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Phil Steele reveals preseason top 40 poll


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College football rankings are surfacing in preseason form this month ahead of fall camp and the start of the 2022 season, the latest power poll arriving via Phil Steele, one of the industry's veterans and leaders in accuracy for early prognostications.

As Steele notes in his robust college football preview, the preseason top 40 poll is based on how he feels teams will finish in the final rankings. Over the past nine seasons, Steele writes, 86.2% of programs listed in his preseason rankings have reached bowl eligibility.

In our own post-spring rankings, six of our national analysts submitted way-too-early top 25 ballot and those were tabulated to form a power ranking of sorts heading into summer. With the start of practice a few weeks away, we'll update that soon once position battles are decided and two-deeps are established.

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Here's a look at Steele's preseason top 40 along with our thoughts on his selections and where several have fallen in our poll:

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40. Fresno State Bulldogs

39. Appalachian State Mountaineers

38. Kansas State Wildcats

37. Minnesota Golden Gophers

36. Arkansas Razorbacks

35. Kentucky Wildcats

Arkansas is one SEC program we're high on, but maybe not quite as lofty as a few others. Steele seems to agree, putting the Razorbacks outside of his top 25. One of our voters left Arkansas off his ballot completely in our post-spring rankings update, but that'll likely change when our updated poll is released in a few weeks. The return of K.J. Jefferson at quarterback means the Razorbacks will have one of the league's top quarterbacks — a top-five player at the position in our eyes — and that gives them a shot against a brutal slate. ... Kentucky is a team from the SEC East worth keeping tabs on coming off a 10-win season with several of its best players returning, including projected first-round signal caller Will Levis.

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34. Houston Cougars

33. Louisville Cardinals

32. Florida Gators

31. Boise State Broncos

30. Ole Miss Rebels

Steele is confident Louisville is a season-long threat in the ACC this fall with Malik Cunningham at quarterback and several top-end playmakers around him during a pivotal season for coach Scott Satterfield. ... First-year Florida coach Billy Napier and the Gators hope to play spoiler behind Georgia in the SEC East and have made recent waves on the recruiting trail. ... What does Ole Miss have in store for its encore season after a 10-win triumph a season ago? Lane Kiffin expects one of the nation's top transfer hauls to pay off in a big way.

10696996.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics)

29. Air Force Falcons

28. UCLA Bruins

27. Tennessee Volunteers

26. BYU Cougars

25. Cincinnati Bearcats

Tennessee was one of several SEC teams behind the 'Big 3' of Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M ranked in our own top 25 preseason rankings, but the Volunteers landed just shy in preferred billing in Steele's version. ... BYU is a team capable of making a run as a New Year's Six darkhorse, given the Cougars' schedule with several opportunities against quality Power Five competition, including Oregon. ... Cincinnati became the first Group of Five program to reach the playoff last season, but the Bearcats replace nine NFL Draft picks and haven't been slotted as a final four threat by most this time around.

10708971.JPG?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: Mike Roach, 247Sports)

24. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

23. Michigan State Spartans

22. Penn State Nittany Lions

21. UAB Blazers

20. Iowa Hawkeyes

19. Wisconsin Badgers

18. Texas Longhorns

17. UCF Knights

Wake Forest's wide receiver group might be the ACC's best and multi-year starter Sam Hartman at quarterback is criminally-underrated from a national standpoint. After nearly winning the conference last season, there's some unfinished business to attend to in Winston-Salem for the Demon Deacons. ... UAB? This is the first major surprise inside Steele's top 25. Veteran coach Bill Clark's unexpected retirement effective Aug. 1 likely changes things for the Blazers, who welcome back the bulk of a talented, championship-caliber team. ... After acquiring several instant-impact transfers, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian has some media members believing Texas will have a chance to compete for a Big 12 championship coming off a 5-7 disaster. Is it possible? Sure, as long as Quinn Ewers is a difference-making quarterback and the rest of the star-studded cast performs. Texas hosts Alabama early, so we'll know if this preseason ranking holds water. ... UCF is the highest-ranked Group of Five team in Steele's preseason poll and he believes Gus Malzahn's squad has a chance to get to the New Year's Six.

11054068.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: USC Athletics)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 18

USC is Steele's most-improved team this season, garnering the top spot as well as landing inside of his top 20. Ranked as high as No. 10 on one of our own preseason ballots and outside of the top 25 on another, opinions are heavily-skewed on the Trojans entering Lincoln Riley's first campaign at USC. Much of the national attention in January centered on the transfer portal and after landing five-star Oklahoma transfer Caleb Williams, some voters tossed USC inside the top 15 coming out of spring. Then, USC added Jordan Addison after spring practice was over, giving Williams the nation's top returning receiver to work with this fall.

10769936.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 25

The Cowboys have a shot to win the Big 12 Conference and are part of a four-team mix with a crack at a championship season, along with Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma, according to Steele. Oklahoma State cracked the top 15 of our initial way-too-early rankings, but opinions on the Cowboys were not unanimous and that ranking changed considerably in our post-spring update. Oklahoma State was left off three ballots entirely and was ranked inside the top 20 on the other two, pushing the Cowboys to No. 25 despite reaching the league title game last fall.

10830350.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports, USA TODAY Sports)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 11

Steele has a ton of respect for Baylor and coach Dave Aranda, who he says is one of the nation's fastest-rising leaders. The Big 12 race is a tough nut to crack at the moment given the handful of teams all within a couple spots of one another. Baylor gets the benefit of the doubt here as the league's reigning champs because the schedule is treacherous and projecting another plus-12 showing in turnover margin would yield the utmost optimism. That being said, only one Big 12 team was ranked ahead of Aranda's Bears this summer in our own way-too-early rankings. 

11030124.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: Nick Faulkner/PackPride, 247Sports)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 8

Could the Wolfpack win their first ACC football championship under Doeren? Steele believes it's a possibility. N.C. State came in at No. 8 in our preseason rankings update after one voter pushed Dave Doeren's squad all the way to No. 4 given the number of returning playmakers. Much of that offseason steam surrounding the program comes thanks to quarterback Devin Leary, who nuked opposing defense to the tune of 35 touchdown passes last fall. Two games that we're keeping an eye on that will heavily impact the Wolfpack's value as a preseason title contender are Clemson and Wake Forest. Win those and N.C. State could run the table.

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247Sports preseason ranking: N/A

It's time to start believing in Miami under Mario Cristobal. Now that we haven't, but the Hurricanes were the "first team out" in our post-spring top 25 rankings, a poll that's sure to change heading into fall given this program's summer buzz. Cristobal has landed several elite prospects for the 2023 class and beyond this month and appears to be building a monster in the ACC. With quarterback Tyler Van Dyke this fall, Miami could challenge Clemson, Pittsburgh and N.C. State for the conference crown, Steele says. Miami's talent level is impressive for a team with a first-year coach.

10825115.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: Cory Fravel, 247Sports)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 17

Here's your reigning ACC champs — and we're not talking about Clemson. Pittsburgh's star-studded offense from a season ago was gutted after Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett left for the NFL and Biletnikoff receiver Jordan Addison transferred to USC, but make no mistake — Pat Narduzzi has a team that believes they can win another league title. Especially dominant up front on both sides of the football, the Panthers are going to be a tough out in ACC play and host fellow Steele top 40 team Tennessee in September for a spotlight matchup.

11053958.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320  (Photo: Abbie Parr, 247Sports)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 12

Steele's second-highest rated team out of the Pac-12 behind Utah and ahead of USC, the Ducks are a title contender out West. Quarterback Bo Nix appears to be the guy for Dan Lanning's team at quarterback after a terrific showing in the spring game and suffice to say this squad will take the hard-nosed mindset on the other side of the football. Oregon is one of three teams from the Pac-12 we've slotted inside our post-spring top 20 and might be the most valuable given the expectation level nationally outside of the title picture. That season opener against Georgia is extremely important for the perception of the program under a new regime.

10702737.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320  (Photo: Bob Levey, Getty)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 4

Steele's not as high on these preseason darlings as some analysts this season, including our own, but he still ranks Texas A&M inside of his top 10. Sound familiar for the Aggies? Texas A&M was in a similar spotlight this time last year, but failed to live up to lofty expectations from outsiders during the regular season. This team has an extremely high ceiling and how many of these five-star true freshmen get their feet wet as dependable options in Year 1 under Jimbo Fisher will be vital to this squad's success. It's an all-time signing class that could pay immediate dividends.

11053804.jpeg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 10

Steele feels good about Oklahoma not missing a beat under first-year coach Brent Venables. Our 247Sports voters are bullish on the Sooners as a "good" team, but maybe not national championship contender material just yet as a program in transition. Much of that overall worth hinges on his defense's performance in Year 1 along with the progression of UCF transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who takes over for the departed Caleb Williams under center. Oklahoma moved up two spots from its previous ranking after a better-than-expected spring. One thing is obvious surrounding this year's squad in Norman — the fanbase is jazzed up and ready for a new era of Oklahoma football judging by the spring-game attendance numbers.

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Steele points to Notre Dame being an elite team this season, but not one that reaches the playoff at year's end. The Fighting Irish also fell out of our preseason way-too-early top five in this summer's post-spring update thanks to one voter slotting Notre Dame at No. 15 on his ballot. Ranked as high as No. 5 on another, Notre Dame should be able to maintain it pace throughout the 2022 campaign as a title contender if the quarterback situation works itself out and the Fighting Irish learn from their Week 1 showdown at Ohio State. Win or lose, one game will not define Marcus Freeman's first campaign and that's the message he'll be giving in South Bend if the opener goes south.

Tavion Thomas (Photo: Jeffrey Swinger, Getty)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 6

What we think: Every year, Steele is high on the Utes as a contender in the Pac-12. He picked Utah to win a conference title last season and it came to fruition. As for our own interpretation of Utah in 2022, the Utes were the unanimous No. 8 team across all of our ballots in January and moved up to No. 6 overall this summer after one voter slotted Kyle Whittingham's at No. 5 on his ballot. Here, Sporting News slots Utah at No. 8. The reigning Pac-12 champs could be one of this season's preseason darlings after winning 10 games last fall and nearly taking the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. Much of that nucleus is back in 2022, including quarterback Cam Rising. 

11144376.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 9

Give credit to Steele — he called Michigan's impressive rise last fall and once again believes the Wolverines will be a national championship contender in 2022 under Jim Harbaugh. Since J.J. McCarthy was unable to throw during spring camp, it's difficult to ascertain how this offense is going to look this fall at the quarterback spot with Cade McNamara returning. Both of those guys are going to play and much of the pressure falls on their shoulders with play-caller Josh Gattis moving on to Miami. The rushing attack of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards should alleviate some of that stress, however. 

11035555.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: Douglas P. DeFelice, Getty)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 5

Sleep on Clemson if you want to, but that would not be a smart idea given this team's talent level, according to Steele. Clemson earned a top 5 ranking in our post-spring poll by one point over Pac-12 favorite Utah. Given what we saw from Clemson's defense during spring, a unit returning a bevy of starters and girth at the line of scrimmage, the Tigers should be the ACC's team to beat. The bigger question lies at quarterback and whether D.J. Uiagalelei can hold on to his job against the likes of five-star freshman Cade Klubnik. The latter flashed during spring practice and is going to play this season. It remains to be seen if that's with first-team reps or in relief of the incumbent, however.

10687938.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: Brad McClenny / Gainesville Sun, USA TODAY Sports)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 3

Steele credits Georgia as being one of three teams best-equipped to be the last standing this fall because of its talent level. Are the defending national champions underrated a bit this summer or have they been properly slotted behind two heavyweights with fewer holes coming out of the 2022 NFL Draft? It might be a little of both. One of our voters ranked the Bulldogs in the No. 2 spot, three placed Kirby Smart’s team at No. 3 and another slotted Georgia at No. 4 in the preseason just behind Texas A&M. With so much of last year's defense off to the NFL, that side of the ball for the Bulldogs' may take some getting used to in September.

11035543.jpg?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320  (Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire, Getty)

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 2

Steele's preseason favorite in the Big Ten, he's picking the Buckeyes in the playoff, too. It's hard to argue with the primary points on why Ohio State should be one of the College Football Playoff frontrunners this season. The Buckeyes have the nation's top returning quarterback not-named Bryce Young and believe they have fixed their well-documented defensive issues with the hiring of Knowles. He's going to ensure Ohio State's talent is in position to make plays. If the Buckeyes are elite up front, they'll be in the mix at year's end.

11083102.png?fit=bounds&crop=620:320,offset-y0.50&width=620&height=320 (Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)

19COMMENTS

247Sports preseason ranking: No. 1

Steele noted in his early view of the Crimson Tide that Alabama is his preseason pick to win the national championship. Armed with Young and Will Anderson, arguably the nation's two best players overall, Alabama received a maximum of 125 points in our post-spring update after all five ballots that were cast tabbed Nick Saban's program in the top spot. Alabama addressed a couple of needs with high-end additions through the transfer portal and could be looking for another prior to fall camp. Offensive line play is one area to watch early and was a point of emphasis this spring from Saban, despite a couple injuries that limited how this group will actually look in a few months.

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steele posted this two days ago.......

 

Phil Steele believes 'Auburn is going to surprise some people'

Zac Blackerby
2 minutes

The SEC West is brutal and predicting what is going to happen this season is almost impossible. 

College football expert Phil Steele, known for his preseason magazine, admitted how hard the decision was when it came to ranking the seven squads in college football's strongest division. 

Steele picked Alabama to win the SEC West and Texas A&M to finish second. After that, he had a hard time knowing where to go next according to his interview on Locked On SEC

"I could pick any of the five to be third," Steele said. "Which one are you picking last? I don't want to pick any of them last. Playing in the SEC West is just ridiculous. As it came out, I didn't pick any team last. I have two teams tied for sixth. I originally was just going to tie everyone for third. I mean, it is a wide-open race."

He touched briefly on all the schools that he had tied to finish third, including the Auburn Tigers, the Arkansas Razorbacks, and the Ole Miss Rebels. 

"I think Auburn this year has a much higher buy-in level than they did last year and they've got talent," Steele said. "I think Auburn is going to surprise some people."

Steele had LSU and Mississippi State tied to finish sixth in the SEC West. 

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how weird is this? we do not make the top forty but auburn is going to surprise some folks? i do not understand..................

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Not surprising. 

Hoping we do well as the underdog and surprise some folks.

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  • WarTiger changed the title to Phil Steele reveals preseason top 40 poll
On 7/19/2022 at 1:20 PM, aubiefifty said:

how weird is this? we do not make the top forty but auburn is going to surprise some folks? i do not understand..................

7 or 8 wins with no blow out losses and we'll make it.

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I bought my copy last week. Complementary of Auburn. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Bumping this, but his rankings make absolutely no sense. If we win at least four SEC games, we'd be a helluva lot closer to the top 25 then outside the top 40 even with a loss to PSU. This would imply then that he has us winning three SEC games. However, he has us tied with the Sharks and Pigs, so does he have them winning just three SEC games too? Somehow I just can't think of a scenario in which all but the top two teams in the west win just three conference games.

Edited by AUwent
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Bumping this, but his rankings make absolutely no sense. If we win at least four SEC games, we'd be a helluva lot closer to the top 25 then outside the top 40 even with a loss to PSU. This would imply then that he has us winning three SEC games. However, he has us tied with the Sharks and Pigs, so does he have them winning just three SEC games too? Somehow I just can't think of a scenario in which all but the top two teams in the west win just three conference games.

I put absolutely ZERO stock or belief in Phil Steele. He’s just trying to sell his mags he puts out a few times a year. In my opinion he’s comparable to Mark Sclaebah-spelling? They take up space and love to hear themselves talk. Only thing I can agree on, is yes, I think we surprise a team or two we shouldn’t. We need it to get 2023 recruiting rolling. 

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Arkansas is a team people can't agree on.  Steele has them 37th but I think Josh Pate has them top 10.  Steele has Miss State tied for last with LSU but they could finish 2nd in the West with Will Rogers at Qb and a lot of returning players.  UAB rated higher than anyone in the SEC is a joke.  UCF didn't look great last year and I bet doesn't look great this year.  I think even with all the transfers USC is vastly overrated as is Utah probably.  I don't get the Pitt love.  Cristobal was a great recruiter at Oregon but he never made it a season without losing 2-3 games.  I guess we'll see how this all shakes out in about 2 weeks.

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