College News & Analysis

College Football Rankings 2023: Comparing the AP Top-25 to PFF’s rankings

2M61PGX Atlanta, Georgia, USA. 1st Jan, 2023. Georgia Bulldogs players hold up a newspaper after Winn the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia. (Credit Image: © Scott Stuart/ZUMA Press Wire)

• Georgia is first across the board: The reigning back-to-back national champs come in at No. 1 in PFF's ELO rankings, the AP top 25 poll and Max Chadwick's 2023 preseason college football rankings.

• Michigan places second: The Wolverines come in right behind the Bulldogs as the No. 2 team in the AP poll and Max Chadwick's ranking.

• Ohio State rounds out the top three: The Buckeyes come in third on the AP poll, Max Chadwick's ranking and PFF’s ELO rating heading into the 2023 season.

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

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One of the surest signs of college football‘s imminent return is when the Associated Press drops its preseason top-25 ranking. Here’s how my top-25 ranking and PFF’s ELO rating compare to the AP's with just under two weeks until the start of the 2023 college football season. 


1. Georgia Bulldogs

My ranking: 1st
PFF ELO rating: 1st

No surprise here. The back-to-back national champs are the favorites to three-peat in 2023, something that has been accomplished by only one other school (Minnesota, 1934-36).

The program has lost some key pieces, as 10 former Bulldogs were selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, tied for the most of any school. However, the team put up a perfect 15-0 record last season after having a record 15 players taken in the 2022 draft. Head coach Kirby Smart simply reloads, not rebuilds.

2. Michigan Wolverines

My ranking: 2nd
PFF ELO rating: 4th

Not only is Michigan coming off back-to-back Big Ten titles and College Football Playoff appearances, but it’s also returning most of its production from last year.

One of the most surprising returners was running back Blake Corum, who set the PFF record for the highest-graded season by a Power Five player in 2022 (96.2). This is the best chance Jim Harbaugh’s had to bring a national championship to Ann Arbor.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

My ranking: 3rd
PFF ELO rating: 3rd

Despite having to replace quarterback C.J. Stroud, Ohio State will continue to field one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka don't just form the best receiver duo in college football — they’re the two best receivers in college football. Period.

The Buckeyes also boast one of the best backfields in the country, with TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams and Dallan Hayden, and they also have a top-10 tight end in Cade Stover. And as for the most important position: Ohio State’s new quarterback will be either Kyle McCord or Devin Brown, five-star recruits in their respective classes.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

My ranking: 5th
PFF ELO rating: 2nd

Alabama is coming off a disappointing season for its standards, finishing 11-2 while missing the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide enter the 2023 campaign with two new coordinators and must replace three top-15 picks in the 2023 draft, including quarterback Bryce Young, the first overall selection.

Still, the last time head coach Nick Saban went consecutive years without making the College Football Playoff or BCS National Championship was in 2007-08, his first two years with the program. Doubt him at your own risk.

5. LSU Tigers

My ranking: 6th
PFF ELO rating: 8th

In his first year at the helm, head coach Brian Kelly turned an LSU team coming off its worst two-season stretch of the 21st century into one that played in the SEC championship game.

Jayden Daniels is back at quarterback for the Tigers after leading all FBS signal-callers in both rushing yards (1,079) and turnover-worthy play rate (0.6%). With Kelly and Daniels leading the program, alongside emerging superstars like linebacker Harold Perkins Jr., LSU should once again compete for an SEC title and potentially a playoff berth.


6. USC Trojans

My ranking: 7th
PFF ELO rating: 10th

Over the last six years, Lincoln Riley has coached three Heisman-winning quarterbacks. Two of them, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, were taken with the first overall pick in the subsequent drafts. The other, Caleb Williams, is back for his junior campaign and will have many NFL teams wondering if they should tank this season.

With Riley and Williams running the show, USC is the favorite to win the Pac-12 in its final season as a member of the conference.

7. Penn State Nittany Lions

My ranking: 9th
PFF ELO rating: 7th

Penn State exceeded expectations in 2022, finishing 11-2 with a Rose Bowl victory after starting the season as an unranked team.

The Nittany Lions return many key contributors from that team, including three of the top-20 players in college football in cornerback Kalen King,  offensive tackle Olu Fashanu and edge defender Chop Robinson.

Drew Allar is the new man under center for Penn State, but he should have some of the pressure relieved by a great ground game led by sophomores Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Michigan and Ohio State are still the cream of the crop in the Big Ten, but the Nittany Lions could close the gap this season.

8. Florida State Seminoles

My ranking: 4th
PFF ELO rating: 14th

Florida State is one of my picks to make the College Football Playoff this season and has one of the most stacked rosters in the country. I also believe Jordan Travis will win the Heisman Trophy — his 91.7 PFF grade ranked second among all Power Five quarterbacks last season.

Edge defender Jared Verse also returns, even though he could’ve been a top-20 pick in the 2023 draft. The Seminoles have a loaded offense in terms of skill position players, while the defense also has a few potential stars.

9. Clemson Tigers

My ranking: 8th
PFF ELO rating: 6th

The biggest story for the Tigers is how their offense will look with a new playcaller and new quarterback. Garrett Riley is Clemson’s new offensive coordinator after winning the Broyles Award at TCU last year as the best assistant coach in the country. Cade Klubnik is the new man under center and was the top quarterback recruit in the 2022 class.

On the other side of the ball, the Tigers lost some key players on the defensive line but still have the best linebacker unit in the country and one of the nation’s best secondaries.

10. Washington Huskies

My ranking: 12th
PFF ELO rating: 21st

Washington boasts one of college football's most prolific passing attacks and should produce fireworks in 2023. Michael Penix Jr. is a top-five quarterback, and his 4,641 passing yards led all Power Five signal-callers last year. His top two targets next season will be Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan, who trail only Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka as the best receiver duo in the country.

The Huskies also return edge defender Bralen Trice, who led the nation with 70 pressures last year. The Huskies have the firepower to win a Pac-12 championship and potentially crash the College Football Playoff.

11. Texas Longhorns

My ranking: 10th
PFF ELO rating: 5th

Outside of Ohio State, Texas has the best receiving corps in college football. Wide receiver Xavier Worthy and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders are both top-four players at their respective positions, and the Longhorns have excellent depth with Adonai Mitchell, Jordan Whittington and Isaiah Neyor there, too.

The question is, can Quinn Ewers deliver them the ball consistently? The former top quarterback recruit in the 2021 class was up and down in his first year as a starter, earning a 72.4 grade. Texas could make a serious run at the College Football Playoff if he lives up to the hype as a redshirt sophomore.

12. Tennessee Volunteers

My ranking: 11th
PFF ELO rating: 9th

Tennessee is coming off its best season in over two decades after going 11-2 and winning the Orange Bowl. While the Volunteers lose their leader in Hendon Hooker, Joe Milton III has the strongest arm in the country and could put up outstanding numbers in a Josh Heupel scheme that relies on vertical shots.

13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

My ranking: 13th
PFF ELO rating: 11th

The first year of the Marcus Freeman era got off to a rocky 0-2 start, but Notre Dame rebounded to end the season with a 9-4 record.

There’s reason for optimism in Year 2, especially with quarterback Sam Hartman transferring from Wake Forest. According to PFF’s wins above average metric, no player has been more valuable over the last two seasons. He’ll also have the nation’s best offensive lineman, Joe Alt, protecting his blindside.

14. Utah Utes

My ranking: 15th
PFF ELO rating: 15th

While third among Pac-12 teams in the AP poll, Utah is coming off its second straight conference title and was the sole reason USC missed the College Football Playoff last season.

The Utes bring back Cameron Rising at quarterback, although he did tear his ACL in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. Head coach Kyle Whittingham revealed to me that Rising is “50-50” to be ready for the Utes’ season-opener against Florida.

15. Oregon Ducks

My ranking: 14th
PFF ELO rating: 12th

Bo Nix is back for another year at Oregon and revived his career in Eugene this past season. The redshirt senior’s 82.3% adjusted completion rate was second in the country in 2022 after placing just 108th across his first three years at Auburn. He’s now one of my top-five quarterbacks in college football and is the No. 3 quarterback prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft, according to PFF’s lead draft analyst Trevor Sikkema.

He’ll have the pleasure of throwing to his adopted brother in Troy transfer Tez Johnson in addition to a potential first-rounder in Troy Franklin.

16. Kansas State Wildcats

My ranking: 18th
PFF ELO rating: 17th

The only two teams to beat TCU in 2022 were Georgia in the national championship and Kansas State in the Big 12 championship. It was the Wildcats’ first conference title in a decade. If they’re going to repeat, it’ll be because of QB Will Howard, whose 6.3% big-time throw rate was third among Big 12 quarterbacks in 2022.

17. TCU Horned Frogs

My ranking: 17th
PFF ELO rating: 16th

TCU had the ultimate Cinderella season in 2022. After going unranked in the preseason, the Horned Frogs went undefeated in the regular season and made it to the national championship game. Even more impressively, it was Sonny Dykes’ first season as head coach.

A fall back to Earth should be expected this year, especially after losing Max Duggan, Quentin Johnston and offensive coordinator Garrett Riley. However, Dykes should have this team very competitive once again.

18. Oregon State Beavers

My ranking: 19th
PFF ELO rating: 30th

Despite being left behind in the Pac-12’s mass exodus, Oregon State’s stock is rising on the field. The Beavers finished 2022 as the No. 14 team in the country, their first-ranked finish since 2000.

With one of the best offensive lines in the country and a rising star in running back Damien Martinez, Oregon State will play a smashmouth brand of football this season. They’ll still be able to air it out with Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei now at quarterback. The former five-star recruit posted a career-high 79.6 grade last year.

19. Wisconsin Badgers

My ranking: 21st
PFF ELO rating: 39th

Wisconsin made the hire of the offseason when it brought in Luke Fickell as its new head coach. Fickell went 57-18 across his six years at Cincinnati, and in 2021, his Bearcats became the first Group of Five school to make the College Football Playoff.

The Badgers offense will look very different than in the past — offensive coordinator Phil Longo comes from an Air-Raid background, and quarterback Tanner Mordecai offers exciting potential under center. However, they’ll still be able to rely on a dominant run game since Braelon Allen is back for his junior season and is a top-five running back in the country.

20. Oklahoma Sooners

My ranking: 16th
PFF ELO rating: 13th

Brent Venables’ first season as Oklahoma’s head coach couldn’t have gone much worse, as the Sooners endured their first losing season this century. Still, there’s reason for optimism in 2023.

Oklahoma went 0-5 in one-possession games last year, with four of them decided by a field goal. Expect this team to creep back to the good side of that variance in 2023.

Dillon Gabriel is back at quarterback and second among FBS signal-callers with a 1.1% turnover-worthy play rate in 2022.

21. North Carolina Tar Heels

My ranking: 25th
PFF ELO rating: 29th

Outside of Caleb Williams, there isn’t a better quarterback in college football than North Carolina’s Drake Maye. He was the most valuable player in the country last year, while his 45 big-time throws were 10 more than the next-closest FBS quarterback. He also tied for second in that same group with 56 combined rushing first downs/touchdowns.

He may have to rely on his legs even more in 2023, as the Tar Heels wide receiver room is looking thin. Their top two receivers last season, Josh Downs and Antoine Green, both moved on to the NFL.

Kent State transfer wide receiver Tez Walker, a PFF first-team preseason All-ACC selection, was recently ruled ineligible for 2023 by the NCAA. Maye does have a top-five tight end to throw to in Bryson Nesbit, but make no mistake, North Carolina will need him to carry the team on his shoulders.

22. Ole Miss Rebels

My ranking: 20th
PFF ELO rating: 34th

Ole Miss has one of the most intriguing quarterback battles in college football. Incumbent starter Jaxson Dart returns for his junior season and led all SEC quarterbacks in 2022 with a 6.4% big-time throw rate. Spencer Sanders transfers in after starting for Oklahoma State in each of the last four seasons. In 2021, Sanders' 84.5 grade ranked third among Big 12 signal-callers. Walker Howard comes in from LSU and was a top 50 recruit in the 2022 class.

No matter who’s under center for head coach Lane Kiffin, their job will often entail handing the ball to Quinshon Judkins. The sophomore is my No. 2 running back in the country and picked up 91 rushing first downs and touchdowns as a true freshman, the fourth-most in the FBS.

23. Texas A&M Aggies

My ranking: No rank
PFF ELO rating: 28th

It was an extremely disappointing season for Texas A&M last year. After starting the season sixth in the preseason AP poll, the Aggies finished the year 5-7, their worst record since 2008. A bounce back is expected for head coach Jimbo Fisher, who went a combined 34-14 in his four previous seasons at the helm.

Texas A&M has a young roster with a lot of potential. Former five-star recruit Conner Weigman enters his first year as the full-time starting quarterback after posting a 63.6 grade as a true freshman last season. He’ll have a top-10 receiving corps in the country to throw to, as well as a top-10 offensive line protecting him.

24. Tulane Green Wave

My ranking: 22nd
PFF ELO rating: 41st

Tulane had the greatest turnaround in college football history this past season. After going 2-10 in 2021, the Green Wave improved to 12-2 last year with a Cotton Bowl victory over USC.

Tulane returns Michael Pratt at quarterback, who produced the second-lowest turnover-worthy play rate among Group of Five signal-callers in 2022 (1.7%).

25. Iowa Hawkeyes

My ranking: No rank
PFF ELO rating: 27th

Iowa’s defense was the sole reason the Hawkeyes won eight games last season. Iowa led the Power Five in EPA allowed per play while placing dead last among that same group in EPA per play on offense. It got so bad that even one of its receivers, Arland Bruce IV, was betting the under on their own games.

Luckily for the Hawkeyes, the offense should improve in 2023. That’s because Cade McNamara is now the starting quarterback after transferring in from Michigan. He quarterbacked the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff in 2021 and earned a 77.4 grade that season. Iowa also has one of the best tight end duos in the country between Luke Lachey and Michigan transfer Erick All.

With the nation’s best defensive coordinator in Phil Parker and one of the best secondaries in the country, the Hawkeyes should continue to be elite on the defensive side, as well.

Best teams in my ranking that didn’t make the AP poll
  • Arkansas Razorbacks
  • Kentucky Wildcats
Best teams in PFF’S ELO RATING that didn’t make the AP poll
  • Arkansas Razorbacks
  • Kentucky Wildcats
  • Florida Gators
  • South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Mississippi State Bulldogs
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers
  • Pittsburgh Panthers
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