Ranking all 131 college football teams in tiers for the 2022 season

Illustration by ESPN

Preseason projections are a difficult task. We can review last season's results, but that only gets us so far. In an era in which the transfer portal allows for massive roster overhauls in a single offseason (hello, USC), there aren't many constants from year to year. And yet, the job of ranking teams remains.

So, how do we find a meaningful strategy for solving this dilemma?

First, we're avoiding old-fashioned rankings. Putting teams in order, 1 through 131, is so passé. Instead, we're focusing on tiers -- grouping together teams with similar profiles and separating the contenders from the rest.

Second, we're turning to the one group of prognosticators with a truly astonishing ability to accurately predict the future: The writers of "The Simpsons." They foresaw Donald Trump's presidency, the discovery of the Higgs boson particle and theorized we may all be living in a doughnut-shaped universe (Note: This has yet to be proved, but we want to believe).

So, with Homer, Bart and the rest of Springfield as our muse, let's try to create some order in this doughnut-shaped world.

Tier 1: The clear favorites

"Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken."

Three teams: Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State

Let's nitpick for a second: Alabama's defense has some question marks, and the Tide will be relying on a couple of transfers to carry their receiving corps. Georgia lost approximately 34 defenders to the NFL draft and, without J.T. Daniels, who will everyone insist is a better quarterback than Stetson Bennett this year? Ohio State has a new defensive coordinator, but it's still tough to forget that the Buckeyes allowed more than 30 points in a game five times last season, including 87 total in their final two. But the mob has spoken. All 63 first-place votes in the AP poll went to one of these three schools. All but one in the coaches' poll, too. (Note: The stray vote for Texas was about as smart as Krusty betting against the Harlem Globetrotters. "I thought the Longhorns were due!") They're the top three teams in SP+ and FPI. Las Vegas has these three as the top picks to win it all, too. Alas, who are we to argue with the masses? Now, let's go build that monorail!

Tier 2: How quickly we forget

"I used to be with it, but then they changed what 'it' was. Now what I'm with isn't 'it,' and what's 'it' seems weird and scary to me."

Four teams: Clemson, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma