p>I loathe the offseason.
In fact, “loathe” probably doesn’t describe my emotional state in the coming months enough.
Sure, we’ll bet on other things. College basketball, UCF and the NFL playoffs are already getting a workout. Golf, March Madness and baseball will escalate in the coming weeks and months as well. But it’s not college football, and that void is real.
We will be back in time to break down teams and conferences and Heisman future in the not-too-distant future. But for now, we officially say farewell to the year with a look at some teams and players we’ll be spending months trying to figure out.
The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations
1. NIL is a wonderful thing, but it can also be messy. Jaden Rashada, the now former Florida commit, is a perfect example. He committed to Florida when he was said to have received a reported $13 million NIL deal, although the money never came. Rashada, who is the nation’s No. 6 ranked QB, will now play his college football elsewhere. (My guess is Miami.) While his situation is the most public, this is not the only NIL deal that has soured. This is happening in many places, and it will continue to complicate recruiting and “guarantees” from school collectives.
2. Colorado is already more interesting than it has been in some time. Five-star cornerback Cormani McClain has committed to the Buffaloes, which is an enormous deal. Colorado is also still very active in the transfer portal and will likely be a force when it comes to recruiting in the years ahead. The resurrection of the program will take a while, although this is why you commit to Deion Sanders.
3. I am fascinated to see what the quarterback room at Ole Miss looks like come fall. Spencer Sanders, formerly of Oklahoma State, announced he is transferring to play for Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. This is fascinating on a few fronts. For starters, Sanders is excellent. He should thrive in Kiffin’s offense. Second, the quarterback depth chart is now loaded. Jaxson Dart, last year’s starter, is still there. Walker Howard, a former massive prospect, also committed. So, now what? Does Dart stay or leave? Either way, Sanders could be in line for a massive season.
4. Adonai Mitchell is an enormous addition for Texas. They are already in solid shape at wide receiver, although Mitchell, who won back-to-back national championships with Georgia, adds an immediate deep threat to the roster. The Longhorns are actually already loaded at the position, and Mitchell will be an incredible luxury for Quinn Ewers or Arch Manning. This will be a fun team to study up on.
5. This is largely a college football space, but let’s talk NFL Draft for a moment. I really believe Bryce Young will be the No. 1 overall pick, despite the fact that the Bears are unlikely to draft a QB. (They should probably consider it, although that's a topic for another day.) Houston and Indianapolis are both viable trade candidates, and Young, despite his lack of size, feels like the best QB prospect in the draft. It’s not tremendous value at -135, but I will gladly take it.
Evaluating the Off-season National Champions
What does an off-season champion look like? It’s a team returning a lot of talent (and likely a capable QB). It’s a team that will garner significant hype and buzz over the course of many months.
You know these teams. They appear every year, and they take on different shapes. Here are a few programs likely to take on that role in the coming months.
Penn State ( 2500)
The Sean Clifford era came to an emotional end in the Rose Bowl. With it, a complicated connection with a fan base also came to a close. Clifford’s exit means Drew Allar, a former 5-star prospect with a massive arm, will be thrown into action. He will have help in the form of Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton, two running backs who, like Allar, will be sophomores at the start of next season.
As a whole, Penn State appears to have knocked it out of the part with this recruiting class. The question surrounding this team is pretty simple: Will the youth develop in time?
The other question should be familiar: Can the Nittany Lions conquer Michigan and Ohio State? This year, they were unable to do so. Next year, Penn State heads to Ohio State and welcomes Michigan to Happy Valley. Both teams could be tremendous. If it weren’t for those two programs, I would feel a lot better about Penn State. But I am curious, to say the least.
Florida State ( 2000)
Make no mistake about it. There is a lot to like. After struggling to find its identity since Jimbo Fisher left, Florida State is poised for a run at the College Football Playoff.
Quarterback Jordan Travis, second in Heisman odds at 1000, is poised to take a huge leap forward. Most of his favorite targets will return, and an offense that averaged 36.1 points per game last season should build on that.
Defensively, almost the entire Seminoles’ unit returns. Defensive lineman Jared Verse is coming back to school rather than heading to the NFL, and he’s likely to be one of the best defensive players in the country.
The team has a lot of fascinating pieces, although the schedule isn’t easy. Florida State opens with LSU, which should be fascinating. The Seminoles also play at Florida, at Clemson and at Pittsburgh.
Am I ready to commit to this team as a national championship threat? Not yet. But this feels like a real threat to Clemson in the ACC.
LSU ( 1800)
Like Penn State, the Tigers hit on a couple of freshmen last year. The highlight was undoubtedly linebacker Harold Perkins, who looked like the best defensive player in the sport at times last year.
The biggest infusion, however, came through the transfer portal. Quarterback Jayden Daniels really provided this team a jolt, and he will return to Baton Rouge for another year. His entire offensive line should also be back, along with no. 1 wideout Malik Nabers.
Defensively, LSU loses quite a bit. This is the group worth studying over the coming months. Brian Kelly has been active in the transfer portal, and that effort should pay off next year.
As already referenced, the season starts against Florida State. LSU also plays at Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss next year. The schedule is by no means light, although it can be navigated if the pieces come together.
Five Potential Heisman Candidates We Need to Study Up On
It’s a weird year for the award, at least right now. Rarely do you see this kind of value for quarterbacks positioned to play on teams that are likely to start the year ranked in the top five. But there is a catch. They have to be named starters first.
Here are five players from three teams worth keeping tabs on.
Kyle McCord, Ohio State ( 2200)
With the departure of C.J. Stroud, McCord is the likely starter at Ohio State. In terms of synergy, it helps that he played with star wideout, Marvin Harrison Jr., in high school. In terms of ability, McCord has a ton of it. He also plays in an offense that should allow him to thrive, and the Buckeyes will return the best collection of wideouts in football.
Carson Beck, Georgia ( 2500)
Here’s where it starts to get interesting. One of the top QBs in the 2020 class has an enormous frame and a huge arm. Based on the odds, the early notion is that he will get the starting nod for the Bulldogs now that Stetson Bennett’s tenure has ended. That feels right, although he’ll be challenged to win this job along the way.
Brock Vandagriff, Georgia ( 3500)
A former 5-star recruit, Vandagriff was one of the top prospects in the class of 2021. He’ll have every opportunity to win the starting QB job, although beating out Beck (along with Gunner Stockton) won’t be easy. If he’s ultimately named the starter, his odds will drastically shift. But right now, given the momentum towards Beck, this is a tough one to figure.
Ty Simpson, Alabama ( 4000)
The nation’s No. 3 ranked quarterback from the class of 2022 is poised to make a big push for the starting vacancy left by Bryce Young this year. Simpson, a former 5-star, is more of a traditional pro-style QB. He barely played this season, which would lead many to believe he won’t have the inside track to starting. At least in terms of odds, that might not be the case.
Jalen Milroe, Alabama ( 5000)
He’s a tremendous athlete, and he can create. This much we know already after watching Milroe start for Alabama when Young was hurt. He was also still raw, something we saw against Texas A&M. As Bill O’Brien explores other coaching options, Alabama could have a different offensive coordinator in 2023. That hire could swing Milroe’s starting case wildly, one way or another.