10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after Week 9 in the SEC
It’s Sunday and I promise not to swear, but …
The restraint is real.
We’ll get to what happened Saturday in a minute. Yes, JT Daniels was fantastic, Tennessee was not, and college football Twitter was more entertaining and chippy than usual. But nothing is more important than where we’re starting.
10. LSU has a serious culture problem
That’s not a light accusation, and it’s certainly not something to haphazardly toss around.
But after reading the USA Today report about the measures LSU took to protect certain athletes accused of sexual violence at the expense of the possible victims, how can you logically come to any other conclusion?
I’d add “calmly” to “logically,” but I wasn’t too calm after reading the report.
I was angry. Again, the restraint is real because that’s not even close to what I really want to say.
There’s no way one of those accusations should have been dismissed, delayed, ignored. But the orchestrated teamwork involved to shove all of it into the corner? That’s culture. And that’s a much scarier problem than even a few morally bankrupt athletes who don’t know wrong from right.
If we aren’t protecting and advocating for those most at risk, what in the literal … are we doing?
And then, after the report is released, LSU women’s tennis coach Julia Sell said she didn’t know about any of it? What?
— Jade (@jade_lewis98) November 19, 2020
We all love Ed Orgeron’s redemption story, homegrown hero fulfills promise, the People’s King of Louisiana. Last year was historic. And I had to remind myself: Orgeron didn’t do any of this; some of his players are the accused. But Orgeron damn sure could have done a lot more to end it. It’s his program. It’s his culture. It’s his opportunity.
Come on, O. What in the literal … are you teaching these men?
9. That press conference was weak. All of it
Orgeron’s opening statement in regards to the USA Today investigation was weak.
The lack of follow-up from reporters on the Zoom call was weak.
I’ve been doing this for a long time. I understand how the game works. Reporters probably were told Orgeron wasn’t going to discuss the damning USA Today story beyond his opening statement. We’re often told certain subjects are off-limits and we typically play ball because the topic is so tame it isn’t worth the fight.
This is different. It does not matter what reporters might have been told. LSU doesn’t get to set these rules.
You have to ask the questions. And the question of the day was not whether LSU had 2 quarterbacks ready to play Saturday.
What did you know? When did you know? Who did you tell? Why did you choose to play the accused players? Why did this guy get suspended but Derrius Guice did not? Those are just some of the questions that should have been asked.
Orgeron could have sidestepped each query and used an “active investigation” as a shield. Fine. But the questions had to be asked.
After about 15 minutes of nonsensical football questions, reporter Glenn Guilbeau finally returned to the most important topic.
Orgeron didn’t directly answer Guilbeau’s question but made sure to remind us sexual violence is an important issue.
Weak. Every single second of it.
8. I dare Gregg Marshall to put his hands on one of his ex-players now
Coaches wield power. Life-altering power.
Little known fact: Coaches control whose scholarships get renewed and whose don’t. Revoking scholarships is a bad look (and Power 5 conferences have moved toward guaranteed rides out of pure peer pressure, i.e.: recruiting), but making life a living hell to prompt a transfer is an effective and frequent alternative. Heck, in some cases they can still control where the player transfers. Unreal.
Mind games of the worst kind.
Putting your hands on a player? Punching a player? Choking an assistant coach? That’s a whole other, criminal level. And it’s a flat-out punk move, too, because the coach knows the victim can’t react for fear of losing everything.
Paid-to-go-away Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall was accused of all of that and more. An internal investigation revealed the details. The fallout: He resigned this week after negotiating a $7.75 million buyout.
Buyouts in general have no place in college sports, but they most certainly should not be handed out as a reward for bad behavior. (And, no, I could not care any less that Marshall led Wichita State to a Final Four. Congratulations. And good riddance.)
I thought Dan Wetzel made a great point when he questioned why Wichita State agreed to the buyout, rather than pursue a fired-with-cause case in court, where all of the dirty little details would be revealed under penalty of perjury.
Wetzel noted that NC State stopped buyout payments to Mark Gottfried and “dared him to come get it. So far, he hasn’t.”
As I noted on Twitter, I’m not a “let’s sue ’em!” guy. But if I were one of the players Marshall allegedly hit/choked/abused, I’d make an exception. I’d come after that cash.
7. Changing gears before I throw my laptop through a wall …
Sports are supposed to be fun, not depressing.
If you’re a Purdue fan, you didn’t find the controversial ending of Friday night’s game at Minnesota fun, but I thought the Boilers’ social media response was quite funny.
ⓘ This claim is disputed. https://t.co/dLW9OoGvCb
— Purdue Athletics (@PurdueSports) November 21, 2020
Clever astronauts in West Lafayette.
In case you missed it, refs flagged Purdue tight end Payne Durham for pushing off before hauling in this potential game-winning TD in the final minute at Minnesota.
You got some 'splainin' to do. pic.twitter.com/FZWmnGxsi6
— Andrew Pogar (@AndrewPogar) November 21, 2020
As terrible pass interference calls go, it’s nowhere near Miami-Ohio State in the BCS national title game, but paraphrasing what Charlie famously told Maverick, the post-play analysis clearly shows an example of what not to call.
6. Not to be outdone …
Perhaps Purdue inspired Arkansas’ social media team. Or maybe the Hogs are tired of being jobbed.
Whatever the case, I applaud this response after Arkansas forced “another” turnover against LSU. This one actually counted. (Officials blew the call on the earlier one, even after a review.)
The 1̶8̶t̶h̶ 17th forced turnover this season. pic.twitter.com/6rMHBThRbX
— Arkansas Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) November 21, 2020
I was genuinely concerned that the Arkansas’ social media department might get fined after refs ejected star safety Jalen Catalon.
That targeting call was even more questionable than the one given to Devin White in 2018. Both announcers and most of America could clearly see that Catalon twisted to avoid laying the hammer and that LSU’s receiver actually dipped a bit, which resulted in high contact. It was, by every rational measure, a football play.
Seven plays later, LSU scored the game-winning touchdown.
5. Top 5 of Power 5
Bottom 5 of Power 5 has been retired. We’re staying positive, just like John Schlarman would have wanted …
1. ACC leaders postponing FSU-Clemson: There’s never a bad time to make the right decision, even if it’s a few hours before kickoff.
2. Purdue WR Rondale Moore: The All-American best known for torching Ohio State 2 years ago made his long-awaited season debut Friday night. Rust? Try bronze: 15 catches for 116 yards with a TD run for good measure.
3. Indiana QB Michael Penix: I can think of several teams in Florida and Georgia that would love to have the Tampa product. There’s no other way to describe it other than he outplayed Heisman contender Justin Fields. Penix set career-highs with 491 yards passing and 5 TD passes. He needed 6 more yards to set an IU record and another TD would have tied the mark.
4. Vanderbilt QB Ken Seals: Sure, Kyle Trask ended up having a better day, but Kyle Trask is surrounded by far superior talent, too. Seals, whose recruiting profile reads a little bit like Trask’s registered his 3rd 300-yard passing game of his freshman season. Seals set Vandy’s freshman passing yards record in the process. Frankly, that’s amazing.
5. Alabama WR DeVonta Smith: He’ll always be remembered for the walkoff TD catch to win the 2017 national championship, but on Saturday, Smith became the SEC’s career leader with 32 touchdown receptions. (And counting …)
Career TD catch No. 3️⃣2️⃣ for DeVonta Smith.
This one was for the record books. pic.twitter.com/GM5pfHGxmh
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 21, 2020
4. The 4 Playoff teams are …
1. Alabama … do I have to keep going?
OK, T4. Ohio State, T4. Notre Dame, T4. Clemson, T4 Florida.
Is the gap between Alabama and everybody else as large as it looked Saturday?
Clemson and Notre Dame didn’t play.
Ohio State and Florida didn’t play well. There’s no need to discuss Texas A&M because no team with a 28-point loss in a condensed season is going to the Playoff, a’ight?
Ohio State looked like a team that hadn’t played in 2 weeks and hadn’t played a good team all year. Florida slept through most of its 11 a.m. kickoff at Vanderbilt.
The first Playoff poll will be revealed Tuesday night. There’s no need to overreact to it. The Clemson-Notre Dame debate will settle itself. So will Alabama-Florida.
My guess as to how it will look Tuesday?
No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Clemson, just like last week’s AP poll. I still don’t believe Notre Dame can stop a Playoff offense. I really hope Cincinnati is at No. 6.
If Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson win their title games, no league will get or deserve 2 Playoff teams. The Big 12 is done and the Pac-12 started too late. If Cincy can run the table, let’s see what the Bearcats can do.
3. OK, I laughed at this tweet …
Then I remembered Illinois hasn’t been relevant since Jeff George … and I wept for what used to be Nebraska football. ‘Sker Nation: Y’all deserve better.
(Illinois deleted the tweet, but Twitter never forgets.)
2. Oh, what could have been …
JT Daniels’ first touchdown as a Bulldog goes to George Pickens pic.twitter.com/1KZ36SWM68
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) November 22, 2020
In his long-overdue debut, Daniels threw for 401 yards and 4 TDs in a tight victory over Mississippi State. He’s the first Bulldogs QB to reach those totals in the same game since Aaron Murray.
I feel your pain, Georgia fans. You’re wondering, like everybody, else, why Kirby Smart waited so long to unleash the best quarterback he has. Was he saving Daniels for the 2nd half of the SEC Championship Game against Alabama?
I don’t know if Georgia would have beaten Florida with Daniels, but I know a lot of Dawgs fans who would have given back their 34 jersey to find out.
If Daniels returns next fall — he looked like a 1st-rounder Saturday — Georgia is going to have the most explosive passing game in the SEC.
1. Waiting on you, Tennessee
I’m not surprised South Carolina fired Will Muschamp. In May, I predicted it when we discussed whether any SEC coach would be fired during a global pandemic. My colleagues, citing reason and logic, thought coaches would be safe.
I wrote this:
“You would like to think that the bad optics of firing and buying out a coach would dissuade a school president from doing so, but let’s be honest.
“In this league, it always means more.
“In this league, bad optics are a losing record, thinning crowds, losing to your rival or continuously falling short of expectations.
“In the real world, there’s no way you’d fire a coach in 2020 and pay him millions not to coach. But in the real world, there’s no way you’d guarantee somebody $75 million to coach a college football team, either.
“I’d like to believe that this pandemic has reset priorities, changed views and eliminated greed or the notion that money is ever-flowing, but that’s naive.
“If South Carolina goes 5-7, Will Muschamp is getting fired.”
Turns out, Muschamp didn’t get anywhere close to 5-7.
Now, while everybody is compiling lists about who the Gamecocks should hire, I’m wondering what Tennessee’s move is.
I’ve seen enough to know that Jeremy Pruitt is a good, solid coach, which is fine if that’s your program’s ceiling. There are 30+ Power 5 jobs for coaches like that. But he’s not the guy who’s going to hang another banner at Tennessee. There’s no way, especially now, that the Vols could lament paying Pruitt’s buyout. It’s less than what South Carolina is paying Muschamp.
So do the Vols do to South Carolina what Georgia did to South Carolina? Do they swoop in and steal Hugh Freeze like Georgia grabbed Kirby Smart?
Given the choice, I’d take the Tennessee job over the South Carolina job. Dabo’s shadow is huge, but that alone won’t deter a confident head coach. Freeze took down Nick Saban twice — and nearly a 3rd consecutive time. Tennessee still is a national brand in football. You say “Carolina,” and just about everybody outside of Columbia thinks you’re talking about the Tar Heels.
So what’s it going to be, Tennessee? Are you a football program? Or are you OK losing to Vanderbilt 3 times in 4 years and struggling to finish 4th in the SEC?
The next 6 weeks are going to tell us more about Tennessee than South Carolina.