Spring ball has kicked off for most college football teams in the country and it is only a matter of time before the spring games take place. Not exactly the most exciting time of the year for college football fans, but at least it gives us something to keep us occupied and help take our focus off of such a long offseason.
There are a lot of spring games that fly under the radar and are never mentioned by anyone but a fan from that particular team. Then, there are the spring games that everybody wants to pay attention to and watch due to the talent level and the drama that is provided.
Spring games are really nothing more than a glorified practice, but some of these exhibitions are really worth checking out when you have run out of things to do. Some are even worth paying to see, as the position battles and coaches screaming on the sidelines are something you can't get anywhere else.
While many spring games won't even receive a second look, here are the select few that would be worth forking over a few dollars for.
No, this is not a misprint.
Vanderbilt has been taking giant steps under head coach James Franklin and could easily compete for a spot in the SEC Championship this year.
With three starters returning in the secondary that finished 14th in the country in pass defense, the Commodores should remain that feisty team on the defensive side of the ball. The team also has one of the more talented wide receiving corps college football has to offer with Jordan Matthews returning for his senior year.
This team really has a bunch of things going for it and it wouldn't surprise me if Vandy is giving Florida, Georgia and South Carolina a run for their money in the SEC East. The only major concern for this underdog is at the quarterback position, but if that area can be addressed, the potential is there for the Commodores to be the Texas A&M of the 2013 season.
Many are going to remain skeptical of this team entering the regular season, but I'd pay to see how things are coming together and if Franklin and his guys can prove me right about what the future holds.
Michigan is a team that has a lot of things going for it, but a lot of question marks at the same time.
Devin Gardner appears to be a better quarterback than Denard Robinson, but exactly what is he capable of accomplishing in a full season? The offensive line isn't completely a mess with Taylor Lewan and Mike Schofield holding down the edges, but the remaining spots will have three new faces up front. Running back isn't as big of a concern as it once appeared, but the health of Fitzgerald Toussaint will be one of the things to monitor throughout practice.
Offense is going to be a huge focus this spring for the Wolverines, as a switch to a pro-style offense should be interesting. However, even on defense, there are linebacker spots that are up for grabs and the defensive line is a unit that could improve, particularly with its pass rush.
Michigan is a team that has enough pieces in place to give the Ohio State Buckeyes a run for the Big Ten this year. At the same time, there are concerns that could hold this team back.
The spring game will help indicate exactly how close Brady Hoke and his players are from competing with the big boys.
If we are going to talk about Vanderbilt, Ole Miss deserves some love as well.
Returning 18 starters from last year, the Rebels are the most experienced team in the SEC and could emerge as that surprise team in the SEC West.
A team that nobody was paying attention to a season ago also put together one of the best 2013 recruiting classes. This is a program that is quickly on the rise under head coach Hugh Freeze, and you can feel the magic in the air if you take a trip to Oxford.
Ole Miss returns 10 starters on defense, including linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, who was an All-SEC player as a freshman. A total of eight starters return offensively, including running back Jeff Scott, quarterback Bo Wallace and four offensive linemen.
The Rebels may still be a year away from giving Alabama their best shot, but the future has never looked so bright.
It isn't very often Ole Miss is a relevant and competitive football team. Taking a trip to the spring game and seeing the look on the fans' faces would be worth the time and effort.
It has been three straight years of subpar performances from the Texas Longhorns. Folks in Austin may tell you everything will be fine, but trips to the Alamo Bowl and Holiday Bowl are not what is expected from this program year in and year out.
Even with the recent struggles, Texas will remain high in the polls and the expectations will continue to be through the roof. And with the team that is returning, there are no more excuses for head coach Mack Brown and this coaching staff.
This is the year that Texas either gets back on track, or changes must be made.
The Longhorns have 19 starters returning, which is by far more than any other team in the Big 12. The defense should make drastic improvements from last year, and the offense has more than enough playmakers to put up numbers we haven't seen since Vince Young was running the show.
On paper, this team could compete for a national title if everybody can remain healthy. The problem is talent has never been as issue with this squad and we continue to be disappointed.
Spring will tell us a lot about which direction this team is heading.
Auburn ranked 13th in the SEC in total defense last year. The offense was even worse, as the Tigers were dead last in the conference, which included five games of scoring 10 points or less.
It was beyond ugly for Auburn last season and if you didn't know any better, you would avoid this team like the plague entering the new season.
So why should you pay to watch the Tigers this spring?
Because head coach Gus Malzahn is now calling the shots. One of the most exciting offensive coaches in the entire country, this is somebody who could turn this team around rather quickly. He has had success everywhere he has coached on that side of the ball and has enough pieces to work with, including an offensive line that returns four starters.
Defensively is where the concerns lay the most, but with every starter on the defensive line and the secondary returning, it can't be as bad as last year, right?
The Tigers are still at least a good two or three years from competing in the tough SEC West, but it will be fun to see what Malzahn can get done in his first year.
Absolutely anything will be an improvement from what took place last season.
Just face it; you want to see what the Oregon Ducks are going to look like without head coach Chip Kelly.
The truth is that the offense should remain much the same with eight starters returning and all of the speed still on campus. New head coach Mark Helfrich worked closely with Kelly and should be able to keep much of the same plays and schemes in place for the Ducks to remain that flashy, high-scoring team it has been.
Defensively is where the concerns settle in for the Ducks, as guys on the defensive line must emerge and help replace the production that Dion Jordan left behind. Also, the linebacker corps needs to be addressed with the top two tacklers from last year in Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso leaving.
Oregon is going to remain the team with the most swagger, as custom uniforms will even be provided for the glorified practice. The team also has the talent in place to once again compete for a Pac-12 title.
There aren't many teams in college football that are as exciting as the Ducks. Even with a coaching change, this still remains the case, and it will be worth every penny to pay to watch the explosiveness up close.
Notre Dame always has one of the most over-hyped spring games of every offseason. But with what the team accomplished last year and the talent that is returning, keeping a close eye on the Irish is actually worth it this time around.
Like every year, watching the quarterback position will be key this spring. Finding out if Everett Golson is the man will make all the difference in the world. This will also be the chance for backup Gunner Kiel to make a name for himself and prove some of the critics wrong. If everything goes well, we could have a quarterback competition on our hands entering fall camp.
The Irish have many storylines defensively. How does the linebacker corps look with Manti Te'o no longer in the middle? A combination of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt should help form one of the best defensive lines in the entire country. Also, the secondary should look better with experience and more talent to fill out the four positions in the defensive backfield.
Notre Dame looks better on paper than it did last season, which is a scary thought for the rest of college football. Most years it would be safe to label the Irish as one of the most overrated teams in the country, but this is the year you actually want to watch them this spring.
Last year, Ohio State drew more than 80,000 fans to the spring game.
Yes, more people showed up to watch the Buckeyes practice than the Miami Marlins manage to attract in an entire season. With the expectations even higher in Urban Meyer's second season, that number could actually be topped.
The thing that many will be watching is the development of quarterback Braxton Miller. Entering his third season as a starter, Miller has been working with quarterback coach George Whitfield and should be poised to have his best season for the Buckeyes this year.
Defensively, Ohio State must replace seven starters, including six in the front seven. Meyer has done a tremendous job of recruiting on that side of the ball, and those young guys will be expected to answer the bell right away. Not only will production be asked of this young group of men, but leadership must be established early on as well.
Ohio State has the talent on both sides of the ball to once again compete for a national championship. Seeing both sides get after it will provide more entertainment than your usual spring game ever dreamed of.
With all of the talent that heads to Baton Rouge every season, LSU will remain a contender in 2013.
But even with all of the reasons to be excited about this team, the defense is a concern with this ball club.
Seriously, when was the last time we could say that?
Due to many players leaving for the NFL, or graduating, the Tigers must replace six starters on that side of the ball. That includes three guys on the defensive line and a couple of players in the secondary. The good news is that there are plenty of terrific recruits that will be able to step in and help out, and it should be fun to see who will be able to pull their weight.
Another reason to watch this team is of course the quarterback position. Is Zach Mettenberger really the answer? We know the running game will continue to be the bread and butter of the offense, but if the signal-caller can take his game to the next level, the chances for this team to win the SEC West increase dramatically.
It has been a while since LSU was the team that was taking a backseat in this conference. You might as well take advantage of it and pay a trip to check out the Tigers this spring.
Who wouldn't want to see the Alabama spring game up close and personal?
The Crimson Tide enters practice as the best team from top to bottom. There are really no weaknesses with this team, just minor concerns that can't be fixed with Nick Saban plugging in the latest 5-star player.
The overwhelming favorite to win this year’s national championship as well, Alabama is looking like a mini-NFL team on paper. With talent and experience everywhere you turn in Tuscaloosa, the spring game isn't a time to answer questions, it is an actual game-like atmosphere that you can sit back and enjoy. However, with Saban standing on the sidelines, he demands that his guys compete at the highest level and continue to fight for roster spots.
There is no team in the country that is as polished as the Tide. Watching both sides play each other will actually provide more competition than most of the squads that play this team in the regular season.