

BATON ROUGE, LA - APRIL 23: LSU Tigers head coach Brian Kelly during the LSU Spring Game on April 23, 2022, at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
How will Brian Kelly's first year in Baton Rouge go? (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

LSU (6-7)

Can the Tigers make a bowl game in Brian Kelly’s first season? LSU is in a stacked SEC West and it’s easy to see LSU finishing anywhere from third to seventh in the division. But there are reasons for optimism that LSU could win eight or nine games. Former Arizona State QB Jayden Daniels could start at quarterback and if he doesn’t, then former starter Myles Brennan likely will. Kayshon Boutte and Jaray Jenkins emerged as the latest great LSU receiving duo in 2021 and the defense still has a ton of talent.

The season starts on a Sunday night in Week 1 against a Florida State team also looking for a rebound. Games against Mississippi State and at Auburn in the first five weeks will also give us a good idea whether this Tigers team will be in the basement of the SEC West.

- Nick Bromberg

North Carolina (6-7)

UNC was one of the most-hyped teams in the country entering 2021. The Tar Heels were ranked in the top 10 in the preseason but ended up finishing 6-7 with some really ugly losses, including going winless on the road. Sam Howell, the team’s star QB, is gone, but there’s still reason to believe that UNC can be a pretty good team in 2022.

Mack Brown has consistently recruited well. This roster is better than what it showed last year and returning to more of an underdog role really should suit this group. The defense was surprisingly bad in 2021, but bringing in Gene Chizik should stabilize things. Pitt is the returning ACC champion and Miami is again receiving a ton of hype, but UNC has just as much talent throughout its roster. If the quarterback play is solid, the Tar Heels should be in contention for the Coastal crown.

- Sam Cooper

Penn State head coach James Franklin, left, talks with quarterback Sean Clifford during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Maryland, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in College Park, Md. Penn State won 31-14. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Penn State didn't have a great 2021 season. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Penn State (7-6)

It’s easy to forget how quickly things fell apart for Penn State last season. PSU was 5-0, ranked No. 4 in the country and leading No. 3 Iowa 14-3 on the road when quarterback Sean Clifford got injured. Without a capable backup QB, Iowa stormed back and won the game 23-20 and the Nittany Lions were never the same. Clifford was banged up for the rest of the year as PSU limped to a 7-6 finish that included single-digit margins against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.

For a turnaround in 2022, the offensive line play must be better. Adding five-star freshman Nick Singleton should give the running game a jolt. A more consistent running game takes some of the pressure off of Clifford, now a sixth-year senior. Defensively, the secondary and line are both solid but linebacker is a question mark. Ohio State is the obvious favorite in the Big Ten East, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Penn State finished second in the division and ended up in a New Year’s Six bowl.

- Sam Cooper

Texas (5-7)

It’s not surprising to see Texas on this list after last year’s disappointing debut season for Steve Sarkisian. Adding Quinn Ewers at QB should go a long way to stabilizing the offense if Ewers is close to playing like the touted recruit he was out of high school. A solid passing game will make RB Bijan Robinson even more dangerous. The defense returns four of its five leading tacklers from a year ago and improving the pass rush is imperative. Texas has just 37 sacks over 22 games in the past two seasons.

We could get a great idea of how much better Texas is in Week 2 against Alabama. But it's worth noting the Longhorns have played well in early season non-conference games before in disappointing seasons in recent years.

- Nick Bromberg

TCU (5-7)

After going 5-7 in 2021, there’s an opening for TCU to take a leap up the Big 12 standings in 2022. The school moved on from longtime head coach Gary Patterson to bring in Sonny Dykes. Dykes is known for coaching high-scoring offenses and he’s got plenty to work with offensively at TCU. Patterson was a defensive-minded head coach, but the Horned Frogs really struggled defensively in recent seasons. The defensive line is a concern, but a renewed focus and approach under a new staff could do that unit — and the program as a whole — a lot of good.

Dykes is a Texas native who has had his eye on this job. He knows the personnel and what TCU is capable of achieving. In 2022 specifically, the conference schedule shakes out rather favorably. TCU has five home games and four road games, one of which is at Kansas. This team should certainly get back to a bowl game and getting up toward 7-5 or 8-4 is very achievable.

- Sam Cooper

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 23: Head coach Lincoln Riley of the USC Trojans calls a play during the 2022 USC Spring Football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on April 23, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Expectations are high for Lincoln Riley's first season at USC. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

USC (4-8)

It’ll be nothing short of the biggest shocker in college football if USC isn’t vastly improved from the 4-8 team that took the field over the 2021 season. Lincoln Riley’s move from Oklahoma was one of the biggest coaching surprises in years and Riley’s presence led to the arrival of a ton of skill position talent on offense via transfer. Former OU QB Caleb Williams is a preseason Heisman contender and Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison is already the Pac-12’s best wide receiver. Don’t overlook the addition of former Oregon RB Travis Dye, either. He should fit perfectly in Riley’s offense.

The Trojans should also be favored in their first six games of the season before an Oct. 15 matchup at Utah. It'll be impossible to ignore the Trojans if they are 6-0 ahead of that game.

- Nick Bromberg

Washington (4-8)

Like at USC, a change in offensive philosophy should be a huge boost for the Huskies. Washington’s offense was dreadful in 2021. The Huskies averaged fewer than 100 yards rushing per game and Dylan Morris and Sam Huard failed to complete 60% of their passes combined. Former Indiana QB Michael Penix is now in Seattle and in line for the QB job while four starters return on the offensive line. The defense has to replace six starters, including cornerbacks Kyler Gordon and Trent McDuffie, but any drop-off in defensive production should be easily eclipsed by offensive improvement.

- Nick Bromberg

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