College Football Prospecting: How to Invest in NCAA Stars

After last week’s NFL Hall of Fame Game and the upcoming season of Hard Knocks, one thing has become abundantly clear: football is back!

While we eagerly await the pros to duke it out on Sundays in September, Week 0 of the college football season is a short stone’s throw away. Notre Dame squares off against Navy on Aug. 26, a gridiron clash being played in Dublin, Ireland. The week after, the best programs in the country will begin their journey to the College Football Playoff.

With N.I.L. (name, image, and likeness) deals now at the forefront of college sports, players are able to sign autographs and develop intense following and marketability. This comes at the same time where the trading card industry’s valuation is skyrocketing. As we’ve already seen, these worlds can collide in a unique way for fans and hobbyists.

Today, we are going to showcase ways to collect, invest and potentially profit as a college football fan. Let’s dive right in and highlight this new and unique era of the Hobby!

Bowman University

Since its inception in 2022, the Bowman U line has given college fans a chance to own rare and autographed cards of their favorite gridiron athletes. This is a similar format to Bowman Baseball, a product that features early cards of phenom prospects before they make the big leagues. The premise is simple: you buy a card of said player early, and its value increases as the player develops into a star. This was the game plan for many early collectors of Bryce Young, Will Levis and C.J. Stroud. Now, we take a look into plays for the 2023 season.

Here are five NCAA household names due for big Saturday performances this fall:

Jordan Travis

Tomahawk Nation

Travis and the Seminoles finished their 2022 campaign at 10-3, ending the season with a six-game win streak. This came at a time when many analysts had written the Tallahassee school off as no longer being a powerhouse. Now, the experienced quarterback helms a capable offense with high expectations for the ‘23 season. With a weakened ACC, could we see Travis and Co. make a push for their first CFP appearance since 2015?

If you’re a firm believer in Jordan Travis’s playmaking ability, picking up a few of his Bowman 1st cards wouldn’t be a bad idea. Case in point, you can add this PSA 9 refractor autograph shown above to your collection for just under $70. A couple of primetime games, a couple of standout performances, and we could see this card spiking in value.

Brock Bowers

eBay , Georgia Athletics

After back-to-back dominant seasons, Brock Bowers may be the best player in college football. 6’4”, 240-pound tight ends shouldn’t move as quickly and efficiently as Bowers does. And it just so happens that he plays on the most dominant football program of the decade so far. With looming uncertainty at the QB position, the offensive scheming seems rather simple: get #19 the ball.

Bowers has a live autograph in the inaugural 2021 Bowman U set, and it has held consistent value over the last year. This PSA 9 lava refractor sold for $85; The Napa-born star is on Heisman watch this year, so picking these up while you still can isn’t a bad idea.

Caleb Williams

eBay, USC Athletics

At this point, C-Will is a shoo-in for the 2024 #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. He has all the tangibles and is one of the most complete QB prospects in recent years. However, he hasn’t been able to get USC or Oklahoma over the hump while under the center. The Heisman winner will look to add one more piece of hardware before he goes pro: a CFP championship trophy.

Williams’s autograph was THE product hit from this year’s Bowman U, so it has already garnered considerable value. Still, when all eyes are on him this fall, this will be a sought-after slab for many collectors, fans and investors.

Cade Klubnik

eBay, USA Today Sports

After years of superb coaching and quarterback play, it appears as if Clemson has regressed in the past two seasons. Not only are the Tigers slipping in CFP rankings, they are also not safe in an ACC filled with hungry teams. However, Cade Klubnik is here to prove that the Dabo Swinney dynasty is not done yet. The highly touted recruit will start for the orange and purple this fall, and he looks to make an immediate impact.

Klubnik may be the highest risk/reward play on this list, but his potential is garnering real hype from Tigers fans. This gold autograph from Bowman U Inception, which is limited to just 50 copies, is one of the most aesthetically pleasing $300 cards you’ll ever see. If Klubnik can lead his squad to a deep postseason run this year, we are willing to wager that this will be worth way more than $300 a year from now.

Drew Allar

eBay, Getty

Much like Klubnik, not much is known about how Drew Allar will fare against P5 competition. At just 19 years old, the Nittany Lion is getting the keys to the car at Penn State. With tough opponents like Michigan and Ohio State on the radar, it will be tough for Allar to climb the mountaintop at such a young age. If he does, he will be the most talked about name in college sports.

Allar’s 1st Bowman can be acquired ungraded from $50-70. Send that in to grade at the $19 level, and a PSA 10 could net you a nice profit this fall.

Ready for college football? Which players are due for a breakout season? Let us know @Lab20Cards on Instagram and Twitter!