The “real” college football pre-season top 25 rankings are here for 2023.  Most of you know by now that I will be posting on this subject every Monday beginning after week 1 of the college football season.

The first “Coaches Poll” came out on Monday.  Mine is slightly different as you might expect.  The AP pre-season ranking will come on out Monday, August 14th at noon.

I don’t trust AP voters and certainly not Coaches Poll voters.  The people voting in both of those polls either don’t watch enough college football, vote against other teams on purpose due to regionalisms or simply have their respective sports information directors or other minions vote for them.

My rankings are not necessarily based on style points.  I take into consideration previous rankings, strength of opponent, home, away or neutral site victories and heart.

You may not always agree with my rankings, certainly they won’t be absurd like Craig’s NFL pre-season rankings where he has the Patriots ranked #27.  No.  I will be as fair and impartial as possible while basing all my rankings on the previous criteria.

This poll is for you, the tremendous fans of the Shemon and Sheppard Show.  I hope you enjoy it.



  • #25 South Carolina

    It’s year 3 of the Shane Beamer Era in Columbia and the first two went well. Beamer joined “The Head Ball Coach” Steve Spurrier (2005-06) as the only head coaches in program history to win at least seven games in each of their first two seasons. After inheriting a team that went 2-8 in 2020, Beamer won seven games in 2021 and eight games in 2022.

    South Carolina finished the season on a three-game winning streak where it averaged 44 points and 458 yards per game. In their first 10 games the Gamecocks averaged 29 points and 355 yards.

    The key to the turnaround was former four-star recruit Spencer Rattler, who transferred to South Carolina from Oklahoma looking for a new start. It was a tough transition for Rattler until his breakout game against No. 5 Tennessee late in November in which he threw for 438 yards and a school-record 6 TD passes. Rattler’s final 3 games of last season were vastly better than his start in Columbia.

  • #24 Texas A/M

    Guaranteeing a lucrative, long-term contract to an offensive-minded head coach does not guarantee a prolific offense. Things did not go as planned for Jimbo Fisher’s attack last season.

    Texas A&M scored a TD on just 20% of its offensive drives, the worst rate in the SEC.

    Enter new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, the former Louisville and Arkansas head coach who comes to College Station after leading FCS Missouri State over the previous 3 seasons.

    Fisher and the Aggies hope Petrino can replicate the kind of success from many of his Louisville teams over the last decade. With Lamar Jackson doing much of the damage for the Cardinals, Louisville averaged 6.9 yards per play from the 2015-17 seasons; only Oklahoma (7.5) was better over that span.

    Is Conner Weigman the long-term answer at QB?

    Conner Weigman

    Conner Weigman #15 of the Texas A&M Aggies looks to pass ahead of Micah Baskerville #23 of the LSU Tigers during the second half at Kyle Field on November 26, 2022 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

    For his part, the sophomore had 8 Pass TD to 0 Int in his 4 games last season (2-2 as a starter). Weigman struggled mightily in a 13-10 loss at Auburn, completing just 14-of-36 passes for 121 yards, but he went on to toss a pair of TD in a 38-23 win over 5th-ranked LSU to close out the season.

  • #23 Oklahoma


    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 11th
    2022 POSTSEASON: Lost to Florida State in Cheez-It Bowl, 35-32
    2022 FINAL AP RANK: NR

    Oklahoma enters its last season in the Big 12, a conference it has dominated. The Sooners have won 14 Big 12 titles, just one fewer than the combined total of all other Big 12 schools – old and new (including years the title was split). No other team has won more than three Big 12 titles in the conference’s history.

    In Brent Venables’ first season, Oklahoma finished with its first losing season since 1998, the year before Bob Stoops (HC) and Venables (DC) arrived in Norman. That snapped the Sooners’ streak of 23 straight seasons without a losing record, which was the 2nd-longest active streak in the FBS (Boise State, 25).

  • #22 Tulane

    This is the lone non Power-5 school in my top 25.  The Green Wave out of the AAC have an outstanding quarterback in Michael Pratt.  He took off more effectively with 478 rushing yards and ten scores to go along with a 3,000-yard passing season with 27 touchdowns and just five picks.

    Tulane also has 4 starters returning on their offensive line and a pretty good defense.

    Michael Pratt

    Michael Pratt #7 of the Tulane Green Wave carries the ball against Nick Figueroa #99 of the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on January 02, 2023 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)


  • #21 Ole Miss

    The Rebels won their first seven games last season and seemed to be well on their way to posting back-to-back 10- win seasons for the second time in program history (1959-60). Then their luck turned and they lost five of their last six games to finish outside the final AP Top 25 with an 8-5 record.

    In his first season in Oxford, Southern California transfer Jaxson Dart finished with the sixth-highest Total QBR in the SEC (74.3) and his 21 touchdowns responsible for were tied for 8th-most in the conference.

    Ole Miss began last season by winning its first seven games. However, the Rebels lost five of their last six. Over that stretch, they allowed over 35 points per game after giving up just over 17 per game in their first seven games.

    In an effort solve the defensive woes, head coach Lane Kiffin turned to former Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding to run the Rebels’ unit.

  • #20 Wisconsin

    2022 POSTSEASON: Won vs Oklahoma State, 24-17, in Guaranteed Rate Bowl
    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 20th

    Finished 7-6 & 4-5 in Big Ten play; both worst in a season since 2008
    Fired Head Coach Paul Chryst mid-season; first time in program history firing a head coach midseason. Chryst who won 72% of his games at Wisconsin from 2015-22
    Went 4-3 under interim HC Jim Leonhard to make 21st-consecutive Bowl Game appearance

    But the craziness crescendoed the day after Wisconsin’s final regular season game when they stunned the College Football world by announcing they were not naming interim Jim Leonhard the full-time coach and instead going to give the roll to Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell.

  • #19 Oregon State

    DJ Uiagalelei

    Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei #5 of the Oregon State Beavers warms up before the Oregon State Spring Football Game at Reser Stadium on April 22, 2023 in Corvallis, Oregon. (Photo by Ali Gradischer/Getty Images)

    DJ Uiagalelei–Clemson To Oregon State

    22-6 as a starter in his career.

    Thrown 17 interceptions in the last two seasons and posted a 54 Total QBR – ranking 14th in the ACC in that span among qualified QBs

  • #18 Kansas State


    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 27th

    2022 POSTSEASON: Lost in Sugar Bowl vs Alabama, 45-20
    FINAL 2022 AP RANK: 14th

    K-State was the only school to knock off TCU prior to the College Football Playoff last season when it edged the Horned Frogs in the Big 12 title game. Winning is nothing new to the Wildcats under Klieman, though. Kansas State’s 30 wins under the former North Dakota State coach are the 4th-most in the Big 12 over that span (Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 35, Baylor 31).

    Kansas State has been steady under 5th-year coach Chris Klieman, whom the school has signed through the 2030 season at an average annual salary well north of $5 million.

    Job 1 for Klieman – replace the production of RB Deuce Vaughn and QB Adrian Martinez. Vaughn was responsible for 33% of the Wildcats’ scrimmage yards a year ago, the 9th-highest rate by any FBS player last season.

  • #17 North Carolina

    2022 POSTSEASON: Lost to Oregon in SDCCU Holiday Bowl, 28-27
    2022 FINAL AP RANK: NR
    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 25th

    The story of North Carolina in 2023 orbits around Drake Maye. The Heisman candidate for this upcoming season ranked highly in many categories among FBS quarterbacks in 2022.

    Drake Maye

    Drake Maye #10 of the North Carolina Tar Heels gets called for a facemask penalty against Trenton Simpson #22 of the Clemson Tigers in the second quarter during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 03, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

  • #16 Utah

    The Utes will be looking for their 3rd straight and final Pac-12 title.  In case you haven’t heard, they are defecting over to the Big-12 next season along with Arizona and Arizona State.

    Quarterback Cameron Rising returns to full strength from an ACL tear suffered in the Rose Bowl. Running back Ja’Quinden Jackson is a rising star, and the defense should be among the best in the conference with seven returning starters.

    Cameron Rising

    Cameron Rising #7 of the Utah Utes is assisted off the field after being injured in a play against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the third quarter in the 2023 Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 02, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • #15 TCU

    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 17th
    2022 POSTSEASON: Won Fiesta Bowl vs Michigan, 51-45 : Lost in National Championship vs Georgia, 65-7

    2022 FINAL AP RANK: 2nd

    Sonny Dykes enters his second year at TCU after becoming the first Big 12 coach to start the year 12-0 in his first season at a program. That start culminated into a run to the national title game for TCU, becoming the first Big 12 school to win a College Football Playoff game. Repeating that magical run will be a challenge though since only 10starters return from that team.

    The Horned Frog offense took the biggest hit, losing 8 starters along with other key contributors. They return just 18% of their total offensive yards gained in 2022. They also had to replace offensive coordinator Garrett Riley (2022 Broyles Award winner) after he left for Clemson, hiring Kendall Briles from Arkansas to fill the vacancy.

  • #14 Texas

    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 5th
    2022 POSTSEASON: Lost to Washington in Alamo Bowl, 27-20
    2022 FINAL AP RANK: 25th

    Steve Sarkisian enters his third season on the Forty Acres with a 13-12 record. Of the Longhorns’ 12 losses, 10 have been by one possession, including all 5 of last season’s losses (T-most in a single season for Texas in the AP Poll era). The only FBS teams with more one-possession losses over the last two seasons are Nebraska (13) and Iowa State (11).

    Quinn Ewers was named the starting QB by Steve Sarkisian after spring practice, putting the Arch Manning questions to bed… for now. Ewers displayed flashes of stardom in his 10 starts last season, though the first four starts were a bit flashier than the final six.

  • #13 Oregon

    Second-year coach Dan Lanning and co-coordinators Chris Hampton and Tosh Lupoi aim to improve a defense that allowed 27.4 points a game in conference matchups last year.

    Bo Nix and a talented group of playmakers at running back and receiver is set to lead the way for Oregon once again this fall. The Ducks led the conference in Pac-12 only games by averaging 40.2 points a game last year.

    Bo Nix

    Quarterback Bo Nix #10 of the Oregon Ducks prepares to throw the ball during the first half of the Oregon Ducks Spring Football Game at Autzen Stadium on April 29, 2023 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Ali Gradischer/Getty Images)

  • #12 Washington

    Behind quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and a loaded receiving corps, Washington’s offense should have no trouble matching last year’s scoring average (39.7 points a game).

    After an 11-win debut for coach Kalen DeBoer, what can the Huskies do for an encore? How about Pac-12 title and in the mix for a CFB Playoff spot?

    Michael Penix Jr.

    Michael Penix Jr. #9 of the Washington Huskies walks off the field after defeating the Texas Longhorns during the Valero Alamo Bowl at Alamodome on December 29, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

  • #11 Tennessee

    Tennessee is coming off an 11-2 campaign, its best since 2001. The Vols have won 11 games in consecutive seasons just once in program history – 1997 and 1998 – culminating in a national title that 1998 season.

    Tennessee was carried by its offense in 2022, leading the FBS in yards per game and points per game all while going at the fastest pace in the nation, averaging 27.2 seconds in between snaps.

    Josh Heupel will look to continue his reputation as a coach with impressive offensive numbers. Since he became UCF’s head coach in 2018, he’s one of 4 FBS coaches to average at least 40 PPG and 500 YPG in that span (min. 20 games). The other 3 coaches have all made multiple CFP appearances.

  • #10 Notre Dame

    Sam Hartman’s was fantastic at Wake.  He had career 12,967 passing yards are the 2nd-most in ACC history, trailing only Philip Rivers’ 13,484 yards.

    His 110 pass TD are the most in ACC history.  Hartman has at least 1 Pass TD in 30 straight games, the longest active streak in FBS.

    Hartman’s 60 pass TD against the blitz are the most in the FBS since 2018 Notre Dame will host Wake Forest on Oct. 28.

    Hartman should be a major upgrade for Notre Dame. He had a better QBR, more Yards per attempt, and a better TD-Int ratio than ND starting QBs Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner last year.

  • #9 Clemson

    2022 POSTSEASON: Lost to Tennessee in Capital One Orange Bowl, 31-14
    2022 FINAL AP RANK: 13th
    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 8th

    Each of the last two seasons have included three Clemson losses, something that had not previously happened in consecutive years since 2010-11. Those six losses in total are nearly as many as the Tigers had in the previous six seasons.

    Clemson Dabo Sweeney

    Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers walks off the field after losing to the Tennessee Volunteers in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

  • #8 Penn State

    2022 POSTSEASON: Won vs Utah, 35-21, in Rose Bowl Game
    FINAL AP RANK: 7th
    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 10th

    Head coach James Franklin has had stability under center, going straight from Christian Hackenberg to 3 years of Trace McSorley into the 4 years of Clifford. So who’s up next for the Nittany Lions? True sophomore Drew Allar. According to ESPN, Allar was the No. 2 ranked pocket passer (No. 51 overall) in his 2022 class.

    The Nittany Lions have two dynamic backs returning, Nick Singleton ran for 1,061 yards last season (33rd in D-I, 3rd among freshmen); 1 of 3 freshmen to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. In comparison, Kaytron Allen ran for 867 yards, good for 9th best among freshmen last season.

  • #7 LSU

    Last year, Brian Kelly became the fourth head coach to lead a team to the SEC Championship Game in his first season at the school.

    This season, he will try to do something only one of those coaches on that list did, which was return to the championship game in his second season.

    There’s another coaching trend that is more favorable for Kelly and that’s seeking to become the fourth straight coach to lead LSU to a national championship.

    Only five coaches during the BCS/College Football Playoff era (since 1998) have won the national championship within their first two seasons at a school.

    The last to do it was Gene Chizik, who was in his second season at Auburn when he led his Tigers to the national title in 2010.

  • #6 Florida State

    2022 POSTSEASON: Defeated Oklahoma 35-32 in Cheez-It Bowl
    2022 FINAL AP RANK: 11th
    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 14th

    The Seminoles begin September in Orlando, Florida against the LSU Tigers (Sept. 3, 7:30 ET on ABC) and wrap up the month in Death Valley against the Clemson Tigers.

    Florida State

    A general view as fans storm the field after the Florida State Seminoles defeated the Florida Gators 45-38 in a game at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

  • #5 USC

    Coach Lincoln Riley doesn’t have too many concerns on an offense headlined by reigning Heisman winner and quarterback Caleb Williams, especially with a plethora of talented playmakers in place for ’23.

    The Trojans have to see major improvement on defense. Riley and coordinator Alex Grinch have upgraded the talent through the portal.

    Caleb Williams

    Quarterback Caleb Williams of the USC Trojans poses during a press conference after winning the 2022 Heisman Trophy at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel on December 10, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

  • #4 Michigan

    2022 POSTSEASON: Lost to TCU, 51-45, in Vrbo Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semifinal)
    FINAL AP RANK: 3rd
    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 6th

    The last two seasons have been back to the glory days for Big Blue, as they have in each season defeated the Buckeyes, won the Big Ten, and made the College Football Playoff.

    A big reason for Michigan’s success the past two season has been getting over the Ohio State hump. The winner of “The Game” has represented the Big Ten East in the Championship Game every year since 2017 and the past two seasons it was the Wolverines, defeating Ohio State to earn their way into Indianapolis. With a win this year, it would be their longest win streak against their down south rivals since 1995-97 (3).

  • #3 Ohio State

    2022 POSTSEASON: Lost to Georgia, 42-41, in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal)
    FINAL AP RANK: 4th
    2023 FPI PRESEASON RANK: 1st

    Ohio State has failed to reach the Big Ten title game in each of the last two seasons. The last time the Buckeyes went three consecutive seasons without winning/share the conference or play in the Big Ten Championship was a three-year stretch from 1999-2001.

    Ohio State

    The Ohio State Buckeyes take the field prior to a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images)

  • #2 Alabama

    Alabama fell short of the national championship game last season for just the third time since the Playoff was introduced nine seasons ago. The previous two times – after losing in the semifinal in 2014 and missing the Playoff in 2019 – the Crimson Tide bounced back to win the title.

    With Pete Golding and Bill O’Brien leaving for new opportunities, Nick Saban was once again tasked with replacing his coordinators this offseason.

    Leading the defense this year will be a familiar face in Kevin Steele, who returns to Tuscaloosa for his third stint on Nick Saban’s staff and his second as defensive coordinator.

    He also previously served as the defensive coordinator for a variety of major programs in Clemson, LSU, Auburn and most recently Miami.

  • #1 Georgia

    After winning its first national championship since 1980, Georgia fans didn’t have to wait another four decades to celebrate another title. The Bulldogs finished 15-0 in 2022, matching LSU in 2019 for the best record in SEC history.

    Georgia became the seventh school to win back-to-back outright national championships since the AP Poll debuted in 1936; no school has won three straight titles in that span.

    The Bulldogs’ 29 wins over the past two seasons are tied for the most in major college football history. Georgia capped the season with a 65-7 win over TCU in the national championship game, the largest win by a team in *any* bowl game in major college football history.

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