Michael Jordan’s documentary about the Chicago Bulls championship dynasty already has dibs on the title “The Last Dance,” but those words also perfectly encapsulate the 2023 college football season.
One more season and then all heck breaks loose.
At this time next year …
Oklahoma and Texas will be members of the SEC.
USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington will call the Big Ten home.
Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah will represent the Big 12.
The Big Ten’s divisions, as of now, will be gone, with the East-West divider joining Legends and Leaders in the archives.
The Pac-12 will be … who knows but most likely dead.
The four-team college football playoff will expand to 12 teams.
Big Ten games will be available on CBS, Fox, NBC, Big Ten Network, Peacock and Home Shopping Network. OK, so one of those is not true.
College football is being put in a blender after this season. This might give traditionalists cold sweats. Savor what’s left of the good ol’ days while you still can.
TV deals worth billions created a gold rush that ignited conference realignment chaos and a future that inches closer to forming one massive league that breaks away from the NCAA’s governance. Hyperbole? Not really. Any scenario seems plausible given how much has changed with the sport already.
The expanded playoff might not solve the parity problem, but at least it will give more teams — and more fan bases — a greater sense of excitement by being in contention. The same teams from a very exclusive club — Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State — will likely remain kings of the sport whether the playoff field features four, 12 or 64 teams. However, the late-season drama that comes with jockeying for playoff position will multiply in college towns across the country with a larger field.
That will have to wait until next year. The current version of college football has one last jaunt to complete, which will conclude with a four-team playoff. This feels like preparing to ride Space Mountain at Disney World by first taking a spin on Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
Don’t get us wrong: College football is never, ever boring. Here’s a look at what’s ahead this fall, A to Z:
A — Alabama. Nick Saban has two new coordinators and a new quarterback, which would be a lot of uncertainty for most programs, but the Tide’s talent and Saban’s influence keeps them in the national title conversation.
B — Brock Bowers. Georgia’s tight end is one of college football’s best talents, regardless of position. He has averaged 15.3 yards per catch in his career.
C — Clock. Did you know the game clock won’t stop after a first down this season, except in the final two minutes of each half? That rule change is long overdue. The change doesn’t apply to Division III.
D — Deion Sanders is trying to revive the Colorado Buffaloes with a brash style that has brought a lot of eyes to his program. Sanders intentionally turned over his roster by using the transfer portal to shuttle players in and out the door. However this plays out, Deion will be must-watch TV.
E — Emeka Egbuka. It’s not enough that Ohio State has Marvin Harrison Jr. at wide receiver. Egbuka gives the Buckeyes a second All-America candidate and future first-round draft pick at receiver.
F — Florida State (11 wins last season) has enough talent surrounding star quarterback Jordan Travis to overtake Clemson in the ACC.
G — Georgia is seeking a national championship three-peat, which would put the Bulldogs in exclusive company with the Gophers (Bernie Bierman era, 1934-36) as the only programs to win three consecutive national titles.
H — Harbaugh, Jim. The Michigan coach finally cleared the Ohio State hurdle by winning back-to-back Big Ten championships. The school suspended Harbaugh for the first three games over recruiting violations alleged in an NCAA investigation, but that shouldn’t disrupt the Wolverines.
I — Intrigue. That’s the best word to describe the Big Ten West. Nebraska, Wisconsin, Purdue and Northwestern have new coaches. Every team will feature new starting quarterbacks. There are a lot of questions to be answered.
J — Jimbo Fisher received a gigantic contract from Texas A&M. The Aggies went 5-7 last season, increasing pressure on Fisher to produce a bounce-back season. Fans are restless, but Fisher’s buyout is still about $75 million. That kind of money buys a person time.
K — Kool-Aid McKinstry. Best name in college football and perfect for NIL opportunities. The Alabama cornerback has All-America talent to go with it.
L — Lincoln Riley took USC from four wins to 11 in his first season as coach. The Trojans return Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and enough talent to make a run at a playoff berth.
M — Manning. Yes, there’s another one. Arch Manning, nephew of Peyton and Eli, chose Texas as the nation’s No. 1 recruit. Good luck to Longhorns starting quarterback Quinn Ewers, who already had enough pressure on him leading that blue-blood program.
N — Notre Dame. The question continues to get asked: How long will Notre Dame remain an independent in football as super-conferences continue to form? The answer depends on money in the school’s next TV deal after its contract with NBC expires in 2025.
O — Options. The transfer portal is a version of free agency. Players have more options now, and coaches also can avoid having to rebuild rosters around young players. Fans should not confuse a team filled with new players as being a young team.
P — Pac-12 football will be an awkward dance in the final season before everyone packs up and heads in different directions. As if Pac-12 After Dark wasn’t already dramatic enough.
Q — Quarterbacks will be a main story line with so many big names and likely high draft picks: Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jordan Travis, Michael Penix Jr., Bo Nix and Sam Hartman to name a few.
R — Realignment. There is not a more impactful word in college football right now. Quick test: Name Central Florida’s conference. No cheating with Google.
S — SEC. The conference has produced four consecutive national champions – LSU (2019), Alabama (2020) and Georgia (2021, 2022).
T — Traditions are what make college football so special. Some of my favorites: Iowa’s “The Wave,” Army-Navy “March On,” Wisconsin’s “Jump Around,” Ohio State’s “Dotting the I,” and Clemson’s “Howard Rock.”
U — UAB hired Trent Dilfer as its head coach. The former Super Bowl-winning quarterback had only coached at the high school level previously.
V — Vols. You didn’t think I would go the entire alphabet and not mention the greatest football team in the universe, did you? Coach Josh Heupel has brought respectability back to the program. And yes, they have my favorite tradition — Running through the T.
W – Wisconsin is unveiling a new offense under new head coach Luke Fickell and new coordinator Phil Longo, who is an Air Raid disciple. That run-and-gun scheme is a dramatic shift from the Badgers’ traditional power running identity, though Longo has vowed to remain committed to the run with star tailback Braelon Allen.
X — Twitter, or X, or whatever we’re supposed to call it now, on a Saturday in the fall when college football fans are losing their minds over their favorite sport makes that app worth all the other nonsense.
Y — Yippee! I’ve come around on the 12-team playoff change coming at the end of the 2024 season. A larger playoff won’t diminish the intensity and drama of the regular season. It will enhance it by putting more teams in contention.
Z — Zone blocking. Former Gophers coach Glen Mason built a historic running game using zone blocking, and nobody executed it better than his center, Greg Eslinger. Eslinger won the Outland Trophy and the Rimington Trophy as a two-time All-America. He is now on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 2024. Note to voters: Eslinger’s career is worthy of that highest honor.
Chip Scoggins www.startribune.com
2023-09-01 13:14:42 , "Elephant Head Arizona" – Vivrr Local