Inherently Unfair College Football is Less Unfair With Transfer Portal

min read
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) plays against Vanderbilt during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov.13, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)
(AP Photo/John Amis)
BetMGM @BETMGM Feb 18, 2022, 7:19 PM

College football is rapidly changing.

Without a “collective” to handle NIL relationships, it will be hard to recruit. Without automatic bids, playoff expansion options are limited. Without understanding the legal ramifications of a grant of rights, it’s impossible to keep conferences intact.

Being a college football fan these days takes a law degree and a dictionary.

But lost in the incredibly complicated rule changes overwhelming the sport is one trend that might actually help the health of the game. 

The transfer portal.

College Football’s Middle Class

The more good starting quarterbacks spread across the sport, the more balanced the game will be. If there’s something that even has the slightest chance of making the game more balanced, it’s the transfer portal. 

Yes, those two words make the corner of your eyeballs twitch just like conference realignment or playoff expansion, but this one might actually be good for the overall equilibrium of a sport with only four true national championship contenders in 2022.

Find any way-too-early preseason top 25 list and it’s easy to see the positive impact of the portal on college football’s middle class (anyone not named Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Georgia). Roughly a third of all ranked teams could be starting a transfer quarterback.

Every Power Five league in America is using the portal to its advantage to create competitive balance. More than two dozen Power Five schools, roughly 40 percent, could have a transfer under center in 2022. 

Quick Fixes

The ability to quickly solve problems at the game’s most important position has allowed second-tier teams to be more competitive. For example, Pittsburgh can stay relevant when its established starter leaves for the NFL, Tennessee can accelerate its rebuild, and Utah can win a conference title by turning to the portal for a signal-caller.

In fact, in the Pac-12, three of the top teams will all feature extremely talented and experienced transfers at quarterback with hopes of finally returning the league to the College Football Playoff. 

Oregon’s Bo Nix, Utah’s Cam Rising, and USC’s Caleb Williams are three of the most impactful players in the conference. Williams could be the top threat to take Bryce Young’s Heisman Trophy away. 

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising warms ups before the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Ohio State Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Washington (Michael Penix), Washington State (Cam Ward), Arizona (Jayden DeLaura), and Cal (Jack Plummer) will feature transfers at the position as well. 

No league has used the portal in 2022 to its advantage better than the Pac-12. That is great news for the conference because no league needs an infusion of talent more than them.

In the SEC, the league is deeper than ever because of, among other things, transfer quarterbacks. 

Tennessee rediscovered itself offensively in just one year with Hendon Hooker. Kentucky won 10 games for just the fourth time in school history with Will Levis. Former four-star USC signee Jaxson Dart will try to plug a Matt Corral-sized hole at Ole Miss. And last year’s Heisman preseason favorite Spencer Rattler will try to keep South Carolina relevant after a better-than-expected 2021 campaign.

In the Big 12, the two most powerful programs in the league will feature transfers. Quinn Ewers should start at Texas, and Dillon Gabriel will likely start at Oklahoma. And Adrian Martinez could turn Kansas State from a championship afterthought to a long-shot title contender.

Southern California quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) looks to throw during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

ACC defending champion Pitt will feature former USC quarterback Kedon Slovis, while Jordan Travis and Phil Jurkovec return as incumbents at Florida State and Boston College.

Even in the Big Ten, where the top contenders will feature homegrown talent, the middle tier will feature some important and interesting options at quarterback. Taulia Tagovailoa has been excellent for Maryland, while Connor Bezelak and Casey Thompson provide some interesting upside at Indiana and Nebraska, respectively.

Bottom line, college football elites can only hold on to so many talented quarterbacks for so long before they seek playing time elsewhere. When talented backups go looking for starting opportunities, college football’s middle class is waiting. 

More teams are finding better solutions to the game’s most difficult position by looking to the portal. So far, it’s working by keeping dozens of teams more relevant for longer periods of time, and that is a hugely positive development for college football.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.