It's never too early to get a line on where things stand in the preseason college football rankings, especially as we stretch into the summer.
"It's always Alabama," they say, and they're usually right.
But last season proved you can get a first-time team in the playoff if you have enough talent, some well-timed momentum, and a good schedule.
Forget the AP Top 25, the Coaches Poll, or even the official College Football Playoff rankings. What are the real top 10 teams in the country right now?
College football power rankings for 2022 preseason
Editor's note: In theory, each team should beat the teams ranked below them on a neutral field, and lose to the teams ranked above them
Previous Top 25 ranking: No. 22
2021 record: 10-4
College Football HQ preview: The one thing we know about the Ducks is that they should play some pretty good defense. Dan Lanning coached Georgia's historically-dominant unit to a national title last season, and now he inherits the Oregon program after Mario Cristobal's departure for Miami.
Oregon brings back some impressive physicality in the back seven, especially with Noah Sewell, one of the best linebackers in the nation, coming back. Lanning also has solid depth to work with at safety and in the corners, while defensive line returns an aggressive edge rush, even with Kayvon Thibodeaux leaving for the NFL.
Bo Nix arrives as a quarterback transfer from Auburn with a mixed record of success, but is playing behind a very experienced offensive line and has a cadre of very promising receivers and backs — despite losing lead rusher Travis Dye to USC — to develop.
Previous Top 25 ranking: No. 3
2021 record: 12-2
College Football HQ preview: A year ago, Jim Harbaugh finally put all the pieces together, beating Ohio State and making the Wolverines' first ever playoff berth. Now, a lot of those pieces are gone: that ferocious edge rush, the one-two punch in the backfield, and the team's principle defensive back are all in the NFL.
But Michigan does return more than enough at the skill positions to make another run. Including both quarterbacks in presumed starter Cade McNamara and athletic backup J.J. McCarthy, who could take the job midway through the season if things don't start well.
Andrel Anthony returns at receiver after scoring three times off just 12 catches with a 20 ypc average, while Blake Corum (952 yards, 11 TD) and Donovan Edwards (5.0 ypc, 3 TDs) should feature in the backfield, among eight returning offensive starters.
Previous Top 25 ranking: No. 12
2021 record: 10-4
College Football HQ preview: Sure, a top 10 ranking may prove to be over-optimistic when fall comes, but what's the preseason for? Utah shocked the world last fall, smacking around Oregon twice, winning the Pac-12, and taking Ohio State to the wire in a thrilling Rose Bowl. No chance of Utah surprising anyone this season, as most analysts pick this team to make another run at the Pac-12 title.
Utah returns star back Tavion Thomas, a thousand-yard rusher who rumbled for 21 scores a year ago, and 5th-year quarterback Cameron Rising, who had 20 TDs and five picks last fall, in addition to five of the Utes' six top receivers from last fall.
But this team has to replace star linebackers Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell, though it brought on a pair of backers in Lander Barton and Florida transfer Mohamoud Diabate, but this secondary is wanting in depth and experience.
7. Notre Dame
Previous Top 25 ranking: No. 8
2021 record: 11-2
College Football HQ preview: Marcus Freeman steps in as coach in Year 1 after suddenly inheriting the job when Brian Kelly bolted for LSU. So far, the returns are pretty good as the Irish got a huge head start on the recruiting trail and boast what could be the best offensive line in college football this year.
That will certainly help as Notre Dame looks for new inputs at quarterback and running back after Jack Coan and Kyren Williams left to turn pro, and new defensive coordinator Al Golden needs to do some surgery on the defensive front unit and find another playmaker in the back seven after safety Kyle Hamilton departed. There are some tough games on this slate: at Ohio State, vs. BYU, vs. Clemson, and at USC.
Previous Top 25 ranking: No. 10
2021 record: 11-2
College Football HQ preview: OU's roster absorbed some very high-profile losses this offseason, including quarterback Caleb Williams and wideout Mario Williams, among others, not to mention head coach Lincoln Riley.
But the Sooners aren't exactly starting from scratch. New coach Brent Venables is arguably the best defensive mind in college football, which means a major upgrade for a Sooner unit that ranked 76th a year ago, and he's joined by former Ole Miss offensive play-caller Jeff Lebby and transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel, an 8,000-yard career passer who played in a top 10 offense at UCF with Lebby on the sideline.
Texas and Baylor are two main obstacles that stand in the way of a Big 12 title, and while the Sooners should start off undefeated through September, the second half of this schedule presents more than a few challenges that will tell us more about this team under Venables in Year 1.
5. Texas A&M
Previous Top 25 ranking: Unranked
2021 record: 8-4
College Football HQ preview: A&M just signed the top recruiting class ever and should be absolutely loaded on the defensive front for the next few years, with the likes of Walter Nolen, Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy, and Lebbeus Overton coming in to replace departing fixtures there.
That will certainly help when going up against the murderer's row of an SEC West schedule, but A&M needs to make the right decision at quarterback.
LSU transfer Max Johnson is the presumed favorite, but Haynes King (coming back from injury) can push for snaps, and there are solid pieces at receiver and running back to work with, including track star Devon Achane.
This team beat No. 1 Alabama last fall, but also lost four other SEC games. More of the former and less of the latter can finally push this team to playoff contention.
Previous Top 25 ranking: No. 14
2021 record: 10-4
College Football HQ preview: Offense was a persistent problem, not scoring a TD in the opener against Georgia, and only getting nine touchdown passes against 10 picks from quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. Clemson ranked second-worst in the ACC in total offense and failed to surpass 27 points per game on average.
Getting things right on this side of the ball should get the Tigers back in the Top 10 nationally when looking at this defense, a unit stacked with blue-chip talent, including the likes of Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy, two of the best defenders in the nation, on the front line. But watch for games at Wake, against NC State, at Notre Dame, and at home to Miami.
3. Ohio State
Previous Top 25 ranking: No. 6
2021 record: 11-2
College Football HQ preview: Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are gone, but the Buckeyes have recruited so well at receiver the last few years that this can still be the best group in college football this season.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba emerges as the top target here after leading the team with over 1,600 yards a year ago. TreVeyon Henderson is one of the nation's top backs after scoring 15 times last fall, and quarterback CJ Stroud was a Heisman finalist after piling up over 4,600 yards with 44 TDs for the sport's No. 1 offense.
But the big question is defensive. Last season, Ohio State ranked ninth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (22.8 points) and total defense (372.6 yards) and the unit was costly in losses to Oregon and Michigan.
Jim Knowles comes over from Oklahoma State, where he coached the No. 3 overall defense last year, and will look to get better results from his 4-2-5 alignment led by aggressive defensive back play.
Previous Top 25 ranking: No. 1
2021 record: 14-1
College Football HQ preview: This was one of the most dominant, aggressive defenses the sport has ever seen last season, but a lot of what made it go is gone. There should be a slight step back here, but Kirby Smart has recruited so well that Georgia has more than enough size and speed to plug in those holes this season.
Jalen Carter, one of the nation's top defensive players, returns at tackle along with a number of other key inputs, backed up by the likes of Tykee Smith, Jaheim Singletary, and Malaki Starks in the secondary.
Georgia brings back some definite firepower on offense, too, led again by quarterback Stetson Bennett, who announced he'll return for the 2022 season. Brock Bowers, one of the sport's premier targets, is back, joined by tight end Darnell Washington and 5-star transfer Arik Gilbert.
Previous Top 25 ranking: No. 2
2021 record: 13-2
College Football HQ preview: Still arguably the best top-to-bottom roster in the sport, even when considering its losses to the NFL Draft. Bryce Young, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who had 4,800 yards passing with 47 TDs last year, returns alongside linebacker Will Anderson, who ranks as arguably best player in the nation at any position and who led college football in sacks and TFLs last fall.
Alabama also got a lot better in the transfer portal, too, adding Jermaine Burton, who led Georgia in receiving a year ago, former Georgia Tech running back Jahmyr Gibbs, former star LSU cornerback Eli Ricks, and offensive tackle Tyler Steen.