Saturday Football: First FBS coaching change, Texas A&M expectations and a B1G update
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Good morning and happy Wednesday! That BYU-Navy game ended up being a bit of a dud (unless you’re a BYU fan, of course), but there are a bunch of games this weekend that will hopefully be much more competitive. College football is back with UAB at Miami on Thursday night. Saturday will see a couple of intriguing matchups when Duke travels to Notre Dame and Clemson heads to Wake Forest.
Before then, though, there are a few storylines that need to be discussed, including more B1G drama, the first FBS coaching change and a team facing high expectations this fall. Let’s get started with today’s newsletter!
FIRST FBS COACHING CHANGE
Southern Miss is moving on from coach Jay Hopson. What’s the latest for the Golden Eagles?
Well, that didn’t take long. We’re barely a week into the 2020 college football season and the coaching carousel has already begun spinning. Monday, it was revealed that Southern Miss and coach Jay Hopson were parting ways after the Golden Eagles’ Week 1 loss to South Alabama.
Thus, the coaching rumors will begin before any Power 5 games have even been played this fall. For this section, let’s take a look at what led to Hopson’s departure and where the Golden Eagles go from here:
- First, let’s discuss the loss to South Alabama on Thursday. The Jaguars hadn’t won a road game since 2017 before Thursday’s 32-21 victory in Hattiesburg. The Jaguars went 2-10 in 2019 and sported a 1-7 mark in Sun Belt action. Interesting note: Desmond Trotter, South Alabama’s QB who carved up Southern Miss’s secondary with passes like this, is the grandson of former Alabama star and longtime Baltimore Ravens executive Ozzie Newsome. Oh, more fun facts: Frank Gore Jr. is a running back for Southern Miss and Reggie Wayne’s nephew, Jalen Wayne, is a recevier for South Alabama. Bet you feel old now.
- Anyway, back to Hopson and the decision to let him go. This shouldn’t be seen as much of a surprise, as Hopson and Southern Miss officials have clashed a couple of times over the past year and a half. First, Hopson tried to hire former Baylor head coach Art Briles, who was embroiled in a serious scandal while with Baylor. Hopson then said he disagreed with the university president’s decision not to let him hire Briles. And, according to a report from The Athletic, Hopson recruited a JUCO player with violent sexual allegations in his past and didn’t tell university officials about those allegations.
- So, where will the Golden Eagles turn from here? Well, it might be tough to find a top candidate before many teams have even started their seasons. For now, co-OC Scotty Walden will be the interim head coach. Monday, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy tweeted out an early list of candidates for the job, including former Ole Miss and current Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. DawgNation writes that Georgia will have to watch this coaching search closely, as a pair of Bulldogs assistants have been mentioned for the job.
This search is just getting started, and it has the potential to last the rest of the season. That will make things tough for the Golden Eagles moving forward. We’ll see how they fare in a Sept. 19 game against Louisiana Tech. Then, we’ll wait to see who gets hired to take over the program on a permanent basis.
- The SDS Crystal Ball prediction series returns. Each year, Saturday Down South columnist Connor O’Gara offers a game-by-game prediction for every SEC school. The series started Monday in the SEC West. Thus far, O’Gara predicted an upset loss for Alabama, an SEC victory for Arkansas, a bumpy road for Auburn and more success for LSU. Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M publish later this week. The SEC East series begins next Monday with Florida.
- College football has seen a number of elite players opt out this year. Some teams have been hit harder than others, but coaches are saying the right things when it comes to supporting guys who don’t feel safe playing during a pandemic. Still, a roster of players who have opted out looks like an All-America team. Saturday Down South’s Adam Spencer put together a squad of the best players to opt out so far.
- There was supposed to be football at Illinois last Thursday night. However, instead of a matchup between the Fighting Illini and the Ohio State Buckeyes, Memorial Stadium in Champaign sat silent. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde wrote about the bizarre atmosphere, gloom and economic impact of what was supposed to be a great and festive day at the University of Illinois.
- Is Oklahoma still the class of the Big 12 heading into 2020? The Sooners lost a lot of talent to opt-outs and the NFL Draft, but there’s still plenty of firepower in Norman. Can anyone stop Lincoln Riley’s crew? Saturday Down South’s Matt Hinton put together a comprehensive Big 12 preview as many of the conference’s teams prepare for Week 1 games this weekend.
- The wide receiver position has been hit hard this offseason. Between high-profile opt-outs and some conferences deciding not to play, there won’t be as many elite pass catchers out there this fall. However, that doesn’t mean the position is completely without talent. Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon ranked the 8 best receivers for the 2020 season.
- An open letter to Feleipe Franks. It’s been quite the journey for the former Gators QB. Saturday Down South Gators columnist Neil Blackmon covered Franks’ career at Florida and believes Franks’ experiences have prepared him well for the challenges that await at Arkansas.
- Speaking of QBs, we’re ranking the best of the 21st century. As part of a continuing series, Saturday Down South columnist Phil Ervin and others are ranking the best QBs at each SEC program. Some choices are relatively easy — Cam Newton at Auburn, for instance — but every program has a bit of intrigue. SDS’ Joe Cox had a couple of qualified candidates to be the top QB at Kentucky.
TEXAS A&M EXPECTATIONS
Texas A&M is entering Year 3 under Jimbo Fisher. Will the Aggies make a run at a Playoff spot?
The Texas A&M Aggies are entering Year 3 under head coach Jimbo Fisher. So far, the results have been decent, but not what was expected when Fisher signed a fully-guaranteed 10-year, $75 million contract. Thus, this fall will be a big one for Fisher and the Aggies.
So, is this the season when A&M makes a jump and contends for an SEC West title and a spot in Atlanta? Or, will the Aggies come up short once again? Let’s take a look at some of the hype surrounding A&M:
- We’ll give the first word to Fisher himself, which seems fair. The former Florida State coach (who led the Seminoles to a title in 2013) certainly isn’t going to shy away from expectations. Fisher recently reminded us that the Aggies finished 2nd in the West in his first year at the helm of the program. With the way the Aggies have recruited the last 2 years, Fisher said the team is excited to get to work this fall.
- As far as rankings systems go, the Aggies are rated quite high. ESPN’s Football Power Index has A&M at No. 10. In ESPN writer Chris Low’s power rankings, the Aggies check in at No. 8. That’s certainly within striking distance of the College Football Playoff, but ESPN bowl projectors Mark Schlabach and Kyle Bonagura both predict the Aggies will end up in the Cotton Bowl. And, none of the College GameDay analysts picked the Aggies to make the Playoff on Saturday’s show.
- Perhaps the Aggies’ motto this season should be “Do it for Rece!” ESPN broadcaster Rece Davis has been consistently higher than most people on A&M this offseason. In the first AP Poll of the season, Davis had the Aggies at No. 4. No other voter had A&M higher than No. 8 on their ballots. Then, on Saturday’s edition of College GameDay, Davis picked the Aggies as his dark-horse candidate to make the Playoff.
The Aggies definitely weren’t done any favors by the new conference-only schedule, as they added Florida to their slate of games. After originally having a manageable nonconference schedule for once, that had to be a bit of a shock (as hilariously parodied by SEC Shorts). Still, the SEC is always tough, whether it is 8 games or 10. So, we’ll see how Fisher and the Aggies do starting Sept. 26!
JUST FOR FUN
For today’s quiz, let’s see how much you know about FBS geography. We’ll give you 5 cities and you tell us which FBS program calls that city home. So, if we said “Tuscaloosa,” you’d obviously say “Alabama.” Also, for an added hint — all these schools are planning to play this fall. Got it? Here we go:
Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.
MORE DRAMA IN THE B1G
Politicians are making their plea for the Big Ten to reinstate fall football. Is there enough pressure to reverse course?
So much for keeping football and politics separate. The push from President Donald Trump and other politicians across the Midwest for the Big Ten to reinstate a fall football season has ignited a resurgence in optimism about the possibility that commissioner Kevin Warren and the conference’s 14 presidents reverse course.
Another tweet from President Trump over the weekend indicated that the possibility of a fall football season in the Big Ten was “looking really good,” giving fans something to cling to while watching nine college football games over the weekend. A few days after the president’s social media post, local politicians decided to make their plea with a letter to Warren and the conference presidents and chancellors:
- That letter was signed by 10 politicians from 6 Big Ten states. Speaker of the Michigan House Lee Chatfield shared the letter he sent to Kevin Warren and the presidents. It also included the signatures of political leaders from Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Don’t forget, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said the Big Ten made a mistake by postponing the season just over a week ago, as well. So, yeah, it’s safe the Big Ten football season is now a political talking point.
- Every Big Ten head coach still wants to play this fall. Jim Harbaugh showed up at Michigan Stadium on Saturday, even though there wasn’t a game to be played. Instead, he joined players, parents and fans for a protest against the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the season. “All us coaches want to play,” Harbaugh said during the protest. But it doesn’t seem like the Michigan head coach is getting much support from his president, with Dan Patrick reporting on Tuesday that six schools in the Big Ten still don’t want to move forward with a fall season, including Michigan and Michigan State.
- One thing is for sure, the last month has been unpredictable. It’s cliche, but the only thing that has been predictable in the Big Ten for the last month is its unpredictability. As Ryan O’Gara of Saturday Tradition wrote, there have been a plethora of developments in this on-again, off-again saga. Even ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, one of the most plugged-in analysts in college football admitted he has no idea “what the hell is going on.” Nobody does, Kirk. Nobody does.
Regardless of where you stand on the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the season, we can all agree this past weekend felt a little different. As Saturday Tradition’s Dustin Schutte writes, we’ve known for almost a month the conference wasn’t playing, but it still doesn’t feel real. Will stadiums across the Midwest continue to stand silent on Saturdays this fall? Or, will there be some sort of resolution that gets things back on track for November (or possibly even late October)? We should find out over the next few weeks.
Here are the answers to today’s FBS geography quiz. The teams that play in each of the cities listed above are:
- Appalachian State (Boone, North Carolina)
- Coastal Carolina (Conway, South Carolina)
- Georgia Southern (Statesboro, Georgia)
- Louisiana Tech (Ruston, Louisiana)
- NC State (Raleigh, North Carolina)
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I didn’t really expect that emotion to come out. I didn’t even really know what I was going to say. Whenever we get into subjects like that, that are incredibly sensitive and we have a feature, I always like to listen to the feature live and just react to what I heard. I listened Maria (Taylor), listened to the players, listened to (Desmond Howard), David (Pollack) and then Coach (Lee Corso). I had in my mind kind of where I wanted to go, but I didn’t know if I would really go all in with what I wanted to say.
“I think I was about 20 seconds into my comment and I knew I wanted to read that quote (from Stanford coach David Shaw), and once I read that quote, just there was a voice inside me that said just go ahead, ‘Say what you think, say what’s on your heart’ and it was not pre-meditated, it wasn’t scripted, it was just, I guess I’m going to do this kind of thing and I just spoke from my heart and said what I said.”
— ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit explains the emotional segment from Saturday’s College GameDay that saw him break down in tears discussing social injustice.
TWEET OF THE DAY
There have been some rumors recently that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney could follow Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars if the Jags take Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, Swinney seemed to shoot down those rumors this week.