UK & Ireland College Football Media Top 25: Final Rankings

By Simon Carroll

If the AP and the College Football Playoff Committee can’t get it right, then perhaps we can!

This weekend saw the conclusion of the CFB regular season, with one Conference Championship on Friday night and nine more throughout Saturday. The UK & Ireland panel may have been hoping that results delivered a little more clarity, but in classic College Football fashion we have been served up even more chaos than anticipated. Nevertheless, the media have entered their final submissions for 2023 – here are the final rankings from a year that began in Dublin, Ireland in August, and finished in Charlotte, North Carolina last night:

25: Miami (OH) RedHawks

Record: 11-2 (MAC Champions)

When Miami faced Toledo earlier in the season, they lost a close game, defined by the loss of starting QB Brett Gabbert to a season-ending injury. Despite the big setback, the RedHawks rallied, won out to book a spot in the MAC Championship Game, and avenged that loss against the Rockets to win the conference.

MAC football may not be the standard on Saturdays, but it’s hard to fully explain just how impressive this win was for Chuck Martin and his team. Miami sneak into the rankings as a result – and it’s fully deserved.

24: Toledo Rockets

Record: 11-2

Toledo remain above Miami in the rankings despite losing to the RedHawks on Saturday. At this end of the poll it’s merely semantics, but it should also be highlighted just how good the Rockets have been in 2023. Jason Candle has made this program one of the best outside the Power 5, and they were a missed field goal away from a perfect regular season record.

Yesterday just wasn’t their day. But expect Toledo to be the favourites in the MAC next season – especially if DeQuan Finn returns.

23: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Record: 9-4

Big 12

Slow starts finally caught up with the Cowboys on Saturday. After rallying late the last two weeks to make the Big 12 Championship Game, Oklahoma State were outgunned and outclassed against the Longhorns. Mike Gundy deserves credit for keeping the season alive as long as he did after a poor start, but seing OSU as the only four-loss team in the rankings is somewhat surprising.

For every big win (Oklahoma, Kanas State) there was an embarrassing loss (UCF, South Alabama). The Cowboys will expet to challenge in the new-look Big 12 next season.

22: NC State Wolfpack

Record: 9-3

Dave Doeren is one of the most underrated head coaches in College Football. The ACC – and North Carolina in particular – is a competitive, saturated workspace. But keeping the Wolfpack relevant year in, year out, against bigger programs with ridiculous resources, is an achievement in itself.

In the end, NC State were beaten by two ranked teams and a feisty Duke outfit. Nine wins, including dubs against Clemson and rivals North Carolina, make it another successful year in Raleigh.

21: Iowa Hawkeyes

Record: 10-3

Big 10

Iowa, by all metrics, are a ridiculous team. The most unbalanced program in the nation, the Hawkeyes’ elite defense dragged them to a Big Ten title game. Sadly, their offense didn’t show up all season. They scored fifteen points or less seven times in 2023, incredibly winning four of them. They were also shutout twice, showing the gulf between them and conference heavyweights Penn State and Michigan.

Kirk Ferentz is a legend. His son Brian less so. Iowa will not benefit from a weak Big Ten East division next year, and will need to up their game to be relevant in a very busy conference.

20: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Record: 9-3

Preseason Rankings

Nine wins is probably the baseline for acceptable standards in South Bend. That’s the record that Marcus Freeman has achieved his first two seasons at the helm – and expectations are for improvement in the future.

2023 started with optimism; a big win in Dublin and Sam Hartman at quarterback. But the close loss to Ohio State seemed to rock the Irish a little, and fellow defeats by Louisville and Clemson makes the season another missed opportunity for Notre Dame. Changes will be expected.

19: James Madison Dukes

Record: 11-1

We’ve waxed lyrical about the incredible season in Harrisonburg this season. Curt Cignetti led JMU to 11 wins before departing to Indiana. Nevertheless, the Dukes have exceeded all expectations, with just a tough defeat to pesky App State the only blot on their resume.

The Dukes will go bowling despite arbitrary NCAA sanctions on programs moving up from the FCS – a just reward for a great year. Where they go next is anyone’s guess – but this program is not out of it’s depth in the Sun Belt, or in the FBS.

18: Tulane Green Wave

Record: 10-2

What a run from Willie Fritz and the Green Wave. 22 wins in two seasons, a trip (and a win!) to the Cotton Bowl, and a conference championship. It was nearly back to back American wins for Tulane, but being outplayed by a very good SMU outfit meant Fritz’ final game at Yulman Stadium ended in defeat.

That’s right – it looks like Tulane’s head coach is off to Houston. He leaves the Green Wave as one of the premier Group of Five programs – and with the playoff expanding to 12 teams, it makes New Orleans an attractive destination to coach. Expect Tulane to be on the radar next year too – this program is set up for long term success.

17: SMU Mustangs

Record: 11-2 (American Champions)

SMU have flown under the rankings radar all year, due to two early losses. Those defeats were to two Power 5 programs in close games, and should be considered resume builders and not breakers.

Rhett Lashlee’s team showed their mettle down the stretch, going undefeated in conference play. They won the title game on Saturday with a backup quarterback – in convincing fashion. If the CFP consider them worthy, they could earn a New Year’s Six bowl game – and I would not want to face them. Congrats to the Ponies – with a move to the ACC looming, the good times are back in Dallas.

16: Louisville Cardinals

Record: 10-3


Speaking of the ACC – I don’t think any Louisville fan will be upset with Jeff Brohm’s first year in charge, despite the wheels falling off late. The Cardinals laid down a marker when they beat Notre Dame, and marched through conference play to book a date against FSU. A loss to rivals Kentucky stung, but not being able to overcome the Seminoles who were using their 3rd string QB was probably more disappointing.

Despite the sour ending, it’s exciting times in Louisville. I find it difficult to imagine them ranked any lower than this next season.

15: Arizona Wildcats

Record: 9-3

PAC 12

Arizona’s absence from the schedule this weekend should not detract from the turnaround in Tucson this year. Three one-score losses, all early on – two in overtime – were consigned to distant memory as the Wildcats reeled off six wins to end the season 9-3. Four of those opponents were ranked at the time. Any other conference, and it might have been enough to challenge for the title.

This program will be fighting for a different trophy in 2024, having found a new home in the Big 12. If they can keep hold of head coach Jedd Fisch, then they will be competitive.

14: LSU Tigers

Record: 9-3

LSU will be disappointed with their season. Which just shows the level of expectation in Baton Rouge, because when you break it down, the Tigers lost to three teams that have finished in the top 11 of these rankings.

Ignoring the defeats for a second, this team BATTERED almost every other opponent – the lone exception being Missouri, another top ten program. Brian Kelly is someone who brings consistency to a program, and in the fierce world of the SEC, he’s had an incredible start in his new home. Tigers fans will want to see conference championships – and more – sooner rather than later.

13: Liberty Flames

Record: 13-0 (Conference-USA Champions)

There are only four teams in college football that went undefeated in 2023. Three of them are guaranteed to finish in the top six teams in the nation – the other is Liberty.

The Flames only became an FBS program in 2018, and only entered a conference this year. They won it – at a canter – at their first attempt. 2023 also represented Jamey Chadwell’s first year in Lynchburg, and in one season did something that no other head coach of a Virginia program has ever achieved. Think what you want of their strength of schedule – winning every game is hard. As a result, Liberty are the highest ranked Group of Five program in the UK & Ireland poll.

12: Oklahoma Sooners

Record: 10-2

Big 12

The Sooners leave the Big 12 as an afterthought, watching their two biggest rivals battle it out for the conference title. Poor defeats to Oklahoma State and Kansas meant the big win over Texas was ultimately rendered meaningless. That said, there was significant improvement from year one to year two under Brent Venables…

It will need to continue as they join the SEC – no mean feat. But Sooners fans won’t care what the name of the conference is, they just expect to challenge for it. Oklahoma is a big program, and finishing 12th isn’t good enough.

11: Ole Miss Rebels

Record: 10-2

CFB UK TV Week 5

Ole Miss represent the first of two back-to-back SEC teams that won ten games and missed out on a shot at a conference title. Lane Kiffin has done a fantastic job in Oxford, the first coach in a long time to achieve two double digit win seasons – and he’s only been there three years.

That said, can the Rebels smash through the glass ceiling that the likes of Alabama and Georgia represent? If not, the nomadic Kiffin might start to get itchy feet. Ole Miss needs to show more ambition than they did against the two aforementioned SEC opponents this year – and that’s not necessarily achievable considering the more modest resources they are working with.

10: Missouri Tigers

Record: 10-2


Missouri match Ole Miss’ record, despite being considered a far inferior team. Eli Drinkwitz was suppoed to be on the hotseat heading into 2023. He made light work of the pressure, instead leading the Tigers to a presumed New Year’s Six bowl game.

This was Mizzou’s best season in the SEC since the year they joined. Their two losses, to Georgia and LSU, were incredibly close. A little more luck and this team could be in the playoffs. How they match this next season is the big challenge – but Coach Drink and his staff are hot on the recruiting trail attempting to do just that.

9: Penn State Nittany Lions

Record: 10-2

UK TV Week 3

It’s hard to consider ten wins disappointing; James Franklin must be counting the days until his team doesn’t have to play both Ohio State and Michigan every year. They simply have not been able to get over the hump with two heavyweights in their division – and it ultimately means playoff football has not been a realistic goal in Happy Valley.

And yet, this is a program that is the same in size and stature as the ones in Columbus and Ann Arbor. National Championships adorn trophy cabinets at Beaver Stadium. With the Big Ten looking a lot different next season, the pressure will be on to do better. Franklin will be hoping QB Drew Allar will become the prince that was promised to help him get this program into a twelve team playoff.

8: Ohio State Buckeyes

Record: 11-1

CFB UK TV Games Week 6

How do you lose one game, by one score, to the best team in the country, and be only eighth in the rankings? Welcome to the 2023 College Football season, which has eight teams that might have won it all in any other year.

Ryan Day has a Michigan problem. They’ve lost to their rivals three times on the bounce – and it has meant they’ve missed out on playoff football twice in the last three years. Not to mention a Big Ten championship trophy. It’s a harsh world, and an incredibly high standard to be held to – but right now, the Buckeyes are not meeting it. Day is 56-7 at Ohio State, and has 33 wins the last three years. He’s not on the hotseat, but there are definite murmurs of discontent.

7: Oregon Ducks

Record: 11-2

PAC 12

Oregon are two three-point games away from playoff football. That was the margin for error in the Pac-12’s final ever season. They won 11 games, and lost twice to Washington – both by field goals, including in the Championship Game on Friday night. You can’t get as close to success and not attain it as the Ducks did in 2023.

Dan Lanning is an excellent head coach, and if Oregon can keep him, they’re going to be relevant. How they take to life in the Big Ten will be telling – but don’t count out the Ducks, they’ll be in the mix once again.

6: Georgia Bulldogs

Record: 12-1

Florida - Georgia

Georgia look destined to miss out on playoff football despite not losing a regular season game in more than three seasons. Since the start of 2021, the Bulldogs have only been beaten twice – both in the SEC title game, and both by Alabama. The first time it happened they still made the final four, and went on to win the lot. This time, they won’t be so lucky.

Kirby Smart has built a behemoth in Athens. They are ostensibly one of the best programs in College Football year in, year out. But they won’t be hoisting a trophy in January. Some of these programs cannot wait to see the back of a four team playoff.

5: Florida State Seminoles

Record: 13-0 (ACC Champions)


I cannot forgive the rest of the panel for this injustice. The argument ‘best four’ versus ‘four most deserving’  seems redundant to me – much like the last thirteen weeks of football are if you just decide who looks the best in early December.

Leaving out an undefeated Power Five conference champion in order to shoehorn in one that has lost a game is unfair. It goes against sporting principles. Has nobody considered that Florida State beating #16 ranked Louisville with their third choice QB is actually a positive? That they are that good, they can overcome such adversity? The margins are tight, and FSU missed out on the playoffs by just one vote. Despite the dubious decision making, I do appreicate the tough choice the UK & Ireland media faced. Regardless, it’s a season of incredible success in Tallahassee.


4: Alabama Crimson Tide

Record: 12-1 (SEC Champions)

UK TV Week 3

My thoughts on FSU does not detract from the incredible season Alabama have had, bouncing back from the Texas defeat. Any other year, and the Tide’s participation in the playoffs would not be in doubt.

Beating Georgia gives ‘Bama a very big win, backed up by dominant performances againt LSU, Tennessee and Ole Miss. And nobody in this bracket will be excited about going up against Nick Saban. Death, taxes and Alabama in the playoffs; a story as old as time.

3: Texas Longhorns

Record: 12-1 (Big 12 Champions)

Big 12


12 wins. One loss on a game-ending drive on a neutral field to a ranked opponent. And a dominant Conference Title Game performance. The Longhorns have been dining out on the Alabama win all  year, but have come through some QB injury to back up their credentials and justify their spot in the playoffs.

Sark has got Texas over the hump. And you fancy them to be competitive against their fellow playoff participants. Whether they are able to finish the job or not, 2023 will be considered a success in Austin – and winning the Big 12 before riding off into the sunset will also feel pretty damn good.

2: Washington Huskies

Record: 13-0 (Pac-12 Champions)

Five From Si

Kalen DeBoer just wins football games. It’s that simple. And he won thirteen of them in 2023, making the Washington Huskies the cream of the Pac-12 – a conference packed with dangerous teams in it’s final year of existence.

Yeah, there were some scary moments along the way, which the Huskies were lucky to come through. But beating the Ducks twice was mighty impressive. In Michael Penix, Washington have a QB that is dangerous and explosive enough to will his team to victory. Can they go all the way?

1: Michigan Wolverines

Record: 13-0 (Big Ten Champions)

Preseason Rankings

Recruiting violations. COVID violations. Sign stealing. A head coach that has missed half of his team’s regular season games due to suspension. Despite all the drama in Ann Arbor in 2023, this Michigan team just continued to win.

If you can get over what appears to be a culture of cheating in the Big House, it’s hard to argue against the CV that the Wolverines have built this season. A dangerous defense and a clock controlling ground game have been the pillars of this team’s success. They haven’t had the toughest route to an undefeated season, but when they had to show their credentials, they duly did.

Can Jim Harbaugh lift the Natty before heading back to the NFL? Stay tuned!

Mock Draft


Founder, Chief Editor, Head of Content