Horace Greeley was one of America’s great thinkers and doers, a newspaper man and a politician, a utopian and a agrarian, a teetotaler and a vegetarian when that might as well have been a sin. He ran for president in 1872 and performed as well as TCU did on Monday against Georgia, losing to former Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant in a landslide.

He believed in many things, and backed his beliefs up with actions, but his most ardent belief was in the promise of America and its people.

He implored its best and brightest, regardless of status or upbringing, to explore the great unknown, to head to the expanding frontier and forge a new path, and he summed up his vision with a phrase that has become cemented with time.

“Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.”

A century-and-a-half ago, what did he know about the college football transfer portal that we didn’t?


Traditional high school recruiting most certainly favors the SEC — and, to a lesser extent, the Big Ten and ACC — but the transfer portal has been a Pac-12 party for going on 2 years now.

Last year, USC dominated the portal like no other, and 5 other conference-mates joined the Trojans in the top 30.

This year, it’s been an entirely different level.

After USC secured another former 4-star recruit in former Texas A&M edge Anthony Lucas this week, I dug deeper.

In 247Sports’ transfer rankings, the Pac-12 has more teams ranked in the top 16 than any 2 other conferences combined.

The big, bad SEC? Three.

The ever-expanding Big Ten? Two.

The ACC and the Big 12? Two and two.

Meanwhile, a half-dozen Pac-12 teams — half the conference, in other words — have transfer hauls ranked in the sweet 16.

  • No. 2 USC
  • No. 3 Colorado
  • No. 7 UCLA
  • No. 8 Oregon
  • No. 9 Arizona State
  • No. 16 Washington

Our little upstart league out west, the one that hasn’t had a College Football Playoff berth in 6 years, is easily the top transfer destination nationally.

In that mix are 3 programs that won at least 10 games, another that won 9 and 2 once-proud programs that brought in well-regarded new head coaches.

Even the rest of the league is rather impressive, save one obvious program.

  • No. 27 Cal
  • No. 36 Arizona
  • No. 39 Utah
  • No. 51 Oregon State
  • No. 57 Washington State

Missing, of course, is Stanford, which has the strictest transfer standards west of the Ivy League.

But aside from the Cardinal, the entire Pac-12 has made a dent in the transfer portal.

Of course, some dents are bigger than others.

At the top of the list, of course, is USC. For the second consecutive year, Lincoln Riley treated the transfer portal like his own personal toy shop. Sure, he didn’t land the same kind of splash as last year, his first in Los Angeles, when he brought Caleb Williams along with him from Oklahoma. But Williams is still there, and you’re not going to snag a future Heisman winner every year, nor every Biletnikoff Award winner.

That transfer, Jordan Addison, sticks out now. He didn’t arrive until May.

That’s the scary thing: USC still has time to improve it’s already lofty roster, which has been bolstered both nationally and from within the Pac-12.

Plucking Dorian Singer and Kyon Barrs from Arizona is one thing. Getting a commitment from Washington State offensive lineman Jarrett Kingston is another.

But going into SEC country once again and snagging yet another top-60 recruit in Lucas is another, bigger, better story.

But it’s not the biggest story.


The biggest story is the combined hauls of Colorado and Arizona State, two of the worst teams in the league last year.

In the span of one offseason, Deion Sanders and Kenny Dillingham have turned around the reputations of two of the most moribund programs in the country. They’ve made Boulder and Tempe cool again.

Coach Prime, of course, is the definition of cool. It wasn’t a stretch to imagine the former Jackson State head coach creating a quick cacophony in Colorado, but the level to which the Buffaloes have brought in transfer talent has been a surprise. First and foremost, of course, being super athlete Travis Hunter, the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2022 class who should flummox Pac-12 coaches on both sides of the ball. He arrives from Jackson State along with Sanders’ son, Shedeur, who is likely to start at quarterback for the Buffaloes. But Colorado also plucked players like edge rusher Taijh Alston (West Virginia), tight end Seydou Traore (Arkansas State), offensive lineman Yousef Mugharbil (Florida) and a grand total of 20 new players at an average transfer rating of 88.67.

Dillingham, meanwhile, quickly proved his Pac-12 bona fides as offensive coordinator at Oregon, and he has made an immediate impact in Tempe, as well.

While the Sun Devils have lost ample talent as well, they’ve retooled with two dozen new players, including 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Frost, who should be able to fill LaDarius Henderson’s shoes effectively, and 15 3-star prospects, chief among them former Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne and former Cal offensive lineman Ben Coleman. One of Arizona State’s most intriguing prospects is former Oregon 4-star offensive lineman Bram Walden, who was buried behind arguably the best group of veteran offensive linemen in the country.

For Walden to come home to the desert after leaving for Eugene says something about the momentum Dillingham is building down there.


Of course, there is a flip side to the Pac-12’s plucking of the portal.

Just like on the field, where the league’s Playoff drought has largely been caused by cannibalization from within, teams are swiping talented players from each other like they’re trading baseball cards.

Dorian Singer? Goodbye Arizona, hello USC.

Justin Flowe? So long Oregon, what’s up Arizona?

J. Michael Sturdivant? Adios Cal, shalom UCLA.

It’d be one thing if the Pac-12’s best were simply feasting on the carcasses of the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and MAC. Instead, they’re eating each other alive.

I’m not sure that’s a winning proposition for the league going forward — falling further behind in high school recruiting while constantly nipping and pecking at each other is not a championship recipe.

As much as Horace Greeley was right all those years ago, he could never have predicted this.