1 Word to Describe Every Top 25 College Football Team's 2023 Offseason
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Caleb WilliamsAlika Jenner/Getty Images
Although the offseason is a long seven months, college football teams don't actually take much time off.
Coaches are busy recruiting both transfers and high school prospects, making plans for the upcoming year and perhaps even settling into a new job. Players are working out, lifting, conditioning and so on.
Meanwhile, administrators seem to be chasing any penny possible. The summer of 2023 will be remembered as a moment that sparked yet another enormous wave of realignment. And those decisions—so long, Pac-12—filter into the trajectory of many programs.
So, so much has happened in the offseason. Our challenge is condensing all that activity into a single word for each ranked team.
The list reflects the preseason AP Top 25.
25-21: Iowa, Tulane, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, North Carolina
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Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson DartLogan Hannigan-Downs/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
25. Iowa Hawkeyes: Passable
Early in February, the school reworked offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz's contract. The baseline requirements of 25 points per game and seven wins are comically low, but it's at least a moderate step in the right direction. Iowa added a few commits and enters the season with the No. 20 recruiting class in the country, too.
24. Tulane Green Wave: Predictable
When coaches help a non-power program thrive, the result is bigger schools come calling. Most notably, defensive coordinator Chris Hampton went to Oregon, and his first replacement, Lance Guidry, bolted for Miami. In all, Tulane has six new assistants. The changes are understandable but vast nonetheless.
23. Texas A&M Aggies: Suspect
Jimbo Fisher's seat is warming quickly. After the Aggies stumbled to a 5-7 season, more than 30 players headed into the transfer portal. Fisher also hired Bobby Petrino as the offensive coordinator, and that partnership will be intriguing—in potentially good and bad ways. Texas A&M has plenty of talent, but a schedule with the SEC West and trips to both Miami and Tennessee is very difficult.
22. Ole Miss Rebels: Fascinating
Although the offense is set to return quarterback Jaxson Dart, the Rebels added longtime Oklahoma State starter Spencer Sanders (and LSU's Walker Howard) anyway. That competition will probably drift into the season, especially if Ole Miss struggles at Tulane in Week 2.
21. North Carolina Tar Heels: Unassuming
Because the Heels dropped four straight games to close 2022, there's a slight feeling of lingering frustration. On the other hand, the sky isn't close to falling in Chapel Hill. Thanks to star quarterback Drake Maye, UNC has typically been labeled the third-best team in the ACC—never in front of Clemson or Florida State, but rarely behind anyone else.
20-16: Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Oregon State, TCU, Kansas State
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Oregon State's DJ UiagaleleiAli Gradischer/Getty Images
20. Oklahoma Sooners: Optimistic
How could that not be the case? The rationale is simple: Oklahoma trudged to a 6-7 record in 2022 with one of the nation's worst defenses, yet here's a preseason No. 20 ranking. All eight 4-star commitments gave their verbal pledge to the Sooners in the offseason, too.
19. Wisconsin Badgers: Reconstructed
Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell, who completely overhauled the coaching staff and is bringing an air raid offense to Madison via coordinator Phil Longo. That change also required the Badgers to revamp the roster, landing SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai and a host of receivers, among others. Expectations won't change for the Badgers, but they will have a different look in 2023 and beyond.
18. Oregon State Beavers: Conflicting
The arrival of Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei to an experienced offense makes the Beavers a compelling team. However, the school is now mired in an uncertain future as the Pac-12 crumbles and no other power conference has shown much interest in Oregon State.
17. TCU Horned Frogs: Positive
The sting of losing the Big 12 Championship Game and getting obliterated in the national championship may fuel TCU moving forward. But we're still talking about a program that hadn't even cracked seven wins since 2017. Plus, the Horned Frogs set a team record with eight selections in a seven-round NFL draft. The arrow is pointed up.
16. Kansas State Wildcats: Steady
Perhaps this is simply a non-local perspective, but it feels like the mood around Kansas State hasn't really changed. Sure, the Wildcats won a Big 12 title last year. Yes, they're considered a high-tier league contender in 2023. Yet as long as K-State wins seven or eight games—particularly after the departures of Deuce Vaughn and Felix Anudike-Uzomah—that's probably a successful season, as usual.
15-11: Oregon, Utah, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas
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Joe Alt of Notre DameQuinn Harris/Getty Images
15. Oregon Ducks: Pleasant
Regardless of whether Oregon earns a Pac-12 crown in 2023, the program's outlook is favorable. Led by quarterback Bo Nix, the Ducks should compete for that league title but certainly have 10-win potential. Plus, as a move to the Big Ten looms next summer, the Ducks have a chance to stack top-10 recruiting classes.
14. Utah Utes: Satisfying
Veteran quarterback Cam Rising decided to return for a final season, and he'll be surrounded by experience on both sides of the ball. Utah also secured a place in the Big 12 for the future, ensuring it wouldn't be left behind with other Pac-12 remnants.
13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Hopeful
It's easy to point out positives: Notre Dame landed quarterback Sam Hartman, boasts one of the nation's best offensive linemen in Joe Alt, has a rising star in corner Benjamin Morrison, and so on. Two of ND's three toughest games are in South Bend, hosting Ohio State and USC before traveling to Clemson. That's a difficult slate, but the Irish believe a CFP trip is attainable.
12. Tennessee Volunteers: Respectable
After an 11-win campaign, Tennessee's main priority is closing the gap on UGA. As exciting as that season was, the Vols will know there's still a chasm between themselves and the Dawgs. Tennessee, which recently swiped 5-star receiver Mike Matthews out of Georgia, must follow its breakout season with a nine-win (or so) year to maintain its perception as a program on the rise.
11. Texas Longhorns: Classic
Are you ready to have your heart broken again, Longhorns fans? Well, my Texas-loving friend, I'm ready for another busted prediction. Yet here we go, anticipating the Horns to compete for a final Big 12 championship before the school joins the SEC. This is the year, right?
10-6: Washington, Clemson, Florida State, Penn State, USC
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Clemson offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, with quarterback Cade KlubnikJohn Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
10. Washington Huskies: Upbeat
On the field, Washington brings back a majority of its production on both offense and defense. The coaching staff, generally speaking, is intact. And the Huskies have locked down a spot in the Big Ten for 2024 and beyond. It's a good time for the program.
9. Clemson Tigers: Smooth
You've probably heard the phrase "no news is good news." That seems applicable to Clemson, which won an ACC title last season, made a terrific hire in offensive coordinator Garrett Riley and just hasn't been the subject of negative news over the spring and summer.
8. Florida State Seminoles: Lively
While the school deliberates its conference affiliation for the future, the football program is perhaps on the verge of a breakthrough. Florida State only needs to replace a few starters from a 10-win team, landed an exceptional transfer class and recently picked up a second 5-star for its 2024 recruiting haul, which is ranked fifth nationally. Now, can the Seminoles match the momentum on the field?
7. Penn State Nittany Lions: Hopeful
Throughout the offseason, a common refrain from local reporters has been Penn State holds its highest expectations since 2017. However, the intra-division presence of Michigan and Ohio State is why the Nittany Lions' word is "hopeful" rather than a more, ahem, confident term.
6. USC Trojans: Confident
While the team is dissatisfied after losing to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the program as a whole is solid. Another strong group of transfers will supplement a roster that returns Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, who propelled the Trojans to 11 wins last season. USC is built to compete for conference and national titles in 2023.
5-1: LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia
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LSU receiver Malik NabersRoy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
5. LSU Tigers: Encouraging
Between a curious backfield and a rebuilt secondary, the roster has a few topics to monitor. Otherwise, LSU has clearly regained a key place in the national conversation. Catching up to Alabama and Georgia in recruiting is essential, but the Tigers hold the No. 8 class with several high-priority, top-ranked targets on the board.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide: Stern
Similar to Ohio State below, the challenge for Alabama is relative expectations. National titles are the standard for Nick Saban, and the Crimson Tide didn't even make the College Football Playoff last year. They merely finished 11-2 as the No. 5 team in the nation. For about 127 teams, that is excellent, but it's not good enough for Saban or Alabama.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes: Serious
I don't believe Ryan Day is actually on a hot seat, but I do believe the Buckeyes must beat Michigan for him to avoid that status in 2024. Ohio State has fallen short of its championship targets in the last two seasons, and a third straight year without a Big Ten crown will frustrate a larger portion of the fanbase. Perspective is important; OSU remains an elite program. The big wins need to return, though.
2. Michigan Wolverines: Busy
Early in the offseason, Michigan fired co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss. Head coach Jim Harbaugh seemed bound for a four-game suspension, but that matter is lingering into 2024 instead. Conversely, the Wolverines have become the behemoth of the Big Ten, return a terrific roster and remain a popular CFP pick for 2023.
1. Georgia Bulldogs: Noticeable
After winning a second national championship in a row, Georgia has continued its excellence on the recruiting trail. In the offseason, the Dawgs have landed a trio of 5-stars, with quarterback Dylan Raiola, the nation's top prospect in 2024, as the prized commit. But the program also is dealing with a number of players' traffic-related driving violations and a fatal car accident. Not all the headlines are positive.