10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after Week 3 in and around the SEC
Meet Najee Harris, Alabama’s biggest receiving threat.
Meet the AAC, one of America’s top 4 power conferences. You remember UCF, right?
Say goodbye to the Pac-12 … and Alabama’s title hopes? What did I just write?
Here are 10 things I’m absolutely overreacting to after Week 3 in and around the SEC.
10. Tim Tebow is right
We’ll get to football, but first …
Amateurism is gone. We all know this. It’s been gone for decades.
The NCAA does a lot of things wrong. Maybe most things wrong. But in 2015, the NCAA/Power 5 schools adjusted the scholarship to include a cost of attendance stipend. The stipends range from $2,000-$5,000 per player, pretty good WAM for a kid with no other college bills.
Still, I hear all the time: Pay the players!
These kids are getting paid. Virtually everything about their college experience is free … and they are getting a nice date-night stipend on top of that. That second point always gets lost in this never-ending chase for cash.
Could athletes make more in an open economy? Of course. We know some already are, illegally, of course.
But here’s what I go back to: The purpose of college is to educate. It was not set up to be a de facto minor league system for professional sports. It has become that.
I’ve been covering college sports for close to 30 years. Athletes have never had it better. Never. Facilities to tutors to athletic dorms and lavish dining rooms to better, safer equipment, and recently, extra cash, a Power 5 scholarship has become a lottery ticket.
They earned it, but where’s the appreciation for what that scholarship already entails?
Our oldest son is on scholarship — a full tuition ride courtesy of a Bright Futures scholarship. We could not be more thankful and appreciative. He busted his butt to achieve those grades, that SAT score, those community service hours. He and we are still responsible for plenty of incidentals, things a stipend cures. That’s life. In his case, having a 4.3 GPA wasn’t quite the same as having 4.3 speed.
But it’s neither the university’s purpose or responsibility to solve every hardship.
Schools are making money off sports, of course, but they’re also printing cash on the backs of the ever-growing student enrollment. Tuition, housing, it’s never been more expensive to be a college student. The chasm between student body and student-athlete has never been greater, either.
And athletes want more?
Understand, no matter what financial freedoms are afforded athletes, it’s never going to be enough. Never. There is no solution to athletic payments, and Tebow is right: The money-grab promotes a me-first mentality that’s counterproductive to winning.
Whatever cash limit for likeness will be imposed, somebody will go through a back-channel to offer more. That’s the world in which we live.
Tebow knows how this story ends: It’s a race to the first $1 million autographed picture.
Moving on …
9. Good to see Guarantano, Vols smile
Save the jokes. I don’t care if the Vols were playing Knoxville Catholic.
It was great to see Jarrett Guarantano and the Vols enjoy a day like Saturday.
Actually, it was a great week for UT. (When was the last time we said that?) The school provided the feel-good story of the week when it awarded a bullied 4th-grader a 4-year scholarship.
And then Guarantano threw 3 TD passes in the 1st half — setting a PR in the process. That was exactly the start the beleaguered Vols needed.
The next 4 games are brutal. Reality will return soon enough. Saturday was a nice reprieve.
Well, unless you’re Jeremy Pruitt. Asked at halftime about Guarantano’s huge opening frame, instead of smiling and saying, “Pretty awesome, huh? Great to see. He’s working hard,” Pruitt turned into Scrooge and pointed out that his first pass should have been intercepted.
8. Jake Fromm, young receivers still not on same page
Forget the numbers. Jake Fromm’s first 2 TD passes covered 60 and 48 yards. Impressive? Sure, if you like screens. The first pass traveled 4 yards. The second was caught behind the line of scrimmage.
Saturday morning, I urged Fromm to air it out against overmatched Arkansas State.
I wanted to see George Pickens get 8 or more targets, see Dominick Blaylock get ample opportunities, too.
Fromm hit Pickens for an early 32-yard completion, but underthrew him on a couple of others.
One sequence was particularly telling: After underthrowing Pickens on a post route to the end zone, Fromm then overthrew Matt Landers in the corner of the end zone.
Pickens and Blaylock had big days statistically, but the box score didn’t tell the whole story.
That can’t happen next week against Notre Dame.
7. Justin Fields lives in the end zone
In case you missed it, Fields just had his 3rd consecutive game with at least 4 combined TDs and his 3rd consecutive game with at least 2 TD passes.
He still hasn’t thrown an INT, either.
6. Kyle Trask, ladies and gentlemen …
Florida was down and out. Not just in Lexington. But for Week 3 and beyond.
Every realistic hope Florida had of unseating Georgia in the East seemingly left when Feleipe Franks was carted off late in the 3rd quarter with the Gators trailing Kentucky 21-10.
There was next to no reason to think Kyle Trask could inject life into a lifeless Gators’ attack, one that couldn’t run and hadn’t done enough through the air.
Well, there was one reason. There’s always one reason: College football.
Trask came off the bench and started throwing darts. He led the Gators to 2 TDs, including the go-ahead score.
He did more than that. He saved Florida’s season.
5. Bottom 5 of Power 5
The worst of the weak, in order of ineptitude, because alphabetical order is far too forgiving …
1. Maryland (Big Ten): The Terps entered Week 3 as the highest-scoring outfit in all the land. They were averaging 71 points. The Terps played more like their mascot Saturday, needing 60 minutes to find the end zone just twice against Temple. Remember when Maryland was the team to challenge Ohio State in the Big Ten East? Just last week, in fact … Those were the days.
2. Georgia Tech (ACC): The Citadel lost to Towson and Elon. And went to Atlanta on Saturday and beat the Ramblin’ Wreckage that is Year 1 after Paul Johnson.
3. Boston College (ACC): Losing a nonconference Power 5 game isn’t horrendous. But losing a home game by 24 to a Kansas team that lost to Coastal Carolina last week? From 2009-2019, care to guess how many Power 5 teams Kansas has beaten by at least 24? Three (Duke in 2009, Rutgers in 2018 and Boston College).
4. Indiana (Big Ten): The Hoosiers lost to Ohio State for the 24th consecutive time (including games Ohio State won but vacated because it can’t stay between the NCAA’s buoys). The Hoosiers haven’t had a winning season in the Big Ten since 1993. That’s the longest such streak among Power 5 teams.
5. UCLA (Pac-12): 0-3 and haven’t scored more than 14 in a game. Are you having fun yet, Chip Kelly?
4. The 4 Playoff teams are …
Alabama’s defense isn’t stopping any of those teams, but it might outscore a couple of them.
Georgia, Notre Dame: Week 4 belongs to you. Do something with the opportunity.
Ohio State, you know the drill. Go undefeated. Then we’ll talk. In that league, especially after watching 2 more ranked Big Ten teams lose Saturday and 2 others win by one score, it’s your only chance.
3. The AAC is (at least) the 4th-best conference in America
It won’t matter for the Playoff race, except in this regard:
UCF and the AAC just ended the Pac-12’s hopes this year. Goodness.
The Knights pounded Stanford — the same Stanford team that took out Northwestern in Week 1.
I maintained throughout last year that the AAC had supplanted the Pac-12 in a Power conference pecking order. The AAC’s 3 or 4 best teams were then and still are better than the Pac-12’s.
Which one of these players looks like a Power 5 playmaker? It was like this all afternoon. UCF did whatever it wanted against the Cardinal.
Dear lord. pic.twitter.com/7ITtShLRdw
— Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam) September 14, 2019
Take Clemson, Ohio State and UCF out of the mix, and I’m not convinced the AAC’s next 3 don’t beat the ACC or Big Ten’s next 3, either.
2. He won’t win the Heisman, but this might be the Play of the Year
My god, it's beautiful pic.twitter.com/juawsKrgPd
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 14, 2019
Run the ball? Bama don’t need to run the stinkin’ ball.
Alabama’s best running plays this season have been safe screen passes.
Throwing a screen to 6-2, 230-pound Najee Harris should be a felony in 49 states and cherished in Alabama. It’s certainly the scariest nightmare a DB could ever have.
I can’t wait until Nick lines him up in the slot.
1. This Alabama team isn’t complete enough to win it all
The Tide are winning. They’re styling and profiling. But they’re not punishing people.
Something’s off. Something’s missing.
The decade long aura of invincibility disappeared midway through the 1st quarter of last year’s national championship game.
Thank Clemson for that. Or blame Clemson for that.
Either way, the manner in which that night unfolded has given hope to even teams like South Carolina that it can go toe-to-toe with the Tide.
No? First-and-goal at South Carolina’s 4, Alabama ran it 3 times (one was a jet-sweep toss to Jerry Jeudy recorded as a pass) and gained a net 1 yard. The Tide’s only TD run came on a 4th-and-inches sneak from the backup QB.
I mean, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts outrushed Alabama all by himself — 99 yards to 76 — on the opening drive of the game!
Alabama is still dangerous. But it’s no longer invincible.
Imagine what Coach O, Joe Burrow and LSU must be thinking right now.