GEORGIA MEDIA’S PICK TO WIN SEC TITLE BY WIDE MARGIN OVER ALABAMA, LSU
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Two-time defending national champion Georgia is the overwhelming preseason pick to win the 2023 Southeastern Conference title.
Media covering the SEC’s media days that concluded Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee, gave coach Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs 181 points to win the title Dec. 2 in the poll released Friday. Alabama received 62 while LSU, which lost the title to Georgia last December, was third (31).
Tennessee was a distant fourth, tied with in-state rival Vanderbilt despite the Commodores never winning the league championship. Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and South Carolina received at least one point to win the SEC title.
The team picked as the preseason champ at SEC media days has won the SEC championship game only nine times since 1992.
Georgia also led the SEC with 11 players selected to the league’s preseason first-team. Alabama had seven with defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry also listed as a return specialist along with kicker Will Reichard and long snapper Kneeland Hibbett.
HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER CALEB WILLIAMS IS PREPARED FOR A REDEMPTION CAMPAIGN IN 2023
LAS VEGAS (AP) — USC quarterback Caleb Williams stood behind the lectern at the Heisman Trophy ceremony in December and delivered a speech, reminding his co-finalists that he might have won the hardware, but they were the ones playing in the College Football Playoffs.
“Guess you can’t win ’em all,” he said.
When Williams spoke Friday at the Pac-12 Conference media day, it became clear the same thought has reverberated through him for the past seven months.
“It resonates a lot,” Williams told The Associated Press. “It burns inside that I had said that up there. I didn’t want to say it, but it was the truth and it also got a little laughter … So it eased up the crowd a little bit.”
What hasn’t eased up is his hunger for a national championship.
Williams, listed on FanDuel Sportsbook as the current favorite to with the Heisman Trophy again at 5-1 odds, said he’s heading into the 2023 season extra motivated after a hamstring injury marred his sophomore campaign. A victory over Utah in the Pac-12 title game might have catapulted USC into a playoff spot, but Williams was dealing with the nagging injury and the Utes beat the Trojans 47-24.
Had he been healthy for the championship in USC’s remarkable turnaround season — from 4-8 in 2021 to 11-2 and a Cotton Bowl bid in 2022 — Williams said he believes the Trojans would have enjoyed a different ending.
This year, he realizes what it’ll take to execute coach Lincoln Riley’s gameplan, as the two continue to resurrect the program to national prominence.
“I think when I’m on the field we got the best shot to win,” Williams said. “When I’m healthy, we got even a better shot to win. … Having a routine that I stick to throughout the season, whether it’s food, lifts, running, whatever the case may be, that’ll help me stay healthy for 15 games.”
In just one season with the Trojans, after following Riley from Oklahoma, Williams ranks 10th all time in the program with 42 touchdown passes. His 333 completions are 13th at the school.
Now, Riley and the rest of the Trojans are hoping the catalyst who helped thrust USC’s football program back into the national spotlight is ready for an encore performance.
“I think the situation last year, he obviously did a great job, was important for our program, but also I think for his learning and his growth, it was a great situation for him to be in as well,” Riley said. “Great quarterbacks at the end of the day get defined by their teams’ success, their championships. I know he’s very hungry to go close out this year with both.
“There is no one that I would rather go to war with than that guy.”
Williams has already drawn comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes for his ability to improvise in a split second and still deliver precision passes from an array of arm angles. And considering the former five-star high school recruit out of Washington, D.C., has been in the national spotlight since high school, Williams said he’ll subconsciously be ready for every big moment that’ll confront him.
Whether or not he’s back at the lectern at the Heisman Trophy ceremony again, Williams has his eyes set on a bigger goal.
“I play for championships,” he said. “I’d much rather hoist the golden trophy at the end, it means a lot more to me than the bronze trophy. And it doesn’t mean to disrespect the Heisman … but it’s more or less that’s why you go out there and play football.”
PAC-12 COMMISSIONER CONFIDENT CONFERENCE WILL FLOURISH EVEN AFTER USC, UCLA LEAVE
LAS VEGAS (AP) — George Kliavkoff was one day short of his one-year anniversary as the Pac-12 Conference commissioner, finally on the second day of his first vacation when he got the shocking news that USC and UCLA were leaving for the Big Ten.
He was driving from Montana to Idaho, but was unaware of the 90 text messages populating his cellphone because there was no reception in that area.
Kliavkoff quickly cut his vacation short, flying back to Las Vegas the following day to tackle a topic that more than a year later continues to shape the Pac-12’s future. The two schools in the nation’s second-largest metropolitan area officially depart next year, and the Pac-12 is still trying to cope with that in putting together a new media-rights deal while also considering potential expansion.
Through it all, Kliavkoff maintained a sunny outlook at Friday’s conference football media day. He said a media-right’s package will be announced “in the near future” and that he was confident the 10 remaining schools plus any potential expansion teams will still be together in five years.
There remains rampant speculation the Four Corners schools — Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — could bolt for the Big 12 or that Oregon and Washington could wind up joining USC and UCLA in the Big Ten.
“I think there’s been a lot of misreporting and specific targeted messages about the Pac-12 in the last year since we lost UCLA and USC,” Kliavkoff said. “We’ve been taking the high road and not worrying about what the press is saying or what someone on Twitter is saying. We’re really focused on the future of the conference, and that starts with the media deal and then the discussion about expansion and then playing the great football that were playing.”
USC was picked by the media to win the league and dethrone back-to-back champion Utah. The Trojans enter the season among the top contenders to make the College Football Playoff, which could create an unusual — and perhaps awkward — situation if it plays out that way.
“They all wear Pac-12 logos,” conference executive associate commissioner Merton Hanks said. “They play the Pac-12 games that impact the championship game that will be right here in Los Vegas representing the Pac-12 and then the CFP if it’s a Pac-12 team. So we’re going to support them and UCLA the same, and we’re going to be excited about their success.”
UCLA coach Chip Kelly has an extensive history with the Pac-12. He coached Oregon from 2009-12, going 46-7 with one national championship appearance. He is in his sixth season at UCLA, where Kelly is 17-8 over the past two seasons.
“I’ll reminisce on that after because we’re not leaving right now,” Kelly said. “So our sole focus and attention is on this season. I think the league is as strong as it’s ever been. But I am very sentimental when it comes to this conference.”
Trojans coach Lincoln Riley acknowledged he was looking forward to competing in the Big Ten, but called the Pac-12 “a tremendous conference,” and said it wasn’t “a battle between good and evil.”
He already has noticed a difference when it comes to recruiting, saying USC has been able to expand its base as a result of joining what is mostly a Midwestern league.
“I think that’s going to continue to evolve even more and more as we go on,” Riley said. “I think our kids are excited about playing on the monster stage week in and week out, some of our matchups it’s going to create.”
The 10 remaining Pac-12 coaches are trying to make sense of what this means from a recruiting standpoint because Southern California was such a major target.
One of the big selling points was parents could watch their kids’ games when their schools play in Los Angeles. That pitch will soon be gone.
“We’re still going to recruit that area,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We’re not going to stop just because of what’s happened. We’re going to continue to rely on that area, but report back to me in a year or two. I’ll have a lot better answer on how that’s going.”
The same could be said at the conference level as well.
Kliavkoff is confident today, but tomorrow could bring on a new set of concerns.
His job is to not only to keep the Pac-12 together, but help the conference thrive at a time the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference are pulling away from the rest of the field.
“I think it’s about long-term growth and finding new areas of revenue and continuing to perform really well,” Kliavkoff said. “And, candidly, I think the expansion of the CFP elevates the value of everybody’s media rights, particularly to be one of the conferences that are going to get an automatic bid into the CFP. I think over time, that path that delta has built up over the last 10 years is going to shrink.”
TOP-RANKED RB TAYLOR TATUM CHOOSES OKLAHOMA OVER SOUTHERN CAL
Five-star recruit Taylor Tatum, the top-ranked running back in the Class of 2024, announced Friday his commitment to Oklahoma.
Tatum, from Longview, Texas, chose the Sooners and head coach Brent Venables over his other finalist, Southern Cal, and close to 40 offers including Power Five conference programs across the country.
According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, Tatum is a five-star recruit, the No. 31 player in his class, the top running back and No. 9 overall in the state of Texas. In its own rankings, he’s a four-star, No. 42 in the country, No. 1 at running back and No. 9 in Texas.
Listed at 5-foot-10 1/2 and 205 pounds, Tatum rushed for 1,891 yards and 33 touchdowns and caught three TD passes in his junior season.
He also plans to play baseball at Oklahoma, as he is a standout at Longview High School.
“One of the main things was going to the SEC and being a big dog in football and baseball,” Tatum said following his announcement, which was streamed online. “Growing up you see the LSUs, the (Texas) A&Ms, the Alabamas, the Georgias. I’m going to be part of the big dogs. Getting a chance to play baseball and football in the SEC is just something I couldn’t deny.”
Oklahoma will join the SEC ahead of the 2024-25 academic year.
Tatum visited Southern Cal on June 2 and Oklahoma on June 16.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: LOUISVILLE
2022 Record: 8-5 overall, 4-4 in ACC
Head Coach: Jeff Brohm, 1st year: 0-0, 10th year overall: 66-44
Scott Satterfield came to Louisville after a wildly successful run at Appalachian State. He got the team to three bowl games in four years – give everyone a free pass for 2020 – but he was always on the hot seat after going 8-5 in his first campaign, partly because the base really wanted Jeff Brohm.
Satterfield left to take over the Cincinnati gig – which suddenly became a prize with the move to the Big 12 and the 2021 College Football Playoff appearance still fresh. At least in terms of recent success, and the new conference, and the Power Five designation, it’s not totally wrong to call it a lateral move, falling up to be way generous.
But Satterfield won just 51% of his games in four seasons at Louisville, and no one was the slightest bit shocked to see him move on, even with his teams winning 18 games – sure, throw in the Fenway Bowl he didn’t coach in – over the last three seasons.
Louisville wanted Brohm. He’s the favorite son who was born in Louisville, stayed home to go to school, and was considered a mortal lock to take this gig at some point in his coaching career.
Brohm won 51% of his games in six seasons at Purdue and won 19 games over the last three years.
There’s no dogging what Brohm did in West Lafayette. He took over a program that suffered five straight losing seasons and eight in nine years before his 7-6 2017 debut. It wasn’t always easy – he had his own rough 2020 – and he went through a run of three straight losing seasons before winning 17 games over the last two years with an appearance in the 2022 Big Ten Championship.
And that’s the thing here – Brohm just coached a team that played for the Big Ten title, and now he’s at Louisville, where eight-win seasons now seem underwhelming considering the relatively recent history of success under Charlie Strong and Bobby Petrino.
Brohm took Purdue about as far as it could reasonably go. Now he’s expected to take Louisville further, but …
Brohm’s offensive system didn’t rip it up at Purdue quite as much as you might think. Purdue finished 55th in the nation in total offense and 74th in scoring last year. Louisville finished 48th in total O and 73rd in scoring. In 2021? Purdue was 33rd in total offense, Louisville 21st. The bad 2020 year for both programs? Purdue 70th, Louisville 29th. Purdue was 75th in the nation in total offense in 2019, and in Satterfield’s first season Louisville’s O finished 24th. But …
The passing game is about to be more efficient – at least that’s the goal – under offensive coordinator Brian Brohm. The Cardinals were 12th in the ACC in passing averaging 206 yards per game, and it was 96th in the nation in efficiency. In comes veteran Jack Plummer, a former Purdue passer under Brohm who had his best season yet – he was healthy – at Cal.
The 6-5, 215-pound veteran can spread it around, but there are other options with 2022 backup Brock Domann, 2021 main backup Evan Conley, and a slew of other passers – transfers Harrison Bailey (UNLV, formerly Tennessee) and Brady Allen (Purdue) – are on the way.
The starting quarterback is new, and the receiving corps will be almost all from the transfer portal, at least the main men will be. Georgia State’s Jamari Thrash is the most experienced and dangerous of the bunch. Kevin Coleman was a big recruit for Deion Sanders at Jackson State, and Cincinnati’s Jadon Thompson and Tennessee’s Jimmy Calloway will be thrown into the rotation. Tight ends play a big role in Brohm’s offenses, and the spotlight will be on 6-5, 260-pound star recruit Jamari Johnson to step in right away.
Former starting quarterback Malik Cunningham was the team’s most dangerous runner, but leading rusher Jawhar Jordan is back after averaging 5.7 yards per carry with 815 yards, and Maurice Turner is a quick option who’ll rotate in with former Wisconsin backup Issac Guerendo. The good backs will work behind a solid veteran line around all-stars Bryan Hudson at center and Renato Brown at tackle. The transfer portal is helping the left side with tackles Eric Miller (Purdue), Willie Tyler (Rutgers), and guard John Paul Flores (Virginia) filling the holes.
The offense will be fine, but here’s the question mark considering how disruptive the Louisville defense was last year. Purdue defensive coordinator Ron English comes in to take on the same role. The Boilermaker D was okay-not-great finishing 10th overall in the Big Ten with little to no production behind the line. Louisville was No. 1 in the nation in sacks, seventh in tackles for loss, and allowed 70 fewer yards per game than Purdue did.
The main pass rushers are gone, but Ashton Gillotte is a terrific 6-3, 270-pound end who can get in the backfield and hold up fine against the run. The bulk is coming in around Dezmond Tell on the nose – 320-pound Arizona State transfer Jermayne Lole has the potential to be the team’s best lineman if he can stay healthy after missing most of the last two years.
The team’s top three linebackers are done or transferred, but Stephen Herron is coming in from Stanford to work in a hybrid role – he’ll be more of an edge rusher for the line – and a few young options will get their chances in the middle of the corps. 6-0, 220-pound sophomore Jackson Hamilton isn’t big, but he can move on the inside.
The transfer portal loaded up the receiving corps, but the secondary got even more help. Corners Storm Duck (North Carolina) and Marquis Groves-Killibrew (Texas A&M) will bring a big boost to go along with Cardinal star Jarvis Brownlee – 67 tackles with two picks and 12 broken up passes – and Cam’Ron Kelly (Virginia), Devin Neal (Baylor), and Gilbert Frierson (Miami) make a good safety situation even better around veteran Josh Minkins.
Keep running the ball. Purdue’s offense was known for the big passing performances, but the wins came when the attack ran the ball effectively. It’s going to be the same for the Cardinals, only in a different way without QB Malik Cunningham taking off.
Louisville has the backs, and they’ll get a lot more work – QB Jack Plummer won’t do much to on the move. The team went 7-1 – and almost beat Florida State – when running for more than 170 yards, and 1-4 when it didn’t.
Louisville Cardinals Top Transfer, Biggest Loss
EDGE Stephen Herron in from Stanford, LB Monty Montgomery gone to Ole Miss. No argument for the loss of PK James Turner to Michigan is the biggest loss – he hit 20-of-22 field goals last year – but Montgomery was a reliable rock of a defender for the middle of the defense making 160 tackles with 15 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss with seven forced fumbles over his four years.
Herron is a 6-4, 240-pound outside linebacker/edge rusher who made 72 tackles with ten sacks and 13 tackles for loss in his four years in Palo Alto, and now he needs to step in and be a huge factor for a defense used to getting into the backfield. He’s a huge transfer, but the most important new guy is …
Louisville Cardinals Key Player
Jack Plummer, QB Sr. Malik Cunningham had his moments when he was among the most dangerous quarterbacks in college football, and Brock Domann wasn’t totally awful when he had to fill in last year for the main man. But with a pivot needing to happen for a program that needs a slight tweak and not a total redo, Plummer has to provide the steadiness.
Plummer threw for 3,405 yards and 26 touchdowns in his three seasons at Purdue, threw for almost 3,100 yards and 21 touchdowns last year at Cal, and now he’s the seasoned veteran who needs to play like he’s going into his fifth season.