NIL and the transfer portal is giving us a season that, 6 weeks in, could have the most potential National Championship winners than any season in recent memory.
Kids don’t want to sit, and they want to get paid if they can. So if you’re sitting on the bench at Ohio State, and someone has a few thousand in endorsement deals and a starting spot waiting for you at Purdue or Indiana, you might be tempted to take it.
Technically some of this is an inducement, which isn’t technically allowed, but until the NCAA can stop it, it’s the unwritten law of the land.
This creates volatility for the top-tier programs, the same volatility that that most college football fans are subjected to. It also makes the games on the field more exciting. Texas Tech had Oregon down late, Boston College almost upset Florida State, and Notre Dame needed all 60 minutes to put away DUKE!
So here we are headed into week 6, and the top 30 teams in the AP Poll all have a legitimate opportunity to win out and make an appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Last year at the Week 6 mark, Texas Christian University was at #13. This year the team in that spot is Washington State. If the Horned Frogs can make a run like they did in 2022, why can’t the Cougs? Why can’t Cam Ward be the new Max Duggan?
And yes, it’s a bummer for teams to continue to lose star players to teams that have always had the ability to re-load, like a USC, but what happens when a talented USC player feels like they’ve been recruited over through the portal? They get to move on, too. That’s how Oregon ended up with Gary Bryant, and how CJ Williams ended up at Wisconsin. It’s also how you get Courtland Ford starting at right tackle for a currently undefeated Kentucky Wildcats team.
One of the things that the portal and NIL was supposed to kill off was the impact Group of 5 teams, because the moment that a player pops, you have to assume a Power 5 position coach is in them or their parents DMs. But what seems to be happening instead, is G5 kids are playing better than they ever have, because they’re incentivized by not being locked in for four years in a small college town. Look at Wyoming, sitting here at 4-1, about to host an undefeated Fresno State team on national TV despite losing a ton of players to the portal the last two years. The Cowboys program should be dead after losing so many players.
And Fresno State should have fallen off after losing Jake Haener to the NFL, but the Portal allowed Jeff Tedford to go out and save Mikey Keene from having to sit on the bench at UCF, and they’re right back in the mix. Fox Sports thinks this is compelling enough to push Iowa State vs TCU to FS2.
“As Deion Sanders continues to capture the fascination of college football, even when his team gets blown out, something else is happening. It may not make headlines, but it’s happening all across the country. In Black homes. In Black businesses. Black fathers and sons, Black moms and daughters, Black friends and workmates – so many in the Black community are talking about Sanders. They are saying that Colorado is Black America’s team.“
To Richard Sherman and Keyshawn Johnson’s credit, they seemed to understand the question while being a little confused by the premise.
Richard Sherman said Deion’s “got a lot of fans in the black community, and he’s got a lot of fans in every community.”
Keyshawn Johnson said “Everybody wants to roll with Deion, because it’s Deion.”
Not everybody. Just ask the people that wanted him to stick it out at Jackson State and continue to help uplift HBCU’s. Just like Deion Sanders, those people aren’t hard to find.
My instinct is reject this premise altogether, because THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BLACK AMERICA.
We don’t have one voice, or one interest. What race of people does?
We’re not a monolith.
If you’re black, maybe there’s an added incentive for you to have a rooting interest in Deion Sanders’ success.
Every positive indicator you can grasp onto is a helping hand when it comes to both self-affirmation and raising up the next generation.
But I guarantee you that if you say Deion Sanders’ name at a gathering of Black Americans, that are supposedly united around wanting to see University of Colorado succeed, you’re going to get the whole spectrum of opinions.
And that includes people who don’t care about Deion Sanders at all, and will never care.
Believe it or not, not every black person cares about sports.
10 million people tuned in to the last Colorado game. There are over 40 million black people in America. The math ain’t mathing.
And if you do care about sports, especially college football, are you rooting for Deion Sanders to the point where you’ve left your allegiance behind? Do you want him bringing the Buffaloes to your town to beat up on your school?
I know I don’t.
And they didn’t by the way. Go Ducks.
My point is that it’s silly to consider any group of people to be one thing, on one team. White people never have to deal with this.
Even if there’s something that is disproportionately loved by caucasians, like pickle ball, or pumpkin spice, or Duke basketball, or the movie Rudy, it would be absurd to say something is being embraced by all of White America.
But when it comes to minorities, for some reason we entertain the premise on a live television show moderated by Skip Bayless?
If there was a meeting that we were all supposed to be on Team Deion, I must have missed it!
For another example of this, look at what’s happening with the Washington Redskins… or Football Team… or Commanders.
A petition is going around from an organization called the Native American Guardians Association that wants new owner Josh Harris to change the name of the franchise from the Commanders back to the Redskins.
And the reaction online has been “I thought Native Americans were the ones that wanted the name changed, why can’t they make up their mind?”
Well maybe because there is no “they.”
Native Americans aren’t one thing. So much so, that it’s where we literally get the term “tribal.”
Holding an entire group accountable for the opinions of one part of that group is how the entire indigenous community ended up having treaty after treaty carve up their land, culture and resources.
Look, I don’t care how well intentioned Mike Freeman was, his column is what gave Skip Bayless permission to go out on TV and present the idea that Black America has some sort of hive mind.
Presenting the idea that an increasing number of black people are rooting for Deion Sanders isn’t dangerous, but the idea that it isn’t possible for opinions on Deion Sanders to vary because of one’s skin color is the exact reason that every time I tweet about Coach Prime, I have trolls in my mentions saying that I only support him because he’s black.
We’re giving permission for idiots and racists to think like idiots and racists.
George Wrighster takes on the hottest topics in college football each and every week.
George leads off by pointing out that the Associated Press voters continue to produce embarrassing results that are biased against west coast teams, and in the case of Florida and Tennessee, ignore the head-to-head results on the field.
Next (6:35), George gets into the strange narratives that came out of Oregon’s 42-6 win over Colorado- is criticizing or supporting Deion Sanders a matter of race? What should the proper expectations for Colorado be?
(13:06) Ryan Day went after Lou Holtz after Ohio State’s 17-14 win over Notre Dame. Was his target Lou Holtz, or his own fans and boosters?
(17:15) Notre Dame fans weren’t sure Marcus Freeman was the guy for the job when Notre Dame started out 3-3 in the 2022 season. George Wrighster points out that the energy around the program has changed, even though it was a coaching mistake that helped Ohio State beat them last weekend.
(19:30) The ACC has six undefeated teams and is shaping up to have a fun conference slate ahead. Most of the teams that have improved are relying on transfer talent, but Dabo Swinney and Clemson seem to be struggling by rejecting the idea of building through the portal.
(25:18) Brett Yormark saved the Big 12 from crumbling in the future, but the conference looks down outside of the two teams that are leaving- Texas and Oklahoma. George talks about how the unlikely team that all Big 12 fans have to rally behind this year is the Kansas Jayhawks.
(28:20) The best game of the weekend might not be one you expect. George gets into why everyone should be watching the 4-0 Kentucky Wildcats host the 3-1 Florida Gators.
It’s time for me to put together my list of 10 players that have a chance to be your 2023 Heisman Trophy winner.
Let’s get into it.
10) Washington State Quarterback Cam Ward
The Incarnate Word transfer had a rough first season in Pullman. He was holding the ball too much, his timing with his wideouts was off, and he didn’t always take the easy yards with his legs. This year, he’s fixed all of that, and the result is a mind boggling 13 touchdowns and no interceptions on 75% completions. It’s going to be tough for him to get media attention, but road games at Oregon and Washington will give him every shot he needs.
9) Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders.
Why is Shedeur Sanders on this list after his performance against Oregon?
Two reasons- first, his upcoming schedule is as tough as anyone in the country. If he gets back on track, and a couple other dominoes fall his way, he’ll be undeniable.
Second, what happened against Oregon revealed the truth that people who know ball have known all along. Shedeur Sanders ***IS*** Colorado’s offense. All these other players on this list have a supporting cast trying to help get them the Oscar. Sanders is basically Tom Hanks in Castaway.
8) LSU Wide Receiver Malik Nabers
One of my biggest complaints about Jayden Daniels in his five-year college career is that he doesn’t give his future NFL wide receivers opportunities to win one on one matchups. That changed this year, because Daniels is letting Nabers make plays.
Assuming LSU can play in 14 games this year, Nabers is on pace for 1,800 yards and 18 Touchdowns.
7) Texas Quarterback Quinn Ewers
Quinn Ewers beat Alabama on the road- a thing that has not happened for any out of conference quarterback since Nick Saban’s first year on the job. He’s not having the best statistical season of the quarterback candidates, but the Big 12 sucks enough this year that he should be able to catch up.
6) Florida State Quarterback Jordan Travis
The advantage Travis has, is that Florida State’s most difficult games are behind them. It would even be fair to consider him the frontrunner at this point. He’ll need support from the Seminole’s defense, because as long as they hold up their end, he’ll have a good chance of being able to put his stamp on this season in their 10th game against Miami, and in the season finale against Florida.
5) Notre Dame Running Back Audric Estime
The Golden Domers are going to have to win out, that’s the only way that people will forget that Estime had an average game against Ohio State. But Estime has a real shot to average over 7 yards a carry over the course of the full season. If he does that on 200+ carries, he’s gonna be on that stage.
4) Oregon Quarterback Bo Nix
Bo Nix was a five star recruit coming out of high school. He’s doing exactly what he should be doing in year five. His risks are calculated, and that’s how he’s flirted with an 80% completion percentage while still taking downfield shots. Plus, it’s a priority for Oregon to keep Bo Nix’s name in this conversation, so you know they’re going to run them numbers up.
3) Washington WR Rome Odunze
Odunze belongs on this list as college football’s best returner and possibly receiver, but you know how this works. It’s a QB award.
Rome Odunze, so far, has been more of what people thought Marvin Harrison Jr. would be than Marvin Harrison Jr. Don’t shoot the messenger.
2) USC Quarterback Caleb Williams
Caleb Williams “struggled” his way to accounting for five touchdowns against Arizona State. That’s a bad day for him. He’s got the best stable of receivers in the country. He’s possibly the best player there has ever been at making his own pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. And maybe most importantly, he’s college football’s biggest brand. He’s going to be in the conversations even if USC wins less than some of the other quarterbacks in the running.
1) Washington Quarterback Michael Penix Jr.
This man is chasing five thousand yards and 50 touchdowns, and he’s not forcing anything. It’s all happening in the rhythm of the offense. Washington’s defense gets him the ball back, and he just goes to work. It’s the perfect head coach and quarterback combination. But anything worse than 11-1, and voters are going to count him out- even though they shouldn’t.
There’s a backlash to the Deion Sanders hype, and an even bigger backlash to the backlash.
What’s really going on here?
Let’s talk about it.
If you’re a millennial college football fan, this message isn’t for you. Deion Sanders has been famous your entire life. You watched him be a four year starter at Florida State, spending his last two years as the best player on a team that never left the top 10. You watched him be a first round pick and go to pro bowls in Atlanta, and win Super Bowls in San Francisco- where he won a defensive MVP, and Dallas- where he played on both sides of the ball. You watched him take several years off and then come back in his late 30’s and play at a high level with the Ravens. He’s likely a top 3 corner, and a top 3 kick returner of your lifetime. And if you’re a baseball fan, you watched this man play in New York, the Bay, in Cincinnati, and you watched him hit over .500 in a World Series with five stolen bases in four games in Atlanta. This man led the league in triples once despite only being available for 60% of the season.
On top of all that, Prime has been the coolest man in whatever room he’s been in going on five decades now, and he’s been in a lot of very important rooms.
And that’s the common ground that we should all be able to agree on- that for better or worse, there is an extreme appetite to consume all things related to Deion Sanders.
Think of it in food terms, there wasn’t a fast food chicken sandwich war because people weren’t eating chicken sandwiches.
College football is a business, and the market picks and chooses what people want to see, It might not be what you want to see, but we live in a “majority rules” society, and there’s no college football capitol you can go storm if you don’t get your way.
But to be fair to the people that are sick of hearing about Deion, that needle is getting moved by people that aren’t just fans of college football, but people who are fans of celebrity, and by people who also just get caught up in whatever is trending.
Deion Sanders is growing the game. He’s making new college football fans. And what’s a synonym for a brand new person? A baby.
Babies are a lot of things. They’re cute. They represent hope for a bright future. But they’re also loud. And emotional. And needy. And they believe the world ends and begins with their mom or dad.
And so this last weekend, you had a bunch of toddler Colorado fans running around saying “my dad could beat up your dad” in regards to Oregon, because what they do know is that they love their dad, and they’ve seen him do wonderful things.
But what they don’t know is that the other dad they’re talking about spent the last decade as a professional Buffalo hunting maniac.
Deion’s fans are going to learn what every young college football fan learns, the field tells the truth.
In the end, it’s worth it to deal with these new fans. The ends will justify the means, I promise you that. There’s nothing like college football, and seeing Colorado games sold out at home, and on the road, is incredible.
But just because these fans are new, doesn’t mean that some of their complaints aren’t rooted in truth.
Let’s get into the backlash to the backlash- and if you think I’m going to say it’s boiler-plate racism, you’re wrong.
College football has a scarcity issue.
There are only a handful of teams that make the playoff. There are only a handful of game-changing recruits. There are only a handful of, excuse the pun, primetime television spots.
The entire point of this sport is to scratch and claw your way to the top of the mountain, and then once you’re up there, turn around and kick the people that are trying to get on your level, right in the face.
Guys like Dan Lanning, Marcus Freeman, Ryan Day and Mike Norvell are on their way up that Mountain. Guys like Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, and Kirby Smart are already there.
Colorado’s slogan is “We Coming.”
And what Deion Sanders means by that, is “we coming up that mountain to throw your ass down it.”
Nobody that isn’t a Colorado fan, a Deion fan, or a fan of a team that will never reach the top themselves, wants that to happen.
And real college football fans know this movement has substance. Do you think the best athletes on earth want to play in Tuscaloosa, Alabama because of its pristine beaches and majestic waterfalls? No, they want to be on the biggest stage. And wherever Deion Sanders goes, he brings a pretty damn big stage with him.
And that stage that Deion brings makes the people aware of the scarcity of college football feel a little bit of fear, and a whole lot of jealousy.
So yes, they are rooting on Deion Sanders to fail. Because his success means someone else is falling down that cliffside. And they aren’t just rooting for Deion to fail because he’s black- they want that same level of failure for Lincoln Riley, Steve Sarkisian, and Billy Napier. The whitest of whites.
But we’d be fools to not address the elephant in the room.
Deion Sanders is black. He’s proud of being black. More importantly, he’s proud of being a non-sanitized version of a black man. He’s proud to be himself. And he’s extremely outspoken about his desire to see black Americans prosper.
And the objective truth in this country is that black men and women have been systematically excluded from sharing in all of the privileges that this wonderful country, with all of its wonderful ideals, has allowed to some of its lesser melanized citizens.
Things are better than they’ve ever been, and I’m grateful for that, but the football coaching profession is one of those things that you’d have to be an actual robe-wearing klansmen to say has made “too much” progress.
So you have to understand how the exclusionary nature of college football, whose entire point is to get yours and keep others from getting theirs, looks and feels to black fans that are used to that particular mindset being the exact delivery method for real issues of racism that they face out in the real world.
From an outside perspective, you have a successful black man that doesn’t drink, doesn’t cuss, loves Jesus, loves his mama, and uses his platform to promote hard work and education to the youth of this country, making waves in a profession where not many people in power look like him, and nobody in power acts like him- and the negative response to that is often very loud, and very critical.
Excuse me if I don’t blame people for feeling like this is race issue, even if that’s not the whole truth.
And I know I’m going to get people in my mentions saying that I’m just sticking up for Deion and his fans because I’m black too. They’ve been there every single time I’ve mentioned Deion Sanders’ name.
But I’m not worried about those people. They’re not in positions of power. In fact, it’s because those people have never had any power or control over a single thing in their entire life, that they get mad when they turn on the TV and see an interracial couple in a Mountain Dew commercial. So of course they’re gonna be mad when every channel on their television is talking about “Coach Prime.”
Hopefully this helped explain the disconnect. New college football fans, and the ones that have been in the trenches have about as much in common as an infant and a boomer. Outside of the fact they both get a little cranky.
College football isn’t inherently racist, and even though it’s structure has plenty of evidence that systematic racism is at play, it also boasts as good of a merit-based system as any industry in America.
Most people that hate Deion Sanders don’t hate him because he’s a threatening black man, they just hate him because he’s threatening their place in the college football ecosystem, and he happens to be black.
And Colorado is better at football than they’ve been in a long time because of Deion Sanders, but that doesn’t mean your dad can beat up my dad.
George Wrighster interviews Oregon Equipment Manager Kenny Farr about his 20 years in Eugene, his favorite uniform combinations, what new and exciting things the Ducks have planned for 2023, and how the profession has evolved.
What is it going to take for the people that are entrusted with these votes to not be enslaved to their own confirmation bias?
So what if you started the season by thinking Georgia was the best team in the country?
Carson Beck struggled to move the ball at home against South Carolina, and what you’re saying to the public is that it doesn’t matter how ugly a team comes up with a victory, you’ll ignore those warts because of the final number on the scoreboard.
And you know these rankings have me pissed because I’m about to pound the table for the school I hate the most.
Look at the domination of Washington. Domination.
But Penn State and Ohio State get to be ahead of them in the rankings? For what?
And the worst part about it is if Notre Dame exposes Ohio State this weekend, it’s not going to be an abject lesson to the people that rank these teams with an overly obvious bias against the teams out west.
It’s going to give them license to leapfrog Notre Dame over Washington, and probably USC too.
And if Penn State gets baited into a rock fight with Iowa, and gets a 13-10 win, while Washington puts up another 500+ yards of offense on Cal, do you think you’re going to see these voters drop Penn State below the Huskies?
No, you won’t.
And the reason why is simple- instead of judging these teams on their merits, AP voters are rooting for their preseason guesses to be correct.
This is the toxicity of preseason rankings- you have people that don’t see every team making guesses based on a mix of the previous season’s results, and a quick glance at recruiting rankings, and then doing everything they can to justify that initial guess as the season unfolds.
Anyone with half a brain knows that if the first AP poll came out after three weeks instead of before the season started, it would look extremely different than it does now.
You definitely wouldn’t have Tennessee ranked two spots above Florida just one day after Florida pounded them into dust.
So if we know that to be true, why do we keep this ridiculous system in place?
For content? We have plenty of content.
People complain about the fanboy nature of modern media, and these AP voters might be able to walk around thinking they’re a cut above because they don’t openly root for the teams they cover.
But they’re still fans. Fans of themselves. And that fanboy nature is making the AP Poll look as useless as the Coaches Poll that gets filled out by grad assistants and sports information directors.
We need to talk about this Mel Tucker/Brenda Tracy situation.
But maybe not in the way you’d expect.
For those who don’t know, Brenda Tracy, founder of Set The Expectation, a nonprofit dedicated to ending sexual and interpersonal violence through prevention work, accused Michigan State Head Coach Mel Tucker of repeatedly refusing to acknowledge their eight month professional relationship should not progress into a romantic one, as well as sexually harassing her on a phone call in April 2022.
She also accuses him of canceling a July 2022 speaking engagement in retaliation for Brenda rebuffing his advances.
He essentially accuses Brenda Tracy of wanting to extort him for financial gain in order to drop the Title IX complaint she made to Michigan State in December 2022.
I’m not going to get into who should be believed here. Accusations deserve investigation. Trust enough to make an earnest attempt to verify.
But what happens when the people you have to trust in order to sort out the details of a serious matter have their own ulterior motives and no regard for your welfare?
Because that’s what seems to be the case in Michigan State’s internal investigation of this matter.
Brenda Tracy and Mel Tucker are on opposing sides of a very serious issue, but the one place they might have common ground is their grievance with the investigative process.
This investigation is now tainted and playing out in the court of public opinion because someone leaked Brenda Tracy’s name to USA Today ahead of the October hearings.
The person Branda Tracy had shared investigative documentation with, USA Today reporter Kenny Jacoby, confirmed that he had access to the documentation of the case since June 2023, and has known Brenda Tracy for six years.
But the condition of USA Today having exclusive access to the documentation of the case was that none of it was to be used until the completion of the investigation.
And the longer the hearing was delayed, the bigger the risk that Tracy’s name came out in the media. The hearings were initially set for late August, but Tucker and his attorney delayed the proceedings until October 5th.
Over the last two months, the whispers of the story coming out grew louder, and an MSU Title IX coordinator even emailed Brenda Tracy’s attorney back in late August to warn them that media outlets were investigating the matter and might be ready to publish a story.
When USA Today contacted Brenda Tracy last week to tell her that her name had been brought up, she greenlit the story. And you might be saying to yourself, “Well then this whole thing getting out before October is Brenda Tracy trying to gain an advantage.”
But what you’re not considering is that this story getting out before there’s an investigative conclusion means that Brenda Tracy’s organization is essentially toast. College coaches are not going to bring Set The Expectation onto their campus if there’s even a one percent chance that they feel Tracy isn’t a consummate professional.
The contextless details about long phone calls and the formation of a deeply personal relationship with a married coach, regardless of the claim Mel Tucker pushed the relationship into sexual territory after being asked not to, give enough reasonable doubt to any athletic administration to seek guidance and training on sexual violence and consent from literally anyone but Brenda Tracy.
This information being out there does not help Brenda Tracy at all.
And it damn sure doesn’t help Mel Tucker. I’m not sure he can be helped, but if the only people aware that this investigation had concluded, and was awaiting a hearing, were out here spilling secrets- how on earth is it even possible for Mel Tucker to have a fair adjudication of his counterclaims?
The answer? It isn’t. And maybe that’s the point.
The leaker definitely has no regard for Brenda Tracy’s well-being, and the entire thing seems to be an attempt to hurt Tucker’s chances of surviving this scandal and being able to earn the massive contract that Spartan boosters gave him.
This case is complicated and messy enough without the ulterior motives of a third party being driven by a desire for success on the football field.
If you didn’t see it, Blackburn came over from his safety position and put his shoulder into Hunter’s ribs well after a sideline pass had already sailed over Hunter’s head.
Blackburn was trying to knock Hunter out of the game, and it worked. After being pulled from the game and sent to the hospital for evaluation, we now know that Travis Hunter is knocked out of several games.
And until he gets back, Henry Blackburn should be suspended too. But he won’t be. Because you can intentionally try to injure anyone you want in college football, so long as you don’t lower your head when you do it.
But this is less about Henry Blackburn, and more about how it exposes the NCAA’s ridiculous refusal to address the fact that a massive portion of targeting calls involve accidental contact and end up being judgment calls from referees watching who are watching slow motion replays.
There needs to be a differentiation between incidental, non-malicious contact on the field that the NCAA still wants to discourage, and the intentional type of plays that can ruin careers, and endanger someone’s physical wellbeing.
Nobody understands the need to keep players as safe as possible in an intensely physical game more than I do. I had to take these hits. But I’m a former offensive player out here telling you that trying to take the football out of football by not differentiating between things that happen when a defender is trying to make a play, like when Mississippi State’s Shawn Preston Jr. got tossed for tackling a non-sliding Jayden Daniels in their game against LSU.
At most that should have been a penalty for leading with the helmet. I could live with that, but for the rules as they’re written to create the reality that it’s less egregious for a safety to use his shoulder as a weapon on a defenseless receiver after the play ends?