Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with a some thoughts on some perfect fits for schools that might want new homes, teams to watch with multiple quarterbacks and continues his look at the Mount Rushmore for schools since 1980 with Northwestern.
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1. GREAT FITS IN REALIGNMENT
Here we are again — conference expansion and realignment led by Texas and Oklahoma heading to the SEC. Where does that leave a few Big 12 teams and how about some Group of Five programs ready to step up? Here are some great fits.
West Virginia — The Mountaineers have always been somewhat miscast in the Big 12, as they’re geographical very far removed from the rest of the conference. Throw in their historic rivalry with Pitt, and they just fit way better in the ACC. They should have been part of the previous ACC expansion, to be honest.
Iowa State — Sticking with Big 12 teams looking for new homes, Iowa State to the Big Ten appears like a natural fit. It fits the geographic footprint of the conference, academically it is on par with most of the schools already in the Big Ten and it has built-in rivalries with both Iowa and Nebraska. This is one of the most logical moves possible among all of this potential realignment.
Houston — If the Big 12 is going to undergo a major overhaul with Oklahoma and Texas leaving for the SEC, the Cougars are a natural choice to join the league. They were a member of the SWC for 20 years, and you could argue have been equally or more successful than certain current schools in the conference. This is a big “if” however because the Big 12 is on life support.
Boise State — The Broncos heading to the Pac-12 seems almost inevitable at this point. They’ve been such a quality program for more than two decades now, routinely outplaying their recruiting rankings and performing very well against superior competition. They would instantly be in the top half of the conference.
Cincinnati — This goes back further than just the Luke Fickell era, but he’s taken the program to a whole new level over the past few seasons. Depending on how the dominoes fall, you could see them in the ACC, Big 12, or potentially even the Big Ten.
UCF — This is a natural move for the ACC if it wants to expand as it gives the league yet another team in the state of Florida and one of the bigger and better fan bases in the Group of Five.
2. TEAMS WITH INTERESTING QUARTERBACK SITUATIONS
There’s a saying about quarterbacks that goes something like this — if you have two starters, you don’t have any. Here are some teams I’m very interested in following this season as they break from fall quarterback battles.
Florida — Think Emory Jones has the job locked up? He might but keep an eye on Anthony Richardson if Jones struggles as he’s a little more explosive as a runner and showed some good signs as a passer in limited action.
Michigan — Eyes are always on Jim Harbaugh and quarterbacks and Cade McNamara is trying to hold off transfer Alan Bowman and freshman J.J. McCarthy. An indecisive Harbaugh will only lead to more criticism.
LSU — Max Johnson and Myles Brennan are battling things out and with so much young talent on offense they really need one of them to step up and win the job, and never look back. I’m just not sure if that’s going to happen.
Ohio State — CJ Stroud should be the guy and I have him as the favorite to win the Big Ten Offensive MVP but freshman Kyle McCord turned a lot of heads upon his arrival. If Stroud doesn’t put up Dwayne Haskins/Justin Fields numbers early, the fans could look to the bench.
Texas A&M — Kellen Mond is gone and Hayes King is battling Zach Calzada to become his replacement with a lot of talent around him. The Aggies have the defense to make a run at a national title but do they have the quarterback?
3. MOUNT RUSHMORE OF NORTHWESTERN FOOTBALL
Finally, let’s continue the Mount Rushmore since 1980 with Northwestern led by its current head coach.
LB Pat Fitzgerald — Before becoming the head coach at his alma mater, Fitzgerald was already a legend in Evanston. The two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American, he was the first player in history to win the Nagurski and the Bednarik Awards twice. The college football Hall of Famer led the Wildcats to the Rose Bowl as a junior for the first time since 1948.
RB Justin Jackson — The all-time school leader in rushing yards and touchdowns, Jackson was one of the most underappreciated players of the past decade. Jackson topped 1,100 yards in each of his four seasons, with the high point being 1,524 and 15 touchdowns as a junior in 2016. Only the ninth player in history to break 1,000 yards in four seasons, his 5,440 career rushing yards are 4th all time in the Big Ten.
RB Damien Anderson — Anderson’s 2000 season was something special – he ran for over 2,000 yards and 23 scores, leading the Wildcats to a share of the Big Ten title and finishing fifth in the Heisman voting. That season he ran for a record 1,549 in Northwestern’s eight Big Ten conference games, a mark which still stands today. Anderson finished his career with 4,485 yards and 38 touchdowns on the ground.
QB Clayton Thorson — Thorson graduated as the Wildcats’ all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, and his 53 consecutive starts at QB are tied for the all-time record with Texas legend Colt McCoy. His 88 total touchdowns (61 passing, 27 rushing) are also a school record. Thorson never had a losing season, finishing his career with a mark of 36-17, the most wins for any QB in program history.