College football rankings: Phil Steele's preseason top 40 (2024)

We're under 70 days from seeing college football kick off around the country, which makes it officially Talkin' Season. Georgia is the favorite to win the national championship, but the Bulldogs have much tougher competition to make the expanded playoff and play for a third title in four seasons.

What about that competition? Phil Steele — renowned for his annual preseason football magazine — set about putting the sport's best teams in perspective in 2024.

Related: Ranking college football's 10 likely first-time CFP teams

With his magazine ready to hit shelves in the near future, Steele has unveiled his Top 40 preseason college football rankings.

10. Miami

College football rankings: Phil Steele's preseason top 40 (1)

An active transfer portal season and a more open ACC title race puts the Hurricanes in contention to take a big step forward in 2024. Transfers like dual threat quarterback Cam Ward and tailback Damien Martinez stabilize an offense that already boasts credible threats at receiver.

College football rankings: Phil Steele's preseason top 40 (2)

College football's defending national champions look a lot different, on the sideline and on the field, but still bring back enough pieces to stay in the thick of the Big Ten title chase. Sherrone Moore steps in for Jim Harbaugh with key returning defenders, but has big decisions to make at quarterback, receiver, and offensive line.

8. Utah

College football rankings: Phil Steele's preseason top 40 (3)

One of college football's decisive home-field advantages, another physical defensive rotation, the return of quarterback Cameron Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe, the addition of transfer wideout Dorian Singer, and a competitive Big 12 make the Utes a contender for the expanded playoff.

Kalen DeBoer steps into arguably the most difficult situation in college football history, replacing the greatest coach of all time, and looking to keep Alabama in national title contention amid roster changeover, an expanded SEC, and a larger playoff format. Jalen Milroe sticks around at quarterback, boasting agility in and out of the pocket, and marked improvement in his downfield game. And his line projects to be better this year, too.

6. Notre Dame

College football rankings: Phil Steele's preseason top 40 (5)

Al Golden returns to lead one of college football's very best defenses, with a particular strength in the secondary, but the Irish are installing new leaders on offense, including three blockers, their quarterback, top back, and bring on new receiving threats. Riley Leonard is a gifted runner, but can the quarterback better develop his passing acumen? This is a winnable schedule and there's a clear path to the playoff.

College football rankings: Phil Steele's preseason top 40 (6)

An expanded playoff leaves that many fewer excuses for Penn State to not get into the postseason going forward, and returning key continuity on offense certainly helps. Drew Allar is under center again, as are backs Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton. They're getting new blockers up front, but while they find their groove, this defense should return to form in 2024, especially with a strong front line rotation and at linebacker.

4. Texas

College football rankings: Phil Steele's preseason top 40 (7)

Texas heads into the SEC at the perfect time, coming off last year's win at Alabama, a Big 12 title, and its first playoff appearance. Now, with Quinn Ewers back under center, aided by top-flight transfer receiver skill, the Longhorns are in position to make a very strong first impression in college football's toughest conference.

College football rankings: Phil Steele's preseason top 40 (8)

Dan Lanning already had two of the best lines in college football and arguably the sport's most talented wide receiver corps as he heads into the Big Ten. But the addition of transfers like quarterbacks Dillon Gabriel and Dante Moore and former five-star wide receiver Evan Stewart make the Ducks a contender for the B1G out of the gate even more.

2. Ohio State

Coming off a third-straight loss to their arch-rival, the Buckeyes got aggressive in the transfer portal, adding difference-makers like quarterback Will Howard, one-time SEC rushing champ Quinshon Judkins, and five-star Alabama safety Caleb Downs, among others. That's in addition to returning skill like back TreVeyon Henderson and edge rushers Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau, giving Ohio State an absolutely stacked roster in 2024.

College football rankings: Phil Steele's preseason top 40 (10)

Georgia has lost just two games over the last three seasons, two of them resulting in national championships. Now, it's the odds-on favorite for a third in four years thanks to another loaded roster that returns key personnel on both sides of the ball, including Carson Beck, college football's best quarterback.

And the rest...

11. Iowa

12. Clemson

13. Florida State

14. Ole Miss

15. Oklahoma State

16. Boise State

17. Virginia Tech

18. Missouri

19. LSU

20. Oklahoma

21. UTSA

22. SMU

23. Kansas State

24. Tennessee

25. USC

26. Memphis

27. Liberty

28. Texas A&M

29. Iowa State

30. Arizona

31. NC State

32. Louisville

33. Nebraska

34. North Carolina

35. West Virginia

36. Texas State

37. Kansas

38. Appalachian State

39. Kentucky

40. Louisiana

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College football rankings: Phil Steele's preseason top 40 (2024)

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