College Football Turns Into A Passing League

DazeNconfused Editorials

Week zero of the 2022 college football season kicked off yesterday, with Northwestern and Nebraska as the marquee morning game on Fox. I tuned into watch some good old-fashioned, smash-mouth, ground-and-pound football. Instead, I was welcomed to the new era of college football — both teams’ quarterbacks had 200 yards passing at the half.

You read that right, and we are both thinking “what’s going on?” When I think Nebraska, Tom Osborne comes to mind. The corn-fed huge offensive lines, the option running game and Turner Gill. But times change and Scott Frost has decided to get in on the passing frenzy.

In the offseason, Frost hired offensive coordinator Mark Whipple away from Pittsburgh, and landed Texas transfer QB Casey Thompson. Frost is no longer calling offensive plays, letting Whipple install the offensive scheme he had at Pitt last year. Pitt’s top-10 offense was eighth in the nation in passing yardage in 2021, putting up 337 yards per game.

Whipple’s Husker offense came out with an eight-play, 70-plus yard scoring drive in just over two minutes to open the game. Although it ultimately was a losing effort for Nebraska, Thompson threw the ball 41 times for 355 yards.

Not to be outdone in the passing game, Northwestern’s transfer QB Ryan Hilinski threw 38 times for 313 yards, even though Northwestern ran the ball 15 straight times to ice the game. So it looks like third-year OC Mike Bajakian has found the QB to run Northwestern’s scheme as well, after finishing last in the Big Ten in scoring offense in 2021.

The result of this game was 993 total yards of offense in a Northwestern – Nebraska game! Folks, we have crossed the Rubicon.

Who would think Scott Frost would embrace a passing attack at Nebraska?

College football as we know it is being pummeled with change from every direction. The transfer portal, NIL, pass-heavy offensive schemes, and the money driven conference realignment. We saw Michigan State hire Mel Tucker, who went crazy in the transfer portal and turned them into a Top 10 team his second season. That earned Tucker a new fully guaranteed $95 million contract!  Nowadays, if you make a savvy head coach hire, use the portal and NIL, and bring in a passing game guru for an OC, you’ll be able to rebuild a team very quickly.

This same scenario hits home for the Ducks in week four when they visit Washington State. New head coach Jake Dickert has gone all in on the immediate offensive overhaul, signing QB Cameron Ward out of the portal from FCS school Incarnate Word. Ward brings his 4,648 yards passing with 47 TDs from last season to Pullman. But Dickert hasn’t stopped there; he has also hired Incarnate Word’s head coach Eric Morris as his OC. That combo makes the offense instantly lethal.

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This passing trend will only continue. QBs and WRs are coming into college with more polished skills than ever due to the high school seven-on-seven passing leagues. The portal will see more QBs making moves to schools where they can be the guy, making for fewer quality QBs stashed on elite teams’ rosters.

Coach Dan Lanning added depth with the transfer of legacy player Chase Cota.

Ducks coach Dan Lanning has played this game to an extent since he became head coach. He hired Kenny Dillingham, a brilliant young offensive mind, as his OC. Already stocked with two blue-chip QBs, he pulled three-year starting SEC QB Bo Nix out of the transfer portal, along with WRs Chase Cota and Caleb Chapman. To finish off his loading up on the offensive side of the ball, Lanning added RBs Noah Whittington and Mar’keise Irving.

The Ducks offense promises to be something we haven’t seen in Eugene in years, with depth we have never seen. Will the Ducks put the ball up over 40 times a game and average 500 plus yards a game? Based on what I just saw the Huskers and Wildcats do, I think Duck fans better buckle up.

Duck fans, what do you think about the passing game explosion in college football? Are you pleased with the portal moves Lanning has used to add to the offense? Please share your thoughts in the OBD FORUM!

Portland, Oregon
Top Photo by Northwestern Football Twitter

Bob Rodes, the Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.

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