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Full Ride Network College Football Preview 2023: All-Americans, Best Teams, and Sleepers



Full Ride Network
Dec 4, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; The Big Ten Trophy at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Full Ride Network and its 2023 College Football Preview. It includes a Preseason Top 25, First Team All-Americans, predictions for the college football playoff and national champion, Heisman Trophy picks, surprises and disappointments, best and worst storylines, thoughts on the new overtime rules, and much more.

This preview was compiled with contributions from over a dozen writers from nine college sites covering Power Five football.

The complete list of site contributors:

Jacob Davis – Hawg Country (Arkansas)

Hail To SC Staff (USC)

Tyler Sakalys-Moore, LSU Glory (LSU)

Basic Blues Nation Staff (Penn State)

Alec Lasley, Hoosier Illustrated (Indiana)

Connor Muldowney, Spartan Shadows (Michigan State)

Dante Pryor, Armchair Illini (Illinois)

Jacob Renfrow, Carolina HQ (North Carolina)

Aaron Breitman, The Scarlet Faithful (Rutgers)

Let’s kick it off!

Preseason Top 25

  1. Georgia
  2. Michigan
  3. Ohio State
  4. LSU
  5. Alabama
  6. USC
  7. Penn State
  8. Clemson
  9. Texas
  10. Florida State
  11. Tennessee
  12. Oregon
  13. Notre Dame
  14. Utah
  15. North Carolina
  16. Kansas State
  17. TCU
  18. Wisconsin
  19. Oklahoma
  20. Ole Miss
  21. Oregon State
  22. Iowa
  23. South Carolina
  24. Tulane
  25. Texas Tech

First Team All-Americans:


  • QB: Caleb Williams (USC)
  • RB: Blake Corum (Michigan)
  • RB: Raheim Sanders (Arkansas)
  • WR: Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State)
  • WR: Xavier Worthy (Texas)
  • WR: Rome Odunze (Washington)
  • TE: Brock Bowers (Georgia)
  • OT: Joe Alt (Notre Dame)
  • OT: Olu Fashanu (Penn State)
  • OG: Zak Zinter (Michigan)
  • OG: Cooper Beebe (Kansas State)
  • C: Sedrick Van Pran (Georgia)


  • DL: Jared Verse (Florida State)
  • DL: Bralen Trice (Washington)
  • DL: Jer’Zhan Newton (Illinois)
  • DL: Lai’atu Latu (UCLA)
  • LB: Harold Perkins Jr (LSU)
  • LB: Cedric Gray (North Carolina)
  • LB: Barrett Carter (Clemson)
  • CB: Kalen King (Penn State)
  • CB: Cooper DeJean (Iowa)
  • S: Kamren Kinchens (Miami)
  • S: Malaki Starks (Georgia)

Special Teams

  • AP: Travis Hunter (Colorado)
  • P: Tory Taylor (Iowa)
  • K: Joshua Karty (Stanford

Heisman Trophy Favorite

Pick: USC QB Caleb Williams

Others: Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Michigan RB Blake Corum

Connor Muldowney (Spartan Shadows): I’d have to go with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams. Although, I do believe that Drake Maye will be right up there.

Tyler Sakalys-Moore, LSU Glory (LSU): The pick honestly speaks for itself. Caleb Williams is entering his second season with the USC football program and should perform as well, if not better than he did in 2022. Last season, Williams threw the ball for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns in addition to his 382 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground. As a result, that turned out to be a Heisman-winning season for Williams, and the projected No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft should be able to win the award for the second straight season in 2023.

Dante Pryor (Armchair Illini): Marvin Harrison, Jr. is a viable Heisman favorite because DeVonta Smith won the award in 2020. Harrison could be the first overall pick in the draft, the first wide receiver to do so since Keshawn Johnson in 1996. On the balance, he’s the best and most valuable player on his team in college football.

Heisman sleeper

Pick: Tie between Arkansas RB Raheim Sanders and Penn State QB Drew Allar

Others: Florida State QB Jordan Travis, Wisconsin RB Braelon Allen, Washington QB Michael Penix Jr., LSU LB Harold Perkins, Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr.

Aaron Breitman (The Scarlet Faithful): The Heisman Trophy has only been won twice by the same player once. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin did it back-to-back seasons in 1974 and 1975. While Caleb Williams is the heavy favorite to repeat this season after winning it last fall, the odds are against him from a historical perspective. Heisman voters hold the standard against former winners much higher than other contenders. Expectations are already sky-high for Williams, but it would not be shocking if he did not repeat, even if he is outstanding again this season.

Favorite storylines

Connor Muldowney (Spartan Shadows)

Alabama quarterback battle

Payton Thorne winning the starting job at Auburn

Ohio State quarterback battle

MSU quarterback battle

Nick Saban vs. Jimbo Fisher

Jacob Davis (Hawg Country)

Alabama Quarterback Drama: Who will take the field first for the Crimson Tide?

Hail To SC Staff (USC)

We look forward to the storylines surrounding all the teams in new conferences next season. It will be interesting when they play some conference foes for the last time.

Basic Blues Nation Staff (Penn State)

Battle for the Big Ten East

The re-emergence of historic powers – Florida State, Texas

Dante Pryor (Armchair Illinois)

Can Penn State break through and win the Big Ten?

Has everyone counted out Clemson too soon?

Will Brian Ferentz win the “drive for 325?”

Will the Fisher, Petrino partnership work?

Jacob Renfrow (Carolina HQ)

Clemson vs. FSU for the ACC.

Is Texas back?

Can Michigan capitalize on last season?

Ohio State QB situation

Worst storylines

Connor Muldowney (Spartan Shadows)

Michigan players being compared to all-time NFL greats

Any hot seat article that mentions Mel Tucker.

Hail To SC Staff (USC)

The SEC will likely get praised again, just like every other year, when it isn’t as good of a conference as people make it out to be. I’m not a big fan of that.

Basic Blues Nation Staff (Penn State)

Destruction of the Pac-12

Jacob Renfrow (Carolina HQ)

Colorado potentially being “good.”/ Conference realignment.

Aaron Breitman (The Scarlet Faithful)

Rutgers is the worst realignment move ever.

Biggest Surprise – Conference

Pick: PAC-12

Others: ACC, Sun Belt

Tyler Sakalys-Moore, LSU Glory: The PAC-12 could be great fun. When things are all said and done this regular season, tiebreakers could become a significant factor in who ultimately gets crowned as the conference champion. The PAC-12 has six teams with a decent shot at winning the conference, with USC, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Oregon State, and UCLA. In turn, it wouldn’t surprise to have multiple teams competing for a spot in the CFP for a large part of the season. PAC-12 After Dark in 2023 is going to be must-watch TV.

Biggest Surprise – Team

Pick: Iowa

Others: Oregon, Oregon State, Auburn

Tyler Sakalys-Moore, LSU Glory: I could regret this one, but seeing a double-digit win against the Iowa team in 2023 would not surprise me. And no, I’m not referring to its women’s basketball program. There’s no denying how bad the Iowa offense was in 2022. Lucky for them, their defense was one of the best in college football, leading them to wins such as 7-3 over South Dakota State and 13-10 over Minnesota. That said, I don’t think it’s possible that their offense won’t improve in 2023, especially with their transfer portal additions of quarterback Cade McNamara, tight end Erick All, and wide receiver Kaleb Brown.

Pick: Tie between Big 12 and ACC

Jacob Davis (Hawg Country): The Big 12 was one of the best last season, but OU and Texas were huge letdowns. It’ll still be the same and maybe worse in 2023 with a new look.

Connor Muldowney (Spartan Shadows): We must go with the Big 12. Many will say the Pac-12 because it’s about to fold, but the Big 12 will most likely miss out on the playoffs again. There is no dominant team this year (I’m not calling Texas dominant).

Alec Lasley (Hoosier Illustrated): ACC. Clemson and Florida State enter as the conference leaders, but honestly, I’m not sure how strong either team will be. I believe Florida State comes in as the favorite, but we’ll see if 2022 was just a fluke or the real FSU we’ll see again this year. North Carolina could be the best team out of the league if the waiver situation with Tez Walker is cleared up.

Tylerv Sakalys-Moore (LSU Glory): ACC: At the end of the day, I’m not sure any conferences will disappoint in 2023. With so much changing in 2024, teams are looking to put an exclamation point on this era of college football, which could lead to fireworks galore. Still, aside from Clemson, Florida State, and North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, it could be a relatively uninspiring season for the ACC. The SEC and Big Ten largely dominate the country in top overall talent. The PAC-12 and Big 12 could each have a six-way tie for their conference championships for all we know. To be fair, it’s not like the ACC is a lousy conference this year. However, compared to the rest of the (current) Power Five, it simply can’t compare in terms of overall entertainment.

Biggest Disappointment – Team

Pick: Tie between Ohio State And Alabama

Alec Lasley (Hoosier Illustrated): Ohio State. The Buckeyes will certainly be a factor in the Big Ten, but with QB play a significant question for them now, I think they struggle early in the season. Losing CJ Stroud is a considerable loss, but I think it’ll be even more significant than expected.

Tyler Sakalys-Moore (LSU Glory): Alabama. No, the dynasty is not over. Yes, Nick Saban is still Nick Saban. With all of that being said, this could be a challenging year for the Crimson Tide. Even so, a difficult year for them could mean they go 10-2, but I can’t imagine Alabama fans being thrilled with a second year without winning the SEC West. Regardless, their run game should be excellent, and their defense should be dominant. Still, the schedule is a gauntlet, and seeing a multiple-loss season for the Crimson Tide in 2023 wouldn’t surprise.

Others: Florida State, Oregon, TCU, North Carolina, Washington

Connor Muldowney (Spartan Shadows): I could see it being Oregon. The Ducks are talented, but I think people will realize just how big of a loss Kenny Dillingham was for that offense, namely Bo Nix. I think the Ducks take a step back.

Dante Pryor (Armchair Illini): North Carolina will step back because Drake May can’t play defense. There was so much on his shoulders in 2022. It’s too much of an ask for one player to go out and score 40 points just to give his team a chance to win. Devontez Walker is an excellent signing from the portal, but he can’t replace Josh Downs and Antoine Green.

Best Non-Conference Game

Pick: LSU vs. Florida State

Dante Pryor (Armchair Illini): Florida State v. LSU might not be the “best” non-conference game, but there might not be a more important game. The winner of this game has loads of momentum heading into the rest of the season. A loss in this game could force either team to run the table for the rest of the season to get into the CFP.

Other: Texas vs. Alabama

Tyler Sakalys-Moore (LSU Glory)

This is the last time these two teams will play each other as out-of-conference foes. Last season, Alabama beat Texas in Austin, TX, in thrilling fashion with a final score of 20-19. How exciting would it be if Texas goes into Tuscaloosa this year and hands the Crimson Tide a similar loss? For context, this would be Nick Saban’s first loss at home since LSU beat them on November 9, 2019. Regardless of the outcome, this game is shaping up to be good and could have national championship implications.

Best G5 Team

Pick: Tulane

Other: Boise State, James Madison

Dante Pryor (Armchair Illini): Tulane is the favorite in the AAC. The 2022 Cotton Bowl Champions kept quarterback Michael Pratt out of the transfer portal. Though running back Tyjae Spears sought the greener pastures of the NFL, Pratt is capable of carrying the offense. Liberty transfer running back Shedro Lewis leads a running back by committee that could be effective in an AAC without Cincinnati or Houston.

Worst Power Five Team

Pick: Northwestern

Others: Indiana, Virginia, Stanford

Tyler Sakalys-Moore (LSU Glory): It’s been a tough offseason for Northwestern. It’s even more challenging when you consider they were one of, if not the worst, teams in the Big Ten in 2022. Now, heading into 2023, the Wildcats are without longtime head coach Pat Fitzgerald, and while they bring back a decent amount of production, it’s not precisely elite production. How the team responds to the adversity of the offseason will play a significant part in how the team does in 2023. Still, I wouldn’t expect more than one or two wins for program fans.

Connor Muldowney (Spartan Shadows): Sadly, I must go Northwestern. Even Vanderbilt and Kansas have improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years.

Overtime rules: Thoughts on Changes

Entering the 2023 season, the overtime rules have been changed. As before, the first overtime involves teams having one possession on the opponent’s 25-yard line. One difference this season is that in the second overtime period, teams that score a touchdown must attempt a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown. The significant change is that beginning in the third overtime, teams alternate two-point conversion attempts instead of offensive possessions.

Writer’s Perspectives

Jacob Davis (Hawg Country): Let’s be honest, the current state of overtime as we know it stinks. Who cares if games went past 3-4 overtimes? Some of the most memorable games required 6,7 and 8 extra sessions to conclude them. The simple answer is to return college football to its old ways: unlimited overtimes that aren’t made up of just gimmicky 2-point plays.

Hail To SC Staff (USC): We would like the OT rules to return to how they were. They were even; the OTs didn’t typically take a long time. I think the recent changes were unnecessary.

Connor Muldowney (Spartan Shadows): The old overtime rules were the best before this most recent change. I liked having teams start at the 25 and try to score for three overtimes before being forced to go for two. The flip-flopping of 2-point conversions speeds things up, but we rarely saw a 7OT game.

Basic Blues Nation Staff (Penn State): Go back to a version of the old overtime rules. Get rid of the two-point conversion shootout and just start forcing teams to go for 2 point conversions in OT 2 or 3 after touchdowns.

Jacob Renfrow (Carolina HQ): Keep it the way it is, but with no 2-point conversion after 2 OTs.

Aaron Breitman (The Scarlet Faithful): I hate the new change in eliminating possessions in favor of two-point conversion attempts beginning in the third period. Every overtime period should consist of an actual possession. I don’t mind having to go for two-point conversions after every touchdown in any OT period. If you want to talk unconventional wrinkles, if the team is kicking a field goal to tie it up in overtime, having the option to kick a 50-yard attempt and converting it to win the game could be fun.

College Football Playoff Predictions

Unanimous: Georgia, Michigan

Top Other Two: USC, Alabama

Others: Texas, LSU, Clemson, Penn State, Florida State

College Football Playoff Sleeper Pick

Pick: Utah

Others: Kansas State, Washington, Notre Dame

Tyler Sakalys-Moore (LSU Glory): I’m not entirely sure why everyone seems to keep forgetting about Utah. Kyle Whittingham’s squad is coming off back-to-back conference championships and return plenty of top-end talent in 2023. While the loss of tight-end Dalton Kincaid is significant, it’s generally a good idea to trust coach Whittingham. However, the Utes return 16 starters, including senior quarterback Cam Rising, and the bulk of their defense. With a schedule that has them facing Florida, UCLA, Oregon State, USC, Oregon, and Washington, Utah has quite the gauntlet ahead of them. If they escape the regular season with even one loss, don’t be surprised to see them well into the College Football Playoff race.

2023 National Champion

Pick: Georgia

Others: Michigan, LSU

Dante Pryor (Armchair Illini): Georgia has the best roster in the country, and what Kirby Smart has built will be hard to beat. There is no team in the SEC East with the roster to compete with Georgia. On the other hand, a lot of prognosticators are talking up Tennessee. Well, Georgia beat the Volunteers by two touchdowns — and it wasn’t that close — with Hendon Hooker and Jaylin Hyatt. It’s hard to see anyone Georgia when those ‘Dawgs are huntin’. Can they hunt through an entire season?

Full Ride Network was established in the summer of 2022, comprising over 15 collegiate websites. The network offers free comprehensive coverage and information about various college sports, serving as a hub for enthusiasts and fans to stay updated on the latest news, scores, and events.


Analyzing the Odds: Illinois is a heavy favorite versus FAU



Illinois: Analyzing the Odds
Jan 2, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; the Illinois Fighting Illini take the field fro the the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois are heavy favorites against Florida Atlantic.

After a home loss to #7 Penn State, the Illinois Fighting Illini look to rebound against American Athletic Conference foe Florida Atlantic. The Illini are looking for answers, especially on offense, before they get deep into Big Ten Conference play. The Owls might be the perfect opponent for Illinois to work some of the kinks out of their game.

Florida Atlantic starting quarterback Casey Thompson is out for the season with an injury, so the Owls turn to Central Michigan transfer Daniel Richardson. That is not a good omen for a team coming to play a defense that looks to be revitalized. Jer’Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph had their best game of the season against Penn State.

Saturday could be a day for the Illinois offense to get going. The Owls rank 95th in scoring defense and 71st in total defense. That makes them a heavy favorite on Saturday. The Illini need to take advantage and get things right before they begin conference play in earnest.

Illinois v. Florida Atlantic Betting Odds

  • Spread: Illinois -15.5, Florida Atlantic +15.5
  • Money Line: Illinois -715, Florida Atlantic +496
  • Over/Under: 45.5

Wagering on the Illini has been a risky proposition so far this season. Illinois is 0-3 in its last five games against the spread, and the point total has gone over in one of their previous two games. Those who wager on the Owls have not fared much better. The Owls are also 0-3 in their last five games against the spread. However, Florida Atlantic’s points totals have gone over in two of its last three games.

Can they win this game?

Not only should the Illini win this game, but they should also dominate. However, we’ve been here before this season. The line in the Toledo game opened at -10 for Illinois. The line in this game opened at 13 and has since expanded to 15.5, so that’s a good sign that the sports books feel that the Illini will play well.

They need to validate what the sports books think and play well. Could there be some changes to the starting lineup? Maybe. No matter what, the Illini must dominate early and often against the Owls.


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Safety Matthew Bailey is out for the season for the Illini.



Matthew Bailey is out for the season.

Matthew Bailey is the third player with a season-ending injury. 

Safety Matthew Bailey was supposed to take over “quarterbacking” the secondary this year. However, he will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.

Illini head coach Bret Bielema revealed this in his Monday press conference. Bailey played briefly in Illinois’ 30-13 loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions last Saturday. His shoulder injury is the latest in a season where health has been an issue. Bailey has played sparingly this year because of an ankle injury. He came up, grabbing his shoulder during Penn State’s first possession of the game.

Defensive coordinator Aaron Henry says Bailey is in good spirits despite the news. “Nothing really wavers him,” said defensive coordinator Aaron Henry. “Nothing really messes with his confidence.”

Bielema told reporters during his press conference that the rehabilitation timeline is about six months. The in-state recruit won’t rest on his laurels, however. Bielema also mentioned that Bailey is looking for ways to improve as he prepares for his return in 2024.

Next man up…who replaces Bailey?

After losing the likes of Devon Witherspoon and Sidney Brown to the NFL Draft, the Illini came into 2023 with a retooled, inexperienced secondary. Bailey was one of the young defensive backs that saw meaningful snaps in 2022. He tied for second on the team with three interceptions. Though his injury is significant, Illinois did address the secondary in the transfer portal.

The Illini have two options to replace Bailey in the secondary. Louisville transfer Nicario Harper is already part of the secondary rotation so he could slide into the starting lineup. Southern Illinois transfer Clayton Bush could also start. He’s also seen meaningful snaps this year and could step into the top of the rotation.

Henry and the defensive staff cross-train their defensive backs, so don’t be surprised if a cornerback or STAR like Elijah McCantos, Xavier Scott, or Prince Ford gets an opportunity to play as well.

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FB Recruiting

Playing Freshmen doesn’t mean you’re giving up on the season



Should Illinois football play more freshmen?
Jan 2, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema takes the field fro the the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois football needs answers on offense. Could some of those answers be true freshmen?

There were some bright spots in Illinois‘ 30-13 home loss to Penn State. “The Firm” of Jer’Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph, Jr. had their best game of the season. The defense held Penn State quarterback Drew Allar to 5.9 yards per attempt and under 50% completions. The defensive front had its most consistent game against the run, limiting Penn State backs to 4.1 yards per rush attempt. Unfortunately, the offense still has issues.

Quarterback Luke Altmyer threw four interceptions, putting the defense in difficult positions all game. He was benched for Ball State transfer John Paddock, who fared better, throwing the only touchdown pass for the Illini.

Should the Illinois football turn to Paddock over Altmyer?

Though Paddock played better than Altmyer, it won’t matter if the offensive line doesn’t play better. Paddock threw the football well after settling in. Does that mean he gives the Illini a better chance to win? That’s hard to say. If Paddock plays well against Florida Atlantic, does that mean he’ll fare better in conference play?

In addition to quarterback, the Illini need another running back to step up next to Reggie Love III. Josh McCray has struggled, averaging just 2.5 yards per rush attempt. Frosh running back Kaden Feagin got some carries, but McCray might have to carry the load until someone plays well enough to get meaningful carries.

The best receivers on the field were freshmen.

Altmyer tried to push the football down the field. A couple of his interceptions were because his receivers could not separate from Penn State’s defensive backs. However, freshman receiver Kenari Wilcher had the biggest catch of the day, a 47-yard reception. And fellow freshman Malik Elzy hauled in a nice touchdown reception on a 50/50 ball. The Illini play a struggling FAU team this weekend. There is nothing wrong with giving Elzy, Wilcher, Ashton Hollins, and Hank Beatty some meaningful snaps to see what you have.

They will have to figure out the running game and the explosive passing game before they get into the meat and potatoes of their conference schedule.

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