Predicting 11 college football teams that can crack the top 25 rankings in 2024

While the big names are expected to dominate the college football rankings again in 2024, these teams have a chance to elbow their way into the national conversation.
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For most of college football history, you had to be the No. 1 or No. 2 team, or very close to it, to compete for the national championship. Then, with the debut of the College Football Playoff, you had to be one of the top four. Now, as the playoff expands to 12 teams, the field will be tripled and nearly half the teams in the top 25 rankings will have a shot at the title.

That ramps up the competition for one of those precious top-dozen spots for when the Selection Committee creates its official rankings. And while the usual schools are expected to be featured among that elite cohort, there's always a team or two that seems to come out of nowhere.

More: Predicting CFB's 10 Winningest Teams | Preseason Top 25 Rankings

Moving into the summer preseason and looking ahead to 2024 fall camp, College Football HQ predicts what college football teams can crack the top 25 rankings this season.

Predicting College Football Teams that can crack the Top 25 Rankings

11. Nebraska

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Hovering around the middle of most Big Ten power rankings this preseason, the Cornhuskers flipping 5-star quarterback Dylan Raiola from Georgia was a major coup. Raiola's addition could be the critical piece in the puzzle for an offense that lost five games by one possession last season, and Nebraska's defense brings back an expected seven starters from a unit that was strong against the run.

10. Memphis

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This could be the moment that Memphis takes a big leap forward in the AAC and makes a play as the Group of Five's CFP bid. Head coach Ryan Silverfield won 10 games and the Liberty Bowl a year ago, and returns quarterback Seth Henigan and receivers Roc Taylor and DeMeer Blankumsee, a trio that can put on points while a transfer-rich defense imposes its will on opponents.

9. Wisconsin

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Luke Fickell came out of the gate at 4-1 in his debut as Badgers head coach, but stumbled to a 7-6 mark that included losses to Indiana and Northwestern. The addition of transfer quarterback Tyler Van Dyke from Miami is notable, as Fickell looks to finally open up this offense after losing star back Braelon Allen to the pros.

8. West Virginia

Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

The departure of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 and a very promising late-season surge pulled head coach Neal Brown off the hot seat, won the Mountaineers nine games, and puts the 2024 team in the conversation for a more wide-open league title race. Garrett Greene is back under center to steer an offense that posted more than 400 yards a year ago.

7. Liberty

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The return of quarterback Kaidon Salter alone puts the Flames in the driver's seat for the Group of Five's spot in the expanded College Football Playoff. Salter scored 43 all-purpose touchdowns a year ago and had a better rushing output than many running backs, amassing 1,064 yards.

6. Boise State

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Malachi Nelson comes on board via the portal from USC as a potential game-changer at quarterback, and he'll get plenty of help from Ashton Jeanty, the Mountain West's best returning rusher, and arguably one of the best in the nation. He's one of an expected 18 returning starters for Spencer Danielson, who gets his first full year as head coach after helping lead the Broncos to an MWC title as interim last season.

5. USC

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Miller Moss made a great first impression as Caleb Williams' successor by throwing 6 touchdowns in the bowl game. But the real question remains if USC can play physical football at the lines heading into the Big Ten. Two years of awful defense could turn a corner after the addition of coordinator D'Anton Lynn, who coached UCLA's 10th ranked unit to acclaim last season.

4. Iowa

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Kirk Ferentz returns another strong defensive core at all levels to repeat last year's success on that side of the ball, but there is still the question of replacing corner Cooper DeJean. After ranking last nationally in offense a year ago, Tim Lester steps in with an eye towards moving the ball downfield with Cade McNamara returning from injury, as is tight end Luke Lachey.

3. Virginia Tech

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into his third year as head coach, Brent Pry has the best of both worlds, boasting both depth and continuity, with an expected 22 starters coming back, including the entire offense. That includes Kyron Drones, a potential breakout star at quarterback who helped lead an offensive revival late last season.

2. Kentucky

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Mark Stoops returns important veteran experience on both lines of scrimmage, key to helping build around incoming quarterback Brock Vandagriff, high on potential but low on experience, and aided by receivers like Dane Key and Barion Brown, who can spread out opposing defenses.

1. Miami

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Few college football teams did as much important work in the transfer portal as the Hurricanes, who added dynamic quarterback Cameron Ward, veteran tailback Damien Martinez, and wide receiver Sam Brown, among key defensive acquisitions. But that firepower taking The U anywhere special depends on how well Mario Cristobal can repair the secondary.

Read More: College Football Teams We're Excited to Watch in 2024

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James Parks

JAMES PARKS

James Parks is the founder and publisher of College Football HQ. He previously covered football for 247Sports and CBS Interactive. College Football HQ joined the Sports Illustrated Fannation Network in 2022.