Saturday Football: Hugh Freeze, Penn State woes and uniform talk
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Good morning and happy Monday! Or, if you’re a Texas A&M fan, happy Mond-day! It was a good weekend for a number of top teams, not just the Aggies. No. 1 Clemson went down in double overtime to Notre Dame, Florida snapped a three-year losing streak to Georgia and Liberty pulled out a thriller at Virginia Tech.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll discuss how Liberty coach Hugh Freeze has once again become a hot name on the coaching carousel. Then, we’ll head to Penn State, where the Nittany Lions are a disappointing 0-3 and coach James Franklin’s seat is getting hotter. Finally, we’ll get into some of the top uniform combinations from the busy week of football. Let’s dive into today’s newsletter!
Hugh Freeze has Liberty at an impressive 7-0. Will he land a Power 5 job before the 2021 season?
When Hugh Freeze resigned from Ole Miss in 2016 after it was revealed that he had called escort services from his university-issued cell phone, he left behind a wreck of a program. Ole Miss was subsequently hammered by NCAA penalties, and most of Freeze’s big wins were vacated.
Now, though, he’s in his second year at Liberty, and the Flames are not just a good non-Power 5 team — they’re a good team, period. At 7-0, the Flames are fresh off a wild win over Virginia Tech, in which the Hokies made several baffling mistakes. Either way, the Flames are unbeaten and Freeze is being brought up as a head coaching candidate again. Can he land another Power 5 job? Here’s what is being said about the Liberty coach:
- Freeze started getting brought up in coaching rumors a couple weeks ago. The first rumors involved his alma mater, Southern Miss. But, now that Liberty is ranked for the first time ever, Freeze might have outgrown his alma mater. Prior to beating Virginia Tech, which saw the Flames improve to 2-0 against ACC foes this year, Freeze joked that his program would happily accept an invitation to the ACC.
- The ACC would be nice, but the SEC could come calling for Freeze. Although many don’t think he’d be welcomed back into the conference just yet after what he did to Ole Miss, many fan bases are willing to forgive and forget. South Carolina fans would love for Freeze to replace Will Muschamp. South Carolina was far from the only fan base wanting Freeze on Saturday. Here’s a compilation of tweets from fans wanting Freeze at Alabama (as offensive coordinator), Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and other programs. Freeze has already revealed he’s been watching the SEC’s defensive struggles this year. Perhaps he’s salivating at a chance to run his offense in that league again?
- So, can schools forgive what Freeze has done in the past? Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger spoke with Freeze last week and wrote a profile of how he’s handling things at Liberty. Freeze knows some people will never forgive him. “To my knowledge, I’ve tried, with anybody I could, I made sure they knew that if I hurt them I was sorry, but it’s time to move on,” he says. “How many times can we write about it? How many times can we talk about it? I said I was wrong. I’ve paid a price. My family paid a heck of a price. When can we move on?”
As long as Liberty continues to win, Freeze will continue to be a hot name on the coaching market. Will he get a bigger job this offseason? Or, will he reward Liberty for giving him a second chance? Whatever happens, his journey as 2020 draws to a close will be something to watch.
The 2020 season continues to chug right along, and so do the offensive outbursts from top players. We’re seeing great numbers put up across the board, even as most teams aren’t playing a full 12-game regular-season schedule due to the pandemic.
So, who has stood out above the rest of the field? Here are the current leaders in nine important statistical categories (via CFBStats.com):
- Passing yards: Shane Buechele, SMU — 2,581
- Passing TDs: Four players tied — 22
- Rushing yards: Breece Hall, Iowa State — 1,034
- Rushing TDs: Two players tied — 14
- Receiving yards: Marlon Williams, UCF — 840
- Receiving TDs: Jaelon Darden, North Texas — 10
- Sacks: Patrick Johnson, Tulane — 9.0
- Tackles: Max Richardson, Boston College — 79
- Interceptions: Derrick Canteen, Georgia Southern — 4
Offenses continue to dominate the FBS ranks this year. Just this week, Florida put up 44 points on an elite Georgia defense. How many more offensive explosions will we see next weekend? It’ll be fun to watch!
- The SEC standings were shaken up once again this weekend. The Georgia Bulldogs fell to Florida for the first time in three years. Meanwhile, Texas A&M looks like it could be the second-best team in the league. So, how do these teams stack up against one another? Saturday Down South’s Joe Cox makes sense of the madness in his weekly SEC power rankings.
- Speaking of the Dawgs, what should they do at quarterback? Stetson Bennett IV has been struggling recently and was banged up against Florida. However, D’Wan Mathis wasn’t great in a relief role. And what’s the deal with JT Daniels? Saturday Down South’s Sydney Hunte writes that it is time for the Bulldogs to move on from Bennett after the Florida loss.
- Georgia and Clemson were losers this week, but far from the only ones. Then, there were the teams and players that had incredible performances this weekend. So, who won and who lost? Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon names five winners and four losers from this past week’s action.
- Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian will be a hot name on the coaching market. He turned down a chance at the Colorado job this past offseason, but he’ll be an even hotter commodity this offseason. ESPN’s Alex Scarborough writes about why this year might be the year Sark decides to get back into the head coaching ranks.
PENN STATE BLUES
We Are! 0-3? What on earth is going on with Penn State and suddenly embattled coach James Franklin?
In a matter of just three weeks, Penn State has gone from a College Football Playoff contender to the laughingstock of the B1G. The severity of the situation in Happy Valley was magnified exponentially this weekend, when the Nittany Lions dropped a 35-19 contest to Maryland at Beaver Stadium. Matters were only worsened by the fact that the Terrapins epically trolled Penn State on Twitter after the game.
As unfortunate as the 0-2 start was, it was explainable. Penn State was on the wrong side of a coin-flip call on the road against Indiana to start the year with a loss in a 36-35 overtime game. The following week, the Nittany Lions put up a fight, but fell 38-25 to No. 3 Ohio State, the team everyone expects to compete for a national championship.
Saturday, though? That loss is a tough one to explain away. In fact, you can’t. So now we have one question to answer: What’s going on with Penn State?
- Everything went wrong against Maryland. From the opening kickoff, the Terrapins dominated the game. Maryland jumped out to a 21-0 lead, thanks in large part to freshman sensation Rakim Jarrett. The former 5-star WR totaled 5 catches for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns in the win, landing him 247Sports Freshman of the Week honors. Things got so bad for Penn State, the RB Devyn Ford tackled the wrong guy on a Maryland scoop-and-score. It was an all-around ugly game for the team wearing blue and white.
- There’s not much unity in the locker room. QB Sean Clifford and WR Jahan Dotson said as much after the game. Clifford said this was a “poor performing football team,” right now, while Dotson said the team is “not as one right now.” Head coach James Franklin knows the pressure is on, saying his team needs to get things fixed quickly before the season really heads south.
- Is this a new low for the Nittany Lions? According to Saturday Tradition’s Thomas Schlarp, that’s exactly the case, at least in the James Franklin era. It’s not just that Penn State is 0-3 to start the 2020 season, but that the coaching staff appears to be as disjointed as the players on the field right now. That’s a perfect recipe for disaster.
- Fans are understandably frustrated. By halftime of Saturday’s game, there was essentially a meltdown among Penn State fans on social media. Some remained hopeful that Penn State would get it figured out in the second half, but when that didn’t happen, there was an outpouring of support to put Franklin on the hot seat.
Penn State is currently the only team in the B1G East that does not have a tally in the win column, and this is a division that houses Rutgers and Maryland. And while the Nittany Lions are perfectly capable of beating every other opponent on the schedule the rest of the way — as Kirk Herbstreit said during College GameDay — they’re going to have to play better, and in a hurry. Otherwise, the wins will come few and far between this season.
JUST FOR FUN
As we mentioned in the stat leaders section above, there are four FBS quarterbacks who currently lead the country with 22 touchdown passes. For today’s quiz, can you name each of those four quarterbacks? And, for a bonus point, can you name which of those four quarterbacks has thrown for 22 touchdowns in the fewest number of games?
Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.
This week saw some great helmets and some throwback uniforms. Who wore it best?
We know we’ve said it before, but this is one of the best years for great uniform combinations we can remember. From throwback looks to unique helmets and more, there are more FBS teams having some fun with their uniform combos.
There were plenty of great looks around the country this week, too. So, who wore it best? Let’s break down some of the best combos of the week:
- Let’s start with the Oklahoma State Cowboys and their helmets. As you can see in the photo above (and also in this tweet), the Cowboys had their nickname written in script on their helmets. Combine that with the all-white uniform look and you have yourself a clean, awesome combination.
- In Starkville, the Mississippi State Bulldogs brought back an old look. The Bulldogs wore their throwback “Flying M” helmets, which honor the university’s ties to the U.S. space program. The uniforms were worn from 1966-71. A very cool helmet.
- We’ve honored some classic looks in this space in recent weeks. Today, let’s talk about the Miami Hurricanes’ uniforms on Friday at NC State. The Hurricanes’ all-white look deserves some love. It looked even better going against NC State’s all-black combo.
- Finally, can we just say that it was awesome to see Oregon again? The Ducks are the kings of great uniforms, and we can’t wait to see what they break out in 2020. Against Stanford on Saturday night, they went with a combo of dark green jerseys and pants, complete with yellow wing helmets. Very nice.
With the Pac-12 back in the mix, there should be plenty of smooth looks out West in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, certain schools are starting to celebrate (virtual) homecoming weeks with great uniform combos. Check back next week to see some of the best looks from around the country!
Here are the answers to today’s FBS passing touchdown leaders quiz. The four quarterbacks who have thrown for 22 touchdowns are:
- Kyle Trask, Florida (5 games)
- Brady White, Memphis (6 games)
- Sam Ehlinger, Texas (7 games)
- Zach Wilson, BYU (8 games)
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Well, I mean every job that I’ve ever had, all I promised was to give my very best and they’ve certainly gotten that. But I get a kick out of fans feel like they’re upset about something. They ought to try it from the players’ and coaches’ standpoint. … It’s like breakfast: the chicken is involved but the pig is committed. Coaches and players, we’re like the pigs.
“But I certainly appreciate our fan support. There were cowbells. I thought we had a great crowd. I thought they did a great job as far as lifting our team at key times, inspiring us on all sides of the ball, because there were key contributions on all three sides of the ball and that was key.
“But you know those that aren’t onboard are impatient. Maybe they can select another team or maybe they can go coach their own team and I think that you can evaluate how their team does and see how it all shakes out.”
– Mississippi State coach Mike Leach had a strong message for fans who are frustrated with the Bulldogs’ offensive progress. After a 24-17 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, many fans still don’t feel like the Bulldogs are where they should be under Leach’s famous Air Raid system.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Freshman QB D.J. Uiagalelei had a huge game against Notre Dame, but No. 1 Clemson still lost in double-overtime to the Fighting Irish. Not having Trevor Lawrence clearly isn’t the problem with the Tigers. Defensively, this isn’t the same Clemson we’re used to seeing.