5 national storylines to follow for the 2022 college football season

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Training camp is winding down, final rosters are coming together, and the 2022 college football season is officially upon us.

While there are plenty of local bragging rights up for grabs and storylines to follow across all conferences, the national picture is the one worth watching as the race for the College Football Playoff takes shape.

Here are five national storylines to grab the headlines this season.

New faces, new places

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College football has truly become a year-round sport, with the constant movement of coaches and players requiring attention all 365 days. This offseason was one of the wildest yet, as myriad big-name coaches and players moved to new programs - sometimes in shocking fashion.

Brian Kelly's departure for LSU after 12 years at Notre Dame and Lincoln Riley bolting from Oklahoma to USC headlined the coaching carousel. Other notable moves saw Mario Cristobal leave Oregon to head home to Miami while Billy Napier switched from Louisiana to Florida. Longtime Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables finally took a head coaching job to replace Riley at Oklahoma, and Dan Lanning, Georgia's national title-winning coordinator, is the new boss at Oregon.

It might take Kelly a couple of years to make his mark at LSU, but Riley, Venables, and Cristobal are all set up well for immediate success; Riley managed to bring several of his former Oklahoma players with him to Los Angeles, notably Caleb Williams at quarterback and Mario Williams at receiver.

Speaking of key transfers, USC also added Fred Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison from Pitt, while the Panthers nabbed former Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis. Spencer Rattler became the second quarterback to depart Oklahoma, reuniting with his former assistant Shane Beamer at South Carolina. The Sooners responded by bringing in ex-UCF star Dillon Gabriel.

Alabama's Nick Saban also dipped into the portal to add Georgia Tech running back Jahmyr Gibbs, LSU corner Eli Ricks, and Georgia wide receiver Jermaine Burton.

All that movement should make for some very intriguing action throughout the year, with the USC situation garnering significant attention. Williams certainly has the talent to be a Heisman contender at quarterback, and with Addison now one of his receivers, he should put up big numbers for the Trojans.

Alabama, Georgia look for CFP return

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In a development that shocked virtually nobody, Alabama and Georgia were clearly the class of college football in 2021. The Crimson Tide triumphed when these teams first battled in the SEC title game, but the Bulldogs took the rematch for their first national title since 1980. The two programs enter the 2022 campaign on another collision course, with both earning top-three spots in the preseason AP Poll.

Heisman winner Bryce Young is back to pace the Alabama offense, with Will Anderson anchoring the defense as the nation's top pass-rusher. And though Georgia set a record with five defensive players selected in the first round of the NFL draft, the Bulldogs' top-ranked unit should be dominant yet again in 2022.

It won't take long to learn if both teams have national pedigree, with massive non-conference games on the schedule in the first two weeks of the campaign. Georgia faces former defensive coordinator Lanning's new team when Oregon travels to Atlanta in Week 1, while Saban squares off against former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Texas in Week 2.

Will Texas officially be 'back?'

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Speaking of the Longhorns, they shouldn't take long to answer the annual question: "Is Texas back?' With Alabama coming to Austin on Sept. 10, the Big 12 outfit will know almost immediately how it stacks up against the best. Sarkisian had some nice moments in his first season with the program, but six losses in the final seven games saw the team finish 5-7. That came after the school fired Tom Herman despite a 32-18 record over four seasons.

While the addition of Quinn Ewers as the starting quarterback will get all the attention, it's the defense that must improve if Texas is to take a big leap forward. The Longhorns allowed a whopping 6.03 yards per play last season to rank 102nd in the country, while their 31 points allowed per contest ranked them 99th in that category. Sarkisian added former TCU head coach Gary Patterson as a special assistant in the offseason in hopes he can help coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski.

While an upset of Alabama would generate enormous buzz, the Longhorns don't have to win that game to show they'll be a much-improved outfit this season. A close contest with the Crimson Tide should set them up for success in the Big 12.

Ohio State seeks revenge against Michigan

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In terms of national significance, Michigan's upset over Ohio State last season was the biggest of the year. The Wolverines booked a trip to the Big Ten title game with the victory, simultaneously ending the Buckeyes' chances at a College Football Playoff berth. But it was likely the fact that Michigan topped its rival for the first time since 2011 that was sweetest for Wolverines fans.

After a tough loss at home to Oregon and that road defeat against Michigan later in the season, the Buckeyes will be out to make amends in 2022. C.J. Stroud should garner serious Heisman consideration with what should be the nation's top offense in Columbus. With the Wolverines coming to The Horseshoe this season, Ohio State will be after more than the win - it'll be looking to exact some revenge with a blowout over its rival.

Though Michigan lost multiple top contributors from its historic 2021 season, Jim Harbaugh has ensured the roster remains stacked with talent. And while the Wolverines will still play their brand of physical football, Ohio State should be ready this time.

Michigan's win last season returned a rivalry that was once the most important in the sport to national relevance. Expect all eyes to be on Columbus on the final Saturday of the season - with another CFP spot likely at stake.

Clemson's place among the elite

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Most programs would be very pleased with a 10-3 campaign, but not Clemson; last season saw the Tigers miss out on both the ACC title and a CFP semifinal berth for the first time since 2015-16.

Dabo Swinney's losses weren't limited to the field, either. The veteran coach saw both his defensive coordinator in Venables and his offensive coordinator in Tony Elliott leave for head coaching jobs. While many called for high-profile hirings to fill both rolls, Swinney opted to promote from within, a sign that he values continuity for the powerhouse program.

The biggest challenge Clemson faces in its quest to return to the College Football Playoff is at quarterback. DJ Uiagalelei struggled mightily in his first full season as a starter, and the Tigers will need more under center to stabilize an offense that ranked 82nd overall last season.

Clemson has a favorable schedule to start the campaign before a huge clash with NC State on Oct. 1. The winner of that contest will likely be the front-runner for both the ACC Atlantic crown and a potential CFP slot.

5 national storylines to follow for the 2022 college football season
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