Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with his thoughts on the national title game, the 10 biggest transfers in the CFB Playoff era and some kudos for the Big 12 after an impressive bowl season.
Since Rivals.com started, every team that has finished No. 1 in recruiting has won a national title. Vince Young and Texas, LSU under Nick Saban, USC with Pete Carroll, Florida and Urban Meyer and, of course, Saban and all those recruiting titles at Alabama. And now Kirby Smart and Georgia can be added.
In February of 2019 I tweeted the following:
Of course, I was ridiculed at the time but No. 1 is in the books and more could come. Smart won the recruiting title in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and now we are seeing the results. With great talent comes great coaching and national titles and now we can add Georgia to the mix.
Just when it looked like Alabama was once again going to win it all after recovering a fumble from Stetson Bennett, the Georgia players said nope, not this time. Bennett, a former walk-on, came alive and the Bulldog offense imposed its will on Alabama in a 33-18 win. And five-star defensive back Kelee Ringo sealed the deal with a pick-six as the Georgia defense stood proud as well.
SEC opponents can listen to Georgia fans chant from here on out for quite some time.
Transfers, transfers and more transfers. It’s the talk of college football these days and players like Derion Kendrick at Georgia and Jameson Williams at Alabama can obviously impact a team immediately. Here are the top 10 since the playoff began in 2014 when it comes to national impact….
1. QB Joe Burrow — Ohio State to LSU: Inarguably the most impactful transfer we’ve seen in the college football playoff era, Burrow left Ohio State and headed to LSU. After one year of getting his footing, his senior year was maybe the best ever from a quarterback. A 15-0 record, national title, Heisman Trophy and all sorts of passing records. But his impact was felt just as much in the culture of LSU. He resonated with fans and teammates alike.
2. QB Justin Fields — Georgia to Ohio State: Fields was a coup for Georgia when the Bulldogs were able to flip him from Penn State, and during limited snaps as a freshman behind Jake Fromm his potential clearly showed through. But after a messy offseason he transferred to Ohio State and took control of its offense for two record-setting seasons, leading the Buckeyes to the playoff in back-to-back years and a national title game appearance in 2020.
3. QB Baker Mayfield — Texas Tech to Oklahoma: He left Texas Tech for Oklahoma and finished his career with a Heisman Trophy and passing records. He was the first of Lincoln Riley‘s run of outstanding transfer quarterbacks and set the bar for the program. His combination of arm talent and leadership brought OU’s offense to new heights.
4. OC Landon Dickerson — Florida State to Alabama: One of the best linemen at Alabama in the past decade, Dickerson actually started his career at Florida State before transferring to Tuscaloosa prior to the 2019 season. He was the linchpin of an offensive line that led the 2020 team to boatloads of scoring and yardage records, and won the Rimington Trophy in the same season.
5. QB Kyler Murray — Texas A&M to Oklahoma: Murray was one of the most ballyhooed recruits in the history of the state of Texas (which is really saying something), and when he chose Texas A&M out of high school, many people expected him to step in and put up even bigger numbers than Johnny Manziel had in Kevin Sumlin‘s offense. But after transferring to Oklahoma, he became the next in line of great Sooners transfer quarterbacks, winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy with the perfect balance of arm talent and running ability.
6. WR Jameson Williams — Ohio State to Alabama: Williams broke out in a huge way this season after transferring to Alabama from Ohio State, leading the Tide in receiving, touchdowns and all-purpose yards. He was buried on the depth chart for the Buckeyes for two seasons and ended up betting on himself and it paid off huge. Now, he’s in line to be a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft.
7. RB Trey Sermon — Oklahoma to Ohio State: Sermon was a very good back for Oklahoma for three seasons in Norman, racking up more than 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns, but he elected to move on to Ohio State for his senior season. After starting the season as the backup to Master Teague, he emerged in the second half of the year which included a 331-yard performance against Northwestern. He averaged 110 yards per game and was one of the main catalysts that drove the Buckeyes to the playoff.
8. CB Derion Kendrick — Clemson to Georgia: After initially going to Clemson as a wide receiver, he switched to cornerback before his sophomore year and caught on quickly. But after an injury cut short his junior year he elected to head to Georgia (with a push out the door) and has been a stalwart of the nation’s best defensive backfield this year.
9. QB Jalen Hurts — Alabama to Oklahoma: Hurts was the first true freshman to start for Alabama in more than three decades when he took the starting job in the second game of 2016, and led Alabama to the national title game that season, eventually losing to Clemson. During his sophomore campaign he again led the team to the national title game, but was replaced by Tua Tagovailoa in the second half of the eventual Crimson Tide victory. But after he sat behind Tagovailoa as a junior, he headed to Oklahoma for his final year and had far and away his best statistical season of his career.
10. DE Jaelan Phillips — UCLA to Miami: UCLA landed Phillips coming out of high school, an absolute coup for the Bruins, as he was a top-10 prospect in the country for the 2017 class. But injuries derailed his career early and he actually medically retired from the game after the 2018 season. He transferred to Miami before 2019 and had a huge impact after he was forced to sit out a year. A second-team All-American as a senior, he ended up being drafted in the first round by the Dolphins. He didn’t impact the playoff but his ability to come back from medical retirement through a transfer was big.
Finally, we all know the SEC racked up another national title on Monday, but when it comes to Power Five conferences this bowl season, the Big 12 impressed me the most. The Kansas State win over LSU moved the conference to 5-2 overall with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor all defeating top-15 opponents in Oregon, Notre Dame and Ole Miss respectively. Meanwhile, Texas Tech looked impressive in a dominating win over Mississippi State as well.
In fact, the Big 12 went 3-0 against the mighty SEC and won by a combined score of 97-21. And this is coming off a previous bowl cycle where the conference went 5-0.
The Big Ten, after a strong start, disappointed a bit with losses by Penn State and Iowa and of course the blowout loss by Michigan in the playoff game. The Big Ten was lucky to have Ohio State come back from what looked like a sure loss.
The SEC went 5-7 while the ACC finished 2-4 and the Pac-12 was an embarrassing 0-5. The ACC hasn’t had a winning bowl cycle for years going 0-5 last year and 4-7 and 5-5 the two years prior while the Pac-12 hasn’t won a bowl game since before COVID.
The Big 12 may be on life support with Oklahoma and Texas leaving for the SEC but the Pokes and Bears look ready to step up. And let’s not forget that future Big 12 teams Houston and UCF had bowl wins over SEC teams (Auburn and Florida) and Cincinnati made the CFB Playoff.