In his more than two years at East Lansing, Mel Tucker has significantly raised expectations for Michigan State’s football program. The Spartans were perhaps college football’s biggest upset in 2021, winning 11-2 and winning the Chick-fil-A-Peach bowl.
Now, about two months before the start of the 2022 season, preseason magazines are starting to publish their preseason top 25 rankings for this fall.
One of those magazines is Lindy Sports, which revealed its top 25 preseason earlier this week.
Compared to many of the previous season’s top 25 rankings, Lindy Sports has dampened expectations for the Spartans as Michigan State finishes at No. 20 on the magazine’s list.
For context, the Spartans were ranked No. 9 in ESPN’s “Way-Too-Early” Top 25 released in May, and Michigan State was ranked No. 13 in both Sporting News’ and 247Sports’ Top 25 rankings classified according to the season. Additionally, MSU ranks #16 in ESPN’s Football Power Index rankings for 2022.
Given that Michigan State is listed by several other sources, it’s a surprise to see the Spartans ranked 20th in Lindy Sports’ preseason rankings. However, MSU needs to replace Kenneth Walker III in the backfield and has questions along the offensive line and in defensive secondary.
Throw in a 2022 schedule that looks tougher than Michigan State had a year ago, and it certainly can’t be ruled out that the Spartans will take a step back next season.
That being said, I’ve found a few other instances where I disagreed with Lindy’s placement of certain programs.
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Most irritating was Oklahoma at No. 10, considering head coach Lincoln Riley left for USC this offseason, taking precious freshman quarterback Caleb Williams with him.
The Sooners also lost their other starting QB, Spencer Rattler, to South Carolina. Throw in the fact that Oklahoma hired a head coach for the first time in Brent Venables — who I like, but with freshmen, you never know — and a 10th-place preseason seems awfully high.
Another standout ranking was #14 Miami. Well, you can chalk me up as a supporter of Mario Cristobal – I think he will bring the Hurricanes back to a place of national importance in the near future. But calling Miami the preseason top 15 seems a bit hasty.
Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke could have a terrific season for the Hurricanes, but they have a lot of questions to answer on the defensive side of the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Canes ended the season ranked in the top 15, but starting them that high seems like a recipe for disappointment.
Finally, this came as no shock, but I have a hard time believing that Clemson is the country’s No. 4 team going into the 2022 campaign. The Tigers made a significant step backwards in 2021 from a national title contender to a team that failed to win the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time in six years.
Yes, Clemson has still won 10 games in 2021, and the fact that it was a disappointment speaks to where the expectations are for this program. But I have a feeling the Tigers’ days of battling for national championships may be over. Head coach Dabo Swinney has seen significant departures from his coaching staff for the first time in his tenure at Clemson, and the head coach’s decision to hire a coach who had disappointed last year was uninspiring. I think the Tigers will be a good to very good team in 2022 but not a top five team.
On minor disagreements, I felt that Lindy Sports’ rank of Ole Miss at No. 17 was a little low for the Rebels, while the magazine, which ranks Michigan at No. 6 and Oregon at No. 11, seems a bit high.
Other Big Ten teams Lindy Sports included in its rankings were Ohio State at No. 2 and Wisconsin at No. 16 — no complaints with either ranking.
While it’s fun to look at preseason’s top 25 rankings and look forward to the season ahead, I’m excited to see these teams actually get on the field and start playing games.