Each offseason, dating back to 2014, we here at CBS Sports have compiled some of the biggest names, games and stories to commemorate the 100-day countdown to the college football season’s kickoff. This is the perfect point on the calendar to take stock of what we have in store after just crossing the midway point of the offseason. Before we know it, we’ll begin breaking down the win totals and making official predictions for what’s about to unfold in 2023.
There are many reasons this season is shaping up to be special. It’s the final year of the four-team College Football Playoff format and the last season ahead of the SEC and Big Ten both expanding to 16 teams. Still, it feels like the future of college football has already arrived with the transfer portal and NIL adding new layers to the sport as programs and coaches move quickly to adapt. It’s a different landscape than what we had even a decade ago, but it’s still the big, dumb sport we love so dearly.
So, this is a time to celebrate the things we love about college football, most notably the games themselves as well as the players, coaches and storylines packed into every single Saturday of the season. This year, the annual 100-item guide to getting pumped for the season ahead focuses on the storylines, stars, burning questions and bold predictions, plus the annual breakdown of top nonconference games and the CFP picture.
1. Georgia and the quest for a three-peat: Two-time reigning national champion Georgia has lost 25 players to the NFL Draft over the last two cycles. Yet thanks to the recruiting monster that Kirby Smart has built in Athens, it will once again have one of the most talented rosters in the country. Georgia merely repeating puts this run in exclusive company, but if the Bulldogs were to win it all again in 2023, it would be the first time since before World War II (Minnesota, 1934-36) that college football has crowned the same national champion three years in a row. The talent advantage is perennial for Georgia, but what makes the quest for a three-peat so intriguing is how the schedule sets favorably to be in the College Football Playoff hunt late into the season. The biggest threat to Georgia’s title contention — a meeting at Tennessee — won’t come until Nov. 18. The Bulldogs will be favorites, likely by a large margin, in every other game leading up to that SEC finale against the Volunteers — where they’ll likely also be favored. It’s a modern dynasty on a course to contend for college football history, so every week we’ll be taking stock of Georgia’s quality and chances for a third title.
2. Spotlight on Deion Sanders, Colorado: Speaking of week-by-week analysis and reactions, Colorado will be a featured player, if not the main character, of college football in September. Sanders’ charismatic presence and rapid rise from HBCU Jackson State to the Power Five at Colorado is intoxicating from an attention standpoint. Sanders was not only a football Hall of Famer as a player but but he was an American sports icon. Now, he’s the most-discussed coach at the college level. Sanders revamped Colorado’s roster and revitalized the community around a proud program that was once competing for championships. His use of the transfer portal — currently at 48 commits in this transfer class, per 247Sports — has made this rebuild as revolutionary as his two-way, two-sport playing career. Whether it will work — and whether Sanders will be the coach who pulls off this bold, sign-of-the-times roster reconstruction — are going to be answered weekly based on the Buffaloes’ performance. It won’t be tough to seek out those Colorado games, especially early, as the season opener is against last year’s national runner-up, TCU, the home opener is against Nebraska and the conference play draw has matchups with both Oregon and USC before Oct. 1.
3. Pivot point for high-profile coaches in Year 2: The coaching changes prior to 2022 involved some of the biggest names in the industry as well as some of the most recognizable programs in the sport. LSU, Florida, Miami, Notre Dame, USC and Oklahoma all welcoming in new faces — with some of those changes being moves between blue bloods — created some major ripple effects in the sport. Some of those coaches delivered immediately, like Lincoln Riley guiding USC to within one win from a CFP berth and Brian Kelly beating Alabama en route to winning the SEC West. But there was also Mario Cristobal and Miami missing a bowl game as well as both Billy Napier at Florida and Brent Venables at Oklahoma going 6-6 in the regular season. Year 2 has proven over the years to be a moment where a power conference coaching tenure can pivot to either an upward trajectory or an early hot seat. For the Year 2 coaches who were successful in 2022, this season is about establishing that championship contention as the standard. For those who fell short of expectations, 2023 is a season to prove a solid foundation is being laid.
4. On-field effects of conference realignment: I try to limit this annual celebration to on-field matters; that’s what we’re counting down toward and off-field conversations can be exhausting in May. But conference realignment will play a major role in the on-field matters this fall as the 2023 season provides a major reset for three conferences and the final run for big-name programs making moves in 2024. The Big 12 welcomes BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF on July 1, providing a graduation to power-conference status for a group of programs that have combined for five College Football Playoff or New Year’s Six bowl appearances across the nine years of the playoff era. The AAC is growing as well, adding not just replacements for the three departing members but beefing up the league roster with six schools from Conference USA: Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA. C-USA, in turn, has Jacksonville State, Kennesaw State and Sam Houston making the jump from FCS while also adding former independents Liberty and New Mexico State. The new matchups and revamped conference title races should provide plenty of intrigue in 2023, but so will the final run for USC and UCLA through the Pac-12 as well as Texas and Oklahoma concluding their tenure as Big 12 members.
5. Pac-12 will have best QB play in the country: The Pac-12 has the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at USC (Caleb Williams), high-level power conference starters at Utah (Cam Rising), Washington (Michael Penix Jr.) and Oregon (Bo Nix) plus a collection of transfers and freshmen that either carry or once carried blue-chip projections from scouts and talent evaluators. UCLA has both with former Kent State QB Collin Schlee and five-star freshman Dante Moore, while Jaden Rashada, who created major buzz during the recruiting period, has landed at Arizona State and former Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei is seeking a fresh start as he competes for the starting job at Oregon State. Throw in Shedeur Sanders and the opportunity for him to be the face of Colorado’s offense, and it’s clear the Pac-12 will start the season with the most interesting, and perhaps best collection of quarterbacks in the country.
6. Ryan Day will snap his losing streak against Jim Harbaugh: Never have I seen or heard of a coach facing more pressure to perform while carrying a 45-6 record. Ohio State has made the CFP in three of four years under Day and has never finished lower than sixth in the final AP Top 25 poll, but consecutive double-digit defeats to rival Michigan brought out some grumbling from corners of the deeply passionate Buckeye fan base. My prediction that Ohio State gets one back in 2023 is focused largely on last year’s CFP semifinals where the Buckeyes went toe-to-toe with Georgia and were a missed field goal away from potentially going on to win the national championship. That performance in the Peach Bowl was Day’s response to the criticism that this program couldn’t reach the levels of his predecessor, Urban Meyer, under his watch. That argument would be squashed with an Ohio State win at the end of the regular season.
7. Texas will leave the Big 12 with a conference championship: Quinn Ewers was an incumbent starter who showed his high-ceiling potential in flashes last season yet found himself at the center of one of spring practice’s biggest storylines having to defend his claim to QB1 for the Longhorns. Ewers didn’t take an antagonistic approach to the competition with five-star freshman phenom Arch Manning and Maalik Murphy but instead won the job outright on the field. His performance in spring scrimmages was reportedly crisp, and the distance between Ewers and the other two quarterbacks was so evident by the end of the spring game that coach Steve Sarkisian ended the battle before the summer. Ewers will have a phenomenal season, bolstered by a star-studded wide receiving corps and an offensive line that returns all five starters, as he’ll lead the charge to a Big 12 title during Texas’ final season of Big 12 play.
8. Is the Alabama dynasty over? Alabama remains among the best programs in college football, but dynastic conversations where the sport features the Crimson Tide and then everybody else on another tier have ceased. Not only have other programs, namely Georgia, raised their level of play, but Alabama has also played closer to the competition in recent years. The days of Nick Saban and Co. rolling through the schedule with blowout win after blowout win seem to be in the rearview with the last two seasons featuring a drop in scoring margin and an increase in the number of close games. From 2015-20, a six-season span that includes five title game appearances and three national championships, Alabama played in just 11 one-score games. The Crimson Tide nearly matched that total in just the past two seasons with 10 one-score games while going 7-3 in those contests. Alabama is still winning (a ton), but the distance between Saban’s program and the rest of the sport is smaller now, which has been proven on the scoreboard.
9. Tennessee’s stock is soaring, but will it hold? Big wins can prove to be transformational for coaches early in their tenure, and last season’s epic defeat of Alabama has thrust Josh Heupel and the Vols into the realm of lofty expectations. Heupel followed up an 11-win campaign and top-10 finish with a strong recruiting class (No. 10 in 2023, per 247Sports). Now, projections for the future include competing for championships. Proving that Tennessee is more than a flash in the pan starts with a successful transition from Hendon Hooker to Joe Milton at quarterback and maintaining the offensive success that has defined much of Heupel’s coaching career. With five-star freshman Nico Iamaleava representing that title-contending future, a strong bridge season in 2023 can ensure that none of the momentum is lost from last season’s success.
10. Can Garrett Riley help Clemson get back to national title contention? For much of the playoff playoff era, Clemson’s offense was at the top of the ACC and led by generational talents at quarterback. While the post-Trevor Lawrence era still included former five-star prospects on the roster, the quarterback play and the offense in general regressed over the last two seasons. Dabo Swinney addressed the issue with the hire of Riley as offensive coordinator after the 2022 Broyles Award winner powered TCU’s offense to a national title game appearance. Riley’s Air Raid influence brings a new wrinkle to Clemson’s offense, and the pairing with fellow Texan Cade Klubnik has fans hoping to see elite playmaking at the quarterback position once again. Clemson was able to reclaim its position as the class of the ACC last season with modest offensive improvement after bottoming out in 2021. Getting back to national title contention requires yet another jump, and we’ll see if Riley can help bring that to fruition.
11. Are buyouts real? This isn’t a question exclusively for Texas A&M, but the Aggies are certainly included on the list of programs with highly paid coaches who are performing below expectations. The explosion of big money in college football has included rapid raises for coaches across the last decade, and one result is that it’s become more expensive than ever to make a coaching change. How many wins is enough for Texas A&M, as well as other schools in similar positions, to determine that recent shortcomings can be overlooked? Or what’s the buyout cost that proves too prohibitive even if there is a desire to make a change? Jimbo Fisher has a talented roster, a flashy new offensive coordinator in Bobby Petrino and the on-paper ingredients for a much-improved performance in 2023. If the Aggies fail to make a bowl again, however, we will see whether the remainder of that 10-year, $95 million extension (which at the end of 2023 should be approximately $76.8 million) is the answer for how much of a buyout is too much to make a change.
12. Penn State is loaded up to make a run, but is there a path? Recruiting success and development cycles have pointed to 2023 being a special year for Penn State. Most notably, it’s the year that former five-star QB Drew Allar takes over the reins of the offense surrounded by the electric running back Nick Singleton, a wide receiver room that’s been bolstered through the transfer portal and a defense that is shaping up to be one of the great havoc-creating units in the country. The Nittany Lions teased the ceiling for 2023 with an 11-2 showing last season, losing only to Ohio State and Michigan before finishing the year with a Rose Bowl win. So the time has arrived for the Allar-powered jump, but will the quarterback be enough of an X-factor to close the gap with those two Big Ten East rivals as each are currently operating near peak efficiency? Penn State is poised for a big season with an excellent roster, but that next step from yet another New Year’s Six bowl bid to the program’s first playoff appearance will be the most difficult yet.
New faces, new places
This offseason’s coaching cycle did not quite have the fireworks of Lincoln Riley leaving Oklahoma for USC or Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame for LSU, but the new class of coaches is not lacking for star power thanks to Deion Sanders and Matt Rhule. Throw in Luke Fickell finally making a move after years of being considered a high-quality candidate in the industry and the return of Hugh Freeze to the SEC, and there’s still plenty of intrigue in this collection of two dozen coaching changes.
13. Arizona State: Kenny Dillingham
14. Auburn: Hugh Freeze
15. Charlotte: Biff Poggi
16. Cincinnati: Scott Satterfield
17. Coastal Carolina: Tim Beck
18. Colorado: Deion Sanders
19. FAU: Tom Herman
20. Georgia Tech: Brent Key
21. Kent State: Kenni Burns
22. Liberty: Jamey Chadwell
23. Louisville: Jeff Brohm
24. Mississippi State: Zach Arnett
25. Navy: Brian Newberry
26. Nebraska: Matt Rhule
27. North Texas: Eric Morris
28. Purdue: Ryan Walters
29. South Florida: Alex Golesh
30. Stanford: Troy Taylor
31. Texas State: G.J. Kinne
32. Tulsa: Kevin Wilson
33. UAB: Trent Dilfer
34. UNLV: Barry Odom
35. Western Michigan: Lance Taylor
36. Wisconsin: Luke Fickell
National championship contenders
We’re going to lean on the national title odds at Caesars Sportsbook to set some tiers to the national title race, starting with the teams at the top. This first group is smaller, only including teams with odds of 20-1 or better. We’ve listed those teams below with a note on their chances to cash in as national champs at the end of the season.
37. Georgia (11/5): The betting favorite is set up to be a top-four team in the early CFP Rankings and hold an inside track to making another playoff appearance. But completing the three-peat will require Georgia to not only maintain the championship standard through significant turnover on the depth chart but also avoid complacency as the Bulldogs face a favorable, but still challenging, SEC schedule.
38. Alabama (11/2): I would not take Bama at this price until we are more certain about the quarterback position. The post-spring practice addition of Tyler Buchner is more alarming than encouraging; the hope going into spring was that either Jalen Milroe or Ty Simpson would showcase enough individual development to win the starting job. Saban choosing door No. 3 with a transfer portal addition gives a very wait-and-see approach to thinking the Crimson Tide are ready to not just make the playoff but win it all.
39. Michigan (8-1): Somehow, Michigan football might be flying below the radar. Perhaps it speaks to the program’s status in the sport that as soon as the Wolverines are back to winning the Big Ten we just accept it as normal. Just a couple years ago, Michigan being the third-highest team on the odds board would have sent us into an offseason-long frenzy about Jim Harbaugh and expectations. After two straight Big Ten titles and back-to-back CFP appearances, we accept without hesitation that one of the best teams in the country this fall will reside in Ann Arbor.
40. Ohio State (17/2): One of the great advantages for the beginning of C.J. Stroud’s tenure as the Buckeyes starting quarterback was having future pros Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave as his top targets. Two years later, a similar advantage will be afforded to Kyle McCord, this time with Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka. The Buckeyes will enter 2023 with a chip on their shoulder, looking to avenge both its rivalry losses to Michigan and the national championship opportunity that hung in the balance during last year’s playoff.
41. LSU (12-1): Outside of Ohio State, LSU might have the best wide receiver room in the country along with not just one but two capable options at quarterback: Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier. That should be an endorsement for LSU as a value play as a team that could endure injuries at the quarterback position without seeing a major adjustment in the team’s offensive production.
42. USC (14-1): Williams is such an electric individual playmaker that his presence alone might be worth two extra wins across USC’s schedule. The question is whether the caliber of the other players on the team are closer to an eight-win team or a 10-win team.
43. Texas (16-1): The Longhorns have a great opportunity to build in some wiggle room with the CFP Selection Committee if they can knock off Alabama on the road in Week 2. A loss there, and even making the playoff field will probably require running the table in the Big 12.
44. Florida State (16-1): Mike Norvell has built out real depth on this FSU roster that the program hasn’t seen in nearly a decade. That will help with the pursuit of any championships, but whether the team has the high-end ceiling to win it all still has to be proven after going 3-3 against FBS teams with a winning record in 2022.
45. Clemson (20-1): The addition of Riley and the expected maturation of Klubnik as a top-tier quarterback certainly make this pick enticing, but the Tigers’ schedule is not without challenges. Florida State, Notre Dame and North Carolina bring high-level competition to Death Valley, and there’s a two-week stretch in October with back-to-back road games against Miami and NC State. Clemson will likely be favored in those matchups, but winning them all will require a level of dominance that’s been missing in the last couple of seasons.
Our second tier includes the 10 teams listed between 25-1 and 50-1, again, with thoughts on the path or likelihood of one of these dark horses breaking through.
46. Tennessee (25-1): Will Milton have a Tee Martin, “guy after the guy” title run? Judging by how things went against South Carolina at the end of the season, the big question here is whether the Vols can get enough stops on defense to navigate the annually difficult schedule.
47. Penn State (25-1): A lot is being made about Drew Allar, but a sneaky storyline centered around Penn State’s potential in 2023 is whether we see Singleton emerge as one of the top offensive playmakers in the country. Obviously the presence of Ohio State and Michigan seem to be roadblocks for the Nittany Lions’ title contention, but if the pieces come together on offense, Penn State can trade paint with both of the Big Ten favorites.
48. Notre Dame (25-1): Sam Hartman was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in ACC history. His arrival at Notre Dame along with some stellar freshman wide receivers has generated some buzz about an improved passing attack for the Fighting Irish.
49. Texas A&M (30-1): Speaking of improved passing attacks, a bet on Texas A&M is a bet on Petrino. That comes with risk and reward because his proven history as a game-planner and play-caller says there should be some improvement, but this is also a people business, and trusting Petrino and Fisher to be in sync all season is daunting.
50. Oregon (30-1): If you are looking for a non-USC option from the Pac-12, Oregon provides some real intrigue not just for Nix’s continued improvement but the influx of some high-level roster additions from the transfer portal.
51. Washington (35-1): There is a chance that all of these Pac-12 teams grouped in Tier 2 take each other out of the title race, but Washington does present not just an experienced and proven quarterback but a ton of returning production from a team that went 11-2 last season.
52. Oklahoma (40-1): The Sooners lost a ton of close games last season. Had a few different bounces gone their way, Venables would be sitting at eight or even nine wins instead of going 6-7 in his debut. Those close losses also came as a result of not being able to get key stops defensively, so that’s where the team needs to improve to come anywhere close to title contention.
53. Utah (40-1): Last year’s early loss to Florida dampened the buzz for a team that ultimately proved to be the class of the Pac-12. If the Utes can get revenge against the Gators, and then follow it up with a win against Baylor, the odds of Utah making the playoff will increase significantly.
54. Wisconsin (50-1): A new coach and a change in offensive philosophy make the odds of going undefeated long, but in the Big Ten West there are few picks that seem as sensible as lining up with Fickell and the Badgers.
55. Ole Miss (50-1): Quinshon Judkins is going to start the year as one of the top running backs in the SEC, but competing for a national championship is going to require better play at quarterback, where “Portal King” Lane Kiffin has added both Spencer Sanders from Oklahoma State and Walker Howard from LSU to compete with Jaxson Dart.
Best nonconference games
56. Sept. 2: Colorado at TCU
57. Sept. 2: Florida at Utah
58. Sept. 2: West Virginia at Penn State
59. Sept. 2: North Carolina vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)
60. Sept. 3: LSU vs. Florida State (Orlando)
61. Sept. 9: Texas at Alabama
62. Sept. 9: Nebraska at Colorado
63. Sept. 9: Ole Miss at Tulane
64. Sept. 9: Oregon at Texas Tech
65. Sept. 9: Texas A&M at Miami
66. Sept. 9: UCF at Boise State
67. Sept. 9: Utah at Baylor
68. Sept. 16: Pittsburgh at West Virginia
69. Sept. 16: Washington at Michigan State
70. Sept. 16: Minnesota at North Carolina
71. Sept. 23: Ohio State at Notre Dame
72. Sept. 23: UTSA at Tennessee
73. Oct. 14: USC at Notre Dame
74. Nov. 4: Notre Dame at Clemson
75. Dec. 9: Army vs. Navy (Foxborough, Mass.)
Heisman Trophy contenders
The Heisman picture doesn’t truly come into focus until we get at least midway through the season and the consensus list of players eligible to be named the most outstanding player in college football has been narrowed by on-field results. But what the preseason Heisman discussion does successfully is set some expectations for the biggest stars in the sport. While some recent Heisman winners have come from off the preseason radar, last year’s winner, Williams, was a top-three player on the odds board heading into the year.
Below we’ve included everyone listed with Heisman odds of 50-1 or better at Caesars Sportsbook, giving us a healthy group of preseason A-listers for fans to keep tabs on in the early weeks of the season.
76. Caleb Williams, USC QB (9/2)
77. Michael Penix Jr., Washington QB (12-1)
78. Drake Maye, North Carolina QB (12-1)
79. Jordan Travis, Florida State QB (12-1)
80. Bo Nix, Oregon QB (14-1)
81. Quinn Ewers, Texas QB (16-1)
82. Kyle McCord, Ohio State QB (16-1)
83. Sam Hartman, Notre Dame QB (16-1)
84. Jayden Daniels, LSU QB (16-1)
85. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan QB (18-1)
86. Joe Milton, Tennessee QB (18-1)
87. Cade Klubnik, Clemson QB (18-1)
88. Carson Beck, Georgia QB (20-1)
89. Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State WR (20-1)
90. Drew Allar, Penn State QB (25-1)
91. Ty Simpson, Alabama QB (30-1)
92. Blake Corum, Michigan RB (30-1)
93. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina QB (30-1)
94. KJ Jefferson, Arkansas QB (40-1)
95. Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma QB (40-1)
96. Jalen Milroe, Alabama QB (40-1)
97. Quinshon Judkins, Ole Miss RB (50-1)
98. TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State RB (50-1)
99. DJ UIagalelei, Oregon State QB (50-1)
100. Nick Singleton, Penn State RB (50-1)