Saturday Football: Hot seats, Deion Sanders and Army-Cincinnati
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Good morning and happy Wednesday! First off, we’ll start this newsletter with some big news. We’re adding a Friday newsletter moving forward. So, we’ll now be in your inbox each Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning! Exciting, right?
Today, we’ll discuss some of the hottest seats in the coaching ranks, preview a huge Group of 5 showdown and also head down to Mississippi, where a new HBCU hire is already making huge waves. Without further ado, let’s get started with today’s newsletter!
COACHING HOT SEATS
It’s going to be a weird year for coaches on the hot seat. Which coaches have the hottest seats entering 2020?
The 2020 season is going to be a strange one for a number of reasons, but especially when it comes to the coaching carousel. We’ve already seen our first coaching change, as Southern Miss and Jay Hopson parted ways after only one game. Is that a sign of things to come? Or, will this be a slower-than-normal year for coaching changes?
As we gear up for another weekend of college football action, let’s take a look at a few of the coaches who enter 2020 on a hot seat:
- First, let’s take a look at some of the big names potentially on the chopping block. Over at CoachesHotSeat.com, they have Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy on the hottest seat in the FBS. That could potentially be regarding offseason turmoil between him and some of his players. Kansas’s Les Miles, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason round out the top 4.
- CBS Sports analyst Dennis Dodd sees things a bit differently entering 2020. Over the summer, he ranked each coach’s job security on a scale of 0 (the safest) to 5 (really hot seat). He had six coaches with a 5 rating and five with a 4 rating. He has USC’s Clay Helton, UCLA’s Chip Kelly, Nebraska’s Scott Frost and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason as the four Power 5 coaches on the hottest seats. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde and Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon also named a few coaches they think are under serious pressure this season.
- However, coaches (other than Hopson) could get a one-year reprieve. With the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing budgetary shortfalls, schools might not be willing to pay big buyouts to coaches after this season. USA TODAY’s Dan Wolken said many schools might find it logistically impossible to fire a coach this offseason.
The 2020 season is already underway, so we’ll see which schools underperform their preseason expectations. Even if these programs don’t want to fire their coaches, there will surely be plenty of reaction from the fan bases. Expect tensions to be high at schools where struggling coaches continue to underperform.
- The SEC has a few key position battles heading into 2020. These battles will impact the teams that compete for spots in the SEC title game in Atlanta and the College Football Playoff. As we prepare for Week 1 action, Saturday Down South’s Matt Hinton gives you the ultimate SEC primer with his weekly Monday Down South column.
- Ohio State is a heavy favorite to make the College Football Playoff. However, there’s a case to be made that the Big Ten didn’t do the Buckeyes any favors with the new schedule. Saturday Tradition’s Dustin Schutte explains why the easy schedule could actually hurt the Buckeyes in the eyes of the CFP selection committee.
- Alabama has one of the top RBs in the country in Najee Harris. He’ll put up big numbers if he stays healthy, but could he actually be a Heisman Trophy contender? Saturday Down South’s Neil Blackmon makes the case for Harris as a legitimate Heisman contender.
- College football provides us with some of the best sports mascots. But, only a handful of them can be considered truly elite. Bleacher Report’s Brad Shepard ranked the 10 best mascots in college football, including both live animal and human mascots.
- It might only be Week 1 in the SEC, but we’re already looking ahead. Perhaps the biggest game in the country this season will be the Cocktail Party between Florida and Georgia. Is this the year Dan Mullen and the Gators get over the hump against Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs? Saturday Down South’s Matt Hayes looks ahead to the huge matchup in his weekly First and 10 column.
A Top 25 showdown features No. 22 Army vs. No.14 Cincinnati. Who stays perfect on the season?
Just a week ago, this matchup between No. 22 Army and No. 14 Cincinnati had the potential to be a significant game in the College Football Playoff conversation. If ever there was a time for a Group of 5 program to earn a spot in the four-team field, a year in which two Power 5 leagues postponed their seasons would be it, right?
The Big Ten’s decision to reinstate the season kind of sucks the wind out of the sails a little bit, but Saturday’s showdown between the Bearcats (1-0) and Black Knights (2-0) should still be incredibly entertaining. It will be one of the premier games at the Group of 5 level this year and, who knows, maybe there’s still a shot at a College Football Playoff berth.
Hey, you can’t rule anything out in 2020.
- Cincinnati’s season started off on the right foot against Austin Peay. The Bearcats were expected to take care of business against Austin Peay in their season opener, and did exactly that in a 55-20 win over the Governors. After all the uncertainty with the offseason, head coach Luke Fickell compared the victory to “Christmas morning.” QB Desmond Ridder was the offensive leader, throwing for 196 yards and two TDs while completing 13-of-19 passes and adding 57 yards on the ground. But this week’s game against Army presents a completely different challenge for Cincinnati, especially knowing they’ll be without leading receiver Alec Pierce, who finished last season with 37 catches for 652 yards and a pair of TDs.
- Through two games, Army has dominated on both sides of the football. No, the competition hasn’t been great, playing Middle Tennessee and Louisiana-Monroe, but the Black Knights have outscored their first two opponents 79-7. Army’s triple-option attack has already piled up 779 rushing yards — the highest total in college football. Three players have eclipsed 100 yards on the ground this year, led by QB Christian Anderson with 149 yards and 3 TDs. Army’s rushing attack needs to be polished and ready to go Saturday, as Cincinnati’s defense has ranked in the top two in the AAC in 2018 and 2019.
- Looking for a favorite in this G5 showdown? Cincinnati enters this game as a comfortable 14-point favorite against Army, and ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) is giving the Bearcats a 66.4% chance to improve to 2-0 on Saturday. Both teams have played actual games, so there shouldn’t be any real jitters heading into this one. However, this will be Army’s first road trip of the 2020 season, so that’s something to keep an eye on early in the Top 25 clash. Army had another potential top-25 matchup scheduled last weekend against BYU, but that was canceled after the Cougars had a COVID-19 outbreak.
Believe it or not, both Army and Cincinnati had marquee matchups on the docket for this weekend under the original 2020 schedule. Oklahoma was scheduled to travel to West Point while the Bearcats were planning to head to Nebraska. The offseason threw some wrenches into those plans, and the result is a top-25 showdown between two really good Group of 5 programs. Who’s complaining about that? Who will win? Tune in to ESPN at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday to find out!
JUST FOR FUN
There are a lot of high-profile coaches who will (or at least potentially could) be prowling the sidelines at the FBS level this season. Most FBS conferences are either playing now or planning to play soon or formalizing plans to return. Can you name the 10 active FBS coaches with the most career victories (at the FBS level)?
Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.
Deion Sanders is officially a college football coach. Prime Time has wasted no time making waves.
We don’t normally discuss FCS football in this newsletter. However, it’s not every day that an FCS school hires Deion Sanders as its new head coach. That’s what Jackson State, an HBCU located in Jackson, Mississippi, did this week, though, announcing the NFL Hall-of-Famer as its new coach on Monday.
And Sanders, who was known by his nickname Prime Time during his NFL career, has wasted absolutely no time making waves in the college football world. So, let’s dip into the FCS world and take a look at how Neon Deion is already making his name known in the coaching ranks:
- Sanders’ entrance to his introductory press conference was epic. Sanders rode into the event in a Cadillac, complete with a police escort. The Jackson State marching band was also involved. Even NBA superstar LeBron James took note of Sanders’ presser, taking to Twitter to share his thoughts.
- Sanders isn’t shying away from saying he wants NFL-caliber players. Speaking at his press conference, he said, “The guys that we’re targeting are play-makers, are players that can possibly play on Sundays. That’s what we’re looking for. If your dream is not to play on Sundays, you’re in the wrong place.” He backed that up immediately. One of his first scholarship offers went to a 4-star JUCO cornerback who is currently committed to Georgia.
- Now, Prime Time will get to work putting together his staff. One former Jackson State player who went on to become an NFL star is interested in working with Sanders. Former Jacksonville Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith told TMZ he really wants a job on the staff. Already, there are reports of some former NFL superstars joining Prime Time’s staff, including Terrell Owens and Warren Sapp. Wow. Sanders is clearly the best former NFL player coaching a Division I school. Who else deserves consideration for No. 2? Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde named some other standout football players in the DI coaching ranks.
As if the state of Mississippi didn’t have enough big-name coaches, Sanders now enters the fray. He’ll join Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss and Mike Leach at Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Southern Miss has an interim coach after parting ways with Jay Hopson after only one game. Buckle up, because the Magnolia State is going to produce a lot of great coach quotes moving forward.
Here are the answers to today’s FBS coaching victories quiz. The 10 active coaches with the most wins are:
- No. 1 — Mack Brown (246 wins)
- No. 2 — Nick Saban (243 wins)*
- No. 3 — Gary Patterson (172 wins)
- No. 4 — Frank Solich (171 wins)
- No. 5 — Kirk Ferentz (162 wins)
- No. 6 — Les Miles (145 wins)
- No. 7 — Mike Leach (139 wins)
- No. 8 — Dabo Swinney (132 wins)
- No. 9 — Kyle Whittingham (131 wins)
- No. 10 — Mike Gundy (130 wins)
(* Alabama vacated five wins from the 2007 season, which was Saban’s first at the helm of the program. Otherwise, he’d be No. 1 with 248 victories. Also of note, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly would have been sixth on the list with 147 wins if the Fighting Irish hadn’t been forced to vacate all 21 wins from 2012 and 2013.)
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s probably a good thing dad was losing his mental capabilities because he probably would’ve been really pissed off at the Big Ten right now.”
– Nebraska coach Scott Frost delivered a really strong quote bashing the Big Ten. Not even the fact that he was speaking at his father’s funeral could contain his unhappiness.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Michigan DL Kwity Paye took issue with the schedule the Big Ten gave to Ohio State. Perhaps it’s not the best idea to try to call out a rival that has beaten your team in eight-straight seasons.