top of page

A Way Too Early College Football Top 25 for the 2024 season

The 2023 college football season has come to an end, and the Michigan Wolverines are officially your national champions.

Yet as the confetti falls, it's never too early to look ahead to next season.

As we always do the day after the title, let's drop our "Way Too Early Top 25" for next season, as the Aaron Torres Media staff spent the last few days putting this together for you.

One caveat: A LOT will change in the coming months, as NFL Draft decision get shored up and the transfer portal ramps back up in the spring.

If you don't like where your team is, be patient - a lot can change between now and Labor Day 2024.

Now, let's get to our Top 25.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia didn't make the final four-team College Football Playoff, but their destruction of Florida State in the Orange Bowl still proved: Georgia is still as good as anyone in the sport (they would've been favored over all four playoff teams on a neutral field) and with their talent and depth are built for the 12-team playoff era.

We will see that on full display next year, as they return Carson Beck at quarterback, a player who has to be deemed one of the Heisman favorites coming in. Beck will have plenty of talent around him, and a defense that has a solid combination of returning vets (linebacker Smael Mondon, cornerback Malachi Starks) and emerging stars (linebacker CJ Allen).

The Bulldogs are the most talented and deepest team in college football entering 2024. And should again be considered favorites.

2. Michigan Wolverines

Michigan is your 2024 national champions.

And while it feels likely that Jim Harbaugh will probably be gone after this game, and JJ McCarthy behind him, until it becomes official we'll keep them here.

If both return, the Wolverines are bluntly, good enough to go back-to-back. McCarthy is a QB with big-game chops, who has still yet to lose a Big Ten game as a starter, and Blake Corum and title game hero Donovan Edwards, could, in theory, return as well. As could several key pieces off the defense.

If Harbaugh leaves, and a couple stars follow him to the NFL, we'll adjust the rankings. But if they come back, Michigan should be deemed again the favorites in the Big Ten. And maybe nationally.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide

Once again we all - and I include myself - learned the hard way this year: As long as Nick Saban is at Alabama, they'll always be a contender.

And 2024 will be no exception.

The Tide do lose a lot, including Dallas Turner, Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry among others on defense. But Jalen Milroe is back at quarterback and there's no reason to think he won't improve, after continually getting better throughout the back half of this season. Beyond the players you know, there's also quite a bit of emerging talent on both sides of the ball, including Justice Haynes at running back, Caleb Downs in the defensive backfield among others.

One thing worth noting: The schedule does flip and get tougher, as home games this year against LSU and Tennessee now become road games, with both a trip to Oklahoma and a September visit from Georgia added to the schedule.

Welcome to the new SEC.

4. Oregon Ducks

I don't root for or against individual teams (as a UConn alum, my team is never really a factor), and instead, share what I truly believe, every time I speak.

I bring it up to say: I think the Big Ten is in for a wake-up call with their four new additions next season.

And while Washington played for a title Monday, none are more built to compete right away than Oregon.

Although he hasn't had his breakthrough moment yet, Dan Lanning is building a monster in the Pacific Northwest, and 2024 could be his most talented team yet. Dillon Gabriel takes over at quarterback and will be paired with elite returnees at running back (Bucky Irving) and wide receiver (Tez Johnson), behind a really good offensive line. The defense just got star linebacker Jeffrey Baasa back as well, and the Ducks are bringing in a loaded 2024 recruiting class.

This team isn't just built to compete in the Big Ten in Year 1.

They're built to win it. If Michigan loses Harbaugh, Oregon should be deemed the favorites.

5. Texas Longhorns

There were plenty of critics of Steve Sarkisian coming into the year - yes, including me - and he proved them all wrong, winning 12 games and a Big 12 title.

And he will have a team in Year 1 at Texas good enough to win the SEC as well.

Quinn Ewers appears as though he is coming back, and will be playing behind one of the best offensive lines in college football. The defense meanwhile held opponents to just 19 points per game (Top 15 nationally) and return several marquee players, including emerging star Anthony Hill.

Like so many others at the top of these rankings, depth will be added with another elite recruiting class.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes

As critical as I've been of Ryan Day in recent weeks - and trust me, I've been critical - I've got to give credit where it's due: He has geared up this off-season, and should be back in Big Ten and national title contention a year from now.

While I'm sold Will Howard is the guy, he'll certainly have the opportunity to prove it, with arguably the best skill position talent around him in the country. The wide receiver room will likely feature Emeka Egbuka, Carnell Tate and Brandon Iniss (all former five-stars) and also adds the No. 1 high school player in America, in wide receiver Jeremiah Smith. They might not be done either, with Ole Miss star transfer Quinshon Judkins reportedly leaning towards Ohio State, where he could team in the backfield with TreyVeon Henderson.

Depending on NFL Draft decisions, a Top 5 national defense could return largely intact as well, with Jack Sawyer already announcing a return.

7. Ole Miss Rebels

Even with the expected loss of Judkins (referenced above), I'm still buying what Lane Kiffin is selling heading into 2024.

Jaxson Dart will be back as a third-year starter at quarterback, and even without Judkins will have plenty of weapons around him. The most notable name to know is Tre Harris, a monster receiver who finished the season with 54 catches, 985 yards and eight receiving touchdowns. Beyond just the always potent offense, is the work that Kiffin did in the portal defensively, adding stars Walter Nolen (Texas A&M) Princely Umanmielen (Florida) and Tyler Baron (Tennessee) among the big-time portal additions on that side of the ball.

Finally, as others have noted, the 2024 schedule is pretty manageable by "new SEC standards" as the Rebels avoid Alabama, Texas and Missouri (who could all be Top 10 teams), as well as Texas A&M and Tennessee, a pair of schools with loads of talent in their own right.

The schedule isn't easy per se (Georgia and Oklahoma and LSU on the road) but by SEC standards, that's about as good as you're going to get.

8. Clemson Tigers

So I'll admit, it's been a weird couple of years for Clemson, but I'm going to go ahead and buy a little low on Dabo Swinney's crew.

And it's for a few reasons.

One, this will be Cade Klubnik's second year in Garrett Riley's system. If Klubnik is as good as the recruiting rankings said he was coming out of high school, this is the year he might make the leap. He'll have wide receiver help with five-star Bryant Wesco joining him, and the defense will again be elite, with the return of several key pieces including All-American Barrett Carter.

We'll find out just how good Clemson is, and we'll find out quickly, as they open with Georgia in Atlanta.

9. Utah Utes

College football will look a lot different next year, and remember, Utah will open next season as a member of the Big 12. And bluntly, they might enter as the Big 12 favorites.

First off, it tells you everything you need to know about the Utes that they lost their starting quarterback before the season - a two-time conference championship winning QB, mind you - and still managed to win eight games, including victories at USC and Florida at home. And that was against a schedule, by the way, that featured 12 of 13 games versus Power 5 teams.

Well, that eight-win team now returns Cam Rising at QB, several key pieces off a Top 20 defense, and heads to a league that, on paper, looks easier than the one they just left.

As mentioned, the Utes should be considered the favorites in the new Big 12 heading into Year 1.

10. Missouri Tigers

Say what you want about Eli Drinkwitz - and trust us, it's all been said - but that man had a hell of a year, and Missouri football had a coming out party in 2023.

And there's no reason to think it will slow down any time soon.

The Tigers return one of the most potent offenses in college football, spearheaded by quarterback Brady Cook, and arguably the most explosive returning receiver in the sport in Luther Burden. The defense was solid this year, and brings back several key pieces, while also welcoming five-star Williams Nwaneri. The Tigers have also crushed the portal adding several key pieces including former Oklahoma offensive lineman Cayden Green and Clemson defensive back Toriano Pride, both of whom are former five star high school prospects.

Like Ole Miss, the Tigers have a manageable "new SEC schedule" that doesn't include Georgia, Texas, LSU or Tennessee.

11. Arizona Wildcats

Whether you think putting Arizona football this high in a preseason Top 25 is crazy or not, one thing feels certain: The 2024 season has to be the most anticipated for Arizona football this century.

The Wildcats are coming off what can only be deemed one of the most incredible, under-the-radar wild seasons we've ever seen. They finished with 10 wins yes, but won seven straight to close out the year, including five teams who were ranked at the time they played them.

More importantly, they return the straw who stirred the entire drink, Noah Fifita. Fifita took the reigns for an injured Jayden De Laura and proceeded to go 7-2 as a starter, with his only losses coming by seven to Washington and USC in multiple overtimes.

With Fifita back, future first round pick Tetairoa McMillan at wide receiver and 18 starters overall, the Wildcats - like Utah - are good enough to win the Big 12 in their first year in the league.

The Wildcats have "Gone Fisching" and come up with a team good enough to win the Big 12 in Year 1.

12. Washington Huskies

So let me start by saying this: It doesn't feel right to have Washington this low in our initial rankings. Kalen Deboer is already, in my opinion, a Top 5 coach in FBS college football.

At the same time, this team is expected to lose a LOT off this year's national runner's up.

Michael Penix will be gone, and Rome Odunze is trending to join him among the Top 10 picks in this year's draft. Many believe he's the No. 2 wide receiver on the board behind only Marvin Harrison Jr. Bralen Trice will be gone off the defense, as will a few pieces off the best offensive line in college football this year.

The Huskies do welcome in the prolific Will Rogers as a transfer from Mississippi State, and this offense should largely pick up where it left off.

But looking at what everyone else returns, it's hard to have them much higher than this.

13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

I've seen Notre Dame as high as the Top 10 in some preseason Top 25's, but after back-to-back very good, but not-quite-elite 9-4 and 10-3 seasons, this feels like about the right spot to have them.

The biggest piece of news with the Irish is that they welcome in Riley Leonard at quarterback. He was banged up this season, but remember, two seasons ago he led Duke to a nine-win season. If he can bring back that 2022 form behind an elite offensive line, and with several pieces off a Top 10 defense back, then Notre Dame can make the leap from "very good" to "comfortably inside the Top 10."

It's also worth noting that by Notre Dame standards, the 2024 schedule is relatively easy. No Ohio State or Clemson next season (two games which were losses in 2023) with their toughest games coming at Texas A&M in Week 1, as well as Florida State and USC (both which appear to be rebuilding) at home.

14. Penn State Nittany Lions

Speaking of teams I need to "see to believe" I present you the 2024 Penn State Nittany Lions. A year after I picked Penn State to make the College Football Playoff, only to watch the Nittany Lions pee down their legs in big moments against Ohio State and Michigan, I need to see major improvement to believe it.

On the one hand, all the pieces are there for Penn State, with Drew Allar back at quarterback, Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen at running back and a defense led by Abdul Carter. On the other hand, they have to replace both coordinators, and again, they're Penn State. We need to see them win big games before we can believe in them.

Beyond that, I think you could argue that Penn State was the bigger loser in all of conference realignment. They went from a clear cut No. 3 in the Big Ten and closing the gap on Ohio State and Michigan, to now having to compete with the Buckeyes and Wolverines, as well as Oregon, Washington and even USC near the top of the standings.

The good news? The schedule won't be awful by Big Ten standards, as they will miss Oregon and Michigan, and get Ohio State and Washington at home next year.

15. LSU Tigers

On the one hand, you could argue that no one has had a better last six weeks than Brian Kelly: Jayden Daniels took home the Heisman Trophy, all as the Tigers wrapped up another 10-win season. Kelly got the defensive coordinator of his choice snagging Blake Baker from Missouri, oh, and got a commitment from the No. 1 QB in the class of 2025 this week.

All in all, it was pretty good.

It also doesn't change the fact that this team is a total wild card coming into 2024.

On a positive note, Garrett Nussmeier is one of the few, established back-up QB's anywhere in America that feels like you can inherently trust. He could've started at a lot of places but decided to stick around, and will now take over, after tossing three touchdowns in the bowl game on January 1. He'll also play behind a veteran line, with a pair of third-year starters at tackle.

Still, the problems are plentiful too, starting with one of the worst defenses in major college football last year. Baker was brought in from Missouri to fix that, but it's got to be significantly better than a year ago. Oh, and while Nussmeier has plenty of experience in the program, he is losing superstars at the skill positions, with Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas going pro.

The good news: Like others, the schedule is pseudo-manageable (by SEC standards) with no Georgia or Texas, and Alabama and Ole Miss at home.

16. Oklahoma Sooners

It really shows you just how crazy the new SEC is going to be, that we've already written about six SEC teams (six!!!) and we're just now getting to Oklahoma.

To the credit of Brent Venables, the Sooners made a big jump this past season, going from 6-7 to 10-3, but will need to at least maintain that to be competitive in its new league. Jackson Arnold is now your permanent starter at QB, but more importantly, Venables needs this defense to keep improving. It went from 126th to 79th nationally, and will need to keep making strides to compete in its new league.

Unlike others on this list, the schedule is not favorable, with trips to LSU, Ole Miss and Missouri, a home visit from Alabama, and of course, a neutral site game against Texas in Dallas.

Welcome to the SEC, Sooner fans.

17. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Right behind the Sooners on our Too Early Top 25 is the school they left behind, Oklahoma State. A team that, maybe not ironically, could be better suited to make a playoff run than their rivals in Norman in Year 1.

The Cowboys basically bring back everyone off one of the most explosive offenses in the sport, with quarterback Alan Bowman being granted another year of eligibility and the nation's leading rusher Ollie Gordon, deciding to return for another season. Rashod Owens is also coming off a breakout performance in the Houston Bowl, with 10 catches for 184 yards receiving.

One place the Cowboys certainly need to get better: On defense, where they ranked 125th nationally this year.

That simply will not get it done.

18. Miami Hurricanes

Alright, I'll be blunt: I'm buying a little higher on Miami than most. Sure they don't have a QB. And sure, Mario Cristobal's late game decision-making is, as the kids say "sus" at times (that's short for "suspect," boomer!), but the talent is there for another jump.

The bottom line is, I kind of like this team at every position but quarterback. The o-line greatly improved from last season and could be this team's strength heading into 2024, with top running backs Henry Parrish and Mark Fletcher Jr. both returning. Leading receiver Xavier Restrepo is back too, as are several key pieces on defense. The Hurricanes also just closed an elite 2024 recruiting class, by flipping two five-star defensive linemen late in the process.

Again, quarterback is the big question mark here going forward, but Mario Cristobal is too good of a recruiter to not have something in the works.

If you read the tea leaves, Taulia Tagovailoa entering the portal feels significant.

19. USC Trojans

Another team that I'm buying low on right now is USC.

The bottom line is that Lincoln Riley didn't just forget how to coach overnight, and as Miller Moss showed with his six touchdown passes in the Holiday Bowl, Riley can turn just about any QB into a Heisman contender. Also, as talented as Caleb Williams was this season, can we all agree he tried to do a little too much, and at times hurt USC as much as he helped?! Not to mention that the defense should be improved this year under the new staff, because, how could it be worse?

Finally, you could also argue that the Big Ten schedule makers did USC some favors, as they won't play Oregon or Ohio State next year, arguably the two best teams in the league.

I'm not saying this team turns into a title contender overnight (or anywhere close), but they should be better than many expect.

20. Tennessee Volunteers

What is that I quietly hear in the distance? Oh, it's the Nico Iamaleava hype train coming down the tracks, and it ain't slowing down baby!!!!

That's right, Nico might be singlehanded proof that there's no such thing as a "meaningless bowl game" - as his four total touchdown performance against an elite Iowa defense has Vols fans fired up.

Add in the return of star receiver Bru McCoy and an improved defense this year, and the Vols could be one of the big surprises of the SEC.

21. Florida State Seminoles

Know how I said earlier that no one has had a better last month than Brian Kelly and LSU? It goes without saying that no one has had a worse month than Mike Norvell, who got left out of the four-team playoff, saw a couple of his top recruits flip on Signing Day, and umm... well, we all saw the Orange Bowl.

And it's hard not to look at that team and think that Florida State's best window, at least for right now, has closed. The amount of talent leaving the program is insane, ranging from likely first rounders Keon Coleman (wide receiver) and Jared Verse (defensive line) to stalwart quarterback Jordan Travis.

While there is still talent coming in, I'm just not sure that I trust transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to keep them atop the ACC standings. Especially with a challenging schedule that includes Clemson at home, and Notre Dame and Miami on the road. Heck, even a game against Norvell's former school at Memphis won't be easy.

22. Iowa Hawkeyes

Ok, make fun of me if you must, but Iowa probably belong somewhere on this list.

This team is coming off a 10-win season, always plays elite defense and the good news is, the offense can't get worse. Literally, it cannot.

Oh, and by new Big Ten standards, the schedule actually isn't bad, as the Hawkeyes avoid Michigan, Penn State, Oregon and USC next season.

Is this a 12-team playoff contender? Probably not. Will they win probably 9-10 games that are totally forgettable for everyone but Iowa fans?!

Yeah, probably.

23. Texas A&M Aggies

Yes, you're reading correctly: For the 2,187th year in a row, I am higher on the Texas A&M Aggies than the consensus.

Yes, I'll probably be wrong. Yes, you'll make fun of me for it. But here me out.

One, this team did win seven games this season (which in and of itself puts you on the fringes of the Top 25) and did it without starting quarterback Conor Weigman for most of the year. As we learned later on, starting Max Johnson over either Jaylen Henderson or Marcel Reed (both of whom played big snaps late) was the wrong decision, which could've led to another win or two (yeah, I'm looking at the Ole Miss game).

This team also returns literal, five-star talent all over the defense and skill positions, and Mike Elko has killed the portal in the last week to add depth (no, literally, the portal had to check itself into the hospital for tests, Elko hit it so hard).

Add in a schedule that somehow doesn't include Alabama or Georgia (wasn't sure that was possible) with Texas at home, and this team could surprise.

24. Boise State Broncos

Remember, there will five automatic bids next year, meaning one Group of Five champion is getting in. And I present you the Boise State Broncos.

Boise State returns 18 starters off this year's Mountain West champion, and won four straight before falling in their bowl game to UCLA.

The key: How does former five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson (who committed this weekend) gel onto this veteran roster.

25. Kansas Jayhawks

Let's give some love to the Kansas Jayhawks, who return one of the nation's best running backs in Devin Neal (1,200 yards rushing) and will get a healthy Jalon Daniels back at quarterback (the fact that KU won nine games with largely a back-up this season is kind of a testament to how good of a coach Lane Leipold is).

It's also worth noting: If Kansas could win nine games in a league with Texas and Oklahoma (the latter of which they beat this season), it's interesting to wonder what they can do without them?

Just missed: Memphis, Kansas State, Colorado,


bottom of page