NCAA Football: Sun Bowl-Oregon State at Notre Dame

Spring game season trucks along Saturday as more than two dozen teams are in action, including 18 scheduled to air on television. Two participants in last season's College Football Playoff lead the list as Texas and Michigan hope to build on strong years. The Wolverines head into a reloading cycle, while the Longhorns hope to take the next step. 

Texas' chief rivals also have spring games with Oklahoma and Texas A&M debuting new-look rosters. Elsewhere, Notre Dame prepares for its moment in the sun and Florida State breaks in some new pieces. Michigan State and USC also hope to show improvement, while Stanford and California rank among the new ACC schools readying for primetime. 

It's worth noting that there are a few storms expected across the country. Texas Tech opted to cancel its spring game in Midland, Texas, and others in the state will be on storm watch. Still, there are plenty of big time games to keep an eye on, so here are a few of the key storylines to watch during spring games Saturday. 

Michigan: A new era begins

The Wolverines captured their first national championship since 1997 last season, but repeating won't come easy. Michigan boasts first-year coach Sherrone Moore, an open quarterback battle and countless new starters on both sides of the ball after a historic class departed for the NFL

Of course, Moore got some on-the-job learning experience after leading the program for four games while Jim Harbaugh served various suspensions last season. For that reason, Michigan remains in good hands. However, the spring game will give a first look at whether the Wolverines are ready to hit the ground running in Year 1 or if Moore will preach patience as the program works through growing pains. 

Notre Dame: Revamping the offense

The most significant storyline in the Fighting Irish spring game involves who is not on the field as transfer quarterback Riley Leonard will miss the spring after surgery. Still, the Fighting Irish made some power moves to try and ready the offense for his arrival, and they'll be on full display for the spring game. 

The biggest headline is the Fighting Irish poaching offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock from LSU after he coached Jayden Daniels to a Heisman Trophy last season. Notre Dame also added three top wide receiver transfers to join breakout star Jaden Greathouse. There should also be a strong battle at running back with Jeremiyah Love and Jadarian Price in contention to replace Audric Estime. If things look fluid in the spring against a strong Notre Dame defense, it could be set up for a playoff run when Leonard returns. 

Oklahoma: Trenches in transition

The Sooners face a changing of the guard at the worst time. All five starters from the 2023 season are gone after guard Cayden Green surprisingly defected to Missouri as Oklahoma prepares to enter the rough-and-tumble SEC with a first-year starting quarterback. To make matters worse, projected starting center Troy Everett is expected to miss the entire offseason with an injury, providing a challenge for the unit to build chemistry. 

Granted, spring games aren't always the best time to evaluate trench play as coaching staffs run vanilla schemes and tinker with different units. Still, the season will come down to whether the Sooners can protect first-year starting quarterback Jackson Arnold. In his lone Alamo Bowl start, 12 pressures and two sacks led to three interceptions. If the offensive line isn't ready to help Arnold, nothing else really matters. 

Texas: Replacing key receivers

The Longhorns have recruited the wide receiver position better than anyone this side of Columbus, Ohio, over the past two years, but Texas has holes to fill heading into a pivotal season. Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell both projected as top picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, while Jordan Whittington's eligibility expired. Even tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders declared for the draft, leaving the Longhorns without their top five pass-catchers from last season. 

Instead of betting on development of players already on the roster, the Longhorns aggressively added receivers Isaiah Bond, Matthew Golden and Silas Bolden via the transfer portal. Tight end Amari Niblack also joined the roster from Alabama. Still, young talents Johntay Cook, DeAndre Moore and Ryan Black will assuredly push for playing time. Which playmakers will emerge from the group? 

USC: Are the defensive changes real? 

Trojans coach Lincoln Riley finally grew sick of the criticisms of his soft defenses and made a few serious changes this offseason. Four new defensive assistants joined the fray, including UCLA defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn, NFL assistant Eric Henderson, North Dakota State coach Matt Entz and up-and-coming assistant Doug Belk. The Trojans also landed seven defenders in the portal, three of whom earned four-star transfer ratings from 247Sports

While the changes portend a renewed focus on defense at USC, Saturday marks a first look at the defensive shift. The program will not only attempt to prove a schematic change but also an emphasis on toughness and tackling. Especially with a less talented offense in 2024, the defense has to take a step forward. 

Spring game schedule for Saturday

TeamTime (ET)TV/Stream
Michigan Noon Fox
Minnesota Noon Big Ten Network
Baylor1 p.m.N/A
Mississippi State1 p.m.SEC Network+
Notre Dame1 p.m.Peacock
Illinois2 p.m.Big Ten Network
Oklahoma2 p.m.ESPN+
Texas2 p.m.Longhorn Network
Texas A&M2 p.m.SEC Network+
Virginia2 p.m.ACC Network Extra
Wake Forest2 p.m.ACC Network
Oregon State3 p.m. Pac-12 Network
USC3 p.m. Pac-12 Network
Stanford3:30 p.m.Pac-12 Network
Florida State4 p.m.ACC Network
California5:30 p.m.Pac-12 Network
Duke6 p.m.ACC Network
South Carolina7 p.m.SEC Network+
Syracuse7 p.m.ACC Network Extra