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Good morning and happy Friday! We’ve got another full slate of college football action on the schedule for tomorrow, including seven more SEC matchups. Meanwhile, the Big Ten and Pac-12 are starting to make plans to return to the field. In fact, the B1G returns later this month.

In today’s newsletter, we’ll touch on some of the Big Ten’s major opt-ins, preview the top-10 showdown between Georgia and Auburn, put some top-25 teams on upset alert and more. Welcome to October, and welcome to this edition of the Saturday Football newsletter!


There’s been an opt-in party in the Big Ten. Which returning stars will have the biggest impact?

Maybe the streamers, party hats and punch were missing, but there’s certainly been an opt-in party in the Big Ten over the last few weeks. Ever since the conference announced it was reinstating the fall football season (set to begin Oct. 24), several players who previously declared for the 2021 NFL Draft have decided to come back.

What’s most surprising about the players who have opted back in is that most have been projected first- or second-round draft selections. On the surface, it appears the risk may outweigh the reward. But, the return of some of the best players in the conference will only make the Big Ten stronger. As Saturday Tradition columnist Connor O’Gara writes, seeing so many stars returning to the league is a huge boost to the Big Ten’s College Football Playoff hopes.

A few teams have benefited more from these opt-ins than others. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories from this opt-in party:

  • The Big Ten’s top two receivers have both decided to return. Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman and Purdue’s Rondale Moore — both declaring for the NFL Draft before the Big Ten even postponed the season — have opted to play in 2020. Bateman, who was the B1G’s second-leading receiver last season, made a decision that could change the complexion of the Big Ten season, Saturday Tradition’s Phil Ervin writes. Moore, who was an All-American as a true freshman in 2018, gives Purdue a much better opportunity to compete with the big boys in the Big Ten West, according to Saturday Tradition’s Kyle Charters. But, as happy as the Gophers and Boilers are that their respective stars are returning, there’s probably a knot in the stomachs of the rest of the division.
  • Jalen Mayfield returning to Michigan is a pretty big deal, too. Why? Well, the other four starting offensive linemen from the Wolverines’ 2019 squad were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Yes, there are still likely to be some growing pains on the offensive line for Jim Harbaugh’s bunch this year, but at least with Mayfield’s return there will be experienced leader in the trenches. Michigan has a loaded running back room with Zach Charbonnet, Hassan Haskins and Chris Evans. Those guys won’t be able to get much accomplished without some push up front. Mayfield’s comeback should aid in that department.
  • You can tell Ohio State is serious about winning a national championship. Not one, but two Buckeyes who are projected first-round selections decided to return to Columbus for the 2020 season. Cornerback Shaun Wade and offensive lineman Wyatt Davis both opted back in within a week of declaring for the NFL Draft. Both guys said the biggest reason to play one more season at Ohio State was because they felt like the Buckeyes were the best team in college football and could win a national championship. ESPN’s Playoff Predictor believes that’s the case, as well.

Not everyone opted back in on the 2020 season. Penn State head coach James Franklin confirmed that star linebacker Micah Parsons won’t be playing this season and will focus on preparing for the NFL Draft. It’s probably the smartest decision for Parsons, who is a projected top 3 selection in the latest mock draft from Pro Football Focus, even without playing another down of football.

So, it wasn’t an opt-in party everywhere. Still, there are a lot of really talented players returning to the Big Ten when they could’ve focused on their NFL careers. The Big Ten is a big winner because of it.


The 2020 college football season continues this weekend with another full slate of games in the ACC, Big 12, SEC and three of the Group of 5 conferences. Last week, then-No. 3 Oklahoma and then-No. 6 LSU both lost to unranked teams. This week, we have some more big-time matchups.

Will we see more top teams fall? Let’s take a look at who is currently favored to win some of the biggest matchups of the weekend, starting with a game on Friday night in Provo:

Friday, Oct. 2

  • Louisiana Tech at No. 22 BYU (-24)

Saturday, Oct. 3

  • South Carolina at No. 3 Florida (-17.5)
  • Mizzou at No. 21 Tennessee (-12)
  • NC State at No. 24 Pitt (-14)
  • TCU at No. 9 Texas (-12)
  • USF at No. 15 Cincinnati (-21)
  • No. 12 North Carolina (-13.5) at Boston College
  • No. 25 Memphis (-2) at SMU
  • No. 17 Oklahoma State (-21.5) at Kansas
  • No. 13 Texas A&M at No. 2 Alabama (-18)
  • No. 18 Oklahoma (-7.5) at Iowa State
  • Tulsa at No. 11 UCF (-21.5)
  • No. 7 Auburn at No. 4 Georgia (-6.5)
  • No. 20 LSU (-21) at Vanderbilt
  • Arkansas at No. 16 Mississippi State (-17)
  • Virginia at No. 1 Clemson (-28)

Last weekend, five ranked teams lost. We’ll see at least two more top 25 teams go down this weekend since there are two ranked matchups. Will any other teams go down in upset fashion? Saturday’s slate of games looks to be a fun one!


  • The SEC saw some incredible quarterback play in Week 1. From K.J. Costello throwing for an SEC-record 623 yards to Kyle Trask looking like a legitimate Heisman contender, there was a lot to like around the conference. Saturday Down South’s Matt Hinton ranks all 14 SEC quarterbacks in this piece.
  • Now that it’s October, the Big Ten returns to action this month. The league starts play on Saturday, Oct. 24, with a conference-only slate. So, what games stand out in the Big Ten this month? Saturday Tradition’s Dustin Schutte ranks the five best B1G games in October.
  • Could Trey Lance be the first QB taken in the 2021 NFL Draft? Many expect Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence to be the first overall pick, but Lance, who plays at North Dakota State, is also getting some serious buzz. Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer dives into what makes Lance such an intriguing prospect.
  • A pair of ranked matchups lead the SEC schedule this week. So, what should fans be watching for in the SEC and around the country on Saturday? ESPN’s Harry Lyles Jr. and David M. Hale detail why this weekend feels like a big one in college football.


Auburn and Georgia face off earlier than they’re used to. Who will win the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry?

We’re not used to seeing the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry this early in the season, but that’s what we’ll get on Saturday night when No. 4 Georgia takes on No. 7 Auburn in Athens. Both teams are coming off wins in Week 1, with Auburn knocking off a then-ranked Kentucky squad in convincing fashion and Georgia struggling in the first half at Arkansas before putting it together in the second half.

So, who has the edge in this weekend’s game with major SEC title and College Football Playoff implications? Here are a few things to get you ready for Saturday’s excitement:

This is perhaps the biggest game of the SEC season thus far, and it should be a great matchup of two Playoff contenders. Can Auburn pull off the upset in Athens? Or, will Smart’s defense stifle Nix and the Tigers? Tune in to ESPN at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday night to find out!


Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense got off to a hot start in the SEC, as QB K.J. Costello led Mississippi State to a 44-34 upset of LSU last weekend. Costello threw for an SEC-record 623 yards and also had 5 touchdown passes and now looks to be a contender to lead the nation in passing yards in 2020. So, for today’s quiz, can you name the player who currently holds the record for most passing yards in a single season in FBS history? Also, since 1956, only one SEC quarterback has ever led the nation in passing yards. Can you name him?

Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.


A few ranked teams face dangerous tests this weekend. Which top 25 squads are on upset alert?

Last weekend, we saw a pair of ranked teams (No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 6 LSU) fall to unranked opponents. This weekend, a number of other top 25 squads face difficult challenges. Though the ranked Big Ten and Pac-12 teams won’t play for a few more weeks, there are plenty of potential upsets on the weekend’s schedule.

So, which current top 25 teams are on upset alert entering the weekend’s action? Here’s a look at five teams that will have to be on their “A” games to avoid a loss:

  • No. 9 Texas blew a late lead and nearly lost to Texas Tech last week. Fortunately for the Longhorns, their Big 12 title and College Football Playoff hopes are still alive after they escaped with an overtime win. Texas coach Tom Herman knows he is in for a challenge against TCU and a Gary Patterson-led defense. Herman explained why Patterson’s defenses are “frustrating” to face.
  • The Longhorns’ biggest rival, No. 18 Oklahoma, is also on upset alert. The Sooners just fell to Kansas State last weekend, but there’s no time to sulk and lick their wounds, as they head to Iowa State this Saturday. Working with a freshman quarterback like Spencer Rattler is going to have its ups and downs. Coach Lincoln Riley isn’t getting down on his young star, though. “I mean, 85 (or) 90 percent of what Spencer did was either really good or fabulous on Saturday, but a couple of mistakes really, really cost us, our offense, our team,” Riley said. “And so he’s got to learn from those, learn from the entire situation.”
  • No. 22 BYU has looked like a strong program through two games. However, it’s tough to tell how good the Cougars are since their original schedule that featured six Power 5 matchups had to be scrapped. After routs of Navy and Troy, will the Cougars be caught napping by 2-0 Louisiana Tech? ESPN’s FPI gives BYU a 92.9% chance to win in Provo on Friday, but anything can happen in this crazy season.
  • No. 21 Tennessee is riding serious momentum under Jeremy Pruitt. The Vols escaped Columbia with a win over South Carolina last week, and this week, star OL Cade Mays was cleared to play by the SEC. Now, a Mizzou team with a new offense under coach Eli Drinkwitz and QB Shawn Robinson comes to Rocky Top. Though the Tigers were smoked by No. 2 Alabama last weekend, Pruitt isn’t taking Mizzou lightly, complimenting both Drinkwitz and Robinson.
  • Due to COVID-19, No. 25 Memphis hasn’t played since early September. On Saturday, the Tigers head down to Texas to take on 3-0 SMU. Will Memphis be rusty? If the Tigers have lost a step on defense, star SMU RB Ulysses Bentley IV will make them pay. He’s rushed for an FBS-leading 380 yards and seven touchdowns so far this year. Check out this 84-yard run against North Texas. He’s going to be a problem for Memphis.

Will these squads be able to avoid upset losses this weekend? This year is shaping up to be even more unpredictable than most. We’re sure to see some carnage in the rankings at some point, so the only question is whether it will be this weekend or not.


Here are the answers to today’s passing yards quiz. The all-time FBS leader in passing yards in a single season is B.J. Symons, who threw for 5,833 yards for Texas Tech back in 2003. Any guesses as to who his coach was that year? Yep, that’s right, it was Mike Leach.

As for the only other SEC quarterback to lead the nation in passing, you don’t have to go back very far at all. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow threw for a nation’s best 5,671 yards for LSU in 2019.


“I don’t think we played very well in the second half, so we didn’t play a complete game. So obviously, that’s really, really important. I guess you could ask Oklahoma that question, because I’m sure their coach is saying some of the same things we said. Their players probably respond a little bit better because they had negative consequences.

“Our players, it’s the worst thing you can do — play poorly and win.”

– Alabama coach Nick Saban said the Tide didn’t play well in the second half against Mizzou. He cited Oklahoma’s upset loss to Kansas State as a reason his team needs to play 60 solid minutes this weekend against Texas A&M.


No one was happier to hear that Tennessee OL Cade Mays had been cleared to play by the SEC than QB Jarrett Guarantano. Mays and Kentucky QB Joey Gatewood headlined a few waivers handed down by the SEC and NCAA this week.

This edition of the Saturday Football newsletter was written by Adam Spencer and Dustin Schutte.