College football’s best and toughest schedules in 2024, plus 3 questions with Bama’s GM

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The Big 12 was the last Power 4 conference (is that the right label now?) to release its 2024 schedule when it did so yesterday. That means it’s time for an Until Saturday review of what to expect this fall.

Oklahoma and LSU will face off in November as SEC opponents. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Best of 2024

Games to watch in each conference

SEC: Oklahoma will visit Ole Miss on Oct. 26 in just the second meeting between the two schools. Then, to close the season, Texas visits Texas A&M to renew a rivalry that has been on a 13-year hiatus.

Big Ten: The national championship rematch between Michigan and Washington on Oct. 5 is an easy one to circle — even if both teams saw massive changes in the offseason (starting with new coaches and QBs for both). Ohio State visits Oregon on Oct. 12 in the Buckeyes’ first test against a West Coast Big Ten newcomer and one they’ve anticipated since a matchup with the Ducks was canceled in the 2020 season.

ACC: Virginia Tech–Miami and UNC-Duke give us strong rivalry vibes in Week 5. Clemson visits Florida State on Oct. 5 as the Tigers seek revenge after losing to Seminoles in OT at home in 2023. And then there are the new teams’ ACC debuts: Stanford (Sept. 20 at Syracuse); Cal (Sept. 21 at Florida State); and SMU (Sept. 28 vs. FSU).

Big 12: Utah and BYU will return to their Holy War rivalry on Nov. 9 in Salt Lake City. Arizona at Kansas State is another mid-September matchup to watch.

For more on 2024, check out Stewart Mandel’s updated way too early top 25.

Interview With Alabama GM

What’s the recruiting philosophy?

New Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer brought general manager Courtney Morgan along with him from Washington to Alabama this month. Morgan previously worked in a similar role at Michigan in 2021, meaning his fingerprints were all over both rosters that played in the national title game.

Morgan joined the Until Saturday podcast yesterday to discuss his move to Tuscaloosa. Here’s a sneak peek.

Has your strategy changed at Alabama?

“You get the pleasure of recruiting at a very high level and having access and instant credibility with the top players. … I think my philosophy and approach to evaluations is the same. You’re going to look at everyone, and you’re going to stick to the critical factors of your defense or offense, and then everyone gets evaluated the same. I think being down in this region, you don’t have to go far. At Washington, you were kind of isolated in the Pacific Northwest, so you had to recruit heavy California, heavy West Coast. Here you get in the car, you drive five hours, and there are a lot of good football players. If you really hone in on the five-hour radius around the school you could fill a pretty good class.”

What’s more valuable: seeing a prospect in person or viewing tape?

“One thing (Nick) Saban did here, they did a hell of a job at getting kids to camp. That’s really the best evaluation. It’s impressive. When I was at Michigan or other schools, kids didn’t even want to come to camp to work out, and they’d look at you like ‘I’m not working out.’ Then three days later, they did a whole workout for Coach Saban. We definitely want to continue to bring kids to camp because that’s really been the standard here: getting live evaluation for prospects.”

One thing you would change about recruiting?

“One, let personnel staff on the road. You’ve got people who spend all day evaluating kids, setting the recruiting strategy, the evaluation process, talking to parents. Why wouldn’t you let those guys on the road? That makes no sense. In the NFL, scouts go on the road. … Number two, push back the portal, push it to after the season. What they should do is also mandate the schools that are semester schools, maybe have some type of admissions window where they could let kids in around February because it’s unfair. You’ve got the quarter schools that can get kids in in March, so they have an advantage in the portal because you can get a kid into school later but a semester school has to wait until May.”

Joined by Ari Wasserman and Mitch Light, Morgan also discussed Saban’s legacy, his reaction to the title game and if he had an inkling DeBoer would make this move.

Quick Snaps

Since our last newsletter, Michigan replaced Jim Harbaugh with former offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore. Catch up on the hire and find out what’s at the top of Moore’s to-do list.

Is the NCAA investigation into Tennessee too little, too late? Stewart Mandel dives deeper into the complicated world of NIL, collectives and the NCAA.

Eight blue-chip prospects decommitted from Florida’s 2024 recruiting class. Now, the ones who stayed say the deserters will become “Gator bait.” Manny Navarro has more on the roster turnover in Gainesville.

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(Top photo of Hunter Travis, front, and Zemaiah Vaughn: Chris Gardner / Getty Images)

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