Georgia trounced TCU on Monday night to claim its second consecutive national championship.
With the Bulldogs jumping on the Horned Frogs early and never letting up, the minds of many started to wander toward next season long before the 65-7 beatdown was complete.
With the caveat that a lot can (and will) change between now and the end of August, here are seven questions for 2023:
1. Can Georgia three-peat?
Yes. The Bulldogs lose a lot, including quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, but head coach Kirby Smart appears to have built the preeminent program of the period so they will firmly be in the race to return to the College Football Playoff. (A weak schedule won’t hurt.)
2. What’s going to happen with Michigan?
Star running back Blake Corum’s surprise announcement he’ll be back next season bolsters an already strong preseason CFP resume in Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines will also have quarterback J.J. McCarthy, big-play running back Donovan Edwards and an offensive line fortified by the transfer portal. There will be questions about the defense after its struggles against TCU and lack of challenges in the Big Ten, but someone is going to have to take the Big Ten trophy back from Jim Harbaugh (unless he’s coaching in the NFL….).
3. How is Ohio State at quarterback and on defense?
Assuming C.J. Stroud enters the NFL Draft, head coach Ryan Day will have a new quarterback next fall, likely Kyle McCord or Devin Brown.
With perhaps the best set of skill players in the country, neither has to be great for the offense to excel… as long as Justin Frye can put together a solid offensive line without standout tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones.
Expectations will be much higher for Jim Knowles’ defense in year two, as will the need for the unit to become more like a strength than a weakness.
4. Will Alabama be back?
The Crimson Tide’s only presence in the College Football Playoff this year was from its fans falsely claiming they had some argument to be there instead of TCU and Nick Saban offering analysis on set at ESPN. Don’t look for Saban to let that happen again even though he has to replace quarterback Bryce Young. Alabama still recruits better than almost anyone and has been adept at pulling stars out of the transfer portal, but the lack of development at some key positions lately is worth noting.
5. Could Clemson return to the top four?
The Tigers rebounded from a way down 2021 to post an only somewhat down (for Clemson) 2022. The 2022 ACC champions could get a boost with quarterback Cade Klubnik in place as the starter from Day One this season, but it is also fair to wonder if coach Dabo Swinney’s program is still the same after suffering severe assistant coach attrition over the past few seasons.
6. Can another blue blood break through?
USC, Florida State, Penn State, LSU, Tennessee and Washington all look to be on the upswing entering 2023 after exceeding expectations last season. Now comes the hard part: Taking the next step (ask Georgia), but it should be easier when a program has the pedigree those do.
7. What about Notre Dame?
Marcus Freeman’s first season as head coach started off poorly, but the Fighting Irish rallied to win nine of their last 11 and added Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman at quarterback. The Fighting Irish have to play Ohio State, USC and Clemson along with three more ACC teams who received votes in the final AP Top 25 for 2022, so they won’t be able to fake it into the final four.