Saturday Football: Fire that defensive coordinator, Arkansas outrage and uniform talk
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Good morning and happy Monday! And indeed, it is a happy Monday for many college football fans across the country. Whether your team won or lost, there were some incredible games and dynamic offensive performances.
There’s plenty for us to discuss today. From a controversial ending in Auburn to a rough weekend for SEC defensive coordinators to some great uniforms, we’ll dive into a number of topics to get your week started. Without further ado, let’s get started with today’s newsletter!
A controversial play cost Arkansas a victory at Auburn. How upset should the Razorbacks be?
The Arkansas Razorbacks are a revitalized program. After going 0-8 in SEC play each of the past two seasons under Chad Morris, new coach Sam Pittman, OC Kendal Briles and DC Barry Odom have the Hogs back on the right track. Last week, Arkansas even went into Starkville and took down Mississippi State.
Now, though, they’ll have to show their resilience. On Saturday in Auburn, the Razorbacks appeared to be the victims of a major officiating mistake late in the fourth quarter. So, how mad should Arkansas fans be about what happened on Saturday night? Let’s dive into the controversy:
- The controversy stemmed from an attempted spike by Auburn QB Bo Nix. He was trying to stop the clock, but as you can see here, he appeared to spike the ball backwards. If it was indeed a backward pass, that would have been a fumble. And, an Arkansas player came up with the ball. Instead, the Tigers kept the ball and kicked a field goal as time expired to pick up a 30-28 victory. After the game, Pittman said the ref told him the whistle was blown before the recovery, so the ball couldn’t be awarded to Arkansas. That’s basically what the SEC said, too, in a statement released on Saturday night. That didn’t do much to calm Arkansas fans down, though.
- Former refs and rules experts unanimously agree the Hogs got hosed. Former NFL referees Mike Pereira and Terry McAulay agree that it should have been Arkansas’s ball after the fumble/spike. Pereira added a bit of nuance, though, saying it’s a brutal call for a ref to have to make in real time. “It’s one of those that a referee has a call to make that he probably has never seen in his lifetime, and he’s got to make it in real-time,” Pereira said. “He made that decision, and that’s the way the game ends.” ESPN rules analyst Bill Lemonnier also said it should have been ruled a backwards pass and, thus, a fumble.
- Let’s just say Arkansas AD Hunter Yurachek was not happy with the ending. In a tweet after the game, he said the Razorbacks “were winners on Pat Dye Field” on Saturday night. After a call with the league offices, though, Yurachek had reluctantly changed his tune on Sunday morning. “(T)here is no further action to be taken and we will turn our attention to the Ole Miss game on Saturday,” he said.
There are no moral victories in college football, but this loss has to be seen as a positive sign for the Hogs, who have been so uncompetitive in recent years. Saturday Down South’s Chandler Vessels wrote that the Hogs’ heartbreak over this loss shows how much they’ve grown as a team. Ole Miss will have to be careful this weekend, because they’re getting a team that is very angry.
Offense is the name of the game these days in college football. On Saturday, we saw some truly explosive performances from a number of teams. That, obviously, leads to some huge stat lines for top players. And, indeed, the FBS leaderboards feature some breathtaking numbers.
So, as we wrap up another weekend of exciting college football action, let’s take a look at the dynamic players who lead the FBS level in these nine important categories (via CFBStats.com):
- Passing yards: Kenny Pickett, Pitt — 1,389
- Passing TDs: Sam Ehlinger, Texas — 16
- Rushing yards: Sincere McCormick, UTSA — 569
- Rushing TDs: Najee Harris, Alabama — 10
- Receiving yards: Jaelon Darden, North Texas — 485
- Receiving TDs: Jaelon Darden, North Texas — 9
- Sacks: Patrick Jones II, Pitt — 7.0
- Tackles: Tyler Grubbs, Louisiana Tech — 42
- Interceptions: Two players tied — 3
Who will have the breakout performances this coming weekend? Based on what we’ve seen so far, expect the offensive numbers to continue to impress! Will the defenders be able to slow things down a bit?
- Matt Corral is having a heck of a season as Ole Miss’s quarterback. After playing backup to John Rhys Plumlee last season, Corral is the guy under new coach Lane Kiffin. He wasn’t just handed the job, though. He had to earn everything. Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara spoke with Corral and discussed the 5:30 a.m. film sessions, the Rich Rodriguez experience and everything that made Corral the player he is today.
- Speaking of Ole Miss, Lane Kiffin continues to be entertaining. Even in a loss, Kiffin’s Rebels provided plenty of fireworks and the coach had some great perspective on things after the game. Win or lose, Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer writes that Kiffin is college football’s greatest showman.
- The Pac-12 will return to the field on Nov. 7 for a 7-game season. That’s fewer games than the other Power 5 conferences are playing, so what will the league need to do to get a team into the College Football Playoff? ESPN’s Seth Walder breaks down the road to the Playoff for the Pac-12 here.
- Clemson is as close to a sure thing as we have for the Playoff. The Tigers completely dominated No. 7 Miami on Saturday night, improving to 4-0 on the season. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde wrote about how, in a year as crazy as 2020, Clemson’s consistency has been nice to see.
Defense no longer appears to be a strength in the SEC after a high-scoring Week 3. What’s going on?
Believe it or not, there was actually a time when Florida, LSU and Alabama used to field intimidating defenses. For a long time, in fact, defense used to be what set the SEC apart from other leagues at the Power 5 level. In Week 3 for the league, though, you might’ve actually believed SEC games were being simulated on an Xbox or PlayStation.
A league that once took pride in its defensive supremacy has officially caved to the video game style of play. Seven teams allowed 40 points or more over the weekend. All but two squads — Vanderbilt and Mississippi State — totaled at least 21 points. As bad as things were defensively for the entire league, things were particularly bad for Florida, LSU and Alabama on Saturday:
- Change may be coming at Florida sooner rather than later. An irate Dan Mullen told reporters following the Gators’ 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday “We’re going to have re-evaluate a lot of things defensively.” That’s not a surprising comment after UF surrendered 543 yards to the Aggies, a formula that cannot continue if the Gators want a shot to win an SEC championship, according to Saturday Down South writer Neil Blackmon. Does that mean Mullen replaces defensive coordinator Todd Grantham? Florida fans sure would be happy with that, considering their less-than-flattering response to the defense’s effort on social media following the loss.
- From defending champs to national chumps. For the second time in three games, LSU’s defense surrendered over 40 points, this time to a winless Mizzou team in a 45-41 loss in Columbia. Bo Pelini felt the wrath of LSU fans on Twitter, who already want their new defensive coordinator fired. Head coach Ed Orgeron acknowledged that the defense must get better, but he still believes Pelini will get things figured out before long.
- “The Process” really doesn’t appear to be working at Bama. Let’s give Lane Kiffin some credit, the first-year head coach at Ole Miss lit up the Crimson Tide defense, albeit in a 63-48 loss. But Nick Saban’s once-vaunted defense resembled Swiss cheese in Oxford, and the frustrated head coach had a few choice words for Pete Golding on the sideline during the game. Alabama better figure out something, and fast, as a showdown with No. 3 Georgia awaits next weekend.
- Speaking of Georgia… “How ’bout them (expletive) Dawgs?” That’s a phrase Kirby Smart muttered after a win over Auburn in 2019, but it’s pretty relevant in 2020. Why? The Bulldogs seem to be the only team in the SEC with a formidable defense on the field, according to SDS writer Sydney Hunte. Despite trailing Tennessee 21-17 at half, UGA outscored the Vols 27-0 in the second half to improve to 3-0 on the season. Through those first three games, Georgia has outscored teams in the second half 62-6. So, again, “How ’bout them Dawgs?”
Right now, defense does not “just mean more” in the SEC. Instead, the product resembles the Big 12 more than most in the conference would like to admit. Will defenses catch up over the next few weeks? Or, will offense continue to rule the league? We’ll find out starting this weekend!
JUST FOR FUN
Alabama RB Najee Harris had an outstanding performance against Ole Miss on Saturday night, running for 206 yards and 5 touchdowns. He’s the first player with a 200-yard, 5-touchdown performance as a rusher this season, and only the third player to run for 5 touchdowns in a single game in Alabama history. For today’s quiz, can you name the other two Alabama running backs to accomplish that impressive feat?
Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.
Saturday was full of more great uniform combinations. Who wore it best (and worst) this weekend?
We are truly living through a golden age of college football uniforms. The teams that have historically iconic combinations don’t mess around with their looks too much. But, schools with less-recognizable brands aren’t hesitating to break out new and unique combinations.
Saturday provided some more good looks and other not-so-great combinations. So, who stood out in this week’s action? Let’s highlight a few schools:
- This week’s uniform section has to start with the TCU Horned Frogs. First, they brought back a black, purple and red combination that people either love or hate. You can see it in the picture above. But, the way they announced the uniforms was truly one of the most bizarre uniform reveals we’ve seen in college football. Wild.
- Next, let’s discuss the look the Tennessee Volunteers went with. The Vols decided to go with their all-white road uniforms. Something about the white and orange combo just works for us. The Vols and Texas have those white uniforms down pat. Oh, by the way, the Longhorns also donned their white uniforms against Oklahoma. So clean.
- Now, let’s move back to Thursday night’s Tulane-Houston game. The Green Wave have one of the best logos in the game with their angry wave mascot, and it looked awesome on their baby blue helmets. The Green Wave wore this slick baby blue/white/green combo.
- Finally, let’s discuss the Temple Owls’ uniforms against Navy. The Owls were in some new Nike uniforms, and they had some interesting tile patterns on the pants and helmets. Hopefully, this is a look that comes back more often for the Owls.
Which schools will break out some great combinations next weekend? It’ll definitely be tough to top that TCU release video in terms of bizarreness, but with Halloween approaching, we’ll see if there are any spooky looks coming over the course of the next few weeks. Check back here next Monday for more uniform talk!
The two Alabama running backs to rush for 5 touchdowns in a single game were Shaun Alexander in 1998 and Santonio Beard in 2002, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Considering Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama RBs Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry didn’t accomplish the feat, it’s all the more impressive for Najee Harris. Is a Heisman Trophy in his future?
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Fans were (giving) a standing ovation while we were walking off, and I was very confused with that. You know, we lost. Not that I don’t appreciate the fans doing that, but make sure the players understand we came here to win. We didn’t come here to play close and cover spreads or any of that crap. I told them they have tomorrow off and they’ve got to come back to work. We’ve got to get better. You just don’t get chances like this, and I think kids don’t understand that. You don’t get many chances to beat the No. 1 team in the country … the best program in the entire country, and it’s right there to take.”
– Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin wasn’t settling for any moral victories after keeping things close in a 63-48 loss to Alabama on Saturday night. This quote should have Rebel fans excited for the future under Kiffin.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Pictures are worth a thousand words, and this great photo from photographer Hilary Scheinuk says it all when it comes to LSU DC Bo Pelini. What a rough day he had in the 45-41 loss at Mizzou.
This edition of the Saturday Football newsletter was written by Adam Spencer and Dustin Schutte.