Saturday Football: Alabama's dominance, BYU's gripes and upset alert
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Good morning and happy Friday! We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are now ready to dive into another big weekend of college football action. We’re nearing the end of the regular season, so things are about to get a lot more hectic, with important games every weekend.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll discuss whether anyone can stop Alabama. We’ll also dive into BYU’s complaints about the initial 2020 College Football Playoff rankings. Finally, we’ll put a handful of ranked teams on upset alert entering the weekend. Let’s get started!
Alabama won’t have Nick Saban on the sidelines for the Iron Bowl. Will the Tide continue to roll?
Alabama was the No. 1 team in the first College Football Playoff rankings in the 2020 season. The Crimson Tide look like one of the most dominant teams in the country. The offense is incredible and the defense has come around in recent games. Now, the Tide will try to get some revenge for last year’s Iron Bowl loss against No. 22 Auburn on Saturday afternoon.
Can the Tigers make it two wins in a row against their rivals? Or, will the Alabama train continue to roll? Let’s take a look at what’s being said about the No. 1 team in the country:
- The Tide were dealt a tough hand earlier this week. That’s because coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time this season. Steve Sarkisian will be the interim coach. Saban said he’ll watch the feed Alabama coaches normally have during the game. Earlier this week, Saban named a number of reasons why Alabama isn’t taking Auburn for granted.
- Will Saban’s absence affect Alabama’s dominance this season? Well, not everyone thinks that will be the case. Paul Finebaum said he thinks Saban has prepared his team well enough to not miss him when he’s gone. Meanwhile, Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara writes that even without Saban, Alabama has a massive advantage over Auburn.
- ESPN’s David Pollack made waves in the Alabama community earlier this year. He said after Jaylen Waddle was injured that Alabama was “done” in the Playoff race. This week, his fellow ESPN podcast hosts Kevin Negandhi and Kirk Herbstreit brought those comments back up and Pollack walked them back a bit. But, he added, “they ain’t won nothing yet.”
Saturday’s game is sure to be a good one. The Iron Bowl, no matter where teams are ranked, always seems to be a tough battle. If Alabama wins, a trip to the Playoff seems nearly inevitable. A loss? Well, that changes everything. Will QB Mac Jones continue to look like a Heisman frontrunner? We’ll find out Saturday afternoon!
In the SEC, it is Rivalry Week for a number of schools. Elsewhere around the country, there are also some important matchups taking place. Today’s slate of games features two contests between ranked foes, and Saturday’s slate has a high-stakes Iron Bowl showdown.
So, which teams are favored to win these big-time matchups? And, will we see any upsets? Here’s a look at the current lines for some key games:
Friday, Nov. 27
- No. 13 Iowa State at No. 17 Texas (-1.5)
- Nebraska at No. 24 Iowa (-13.5)
- No. 2 Notre Dame (-6) at No. 19 North Carolina
- No. 15 Oregon (-13.5) at Oregon State
Saturday, Nov. 28
- Maryland at No. 12 Indiana (-11)
- Kentucky at No. 6 Florida (-24.5)
- No. 4 Ohio State (-28) at Illinois
- Penn State at Michigan (-2.5)
- Texas Tech at No. 23 Oklahoma State (-11.5)
- No. 20 Coastal Carolina (-17.5) at Texas State
- No. 22 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (-26)
- Pitt at No. 3 Clemson (-23.5)
- No. 8 Northwestern (-13.5) at Michigan State
- Colorado at No. 18 USC (-11.5)
- LSU at No. 5 Texas A&M (-13.5)
- No. 9 Georgia (-20.5) at South Carolina
We know three ranked teams will lose, since there are three ranked matchups. However, there are some games that look like they could produce upsets. We’ll dive into which ranked teams are on upset alert later. Enjoy the games!
- The SEC and Big Ten have some incredible players this year. Both conferences have Heisman Trophy contenders and other superstar athletes. Saturday Down South’s Neil Blackmon ranked the top 10 SEC players thus far. And, at Saturday Tradition, Luke Glusco did the same thing for the Big Ten.
- The SEC is entering Rivalry Week, featuring the Iron Bowl. Some teams have had games postponed and others aren’t playing their true rivals, but it’s still an important week. Saturday Down South’s Thomas Schlarp breaks down how each SEC fan base should feel entering the weekend.
- Florida QB Kyle Trask leads the nation with 31 TD passes. He’s considered the Heisman frontrunner by many analysts. His NFL Draft stock is also on the rise. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller discusses what NFL scouts see in the Florida QB.
- As mentioned above, it is the traditional Rivalry Week in CFB. But, due to COVID-19, some conferences started later and the SEC has had some matchups reshuffled. Still, why not make the most of this week’s matchups? ESPN’s Dave Wilson creates some new “rivalry” trophies for this weekend’s games.
BYU is disappointed to be No. 14 in the first CFP rankings. Is there anything the Cougars can do to rise?
When the first College Football Playoff rankings came out on Tuesday night, the 9-0 BYU Cougars were none too happy to see the No. 14 ranking in front of their name. Cincinnati, another non-Power 5 school, was ranked No. 7, but the Cougars were all the way down at No. 14. BYU fans and fans across the country were confused by the Cougars’ ranking.
So, what’s being said about BYU’s standing in the eyes of the Playoff committee? And, what can the Cougars do (if anything) to bolster their resume? Let’s take a look at the buzz surrounding BYU this week:
- The reaction to BYU’s ranking was swift and overwhelmingly negative. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit wondered afterward if the Playoff committee has even watched BYU play yet. Someone pointed out on Twitter that the BYU helmet behind Herbstreit was removed after the rankings came out. Curious. Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde also agree that BYU was ranked too low.
- The Cougars reportedly backed out of a game vs. Washington. The Huskies had their originally scheduled game for this weekend against rival Washington State was canceled due to COVID-19 issues in Wazzu’s program. Herbstreit ripped the Cougars for backing out of the game against Washington, but was that the full story? On Tuesday’s rankings show, BYU coach Kalani Sitake said his team isn’t afraid of Washington and disputed the claim that BYU backed out. Washington is playing fellow Pac-12 school Utah this weekend instead. Is it possible the Pac-12 stepped in to try to make sure its teams played each other when possible?
- Could the Cougars add a game to get them more respect? Well, that’s an interesting question. USA TODAY’s Dan Wolken points out that Cincinnati and BYU have open dates on Dec. 5. What if Cincinnati can’t climb higher than No. 7 in this coming week’s Playoff rankings? Would the Bearcats be willing to risk their perfect record to try to add an impressive win over BYU? That would definitely be a lot of fun.
BYU is an interesting case. There aren’t many roads to get to the Playoff without drastic action. But, that’s going to potentially require the Cougars to swallow their pride and hit the road on short notice. The Washington situation didn’t come to pass, but the Cougars have Dec. 5 and Dec. 19 open. Will they find games? Will they risk their perfect record? We’ll find out soon enough!
JUST FOR FUN
Thanksgiving was yesterday. So, in the spirit of Turkey Day, let’s test your knowledge of bird-themed FBS mascots. There are 18 FBS schools that have bird nicknames. Can you name those 18 schools? Bonus point if you can name the one school with an actual turkey-related nickname.
Scroll down for the answers to today’s quiz.
Rivalry Week isn’t as loaded as it normally is, but top teams could go down. Who is on upset alert?
There are a few rivalry games going on around the country, but due to the staggered starts for a number of conferences this season, there aren’t as many classic rivalries being played this weekend. Still, there are some entertaining matchups that could lead to some thrilling upsets.
So, which ranked teams are in danger of losing this weekend? Let’s take a look at four ranked squads that should be very wary of their matchups this weekend:
- Let’s start with the No. 2 team in the country, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are heading to Chapel Hill to take on No. 19 North Carolina this afternoon. If Notre Dame has 1 weakness, it’s pass defense. That’s a problem against North Carolina QB Sam Howell. Saturday Down South’s Matt Hayes spoke with an NFL scout who said: “If North Carolina can protect, Howell will have a field day against that secondary.”
- Next, we’ll head out West, where the USC Trojans play. After struggling to beat Arizona State and Arizona, the Trojans finally looked better at Utah last week. However, it was the Utes’ first game of the year. Now, USC is dealing with COVID-19 issues, which have led to one player testing positive and five others being placed in quarantine due to contact tracing. That doesn’t bode well heading into a matchup against a tough 2-0 Colorado squad.
- Now, let’s talk about the suddenly reeling Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Cowboys once looked like a potential Playoff challenger, but have lost two of their last three games (against Texas and Oklahoma). They also only beat Kansas State by two points in between those losses. Now, they face a Texas Tech team that ranks third in the Big 12 in passing offense. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said there was a lot of gloom from players this week. That could be a bad omen.
- Finally, let’s check in with the Indiana Hoosiers after a tough loss. Indiana’s magical run came to an end after a comeback attempt came up just short against Ohio State last weekend. Now, the Hoosiers have to try to regroup against a dangerous Maryland squad. Fortunately for Tom Allen’s squad, there’s plenty of motivation. ESPN’s David Pollack thinks the Hoosiers are underrated at No. 12 in the first CFP rankings. Meanwhile, Allen’s postgame speech after the Ohio State loss should keep his players going strong.
It’s shaping up to be another fun weekend of college football action! We’ll see if any of these ranked teams end up losing, or if some other top teams not mentioned here suffer disappointing losses.
The 18 FBS schools with bird nicknames are:
- Air Force Falcons
- Ball State Cardinals
- Boston College Eagles
- Bowling Green Falcons
- Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
- Eastern Michigan Eagles
- Florida Atlantic Owls
- Georgia Southern Eagles
- Iowa Hawkeyes
- Kansas Jayhawks
- Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
- Louisville Cardinals
- Miami (Ohio) RedHawks
- Rice Owls
- South Carolina Gamecocks
- Temple Owls
- UTSA Roadrunners
- Virginia Tech Hokies
“Hokie” is actually the mascot based on a turkey. Here’s a story about the origins of the nickname.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“What’s to stop a, let’s just say a local radio show host in Anderson, South Carolina, from putting Trevor Lawrence 1, Travis Etienne 2, DJ Uiagalelei 3? What’s to stop him from doing that? … We should not have fanboy, partisan participation in the Heisman Trophy vote. It’s not exclusive to Mike (Griffith). It’s not exclusive to any part of the country. It should be a national award. The sport is no longer regional. We don’t need regional representation within the voter pool. … If you cover the sport and you cover the sport nationally, you should have a vote, because you’re seeing players in every nook and cranny of the country. That’s part of my issue.”
– ESPN analyst Greg McElroy went off about the Heisman voting structure during an episode of “The Paul Finebaum Show.” He took issue with Georgia writer Mike Griffith’s comments about how Florida QB Kyle Trask isn’t in the top 2 of his Heisman rankings.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Alabama might be without coach Nick Saban during Saturday’s Iron Bowl due to a positive COVID-19 test, but Saban’s daughter, Kristen Saban Setas, posted that there’s still a way a Saban can coach the Tide this weekend.
This edition of the Saturday Football newsletter was written by Adam Spencer.