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The Eight-Ball: Eight Players Who Will Impact CFP Race

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Impact Transfers, Injury Returners, and a QB Battle will define the CFP Race in 2022

The days of summer begin to heat up! This means as College Football preview magazines between to come off the presses, fans, and enthusiasts everywhere are going to be circling key games, impact players, and teams on what to keep an eye on. 

These are my eight impact players you should keep an eye on throughout the 2022 season. These players may impact and define the CFP Race throughout the season. 

Bryan Bresee - Clemson - DT (Junior)

Cory Fraval/247 Sports

Cory Fraval/247 Sports

Bresee tore his ACL in a double-overtime loss at NC State in Week 4 of the season last year. Clemson last season still managed without Bresee to be a top 10 defense nationally and the No. 2 scoring defense.

New Clemson defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin takes over for new Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables. Goodwin is going to rely on the same recipe Venables did in his tenure with dominant defensive lines.

The 2022 defensive line looks very special in Clemson. Myles Murphy and Xavier Thomas on the edge and Tyler Davis playing nose tackle. What hurt them last season was a lack of interior presence. This was especially true against Pitt last season. 

How he has recovered from injury and how he performs will dictate a lot on how Clemson performs in the CFP race in 2022. 

Marvin Harrison Jr. - Ohio State - WR (Redshirt Freshmen)

David Petkiewicz/ cleveland.com

David Petkiewicz/ cleveland.com

Ohio State’s defense in my mind with new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles should right the ship with Zach Harrison, Jack Sawyer, and J.T. Tuimoloau

Ohio State has a triumvirate of offensive talent returning that will keep the Buckeyes humming: C.J. Stroud at QB, TreVeyon Henderson at RB, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba who was picked as the best player in the country at WR. The bigger question is who will step up and be the #2 vertical option for Stroud.

I feel out of 3 contenders: Marvin Harrison Jr., Julian Fleming, and Emeka Egbuka it will be Harrison who will emerge. The son of NFL Hall of Fame WR Marvin Harrison will look to continue the family legacy as a legendary WR and if this JUGS Machine catch is any indication, he might be looking at more honors. The son of the pro football Hall of Famer may have a lot to say about Ohio State's CFP run.

Brandon Joseph - Notre Dame - S (Senior)

University of Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s Week 1 assignment doesn’t get any harder than a trip to Columbus against Ohio State. New Head Coach Marcus Freeman will be relying on the Northwestern transfer to be the ultimate centerfielder against a Buckeye defense. Not helping matters for the Irish is the weak spot in the secondary is the cornerback position.

Joseph was a breakout star at Northwestern in 2020 being a consensus All-American and First-Team All-Big Ten honors. 2021 Joseph attempted to do too much and was overly aggressive at times.

If Joseph learned from his mistakes of 2021, he would need to find a perfect balance with the Irish in 2022 that he will either help the Irish return to the CFP or derail opponents such as Ohio State, Clemson, or USC out of the CFP based on his play. 

Caleb Williams - Southern Cal - QB (Sophomore)

Pac 12 Media

Pac 12 Media

The winner of the transfer portal for the 2022 season must go to Southern California. Picking up Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison and former Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams. 

Caleb Williams was a 5-star prospect from Gonzaga College High School in Washington DC. The young signal-caller burst onto the scene in the Red River Rivalry against Texas. He relieved the beleaguered Spencer Rattler finishing the game with 212 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 88 yards rushing, and a rushing score. Williams finished the season as Oklahoma's starting QB.

If one thing to keep an eye on Williams this season is; does he avoid the late-season fade of last season. In his final three regular-season games against Baylor, Oklahoma State and Iowa State Williams completed 49.3% of his passes threw for 481 yards, and had 4 touchdowns with 3 interceptions. 

USC will see down the stretch to end the season UCLA at the Rose Bowl and Notre Dame at home with potentially a Pac-12 Championship game against either Utah or Oregon. 

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Bo Nix - Oregon - QB (Junior)

Abby Parr/Getty Images

Abby Parr/Getty Images

The much-maligned former legacy Auburn quarterback transferred to Oregon to join former Georgia defensive coordinator and new head coach Dan Lanning.

Nix’s tenure in Oregon started behind redshirt freshman Ty Thompson entering spring ball. However, Nix’s performances in spring ball, including an 8 for 15 230 yards and 3 touchdown spring game. This led to the belief that Nix is now the front-runner for the Oregon starting gig.

Week 1 has been Lanning and Nix returning to a “neutral site” encounter with Georgia in Atlanta (how neutral is it really for Oregon with Georgia being 70 miles from its home stadium), and BYU coming to Eugene.

In-conference the Ducks still must contend with Stanford (who beat Oregon last season in OT 31-24), UCLA, then back-to-back Utah at home, and then in Corvallis for Oregon State in the Oregon-Oregon State rivalry.

If they manage to be at the top, most likely a Pac-12 Championship Game berth against Southern Cal wouldn’t be out of the question. Nix, who is used to facing SEC defenses and seeing high-end defensive talent year in and out, should feast on Pac-12 defenses who lack the skill and speed on defense he is used to seeing. 

Nolan Smith - Georgia - LB (Senior)

USA Today/UGA Wire

USA Today/UGA Wire

Defending National Champion Georgia, if they get past Oregon Week 1 has an extremely favorable schedule. Especially considering the crossover games in the SEC are Auburn and Mississippi State.

This benefits the Georgia team reloading after losing a record 15 players to the NFL Draft. The hardest hit is the defense, and one of the three returning starters is JACK starter Nolan Smith.

While the honors for top linebacker and potentially defensive player in the SEC go to Alabama’s Will Anderson, Nolan Smith is right there in the conversation for being the best at what he does.

The gap that separates the two is Anderson is an elite pass rusher while Smith leaves a lot to be desired in that department. If Smith develops his pass-rushing skills, Georgia should be 11-1/12-0 going into Atlanta in the SEC Championship. 

Tyler Steen - Alabama - LT (Senior)

Bryan Lynn/USA Today SPORTS

Bryan Lynn/USA Today SPORTS

It became clear for Alabama offensive line coach Eric Wolford. The Tide would need to seek help from the portal up front. 

Alabama landed arguably the best offensive line player available in the portal in Tyler Steen.

Steen was a three-year starter at Vanderbilt at tackle positions, he spent one year at right tackle and two at left tackle. Alabama's offensive line in 2021 allowed Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young to get sacked 41 times.

While most of the transfer portal accolades will be for Jahmyr Gibbs,  Jermaine Burton, or Eli Ricks. The job Steen does to keep Young’s jersey clean and replace Top 10 NFL Draft pick Evan Neal that will impact what Alabama does.

Sam Craft/AP

Sam Craft/AP

Pro Football HOF Coach Bill Parcells used to say two things about quarterbacks. 

 “If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks.” 

The second he always said that of the quarterback position: “That’s one position you cannot have a role player.” 

Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher will spend most of the summer determining from his stable of quarterbacks who will lead the Aggies this season. 

Amongst the stable the Aggies have: 

  • The Incumbent – Haynes King
  • The Transfer – Max Johnson 
  • The Recruit - Conner Weigman

King was the starter to kickoff 2021 season before a lower leg injury derailed his season. He is the most experienced in Jimbo’s system and might be the most dynamic athlete out of the three. 

Max Johnson comes to College Station via LSU. Johnson managed to throw for nearly 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns in 18 games with very little coaching and development. 

Conner Weigman comes in as the highest-rated quarterback recruit to College Station since Kyle Allen in 2014. Weigman is a talented 5-star and possesses amazing arm strength may have a chance to compete right away.

Whoever Jimbo chooses, A&M has some high-profile matchups throughout their season – Miami, Ole Miss, Florida, LSU, Arkansas, and Alabama – A&M could have a QB blaze a trail to the CFP or simply knockout or indirectly knock out someone’s chance to the playoff.