College football bowl season preview, part 1
I’m struggling. There, I said it.
I’m not ashamed to admit that college football is moving a little too fast for my comfort. Given how rapidly the rosters are evolving, it’s hard to stay on top of it all.
Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this. I live and breathe the sport every day, and I tell you those findings and thoughts every week.
I am entirely too connected to social media. I follow beat writers for all major teams around the sport. The foundation is in place to know what is going on at all times in college football.
But now? I feel somewhat lost.
As bowl season commences, the draft and transfer portal are making it so difficult to process. Hundreds of players are in the portal, stars are leaving early for the draft, and coaches are leaving one program for another. (This last part isn't new.)
One coach, Scott Satterfield, is leaving Louisville for Cincinnati. Those two teams will meet on Saturday in the Wasabi Fenway Bowl. (Great name, by the way.)
How are we reasonably supposed to impact what that move will be for either program?
While I support giving players power, always and forever, it certainly has not made handicapping these glorified exhibitions any easier.
In a way, it’s a challenge. It also feels remarkably random. For the record, none of this is in any way a complaint. It’s simply acknowledging we have our work cut out for us.
Also, barring significant NCAA change, which is unlikely to take place, this is the new normal. We might as well adapt because every December from here on out is going to look a lot like this one.
The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations
1. Caleb Williams is your Heisman winner, which should come as little surprise. It’s odd to see a non-playoff QB win the award, although this was the right choice. Williams was a statistical monster while helping transform a program in one season. I thought he would be fun, although I didn’t expect this kind of surge. For anyone who jumped on the train before the season began, you’re likely enjoying a cash between the 8/1 and 10/1 range. Not too shabby.
2. For the second season in a row, the Heisman victor will return to college football. Alabama’s Bryce Young, who won in 2021, was given a chance to repeat this year. He couldn’t do so, although he delivered a pretty solid encore. Williams will likely have a taller mountain to climb considering the Trojans’ defense and how much work needs to be done. Still, he will be the face of the sport next year and likely a sizable favorite to win the award. It’s early, but I’ll almost certainly be betting elsewhere.
3. I won my Army-Navy OVER bet, although I felt gross doing so. With the game tied at 10 after regulation, and both offenses essentially doing very little, extra football ultimately doomed the UNDER. For those of you holding those tickets, allow me to apologize. Overtime and a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown pushed the final score OVER 32.5 points. You deserved a better outcome than this. Anyone who brags about this win should not be in your inner circle. (I’ll take it, though.)
4. Jeff Brohm’s return to Louisville could be a very successful one. It felt like this move was lost in the madness some, but I really like this decision for both parties. Brohm is from the area. He should be a force in recruiting and a problem in the ACC in the coming years. His offense seems to travel, and it will once again. I like this move a lot.
5. Speaking of coaches, the buzz on Deion Sanders remains palpable. In talking to football minds around the country, it sounds like the transfer portal has a great deal of interest in Colorado, which is not something we’ve said in some time. Sanders is also assembling a tremendous, experienced staff. It’s going to take a while, but so far, so good.
6. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is not playing in the College Football Playoff. The wideout, who exploded during the Rose Bowl last year, will rehab his hamstring and focus on the NFL Draft rather than suit up against Georgia. It was a lost season for the wideout, who will still likely be an early selection in the draft. As for Ohio State, well, they are still loaded at the position.
The Buffet: The Five Best Bowl Games of the Week
We have many bowl games we want to cover, and we will every week moving forward.
To begin, we’re featuring all games through December 18th. Cheers.
While the teams won’t generate a ton of national buzz, this is a delightful football game between two very good football teams. Both teams are coming into this matchup blazing hot, having each won 10 games in a row. UTSA has covered the spread in four of the past five; Troy has covered the spread in five of the past six. While UTSA feels like the more explosive offense, Troy, which finished the season with the nation’s No. 5 scoring defense, might be the more elite group. I lean toward Troy, although I am fascinated to see how two uniquely constructed teams square up.
Well, this is awkward, and we addressed how unique this coaching exchange between these two programs is. That won’t directly impact this game, although two interim coaches going head-to-head is never an easy matchup to size up. The biggest news surrounding this game, however, is that Louisville QB Malik Cunningham is opting out. Brock Domann will likely start for the Cardinals, and he has played some this year. Cincinnati’s offensive situation isn’t exactly dazzling, either, and the Bearcats will also have to find a rhythm with Luke Fickell gone and the transfer portal poppin'. This one could be ugly.
For Fresno State, it felt like 2022 was two different football seasons. The Bulldogs started the season at 1-4, thanks to tough competition and poor play. Fresno closed the season with eight straight wins, covering the spread in the final three games. Washington State ended its year against Washington, and it did not go well. The Cougars allowed 703 yards of offense, and one can’t help but wonder if that performance will carry over. While Wazzu had some moments this year, Bulldogs’ QB Jake Haener, who has plenty of talent, is probably loving this matchup.
What kind of team will Florida field? That is not meant in jest. QB Anthony Richardson and standout offensive lineman O'Cyrus Torrence are off to the NFL. The Gators were also hit with a slew of transfer portal announcements. While it might seem strange to see the Beavers as a double-digit favorite against a team with so much history, it doesn’t feel wrong. On the Oregon State sideline, the Beavers closed out the year with an enormous win over Oregon. They also covered the spread in the final six games. Florida certainly still has talent, although I’m not sure if the spread is high enough. That win over Utah feels like a long, long time ago.
While some of the early bowls have an ugly scoreboard feel about them, this isn’t one of them. It’s one of the biggest totals on the board this offseason, and it feels appropriate. SMU finished the nation’s No. 123 ranked scoring defense; BYU finished No. 100 in the same category. The Cougars closed a disappointing year with three straight wins (and covers). SMU rebounded after a rough showing against Tulane with a three-point win over Memphis. Both teams should be relatively intact for the matchup, although I don't have a real strong opinion either way.
Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note
The surprising firing of Seth Littrell is an interesting storyline to follow for North Texas. Along those lines, it feels like Boise State should roll if it shows up. As always, in bowl season, the “if” is real.
The vibe at UAB right now is questionable. The arrival of a new coach and an active transfer portal makes this a tough game to figure out. While Miami (OH) is not nearly as talented, the points are tempting.