Saturday Football: LSU's disastrous 2020, Jim Harbaugh's future and Texas A&M's dwindling CFP hopes
The Saturday Football newsletter goes out to subscribers up to 3 days a week and discusses the major events going on around the nation in college football. You can subscribe by clicking here.
Good morning and happy Wednesday! Already this week, a number of important games have been postponed — Michigan-Ohio State, Texas A&M-Ole Miss and Cincinnati-Tulsa, among others. Those three games had major College Football Playoff implications. Now, we’ll have to see what happens with the CFP rankings moving forward, and if any of those teams can find new games.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll dive into the awful season LSU is having and the bad week the Tigers are enduring. Then, we’ll talk about Jim Harbaugh’s future at Michigan (or elsewhere). Finally, we’ll discuss what Saturday’s cancellation means for A&M’s Playoff hopes, and whether the Aggies should try to set up a new game. Let’s get started, shall we?
LSU is having a really rough 2020 season. Will the Tigers be able to regroup in time for 2021?
LSU had one of the best seasons in college football history in 2019. The Tigers went 15-0 en route to a national championship and also saw QB Joe Burrow win the Heisman with a record-setting 60 touchdown passes. Naturally, with such a talented team, many players left for the 2020 NFL Draft and are now competing in the pro ranks at a high level.
But, the 2020 Tigers have been the exact opposite of 2019. This is a team that has lost not only the NFL talent, but also to key players opting out or transferring. The bad news just continues to hamper the LSU program. What’s the latest in Baton Rouge? Let’s take a look at LSU’s continuing nightmare:
- The offense has been hit particularly hard this season. Prior to the season, WR Ja’Marr Chase (the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner) opted out. A couple of weeks ago, fellow star WR Terrace Marshall Jr. opted out. QB Myles Brennan is injured. The latest news is that 5-star freshman TE Arik Gilbert, the jewel of LSU’s 2020 recruiting class, is feeling homesick and considering a transfer. Coach Ed Orgeron discussed the Gilbert rumors and confirmed that Gilbert had spoken with him. He said the 5-star freshman was considering opting out, but that the Tigers would certainly welcome him back in 2021.
- Star CB Derek Stingley Jr. has battled injuries this year. But, so far, he hasn’t shown any interest in opting out. Stingley’s father, Derek Stingley Sr., said during a radio interview that he’d leave it up to his son if he wants to opt out or not. Stingley is still seemingly planning to finish the season, though.
- This is all coming on the heels of a 55-17 loss to rival Alabama. That makes matters even worse. During the game, fans turned on DC Bo Pelini in a big way after a 45-point first half for the Tide, calling for him to be fired. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum called the LSU season a disaster after that game. But, after the loss, Coach O tried to spin things positively. He said the lopsided loss actually will help LSU recruit, as it showed how many positions are open for players who want to compete for playing time right away.
- There have been plenty of articles written about the Tigers’ struggles. Saturday Down South’s Les East wrote about the five biggest blunders LSU coaches have made in 2020. He also wrote that it’s time to look toward the future as the Tigers try to regain respectability. SEC Shorts joked about the courage it must have taken for the Tigers to show up to the game against No. 1 Alabama.
The Tigers are ready for the 2020 season to end and to turn their calendars over to 2021. This has been an absolute nightmare of a season, and now the pressure is on Coach O to fix numerous issues within the program to ensure the Tigers aren’t remembered as one-hit wonders. It’s going to be a tumultuous offseason in Baton Rouge if LSU can’t finish this year on a high note. Fortunately for Coach O, LSU currently has the No. 4 recruiting class in the 247Sports composite rankings.
TOP UNCOMMITTED 2021 RECRUITS
We’re nearing the Early Signing Period, which will take place from Dec. 16-18 this season. Recruits haven’t been able to take official visits to schools and coaches haven’t been able to conduct in-person recruiting since the COVID-19 pandemic started, but that hasn’t stopped many top players from announcing which teams they’ll play for in 2021 and beyond.
So, who are the best uncommitted recruits as we approach the Early Signing Period? Here’s a look at the top 10 players in the 2021 class who have yet to make their decisions, along with the top school most 247Sports experts think each player will commit to (via the 247Sports composite rankings):
- 5-star DE Korey Foreman — No. 1 overall (USC 58%)
- 5-star DE J.T. Tuimoloau — No. 3 overall (Ohio State 92%)
- 5-star WR Emeka Egbuka — No. 9 overall (Ohio State 89%)
- 5-star OT Tristan Leigh — No. 11 overall (Oklahoma 50%)
- 5-star ILB Terrence Lewis — No. 16 overall (Auburn 65%)
- 5-star DT Maason Smith — No. 18 overall (LSU 100%)
- 5-star OLB Xavian Sorey — No. 20 overall (Alabama 67%)
- 5-star RB Camar Wheaton — No. 26 overall (Oklahoma 100%)
- 5-star DE Shemar Turner — No. 31 overall (Texas A&M 100%)
- 4-star DE Tunmise Adeleye — No. 37 overall (Alabama 60%)
Based on those 247Sports Crystal Ball projections, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Alabama all could be landing multiple top recruits during the Early Signing Period. We’ll have plenty of recruiting coverage later in the month, so stay tuned!
- The SEC has five legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates this year. Yes all five of those players play for either Alabama or Florida, but there is still a ton of talent elsewhere in the league, too. Saturday Down South’s Neil Blackmon ranked the top 10 SEC players so far this season.
- The 2020 college football season has been full of ups and downs. There have been some big surprises and some utter disappointments across the FBS landscape. This week, Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon put together a list of the biggest surprises and disappointments of 2020 thus far.
- James Franklin and Penn State are having a nightmare 2020 season. From the 2-5 overall record to opt-outs to a lackluster incoming recruiting class, it could be time for the school and coach to cut ties. Saturday Tradition’s Thomas Schlarp wrote about five reasons Franklin might be interested in the Texas job.
- Coastal Carolina has a good case for the title of “America’s team.” The Chanticleers are fresh off a win over BYU and are a perfect 10-0. Last weekend’s game against the Cougars was one for the ages. ESPN’s Ryan McGee was the sideline reporter for the matchup and wrote a great story about coach Jamey Chadwell and the Chanticleer players celebrating in the aftermath of the program-defining win.
JIM HARBAUGH RUMORS
The rumors are circulating in Ann Arbor about Jim Harbaugh. Will he be the head coach at Michigan in 2021?
Rumors surrounding Jim Harbaugh’s status as the head coach at Michigan are nothing new. It started with conversations about interest in returning to the NFL a few years ago, but have spiraled into job security discussions as it has become apparent that he’s not going to be the savior in Ann Arbor, after all.
We shouldn’t really be surprised that the Harbaugh rumors are rampant right now. It happens every year. But this season, reports appear to be all over the place. That brings us to one question: will Jim Harbaugh be the coach at Michigan in 2021?
- It sounds like a contract extension is in the works. According to New York Times bestselling author John Bacon (who has strong ties to the Michigan program), there have been conversations between Harbaugh and athletic director Warde Manuel about a contract extension. Those details include a smaller salary with a more reasonable buyout. While meeting with reporters on Tuesday to discuss the cancellation of Saturday’s rivalry game with Ohio State, both Harbaugh and Manuel acknowledged the contract situation, but said further discussions will happen after the season.
- Some think there’s still a chance Harbaugh is done after 2020. Longtime Harbaugh critic and SEC Network host Paul Finebaum didn’t even think a win over Ohio State would really salvage much for the sixth-year head coach this season, calling this year “a complete bust.” He’s not wrong, as the Wolverines close out the B1G regular season with a 2-4 record. Michigan also failed to win a home game this season for the first time in program history. Not a great look.
- Is there a chance Harbaugh is coaching in the NFL again? Time and again, Harbaugh has denied any interest in returning to the NFL. He told reporters earlier this year that he really doesn’t have any plans to go back to the professional ranks. But Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio says Harbaugh is “eyeing a return” to the NFL. Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel combats that report, saying there’s really no interest from any franchises at this time.
So it appears we’re back to Square 1. There’s a chance Harbaugh signs an extension and returns to Michigan in an attempt to lead the program past Ohio State and to a B1G title in the coming seasons. Perhaps Manuel says “see ya later, pal,” and starts looking for a new coach. Harbaugh may or may not have interest in a return to the NFL. As is always the case with Harbaugh, the situation is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a mystery.
JUST FOR FUN
Last weekend, BYU made an impromptu trip to Coastal Carolina to try to bolster their College Football Playoff resume. That meant the BYU equipment team had to send a truck on a 33-hour cross-country road trip, spanning 2,208 miles. That got us thinking about the longest possible road trips in the FBS. So, for today’s quiz, can you name the two FBS schools that are furthest apart in terms of driving distance? (Hint: “Driving distance” eliminates Hawaii from the mix.)
Scroll down for the answers to today’s quiz.
TEXAS A&M’S PLAYOFF PATH
Texas A&M’s Playoff path took a hit with a postponement. Can the Aggies do anything to bolster their resume?
The Texas A&M Aggies are the No. 5 team in the College Football Playoff rankings, but their path to the Playoff took a big hit this week, through no fault of their own. The Aggies were supposed to play Ole Miss on Saturday, but the Rebels had to postpone due to COVID-19 issues in their program. Now, it’s only fair to mention that this game was supposed to be played earlier in the season, but A&M’s COVID issues forced it to be postponed.
Still, the Aggies need to play games to bolster their Playoff resume. So, the question is — how can that happen? Will A&M be able (or allowed by the SEC) to find an opponent this weekend? Let’s take a look at this developing story with big Playoff implications:
- Now, the Aggies’ only game left is at Tennessee on Dec. 19. The Aggies will be heavy favorites in Knoxville, as ESPN’s FPI gives A&M an 82.5% chance to win. However, that game isn’t likely to do much for the Aggies either way. They’re expected to win, so even a blowout won’t help them in the eyes of the CFP selection committee. Plus, per Saturday Down South’s Chandler Vessels, the Aggies aren’t exactly a flashy team. Jimbo Fisher himself said this week that he just wants to win games and let the chips fall where they may. “You got to let the people on the committees (decide) and those things, you can’t worry about that,” he said. “You gotta play what you do, control what you can control, convincing’s in the eye of the beholder.”
- Still, if the Aggies need a boost, there are potential games out there. This would require the SEC to allow the first nonconference game of the year, but flexibility has always been needed in 2020. Commissioner Greg Sankey may have a tough decision to make before today (Wednesday) is over. When the A&M-Ole Miss game was canceled, fans flocked to Twitter to offer their suggestions for the Aggies, including games against Coastal Carolina and Ohio State. Once the Buckeyes’ game against Michigan was canceled due to COVID-19 issues in the Wolverines’ program, fans focused in on a No. 4 vs. No. 5 battle this weekend.
- Not everyone thinks this is a game the Buckeyes should entertain, though. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde questioned the Big Ten’s leadership (again) this season, but at the end of this column, Forde says the Buckeyes could play either Wisconsin or Iowa next weekend and still likely get in the Playoff field at 6-0. Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel makes a similar case for the Buckeyes in this tweet. We say why leave it up to the selection committee? Go make a statement, like Coastal Carolina and BYU did last week!
If the SEC doesn’t allow A&M to find a new game, the Aggies are going to need to take care of business next weekend and get some help from either Notre Dame or whoever plays Ohio State to get into the Playoff. If the Fighting Irish take down Clemson a second time in the ACC Championship Game, the Aggies will likely jump the Tigers. For now, though, the speculation about this weekend will continue. Give us more chaos in the form of a top-5 matchup, please!
The answer to today’s FBS road trip quiz is Washington (in Seattle) to Miami (in Coral Gables, Florida). That road trip for the Huskies and Hurricanes would be 3,300.5 miles, according to Google Maps. That edges out Washington State (Pullman) to Miami and Boston College to San Diego State.
Don’t expect any of those games to be put together on the fly like BYU-Coastal Carolina last weekend!
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s really important, this is the next game, this is what we need to be focused on. We need to respect their team. They can beat anybody — that they’ve demonstrated all year long. So there’s no question about the fact that this is a little bit of a historic game for us, too. We’ve only had one team around here that went undefeated, and it wasn’t as difficult for that team to go undefeated as it is for this team playing 10 SEC games. I think any time you play on the road in the SEC, you’ve got to be ready to play and you’ve got to respect the fact that the team you’re playing certainly is capable of beating you if you don’t execute.”
– Alabama has already locked up a spot in the Dec. 19 SEC Championship Game (against Florida) but if you think coach Nick Saban is looking past Arkansas this weekend, you don’t know Saban. He spoke about using an undefeated record as motivation for his team against the Razorbacks.
TWEET OF THE DAY
UNLV QB Max Gilliam was involved in one of the strangest stories of the 2020 season so far (and that’s saying something). Gilliam appeared on an episode of the popular reality show “Below Deck” and was seen eating sushi off of a model. He issued the above apology via Twitter. UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo also issued a statement. But, the episode was filmed before the pandemic, Gilliam didn’t break any NCAA rules or any laws, so many are wondering why he had to apologize at all.