Welcome back to the first “normal” spring since 2019. In 2020, COVID-19 put a stop to everything. In 2021, the pandemic was still affecting college football programs. Now all — well, most — is back to normal, making it the proper time to discuss depth charts, quarterback battles and new coaches. Welcome back, then, as we dive into CBS Sports’ 22 Things to Watch in 2022.
The 10-year contract is upon us. So is name, image and likeness. Alabama must “rebound”. Nick Saban turns 71 this year as he begins his 16th spring with the Crimson Tide. Georgia finally turned the corner and is looking for a repeat. There’s no use debating College Football Playoff expansion because it’s not here until at least 2026.
Player freedom has never been more, well, free. One translation: Ole Miss landed five of the top 50 players in the portal. It’s never been harder to be a coach. They’ve never been paid better either. That’s where this spring’s list begins.
1. Lincoln Riley goes to Hollywood! Those words would have been a foreign language a few months ago, but by leaving for USC, Oklahoma’s former coach sent a message that OU wasn’t going to be OU in the SEC. Without saying it, he is saying it: If things fall right, the Trojans might be closer to a playoff run than the Sooners. That’s what made a monumental job hop worth it. Well, that and a reported $10 million per year. The spring has to be about what the Trojans aren’t at the moment: tough. Even during the Pete Carroll heyday, USC was physical. In recent years, it lost its identity. Riley has to realize he can work the transfer portal all he wants and run his version of the Air Raid, but he has to develop a physical culture. It starts in both lines this spring.
2. Alabama gets stronger: Following the…