Biggest Surprises 2022 College Football Season

College football is somewhat cyclical. Oftentimes, teams that win every season continue to do so, while teams that habitually struggle end up remaining in that pattern. When making college football picks, prognosticators must factor in recent form as well as the quality of the roster and, in some cases, past history. As the adage goes, success breeds success, and at the highest levels of college football, that is definitely true since recruits tend to gravitate toward schools that have demonstrated success.

In this piece, we will take a look at a few programs that have exceeded expectations in 2022 and defied preseason expectations to ascend up the rankings and find themselves in the conversation for a prestigious bowl berth or even a coveted slot in the College Football Playoff.

Good Times on Rocky Top

Heading into their Nov. 5th game opposite Georgia, the Tennessee Volunteers are unbeaten and ranked T2 in America. Coming off a 7-6 season in 2021, the Big Orange was expected to make some strides under second-year mentor Josh Heupel, but it’s unclear how many expected the Vols to contend for a national title. Not even ranked in the Associated Press’s preseason Top 25, the Vols have done it with an explosive offense. They rank 3rd in America in total yards of offense and are fourth in the country in passing yards.

Veteran quarterback Hendon Hooker has been, as advertised, completing 71.2 percent of his throws for 293.3 yards per game with 21 touchdowns and only one pick. Four different Tennessee players have caught 30 or more balls, and the running game has clicked as well, with the two-headed monster of Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright producing. The team’s most impressive win to date came as an 8.5 point underdog in Tuscaloosa as they rolled back Nick Saban and the Tide 52-49.

Orange Crush

Heading into 2022, many in upstate New York considered the season make or break for coach Dino Babers. He entered the season 29-43, and Cuse was just 11-24 the last three seasons. The experts agreed as they pegged the Orange towards the bottom of the ACC Atlantic Division, and as such, the team was nowhere to be found in the preseason Top 25.

Despite a pair of recent losses, the team started off the season 6-0 and found themselves ranked in the Top 25. Babers is now revered in New York as the team has been rolling. After a convincing 31-7 win to open things up over Louisville, the team dispatched UCONN, Purdue, Virginia, and Wagner before a big test opposite NC State awaited. Ranked 18th, Syracuse dominated the Wolfpack, a trendy preseason pick to make some noise nationally, 24-9. The following week, Cuse went to Death Valley and fought valiantly in a 27-21 setback at the hands of No. 5 Clemson.

Junior quarterback Garrett Shrader, who replaced Tommy Divito now at Illinois, has been productive, connecting on 67.2 percent of his throws for 204.5 yards per game and 14 touchdowns, and 5 picks. The story, however, has been the emergence of sophomore back Sean Tucker, who has gained 758 yards thus far and scored 7 times. The defense has held up their end of the bargain as well, ranking 36th nationally in total yards allowed and 11th in passing yards surrendered.

The Green Wave is Rolling

Coming off a 2-10 campaign in 2021, expectations weren’t exactly sky-high in New Orleans for Tulane. From 2012-2021 the team was a putrid 46-77, although they have seen a modicum of success under current coach Willie Fritz who entered this season 31-43. Fast forward to 2022, and aside from a 3-point loss at home to Southern Miss, the Wave has rolled as they are 7-1 currently and finished themselves in the AP Top 25 for the first time since way back in 1998.

To date, the team’s most impressive win was a 17-10 victory in Manhattan over Kansas State as a 14.5-point underdog. Equally impressive was the victory at Houston as an underdog. While the season has towered over any expectations, the team still has to face AAC behemoths UCF and Cincinnati.