2023 College Football Spring Game Report
There was a second wave of college football teams hosting their spring games on Saturday, and for the first time, we were able to see some of the new coaches and new quarterbacks who will help define the 2023 college football season.
The biggest spotlight was on what was one of the worst programs in a Power Five conference in 2022, the University of Colorado. The Buffaloes had new head coach Deion Sanders on the sideline for the first time, and Coach Prime, as he likes to be called, didn’t disappoint.
If nothing else, the excitement around the Colorado football program has been worth the investment in Sanders. Last year they drew less than 2,000 fans to their spring football game. This year, they packed Folsom Field with more than 47,000 fans, in spite of snow showers and temperatures below freezing.
Colorado also had its game nationally televised, putting them alongside defending champion Georgia as the only two teams in the country to claim those bragging rights.
Deion Sanders and his quarterback son, Shedeur Sanders, were a package deal, and even if the younger Sanders struggles to make the transition from FCS Jackson State to the FBS and Pac-12, he will be an improvement over what Colorado had at the position. Last year, CU ranked 117th in the nation in passing yards per game with 172.9. In his two years as a starter at Jackson State, Sanders, now a junior, averaged 290.9 yards passing per game. He also threw 70 touchdowns and ran for nine more.
Coach Prime called the afternoon in Boulder amazing and unforgettable. A good start for a program that was entirely forgettable in 2022, and finished dead last in the nation at -29.1 in average scoring margin.
Not much was gleaned from the Nebraska spring game, with senior starting quarterback Casey Thompson on the sideline following off-season shoulder surgery. But his absence did not dampen the enthusiasm in Lincoln, where the Husker faithful welcomed new head coach Matt Rhule.
Rhule once turned Baylor into a national power, taking them from 1-11 to 11-3 in just two years. Now he is back in college after an unremarkable tenure with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, and he is tasked with ending Nebraska’s string of futility. For the first time since 1961, the Cornhuskers have had six straight losing seasons.
White beat Red on Saturday, and Rhule liked what he saw. “They’ve gotten better and better and better and like to play football, even down to the very end. I liked the progress we’ve made so far.”
Nebraska is +20000 to win the national championship at BetUS.com.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The former biggest dog on the block, Alabama, has been replaced by Georgia the last two years. And now they have to go about the task of getting back on top without a proven quarterback.
Heisman Trophy-winner Bryce Young was the heir apparent to Mac Jones, who was the heir apparent to Tua Tagovailoa, who took over for Jalen Hurts. But the straightforward line of succession has come to an end this year, with sophomore Jalen Milroe and redshirt freshman Ty Simpson engaged in a wide-open quarterback battle.
Neither quarterback rose to the top on Saturday, but neither looked incapable of leading Alabama. This competition will continue into the summer, and possibly right up to the start of the regular season.
Alabama is +550 to win the national championship at BetUS.com.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
One of the biggest transfers of the year was quarterback Sam Hartman, who went from Wake Forest to Notre Dame. In 48 games with the Demon Deacons, he threw 110 touchdown passes to go along with 12,967 career passing yards. He will only have one year at Notre Dame before his eligibility runs out, and in that year he hopes to improve on his NFL Draft status.
Hartman also hopes to push Notre Dame back into the national championship picture. The Irish have twice played in the College Football Playoff (2018-19 and 2020-21). But both times they lost in the semifinals. Hartman impressed in his Notre Dame debut on Saturday, and his addition in South Bend will be one to watch in the fall.
A last slate of spring games are scheduled for the final weekend of April, with Oregon (+4000) and Maryland (+25000) as the biggest programs involved.