The 2022 NCAA Tournament is almost here, which means Cinderella is staying out late and putting on her dancing shoes. It happens every year in the the Big Dance: Lower-ranked seeds make unexpected and magical runs.
Those surprises are what makes college basketball so thrilling. College football? That same sort of hierarchal anarchy isn’t usually present.
The idea of Cinderella in college football – yep, here’s your obligatory NCAA Tournament tie in from a CFB writer – doesn’t usually translate. Only four teams make the CFB Playoff each year and six of the 130 FBS teams (Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Georgia, Notre Dame) have accounted for 78% of the total appearances in the event’s history. Football requires more players to be played than basketball, which results in a much larger talent disparity between the elite teams and non-traditional recruiting powers.
But that doesn’t mean upsets can’t happen!
Cincinnati just made the College Football Playoff from the Group of Five ranks. And on a more micro level, we see surprising conference championship runs all the time. Pittsburgh just won a conference title for the first time since 2010. Utah earned its first Pac-12 crown ever and its first conference title since 2008. And both those teams had shorter droughts than Michigan, which won the Big Ten for the first time since 2004.
With those we’ll-always-remember-this-team fan moments in mind, these are some CFB teams primed for Cinderella runs in 2022.