1. I don’t want to get on a soapbox, but …

So now we’re going to stick to rules. Now, after the sport has been completely reshaped by breaking and resetting rules, we’re going to stick and refuse to budge.

Over mere percentage points.

Imagine the National Football Foundation — which doesn’t exactly have the best process of enshrining the most deserving players and coaches, anyway (more on that later) — not bending its rules and welcoming Mike Leach into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Leach, who changed the passing game and offense forever (in both college and professional football), died last week with a winning percentage of .596 — or 4 hundredths of a percentage point from official NFF Hall eligibility.

Key word: “official.”

Sort of like the NCAA “officially” declaring decades ago any player making money off his name, image and likeness was ineligible. Until the world changed 18 months ago.

Or the NCAA “officially” declaring decades ago players couldn’t transfer without losing a season of eligibility. Until the world changed 18 months ago.

Or the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC “officially” declaring an Alliance of “like minds and goals” less than 2 years ago — until the Big Ten raided the Pac-12 months later for its 2 biggest brands.

The NFF, despite its longstanding official rules and procedures, can make an executive committee ruling and gracefully bow to 4 hundredths of a percentage point to welcome Leach with open arms.

For 4 hundredths of a percentage point, the Hall of Fame gets a transcendent coach whose Air Raid offense has been so impactful, it forced a paradigm shift in the way the game is played at all levels.

Once the Air Raid went from a fad at Kentucky in the mid-1990s to a national championship offense at Oklahoma in 2000, everything changed. The system exploded in college football, and grew larger with each Leach disciple that moved on and carried the message elsewhere.

Then high schools began teaching it — suddenly, it became “spread” offenses — and it was soon so prevalent, a cottage industry (7-on-7 camps) grew up around it and affected the way quarterbacks and receivers were recruited.

Now you have quarterbacks and receivers who, for more than that past 15 years, have grown and developed in Air Raid-based systems throughout high school and college.

That left the NFL with a choice: Completely change the way quarterbacks think and process passing game concepts when they arrive from college football, or embrace Air Raid principles and find an easier transition.

Then came the big move, when the Chiefs and coach Andy Reid won a Super Bowl using an Air Raid quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) and an Air Raid-based system.

The evolution was complete.

If USC quarterback Caleb Williams doesn’t get hurt early in the Pac-12 Championship Game, there are likely 2 Air Raid teams in the College Football Playoff (including TCU).

For 4 hundredths of a percentage point, the NFF can finally join everyone else at all levels of football by embracing the Air Raid.

And honoring Mike Leach.

2. Rules? What Rules?

If you think the parameters for coaches are odd, get a lot of this: The NFF says a player must have been named first team All-American once in his career by a selector recognized by the NCAA, and must be 10 years removed from his last season of college football before he can be considered for the Hall.

The NFF last summer announced the ballot for the 2023 class, which will be selected early next year. Tim Tebow just made his first ballot — and he’s 13 years removed from college football.

Tebow was a 2-time All-American, and 2-time national champion. He won the Heisman Trophy, was a 2-time winner of the Maxwell Award — yet he had to wait 3 seasons beyond the 10-year wait to even get on the ballot.

Here are just the quarterbacks from the 2022 ballot (chosen ahead of Tebow): Michael Bishop, Kansas State; Matt Cavanaugh, Pittsburgh; Tim Couch, Kentucky; Ken Dorsey, Miami; Graham Harrell, Texas Tech; Josh Heupel, Oklahoma; Andrew Luck, Stanford; Kellen Moore, Boise State; Antwaan Randle-El, Indiana.

Of that group of quarterbacks, only Luck was a member of the 2022 Hall class.

In case you’re wondering, Reggie Bush is not in the Hall. Nor is Peter Warrick. Or Julius Peppers or Steve Hutchinson or Warrick Dunn.

Do I need to continue?

Those obvious omissions are just for players. I won’t even address coaches, because the utter absurdity of who’s in and who isn’t — considering the wide range of coaches from every NCAA division — is laughable.

Do the right thing, NFF. Forget about 4 hundredths of a percentage point.

3. Hall worthy, The Epilogue

The easy way to assess the impact of Leach on the passing game: numbers.

In 21 seasons as a head coach at Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State, Leach’s teams were No.1 in the nation in passing yards per game 10 times. So nearly 50 percent of the time his offenses took the field, they led the nation in passing offense.

Seven other times, his offenses were ranked top 5 in then nation.

More to the point: The 4 times Leach’s pass offenses weren’t ranked in the top 5 were his 1st seasons at Texas Tech (11th in the nation), Washington State (9th) and Mississippi State (20th), and this season (11th).

Those 4 seasons were the transition years at each new program, and 2 out of 3 seasons in the conference that plays better defense than any other in college football.

You want a mind-boggling, Hall-worthy number? In 21 seasons, Leach’s quarterbacks threw 835 touchdown passes, averaging 40 a season.


If changing the passing game at 3 levels of football isn’t enough, if forcing the NFL to change the way it thinks about the Air Raid concepts isn’t enough, it’s nearly impossible to ignore 40 touchdown passes a season.

Especially when compared to a lousy 4 hundredths of a percentage point.

4. The 1-game show

Jalin Hyatt has opted out. So has Cedric Tillman. Welcome to Joe Milton’s bowl game interview — for the transfer portal, and yes, the NFL.

He won’t be surrounded by the full Tennessee offense in the Orange Bowl against Clemson but could still make his offseason plans as intriguing as any.

Staying at Tennessee, entering the portal, or — yes, believe it — leaving for the NFL.

“He has a live arm,” an NFL scout told me. “I’d love to see him (stay in college) and get in a quarterback-friendly offense and work on his accuracy. A guy with that size and athleticism, yeah, you’re intrigued. Does he see the field as well as you’d like? That’s the question, that’s what you work on with another season (in college football).”

Milton has played well subbing for injured starter Hendon Hooker, and has done so while surrounded by adversity and uncertainty. He entered against South Carolina — while the Vols were deep into the process of a blowout upset — and started the season final against Vanderbilt with a 10-win season on the line.

Now he’ll play in the Orange Bowl without Tennessee’s 2 best receivers, but with talented WRs Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton, and TE Princeton Fant. There’s enough around him in the Orange Bowl to play well against a stout Clemson defense and leave himself with a critical future decision.

Milton is from Pahokee, Fla., and both Florida and Miami are looking for quarterbacks in the portal. There also could be any number of transfer opportunities in the SEC, including Florida, South Carolina (depending on Spencer Rattler’s future), Mississippi State (depending on Will Rogers’ future), Auburn and Kentucky.

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel wants Milton to return, given Milton’s valuable experience in Heupel’s offense. Without Milton, the Vols more than likely will move to freshman 5-star signee Nico Iamaleava.

Even with Milton, Iamaleava is the future of the program — but quality backup quarterbacks are among the most valuable pieces in college football.

5. The Weekly 5

Unbeaten Georgia is favored over Ohio State in the Peach Bowl Playoff semifinal, but 8-5 vs. the spread this season.

Ranking Georgia’s 5 losses against the spread, from best to worst:

  • 1. Georgia (-23.5) vs. Florida: 42-20.
  • 2. Georgia (-22.5) at Kentucky: 16-6.
  • 3. Georgia (-36.5) vs. Georgia Tech: 37-14.
  • 4. Georgia (-44.5) vs. Kent State: 39-22.
  • 5. Georgia (-31) at Missouri: 26-22.

6. Your tape is your resume

An NFL scout analyzes a draft-eligible SEC player. This week: Florida WR Ricky Pearsall.

“For a guy who has spent 4 years in college, he really doesn’t have much game tape. A full season in 2021 and 2022, but each time with nagging injuries and uneven quarterback play. I really like the way he plays. He’s not burner, but he’s consistent, he gets open and he catches the ball. If that sounds like everything a wide receiver should do, well, you’d be shocked at how many don’t reach those 3 critical components. He’s smooth, and has top-level body control. Again, he doesn’t have top-end speed, but he gets in and out of cuts quickly and gains separation, and can do damage after the catch.”

7. Powered Up

This week’s Power Poll, and 1 big thing: Biggest transfer portal loss, or potential loss.

1. Georgia: QB Carson Beck. All signs point to Beck staying, but if he gets a 2nd national championship ring, does he want to prove he can do it on his own at another program?

2. Alabama: OT Tommy Brockermeyer: 2 injury-filled seasons, but has big potential and would’ve pushed for a starting job in 2023.

3. Tennessee: WR Jimmy Holiday: Much like Jalin Hyatt prior to this season, Calloway just hasn’t found a comfort zone and hasn’t played with confidence.

4. LSU: WR/TE Jack Bech: Had a strong freshman season, but nagging injuries prevented him from taking a significant step in Year 2.

5. Mississippi State: WR Rara Thomas: Smart, dependable receiver for Rogers over the last 2 seasons.

6. Ole Miss: DE Demon Clowney: Wasn’t necessarily a significant factor this season, but has talent and can be disruptive off the edge.

7. South Carolina: TE Jaheim Bell. Gamecocks not only lose their most talented (and maybe valuable) skill player, they’ve lost 2 tight ends (including Austin Stogner) to the portal.

8. Kentucky: OL Kiyaunta Goodwin. Former 5-star from 2022 class couldn’t get on the field, despite the struggles on the line. Needs to get in shape.

9. Arkansas: TE Trey Knox: A ton of talent, will make a significant impact in a pass-oriented offense.

10. Missouri: WR Dominic Lovett. A breakout season in an offense that struggled to consistently throw the ball.

11. Florida: WR Daejon Reynolds. A strange season. Every time he played (only played 3 games), he made plays in an offense desperate for production at the position.

12. Auburn: DT Marquis Robinson. Couldn’t get on the field, but has the size and athletic ability to be a disruptive player in the middle.

13. Texas A&M: WR Chris Marshall. A legit talent; he’s 6-3 with top end speed. If his focus remains on field, he’ll be a star wherever he transfers.

14. Vanderbilt: DE Elijah McAllister: Production has decreased the last 2 seasons, but he’s long and athletic off the edge.

8. Ask and you shall receive

Matt: Is there any chance Bryce Young comes back for 2023? — Susanne Riley, Atlanta.


Bryce Young will be the starting quarterback for the Houston Texans in 2023. If he’s not, it will be the biggest upset since Peyton Manning in 1997 walking away from being the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft to return to Tennessee.

But I want to stress this: In an age when players are protecting their future earning power by skipping meaningless bowl games — which are essentially NFL preseason games — it’s admirable that Young (and All-American DE Will Anderson) are playing in the Sugar Bowl. Admirable, but not fiscally smart.

Don’t let anyone tell you different, Young will be the No. 1 overall pick. You’re going to hear about his size (he’s certainly undersized), and how his production decreased from last season. But he is exactly what the NFL is looking for in the age of the vertical pass game: an accurate thrower, and a dangerous threat when playing off schedule and extending plays.

While he has made money the past 2 seasons with NIL, there’s no chance he turns down an estimated $40 million contract to play 1 more season in Tuscaloosa.

9. Numbers

23. A year ago, Jimbo Fisher was putting the finishing touches on the greatest class in the history of recruiting.

A class that would later lead to the story of the offseason, and to what many — NFL scouts and SEC coaches — privately say was the beginning of the downfall of Fisher’s 5th season at Texas A&M.

Now here we are a year later, and Fisher has lost 23 players to the transfer portal, including 5 players from the 2022 class: 5-star WR Chris Marshall, 5-star CB Denver Harris, 4-star CB Smoke Bouie, 4-star OL PJ Williams, 4-star LB Ish Harris.

Marshall, Harris, Bouie and Williams were top 70 recruits, according to the 247Sports composite.

10. Quote to note

Florida coach Billy Napier: “You’re always working on culture, but I think we made a ton of progress. What I observed in that locker room compared to what we observed when we first got here is a completely different ball club.”