Overrated? 20 college football teams we aren't sold on in 2023
What is college football without outsized expectations and even bigger nachos? Hope springs eternal at several schools — too much hope, in some cases.
The hype train has come to Boulder and Tallahassee, State College and College Station. How many of the most-discussed teams will end up in the College Football Playoff? Well, 4, at most. But in actuality, maybe 1.
Here’s a list of the top 20 teams we’re not all the way bought into for 2023…
1. Florida State
The Seminoles have become a chic pick to make the jump into Playoff contention in 2023. They created the buzz by winning their final 6 games and having most of their top players, including quarterback Travis Jordan and elite pass rusher Jared Verse, return. Now all they have to do is live up to the expectations. We’ll know early if they’re up to the task. They take on LSU in Orlando on opening day. — Brett Friedlander, columnist for Saturday Road
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2. Texas A&M
The ultimate “I’m not buying the hype” team in the SEC has been A&M. It all depends on what you believe is fair for the Aggies on the heels of a disastrous 5-7 season. If you want to sell me on A&M starting in the Top 25, to me, I don’t think that’s justified at all. You don’t get to go 2-6 in SEC play and then start in the Top 25 like nothing happened, especially when we’re talking about a program that hasn’t played in a conference championship game in the 21st century. But the Aggies are, however, the most obvious SEC team to have a multi-win improvement because they were so horrific last year and they rank No. 1 in the SEC in percentage of returning production. I’d still argue that’s a bit more of a “wait-and-see” situation. — Connor O’Gara, columnist for Saturday Down South
It’s fair to say that Coach Prime owned the offseason. Deion Sanders parlayed a 2-year gig with Jackson State into a cushy head coaching job at Colorado, which finally seems — ahem, primed — to re-enter the national football conversation. The Buffaloes rebuilt their roster in Prime’s image, adding his son, Sheduer, at quarterback, while reeling in one of the best transfer portal classes in college football. Let’s not pretend Travis Hunter isn’t a stud to the highest order. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Colorado won’t be, either. Undoing the mess that Karl Dorrell caused will be a big task for Sanders, who appears up for it. — Jon Gold, columnist for Saturday Out West
I believe Tennessee is worthy of offseason buzz. Hence, why I put the Vols in my top 10 to start 2023. But if someone tells me that they’re about to break through and become the 4th SEC program to make the Playoff, I’ll push back on that. In the final year of the 4-team Playoff, you still need to be staring at 1 loss going into conference championship weekend. Alternatively, you need to have possible wins against Alabama and Georgia on your 2-loss résumé like 2017 Auburn did and 2022 LSU could’ve had if it won the conference title (that wasn’t close).
I don’t believe Joe Milton can be that consistent. That’s the issue. Hendon Hooker couldn’t even be that consistent, and he was one of the best players in the sport. But the combination of Milton and a somewhat inconsistent Vols defense has me lowering their ceiling to a New Year’s 6 bowl, and not a Playoff berth. — Connor O’Gara, columnist for Saturday Down South
5. Penn State
The Tigers are always going to be in the preseason conversation because of what they’ve accomplished over the past decade under Dabo Swinney. And the hype has grown exponentially with the arrival of Garrett Riley as their new offensive coordinator. But as good as everyone thinks Cade Klubnik can be, he’s still an untested 1st-year starter with an uninspiring set of receivers. — Brett Friedlander, columnist for Saturday Road
Until Lincoln Riley fixes the defense, the Trojans will be a permanent fixture on the all-hype list. As great as Dorian Singer and Marshawn Lloyd may be, giving Caleb Williams more offensive weapons is like giving Margot Robbie a good toothpaste. The smile is doing all the work there. And speaking of work, the Trojans needed a defensive facelift, and they didn’t get one. Alex Grinch isn’t the guy to rescue them from the depths — too big-play oriented and nowhere near disciplined enough. So yeah, Williams may run back the Heisman to become only the second two-time winner, but what did that mean last year? A Cotton Bowl loss to Tulane. — Jon Gold, columnist for Saturday Out West
The day there’s not hype surrounding Texas will be the day when pigs fly. Of course, much of that hype is based on Arch Manning’s arrival in Austin. As a Quinn Ewers believer, I’m hopeful that we see him stay healthy and spin it like the guy who looked like he was figuring things out before he got hurt in the first quarter against Alabama. But if we’re talking about Texas as a preseason top-10 team or a viable Playoff candidate, that’s where I draw the line. Bijan Robinson ran through more tackles than anybody. He covered up some offensive deficiencies that the Horns had up front. I’m going against my own rule here because while I believe Texas should improve offensively with a healthy Ewers, I worry about some of the peaks and valleys in what should be an improved, expanded Big-12. Combine that with the Week 2 trip to Tuscaloosa and I believe Texas is much more of an 8-9 win team in 2023. — Connor O’Gara, columnist for Saturday Down South
In 2022, I bought the Oklahoma hype. Or rather, I bought the belief that the Sooners could win the Lincoln Riley breakup. I sold myself on Brent Venables running a defense that ranked in the Top 20 in percentage of returning production combined with a Dillion Gabriel-led Jeff Lebby offense. And then 6-7 happened. I get it. It was Year 1. Judging Year 1 coaches is almost always premature. But if there’s hype that we’re about to see a return to glory from Oklahoma, which just signed the No. 4 high school class and loaded up in the portal, I don’t believe that things are about to change overnight. Maybe I’d feel differently if Oklahoma weren’t sitting in the bottom half of FBS in percentage of returning production on the heels of its worst season of the 21st century. — Connor O’Gara, columnist for Saturday Down South
A lot is riding on the shoulder of Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz, but did anyone see Florida in the Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon State? The Beavers — the Beavers?! — simply ran them off the field. They embarrassed the Gators. Sure, Florida was without a ton of starters in that game, but come on. Woof. Even with a lot of returning production and the arrival of a solid replacement for Anthony Richardson, this still feels like at most an 8-win team. — Jon Gold, columnist for Saturday Out West
11. North Carolina
The Tar Heels have a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in Drake Maye and they’re going to get a lot of love because of it. But it takes more than a talented quarterback to make a winning team. Remember how things went 2 seasons ago with Sam Howell? Unless Mack Brown and his staff can do something to improve the offensive line and the ACC’s worst defense, the Tar Heels won’t get anywhere near a return trip to the ACC title game. — Brett Friedlander, columnist for Saturday Road
The way people are talking about Bo Nix, you’d expect him to throw for 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns next season. But we saw what happens when he was even a little off, as he was at the start of the 2022 regular season in a pasting against Georgia, and as we saw again late in the year when he was hampered by a leg injury. Playing behind an offensive line that may feel some growing pains in 2023 — Oregon loses a ton of talent as well as offensive coach Adrian Klemm — Nix may have a tougher time this go-round. Especially with the loss of Kenny Dillingham. Oregon should be good, but not that good. — Jon Gold, Saturday Out West
14. Kansas State
15. Notre Dame
Coming off a 5-1 regular-season finish, a nice Gator Bowl win over South Carolina and the arrival of perhaps the best quarterback in the transfer portal, Notre Dame is getting a ton of buzz. It’s well-deserved for the most part, as well. Yet the Irish were terribly inconsistent at times and haven’t made some of the smaller roster upgrades to get to the 11-12 win plateau. — Jon Gold, Saturday Out West
Tulane is coming off a storybook year that included a top-10 finish thanks to a stunning comeback against USC in the Cotton Bowl. The Green Wave became one of the stories of the year in college football, and deservedly so. There’s an expectation now that with UCF, Houston and Cincinnati leaving the American Athletic Conference for the Big 12 that Tulane is set up for another deep run with Michael Pratt back at quarterback. I’m a bit skeptical in a post-Tyjae Spears world. They also lost defensive coordinator Chris Hampton to Oregon, which is daunting for a team that starts off with a 10-win South Alabama team, Ole Miss and a Southern Miss team that beat Tulane in New Orleans last year. Don’t pencil the Green Wave in for that Group of 5 slot in a New Year’s 6 bowl just yet. — Connor O’Gara, columnist for Saturday Down South
Maybe it’s a bit premature to write Utah’s obituary, but I have a hard time believing Cameron Rising is going to be completely healthy and effective early in the season. Rising, of course, is the straw that stirs the Utes, and they just don’t have another passer anywhere near his level. It’s lame (I know) to criticize a program based on the availability of one, but few players nationally mean more to their team than Rising does for Utah. — Jon Gold, Saturday Out West
The way the Bruins finished in 2022, I’m surprised anyone has bought into them. They looked like a team that was over Chip Kelly and wasn’t on the same page. Now they lose Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet, and while they added a 5-star stud quarterback recruit in Dante Moore and a nice QB transfer in Collin Schlee, I’m not sold they’ve got the goods to challenge for double-digit wins once more. — Jon Gold, Saturday Out West