Extra Points: Is ACC bending over backward to protect Notre Dame, ensure 2 Playoff teams?
College football insider Matt Hayes tackles the biggest topics ahead of this week’s games:
Paving the way
The ACC made a clear decision earlier this week to protect Clemson and Notre Dame’s path to the ACC Championship Game – and more important, to potentially land 2 teams in the College Football Playoff.
And that’s not sitting well with 3 ACC coaches I spoke to over the last 24 hours.
The ACC schedule changes this week eliminated Dec. 12 games for Clemson and Notre Dame. The Irish were scheduled to play Wake Forest, and though Clemson didn’t have a scheduled game, FSU was interested in a makeup game for that date.
“It’s bull—-. No other way to say it,” an ACC coach told me. “We’ve already bent over backward for (Notre Dame) for years. And now we’re going to make sure they only have 1 loss this season no matter what happens in the championship game? Just so we can get 2 teams in? Bull—-.”
The Irish finish the regular season this weekend against Syracuse, the ACC’s worst team. Clemson plays at Virginia Tech.
“I’ll tell you who should be really pissed off – Miami,” another ACC coach told me. “Are you kidding me? Miami has 1 loss. What if Clemson loses to Tech or in that (Dec.12) week? Sure, it’s rare, but we’ve seen stranger things. We have no idea who is going to get hurt, how many turnovers a team is giving away. You’re telling Miami 2 weeks before the end of the season to go jump in a lake. We don’t care about you. That’s a big, big deal. If I were (Miami coach) Manny (Diaz), I’d be screaming from the mountaintops how this goes against everything we stand for in athletic competition.”
If Notre Dame and Clemson win this weekend, the ACC is almost a lock to get 2 teams in the CFP. The only way it could fall apart: Clemson routs Notre Dame, and Florida beats Alabama.
In that scenario, Clemson, Alabama and Florida are in, and Notre Dame is fighting for the last spot with Ohio State and Texas A&M. And the team with the best win among that group would be Texas A&M, which beat – in that scenario – Florida, which just beat No.1 Alabama.
“I’m telling you, when you do things like this, they eventually blow up in your face,” a third ACC coach told me. “I’m all for all things that promote our conference. But I think you do it the right way. We’re better than this. This is a blatant move to make sure we get 2 teams in the Playoff.”
The case for Ohio State
Michigan’s game with Maryland was canceled earlier this week because of COVID cases and tracing within the Michigan program.
This, of course, leads to the uneasy reality that Michigan may not be able to play next week vs. Ohio State, which would leave the Buckeyes with 5 total games – and 1 under the Big Ten mandated 6 to play in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Big Ten officials (hello, Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez) already are talking about the possibility of changing rules midstream, in the best interest of the conference.
See what we’re doing here?
Like the ACC, the Big Ten is desperate for access to the CFP. And there’s only one conference team (Ohio State) worthy. But the Buckeyes have played 4 regular-season games and already are in a tenuous spot with the CFP committee because their résumé doesn’t compare to others in the top 10 who have played full(er) seasons.
One Big Ten coach I spoke with says there’s “no doubt” the conference office will make sure Ohio State plays in the Big Ten Championship Game, “even if they have to change the rules about how many games must be played.”
“I guarantee this,” the Big Ten coach said. “We’re not going through these months of isolation and staying in our bubbles and playing games for television money, to let a silly rule about who can play in the (Big Ten) championship game prevent our best team from a shot at the Playoff.”
The cold truth
Florida hasn’t played a game in snow conditions, or in weather that could produce snow, since 1996.
That national championship season for the Gators included a 28-21 victory over a vastly inferior Vanderbilt team in Nashville – in what eventually was Florida’s toughest SEC test. The game was played with temperatures in the 30s, and it snowed later that night.
Saturday’s game at Tennessee will be similar weather conditions, with game time temperatures projected to be in the high 30s and rain possible. That’s clearly not ideal passing game weather, and plays into what Tennessee does best: run the ball.
Eric Gray is one of the top SEC tailbacks, and Ty Chandler has proven he can get difficult yards. The Gators, meanwhile, have been inconsistent in stopping the run.
Florida has given up more than 200 yards rushing twice (Texas A&M, Arkansas), and at least 159 yards in 5 of 8 games. In all but one of those games (Texas A&M), the Gators’ offense (see: passing game) was so potent, the opponent’s run game eventually wasn’t a factor because teams were chasing points.
If the weather slows the Florida passing game, a vastly inferior Tennessee team could make things interesting.
Mac on the move
If Alabama is the odds-on favorite to win the SEC championship, Mac Jones is the clear favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
Next up: the LSU defense, No. 13 in the 14-team SEC against the pass. The Tigers are giving up 302.9 yards per game, and – this is not a misprint – are allowing quarterbacks to complete 72.2% of their passes.
LSU’s cornerbacks have been inconsistent, but more damning, one SEC coach told me, “their safeties are constantly out of position.”
That’s a bad combination to stop Jones and the Alabama passing game. He’s completing 76.2% of his passes, and is No. 1 in the nation in yards per attempt (12 ypa.).
Translation: deep balls. Plenty of them.
By the time Jones and Alabama play Florida and Gators QB Kyle Trask in the SEC Championship Game, the winner of the game will likely win the Heisman. Jones’ numbers – with games remaining against LSU and Arkansas — will be comparable with Trask’s by championship weekend.