These five college football teams will start the season outside the Top 25, but they won't be there long

Twelve teams made the preseason USA TODAY Sports preseason Coaches Poll heading into last season but failed to make the cut for the final Top 25. Two years ago, nine teams earned preseason Top 25 honors but were unable to match those expectations.

This is pretty much par for the course: In any given season, roughly a third or more of teams in the preseason Coaches Poll will come up short during the regular season.

On the flip side, there are always overlooked or underrated teams in the Power Five and Group of Five ready to occupy a seat in the Top 25.

Which teams unranked in the preseason Coaches Poll are poised to leap onto the national radar once the regular season begins later this month? These teams may not have made the preseason cut but are destined to crack into the Top 25 at some point during the 2022 season:

Penn State

There's a simple reason why the Nittany Lions are unranked in the preseason poll for the first time since 2016: Penn State has gone 11-11 in the past two years and ceded ground to Michigan and fast-rising Michigan State in the Big Ten East. But increased depth, greater familiarity with second-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich's system and the possibility for more explosiveness in the running game should bring the Nittany Lions back into the Top 25 and into contention for a New Year's Six bowl. A pretty smooth start to the schedule — Purdue, Ohio, Auburn, Central Michigan and Northwestern — could put PSU far into the national rankings by October.

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Brigham Young

It's not an easy schedule. BYU will face five Power Five opponents, four ranked in the preseason poll: No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 10 Baylor, No. 12 Oregon and No. 23 Arkansas. (The fifth is Stanford.) The Cougars will also take on four potentially strong Group of Five teams in Utah State, Liberty, Boise State and East Carolina. Yet the Cougars should expect big things from junior quarterback Jaren Hall, who was very good as a first-year starter in 2021, and the defense has the chance to be the best of coach Kalani Sitake's tenure.

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall
BYU quarterback Jaren Hall

Air Force

There are 29 seniors that need to be replaced, including several who held key starting roles as the Falcons went 24-8 in the past three seasons. There are also some concerns on defense, not just due to personnel losses — most notably defensive lineman Jordan Jackson, a sixth-round pick in the recent NFL draft — but because of the offseason change at defensive coordinator; longtime assistant John Rudzinski left for the same position at Virginia. The main reason for optimism is the state of the offense, which brings back its starting quarterback, top rushers and a far more experienced offensive front. The running game could lift the Falcons past Boise State, San Diego State and Fresno State to the program's first conference championship since 1998.

Kansas State

Among other factors, a seemingly more open Big 12 could help Kansas State finish in the Top 25 for the first time since 2014. There's also the offseason addition of former Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez, who struggled to match his early hype with the Cornhuskers but represents a significant upgrade to the Wildcats' quarterback room. He'll be joined in the backfield by running back Deuce Vaughn, a heavy preseason All-America contender. Overall, Kansas State placed a league-leading six players on the preseason all-conference team.


Last year's eight-win finish represented a major breakthrough for the Bruins and coach Chip Kelly, who struggled through three straight losing seasons amid concerns that his deft touch at Oregon would never translate to his stint at UCLA. This year's team touts even better depth, a noticeable degree of experience — nearly 20% of the Bruins' roster have already graduated — a dark-horse Heisman contender in quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and some difference-making transfer, including twin edge rushers Gabriel and Grayson Murphy from North Texas. Matching last year's win total might be the baseline for 2022.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Five unranked college football teams that will join the coaches poll