Saturday Football: The B1G is back (maybe), Heisman talk and Week 3 upset alert
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Good morning and happy Wednesday! We’re moving quickly toward another weekend of FBS action. Oh, and the Big Ten situation may finally (hopefully) be sorted out. It’s been a busy week in the college football world, and the SEC hasn’t even started games yet!
In today’s newsletter, we’ll discuss the latest Big Ten news, dive into some teams that should be on upset alert this weekend and also talk about some early Heisman chatter. Let’s get started!
LATEST BIG TEN MOVE
All signs point to the Big Ten returning. Is an October start date a done deal?
If you heard a roar of excitement inside your home Tuesday, it was probably just the collection of exhausted and frustrated Big Ten fans celebrating the reports that the conference would be reinstating a fall season. But … there’s still no official word from the league yet.
University of Nebraska President Ted Carter had a slip of the tongue in front of a hot mic before a Tuesday press conference, saying that the B1G was prepared to make an announcement at some point in the day. While he attempted to downplay the seriousness of the comment, saying it was “taken out of context,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus also reported a decision had been made and an announcement was coming. To no one’s surprise, we’re still waiting on some sort of official word. It’s just par for the course in what happened to be a crazy Tuesday:
- The day began with high hopes, thanks to a tweet from Minnesota. Early risers received a shot of optimism with their morning cup of coffee, courtesy of the Golden Gophers’ Twitter account, sending out an interesting poll question asking when the last time the program started a football season in October was. Many took that as an indication that the Big Ten was leaning towards a return next month. Even before the “hot mic incident” in Nebraska, there was an expectation that major news was on the horizon.
- News of a rekindled season caught Kirk Herbstreit by surprise. Yes, even one of the most plugged-in analysts in college football was shocked by the news that a Big Ten announcement was coming Tuesday. He learned about it live on air while talking with The Pat McAfee Show, and the video captured Herbie’s authentic, and hilarious, reaction to the news.
- Unfortunately, we’re going to have to grind it out a little longer. Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported that there was no indication an announcement would be made Tuesday, meaning everyone would have to wait at least another day before an official statement was made. There’s time for the Big Ten to make an announcement this week and still start the season on Oct. 17 — the reported start date — but as Paul Finebaum told ESPN’s First Take, the conference must make a decision and announcement very soon if it wants College Football Playoff consideration.
Are you really surprised that this saga didn’t have a smooth landing? Repeatedly, the Big Ten has seemed to fumble the football in terms of communication and transparency. It’s not just the fans noticing, either. It’s the exact reason Ohio State CB Shaun Wade declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, even though no decision has been made. For the sake of the players, parents and coaches involved, hopefully the Big Ten comes to a resolution soon. And, you know, actually makes its decision public information.
KEY WEEK 3 LINES
Week 3 features some more games involving Big 12 and ACC schools. The 3 Group of 5 conferences are also in action, leaving only the SEC yet to play a game. The SEC starts play next weekend, though. There have been a couple of games postponed due to COVID-19, but there are still some intriguing matchups on the docket.
So, who is favored to win some of the bigger games of the weekend? Let’s take a look at some lines ahead of Saturday’s action:
- No. 19 Louisiana (-17) at Georgia State
- Tulsa at No. 11 Oklahoma State (-22.5)
- Syracuse at No. 25 Pitt (-22)
- Houston at Baylor (-4.5)
- USF at No. 7 Notre Dame (-25.5)
- No. 14 UCF (-7.5) at Georgia Tech
- No. 23 Appalachian State (-4) at Marshall
- No. 17 Miami at No. 18 Louisville (-2.5)
Will we see any ranked teams go down this weekend (other than the loser of Miami-Louisville, obviously)? We’ll find out when games kick off on Saturday afternoon!
- Alabama has had some strong quarterbacks since 2000. Since 2007 (when Nick Saban took over as coach), many of them have finished their careers with at least one championship ring. Who is the best of the bunch? Saturday Down South’s Phil Ervin ranked all 12 Alabama QBs since 2000.
- Georgia’s QB room has been ridiculous, too. Ervin also ranked the Dawgs’ best QBs and explained the key detail in deciding the race for who is No. 1.
- Seeing Notre Dame’s field painted with ACC logos was weird. The Irish got their season started by beating Duke on Saturday in their first game as a member of the conference. This is only for the 2020 season, but Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde wrote about Saturday’s atmosphere in South Bend and why the marriage between the Irish and the ACC makes sense in this crazy year.
- Oklahoma and Texas have very different quarterbacks in 2020. Texas has senior Sam Ehlinger — a dual-threat powerhouse — at the helm once again. Meanwhile, the Sooners turned to redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler, who has insane arm talent. ESPN’s Bill Connelly broke down the 2020 debuts for each Big 12 star.
- A number of coaches face pivotal 2020 seasons for their job security. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely have an impact on many schools’ decisions regarding firing coaches, but there are still some guys on the hot seat. Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon named the 6 FBS coaches on the hottest seats heading into this season.
Who will win the Heisman Trophy during the weird 2020 season. Is it Trevor Lawrence’s trophy to lose?
The Big Ten is potentially starting in October. The Pac-12 could potentially start in November. The Heisman Trophy is traditionally awarded in early December, but that could change this year. Who will be eligible for the prestigious award this season? And, when will it be given out?
A few potential contenders have opted out. A handful of others are in conferences that have yet to finalize return-to-play plans. So, who is in contention for the award and who will win? Let’s take a look at some of the Heisman discussion from the past few days:
- Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence has to be considered the favorite. However, he was also a co-favorite along with Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa last season and didn’t even earn an invitation to the ceremony. Preseason Heisman favorites have a dubious history when it comes to winning the award, so tread carefully. Fortunately for Lawrence, he got his campaign off to a good start by throwing for 351 yards and a touchdown in a season-opening win over Wake Forest. He also added 2 touchdowns as a rusher.
- What’s that? Yet another Oklahoma QB could compete for the trophy? That does seem to be the case, as redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler threw for 290 yards and 4 touchdowns against Missouri State on Saturday. Yes, it was against an FCS opponent, but check out the effortless arm strength Rattler displayed on this incredible TD throw (and this one, too).
- What about a dark horse candidate in the Joe Burrow mold? Florida QB Kyle Trask fits that bill. Like Burrow, he had a decent first year as the starter for his SEC school (in fact, he had a better 2019 season than Burrow had in 2018). Now, he leads a team with legitimate College Football Playoff aspirations. Saturday Down South’s Neil Blackmon makes the case for Trask as a serious Heisman contender.
- Who else is in the mix? Paul Finebaum shared his opinion on the trophy. This week, he listed six players, including Rattler and Lawrence, as guys to keep your eyes on this fall. ESPN’s staff ranked the top seven Heisman candidates here.
If we know anything about 2020, though, it’s that unlikely candidates will emerge as we navigate through this unusual season. With different conferences starting at different times, it’s going to be a crazy year for Heisman voters to make sense of. We’ll see who gets the most buzz as the season gets going in earnest.
JUST FOR FUN
How much turnover is there when it comes to the FBS coaching ranks? Well, of the 130 FBS programs, only 15 field coaches who have been with their team for at least 10 years entering 2020 (hired prior to the 2011 season or earlier). Can you name those coaches? Bonus point if you can name the coach who has been with his school the longest.
Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.
Some ranked teams face tough tests in Week 3. Which schools are on upset alert this weekend?
A few of the best games of this weekend have already been postponed due to COVID-19. We won’t get BYU-Army, Virginia-Virginia Tech and Houston-Memphis this weekend (though Houston managed to schedule a game against Baylor instead).
However, there are still a few ranked teams playing, and that means we could see more upsets (like Louisiana’s win over Iowa State last weekend). So, let’s take a look at 5 ranked teams that need to watch their backs as we head into Week 3:
- Let’s start with that Louisiana team that is riding high this week. The win over the Cyclones was a huge one for Billy Napier and his players, but big upsets sometimes lead to major letdowns the following week. Adding to what Alabama coach Nick Saban would call the “rat poison” after the upset win, Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel says the Ragin’ Cajuns deserve to be at No. 1 in the polls. If the No. 19 Cajuns buy into the hype, they could be in trouble on Saturday, even as big favorites over Georgia State.
- The Pitt Panthers are in the AP Poll after a shutout victory. After walloping Austin Peay 55-0 on Saturday, the Panthers are up to No. 25 in the poll. The Orange just lost 31-6 to North Carolina on Saturday, but if history tells us anything, this heated rivalry game will be close. The past 3 years, this game has been decided by a touchdown or less. Syracuse won in 2017, with Pitt winning the 2018 and 2019 matchups. Expect this year’s game to be tight, too.
- UCF enters the 2020 season at No. 14 in the AP Poll. However, as the Knights prepare for their first game Saturday at Georgia Tech, they’ll do so without 10 players who opted out. That list includes key DB Tay Gowan and backup QB Darriel Mack Jr. Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets are plenty confident after an ugly win at Florida State last weekend.
- No. 23 Appalachian State beat Charlotte by two scores last weekend. However, the Mountaineers’ opponent this weekend beat Eastern Kentucky 59-0 Saturday. That team would be the Marshall Thundering Herd. If the Heisman Trophy race ended today, Marshall QB Grant Wells would definitely be a finalist. He threw for 307 yards and 4 touchdowns against the overmatched Colonels. Appalachian State will have to watch out for him.
- Finally, we’ll discuss the game of the week between ranked ACC squads. No. 18 Louisville will play host to No. 17 Miami on Saturday night. As the home team, the Cardinals are favored to win despite being ranked slightly lower. Both teams won against non-ACC opponents last week. Miami started slow against UAB, but RB Cam’Ron Harris looked good, including on this 66-yard touchdown run. If Houston transfer QB D’Eriq King takes a step forward against the Cardinals on Saturday night, the Hurricanes could pull off the primetime road upset.
Obviously, the loser of Miami-Louisville will be a ranked team that loses. Will any other ranked teams take a loss this weekend? We’ll see if the five teams mentioned above can avoid upsets on Saturday.
Here are the 15 FBS coaches who have been with their programs for 10 years or are entering their 10th year at their current school in 2020:
- Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (1999)
- Gary Patterson, TCU (2000)
- Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State (2005)
- Frank Solich, Ohio (2005)
- Kyle Whittingham, Utah (2005)
- Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern (2006)
- Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee (2006)
- Nick Saban, Alabama (2007)
- Troy Calhoun, Air Force (2007)
- Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (2007)
- Dabo Swinney, Clemson (2008)
- David Cutcliffe, Duke (2008)
- Doc Holliday, Marshall (2010)
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (2010)
- David Shaw, Stanford (2011)
Ferentz has finished 21 seasons at Iowa. That’s just impressive.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I just don’t know how anybody can take Les Miles seriously. How many games, he’s played 13 games and he’s got two losses to Coastal Carolina? I mean, that’s what we saw in the last year or two at LSU. Now, it was a different level, but you know, I mean he ended up getting fired primarily because he lost to Wisconsin in an opener at Lambeau Field. That’s at least a legitimate loss but he lost because he was just so stubborn.”
— SEC Network host Paul Finebaum ripped the Kansas coach during a radio appearance this week. Miles’ Jayhawks were trounced at home by Coastal Carolina, 38-23, on Saturday night.
TWEET OF THE DAY
The SEC had another big-time player opt out this week, as Texas A&M’s leading receiver, Jhamon Ausbon, announced via Twitter that he was not going to take the field in 2020. This will have a major impact on QB Kellen Mond and the Aggies’ offense.