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Which College Football Squads Will Evolve In 2023?

2022 brought plenty of chaos into the college football world, and 2023 won't be any different. In the age of conference realignment and a hyperactive transfer portal, teams are able to flip their fortunes at the drop of a hat. Here are the teams in each Power Five (a moniker that may be on its way out) conference that appear poised to do just that.


ACC - Georgia Tech

It was obvious that Geoff Collins just wasn't working in Atlanta. After Paul Johnson, not only was it a big change really quickly, but more importantly, Collins didn't show any signs of being able to adapt. Brent Key changed that in a hurry. After three seasons in a row of exactly three wins, GT was able to overcome a disastrous 1-3 start, during with they looked completely out of sorts, to finish with a respectable 5-7 record.


More than just the record was the fashion in which they did it. They played with more heart - following multiple games under Collins that looked over before they started - and had multiple ranked wins, going as far as even staying with Georgia for the better part of three quarters. They looked disciplined on defense, both in the front seven and secondary, and on offense, they showed a balanced attack, and Jeff Sims was in the best form of his career.


Haynes King may be inexperienced, but he showed positive flashes against stiff competition at TAMU. He's got a shot to really evolve this year. The Jackets lost a fair bit of talent in the transfer portal, but also gained depth at a number of positions, and should avoid a significant roster drop-off.


With a full offseason under Key, Tech should be able to capitalize on the way they finished 2022 and springboard into 2023. This will of course be amplified in later years, when Key has the chance to recruit to his system, but the Yellow Jackets already have the players they need to make things interesting in the ACC Coastal, should Key continue to excel as a coach.


Honorable Mention: Miami, whose recruiting success should start paying dividends soon




Big 12 - Oklahoma

By Sooner standards, last year was, simply put, unacceptable. A 6-7 record while losing 7 of their last 10 games bucks the trend of anything OU has done in years past. With a new coach and new contenders, having to deal with the ramifications of not just Lincoln Riley's departure, but also the questionable methods and timing of his departure, which left the Sooners scrambling before their season was even over.


Despite a slight rally in the transfer portal and being able to find their future coach in Venables, OU couldn't find consistency. On offense, there were bursts of explosiveness, but there wasn't cohesion in the strategy, and the line's pass protection was not up to their usual standard. Defensively, they tackled poorly and couldn't get stops when they really needed them.


Yet, they weren't as far off as they appeared. 5 of their 7 losses were within just a score, and the exceptions - vs Texas without Dillon Gabriel, at (national finalist) TCU with Gabriel out for most of the game - were accounted for. They've had a ferocious recruiting push, getting a number of prominent defensive players in the portal, as well as landing their QB of the future in Jackson Arnold, along with 5-star safety Peyton Bowen, among other promising recruits, while managing to keep the promising Gabriel around.


Venables and his coordinating team of Ted Roof and Jeff Lebby will now be able to run their systems with a normal offseason, with their own recruits. Expect Oklahoma to reap the benefits of that in their last Big 12 season.

Honorable Mention - Kansas, who has a lot of momentum to build on from 2022, and with Leipold leading the ranks and Jalon Daniels coming back, they should be able to do that


SEC - Kentucky

Despite having star QB Will Levis, 2022's Kentucky limped to a disappointing 7-6 record despite being labeled as dark horses within the SEC East. Other than their bowl game (without Levis), they only lost once by Bdouble digits all season, and while showing flashes of talent. The key issue was on the offensive side - Kentucky had a whopping seven games held to 21 points or fewer.


They've helped address this issue by getting rid of a major source of the issue, OC Rich Scangarello, and instead brought back the talented Liam Coen for 2023. Mark Stoops has instilled consistency and excellence into the Kentucky football program, and with Coen guiding the offense, should be able to get back to those ways in 2023.


Levis gets replaced by star transfer Devin Leary from NCST, someone who may actually out-do Levis in terms of consistency at the college level and system fit. The Wildcats had a top-15 transfer class. With their offensive improvements paired with last year's excellent defensive performance, Kentucky enters 2023 right back in the mix of the SEC East.


Honorable mention: Arkansas - KJ Jefferson is back, and Arkansas will likely be in fringe SEC West contention


Pac-12 - Colorado

Whether Deion Sanders will be able to carry his success as a coach at Jackson State to the FBS and Power 5 level remains to be seen. However, the effects of his past success and the weight of his name are significantly less uncertain and will positively impact the Buffaloes from the get-go.


Colorado had a whopping 51 transfer commits over this offseason, including a five-star and 5 four-star players. Sanders will get to work with a number of his former stars and staffers from Jackson State, including QB Shedeur Sanders, who immediately becomes a dark horse as one of the better QBs in the country, coming off a season where he had a whopping statline of 40 TDs to just 6 interceptions.


The increase in talent, combined with the retention of some familiarity, will help Deion's adjustment to this endeavor. Last year's Colorado team left a gulf of room for improvement, as, other than their lone win in OT over California, Colorado was only able to stay within single digits once in a poor 1-11 campaign in which they couldn't get going on either side of the ball.


In this age of college football, teams can flip their fortunes entirely in a season - USC last year was evidence of that. Colorado may have too much to adjust to to replicate that fate, but they should show significant improvement. I'm predicting a 6-7 season for the Buffaloes.


Honorable Mention: Stanford - Troy Taylor turned around Sacramento State, he could very well bring Stanford closer to their glory days


Big 10 - Wisconsin

Wisconsin being on the fringe of bowl contention and out of serious Big 10 West contention with plenty of time to spare isn't a familiar position for the Badgers. However, three single-digit losses and a lack of consistency on both sides of the ball, especially on offense, will get you there.


Taking over at Wisconsin is a guy who knows a thing or two about consistency. After a rocky first year at Cincinnati, Luke Fickell led the Bearcats to four straight nine-win seasons, two of which involved 11 wins, and one of which was a covid-shortened 9-1 season. He had Cincinnati playing cohesive ball on both sides and was able to develop a number of very talented players.


Arguably, Wisconsin's best performance of the 2022 season was theirs against Oklahoma State in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, which was Fickell's debut. In a productive all-around transfer portal for the Badgers, Wisconsin got one of the country's best and most slept-on quarterbacks in SMU's (formerly Oklahoma, too) Tanner Mordecai. I expect Wisconsin to seriously contend for the Big 10 west, and have them as my favorites within the division.


Honorable Mention: Indiana - If the Hoosiers can figure out their quarterback situation, they should be able to build on a solid offseason and save Tom Allen's job.



 

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