Saturday Football: Ohio State's Playoff peril, history made, Derek Mason fired and uniform talk
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Good morning and happy Monday! It was a busy weekend around the college football world. Many games were canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, but many others were played as scheduled. History was even made this weekend in an otherwise forgettable game.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll discuss Ohio State’s situation, as the Buckeyes are facing a dire situation with regards to their Big Ten Championship Game eligibility and College Football Playoff hopes. Then, we’ll dive into Sarah Fuller and the kick seen ’round the world. We’ll also take a look at Vanderbilt’s decision to fire Derek Mason. Finally, we’ll discuss some of the weekend’s best uniform combinations. Let’s get started, shall we?
BUCKEYES ON THE BRINK
Ohio State is on the verge of missing the B1G title game. Can the Buckeyes still make the Playoff?
Ohio State could find itself in the most unique predicament in college football in one week. After Saturday’s game against Illinois was canceled at the last second due to an increased number of positive COVID-19 cases, which included head coach Ryan Day, the Buckeyes are just one cancellation from being ruled ineligible for the B1G Championship Game on Dec. 19. Through no fault of the play on the field, Ohio State may not be permitted to pursue its fourth-straight conference title.
That brings up two questions regarding the Buckeyes as the season has just three weeks remaining. First, should the B1G reconsider its minimum-game requirement to include a team that may not hit the current 6-game mark? And second, is Ohio State still a legitimate contender for the College Football Playoff with such a limited sample size? Let’s take a look at the unique circumstances facing Ohio State with three weeks to play:
- Kickoff is still a week away, but there’s already concern over another cancellation. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported on Saturday afternoon that there was already a bleak outlook for Ohio State to play against Michigan State next week, as scheduled. Because of the total number of cases in Columbus, there’s concern that the team won’t even be allowed in the football facility next week. That means Ohio State would finish the season with only 5 games. The threshold is 6 to compete in the B1G title game.
- The focus has been on health and safety, not football. That was the message athletic director Gene Smith and head coach Ryan Day wanted to get across to the media on Saturday. Both reiterated that they wanted to focus on the well-being of the players more than anything. And when asked about asking the B1G to reconsider its stance on a 6-game minimum, Smith acknowledged that he “hasn’t even thought about it” at this time. FOX’s Joel Klatt has thought about it, though. saying the B1G should eliminate the requirement. If nothing changes from the league and Ohio State doesn’t play next week against Michigan State, there’s still a chance it could still compete in the championship game, but it’s a real longshot.
- There are varying opinions on what this means for the College Football Playoff. SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum said the selection committee should “find a way” to include Ohio State, even if it can’t compete in the B1G Championship Game. The College GameDay crew thinks it’s still possible the Buckeyes could earn a bid, but there wasn’t much confidence it would actually happen. Saturday Tradition’s Ryan Clark gave five reasons why Ohio State should still be included in the four-team field. Columnist Ryan O’Gara agrees, pointing to the fact that the College Football Playoff is not setting a minimum-game requirement to earn a spot.
We could, and probably will, debate all day whether or not a 5- or 6-win Ohio State team deserves to play for a national championship. But former head coach and current analyst Urban Meyer put everything in perspective on Saturday afternoon, saying “your heart breaks” for the student-athletes who have already seen so many games canceled this season, when all they wanted to do was play.
The 2020 college football season is reaching its stretch run. Many of the FBS conferences are nearing the ends of their regular seasons with different numbers of games played, which leads to chaos atop the statistical leaderboards. As we inch toward December, though, there have been some eye-popping numbers put up by players across the nation.
The leaders in nine key statistical categories include four players from the SEC. There are also two categories where multiple players are tied for the national lead. Below, you can see the leaders in a number of stats (via CFBStats.com):
- Passing yards: Dillon Gabriel, UCF — 3,353
- Passing TDs: Kyle Trask, Florida — 34
- Rushing yards: Sincere McCormick, UTSA — 1,345
- Rushing TDs: Najee Harris, Alabama — 17
- Receiving yards: Elijah Moore, Ole Miss — 1,193
- Receiving TDs: Three players tied — 12
- Sacks: Patrick Johnson, Tulane — 10.0
- Tackles: Grant Morgan, Arkansas — 104
- Interceptions: Three players tied — 5
As teams prepare for their final regular-season games, will we see more shuffling atop the leaderboards? Check back next Monday to see how the leaderboards have changed!
SARAH FULLER MAKES HISTORY
Sarah Fuller became the first woman to log a snap in a Power 5 game. How big is this moment?
Just by putting on a Vanderbilt jersey on Saturday, Sarah Fuller made history. When she came out of the tunnel for warmups, she became the first woman ever to dress for an SEC football game. That wasn’t the only history she made against Mizzou, though. To start the second half, she handled the kickoff for the Commodores, perfectly executing a squib kick she had worked on with her coaches all week. With that kick, she became the first woman to log a snap in a Power 5 game.
This historic moment was praised by fans and media across the country. What does it mean for the sport of football? And, what happens next? Let’s take a look at some of the headlines to come from Saturday’s kick seen ’round the world:
- Fuller, the goalie for Vandy’s SEC title-winning soccer team, has a unique kicking style. Obviously, soccer balls and footballs are different, so there’s a different style used in each sport. College GameDay analyst Desmond Howard caught some flak during Saturday’s show for comparing Fuller’s style to Charles Barkley’s legendarily awkward golf swing. During the first half of Saturday’s game, fans were also getting angry on Twitter as Vanderbilt’s inept offense failed to give Fuller a chance to attempt a field goal or extra point.
- Other than that, there was a lot of positivity around Fuller’s moment. Before her kick to start the second half, Fuller gave a halftime speech in the Vanderbilt locker room, calling for her new teammates to be more positive and support each other on the sidelines. After the game, she was interviewed by the SEC Network and shared a message with any girls watching her play. “I just want to tell all the girls out there that you can do anything you set your mind to,” she said. On Sunday, she said she doesn’t see why a woman shouldn’t be able to earn a scholarship for any position.
- Is Fuller going to continue to kick for the Commodores? Yes, she is. After the game, coach Derek Mason (who already has nicknamed Fuller “Champ” for helping Vandy win the SEC soccer title) said Vanderbilt would “love to have her” next week. (Mason, however, was fired on Sunday.) On Sunday morning, Fuller said she will indeed stick with the football team, adding that she’s already requested film of NFL kickers with similar kicking styles.
- The media and athlete reaction to Fuller’s kick was incredible. Fuller revealed to ESPN’s Linda Cohn that many of her U.S. soccer idols, including Mia Hamm, Carli Lloyd and Tim Howard, have reached out to her on social media. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum said he’d rank Fuller’s kick as one of the top moments in league history. Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer wrote that Fuller’s kickoff was a rare bright spot in a strange 2020 season. Finally, check out ESPN’s photo gallery from the historic day.
What’s next for Fuller? Well, a woman has never scored a point in a Power 5 game. Katie Hnida (New Mexico, 2003) and April Goss (Kent State, 2015) have scored points at the FBS level, but those are Group of 5 schools. Vanderbilt never got into field goal range in Saturday’s 41-0 loss at Mizzou. Will the Commodores be able to give Fuller a shot at scoring points this weekend at Georgia? We’ll find out on Saturday!
- Buffalo RB Jaret Patterson had a ridiculous stat line on Saturday. He torched the Kent State defense for 409 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. The 8 rushing touchdowns tied an FBS record. The 409 yards came up 18 yards shy of an FBS record. Buffalo News columnist Mike Harrington wrote a column about Patterson’s record-setting day.
- The regular season is winding down across the FBS landscape. Though there are still a couple of weeks left, we have a pretty clear picture of where things stand in most conferences. Saturday Down South’s Joe Cox updated his weekly SEC power rankings and Saturday Tradition’s Jim Tomlin did the same thing for the B1G.
- Alabama QB Mac Jones is considered one of the Heisman frontrunners. He is outperforming the expectations of many analysts who considered him a “game manager” heading into the 2020 season. Saturday Down South’s Dave Wasson breaks down how Jones has shed that label and taken on the label of “winner.”
- There were several entertaining games and big performances this week. Even with all the games canceled and postponed, there was plenty to take away from the weekend’s action. Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon names several winners and losers from the week.
Vanderbilt has parted ways with head coach Derek Mason. Where should the Commodores turn next?
For the second day in a row, Vanderbilt made major headlines on Sunday. As mentioned in the previous section, Saturday was all about kicker Sarah Fuller. On Sunday, the Commodores decided to fire head coach Derek Mason after the weekend’s 41-0 loss at Mizzou sent the team to 0-8 on the season.
So, Mason finishes his six-plus years at Vanderbilt with an overall record of 27-55. He went 10-46 in SEC play and 0-2 in bowl games. What led to this decision and where should the Commodores turn next? Let’s take a look at some of the immediate reaction to Vanderbilt’s decision:
- Vanderbilt announced that OC Todd Fitch would serve as interim coach. After Mason was fired, fans and media members took to Twitter to wish him well while also expressing that this move was perhaps overdue. Mason himself took to Twitter to issue a statement thanking Vanderbilt and its fans for the past several years. Many people are speculating that Mason will end up with a defensive coordinator job in the near future.
- So, where should the Commodores turn for their next coach? AP writer Ralph Russo named a pair of college defensive coordinators and former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher to his watch list. Former Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers explained why Arkansas DC (and former Mizzou head coach) Barry Odom makes sense in Nashville. Vanderbilt insider Chris Lee also put together a list of candidates.
- Can the Commodores lure a flashy hire to Nashville? The Vanderbilt facilities lag behind other state-of-the-art facilities in the SEC. Academic standards are also stricter than many other schools. Rodgers blasted the Vanderbilt administration and said no coach will be able to win there without an overhaul. Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara agreed with Rodgers, writing that it is now time for Vanderbilt to get serious about football.
Firing Mason now was a bit of a surprise, but perhaps Vanderbilt wanted to make sure it didn’t get left behind on the coaching carousel. The search is on for a new coach. We’ll see if the Commodores invest more in their football facilities moving forward. For now, Mason is a free agent, too. He’ll be an interesting name to keep an eye on as teams find themselves looking for defensive coordinators.
JUST FOR FUN
We mentioned in the previous section that Vanderbilt is now an abysmal 0-8. But, the Commodores are far from the only winless team in the FBS ranks. There are a total of 13 teams that have played at least three games this season and have yet to win. For today’s quiz, can you name those 13 teams?
Scroll down for the answers to today’s quiz.
It was another interesting weekend for uniform combinations. Which teams wore it best (and worst)?
Rivalry Week is always an exciting one in the college football world. Yes, this weekend was different due to the pandemic and the schedule changes it has caused, but it was still fun and plenty of good games were played. That means there were also some fun uniform combinations (and some not-so-fun combos).
So, which teams had the best and worst looks of the weekend? Let’s take a look at some of the uniform combinations we liked best from this week in college football:
- Let’s start with one of the ugliest visual games we’ve seen this year. As you can see in the photo above, the Oregon-Oregon State rivalry game was an eyesore. Oregon’s bright yellow jerseys against Oregon State’s bright orange? Not great. Here’s another picture of the uniforms. The game, however, was much more entertaining, with the Beavers pulling off an upset over the rival Ducks.
- Indiana also made an interesting uniform choice this weekend. Playing against Maryland, the Hoosiers broke out their military appreciation uniforms. Those are the same uniforms that were nixed earlier this year against Michigan because of a lack of contrast between them and the Wolverines’ uniforms. That apparently wasn’t a problem this time around, though.
- The Big Game is always an iconic affair between Cal and Stanford. Their uniforms never disappoint. As you can see here, it’s always a great look when Stanford is in all-white uniforms and Cal has on its blue jerseys and gold pants. It’s an even better look on a sunny Friday afternoon at Cal’s iconic stadium.
- Finally, let’s end with a touching tribute to a fallen teammate. Texas State’s Khambrail Winters was killed in a shooting early last week. When the Bobcats came out for their game against Coastal Carolina, they carried Winters’ jersey with them. Powerful moment.
The regular season is starting to wind down. That means there are only a couple more weeks for teams to impress with their jerseys and uniforms. Hopefully, that means we’ll see some squads pulling out all the stops this coming weekend. Tune in next Monday for some more uniform talk!
The 13 FBS teams that have played at least three games and are still winless are:
- Cal (0-3)
- Arizona (0-3)
- UMass (0-4)
- Akron (0-4)
- Bowling Green (0-4)
- Eastern Michigan (0-4)
- Northern Illinois (0-4)
- UNLV (0-5)
- FIU (0-5)
- New Mexico (0-5)
- Kansas (0-8)
- Vanderbilt (0-8)
- Louisiana-Monroe (0-9)
Utah (0-2) and Arizona State (0-1) are also winless, but haven’t played enough games yet to qualify for this list.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I think I did yell at the TV a couple times today. A couple times when we made some mistakes in coverage. A couple times when we missed some tackles. A couple times when Mac didn’t throw the ball to the guy I thought he should have thrown it to (laughs). So, I guess it was more than a couple.”
– Alabama coach Nick Saban wasn’t able to be on the sidelines for Saturday’s Iron Bowl due to a positive COVID-19 test. He watched on TV and joked that there may have been a few times when he wasn’t too happy with his squad during the 42-13 win.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Northwestern and Oregon entered the weekend as fringe College Football Playoff contenders. They both promptly lost. Now, it seems neither squad will have a legitimate chance of making the field of four Playoff teams.
This edition of the Saturday Football newsletter was written by Adam Spencer and Dustin Schutte.