College Football Pre-Season Comments – 2023

About 4:00 PM yesterday afternoon, I realized that my overview plan for writing in the next two weeks was not going to work easily.  My plan was to do the College Football Pre-Season comments next week and then the NFL Pre Season Comments soon after that.   Suddenly, I confronted a reality; next week I have a “travel day” and a “medical procedure” and a “cooking event” that will require my attention for at least a half-day.  Fortunately, I had already done some thinking about what I wanted to write about, but my realization caused me to go into hyper-drive last night and early this morning.

As has been the custom here for the past several years, I will try to do a Football Friday rant each week when I am “on the air” on a Friday.  Those offerings will begin over Labor Day weekend and then become a fixture the week after that as the NFL begins its regular season.  Football Friday will be a regular entry here until the Super Bowl weekend in February 2024

Today, the focus is solely on college football, and I want to begin with my list of seven coaches on a hot seat.  This year, my list is comprised of big-time coaches; I am not just looking for teams in the Sun Belt Conference that have not done well for the last two years:

  1. Mario Cristobal – – Miami:  He was the prodigal son who was going to return and make Miami a major powerhouse once again.  Except that didn’t come close to happening as the Hurricanes finished below .500 in 2022.  That must not happen again …
  2. Ryan Day – Ohio State:  Day’s Buckeyes have lost two games in a row to Michigan – – each one by double digits – – and that is not acceptable in Columbus, OH.  If he loses again to Michigan AND fails to make the CFP, things might be very uncomfortable when Day and the AD meet at the end of the season.  Actually, I think the Buckeyes will be just fine this year; they have Marvin Harrison Jr, back on the field and he was the best WR I have seen for several years.
  3. Jimbo Fisher – Texas A&M:  Fisher’s record at A&M is a less-than-gaudy 39-21 in his five years as the Aggies head coach; he is working on a 10-year contract extension worth a total of $94.95M.  Make no mistake, the deep pockets that funded that contract extension did not anticipate paying for a coach whose team loses one out of every three games.
  4. Billy Napier – Florida:  The Gators finished below .500 last year with a QB who went 4th overall in the NFL Draft in April.  The Gators had better not have another season below .500 …
  5. Steve Sarkisian – Texas: The Longhorns had a positive season in 2022 posting an 8 -5 record.  That has created a lot of “optimism” among the Longhorn faithful who think that Texas could be a serous contender for the Big-12 championship and a slot in the CFP.
  6. Mel Tucker – Michigan State:  In 2021 the Spartans were an outstanding 11-2 and that gaudy record got Tucker a 10-year extension worth $95M.  Then last year, the Spartans – – who were ranked in the Top 20 in Pre-Season Polls – – wet the bed and finished 5-7.  Tucker is 18-14 in his time in East Lansing; he needs to do better this season.
  7. Brent Venables – Oklahoma:  The Sooners were 6-7; last year under Venables and that sort of performance is completely unacceptable in Norman, OK.

There are 130+ teams that play Division 1-A college football.  I will not even pretend to be able to offer any sort of cogent information on more than a few of them; therefore, I will not do anything here like I do with the NFL where I try to predict the record for every team in the league.

I will focus some attention on the PAC-12 which seems to have imploded such that this will be the final season that we might recognize what was a Power-5 conference.  And without a doubt, the biggest story in the PAC-12 will be Deion Sanders as the head coach at Colorado.  Face it; every time Coach Prime burps, it will be Tweeted out.  I cannot wait for ESPN to follow him around with a gas chromatograph to analyze the chemical makeup of those burps.

Sanders took over a team that just plain stunk.  In 2022 the Buffaloes were 127th in the nation in scoring (15.4 points per game) and the Buffaloes were dead last in the country in scoring defense allowing 44.5 points per game.  When you look at those numbers, Coach Prime was somewhat justified in running off more than half of his team. They were not remotely competitive.  There are only 10 scholarship players back from last season for Colorado and 68 new scholarship players who arrived via the portal or recruiting.

Can Sanders turn that Colorado program around in one season?  His bluster says that he can and will; but bluster only gets a coach so far against quality opponents.  If Colorado can win 4 games this year with 2 of those wins coming in conference, Coach Prime should get consideration as the Coach of the Year.

I think Auburn should improve this year.  Hugh Freeze takes over that team and even if Freeze has some slimy accoutrements to his CV, the man can coach college football.  He had a previous stint in the SEC and coached Ole Miss to a cumulative record of 39-25 with a 3-1 record in bowl games.

I do not know what to think about Alabama this year.  The team did not win the SEC West last year and then lost two star players to the NFL Draft who went in the Top-3 picks.  The Tide also lost both of its coordinators from last year.  If we were talking about Catatonic State here, I would say those losses would be too much for the team to deal with in 2023.  But this is not Catatonic State; this is Alabama.  The good news for Alabama is that they get to play both Texas and LSU at home.

Two questions to consider as the college football season unwinds:

  1. Is this the year that Florida State returns to center stage in the college football world?  The Seminoles look strong on both sides of the ball with quality players returning.
  2. Are the Washington Huskies a good longshot bet to win the last recognizable PAC-12 crown?    Washington won 11 games in 2022 and have most of that offense back for 2023.

Here is a possible betting angle for 2023.  Bet the OVER in games involving USC.  The Trojans’ offense is potent with Lincoln Riley calling the shots and with Caleb Williams at QB – – but the defense stunk in spades last year and may not be much better this year.  The Trojans ranked 93rd in the country last year in scoring defense giving up 29.3 point per game; for perspective, that put USC one notch ahead of Temple last year.  Temple …

When investigating criminal wrongdoing, police and prosecutors designate certain folks as “A Person of Interest.”    For me, there is “A Person of Interest” in college football in 2023 having nothing at all to do with criminal behavior or any sort of investigation.  I think JT Daniels is someone to watch.  Let me give a brief summary of his college QB career here:

  • 2018 – 2019:  Daniels played in 12 games for USC.  A knee injury limited him to 1 game in 2019 and he availed himself of the transfer portal at the end of the 2019 season.
  • 2020 – 2021:  Daniels played in 9 games for Georgia.  Various injuries limited his availability and at the end of the 2021 season he used the transfer portal once again.
  • 2022:  Daniels played in 10 games for West Virginia.  He lost his starting job there due to insufficient play and at the end of the 2022 season he entered the transfer portal yet again.
  • 2023:  Daniels transferred to Rice where he will theoretically play out his college eligibility.

Why is JT Daniels interesting?  Well playing at 4 schools in 6 years is sort of interesting all by itself.  But the twist here is that when Daniels came out of high school in LA, he was considered a 5-Star recruit.  Rice University does not tend to attract 5-Star recruits.  I understand high school recruiting grades are notoriously inaccurate, but if Daniels really is a significant talent, he should put Rice in a position to win some games this year.

And why is that interesting?  The last time the Owls had a winning season was in 2014; they finished 8-5 that year and went to the Hawaii Bowl.  In the 8 seasons since then, Rice has posted a cumulative record of 25 – 64.  The OVER/UNDER for win total for Rice this year is 4.5.  I will make some win total predictions later in this essay…

There are 3 storylines about the upcoming season that have already been “done to death” but that will not deter writers and commentators from continuing to flog those dead animals:

  1. I already mentioned the storyline at Colorado with its new coach and 68 new players.  It does not matter if the Buffaloes go 9-4 or 3-10 this year, we will read and hear about that situation over and over.
  2. Can Georgia get a “three-peat”?  The Bulldogs’ schedule is very kind to the team’s undertaking here.  The rivalry game against Florida on October 28 and a road game at Tennessee on November 18 are the only “stumbling blocks” to Georgia getting into the CFP which is the prerequisite for winning another national championship.
  3. Is Texas – finally – back?  Longhorn fans have tried to proclaim that to be the case for about the last 5 years and then the team fell short of anticipations.  It has been since 2009 when Texas went 13-1 and played for the BCS Championship; in the intervening years, the Longhorns have posted double-digit wins exactly one time.  If fans are to take this sort of pronouncement seriously the Longhorns will have a chance to demonstrate their prowess early in the season.  On September 9, Texas goes on the road to play Alabama.  The last time Alabama lost a non-conference game at home was in November 2007 when La-Monroe beat the Tide 21-14 in Tuscaloosa.

There is a rule change for this year that I believe could be significant.  In college football it was the rule that the clock stopped every time a team made a first down.  Now the clock will run as it does in the NFL except for the final two minutes of each half.  This will make long drives in those two-minute windows more challenging.  We shall see …

I said above that I would offer up some betting thoughts on total wins by various teams:

  • I like RICE OVER 4.5 wins.
  • I like AUBURN OVER 6.5 wins.
  • I like MICHIGAN STATE UNDER 5.5 wins.

Finally, let me close with this observation about college football by my favorite curmudgeon, H. L. Mencken:

“College football would be more interesting if the faculty played instead of the students – there would be a great increase in broken arms, legs and necks.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



8 thoughts on “College Football Pre-Season Comments – 2023”

    1. TenaciousP:

      At betMGM. the line on OVER/UNDER for Colorado is 3.5 wins. If your assessment is close to correct, there is money to be made here.

  1. Georgia has a relatively easy schedule, but there are some questions about their offense this year. They may all be answered affirmatively, but Offensive Coordinator Todd Moncken is now an OC in the NFL. His righthand man, Buster Faulkner, is now the OC at Georgia Tech. And, star QB Stetson Bennett is now with the Rams. In his two seasons behind Bennett he has been a late game mop-up guy against much weaker opponents. Granted, TE Brock Bowers, who might be the best football player in the country, is still playing in Athens. And the offense won’t need to score a lot to win games.

  2. And then there’s Devonte Walker at UNC! What an absurd situation after reading about JT hit hitchhiker!

    1. GRL:

      You are one up on me here. I don’t know anything about Walker and a hitchhiker.

      Although being named “Walker” and having something to do with hitchhiking is worthy of note.

  3. I can assure you that the Longhorn faithful would pummel any other fan dumb enough to utter the “Texas is ba..” phrase at this point (I couldn’t even get myself to type it out completely.)

    1. JoeyB:

      Have not heard from you in a while. Welcome back …

      Indeed, there is a lot of “baggage”that goes with that phrase. Best to leave it until is is self-evident to everyone?

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