Saturday Football: Sign stealing drama, Florida-LSU desperation and a Texas exodus?
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! Even with a couple of COVID-related cancellations of games this week already, there’s still an exciting slate of games across the country this weekend. The Alabama-Georgia game will get a ton of attention, but we’ll save our preview of that huge SEC showdown for Friday’s newsletter.
Today, we’ll dive into the Alabama-Ole Miss sign-stealing controversy. Then, we’ll look at the stakes involved in this weekend’s LSU-Florida matchup. Finally, we’ll head to Austin, where coach Tom Herman’s seat continues to heat up. Let’s get started, shall we?
Alabama accused Ole Miss of stealing defensive signals. Is it true, and how big of a deal is it?
The Alabama Crimson Tide beat Ole Miss 63-48 on Saturday night in one of the most entertaining games of the year. The first meeting between Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin since Kiffin left Alabama’s staff lived up to expectations and then some. We saw multiple SEC records broken, and in the aftermath, there has also been plenty of drama.
So, what’s the issue between the Tide and Rebels now? Let’s take a look into all that’s being said about the sign-stealing allegations made by Alabama in the aftermath of Saturday’s win:
- The Alabama defense was shredded early and often vs. Ole Miss. After the game, star LB Dylan Moses claimed the Rebels had Alabama’s defensive signals. In his own postgame press conference, Saban also discussed that claim. “It seemed like everything we did, though, they had an answer for. I don’t know if they had our signals or what,” Saban said. “I’m not — that’s not anything unusual. But it seemed like every time we called something, they had the best play they could have against it.”
- Naturally, Kiffin didn’t shy away from refuting those Alabama claims. He took to Twitter to defend the Ole Miss players and staff, saying that it wouldn’t matter if they had Alabama’s defensive signals. He explained that the Rebels’ tempo on offense meant they were calling their plays first anyway. And, after some time to reflect, Saban walked back his comments. “They know us well, so all those things probably contributed to me feeling a little bit like we were one play behind,” he said.
- So, if not sign-stealing, what’s up with the Alabama defense this year? Well, for one thing, the defense is on the field a lot. The Tide are currently the worst in the nation at forcing 3-and-outs. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum had a lot to say on the issue. He said Saban was out-coached by Kiffin so bad that it led to the false sign-stealing allegations. He added that Kiffin and the Ole Miss offense simply out-schemed Alabama DC Pete Golding.
We know Alabama supporters aren’t big fans of Golding, so he’ll likely need to lead a major improvement quickly or face losing play-calling duties. For now, though, the Tide are still 3-0 and No. 2 in the AP Poll, so it’s not like the sky is falling in Tuscaloosa. Yes, this is worse than we’re used to seeing Alabama play on that side of the ball, but when you have the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense (51 points per game), it can cover up a lot of defensive mistakes. We’ll see if that continues against Georgia’s elite defense this Saturday.
TOP UNCOMMITTED 2021 RECRUITS
As the college season moves along, recruits are getting a good look at which programs are on the rise and which coaches might be on the hot seat this offseason. That’s allowing them to gather more information before they make a final choice on where they want to play in 2021 and beyond.
There are still a number of elite 2021 recruits who haven’t made their commitments yet, so let’s take a look at the top 10 uncommitted players in the 2021 class as of Tuesday night (via the 247Sports composite rankings):
- 5-star DE Korey Foreman — No. 1 overall
- 5-star DE J.T. Tuimoloau — No. 2 overall
- 5-star OT Amarius Mims — No. 6 overall
- 5-star WR Emeka Egbuka — No. 8 overall
- 5-star OT Tristan Leigh — No. 11 overall
- 5-star RB Camar Wheaton — No. 18 overall
- 5-star DT Maason Smith — No. 19 overall
- 5-star CB Ga’Quincy McKinstry — No. 23 overall
- 5-star OLB Smael Mondon — No. 27 overall
- 5-star S Sage Ryan — No. 28 overall
How many of these guys will make their decisions over the next month? We’ll take another look at how the recruiting rankings and top uncommitted player list looks when we reach November.
- Outside of Georgia, no one in the SEC is playing consistent defense. What does that mean for this weekend’s slate of games? Starting with reaction from last week’s games ahead of the highly anticipated Georgia-Alabama showdown this weekend, Saturday Down South’s Matt Hinton walks you through the biggest trends and storylines of the week in his Monday Down South column.
- Speaking of the SEC, through three games, how is every team doing? Some schools are obviously having more success than others, but through the early part of the season, it’s time to hand out some grades. Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon gives each SEC squad a grade for its performance in the first three weeks of the unique 2020 campaign.
- We’re starting to get a picture of which teams can compete for the Playoff. There are a handful of teams among the nation’s elite, but only four can get into the CFP field. So, what flaws will each contending team have to watch out for this season? Saturday Down South’s Jim Tomlin breaks down the biggest flaws for each Playoff contender.
- Graduate transfers aren’t just for the big boys in college football anymore. The past few years have seen a number of guys move to less-elite schools (QB Shane Buechele going from Texas to SMU, for example) to play. And, they’ve had success! ESPN’s Ivan Maisel writes about how graduate transfers aren’t just helping elite programs anymore.
Saturday could be described as a “must-win” for LSU and Florida. Who needs to avoid the loss more?
If we would’ve told you before the season that the Week 4 matchup between LSU and Florida had the potential to be one of the most important games on the schedule for both teams, your response likely would’ve been “Well, duh.” Saturday’s game is still significantly important, but for different reasons than we expected when the season started.
This year’s cross-division clash has a much different feel now that LSU is 1-2 and Florida is 2-1. Both teams lost last weekend, with the Tigers falling to Missouri and the Gators dropping a game to Texas A&M. Saturday’s matchup is an opportunity for both teams to get a bounce-back victory.
- Florida’s College Football Playoff hopes hinge on a win vs. LSU. Dan Mullen knows it, too. He also knows that, as bad as LSU’s defense has been this season, Florida’s has been just as awful. That’s why the third-year Florida head coach is planning to make adjustments on that side of the football against a Tiger offense that has still produced a pretty explosive numbers through the air. With QB Kyle Trask leading a lethal Gator attack, they’re still very much alive in the SEC East and College Football Playoff race. But if the defense can’t get a few stops against LSU this weekend, Florida probably won’t have to worry about that trip to Atlanta.
- There’s really no excuse for LSU’s poor start. Head coach Ed Orgeron essentially said as much this week, saying his team is beating itself on the defensive end. LSU is still averaging 38.7 points per game offensively and has had little trouble moving the football. But in the Tigers’ two losses, they’re giving up 44.5 points per contest. There’s a reason SEC Network’s Brandon Boykin said “Nobody’s afraid of LSU anymore.” If the Bayou Bengals couldn’t keep Mississippi State and Mizzou out of the end zone, things could get even uglier in Gainesville.
- ESPN’s Football Power Index pegs Florida as a heavy home favorite. According to the FPI, Florida has a 67.8% chance of victory this weekend against LSU. The Gators are an 11.5-point favorite many places, too. A win for UF means it’s still alive in the SEC East race. A loss for LSU means the defending national champs would fall to 1-3 on the year. Yikes.
- Of course, there’s a chance this game isn’t played. On Tuesday, Florida AD Scott Stricklin announced that all football activities have been paused after multiple players tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. There’s currently no word on the status of Saturday’s game, but we could see a postponement in the near future.
The LSU-Florida game may not have quite the same implication we thought it would before the season kicked off, but it’s still a critically important game. LSU could salvage its season with a win, and potentially knock Florida out of the SEC East race. The Gators could keep their hopes of a Playoff berth alive and really derail the Tigers’ season. We’re not talking about a Top 10 showdown right now, but there’s still going to be plenty of drama in Gainesville if the game is played on Saturday.
JUST FOR FUN
How bad have FBS defenses been this year? Well, a whopping 32 teams out of the 68 that have already played at least two games are allowing 30 or more points per contest. But, only five of those teams are allowing 40-plus points per game. Can you name those five schools? Bonus point if you also name which of the five is the only school allowing 50-plus points per game thus far.
Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.
Texas fans are getting fed up with coach Tom Herman. Are his days in Austin numbered?
The Texas Longhorns might not be “back,” but they have certainly been an entertaining squad this season. They are only 1-2 in Big 12 play (2-2 overall), but they have a thrilling overtime win at Texas Tech, a 2-point last-second loss vs. TCU and a 4OT loss to Oklahoma in one of the best games in Red River Showdown history on their resume thus far.
Still, at a school like Texas, you have to win to keep your job, and coach Tom Herman hasn’t been doing enough of that for some fans’ and boosters’ liking. So, is Herman officially on the hot seat? Let’s take a look at what’s being said about the Texas coach:
- This isn’t the first time Herman’s name has popped up on the hot seat in 2020. Following the loss to TCU, Longhorn fans took to Twitter to lobby for Urban Meyer to come to Austin. Herman has been climbing steadily up the hot seat rankings on CoachesHotSeat.com, where he’s currently on the second-hottest seat in the country.
- There’s also a budding controversy that is fracturing team unity. The Longhorns traditionally stay on the field after games for “The Eyes of Texas,” but some players have been heading to the locker room before the song is played due to racial concerns over the history of the song. It was actually the first thing Herman addressed in his press conference after the Oklahoma loss, reading from a prepared statement. Alumni and fans have expressed displeasure at the tradition not being honored, though.
- How can Herman get things back on track and avoid a spiral? Well, the big thing is to avoid losing. Winning cures a lot in the eyes of fans and boosters. Unfortunately, Herman hasn’t been doing that, especially this season. His 27-17 overall record won’t fly at a program like Texas. Neither will his 1-4 record against rival Oklahoma in four seasons. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde writes that two-straight losses magnify every other problem inside the Texas program.
Texas is off this weekend, then has a three-game stretch that includes home games against Baylor and West Virginia and a huge road trip to take on No. 7 Oklahoma State. Anything less than a 3-0 record in that span might bring more heat upon Herman and the Longhorns. It’ll be interesting to see how the team regroups on the field and how it handles “The Eyes of Texas” situation moving forward.
The five FBS schools that are currently allowing 40-plus points per game are:
- Southern Miss — 40.0
- East Carolina — 41.3
- Kansas — 44.0
- North Texas — 46.5
- Ole Miss — 51.7
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s been a wild about 3 hours. If y’all want to know the real truth, our bus company alerted us that Vanderbilt had canceled their buses and that’s when we first got wind that maybe this game wasn’t going to go on. As more and more things transpired, we got word from the SEC office that Vanderbilt had fallen below the COVID threshold. We absolutely understand. We’ve been dealing with COVID just like everyone else, so our No. 1 priority is for everyone at Vanderbilt to be safe, the players to be safe. These football contests can be made up.”
– Mizzou coach Eli Drinkwitz shared the bizarre way the Tigers learned their game against Vanderbilt was being postponed during an appearance on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” The game, originally set for Saturday, has been moved to Dec. 12 after the Commodores fell below the acceptable number of scholarship players available due to COVID-19 and contact tracing.
TWEET OF THE DAY
During a win over Miami on Saturday, star Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence drew a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct after he spiked the ball and got in a defender’s face after a touchdown run. Coach Dabo Swinney joked that Lawrence would draw kickoff coverage duties if he did it again.