They are still sweeping up the confetti from Alabama’s win in the national title game, but the odds to win the 2022 CFP Championship are already on the board.
There are no surprises among the favorites with Bama (+300), Clemson (+350), Ohio State (+400) and Oklahoma (+800) leading the way. And why wouldn’t they? Those four schools have taken up 20 of the 28 College Football Playoff spots since the format was introduced.
But if you think 2021-22 is the year we finally get some new blood in the CFP we have the breakdown for you, as we dive into our value underdogs and sleeper picks to win the 2022 CFP Championship:
Iowa State Cyclones +3,300
The job Matt Campbell has done at Iowa State has not gone overlooked, to the point where the Cyclones head coach has reportedly received some interviews for gigs in the NFL. But it's sounding like Campbell will be returning to Ames next season. And why wouldn’t he? The Cyclones are going to be stacked.
Campbell is getting back 18 of 22 starters, including offensive cornerstones in quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall. Purdy threw for 2,750 yards with 19 touchdowns and added another 382 yards and five scores on the ground, while Hall was the unanimous Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year after accumulating 1,752 total yards and 23 total touchdowns. That gives Iowa State two legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates, and throw in star linebacker Mike Rose and the Cyclones will be tough to stop.
The one thing standing in their way: Oklahoma. The Sooners topped the Cyclones 27-21 in the Big 12 Championship and are also returning a lot of talent. But if Iowa State can exact some revenge and end Oklahoma’s run of six consecutive Big 12 titles, then you have to think the Cyclones will have done enough to impress the College Football Playoff committee. It’s a Big 12 Championship or bust season for Iowa State.
North Carolina Tar Heels +4,000
North Carolina may have lost the Orange Bowl to Texas A&M, but you can still call Mack Brown’s second year at Chapel Hill a success, and the best may be yet to come as Brown’s squad is primed for a breakout in Year 3.
Quarterback Sam Howell returns and will be a betting favorite for the Heisman Trophy, coming off a season in which he threw for 3,586 yards with 30 touchdowns. While the Tar Heels will have to replace one of the top running back duos in the country with Michael Carter and Javonte Williams moving on, Howell, and whoever is running the ball, will be behind an offensive line that will return all five starters.
And while the Tar Heels lost the Orange Bowl, they led the game in the fourth quarter without their top running back and wide receiver—it was good to see the likes of Josh Downs and Khafre Brown step up. On top of that, 10 starters on defense are expected to be back.
Additionally, with Notre Dame likely returning to the world of college football independents, North Carolina is probably the biggest challenge to Clemson’s ACC throne. Oh, and the cherry on top? The Tar Heels will have a chance for a signature win right off the bat, as they are scheduled to open the season with a matchup against the Irish.
Cincinnati Bearcats +5,000
For those college football fans dying to see a Group of Five team break through and be the first team outside the Power Five to qualify for the College Football Playoff, then Cincinnati is probably your best bet.
The Bearcats were a last-second 53-yard field goal away from upsetting Georgia in the Peach Bowl and going undefeated, but that doesn’t take away from what was a special season in Cincinnati. And the excitement should carry over as head coach Luke Fickell gets the bulk of his starters back to make another strong run next season—none more important than quarterback Desmond Ridder.
Ridder is a true dual-threat quarterback, throwing for 2,296 yards with a 66.2 completion percentage and 19 touchdowns while adding another 592 yards and 12 scores on the ground. He’ll be playing behind three returning offensive lineman, has all of his top pass catchers returning, and Alabama transfer Jerome Ford is set to take over for Gerrid Doaks as the top back.
The biggest change for Cincinnati will be on defense. Coordinator Marcus Freeman is taking his trade to Notre Dame to call the defense for the Irish. Although Freeman and some key pieces are moving on, this defense shouldn’t take a big step back. Mix in a non-conference schedule that includes Notre Dame and Indiana and the Bearcats will get a chance to prove they are for real next season.
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