Saturday Football: Big Ten bends its rules, Group of 5 disrespect and upset alert
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Good morning and happy Friday! We’re approaching the end of the 2020 regular season, but there are still some important games on the schedule for Saturday. Yes, we’ve lost games like Ohio State-Michigan, Purdue-Indiana, Texas A&M-Ole Miss and others, but there’s plenty to look forward to.
For today’s newsletter, we’ll discuss the Big Ten bending the rules to allow Ohio State to play in the conference championship game. Then, we’ll take a look at the disrespect Cincinnati and other Group of 5 schools are feeling. Finally, we’ll put a few ranked teams on upset alert. Let’s get started!
BIG TEN BENDS THE RULES
The B1G bent the rules to get Ohio State into the title game. Will it be enough to send the Buckeyes to the Playoff?
The Big Ten should really stop making bold proclamations and setting strict rules during a pandemic season. After originally postponing the fall sports season and saying that decision wouldn’t be revisited, the decision was indeed revisited, and football is currently being played. Then, the league set stringent guidelines for which teams would be eligible for the Big Ten Championship Game.
Now, those rules have been altered, too, and people have a lot to say about it. So, what’s the latest news out of the Big Ten? Let’s take a look at some headlines:
- The Big Ten is advancing 5-0 Ohio State to the title game. The Buckeyes aren’t playing Michigan this weekend, due to COVID-19 issues in the Wolverines program. But, even though the B1G had a 6-game minimum to participate in the title game before the season, that has been lifted after a league vote, and Ohio State will play Northwestern in the B1G Championship Game. ESPN’s Heather Dinich provided some insight into what took place during the important vote.
- Fans and media members had mixed reactions to the news. Here is some of the social media reaction to the B1G’s decision. FOX Sports host Colin Cowherd praised the league’s choice, saying Ohio State is who the B1G should want to be the face of the conference. However, Saturday Tradition’s Ryan O’Gara writes that the B1G’s rule change misses the point.
- The Buckeyes are certainly happy to get the title game berth. After the news broke, coach Ryan Day issued a statement saying he was grateful for the opportunity. On his Thursday radio show, Day elaborated, saying it was “a deep sigh of relief” to be able to play in the game.
- Indiana would have played in the B1G title game if not for the change. Ever since the news was announced, the Hoosiers have been nothing but classy. The Indiana AD issued a statement expressing disappointment, but also acceptance. WDRB’s Rick Bozich wrote a column praising Indiana for how it has handled the situation.
Of course, this doesn’t give Ohio State a definite path to the Playoff. The committee could still decide that six games wasn’t enough. Or, it could decide that four teams are simply better than the Buckeyes. ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said this week that the only reason Ohio State is in the top 4 is because it was ranked there in the preseason. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum described a doomsday scenario in which Ohio State could be left out of the Playoff field even at 6-0. Needless to say, it’s going to be an interesting two weeks for the Buckeyes.
This weekend, seven ranked teams that were supposed to play (No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 8 Cincinnati, No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 12 Indiana, No. 20 Texas and No. 24 Tulsa) won’t be in action, as their games were canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. Still, though, we have plenty of big games on the schedule for Saturday.
So, which teams are favored to win? And which ranked schools will be in danger of an upset? Here’s a look at some of the key lines for the week:
- No. 1 Alabama (-32) at Arkansas
- No. 9 Georgia (-13.5) at No. 25 Mizzou
- Illinois at No. 14 Northwestern (-13.5)
- Utah at No. 21 Colorado (-2.5)
- No. 13 Coastal Carolina (-13.5) at Troy
- Navy at Army (-7)
- No. 17 North Carolina at No. 10 Miami (-3)
- Wisconsin (-1) at No. 16 Iowa
- LSU at No. 6 Florida (-23)
- No. 22 Oklahoma State (-4.5) at Baylor
- No. 15 USC (-2.5) at UCLA
- San Diego State at No. 18 BYU (-16.5)
For those keeping score at home, that’s five ranked teams that are favored to win on the road. It seems safe to say at least one of those teams will lose. We could be in for an exciting weekend of action. We’ll put a few ranked teams on upset alert later in the newsletter!
- The SEC has a pair of Heisman-worthy quarterbacks this season. But, only one of that duo — Alabama’s Mac Jones and Florida’s Kyle Trask — can lead the way in Matt Hinton’s weekly QB rankings for Saturday Down South. See who gets the coveted No. 1 spot here. Saturday Tradition’s Ryan O’Gara ranked the B1G QBs, too.
- There are some big coaching jobs that might come open in 2020. Texas and Michigan both have difficult decisions to make about their coaches. But, where do those jobs rank among the best in college football? Bleacher Report’s Brad Shepard ranked the 12 best coaching jobs in college football.
- We’re always here for some radical ideas, even if they’ll never happen. Fortunately, we have Banner Society’s Ryan Nanni to entertain us. In his “Bad Idea Time” column, he suggests letting teams that finish last in their divisions pick which teams play in that division the next season. It’s certainly intriguing!
- Army and Navy will meet for their annual game on Saturday afternoon. This year, the game will be held at West Point, which hasn’t been done since World War II. ESPN’s Ivan Maisel writes about the perseverance it took to ensure the game would be played at all this year.
GROUP OF 5 DISRESPECT
Cincinnati is upset after being jumped by 2-loss Iowa State. Are Group of 5 teams disrespected by the CFP committee?
Cincinnati hasn’t been able to play since Nov. 21 as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. But, even with a perfect 8-0 record, the Bearcats fell to No. 8 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, getting jumped by … wait, this can’t be right … an 8-2 Iowa State team? How can a team with two losses, including one at home by 17 points to Louisiana, be ahead of the Bearcats, you ask?
Well, you wouldn’t be the only one asking those questions. Since Tuesday night, people have been reacting to this latest slight of a Group of 5 team. Here’s what’s being said nationally about Cincinnati’s slide:
- American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco had a strong statement. After the rankings were released, he went off on the Playoff selection committee. “It really can’t be defended. It’s indefensible,” he said. Fans and media members reacted to the disrespect shown to Group of 5 teams like Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina.
- Cincinnati is hurt by a COVID-related postponement this week. The Bearcats were supposed to play No. 24 Tulsa this weekend, but that game was canceled due to COVID issues at Cincinnati. How will that hurt or help Cincinnati in the eyes of the Playoff committee? Committee chairman Gary Barta explained how they’re treating postponements and cancellations this year. .
- Media reactions were generally supportive of the Bearcats this week. Dan Patrick lamented that these latest rankings killed the dreams of Group of 5 teams hoping to ever get into a four-team Playoff field. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde agrees, saying it’s clear there’s never going to be room for a G5 team in the Playoff. Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi writes that Cincinnati can now join the club of disappointed G5 teams alongside UCF.
Is there any way the Bearcats can get into the top 4? They’ll need a convincing win over No. 24 Tulsa in the AAC title game on Dec. 19 and some help. Perhaps if Notre Dame beats Clemson, Alabama beats Florida, and either Ohio State or Texas A&M lose in upset fashion, the Bearcats could break the Group of 5 Playoff barrier. For now, though, after Tuesday’s rankings, that seems unlikely.
JUST FOR FUN
The current top four teams in the College Football Playoff rankings are No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Ohio State. Those teams were also all included in the top 10 of the preseason AP Poll. So, for today’s quiz, can you remember where each of those four current top teams in the CFP rankings were listed in the preseason AP Poll?
Scroll down for the answers to today’s quiz.
A number of ranked teams won’t play this weekend. Which active teams are on upset alert?
The past few days have been brutal for games getting postponed or canceled, with a number of ranked teams being forced to sit out this weekend’s action due to COVID-19 issues hurting programs around the country. But, there are still some important games that will have an impact in the rankings come Tuesday.
So, which teams currently ranked in the top 25 of the College Football Playoff rankings are in the most danger of losing this weekend? Here are four teams we think should be on upset alert on Saturday:
- Let’s start with an undefeated USC Trojans squad. The Trojans are 4-0, but haven’t blown anyone away with their victories. Still, they’re up to No. 15 in the CFP rankings and undefeated, so they warrant discussion. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Trojans a 14.8% chance to make the Playoff. To do that, though, they’ll need to finish their regular-season schedule with a win over rival UCLA on Saturday.
- Next up, let’s discuss the No. 18 BYU Cougars. The Cougars saw their Playoff hopes come to an end at Coastal Carolina last weekend. Thus, the Cougars are ripe for another upset loss. San Diego State is no slouch, but the Aztecs still aren’t on the same level as the Cougars. 247Sports writer Jeff Hansen wrote that the Cougars can’t let Coastal Carolina beat them twice.
- The Iowa Hawkeyes are at No. 16 in the latest CFP rankings. But, the visiting Wisconsin Badgers are actually favored to win Saturday’s game. Even on the road the Badgers are heavy favorites, with ESPN’s FPI giving them a 68.4% chance to win. Can the Hawkeyes avoid a loss to end the regular season?
- Finally, let’s end with another undefeated Pac-12 team. The Colorado Buffaloes are 4-0, just like USC. What happens if Colorado wins against Utah and USC beats UCLA, leading to two Pac-12 South squads being 5-0? That will be an interesting scenario for the Pac-12, but Utah will try to help the league avoid that headache. ESPN’s FPI only gives Colorado a 52.5% chance to win.
There are plenty of implications from this weekend’s games. We’ll see if any major upsets happen between now and the next CFP rankings on Tuesday. It should be an exciting slate of games on Saturday!
The answers to today’s CFP rankings-preseason AP Poll quiz are:
- No. 1 Alabama was No. 3 in the preseason AP Poll
- No. 2 Notre Dame was No. 10 in the preseason AP Poll
- No. 3 Clemson was No. 1 in the preseason AP Poll
- No. 4 Ohio State was No. 2 in the preseason AP Poll
The Playoff club is a tough one to break into. We’ll see if there are any surprises in the next couple of weeks.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I was on College GameDay in 2013 before they played Arizona and I said if USC can’t win tonight, Lane Kiffin should be fired. Well, guess what? They didn’t win and he was fired. The next morning on SportsCenter they pretty much blamed me for the firing. I said he was the Miley Cyrus of college football.
“So two weeks later I’m out at the University of Washington for GameDay and I find out a couple hours before that Lane Kiffin was going to give his first interview. I walk in the meeting and there’s Lane Kiffin. I was a little bit cautious. I just decided, screw it, I’m going to walk over to him. I don’t know whether he was going to throw a punch, not that I was overly concerned of getting punched by Lane Kiffin. I said hello. We ended up becoming fast friends. We started corresponding. He sent me a Miley Cyrus song the next day.”
– SEC Network host Paul Finebaum has been in the media industry a long time. He was asked on “The Dan Patrick Show” this week about his most awkward encounter and shared the above story about how he and Lane Kiffin ended up becoming friends. That’s just classic Kiffin.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Florida coach Dan Mullen seems to have a great relationship with Gator legend Steve Spurrier. After Mullen’s Gators clinched the SEC East title, Spurrier stopped by to continue a new tradition. As you can see above, Spurrier gifted Mullen a mini-bottle of Woodbridge wine. He wrote on this one, though, so Mullen won’t be able to re-gift it to AD Scott Stricklin!
This edition of the Saturday Football newsletter was written by Adam Spencer.