Berry’s college football buffet: The best teams often grow their own quarterbacks

Berry’s college football buffet: The best teams often grow their own quarterbacks

Berry Tramel: Only five of the teams in the current Associated Press top 10 have portal quarterbacks. And the quarterbacks for the top three are all homegrown: Georgia’s Carson Beck, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Ohio State’s Kyle McCord.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Oct 26, 2023, 8:22am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Oct 26, 2023, 8:22am CDT

The transfer portal has become as much a part of college football culture as Fansville commercials and dueling pregame shows. Even moreso when you consider quarterbacks.

Of the 69 power-conference teams in 2023, 43 are (or did, before injury) starting transfer quarterbacks. That’s an incredible number.

But only five of the teams in the current Associated Press top 10 have portal quarterbacks. And the quarterbacks for the top three are all homegrown: Georgia’s Carson Beck, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Ohio State’s Kyle McCord.

Is there anything to investigate? Are home quarterbacks more conducive to big-time winning? Seems unlikely. But the data is interesting.

In 2022, all four College Football Playoff teams were quarterbacked by non-portal players: Georgia’s Stetson Bennett, Texas Christian’s Max Duggan, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy. Same in 2021; no portal QBs among the final four.

2020? Only Ohio State’s Justin Fields (who transferred from Georgia) used the portal among the starting quarterbacks.

Now, 2019 was different. Louisiana State’s Joe Burrow (from Ohio State), OU’s Jalen Hurts (from Alabama) and Fields were three of the four QBs. In 2018, OU’s Kyler Murray (from Texas A&M) was the lone transfer among quarterbacks.

But it’s interesting. Around here, we’re jaded into thinking that transfer quarterbacks are automatic. But many of the best teams have brought in as freshmen the quarterbacks who end up leading the team to glory.

This season, Penn State’s Drew Allar and Alabama’s Jalen Milroe round out the quarterbacks of top-10 teams who started their college careers at that school.

It’s too small a sample to declare that non-portal quarterbacks have a greater upside. It’s intuitive that programs that frequent the playoff and/or the top 10 tend to recruit better in the first place; they’re generally taking less risk when signing a quarterback.

Still, 50% of the top 10 has turned to a portal quarterback. But 66% of the rest of power-conference teams has turned to a portal QB.

More than any other league, the Big 12 is relying on portal quarterbacks — 10 of the 14 teams. OU’s Dillon Gabriel (Central Florida), OSU’s Alan Bowman (Michigan, after Texas Tech), Kansas’ Jason Bean (North Texas), Texas’ Quinn Ewers (Ohio State), Texas Tech’s now-injured Tyler Shough (Oregon), UCF’s John Rhys Plumlee (Ole Miss), Houston’s Donovan Smith (Texas Tech), Brigham Young’s Kedon Slovis (Pittsburgh, after Southern Cal), Cincinnati’s Emory Jones (Arizona State, after Florida) and TCU’s Chandler Morris (OU).

But the other conferences are not far behind the Big 12. Eight of 14 quarterbacks in each of the Southeastern Conference, the Big Ten and the Atlantic Coast; eight of 12 in the Pac-12.

Those quarterback daredevils that everyone raves about in the Pac? Virtually all of them are portal QBs: USC’s Caleb Williams (OU), Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. (Indiana), Oregon’s Bo Nix (Auburn), Washington State’s Cameron Ward (Incarnate Word), Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders (Jackson State), Oregon State’s D.J. Uiagalelei (Clemson) and Arizona’s Jayden De Laura (Washington State).

For every Tyler Van Dyke (Miami), there are two Jayden Danielses (LSU, via Arizona State). For every Drake Maye (North Carolina), two Jaxson Darts (Ole Miss).

College football is full of portal quarterbacks. But the best teams in recent years, 2023 included, have found quarterbacks the old-fashioned way.

National rankings: Florida State stays No. 1

  1. Florida State 7-0: Duke was another solid victory. The Seminoles are stockpiling such wins.
  2. Ohio State 7-0: Anyone who wants to say the Buckeyes should be No. 1 will get no argument from me.
  3. Washington 7-0: I don’t penalize teams for narrow victories. But if I did, the Huskies would drop after their performance against Arizona State.
  4. Oklahoma 7-0: At least the Sooners’ escape against Central Florida was against a capable team.
  5. Texas 6-1: As long as Alabama keeps winning, the Longhorns will ride the wave of winning at Tuscaloosa.
  6. Alabama 7-1: So late in his career, Nick Saban is adding to his arsenal. The art of winning close.
  7. Georgia 7-0: Don’t worry. The Bulldogs’ schedule is about to toughen, to some degree.
  8. Utah 6-1: The Utes are going to play 11 Power Five opponents in the regular season. Most SEC teams are going to play nine.
  9. Ole Miss 6-1: Lane Kiffin vs. Georgia on November 11 should be fun.
  10. Penn State 6-1: Can’t penalize the Nittany Lions too much for being browbeaten at Ohio State.

Coaches on the hot seat

Big 12: Baylor’s Dave Aranda. Two years ago, Aranda was coaching Baylor to the Big 12 title and being prominently mentioned as the next coach at Southern Cal. But in the last two years, the Bears are 9-11 overall, and two of those wins are over Albany and Long Island.

The 2023 Bears are 3-4 overall, 2-2 in the conference, but they finish with a manageable schedule: Iowa State, Houston, Kansas State, West Virginia, TCU. Bowl eligibility is quite possible.

But the game Saturday in Waco against Iowa State is huge. The Cyclones are playing much better, and they remain in contention for the Big 12 Championship Game.

Lose to Iowa State, and Baylor will be 3-5 overall. Baylor Nation could be wondering what happened to the upstart coach who was such a hot commodity two years ago.

National: Boston College’s Jeff Hafley. Boston College is the most consistent college football program this side of Alabama and Ohio State. The difference is, the Eagles are consistently mediocre.

BC has won either six or seven games in eight of the previous 10 years. The Eagles have posted four seasons of 7-6. Another of 7-5. One each of 6-6, 6-5 and 6-7.

Boston is a pro town. BC is not well-resourced compared to most Power Five Conference programs. The Eagle brass generally is OK with 6-6 or 7-6.

And Jeff Hafley met that standard his first two seasons in Chestnut Hill, going 6-5 and 6-6. But a year ago, Boston College dipped to 3-9. And this season, BC began the year with an overtime loss to Northern Illinois and a squeak-out win over Holy Cross.

But this is Boston College. The Eagles rise to the mean. They have won three straight – Virginia, at Army, at Georgia Tech – and stand 4-3 as they host fellow New England school Connecticut on Saturday. A victory would get BC within finishing distance  of .500. A loss to the Huskies would send Boston College to 4-4 with a finishing run of mediocre ACC teams Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Pitt, before the Miami finale.

The buyout for Hafley is estimated at $10 million. Boston College doesn’t have that kind of money, but schools get itchy. Losing to Connecticut could start some scratching.

Rating the Big 12 games

  1. Oklahoma at Kansas, 11 a.m., Fox: For most of the last 13 years, OU-KU was likely to be the Big 12’s worst game of the season. League’s best vs. league’s worst.
  2. Brigham Young at Texas, 2:30 p.m., ABC: This game got a lot more interesting when we learned UT quarterback Quinn Ewers is out with a shoulder injury, to be replaced by Malik Murphy.
  3. West Virginia at Central Florida, 11 a.m., Fox Sports1: WVU and UCF figure to become annual Big 12 opponents, since they join Cincinnati as the league’s lone Eastern Time Zone teams, but the Mountaineers and Knights have played just twice, a home-and-home series in 2003-04, with West Virginia winning both games.
  4. Iowa State at Baylor, 2:30 p.m., ESPN Plus: In three games since returning from injury, Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen has thrown three touchdowns without an interception, but with just a 59.6 completion rate.
  5. Cincinnati at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m., ESPN2: OSU history is full of screwball scheduling. The Cowboys and Bearcats played home-and-home in 1958-59, then OSU went to Cincinnati in 1983, without a return trip to Stillwater.
  6. Houston at Kansas State, 11 a.m., ESPN2: The Wildcats have been on point the last two weeks. Don’t count them out of a return to the Big 12 Championship Game.

Upset specials

National: Utah over Oregon. Utah lost 21-7 at Oregon State on Sept. 29, and the American football community took its eye off the Utes. Lots of shiny toys in the Pac-12 this season.

Utah is not a shiny toy. The Utes are the opposite. They are more like an Etch-a-sketch or a Slinky. For a relative Pac-12 newcomer, Utah stands the test of time.

The Utes beat Southern Cal 34-32 Saturday in the LA Coliseum, and suddenly Utah is back in the thick of the Pac-12 race. The Utes, headed to the Big 12 next season, have won back-to-back Pac-12 titles. Any chance they could close out the likely-to-expire league by making it a three-peat?

A victory over Oregon probably is required. And not even that would guarantee the Utes a spot in the championship game. Utah still plays at Washington and at Arizona.

But beware the Utes. Utah is starting to find its footing with quarterback Bryson Barnes, now that Cameron Rising officially has been lost for the season. Kyle Whittingham is the Pac-12’s Mike Gundy, only without the Bedlam albatross. Nineteen years on the job. Rock solid program. Wins when you’ve counted out the squad.

Oregon is a 6½-point favorite playing. But let’s go with Utah in the upset.’

National upset special record: 3-5.

Big 12: West Virginia over Central Florida. Among the four newcomers to the Big 12, UCF figured to be in the best position to compete immediately. The Knights had a good talent base, a veteran and quality coach in Gus Malzahn, and a history of success against power-conference opponents.

So why is UCF 0-4 in the Big 12? Well, the Knights blew a 25-point fourth-quarter lead at Baylor. Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee missed most of five games with an injury. And trips to Kansas State and Kansas were tough assignments. UCF seemed to put it all together Saturday on Owen Field, but OU still escaped with a 31-29 victory.

The future still seems bright for Central Florida, but can the Knights rally this season?

Saturday, UCF hosts West Virginia, which is 4-3 overall, 2-2 in the league. The Mountaineers have proven to be a solid team – good in the lines — and are a Hail Mary knockdown away from being tied for second in the conference.

The Knights figure to have more talent, but WVU has more brawn. West Virginia dang near has two Big 12 road wins (TCU and the Hail Mary loss to Houston). UCF is a seven-point favorite, but let’s go with the Mountaineers in the upset.

Big 12 upset special record: 4-4.

Ranking the national games: OU-KU No. 2

  1. Oregon at Utah, 2:30 p.m., Fox: Loser has two Pac-12 losses and faces a severe climb to reach the Pac-12 Championship Game. 
  2. Oklahoma at Kansas, 11 a.m., Fox: The Sooners have back-to-back snakepit games – Lawrence this week, Stillwater next week.
  3. Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville, 2:30 p.m., CBS: Billy Napier could use a signature upset to get his Florida rebuilding project going.
  4. Ohio State at Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m., NBC: Outside the Ohio State/Michigan/Penn State triangle, this might be the best opportunity for an upset. Not that it’s a good opportunity for an upset.
  5. Duke at Louisville, 2:30 p.m., ESPN: Only five ACC teams have a winning league record. These are two of them, each at 2-1. Virtual elimination game for the ACC Championship Game.
  6. Oregon State at Arizona, 9:30 p.m., ESPN: The Beavers try to stay in the race for the Pac-12 Championship Game. Oregon State already has a Pac-12 loss. Two defeats might be too many.
  7. Tennessee at Kentucky, 6 p.m., ESPN: Volunteers still have Georgia ahead but need help to reach the SEC Championship Game – and need to help themselves.
  8. Nevada-Las Vegas at Fresno State, 9:30 p.m., Fox Sports1: UNLV and Air Force are the lone unbeatens remaining in Mountain West Conference play.
  9. Florida State at Wake Forest, 11 a.m., ABC: Seminoles have three road games left. Wake, Pittsburgh, Florida.
  10. Troy at Texas State, 6:30 p.m., ESPN Plus: The winner sits atop the Sun Belt’s West Division, probably in a tie with South Alabama

Ranking the Big 12 teams

  1. Oklahoma (7-0, 4-0): Close calls are part of the deal. So don’t get too worked up about a 31-29 survival of Central Florida. That was a season-definer for the Knights.
  2. Texas (6-1, 3-1): Close calls are part of the deal. So don’t get too worked up about a 31-24 survival at Houston. That was a holy war for the Cougars.
  3. Iowa State (4-3, 3-1): Strange year when a team that lost at Ohio U. is ranked third in the 14-team Big 12 heading into the last week of October.
  4. Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1): Suddenly, Bedlam looks awfully interesting. What a day that’s going to be in Stillwater.
  5. Kansas (5-2, 2-2): The best teams seem to be playing each other. KU already has played Texas and OSU, and now the Jayhawks get OU. OSU already has played Iowa State, KU and Kansas State. Texas has played OU and Kansas. 
  6. Kansas State (5-2, 3-1): The Wildcats’ loss at Missouri doesn’t look so bad now.
  7. West Virginia (4-3, 2-2): The Mountaineers still would be in great shape if not for the Hail Mary loss at Houston.
  8. Texas Christian (4-4, 2-3): Wild season. The Horned Frogs blow out Brigham Young, then get blown out by K-State.
  9. BYU (5-2, 2-2): Wild season. The Cougars dominate Texas Tech after getting blown out at TCU.
  10. Texas Tech (3-5, 2-3): This will be a really wild season if the Red Raiders complete the TCU/BYU/Tech circle by beating TCU on November 2.
  11. Baylor (3-4, 2-2): The Bears are living dangerously. Miracle comeback at Central Florida, then a 32-29 survival at Cincinnati.
  12. Houston (3-4, 1-3): In the city limits of Houston, the Cougars lost to Rice and came within a squishy mark of possibly upsetting Texas. What a sport.
  13. Central Florida (3-4, 0-4): You know, for all the crap the Big 12 has taken this year, if the Knights are the 13th-best team in this 14-team league, you’ve got a heck of a conference.
  14. Cincinnati (2-5, 0-4): The Bearcats have a brighter future. But not in autumn 2023.
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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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