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It's been less than two months since we last left college football on the field. In the void, the suits and stakeholders have done their best to redirect the spotlight away from the beloved game.

The NCAA continues to sink in the mud. NIL contracts outshine full-contact drills. Unionization and revenue sharing are on the table. FBS commissioners are squabbling over an expanded College Football Playoff that debuts 34 months from now. It takes a law degree to cover college football these days.

Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with the game itself. Attendance continues to climb. Last season might have been the most-watched in college football history.

Here's to hoping spring football gives us some relief so we can focus on position battles, depth charts, folding chairs and Styrofoam coolers full of adult beverages. This time of year is supposed to be a laidback approach to getting fired up for the fall.

Here's why ...

1. Playoff goal: Everything changes the moment teams hit the field for spring practice. There is unprecedented hope for scores more schools. "Success" has been redefined with the playoff field tripling to 12 teams. That provides more attainable goals to schools like Ole Miss, Missouri, Arizona and Oklahoma State -- programs coming off good seasons that seldom, if ever, compete for a national titles. Duplicate last season, and they would be in (or nearly in) a 12-team playoff. Hey, someone has to win the Big 12. Coaches in the Sun Belt and Conference USA can now legitimately look their players in the eye and say, "We can play for a championship." None of that is a bad thing. In fact, it will be exhilarating.

2. New coaches: We told you about the exodus from the grind coaching college football. Nearly a quarter of FBS teams (31 of 133) enter this spring with a new head coach. For the first time 2007, someone other than Nick Saban is in charge at Alabama (Kalen DeBoer). Since 2008, Jedd Fisch is on his 11th job. The latest is his biggest as Washington head coach. Half of the 12-team Mountain West turned over. The last time Michigan and Alabama changed coaches at the same time was 1990 (respectively Gary Moeller and Gene Stallings, for you trivia buffs.) Jim Harbaugh became the first coach since Tom Osborne in 1997 to leave after winning a national championship. Chip Kelly took less money for a lesser job leaving UCLA to be Ohio State's offensive coordinator. Irony of ironies: Kelly's replacement, DeShaun Foster, has never even been a coordinator. The coaching carousel never stops spinning.

3. Alabama restart: Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone three months before Saban coached his first game at Alabama in 2007. So, the great coach's retirement and Bama's new administration will take some getting used to. DeBoer has brought a sense of calm and capability to the SEC powerhouse. While no one can duplicate Saban, he will try. DeBoer was the right choice at the right time for athletic director Greg Byrne. Now all DeBoer has to do is win six national titles. We'll still miss Saban at A Day, on the field in a suit while play is going on, running a dynasty for all to see.

4. Can Sherrone Moore coach (in the long term)? The national champions are about to find out. The coach with college football's best winning percentage last season -- 4-0 in place of Harbaugh -- now has the keys to Michigan Stadium. Moore was impressive in taking over for Coach Khaki. He deserves the job. Now the hard part: doing the job. There are massive losses,  especially along both lines. Harbaugh took a large part of the coaching staff with him to the Los Angeles Chargers. Oh, and there are two ongoing major NCAA investigations. Count one vote for Moore as national coach of the year if the Wolverines are able to finish 9-3 or better in 2024.

5. Ohio State makeover: With apologies to Ole Miss, the argument can be made Ryan Day pulled off the biggest roster flip in the short history of the transfer portal. After losing to Michigan (again), Day a landed five four- and five-star transfers, including a freshman All-American (Alabama's Caleb Downs), the Crimson Tide's starting center (Seth McLaughlin), a former SEC rushing leader (Ole Miss' Quinshon Judkins) and Kansas State's starting quarterback (Will Howard). Kelly replaced Bill O'Brien, who was on the job for all of three weeks. Go ahead and assume that millions were spent in NIL benefits. All of it in the name of beating Michigan and chasing a national title -- in that order.

6. Rebels with a cause: That said above about Ole Miss, Lane Kiffin's group can legitimately dream about a playoff spot and beyond this season. Kiffin plucked 17 transfers out of the portal, landing 247Sports' best transfer class. Jaxson Dart is a fire starter quarterback who will begin the season on Heisman Trophy lists. Because there are no more divisions, there is no Alabama or Texas A&M on the schedule. (OK, yes, Ole Miss still has to play Georgia and LSU.) Ole Miss claims three national championships -- all on paper. A playoff berth in Year 1 of the expanded CFP would be the biggest thing in Oxford, Mississippi, since The Grove.

7. Dawgs (not) gone: Georgia enters into the spring as the clear No. 1 on track for its third national championship in the last four years. Quarterback Carson Beck is a Heisman candidate. Running back Trevor Etienne is a huge boost for the Bulldogs and huge chunk out of Florida's self-image in this bitter rivalry. There isn't a Jalen Carter or Jordan Davis on the defensive line, but the unit will be more than capable. Pencil Georgia in for a first-round bye in the 12-team field -- at least.

8. What will Florida State do for an encore? The obvious answer is go undefeated, win the ACC and contend for the playoff. The more relevant answer for this spring is how soon FSU will be able to buy its way out of the ACC. That could come sooner than later. If so, Clemson, Virginia, North Carolina, NC State and Miami have a blueprint on how to get out of the league. Could that happen sooner than the Noles' defense of the ACC?

9. Head games: Expect widespread use of helmet communications this spring as teams integrate the technology for the first time. The NCAA Football Rules Committee is awaiting approval of its proposed use of the helmet comms beginning this season. That should come in April. The average fan won't notice this change -- other than a reduction in those huge, random play cards and some quarterbacks staring at the sideline before snaps -- but the game continues to be streamlined to more resemble the NFL.

10. Texas, Oklahoma turn the page: The Longhorns won the Big 12 and made the CFP in its last season as a league member. That's nice calling card for the big boys in the SEC. Now comes the hard part: competing at the game's highest level. Texas looks more prepared than Oklahoma with the return of QB Quinn Ewers and coach Steve Sarkisian locked in with a new contract. Don't forget: QB Arch Manning is looming in the background. Brent Venables is settling in nicely in his third season with the Sooners. But nothing good happens at either program until they can match up in the SEC, the ultimate line of scrimmage league. The two schools combined for seven of the last nine Big 12 titles. It won't be that easy in the SEC where they are -- what -- maybe the fourth and fifth best programs in their new league?

11. Is Clemson back? Dabo Swinney is competing against his own standard: CFP or bust. It's been three years and counting since the Tigers lost a playoff semifinal to Ohio State. Since then, the Tigers have lost 10 games, the most in a three-year period since 2012. With 12 teams, it will be easier to get in the bracket this year but harder to win it all. Quarterback Cade Klubnik must take the next step after the loss of RB Will Shipley to the NFL. Dabo not only must embrace NIL, he must dominate it -- especially in this anything-goes age.

12. Lincoln Riley for the defense: Throughout his career as a coach, Riley's defenses have been lackluster. That shortcoming is threatening to define him in Year 3 at USC. The addition of D'Anton Lynn as defensive coordinator -- from UCLA, no less -- will be one of the most closely watched coaching changes in the country. Riley is 8-7 in his last 15 games. The move to the Big Ten looms. So far, Riley's resume includes a host of Heisman winners and No. 1 draft choices at QB. The USC defense just needs to be average for Riley and the Trojans to take the next step. There is hope with quarterback Miller Moss having an impressive bowl game. There are the usual collection of talented transfers (No. 11 transfer class per 247Sports.) This season remains a crossroads of sorts for a highly-paid coach who is entering his third conference in four years. Riley hasn't won a conference title since, gulp, 2020.

13. [Insert Iowa offense joke here]: His name is Tim Lester, and he has one of the heaviest lifts in college football this season: leveling Iowa's offense, which has stunk out loud in recent years finishing dead last among 133 FBS teams in 2023. The 47-year-old veteran is known mostly for his six years as Western Michigan coach. The Broncos offense improved four straight seasons rising to 12th nationally in 2021. The former Western Michigan QB brings experience and capability. Nothing flashy, just like Iowa football itself. There are still minor miracles being performed in Iowa City thanks to Phil Parker's defense. Iowa is coming off its third 10-win season since 2019.

14. Return to the scene of the crime … literally: Bobby Petrino is back at a place no one, including probably himself, expected him to be: Arkansas (as offensive coordinator). Thirteen years after a scandal that reached from the backroads of Arkansas -- yep, I've seen the crash scene -- to TMZ, Petrino's salacious misconduct from 2011 could have blackballed him forever. Instead, he rebounded to become a coach at two schools and now an offensive coordinator at his second SEC stop. And if Sam Pittman stumbles at Arkansas, guess who might get serious consideration to replace him? Another reminder, this is the greatest country on Earth.

15. Toothless NCAA: The next portal window is April 15-30, right in the middle of spring practice for a lot of schools. There will be players who enter spring as a starter, go through a position battle, lose it and end up transferring all in the space of spring practice. (All of it without transfer restrictions, thanks to recent litigation.) Influencing that movement is a recent preliminary injunction in the Tennessee that loosens NIL restrictions. NCAA enforcement has paused investigations on that issue. Player movement is basically unfettered.

16. Coaching for their jobs ... or something close to it …

  • Billy Napier, Florida: Good guy. Brutal 2024 schedule. Brutal start (11-14 in his first two seasons).
  • Dave Aranda, Baylor: Defense is Aranda's specialty. The Bears were 113th in total D last season.
  • Sam Pittman, Arkansas: "I'm not promoting it, but I like some old, cold beer," Pittman once said after a big win. Any coach who celebrates victories like that deserves job security.
  • Clark Lea, Vanderbilt: After investing massively in new facilities, the Commodores need results to follow -- soon.

17. Early Heisman Trophy hype ...

  • Carson Beck, QB, Georgia: Sneaky productive thrower (almost 4,000 yards in 2023) for the nation's best team. Beck is the favorite until further notice.
  • Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas: Texas is back thanks to Ewers' development during a Big 12 championship season. Next challenge: facing SEC defenses weekly.
  • Ollie Gordon II, RB, Oklahoma State: After a Heisman finalist snub last year, Gordon has his eyes on 2,000 yards rushing.
  • Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oregon: After the loss of Bo Nix, the Oklahoma transfer is a plug-and-play replacement.
  • Jalen Milroe, QB, Alabama: Tommy Rees (now with the Cleveland Browns) can't get enough credit for developing Milroe. The Tide might have been one shaky center snap away from playing for it all last season.
  • Jaxson Dart, QB, Ole Miss: Because of Dart, the Rebels can dream of that playoff spot. And free private plane rides.

18. Pour one out for the Pac-12 ... or welcome to the first spring of what the latest round of realignment has wrought. Minus one incredibly mismanaged major conference, it is now a Power Four. Elsewhere, the latest consolidation of conferences has meant the migration of 14 schools to other leagues in FBS. That includes 10 Pac-12 schools being scattered to the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC. Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC. For the first time, all the power conferences have at least 16 teams. That would be a nice, tidy package if some entity or another (hint, hint -- NFL) would want to buy and separate it from the NCAA. As for the late, great Pac-12? Its diminished network will actually be visiting the 12 campuses for spring practice coverage. Why?

19. Irish consistency: Quick, name the only two coaches in Notre Dame history who have won at least nine games in their first two seasons with program. If you guessed Charlie Weis and Marcus Freeman, go get yourself a free shot at the Linebacker Lounge. The Fighting Irish should win at least that many games again in 2024 with a new QB in Riley Leonard (from Duke) and a stable of capable running backs. The defense is loaded with the return of play-making safety Xavier Watts (seven interceptions). Defensive coordinator Al Golden returns to lead a top five defense from 2023.

20. Nico Iamaleava impact: On the field, Volunteers everywhere can't wait to see their five-star, $8 million NIL prize take over at quarterback. Off the field, his recruitment is the centerpiece of a raging legal and NCAA battle. The Tennessee attorney general obtained a preliminary injunction that has led the NCAA to pausing all investigations into collectives. Wouldn't we all rather hear from Joey Halzle (Tennessee's offensive coordinator) on Iamaleava's progress rather than NCAA president Charlie Baker's progress in Congress?

21. Dillon Gabriel -- for the record: Oregon's transfer QB is low key chasing the NCAA career passing record. If Gabriel averages 335 yards passing per game this season, he would pass Houston's Case Keenum for No. 1 on the all-time list. In can be done. In 2020, Gabriel averaged 357 yards per game for UCF, his first of three teams in his six-year career.

22. D.J. back in the ACC: D.J. Uiagalelei was among a flock of quarterbacks who transferred during the early window. The Florida State quarterback is now on his third school and back in his original conference. Simply put, D.J. needs to get some consistent play on film. He is among a group of impact portal quarterbacks who get a first look at their new spots this spring.

23. Group of Five playoff favorite: Liberty served notice for its entry into the bracket having already played its spring game. QB Kaidon Salter ran for 1,000 yards and threw for almost 3,000 last season. Liberty didn't distinguish itself well in the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon after an undefeated regular season. It will have another, better chance in 2024 as the highest-ranked Group of Five champion is guaranteed a spot in the expanded CFP.

24. Prime in Year 2: Deion Sanders' September was one of the most significant months in the game's history: crowds, headlines, hype, bling, smack. But all of it was short lived, and we must reassess Colorado and Coach Prime going into 2024. In the end, CU finished last in the Pac-12, lost their final six games and improved by only three games to 4-8. Prime relied less on the portal this time around, landing Jordan Seaton, a five-star offensive lineman who as the No. 13 high school player in the country. Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter return, but until and unless Prime improves his lines on both sides of the ball, this remake will be delayed.