Deion Sanders explains why he picked Colorado
Now, as the Bulldogs start planning how to win a third straight championship, let’s reflect on the year that was. Here are 10 things we learned from the 2022 college football season:
10. Deion Sanders is a joy to have in college football
Coach Prime led Jackson State to consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference titles and is now heading to the Pac-12. Sanders is bringing his larger-than-life personality to Colorado, a program that is coming off a 1-11 season. Time will tell how he fares in revamping the Buffaloes, but the name recognition will certainly help, and he’s already earned a major win with cornerback/receiver Travis Hunter following him to Colorado via the transfer portal.
9. Notre Dame is in the right hands
After a rocky start — with a close road loss to Ohio State followed by an inexplicable home loss to Marshall — first-year head coach Marcus Freeman righted the ship. After that demoralizing defeat, there were whispers — at least on social media — openly wondering if the 36-year-old Freeman was the right guy for one of college football’s most coveted jobs. Notre Dame ended up finishing the season 9-4, capped by a Gator Bowl win over South Carolina. The Fighting Irish have a top-10 recruiting class for 2023 and are currently ranked No. 2 in 2024 — and reportedly have their new quarterback in Sam Hartman, who is coming over from Wake Forest via the transfer portal.
8. So, things are working out for Brian Kelly at LSU
After a strange offseason that included Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame for LSU, altering his accent and dancing with recruits in a 360 photo booth, he’s done pretty well for himself so far in Baton Rouge. The Tigers had a rough start in the season opener, fueling doubters with a loss to Florida State. But this team had some big wins, including a three-game stretch that saw the Tigers beat Florida on the road, and No. 7 Ole Miss and No. 6 Alabama at home. They also had some big losses, like the 40-13 result vs. No. 8 Tennessee, 38-23 to Texas A&M and 50-30 to Georgia in the SEC championship game. But Kelly had his players ready for the Citrus Bowl, where they crushed Purdue 63-7. Big picture, for as much as people didn’t think Kelly and LSU were a good match, going 10-4 in Year 1 in the SEC sure is not easy.
7. We are ready for a 12-team Playoff
With players sitting out and some fans not caring about their respective teams’ bowl games, let’s just remember what things would have looked like this year in a 12-team field. These would have been the on-campus matchups:
Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Ohio State would have had byes, and then played the winners. The new format will not be implemented until 2024, but it’s not too early to be excited about it.
6. The sport will miss Mike Leach
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach died last month after complications related to a heart condition. He was 61. Leach had a quirky personality and a dry sense of humor. He was a college football icon and a pioneer in the sport, known for his prolific Air Raid offenses.
His coaching tree was endless and included the Arizona Cardinals‘ Kliff Kingsbury, Houston’s Dana Holgorsen, Tennessee’s Josh Huepel, USC’s Lincoln Riley and TCU’s Sonny Dykes, who said he felt Leach’s presence at one point during the CFP semifinal win over Michigan.
He was beloved by his players, too, and his Bulldogs honored him with a special pirate sticker on the side of their helmets during the ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois, which they won 19-10.
5. Ohio State has a Michigan problem
Here’s the thing we need to keep in mind when thinking about Ohio State. Yes, the Buckeyes lost to Michigan two years in a row, but these were two of the most talented teams the Wolverines have had in quite a long time — more so than the ones Urban Meyer had to face. Is going 11-2 in back-to-back years disappointing for a championship-or-bust program? Yes. But Ryan Day is 45-6 after losing to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinal by one point. This program is not broken, it’s just going through a Michigan phase.
4. The Big 12 is not who you thought it was
Just because Texas and Oklahoma are leaving the conference doesn’t mean the Big 12 is irrelevant. TCU has made sure of that by becoming the first team from the conference to win a CFP semifinal game and play for a national championship in the CFP era.
The two quarterbacks faced off in the national championship game who were never supposed to be here. Bennett went from a lightly recruited high school player to a preferred walk-on at Georgia, to a junior college player, and then back to Georgia, where he just won his second national title.
Duggan was also overlooked as a high school prospect from Iowa who went from losing his starting job to leading TCU to the national championship game. And both were Heisman Trophy finalists this season.
It just goes to show that not everything is better by going into the transfer portal; sometimes sticking it out works, too.
2. The transfer portal has a major impact
All you have to do is see how some of the biggest transfers fared this year.
There will be more of this next season when more quarterbacks move, including Hartman from Wake Forest to Notre Dame, DJ Uiagalelei from Clemson to Oregon State and Cade McNamara from Michigan to Iowa.
Recruiting is no longer just about finding the best high school players in the country. It’s now also about finding players in the portal who can become major assets to championship-contending programs.
1. Georgia just might be the new Bama
Georgia made history with the big win over TCU on Monday night, becoming the first program since Alabama in 2011 and 2012 to win consecutive titles. Can we confidently say there’s been a changing of the guard in college football? Alabama has been the sport’s measuring stick for so long, and we might need to prepare ourselves for a new dynasty.
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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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