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Good morning and happy Friday! The first weekend of December games is here, and it features a quickly-put-together matchup between undefeated BYU and Coastal Carolina. This will be the resume boost both teams desperately need, with the winning team inching closer to the College Football Playoff. But, that’s not the only important game on the schedule.

Before the games kick off, though, there’s plenty to discuss. We’ll dive into a pair of feuds — Kirk Herbstreit vs. Michigan and Greg Sankey vs. the ACC. We’ll also put a handful of ranked teams on upset alert. Let’s get started with today’s newsletter!

KIRK HERBSTREIT ANGERS MICHIGAN

Kirk Herbstreit speculated that Michigan might ‘wave the white flag’ to avoid Ohio State. The Wolverines are angry.

The COVID-19 situation in the Big Ten has caused several cancellations over the past few weeks, and that has impacted the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes just recently resumed activities after their own COVID outbreak, but now, rival Michigan has paused activities due to an outbreak in the Wolverines’ program. The Michigan-Maryland game this weekend has been canceled, and the rivalry game against the Buckeyes is now in jeopardy. That’s a problem, as Ohio State needs this week’s game against Michigan State and next week’s game against the Wolverines to potentially get into the B1G Championship Game.

During Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff rankings show, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit made some comments that drew the ire of Michigan fans. What did he say? And what has been the backlash? Let’s take a look at this situation:

  • Herbstreit caused a stir by suggesting that Michigan might avoid Ohio State. In statements made after the rankings were released, he said: “I still think Michigan waves the white flag and doesn’t play Ohio State next week.” Immediately after, host Rece Davis said it would be a shame if any team used COVID-19 as an excuse to not play a game and keep a team like Ohio State from getting a chance to play in the B1G title game (assuming it was an excuse and not an actual problem with a virus outbreak). Before the night was over, though, Herbstreit took to Twitter to issue an apology, saying it was “completely unfair to the University of Michigan, to Jim Harbaugh, to his players and coaches.”
  • Desmond Howard also made headlines for similar comments. On Wednesday morning, the ESPN analyst appeared on “Get Up” and speculated that Michigan State could use the Buckeyes’ recent COVID troubles to attempt to get the game postponed on Saturday morning.
  • Let’s go back to Herbstreit for a moment, though. On Wednesday, Michigan AD Warde Manuel tore into Herbstreit, even though Herbstreit had already issued an apology. He took issue with the “white flag” remarks. “To insinuate that, to say something other than that, is a statement by a fool,” Manuel said. “I can’t tell you how embarrassed I am for the Big Ten Conference to have one of their representatives who played this game say that about any team in this conference.”
  • Now, we need to take a step back and look at the big picture. Should the Big Ten change the rules to ensure an undefeated Ohio State team makes the conference championship game no matter how many wins it has? SEC Network host Paul Finebaum thinks so. CFP committee chair Gary Barta said the Playoff committee is certainly discussing how many games teams have played. It’ll be interesting to see if the Buckeyes drop in the CFP rankings if one or both of their remaining games are canceled.

This has obviously been a crazy season, and tensions are high across the country. The CFP committee has an impossible job, but there will be four teams in the Playoff when the semifinals are held. That’s just a fact. Will Ohio State be one of them? Well, that remains to be seen. But, for now, it’s clear the Wolverines are offended by the insinuation that they’ll try to duck a game against the Buckeyes to hurt their biggest rival’s Playoff chances.

KEY LINES

The college football regular season is nearing an end, and that means every game is even more important for the top contenders. Conference championship game spots are at stake, as are potential College Football Playoff berths.

Which teams are favored to win this weekend’s biggest games? Let’s take a look at some of the matchups involving ranked teams and who is expected to win:

Friday, Dec. 4

  • No. 25 Louisiana at Appalachian State (-2.5)

Saturday, Dec. 5

  • No. 4 Ohio State (-24) at Michigan State
  • No. 5 Texas A&M (-6.5) at Auburn
  • No. 15 Oklahoma State (-1.5) at TCU
  • Western Carolina at No. 17 North Carolina (-49.5)
  • Rice at No. 21 Marshall (-23.5)
  • No. 19 Iowa (-13.5) at Illinois
  • Syracuse at No. 2 Notre Dame (-33.5)
  • No. 6 Florida (-17.5) at Tennessee
  • West Virginia at No. 9 Iowa State (-6.5)
  • No. 12 Indiana at No. 16 Wisconsin (-14.5)
  • No. 24 Tulsa (-12.5) at Navy
  • Vanderbilt at No. 8 Georgia (-35.5)
  • Stanford at No. 22 Washington (-12)
  • No. 13 BYU (-10.5) at No. 18 Coastal Carolina
  • No. 23 Oregon (-9.5) at Cal
  • No. 3 Clemson (-21.5) at Virginia Tech
  • No. 1 Alabama (-29) at LSU
  • Baylor at No. 11 Oklahoma (-21.5)
  • No. 10 Miami (-15) at Duke

Sunday, Dec. 6

  • Washington State at No. 20 USC (-13.5)

We’ll be on the edge of our seats to see if North Carolina can cover those 49.5 points against Western Carolina. Oh, and we supposed we’ll keep an eye on some of those other games, too. Will we see any upsets? We’ll put a few ranked teams on upset alert later in the newsletter.

GOOD READS

  • Alabama DC Pete Golding was heavily criticized earlier this year. However, in recent weeks, the Crimson Tide defense has looked much better. Is it time to give Golding a bit more credit? Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara praised the Tide’s defensive coordinator for the job he’s done the past month.
  • This year has been a total nightmare for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan. The Wolverines are now 2-4 and have had to hit pause due to COVID-19 concerns, putting the rivalry game against Ohio State next weekend in jeopardy. Saturday Tradition’s Adam Biggers wonders how and why the Harbaugh era has gone off the rails so quickly.
  • Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame are the top CFP contenders. Those four squads are the frontrunners to make the Playoff field, but there are still some challengers looming. Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon breaks down how teams outside the current top 4 can make the Playoff.
  • The Southwest Conference came to an end 25 years ago. However, the impact of that great conference, which featured teams like Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M, SMU and others, lives on. ESPN’s Sam Khan Jr. and Dave Wilson put together an incredible oral history of the demise of the conference.

GREG SANKEY VS. THE ACC

Greg Sankey took aim at the ACC this week. What drew the SEC commissioner’s ire?

The ACC and SEC were on the same page earlier this year, when both conferences decided to take a wait-and-see approach after the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they were postponing their fall sports seasons. Then, the SEC and the ACC were the first two Power 5 conferences to announce plans to play, eventually getting the Big 12 to join in. Now, though, they seemingly differ on one key point — games on Saturday, Dec. 12.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey took aim at the ACC this week. What caused the kerfuffle? And what has been the reaction? Let’s take a look at this developing story:

  • It all started on Tuesday, when the ACC canceled a pair of games. Those games just so happened to feature No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Clemson, the ACC’s College Football Playoff contenders. Clemson was supposed to play Florida State on Dec. 12, while Notre Dame was going to square off against Wake Forest. Now, Wake Forest will play Louisville and Florida State will take on Duke.
  • So, why is this controversial and why did Sankey comment? Well, Sankey took issue because it seems as if the ACC is protecting its Playoff contenders. The SEC has Texas A&M ranked at No. 5 and Florida at No. 6. Also, No. 1 Alabama is playing this weekend in a rescheduled game against LSU and there’s still a chance for the Tide to make up their game against Arkansas on Dec. 12. Meanwhile, Florida plays at Tennessee this weekend before hosting LSU in a makeup game next week. “I was surprised to see the announcement [Tuesday],” Sankey said of the ACC canceling games. “It begs one question: If their two most highly ranked teams were, for instance, [ranked] five and six in the CFP Rankings, would this decision have been made?”
  • As Sankey noted, the Aggies are one of the teams impacted by this. They need to win potentially three remaining games on their schedule — Dec. 5 at Auburn, Dec. 12 at Tennessee and a potential makeup game vs. Ole Miss on Dec. 19. However, Saturday Down South’s Chandler Vessels writes that the Aggies also need some help since they’re currently at No. 5 in the CFP rankings, on the outside looking in. The ACC’s decision to cancel Dec. 12 games for Notre Dame and Clemson takes away two opportunities for upsets that could help A&M. Thus, Sankey’s frustration makes more sense.
  • What has been the reaction from coaches and media to the ACC’s decision? Well, let’s just say many ACC coaches aren’t happy. Three coaches spoke with Saturday Down South’s Matt Hayes, and none of them were happy with the league bending over backward to protect Notre Dame and Clemson. Some fiery comments in that article. However, Shawn Spencer, who writes for Fansided’s Clemson site, says Sankey has no business discussing what the ACC should do.

Here’s an interesting scenario proposed by ESPN’s Dari Nowkhah. The SEC could potentially get three teams in the Playoff. Basically, Notre Dame needs to beat Clemson in the ACC title game, Florida needs to beat Alabama in the SEC title game and Texas A&M needs to win out. Additionally, the CFP committee needs to decide that Ohio State hasn’t played enough games to make the field. Crazy? Yes, but this is 2020 after all. Until the final Playoff rankings come out, it’s safe to say Sankey will be watching every other conference’s moves very closely.

JUST FOR FUN

Most analysts have Alabama QB Mac Jones, Florida QB Kyle Trask, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State QB Justin Fields and BYU QB Ty Detmer as their Heisman Trophy frontrunners, in some order. So, for today’s quiz, let’s see how well you know those schools’ histories. Can you name each of those program’s last Heisman Trophy winner? (Hint: One of the five schools has never had a Heisman winner.)

Scroll down for the answers to today’s quiz.

UPSET ALERT

The regular season is winding down for many teams. Can these ranked squads avoid December upsets?

With conference championship games set for Dec. 19, there are only a couple of weeks left for teams to get regular-season games played. For schools that have been hit harder by COVID-19, it’s a mad scramble to get as many games in as possible. But, with those extra games comes extra upset potential.

So, which teams currently ranked in the top 25 of the College Football Playoff rankings should be on high alert this week? Let’s put four ranked squads on upset alert:

  • Let’s start with the much-discussed Texas A&M Aggies. At No. 5 in the Playoff rankings, every game will be a tense one for Jimbo Fisher’s crew. And, this weekend, they head to Jordan-Hare Stadium to face Auburn. Strange, crazy things happen there. Auburn has been involved in some of the wildest endings in all of college football in its home stadium over the past decade. Can the Tigers pull off another stunning win? Saturday Down South’s Thomas Schlarp names three ways the Tigers can end the Aggies’ CFP dreams.
  • Next, we’ll head to the Big Ten to discuss the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes are at No. 19 in the CFP rankings, but a road trip to Illinois looms large this weekend. The Illini are coming off back-to-back wins at Rutgers and Nebraska and had an impromptu off week last Saturday as their game against Ohio State was canceled. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz knows the Illini aren’t to be taken lightly.
  • Tulsa has been having a fantastic season thus far. The Golden Hurricanes travel to Annapolis to take on Navy. No, it hasn’t been a great year for the Midshipmen, who are currently 3-5. However, their triple-option attack is always tricky to prepare for. ESPN’s FPI gives Tulsa an 84% chance to win, but the Golden Hurricanes will need to make sure they don’t get caught looking ahead to a huge matchup against Cincinnati next weekend.
  • Finally, the Miami Hurricanes need to watch out against Duke. As mentioned in a previous section, the ACC just canceled Notre Dame and Clemson’s games on Dec. 12. That has to rub the Hurricanes the wrong way, since it nearly kills their chances of beating out Clemson for the second spot in the ACC title game. One ACC coach told Saturday Down South’s Matt Hayes that Miami coach Manny Diaz should be angry. “Are you kidding me? Miami has 1 loss. What if Clemson loses to Tech or in that (Dec.12) week? Sure, it’s rare, but we’ve seen stranger things. We have no idea who is going to get hurt, how many turnovers a team is giving away. You’re telling Miami 2 weeks before the end of the season to go jump in a lake. We don’t care about you. That’s a big, big deal. If I were (Miami coach) Manny (Diaz), I’d be screaming from the mountaintops how this goes against everything we stand for in athletic competition.” Can the Hurricanes channel that anger into another win? Or will this disrespect from the ACC lead to an upset loss?

There are some great games on the schedule this weekend. There are sure to be some close contests and some potentially major upsets. Which teams will go down and have their Playoff or conference championship hopes dashed? We’ll know soon enough!

ANSWERS

Here are the answers to today’s Heisman quiz. The last Heisman Trophy winners from Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, BYU and Clemson were:

  • Alabama: Derrick Henry (2015)
  • Florida: Tim Tebow (2007)
  • Ohio State: Troy Smith (2006)
  • BYU: Ty Detmer (1990)
  • Clemson: Never had a Heisman winner

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I know my clock is ticking. I’ve only got one more year to play, and the momentum Dillon (Gabriel) has, I wouldn’t want any controversy in the locker room. He’s earned the right to be the starter here at UCF. I see that, and I feel it’s best for both UCF and myself that I move on elsewhere. I’m trying to chase the dream of playing in the NFL, so I’ve got to give myself the best opportunity to do that.

“It is very emotional, but it’s one of those things where Dillon and I are on our own paths. He’s on his at UCF and I just feel like mine is coming to an end, so I feel like the torch is passed. He’s going to continue to do great things. It’s a hard decision, but it also makes the most sense.

“There’s no bitter feelings toward UCF. I will always bleed black and gold. It’s the end of a chapter for me and my playing career here, and that’s probably the bittersweet part of it. We were able to accomplish a lot in my time here, and it’s been nothing but a blessing.”

– UCF star QB McKenzie Milton has been rehabbing a gruesome injury suffered on Nov. 23, 2018, against USF. He’s nearing a return to the field, but after entering the NCAA transfer portal on Thursday, that return won’t happen at UCF. He issued a classy statement in an interview with ESPN about his time with the Knights and passing the torch to Dillon Gabriel.

TWEET OF THE DAY

Even during the best of times, Vol Calls — the weekly call-in radio program hosted by the Tennessee head coach — is a delightful train wreck. Now that the Vols are struggling after a 2-0 start, Jeremy Pruitt has had to deal with plenty of negativity during the show. One of this week’s callers may have taken the cake, though.

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