After a jam-packed weekend full of spring games, 20 more Power 5 programs will have their final April scrimmages this Saturday.
After seeing the debuts of 5-star quarterbacks like Niko Yamaleava and Arch Manning, as well as new offenses in Georgia, Clemson and Texas A&M, this upcoming weekend also has no shortage of intriguing spring games with schools like Alabama, Colorado and Nebraska in action.
Here are the 10 most intriguing spring games this weekend and some storylines to watch.
WHO REMAINS THE SEC WEST FAVORITE?
Alabama3 p.m., SEC Network+
LSU2 p.m., SEC Network+
When SEC Media Days wrap up in late July, it’s a safe bet that either Alabama or LSU will be the pick to win the SEC West in 2023.
The Tigers upset the Crimson Tide last season en route to a surprise division title in year 1 under Brian Kelly. They return in full force with the lineup of a 2023 College Football Playoff contender.
Jaden Daniels leads an offense that returns its entire starting OL as well as top playmakers like Malik Nabers, Mason Taylor and Brian Thomas Jr.
The spring was largely about infusing the old with the new, as Kelly hit the portal for 12 transfers during the initial window.
One interesting development to watch with LSU on Saturday: the former freshman phenom Harold Perkins Jr. moving to his natural position of inside linebacker.
In Alabama, all eyes are on the quarterback battle Jaylen Milrow and Ty Simpson. While Nick Saban is not expected to name a starter after A-Day, the most encouraging news this spring for the Tide is their head coach’s confidence that the team is much improved at receiver, tailback and offensive line.
Newcomers like 5-star freshman Justise Haynes and 5-star JUCO sideout Malik Benson – two guys who have been making all the noise out of Tuscaloosa this spring – will get to showcase their skills for the first time at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
FRESH FACES IN NEW PLACES
Nebraska2 p.m., Big Ten Network
Colorado3 p.m., ESPN
Wisconsin2 p.m., Big Ten Network
Three programs looking for big changes this fall will hold their spring battles, with Deion Sanders The Colorado program is getting ESPN’s attention.
The Buffs sold out their spring game as Sanders generated more national excitement around this program than perhaps at any other time in school history — and this is a team that won a national championship in 1990.
Colorado is recruiting nearly 50 new players to the roster, so the game will be the first time we get to see future starters like quarterback Shedair Sanders and former No. 1 overall pick Travis Hunter, a potential two-way star, in a Buffs uniform.
in nebraska, Matt Ruhl also reignited all kinds of offseason optimism in a once-proud program, and Saturday’s scrimmage will provide a quick look at some of the changes he instituted with the Cornhuskers.
While NU has a quarterback battle between Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims and incumbent Casey Thompson, the most interesting situation to watch will be how its offensive and defensive lines look, two units that struggled mightily in 2022.
Then there is Luke Fickell in Wisconsin. The former Cincy head coach has instituted all sorts of changes in his short time in Madison — namely bringing the Badgers’ offense into the 21st century.
New OC Phil Longo and a trio of transfer quarterbacks should offer a glimpse of what to expect from Wisconsin’s offense in the fall.
WHAT DOES TEAMS WITH SECOND YEAR SENIOR COACHES PRESENT?
Oklahoma3:30 p.m., ESPN+
Washington4 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Our lady14 hours
duke1 p.m., ACC Network Extra
Very little worked for Oklahoma in year 1 under Brent Venablev. With one of the nation’s worst defenses, the Sooners had their first losing season in 25 years. But Venables was confident this spring that the program should be back on track in 2023.
Oklahoma signed an excellent recruiting class led by 5-stars Jackson Arnold (QB),Adepoju Adewawore (EDGE, END) and Peyton Bowen(DB) and also brought in six turnovers on defense. Venables is on record as expecting OU’s defense to be “on another planet” this fall, so we’ll see early if that’s true.
in washington, Calen De Boer had one of the best debuts of any new head coach in 2022, leading the Huskies from a 4-8 team to 11-2 with seven straight wins to end the season. They bring back the Heisman with hope Michael Penixat quarterback and DeBoer was able to hold the OC Ryan Grubbwho rebuffed Nick Saban’s advances at Alabama.
Washington’s offense should be elite in 2023, but if the Huskies want to win the Pac-12 Championship and be a CFP contender, their defense needs to make a real leap. Were a few offseason transfer additions enough, or will DeBoer return to the fold after spring for more help?
Mike Elko also greatly exceeded expectations in his first season at Duke. The Blue Devils nearly won the division title last year, going 9-4 in 2022 – with three losses by a total of eight points.
Duke’s schedule will be much tougher this fall, but it returns one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC in Riley Leonard and the core of a defense that made big strides in 2022.
And finally, what awaits you Marcus Freeman in year 2 at notre dame? The Irish made one of the biggest splashes in the transfer window this offseason, adding an ACC-record quarterback Sam Hartman. They are also breaking ground on a new OC after a side search for Tommy Rees’ replacement.
Interesting, former blue chip rookie QB Tyler Buechner has reportedly really impressed during the team’s 14 spring practices and is pushing Hartman for the starting job.
Notre Dame has a brutal schedule in 2023 (Ohio State, USC and Clemson), but the Irish are quarterbacked by a playoff contender this fall. Does one person become the favorite for the job on Saturday?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN INSTANT FORCE ENCOUNTERS AN OBJECT THAT CAN BE STOPPED?
Iowa11:45 a.m., Big Ten Network
Will Iowa be shut out in its own spring game?
It cannot be turned off.
The Hawkeyes should once again field one of the nation’s top defenses in 2023, but Brian Ferentz remains the team’s struggling OC – with a ridiculously changed contract overall.
Iowa does have a new quarterback transfer in Michigan Cade McNamara, so maybe there is hope for offensive improvement. It would be hard for Iowa’s offense to be any worse this season after fielding the Big Ten’s most inept unit in nearly a quarter century.