Biggest College Football Questions with a Month Until the 2022 Season
The beginning of August brings a rush of excitement for one simple reason: The college football season will start this month.
Before the long-awaited games kick off, though, there are still plenty of questions to answer. Most pressingly, we're looking ahead to fall camp and waiting to hear the outcome of quarterback competitions all over the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The reality, however, is some topics will—and, in several cases, must—linger into the regular season.
We've highlighted six of the nation's largest storylines as the countdown to the 2022 season truly is on.
When Is the Next Wave of Realignment?
As expected, Oklahoma and Texas merely sparked this current and upcoming wave of realignment. That decision in 2021 led to a reshuffled Big 12, filtering down to changes in the American, Conference USA and Sun Belt, as well.
And then, the Big Ten pulled off a heist.
USC and UCLA announced their intentions to join the Big Ten, which created a shockwave felt across the FBS landscape.
For now, the situation seems to have settled. There are no reports of immediate moves elsewhere, and the Pac-12 hasn't scrambled to replace the Los Angeles schools. The topic will remain relevant, but it may be noticeably quiet for a couple of months.
Both marquee pairs and their respective future conferences managed to keep these conversations under wraps until acceptance was a formality.
Will another round of agreements happen midseason?
Who Wins the QB Battles?
While there are dozens of quarterback competitions across the FBS, a select group naturally draws the headlines.
Michigan and Cincinnati made the College Football Playoff last season but need a new starter. Cade McNamara is trying to fight off 2021 5-star J.J. McCarthy at U-M, and Cincinnati is choosing between Ben Bryant and Evan Prater.
Texas A&M is a potential Top Five team, but that upside is heavily contingent on Haynes King, LSU transfer Max Johnson or possibly even freshman 5-star Conner Weigman.
Not only is Texas a highly recognizable brand, but the Longhorns have Quinn Ewers—the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2021 cycle—competing with Hudson Card.
We have our suspicions in those competitions, but fall camp will officially decide the Week 1 starters.
Which New Coaches Excel Immediately?
Generally speaking, the first offseason is the happiest time for newly hired coaches.
For example, Lincoln Riley dominated the transfer portal—more on that shortly—to reinforce USC's roster. Mario Cristobal has already turned Miami into a force on the recruiting trail, and both Notre Dame's Marcus Freeman and Oklahoma's Brent Venables are having great success there, too.
This offseason's good-vibes list includes Florida's Billy Napier, LSU's Brian Kelly and Oregon's Dan Lanning, among several others.
Not every program is built to compete for conference titles right away, though. On the other hand, some teams are decently positioned to contend but may fall considerably short of their best-case scenario.
We know that perceptions can and will change quickly. We have to start seeing some results first, though.
Which Team Aced the Portal?
Last year, Michigan State provided a case study on how to best utilize the transfer portal. Highlighted by running back Kenneth Walker III, a handful of additions fueled the Spartans' surge from a 2-5 record in 2020 to 11-2.
And this storyline is only growing in importance.
Now that transfers are immediately eligible at their new schools, that exact situation can play out every year. Any number of programs are taking fewer high school prospects and instead placing a greater emphasis on experienced players via the portal.
This offseason alone, dozens of programs took double-digit transfers. USC, Ole Miss, LSU and Oklahoma—the top four in 247Sports' transfer rankings—each brought in 14-plus players.
Plus, the "quality over quantity" approach can pay massive dividends, too. Alabama landed star receiver Jameson Williams and leading tackler Henry To'oTo'o last year and is hoping for repeat success with running back Jahmyr Gibbs, wideout Jermaine Burton and corner Eli Ricks.
In theory, older players offer a quicker impact. But which coaching staff will integrate the transfers most effectively?
Can the Pac-12 End CFP Drought?
Among the Power Five conferences—ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC—no league has a longer CFP drought than the Pac-12.
So far, the SEC has flaunted at least one representative in all eight editions of the CFP. While the ACC hadn't missed until 2021, the Big Ten is a solid 6-for-8. Although the Big 12 has only sent Oklahoma, the program has reached the championship tourney four times—including three since 2016.
Which is otherwise known as the Pac-12's most recent appearance.
Oregon made the field in 2014, and Washington followed suit two years later. Since then, the Pac-12 has only had a legitimate late-season chance once: in 2019, when then-No. 5 Utah's bid ended because of a loss to Oregon in the conference championship game.
Utah and USC could be preseason Top 10 teams in 2022, and Oregon likely won't be far behind.
Is this finally the year the Pac-12 returns to the CFP?
Will Anyone Stop the SEC?
The last three seasons have featured a different national champion. That is, in a vacuum, wonderful for the sport.
However, the challenge—not necessarily a problem—is that all three were SEC programs. Georgia hoisted the trophy last season, following 2020 Alabama and 2019 LSU. Overall, the league has accounted for 12 of the last 16 champions.
Look, that doesn't bother me and might not concern you. But if you're tired of the same conference winning the title, the feeling is understandable.
Although winning the national championship is slightly different than Clemson dominating the ACC or Oklahoma controlling the Big 12, the concept is the same. And, hey, both of those programs saw their respective reigns in conference play end last season. Change can be good!
The streak won't end quietly, though.
Alabama and Georgia are two of the heaviest preseason favorites, and Texas A&M is nearing the regular season with plenty of hype. Until proven otherwise, the road to a national title runs through the SEC.