10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after Week 10 in the SEC
In a season to forget, Saturday was a day to remember.
Sarah Fuller made history. Mac Jones, Kyle Pitts and Matt Corral made plays. Trying to keep Ohio State out of the Playoff made no damn sense, even before Northwestern pulled a Northwestern and lost to Michigan State.
Those are just some of the 10 things I’m absolutely overreacting to after another Saturday down South in and around the SEC.
10. So you’re saying there’s a chance …
No, not exactly.
Sorry, Texas A&M, but somebody has to keep it real for Aggies fans.
Debuting at No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings was fantastic. And I know Aggies fans immediately started playing the What-if game …
What if Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame go undefeated … or if Clemson crushes Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game, we’re in at No. 4, right?
I don’t think so.
Given the Playoff committee’s history, it’s hard to make a case for how the Aggies could steal the No. 4 spot when their résumé is based almost entirely on a 3-point home win over Florida. Seriously, what else can you point to? The mitigating factors are troubling enough — a 5-point victory over Vanderbilt, a less-than-inspiring 14-point win over Mississippi State. No other wins vs. ranked teams (assuming Auburn falls out of the polls again).
But there’s no avoiding the elephant in the selection room.
That’s how dream-crushing that 28-point loss to Alabama was. That’s not a forgivable or excusable outcome, not when you lined up with your starting QB, both of your stud running backs, etc.
The only way the SEC gets 2 teams is if Florida beats undefeated Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which Texas A&M is the SEC’s 2nd team and 4th seed. Even if Notre Dame were to lose to Clemson in the ACC title game, the Irish still have more quality wins than the Aggies.
Ohio State (more on the Buckeyes in a minute) or the B1G champion would have a better résumé.
We’ve been completely ignoring the Pac-12, but I suppose an undefeated champion could garner some attention, too.
Basically, any conference champion without a 28-point loss is going to look better than a team that didn’t even make its conference championship game and lost a game by 4 touchdowns.
9. Do you want the 4 best teams? OK, that includes Ohio State
The Buckeyes had a 2nd game canceled Saturday. So instead of waking up 6-0 this morning, they’re still 4-0 and dangerously close to not being eligible for the B1G Championship Game. The B1G said teams must play 6 games to qualify. Three strikes and you’re out. Wisconsin already has had 3 postponements, so the preseason West favorite already has been eliminated.
What happens if Ohio State can’t play next weekend, either? With cases rising and quarantine protocols, it’s quite possible.
B1G drama, that’s what. For some, anyway.
It doesn’t change my view of the Buckeyes.
The optics wouldn’t be ideal. I readily admit and understand that. But don’t try to convince me that an 8-1 Northwestern team with a B1G championship title is a better team than a 5-0 Ohio State. (And forget Indiana. Ohio State already beat the Hoosiers.)
Ohio State is the best team in the B1G. I don’t need an arbitrary number of regular-season blowouts and another B1G title game mauling of an overmatched West team to prove the point. I didn’t need Northwestern’s loss, either.
It’s not in the B1g’s best interest to send a team to the Playoff. It’s in the B1G’s best interest to send the best B1G team to the Playoff. That’s Ohio State. And that was Ohio State even before Northwestern’s loss.
8. Congratulations to Vandy kicker Sarah Fuller
A standout goalkeeper on Vandy’s women’s soccer team, Fuller became the first woman to play for a Power 5 conference football team Saturday.
— Sarah Fuller (@SarahFuller_27) November 27, 2020
Unfortunately, Vanderbilt’s offense never gave her a chance to showcase her leg, so her on-field contribution was limited to a well-executed squib kick to open the 2nd half.
It’s a shame Vandy turned in arguably its worst offensive performance of the season. Everybody with a functioning brain wanted to see Fuller line up and split the uprights.
Big picture? No matter. I’m guessing more people watched Vanderbilt football Saturday than they have … maybe ever? Legends and pioneers like Billie Jean King took notice and tweeted their pride and praise.
Our family watched every second of the game, hoping for one big play.
Our daughter, a 13-year-old who plays against boys in soccer, basketball and baseball, smiled throughout, but especially afterward when Fuller specifically addressed the young girls in this country and told them: “You can do anything you set your mind to. You really can.”
It was awesome.
Fuller was built for this moment. She exemplifies student-athlete. She’s a role model in Nashville, where she works with the “Play Like a Girl foundation.” She’s been an All-SEC Academic Honor Roll member for 3 years. And she just posted one of the best seasons by a goalkeeper in Vandy history.
Sunday, she was the winning GK as Vandy knocked off No. 1 seed Arkansas 3-1 in the SEC Championship Game. That was Vandy’s first women’s soccer title since 1994. Fuller showed grit, too, allowing nothing after Arkansas took a 1-0 lead just 46 seconds into the title game. By Wednesday, she had convinced Derek Mason she was his best option at kicker.
After the football game Saturday, she joked that she felt a lot more pressure playing for the SEC title than kicking in an SEC football game.
7. Wake up, Jason Whitlock
So this might have been the dumbest response to Fuller’s historic undertaking that I saw on Twitter this week.
Things I'm not supposed to ask. Does Vanderbilt have a men's soccer team? Were any of the guys on the men's soccer team considered to kick for the football team? Did Vandy choose the best candidate or the most publicity?
— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) November 28, 2020
Come on, man. I know your job is to stir the pot. But Vanderbilt hasn’t had a men’s soccer program since the mid-2000s.
6. Also, Vandy, if you’re not selling a “Fuller 32” jersey, I’m not sure what you’re doing …
— Taylor Davis (@taylorbethdavis) November 28, 2020
The world is changing. And it’s a beautiful thing.
5. Top 5 of Power 5
Staying positive, just like John Schlarman would have wanted … here is the best of the week:
1. At home with “Nick Saban.”
Nick Saban watches Iron Bowl from home pic.twitter.com/JxTOv1qzQJ
— Joey (@JoeyMulinaro) November 28, 2020
2. Derek Mason: Credit Mason for having the guts to give Fuller a chance to make history. This guy gets it. Results matter, even at Vandy, so there’s a very good chance his time is winding down. It’s hard to argue otherwise. But just like against Kentucky, when Mason didn’t accept a penalty as a show of respect for John Schlarman, Mason is a guy you want leading people. If this is the end of the road at Vandy, here’s hoping another SEC program scoops him up quickly to run their defense. I can think of 3 prominent programs he’d help immediately. Ultimately, I think he ends up running an athletic department, if not a league.
3. Kyle Pitts: Goodness. Florida’s “Weapon” returned after a 2-game absence and added 3 more TD passes Saturday, giving him 11 in 6 games this season. He is the most unstoppable offensive force in the 2020 season.
4. Najee Harris: He’s gaining ground quickly on Derrick Henry’s program career rushing record. He’s now 322 shy of Henry’s mark of 3,591 yards.
5. Matt Corral: There’s a reason we wrote a story last week about potential Egg Bowl records Corral could break. Corral was fantastic in throwing for 385 yards and 2 TDs. Let’s give some credit to counterpart Will Rogers, too. He was even better, throwing for 440 yards and 3 TDs and coming oh, so close to a tying Hail Mary TD toss at the buzzer.
4. The 4 Playoff teams are …
1. Alabama, 2. Notre Dame, 3. Florida, 4. Ohio State
I’m perpetually skeptical about Notre Dame, but I was impressed with the Irish’s win Friday over UNC. I still have reservations about the defense’s ability to slow down Mac Jones, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields or Kyle Trask, but the Irish made life miserable for Sam Howell. He’s not in the Heisman conversation like those other 4, but he can sling it. And Ian Book (more on him in a minute) looked as unstoppable as he did against Clemson.
Clemson is No. 5, followed by Cincinnati and Texas A&M. Ultimately, I think Alabama and Clemson win conference championship games to lock up 2 spots and eliminate Florida and perhaps Notre Dame.
Ohio State will be the mix.
In this scenario, the battle for No. 4 will come down to 1-loss Notre Dame, undefeated American champion Cincinnati and Texas A&M.
With all of the craziness of this season, if an undefeated, dominant G5 team can’t crack the Final Four, they just need to stop ranking them until the Playoff expands to 8.
3. You know it’s 2020 when a Notre Dame QB can’t get Heisman love
Ian Book dropped a textbook lesson on Winning Football against UNC.
Every time Notre Dame needed a play to be made, Book made it.
The rub is always in his statistics. He only threw 1 TD pass, but his arms and legs and improv skills set up everything the Irish did. Notre Dame had TD drives of 89, 97, 82 and 75 yards. Book had one of those games you had to see to appreciate. The box score didn’t do it justice.
Arguably the biggest play he made was drawing the Tar Heels offsides on a crucial 4th-and-1 at the Irish’s own 24-yard line. That was part of the back-breaking 97-yard TD drive that gave Notre Dame the lead for good at 24-17.
Book is 4th in the ACC in passing yards. He’s 7th in TD passes. But he’s tied for first in the country in fewest losses. He’s nowhere to be found in the Heisman conversation.
Back in the day, that last number alone would have earned a Notre Dame QB a trip to New York.
UNC coach Mack Brown has coached a Heisman Trophy QB finalist and coached against others. Count him among the impressed.
“And let me say at the same time, Ian Book was as good tonight as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Brown told reporters after the game. “We couldn’t tackle him. I mean, we harassed him. We had people around him, there could have been 6 sacks. We could not get him on the ground. And then he made some unbelievable plays on 3rd down. I don’t know if he’s in the Heisman race or not, but he should be. His record is 29-3, he’s fast, he’s quick, he’s accurate, he’s smart. He’s not going to do things to get his team beat. But I was so impressed with him tonight. I was impressed with him as much as any quarterback I’ve seen.”
2. Mac Jones, game-manager? LOL
Auburn made the mistake of describing Alabama’s Heisman Trophy candidate as a mere game-manager.
Jones managed to shut them up pretty quickly Saturday. He threw 5 TD passes in 42-13 beatdown that never felt that close.
Every TD pass was a bit different, too, and showcased every aspect of what makes Jones a great quarterback.
The pump fake to set up DeVonta Smith’s 66-yard walk-in TD was fun to watch. But the best TD toss probably was the one where he slid right to avoid pressure, stepped up to avoid a sack, kept his eyes downfield and delivered this dime to Jahleel Billingsley.
Mac Jones' pocket presence here is awesome.
The Crimson Tide is rolling. pic.twitter.com/mOHXM5jshn
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 28, 2020
In 2 starts against Auburn, Jones completed 44-of-65 passes for 629 yards with 9 TD passes. He topped 300 yards and 4 TD passes both times.
1. Dan Mullen is holding everybody to The Gator Standard
Florida has an offense capable of winning a national championship.
The Gators need the defense to do its part. Dan Mullen, specifically, needs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to do his part. Mullen delivered that message Saturday.
After allowing another 3rd-down conversion, Mullen went off on Grantham, the surest sign yet that everybody in the program is accountable and nobody is untouchable.
Dan Mullen absolutely going in on Todd Grantham pic.twitter.com/Xk9wqQz9t8
— Ben Murphy (@BenMurphyTV) November 28, 2020
The best part? Grantham’s defense responded with its best half of the season. It shut out Kentucky in the 2nd half. The Gators allowed 1 first down over the final 30 minutes. They intercepted 3 passes, forced 2 punts and a turnover on downs.
If Florida’s defense plays like this, Bama beware: This offense is good enough to hang banners.