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Predicting the Sweet 16 of College Football in 2023

CFB-HQ on FanNation 3/22/2023 James Parks

Sweet 16 time is here as March Madness moves to one of the premier stages in all of sports at a time when college football sits one year away from expanding its own postseason tournament to 12 teams in a single-elimination format.

Related: College Football Bracket Busters in 2023

With some time before the College Football Playoff is changed forever, College Football HQ is taking a stab at predicting what an expanded playoff would look like ahead of the 2023 season.

College football rankings: What the Sweet 16 could look like

© Provided by CFB-HQ on FanNation

16. Notre Dame. One of college football's best offensive lines, some of the nation's more skilled tailbacks, and veteran transfer quarterback Sam Hartman all help the Irish in the preseason predictions, as do home games against Ohio State and USC to prove themselves.

15. Kansas State. The surprise defending Big 12 champions coming into this season, the Wildcats have to replace Deuce Vaughn among other playmakers but retain quarterback Will Howard and are a consensus top 15 team in most preseason rankings.

14. Texas. Our prediction for one of college football's surprise teams this season, the Longhorns return vital experience on the offensive line and at wide receiver while Quinn Ewers should take another step forward at quarterback, especially with Arch Manning sitting behind him applying some pressure.

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13. Utah. The return of quarterback Cameron Rising is enough, after he recovers from offseason surgery, to keep the Utes in the conversation, as do several other impact starters on this roster.

12. Tennessee. College football's top-ranked offense lost its most important contributors this offseason, but retains big-armed quarterback Joe Milton and scored promising transfer receiver Dont'e Thornton from Oregon and top rushers Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small are back, too.

11. Oregon. Bo Nix coming back is major for the Ducks, as is the addition of transfer edge rusher Jordan Burch, but the Pac-12 hopefuls have to make some other notable replacement on the offensive line and front seven.

Where things stand in the Sweet 16 college football rankings © Provided by CFB-HQ on FanNation Where things stand in the Sweet 16 college football rankings

10. Penn State. Plenty of experience comes back on defense, the offensive line, and especially at running back, while the Nittany Lions will depend on 5-star quarterback prospect Drew Allar to be a fast-learner and help this team make some headway in the Big Ten pecking order.

9. Clemson. An early College Football Playoff dynasty has missed the final four for two straight years and needs speed on offense to get back in the picture, but the addition of coordinator Garrett Riley could be a game-changer.

8. LSU. Returning production on both sides of the ball plus notable transfer additions should keep the defending SEC West champions in the race all year. Denver Harris steps in at cornerback after moving in from Texas A&M as a former five-star, alongside returners like Maason Smith and Harold Perkins, two of the nation's premier front seven attackers.

7. Washington. College football's top passer returns to a Huskies offense that took a huge leap forward last season and also brings back its two 1,000-yard receivers to make a run in the Pac-12.

6. Florida State. One of college football's potential bracket busters this season, the Seminoles return vital experience at quarterback and defensive end, can still run the ball with confidence, and scored key transfer additions.

Related: Ranking college football's 10 best offenses

5. USC. Heisman quarterback Caleb Williams returns armed with elite skill targets all over the field, but the Trojans' hopes hinge on the team's ability to overhaul a defense that cost the team in key postseason games a year ago.

4. Ohio State. Ryan Day has a program-defining decision to make at quarterback, but the pieces around him are some of college football's best, especially at wide receiver.

3. Alabama. Much is made of what the Crimson Tide lost, but it still has plenty of skill in the back seven defensively to build with and promising speed at receiver and running back to help whoever wins the quarterback job.

2. Michigan. Back-to-back Big Ten champs and College Football Playoff semifinalists, the Wolverines have the firepower on offense to make it three straight, especially with both star running backs coming back.

1. Georgia. The defending back-to-back national champions still project as the nation's top team with college football's premier defense and what should be an even better offense after adding wide receivers in the transfer portal.

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