The last few weeks in college football have been an interesting ride. Usually, at this time there is some transfer movement post-spring game and some offseason rule changes with meeting happening across the nation.
The majority of the last couple of weeks have been dominated by Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher publicly fighting over NIL. They went far enough to where they were both reprimanded by the conference. The talk regarding NIL hasn’t slowed down either. Lane Kiffin spoke on the record with SI’s Ross Dellenger saying that college football was a “professional sport.” Those conversations will continue to happen over the course of the next few months and years until we get some structure set up to regulate NIL deals.
As we continue to creep forward towards the beginning of the season in late August, there will be new storylines coming out on a weekly basis. During the chaos that is the offseason, these weekly recap pieces will give a quick summary of the happenings of the week. This last week was unique as it was a direct build from last week's events.
SEC Forming Their Own Playoff?
The methodology of crowning a national championship has been contentious for decades. In the early days, the AP picked its national title without having the top two teams playing against each other. After the 1997 season, the Bowl Championship Series was introduced. Tennessee won the first national champion but there were some rough years, including 2004 with three undefeated teams. Once the NCAA felt the system needed changing (10 years too late), they instituted the current four-team playoff system.
The last twelve months, there has been a growing movement for playoff expansion, especially with multiple seasons of a non-conference champion SEC school making the playoff as the second team from the conference. When talks broke down, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was livid about how the talks broke down and according to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, the SEC will be discussing having their own playoff.
The move would be unprecedented as no FBS conference or group of teams have ever split off before. In the FCS, the SWAC has their own championship game that is separate from the FCS playoffs but that is rooted so deep in history it’s not a great comparison. The way the game has been trending with the inclusion of the playoff and NIL, the NCAA has needed a massive facelift for eons. The threat of an SEC-only playoff, which could be upwards of eight teams, could force that evolution very quickly.
The quarterback carousel began right after the regular season ended with players like Spencer Rattler entering the transfer portal. To this point, most of the jobs have been filled but three teams have added quarterbacks in the transfer portal over the last two weeks.
Two former Florida quarterbacks have found homes with Emory Jones heading to Arizona State and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson to Syracuse. Both will have an opportunity to win the starting job and Memphis’ Grant Gunnell went to North Texas in hopes of the same.
The biggest noise with the carousel has come on the recruiting front. Arch Manning is the prized recruit of the 2023 class. The son of Peyton and Eli’s brother Cooper, he has seemingly narrowed his list down to three schools: Texas, Georgia, and Alabama. The interesting wrinkle was the commitment of four-star Eli Holstein to Alabama earlier this week. Earlier this month, it had been reported that Alabama was not going to wait around for Manning to make his decision, but the commitment isn’t a signal that they are out of the race. According to Mike Farrell, Manning is still scheduled to take his official visit to Alabama and Nick Saban is still the coach. An interesting element to the discussion is whether Saban would try and steer Manning away from Georgia. Farrell also noted that the addition of Holstein to the class could be a sign that Alabama isn’t confident in Manning heading to Tuscaloosa. This could be going until signing day, as Manning could be a generational player.
Conference Title Game Changes
Since the SEC debuted their title game in the 1992 season, conferences have had to use divisions to determine the teams that play in the conference title game. Thanks to a newly implemented rule, that is no more. The Mountain West and PAC-12 have already eliminated conferences and the ACC among others is looking to do the same.
There are two main takeaways from these moves: more diverse scheduling in the regular season and a higher probability to have a great matchup in the championship game. While things are up in the air as far as how scheduling will work, having teams meet more often is a good thing for the sport. The same can be said about conference championship games. The Big-12 has been utilizing this for a while after being granted permission from the NCAA to have a championship game with only 10 teams in the conference. Texas/Oklahoma is a better matchup than any other matchup the conference could offer and the Pac-12 and Mountain West hopes to have the same luck moving forward.