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The 2022 college football season is done, and no matter how much some of them wish they could change what happened, there’s nothing that can be done for the 131 FBS programs that played this past season.
If you’re Georgia, then there isn’t too much you’d change from 2022. But if you’re anyone else, then there’s probably one or two tweaks you’d prefer. Too bad, so sad. Better luck next time.
There are bad teams every season. Sometimes, teams are expectedly bad. Sometimes, teams are unexpectedly bad. And sometimes, teams are bad in ways that mean they have something to prove the following season, lest they become further laughingstocks. This article is about those teams.
The body of 2022 is still warm, which means it’s the perfect time to look ahead nine months to the 2023 iteration of college football. Nobody likes the offseason anyway, right?
Who Has the Most to Prove in College Football in 2023?
The Hurricanes paid Mario Cristobal $8 million in 2022 to miss a bowl game.
Cristobal was the 10th-best paid coach in college football last year, and Miami was not one of the ten best teams in the country. Miami was barely a top-10 team in the ACC.
This cannot be again. Yes, it was his first year in Coral Gables, and it’s reasonable for success to be built over time. But in modern college football, the salaries are much too high and the transfer portal is much too abundant for there to be many excuses. At a minimum, progress must be made on what was a catastrophic campaign to show that there is a positive future for the program. For the sake of all chinstrap beards everywhere, Cristobal can’t lose to Florida State by 42 or an otherwise-embarrassing amount again.
Having something to prove isn’t exclusive to teams that had a bad 2022.
Tennessee had a fantastic 2022. From the darkness of Derek Dooley, Butch Jones, and Jeremy Pruitt arose the Volunteers for their best season in about 20 years. It was Tennessee’s first 11-win season since 2001, included the program’s first triumph over Alabama since 2006, and its first BCS/NY6 bowl appearance and victory since 1999. Especially given the team’s unranked status in the preseason, 2022 was an unequivocal success in Knoxville.
But what about 2023? This year was great, but this is Tennessee we’re talking about – this is not the sort of place that is content with one top-10 season, then a return to mediocrity (or worse). After two decades of disappointment, is Tennessee a program that can return back to the upper echelon of the sport on a regular basis, or were the Vols a one-season wonder?
UT’s inclusion on this list is not an indictment of a poor showing from 2022 that needs a correction, it’s an open question of whether or not the program can do it again. After the last 20 years, we need the Volunteers to prove it before we assume they’re truly back.
When Michigan State signed Mel Tucker to a $95 million, 10-year contract in 2021, it probably envisioned year two going differently. Fifth place in the Big Ten East and no bowl game were likely not the goals.
But that’s what they got. The Spartans were one of the worst rushing teams in the Big Ten, a complete departure from what we typically associate with East Lansing football, and their secondary wasn’t much better. After 11 wins and a Peach Bowl victory in 2021, 2022 proved to be a serious step back for MSU.
Tucker still has almost a decade left on his deal and many zeroes attached to his buyout, so he’s probably sticking around a bit longer. But he has a lot more doubters now than a year ago, and another dismal display in 2023 would make the future of MSU football look seriously bleak.
Time to prove Tucker was the right man to bet on.
By the standards of almost everyone else in the country, Alabama had a great season. Eleven wins, a NY6 victory, a top-five finish, beat Auburn – most programs would do (and do) some terrible things to even sniff a season like that. But most programs aren’t Alabama.
Since 2009, the Crimson Tide has won six national championships, eight SEC titles, played in six College Football Playoffs, and has completed a season with one or zero losses seven times. For Alabama to not win the national title is notable enough – for Alabama to not even make the playoff is alien.
I don’t mean to overstate things here. For the last 15 years, haters have attempted to tear open holes in the Alabama dynasty following its rare defeats. But whenever Alabama’s demise is supposedly on the doorstep, Nick Saban ignores the doorbell, sells his house for a hefty profit, and moves to an even more-awesome neighborhood.
But can he do it again? The logic in me says that entropy is real, all things erode eventually, and 2023 is as good as any time for it to hit in Tuscaloosa. The college football fan in me knows that Saban is a deity whose powers cannot be contained, explained, or restrained.
The microscope will always be aimed at Alabama. The expectation is perfection, every time. It might be unfair, but even if the Crimson Tide have an exact repeat of their 2022 campaign, would that be considered a success?
You know when would be a really bad time for your program to fall off a cliff? Right before you move to the most cutthroat conference in college football.
Now, I’m not saying Oklahoma’s program has fallen off a cliff. It takes more than one season to properly dive down into those depths. It was certainly not what Sooners fans wanted from Brent Venables’ first season at the helm, but after the chaos of Lincoln Riley ditching Norman for Southern California, maybe it was destined to happen. Venables could show a clear improvement in 2023 and beyond, and 2022 could be merely a blip on the radar. Also, 2022 could have been a sign of what the Sooners should come to expect in the future as they head to the SEC in the next couple of years.
Regardless, the expectations in Norman will be high in 2023, as they are every season. This is one of the most storied programs in college football history and one that’s won a lot of games lately. If this doesn’t get turned around before Oklahoma waves goodbye to the more amicable Big 12, it might be a seriously uphill climb to compete in the SEC. At the very least, don’t let Texas shut you out again.