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Back to school, back to college football. If you’re in search of the top headlines you should know heading into the new college football season, we’re here to help. In our annual report, our ace correspondent (and my big brother) Vincent Thomas is sharing a preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022, including compelling storylines, fun facts and potential breakout stars. It’s almost tailgate time!

NCAA college football 2022 preview

Here in Minneapolis, the sun is setting before 8:30PM. The Minnesota State Fair begins in three days. Farmers’ markets are bursting with sweet corn and my wife is harvesting tomatoes from her garden. Parents are discreetly counting down the days until the day after Labor Day, when the first day of school will relieve them from summer’s full-time childcare responsibilities. All of this can only mean one thing.

College football preview 2022

Preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022. Courtesy Photo.

The college football season is about to start.

Are you ready?

If the last weekend without college football until January of 2023 just came and went without you realizing it, relax. As always, Dandelion Chandelier has your back. You will be ready for next week’s conversation in the break room (or with the mail carrier if you work from home) if you remember at least one of these talking points:

College football preview 2022

Preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022. Courtesy Photo.

preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022

1. Conference consolidation: Follow the Money

Law enforcement officers and journalists are often advised to “follow the money” when they are trying to make sense of the evidence uncovered in a conspiracy investigation. The phrase “follow the money” originated in the 1976 hit movie All The President’s Men, which told the story of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s investigation of the Watergate scandal.

college football preview 2022

College football 2022 preview: the USC Trojans are leaving the Pac-12 Conference for the Big 10.

Exactly fifty years after the summer in which the break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s offices in Washington D. C’s Watergate complex occurred, this summer’s most major events in the college football world gave fans ample reasons to follow the money to make sense of what they were hearing.

The UCLA Bruins are leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 10.

two teams defect from the Pac-12 for the big 10

In June, two members of the Pacific-12 Conference, the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC), shocked the world by announcing that they had decided to leave the Conference and join the Big Ten Conference at the start of the 2023-2024 academic year, and that the 14 Big 10 Conference presidents had voted unanimously to make them the Big Ten’s 15th and 16th members.

Why would these two institutions, both of whose campuses are in the city of Los Angeles, join a conference whose westernmost member is the University of Nebraska? At the time, commentators concluded that their primary motivation was money. Specifically, increased revenue from the Big Ten’s agreements with television networks for the media rights to broadcast Big Ten college football games.

big 10 strikes a big new broadcast television deal

Last week, a subsequent event validated the commentators’ analysis. The Big Ten Conference announced that it had reached an agreement with Fox, CBS, and NBC in which the three networks would pay the Conference $7 billion over the seven years between 2023 and 2030 for the media rights to all the Conference’s television sports broadcasts. ESPN reported that the Big Ten is projected to eventually distribute $80 million to $100 million in media rights revenue per year to each of its 16 members.

Preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022; the compelling storylines, fun facts and potential breakout stars.

Preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022; the compelling storylines, fun facts and potential breakout stars.

for teams changing conferences, money talks

For that kind of money, UCLA, an institution with impeccable academic and athletic pedigree, will gladly compromise both by requiring its student-athletes to fly across the country to College Park, Maryland for a single mid-week conference game instead of traveling 367 miles by motor coach up Interstate 5 to Berkeley, California. USC, an institution with a history of success in college football, a sport that values tradition, will eagerly exchange its annual games against traditional rivals Stanford University and the University of Washington for annual games against the Universities of Illinois and Iowa.

Preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022; the compelling storylines, fun facts and potential breakout stars.

Ohio State is getting new company in the Big 10 conference.

impact of name, image and likeness policy change is being felt

Because of last year’s rule change that allowed NCAA athletes to earn money from their “name, image, and likeness” without losing their eligibility, fans can also apply the “follow the money” advice to understand players’ decisions about where to study and play, both as an incoming first year student and as a transfer student. The largest and most successful college athletic programs have started collectives-companies established to help facilitate name, image, and likeness deals for their student athletes.

The existence, size, and capitalization level of a university’s collective has become one of the primary criteria that the most highly recruited high school athletes and their families consider when selecting a college. It also is a factor that successful college athletes who have not exhausted their eligibility consider when deciding whether to return to their current school for the next season, transfer to another school, or end their college careers and enter a professional league’s amateur draft.

2. Will Bryce Young Win the Heisman Trophy Again?

College football’s most prestigious award is given annually to “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” Keeping with our throwback to the mid-seventies theme, it was 1975 when The Ohio State University running back Archie Griffin became the first and only player ever to win the Heisman Trophy twice. Mr. Griffin won the award in consecutive seasons as a junior in 1974 and as a senior in 1975.

Preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022; the compelling storylines, fun facts and potential breakout stars.

The Heisman Tropohy

University of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young won the 2021 Heisman Trophy as a sophomore. Can he win it again as a junior in 2022?

College football journalists have identified the following players, one of whom is a teammate, as Mr. Young’s most likely competitors for the 2022 Heisman Trophy:

  • J. Stroud, Quarterback, Ohio State
  • Caleb Williams, Quarterback, USC
  • Will Anderson, Linebacker, Alabama

If you are looking for the name of a “dark horse” potential Heisman Trophy winner to drop into a conversation, I suggest University of Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen. Mr. Allen, a sophomore, became Wisconsin’s starter at running back midway through last season and blossomed into one of college football’s best running backs as an 18-year-old first year student.

In the season’s final nine games, Mr. Allen scored 11 touchdowns and averaged 135.4 yards rushing per game. Because Wisconsin’s offensive strategy strongly emphasizes running plays, Mr. Allen will have more opportunities to shine than other players at his position.

3. Will the Change to a New Head Coach Produce the Desired Results?

Between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day in 2021, the following college football head coaches left their jobs to become head coaches at another school:

Lincoln Riley Oklahoma USC
Mario Cristobal University of Oregon University of Miami
Brian Kelly University of Notre Dame Louisiana State University

the college football coaching carousel spins

NCAA football, like the professional National Football League (NFL), has teams that decide to make coaching changes during every offseason. This practice is often referred to as “the coaching carousel.” The coaching carousel has rarely spun this often at this level of college football.

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban is the O.G. of college football coaches.

In contrast to the NFL’s emphasis on parity among its 32 teams, NCAA football has a long history of a hierarchy among its teams based almost as much on achievements from previous generations as on current or recent success.

Lincoln Riley has left the Oklahoma Sooners for the head coaching job at USC.

Because of their histories of success, universities like Notre Dame and Oklahoma see themselves, and are viewed by competitors, as final destinations for head coaches. These are jobs to be left voluntarily only upon retirement or to accept an offer to serve as head coach of an NFL team. Before Coach Kelly left to become Louisiana State’s head coach last November, no Notre Dame head coach had left his position to become head coach at another university since 1933.

lots of pressure on the new head coaches – and their successors

Because their transitions were uncommon, and because of their fan bases’ high hopes, Coaches Riley, Kelly, and Cristobal will be heavily scrutinized and expected to produce immediate results. Their successors-Brent Venables at Oklahoma, Dan Lanning at Oregon, and Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame-will face a different kind of pressure. Can they maintain the success of their predecessors?

Notre Dame football.

Coach Freeman, a young African American coach who was promoted internally from his previous position as Assistant Coach and Defensive Coordinator, will be especially visible as he attempts to balance making Notre Dame’s “brand” more attractive to the country’s best big-city high school football players and maintaining the traditions cherished by Notre Dame’s alumni and fan base.


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4. Will the Oligarchy Regain Control of the College Football Playoff?

Regular readers of Dandelion Chandelier’s college football preview post may remember that the dominance of four teams – Alabama, Clemson University, Ohio State, and the University of Oklahoma – in the college football playoffs was a theme in both the 2021 and 2020 posts. In the 2021 season, two newcomers – the University of Michigan and the University of Cincinnati – along with returner-after-a-short-absence the University of Georgia, earned playoff berths alongside Alabama, with Georgia winning its first national championship since 1980. Did Michigan and Cincinnati’s arrival signal a change, or will college football return to the status quo in 2022?

Preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022; the compelling storylines, fun facts and potential breakout stars.

Preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022; the compelling storylines, fun facts and potential breakout stars.

The consensus among the prognosticators is that there will be a return to the status quo. Every story I have read to date on this topic predicts that the four 2022 playoff teams will be Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Georgia. The voters in the preseason college football polls concur. Both the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll and the preseason Associated Press Poll rank the top four teams, in order, as Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, and Clemson.

Preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022: Clemson. Courtesy Photo.

That having been said, there is also consensus that things are up for grabs among the teams ranked five through 25 in the preseason polls, and that two outsiders: North Carolina State University and the University of Kentucky, are in the mix alongside traditional top teams like USC, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania State University.


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5. Bonus: Border Battle in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS.)

Dakotas and Montana could be in for a border battle

If you really want to impress your family and friends who are college football fans, mention that the consensus top four teams in NCAA’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision preseason rankings are North Dakota State University, South Dakota State University, the University of Montana, and Montana State University. Life for college football fans along the border between the Dakotas and Montana could become quite interesting while most of us are shopping for Christmas gifts in December.

understanding the NCAA’s organization of teams

The NCAA is organized into three divisions: I, II, and III. Generally, a member institution’s division assignment for any sport is based on its enrollment, budget, and the level of competition it seeks. Colleges and universities with the largest enrollments and budgets, and those who desire to compete at the highest level in a given sport are in Division I, those with the smallest enrollments and budgets, or those who choose not to offer athletic scholarships in a given sport regardless of their enrollment and budget, compete in Division III. Historically, the NCAA subdivided its Division I institutions into two subdivisions based on enrollment and budget: Division I-A (largest) and Division I-AA (second largest.)

ncaa division I football championship subdivision (fcs)

The NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) is the successor to Division 1-AA for football; the successor to Division I-A for football is the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS.) A significant distinction between the FBS and the FCS is this: the FCS has a 24-team postseason playoff bracket that concludes with a championship game. FCS playoff games through the national semifinal round are played on campus, creating a home field advantage and atmosphere like what exists in the NFL playoffs.

The FCS playoff format, and the popularity of the NCAA Men’s Basketball “March Madness” national playoff format, contributed to the NCAA’s decision to establish the current four-team Bowl Championship Series (BCS) playoff series for its FBS teams after decades of resistance to changing its post-season tradition of conference champion Division I-A teams being invited to play in bowl games, with the Division I-A national champion decided by college football poll voters after the New Year’s Day bowl games.

keep your eye on the FCS this season

If the FCS season unfolds as predicted, the “final four” FCS playoff teams will be four teams from three states that share a common border, with a traditional fierce intrastate rivalry (Montana v. Montana State) thrown in for good measure. The national semifinal playoff games could be played in campus stadiums in Missoula or Bozeman Montana with the majestic Bitterroot or Spanish Peaks mountains in the background, or Brookings South Dakota, outdoors in December (note: North Dakota State plays its home games at an indoor venue, the Fargo Dome.) College football fans who want to see something different than the latest installment of the Alabama v. Georgia franchise in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, played in a neutral site, indoor NFL stadium this December could scarcely do better than following the FCS playoffs between Thanksgiving Day weekend and the weekend before Christmas Day.

preview of what you need to know for the college football 2022 season

That’s our take on the important elements – a preview of what you need to know about NCAA college football 2022, including some compelling storylines, fun facts and potential breakout stars. Grab your team merchandise and let’s go!

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Vincent Thomas is a community college academic dean, a former practicing attorney, and the older brother of Dandelion Chandelier founder Pamela Thomas-Graham. After earning a B.A. degree in English from the University of Michigan and a J.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin, he settled in a third Big Ten university city, Minneapolis, Minnesota, a place where both of his beloved alma maters are viewed as college football rivals.