Monday, October 26, 2020
Nine Observations After This Weekend’s Action
Almost everyone is back on the gridiron ... with that said, here's some observations after last week's action.
1) So far, so good. Yes, there have been hiccups and games postponed or cancelled this season. But the key factor right now is that most everyone is playing college football (waiting on you, Pac-12) and most are doing it successfully. Credit again goes to the SEC, Big 12, and ACC for not making the rash decision to forego the season and try to find a way. The paths have been a little different for everyone, but the fact we have college football to look forward to each Saturday is a relief. It's a bit of normalcy in a very crazy 2020 and we should celebrate every second of it (got that, Christine Brennan?).
2) The cream is rising quickly to the top. Alabama has taken care of business rather smoothly so far. Ohio State threw a 50-spot up on Nebraska. Clemson slept somewhat on Syracuse before waking up and beating them by 28. Wisconsin looked terrific (but Graham Mertz testing positive for COVID-19 definitely hurts the Badgers). So far though, this has been a year where the contenders have pretty much made themselves known and known early. Which leads us to this...
3) The pretenders have been exposed early. LSU has been stunned by Mississippi State and Missouri. Oklahoma was actually 1-2 at one point. Texas, once again, is not back. Heck, pretty much the entire Big 12, save Oklahoma State, has had one moment of harsh humility. And, with one game down, Penn State is staring at a realistic chance of 0-2. It hasn't been pretty for a lot of teams with high expectations.
4) BYU may go undefeated. It couldn't be easy for an FBS Independent to draw up a schedule during a pandemic. Notre Dame decided not even to try and joined the ACC for this season. The Cougars managed to get a schedule full of mid-majors and have since devoured every team in sight; their closest game being a 27-20 win over UTSA. BYU leads the nation in total offense and likely will when the season ends. Their chances of making the College Football Playoff are slim to none, given that Boise State is really the only hurdle left between an undefeated season or being a one-loss team. Still, credit the BYU administration for pulling off ANY schedule during these times. They made one that gave their players a season, along with a lot of confidence.
5) Cincy looks the part. If there is a Group of 5 team that could crash the CFP scene, it's Luke Fickell's Bearcats, who looked fantastic in routing SMU 42-13 last night in Dallas. The Bearcats have a fairly balanced offense, but their defense is the real standout. Holding Army's triple option attack to less than 200 yards on the ground and 10 points is impressive enough. Holding SMU's offense to just 13 is icing on the cake. Memphis and UCF won't be pushovers, but Cincy is definitely a team to watch.
6) The top coaching jobs so far have been... 1) Sam Pittman, who took an Arkansas program with one conference win in three years and have them currently sitting 3rd ... in the SEC West. 2) Jamey Chadwell, who has Coastal Carolina ranked in the top 25 and leading a Sun Belt that's looked better than it has in decades. 3) Hugh Freeze, who has Liberty undefeated with a relatively easy win over Syracuse to their name. Freeze could be a candidate for open jobs this season. However, a lot of hot seats are cooled this year with hefty buyout numbers and revenues plunging from pandemic attendance figures.
7) Best thing in football all weekend... was Louisiana beating UAB in a game where they honored D.J. Looney, the Cajuns' offensive line coach who died tragically this summer. Wearing Looney's name on the back of their jerseys, the Cajuns came from behind to pull out a 24-20 win that ended UAB's 21-game home winning streak. Seeing the Louisiana players embrace Looney's parents after the game was moving. UL certainly honored him with their performance.
8) Worst thing in football all weekend... was SEC officiating. For the third game this season, a controversial call went Auburn's way and the Tigers would eventually capitalize, beating Ole Miss 35-28. Granted, this wasn't as bad as the Arkansas game, when the refs wrongly decided the outcome of the game for Auburn. And Auburn had a touchdown called back for a pretty weak excuse of a holding call (I didn't see the hold, to be honest). However, the "Auburn voodoo" as Kristen Saban put it, should be causing a few headaches in Birmingham. Steve Shaw, the SEC's head of officiating, has some serious explaining to do.
9) The current prediction for the College Football Playoff is...
1) Clemson vs. 4) Oklahoma State
2) Alabama vs. 3) Ohio State
Clemson, 'Bama, and Ohio State seem pretty solid. Have Notre Dame losing to Clemson two weeks from now and Alabama besting Georgia in the SEC title game, allowing for Oklahoma State to sneak their way in, provided the Cowboys run the table in the Big 12 (which is definitely not a lock).