Lasting from mid-January until late August, just about the longest offseason known to man belongs to college football. But in a way, that's good: It gives us plenty of time to preview and prepare for the fire hose that is the fall.
My initial SP+ projections will go up soon after February's signing day -- spoiler alert: Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State will probably rank really high -- and my 2022 divisional preview pieces will begin after that, but we don't have to wait till the previews to get started. Let's talk about some of the big-picture items we're going to be talking about a lot, and enjoying immensely, in the offseason months to come.
The burden of expectation in College Station
Even the best-laid previews go awry. Just as we spent a good portion of last offseason talking about whether JT Daniels was ready to lead a national-title charge at Georgia, we also talked about whether quarterback Haynes King was ready to take Texas A&M to a new level.
In both cases, injuries rendered these topics moot. Daniels missed time and gave way to Stetson Bennett, who indeed led the Dawgs to the promised land, while King was lost for the season in Week 2, ceding the floor to Zach Calzada. Calzada put together a stunning performance in A&M's upset of Alabama, but he otherwise lacked; at the end of a disappointing 2021 campaign, he decided to transfer to Auburn. Strike up the "Is King ready?" talk all over again. And after the coup Jimbo Fisher just pulled off in recruiting, turn the volume up quite a bit this time.
When you make what Fisher makes, and you sign one of the best recruiting classes on record, you're going to face all sorts of expectations. A&M is 34-14 under Fisher and has rounded beautifully into form on defense. But defensive coordinator Mike Elko took the head-coaching job at Duke (Fisher replaced him with DJ Durkin), and we still don't know what we need to know about the quarterback position. King should be ready to go, and LSU transfer Max Johnson and four-star freshman Conner Weigman both come aboard too.
The Aggies' talent level is rising quickly, but so is the pressure. In the first half of 2022, A&M will play Miami at home, Arkansas in Arlington and a revenge-seeking Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The quarterback of choice, whoever that may be, needs to play at a high level, and quickly.