Photo courtesy of UCLA athletics
1990 was the last time the college football world saw a team unranked in the preseason go on to win the national championship. That team was Georgia Tech.
Thirty-plus years is a long time. With the AFCA Coaches Poll released on Monday, we look at the three unranked teams with best chance to make a College Football Playoff run.
Some ingredients to make this list include talent and an easy path — just as Georgia Tech had during its national championship run in 1990.
UCLA might be excited to enter the Big Ten in the near future, but there is still a lot to conquer in the Pac-12. The Pac-12 could be considered the weakest Power 5 conference, providing an easier path to the College Football Playoff.
Entering 2022, the only teams ranked from the conference are Utah, Oregon and USC. UCLA will play all three of those teams in the regular season, but will host two of them. Let’s also remember that USC and Oregon both have new head coaches.
This will be Chip Kelly’s fifth season building this program, and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson returns for his senior season. UCLA make major strides during an 8-4 campaign in 2021.
This season has the chance to be the Bruins’ best since they won the Pac-10 in 1998. The pass defense was the weakest link for UCLA last season. If that improves, look out for UCLA.
Non-conference schedule: Bowling Green, Alabama State, and South Alabama
Let’s get this out of the way: Boise State stands a great chance to finish the regular season at 12-0. A Group of 5 team doesn’t need an easy non-conference schedule, and Boise State’s isn’t very tough.
Cincinnati breaking the glass ceiling and reaching the College Football Playoff may have helped future Group of 5 teams, but the Bearcats did beat a very good Notre Dame in South Bend last season. Boise State likely does not have anyone of that caliber on its 2022 schedule.
Hank Bachmeier is entering his senior season at quarterback, and has essentially been the signal caller since day one. One thing to love about Boise State is its defense. The Broncos typically keep teams out of the end zone.
Although it finished just 7-5 last season, let’s not forget that Boise State took eventual Fiesta Bowl champion Oklahoma State to the wire in 2021. Entering 2022, Boise State is as slept on as it has been in a long time. Look for the Broncos to be a major player in the Mountain West and perhaps beyond.
Non-conference schedule: Oregon State, Tennessee-Martin, UTEP, and BYU
Florida State has not had a winning season since 2017. Most in Tallahassee would be happy to just make a bowl game this season.
Yet, the talent is there to make a run, and like UCLA, the Seminoles play in one of the weakest Power 5 conferences. Head coach Mike Norvell has done a great job of flipping their roster, dropping dead weight and finding talented replacements.
Quarterback Jordan Travis is a freakish athlete. If he can stay healthy, Travis has a chance to have an amazing year. This is a real long shot, but there is talent there, and the path isn’t too daunting.
FSU’s two SEC opponents and rival Miami all have new coaches. The biggest challenge will be Clemson. Although the Tigers failed to win the ACC for the first time since 2014 last season, they’re still the kings of the conference. FSU will get that game at home.
Non-conference schedule: Duquesne, LSU, Louisiana, and Florida