Saturday Football: Gamecock fallout, B1G QB situations and Kyle Trask's Heisman potential
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Good morning and happy Wednesday! It has been a busy week in the college football world, from several games already being postponed or canceled due to COVID-19 to a major coaching change at South Carolina. And, we’re moving toward an important weekend on the CFB calendar, as the Big Ten features two matchups of division leaders and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State square off in a heated rivalry game in the Big 12.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll discuss the incredible first half of the season for Florida QB Kyle Trask. Then, we’ll dive into some less-than-Heisman-worthy QB situations in the Big Ten. Finally, we’ll talk about some more fallout from the Will Muschamp firing at South Carolina. Let’s get started!
Kyle Trask is putting up insane numbers on a weekly basis. Is the Florida QB the new Heisman Trophy favorite?
By now, you’ve probably heard the story of Florida QB Kyle Trask. How he didn’t even start at quarterback in high school, serving instead as the backup to the dynamic D’Eriq King. How he then came to Florida and sat behind Feleipe Franks before taking over when Franks got injured last year.
Now, after a 6-touchdown night against Arkansas on Saturday, Trask is firmly in the Heisman Trophy race. Is he the frontrunner, though? Let’s take a look at what’s being said about the Florida quarterback:
- The first half of Saturday’s game was incredible for Trask. Even without star TE Kyle Pitts, who was injured against Georgia, Trask threw for 5 TDs in the first half of the Gators’ 63-35 win. However, after his fifth touchdown, coach Dan Mullen was seen critiquing him on the sideline. After the game, Mullen admitted he’s not the greatest pat-on-the-back guy during games. Trask finished with 356 passing yards and 6 scores. He now has 28 touchdown passes in only 6 games, which leads the nation by a healthy margin.
- Entering the week, Alabama QB Mac Jones was the front-runner. Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State QB Justin Fields were also getting plenty of Heisman buzz. But, after Saturday’s outburst, many analysts are turning toward Trask. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports moved Trask to the top of his list, writing that Trask’s patience has made Florida a Playoff contender. Saturday Down South’s Chris Wright discussed how Trask’s numbers have compared to Danny Wuerffel’s numbers from his Heisman-winning 1996 season at Florida. SDS writer Neil Blackmon says Trask is becoming a more likely Heisman winner every time he takes the field. Here’s a stat-based breakdown comparing Trask and Jones.
- Trask has plenty of support from his teammates in his quest. Though Trask says Heisman hype is occupying “zero percent” of his thoughts, his teammates are doing the talking for him. Before his injury, Pitts — a Heisman contender himself at that point — threw his full support behind Trask’s Heisman credentials. On Saturday night, Florida backup QB Anthony Richardson even tweeted from the locker room at halftime that Trask should win the Heisman. Crazy.
Will defenses ever catch up with this Florida offense? SEC Network analyst Roman Harper says Arkansas gave everyone a blueprint of what not to do against the Gators and Trask. However, finding a blueprint to stopping Trask won’t be easy. If he keeps putting up numbers at a historic rate like he is now, there’s no reason Trask should be considered anything other than one of the Heisman favorites.
- The Florida offense looks like a juggernaut after a 63-point outburst. As mentioned in the first section of the newsletter, QB Kyle Trask is playing like a Heisman Trophy contender. So, are there any comparisons to be drawn to the 2019 LSU Tigers? Saturday Down South’s Matt Hayes thinks there are, and he explains his case in his weekly First-and-10 column.
- The Indiana Hoosiers are one of the best stories in college football. From Big Ten doormat to 4-0 and No. 9 in the country, the Hoosiers have been great this year under coach Tom Allen. It’s nice to see, as it has been a rough few decades for Indiana football. Saturday Tradition’s Kyle Charters ranks the Hoosiers top wins of the past 50 years, and let’s just say there aren’t too many to go around.
- There are still several teams alive in the College Football Playoff race. But, some paths will be easier than others to navigate as we approach the 2020 stretch run. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde lays out which teams are still alive and how they can reach the field of four.
- Now that Will Muschamp has been fired, other schools could follow suit. Even amid a pandemic that has tightened budgets everywhere, some teams could fire their coaches. Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller breaks down 6 schools that could potentially move on from their current coaches.
B1G QB QUESTIONS
Four B1G teams benched their Week 1 starters last Saturday. Which teams benefit most from a change at QB?
There was a lot of head scratching going on in the B1G in Week 4. By the time Saturday came to an end, four teams had made a change at the quarterback position. Nebraska made a switch from Adrian Martinez to Luke McCaffrey before kickoff, while Penn State and Michigan State waited until after the 1st quarter to bench their starters. Michigan was reluctant to make a change until the 2nd half.
All the change among programs once labeled as bluebloods sparks some interesting conversation as the B1G prepares for Week 5, past the halfway point of the 2020 season. Which teams benefit from the change and what programs are still spinning the wheel trying to figure something out?
- McCaffrey is probably the guy at Nebraska. It wasn’t as if Nebraska’s offense looked completely transformed with McCaffrey as the starter in a 30-23 win over Penn State. He completed 13-of-21 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown while adding 67 yards and another score on the ground. But, as Saturday Tradition’s Connor O’Gara writes, it was exactly the spark the Huskers needed. Scott Frost certainly had plenty of praise for the new starter, calling McCaffrey one of the hardest workers in the program. That won’t satisfy McCaffrey, though, calling himself his “harshest critic” as he looks to improve moving forward.
- If only Michigan had a McCaffrey of its own … The Wolverines did at one point, but before the 2020 season kicked off, Dylan McCaffrey opted out and hit the transfer portal. That paved the way for Joe Milton to be the starting QB in Ann Arbor, but that may not last much longer. Cade McNamara got Michigan’s only touchdown against Wisconsin in a 49-11 loss, needing just 4 plays to drive 75 yards. Jim Harbaugh said this week there will be an open competition for the starting job. Saturday Tradition writer Adam Biggers says that it’s time for the Wolverines to make the switch to McNamara. Now.
- Clifford or Levis? That’s still a coin flip. Yes, Will Levis came in for Sean Clifford in Saturday’s loss to Nebraska and it provided a spark for Penn State. But the offense really didn’t look that much different and Levis still completed less that 50% of his passes. James Franklin said he’s spoken with both quarterbacks about this situation, but didn’t reveal much more than that. Who will start against Iowa? Franklin isn’t revealing his hand just yet.
- And then there’s Michigan State. The win over Michigan aside, nothing about the Spartans’ offense has looked good in their three losses to Rutgers, Iowa or Indiana. Mel Tucker said that anyone at QB position could see action under center this week against Maryland, whether that’s Rocky Lombardi, Payton Thorne or someone else. The first-year head coach also called out his team, saying he needed to see more competitiveness moving forward.
All of those teams have had issues at quarterback, but you know who’s had it worse? Illinois. Due to COVID-19, contact tracing and injuries, the Fighting Illini have had four starters (Brandon Peters, Matt Robinson, Coran Taylor and Isaiah Williams) in as many weeks. Last week was Williams’ first start and he produced a win over Rutgers, rushing for 192 yards, a program record for a QB. Maybe Lovie Smith found his new guy through this mess, too.
JUST FOR FUN
Now that Will Muschamp has been fired at South Carolina, it’s worth taking a look back at his tenure with the Gamecocks. He finished his four-plus seasons in Columbia with a 14-13 record against SEC East foes. For today’s quiz, we’ll give you a record and you tell us which team Muschamp had that record against. For example, Muschamp went 0-5 against Texas A&M during his tenure. (Note: Muschamp had the same record against Georgia and Kentucky, so we’ll combine them.) Here we go:
- A: 3-2
- B: 1-3
- C: 5-0
- D: 1-4
- E: 3-1
Scroll down for the answers to today’s quiz.
SOUTH CAROLINA FALLOUT
Will Muschamp is out. Which players are following him and where does the Gamecocks’ coaching search stand?
It has been a busy week at South Carolina. On Sunday night, the school fired coach Will Muschamp after a 2-5 start to the season and named OC Mike Bobo the interim coach. Now, the Gamecocks are on the hunt for a full-time replacement.
As the Gamecocks prepare for a game against Missouri this weekend, there have also been some big-name opt outs. So, let’s use this section to update you on the attrition to the South Carolina roster and what the latest news on the coaching front is:
- Let’s start with the roster attrition, because several players are gone. The two most-important opt-outs this week were South Carolina’s starting cornerbacks, Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu. Both will begin preparations for the 2021 NFL Draft. Horn has been facing backlash on Twitter, but his family had some very strong words for critics. Bobo also revealed this week that S R.J. Roderick and DL Makius Scott. That led to some remaining players having to switch from offense to defense to help depth.
- Based on that, it seems Muschamp was very popular with his players. Indeed, that is the case. Former South Carolina WR Bryan Edwards took to Twitter to rant about how firing Muschamp hurts the Gamecocks in the future. Some veteran Gamecocks also came to their fired coach’s defense in emotional comments following the decision. Steve Spurrier, in classic Head Ball Coach fashion, did manage to hilariously zing Muschamp on his way out, though.
- Most analysts and media members have one name in mind for the Gamecocks. Liberty’s Hugh Freeze, the former Ole Miss coach, almost makes too much sense for the Gamecocks, writes Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara. ESPN’s David Pollack says Freeze is the only one South Carolina should be considering. South Carolina AD Ray Tanner wouldn’t comment on Freeze as a candidate specifically, but he did say “nobody is ruled out.”
- But, what if Freeze isn’t interested in South Carolina? SEC Network host Paul Finebaum thinks Freeze could wait for something better to open up. Freeze himself said he isn’t sure whether anyone will even want him. So, who else is on the list? Louisiana’s Billy Napier has been linked to the opening, but he wouldn’t comment on the position this week. Saturday Down South’s Keith Farner mentioned four possibilities if Freeze says no, including Napier and Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian. SEC Network analyst Jordan Rodgers threw out an interesting name — Penn State’s James Franklin. Franklin coached Rodgers at Vanderbilt, so he’s familiar with the SEC East.
We’re still in the early stages of the Gamecocks’ coaching search. But South Carolina now has a head start on other Power 5 programs when it comes to the coaching carousel. We’ll see which coaches continue to be mentioned in connection with the job as the season wears on. For now, though, Bobo certainly has his hands full trying to field a competitive team against Mizzou this weekend and also moving forward.
Here are the answers to today’s Will Muschamp quiz. His records against SEC East foes were:
- 1B (1-3 against each Georgia and Kentucky)
- 2D (1-4 against Florida)
- 3A (3-2 against Tennessee)
- 4E (3-1 against Mizzou)
- 5C (5-0 against Vanderbilt)
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m hearing some rescheduling may be made, but nobody has told us for sure. I do believe that Alabama and LSU ought to play this year, and I do believe that we’re going to play somehow, someway.
“We look forward to rescheduling Alabama. We want to play. We weren’t able to play (on Saturday). People are going to say things here and there that aren’t true. But whenever they tell us to play, we’ll be ready to go.”
— LSU coach Ed Orgeron responded to questions about the Tigers not wanting to play Alabama this year after the game was postponed with no makeup date set. We’ll see if the SEC finds a way for these 2 rivals to meet.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Yep, that pretty much sums up the state of the Michigan program in 2020!