College football spring buzz: QB battles, long shot contenders

This spring was unlike any other in college football.

For the first time in decades, retired Alabama coach Nick Saban wasn't running a spring practice. USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington were preparing for their first season in the Big Ten, and Oklahoma and Texas were gearing up for their inaugural season in the SEC. The 16 schools in the Big 12 met at the Fiesta Summit, the first time they all gathered in person since Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah joined the league.

And for the first time in the history of college football, the five highest-ranked conference champions will earn a spot in the new 12-team College Football Playoff, along with the next seven highest-ranked teams.

The path to the playoff has unofficially begun -- with new coaching staffs, quarterback competitions and rising stars who will replace household names. Here's all the buzz ESPN college football reporters Adam Rittenberg and Heather Dinich were hearing this spring:

Jump to a section:
New coaches | QB battles
Breakout players | Playoff buzz
Spring football | Longshot contenders | Notes