College FB Roundup: QB Transfer Mania; "Hella Fun;" Saban Cashes In; Let the Games Begin
It's been a crazy, dispiriting offseason for those of us who love college football.
The headlines have been dominated by money-driven changes in our cherished traditions. So many of the things we love have been pushed aside in the quest for media dollars, the advent of NIL payments and transfer portals, and major conference realignment.
Finally, this week, the real games begin (other than a few in Week Zero). But not before a few final off-the-field flourishes.
Transfer Epidemic: Last week Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated profiled the 25 most intriguing quarterbacks in college football for 2022, and I was struck by the number of transfers.
More than half of the QBs—14 to be exact—came from the transfer portal. Here's the complete list, with current and former school(s).
Caleb Williams, USC (Oklahoma)
Quinn Ewers, Texas (Ohio State)
Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma (UCF)
Spencer Rattler, South Carolina (Oklahoma)
Cameron Ward, Washington State (Incarnate Word)
JT Daniels, West Virginia (USC, Georgia)
Will Levis, Kentucky (Penn State)
Casey Thompson, Nebraska (Texas)
Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (Virginia Tech)
Michael Pendix, Jr., Washington (Indiana)
Bo Nix, Oregon (Auburn)
Kedon Slovis, Pittsburgh (USC)
Jake Haener, Fresno State (Washington)
Adrian Martinez, Kansas State (Nebraska)
This transfer mania among quarterbacks has become a national trend. Seemingly any QB who isn't starting or has fallen out of love with his coach enters the transfer portal and looks for greener pastures elsewhere—as defined by an opportunity to start, a coach who really wants him, and/or more NIL money.
Notice that "education" never seems to be part of the motivation for moving.
Pac-12 NIL Update: A new organization to help Cal athletes find NIL opportunities, the California Legends Collective, has been launched at Cal. The collective was created in association with Beastmode Marketing, a company founded by former Cal and Seattle Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch.
"I'm always open to finding ways to help current and future Bears," Lynch said. This is a really special opportunity that I had to push 'play' on. This partnership is gonna be hella fun, and it's not just about NIL money."
They're also having hella fun at eight other Pac-12 schools with outside collectives—Arizona, ASU, USC, UCLA, Utah, Washington, WSU and Oregon.
Stanford recently announced the formation of Cardinal Connect, a new campus program to help Stanford students take advantage of NIL opportunities. No collective of outside donors or corporations has been launched on The Farm. Colorado and Oregon State are also in-house only at this point.
Saban's Bonanza: Not to be outdone by Georgia's Kirby Smart, who recently inked a contract extension that will pay him $10,25 million this year and 12.25M by 2031, Alabama coach Nick Saban signed a new agreement over the same term that will pay him $10.7 million this year and $12.7 by 2031. He also gets an annual $800,000 “completion bonus the first four years.
And no, last time I checked, he hadn’t cured cancer.
Early NFL Draft Preview: The Athletic's Dane Brugler, who along with ESPN's Mel Kiper, is considered the top draft expert in the media, last week published his early list of the top 50 NFL draft picks. The results show why the same teams continue to dominate college football.
Of the top 10 draft prospects, three were from Georgia, three from Clemson, two from Alabama, one from Ohio State and one from Oregon. All six of the players from Georgia and Clemson were on the defensive side of the ball, so assume it'll be very hard to score on the Tigers and Bulldogs this year.
The only Bay Area player listed was Stanford QB Tanner McKee (above) at No. 49 (projecting as a middle second rounder). He's listed at 6-6, 238 and Brugler describes him as “a fantastic rhythm passer with the ball placement and vision to work through progressions, horizontally and vertically.”
Can Stanford Rebound? Stanford is 11-19 over the last three years, including a 3-9 mark last season, the school's worst since 2006. The Cardinal finished 2021 on a seven-game losing streak.
That figures to end in this week's season opener against Colgate (how was that game ever scheduled?), but after that, things get hairy. Week 2 features USC at home, followed by road games with Washington and Oregon, a home game against Oregon State, and a road game at Notre Dame.
Given that schedule, a 3-3 start would be considered a huge accomplishment.
The key for Stanford will be whether the offensive line can give McKee enough time to find an excellent group of receivers, and whether EJ Smith can emerge as a legitimate No. 1 back.
However, the bigger question facing the Cardinal long term is whether it can succeed in the era of transfer portal free agency and NIL compensation, neither of which is compatible with Stanford's admissions requirements and values.
This Week: Three important intra-conference games involving potential College Football Playoff participants highlight this week's schedule.
No. 5 Notre Dame hosts No. 2 Ohio State in South Bend, while pre-season Pac-12 favorite Utah, ranked No. 7 nationally, is at Florida, and No. 11 Oregon is at No. 3 Georgia.
If Utah wants to play in the College Football Playoff this year, it must beat Florida.
The Oregon-Georgia matchup has an interesting twist. Oregon's new head coach, Dan Lanning, was Georgia's defensive coordinator last season when the Bulldogs won the national championship.
A Duck win would do wonders for the image of the embattled Pac-12.