Saturday Football: SEC superlatives, great uniforms and The U is back!
The Saturday Football newsletter goes out to subscribers up to 3 days a week and discusses the major events going on around the nation in college football. You can subscribe by clicking here.
Good morning and happy Monday! It sure does feel like football season is here now that the SEC is back in action, right? From now on, Saturdays will be full of college football, and it’s only going to get better as the Big Ten and Pac-12 return to play over the next few weeks.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll look at some of the breakout performances and oddities from Week 1 in the SEC. We’ll also take a trip down to Miami, where the Hurricanes might be for real. Then, we’ll discuss the weekend’s best uniforms. Let’s get started!
SEC HIGHLIGHTS AND ODDITIES
The SEC is back! Week 1 was just as wild and strange as we’ve come to expect in 2020.
The SEC is back, and in true 2020 fashion, Week 1’s slate of games featured some crazy plays, questionable calls, unlikely heroes, upsets and Heisman-level performances. There was plenty to take away from the weekend of games, so we’ll stick with some of the biggest and most interesting stories.
From the Air Raid taking down the reigning champs to Auburn making a statement to Georgia’s quarterback battle, here were some of our biggest takeaways from Week 1 in the SEC:
- Entering the season, the Georgia Bulldogs had a big-time QB battle. The battle was expected to be between transfers Jamie Newman and JT Daniels. Then, Newman opted out. Then, Daniels wasn’t medically cleared for action ahead of Saturday’s game. That left D’Wan Mathis as the starter, with many wondering if freshman Carson Beck was his backup. What if we told you it was actually Stetson Bennett IV who led the Bulldogs to a 37-10 road win against Arkansas after taking over for Mathis? Bennett completed 20 of his 29 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Kirby Smart explained his decision to switch to Bennett after the first few drives. Now, the QB battle continues heading into Week 2.
- Speaking of quarterbacks, KJ Costello made quite an SEC debut. After coming to Mississippi State as a graduate transfer to run first-year coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, all Costello did was shatter the SEC’s single-game passing record, throwing for 623 yards. He also had five touchdowns. Costello got emotional in his postgame interview. Leach had a much more measured (and hilarious) response to his team’s upset 44-34 victory on the road over defending champion LSU.
- The craziest game of the week might have been Florida at Ole Miss. The Rebels broke out a turnover cash bag in Lane Kiffin’s debut. They also had a touchdown chain. Kiffin explained both new props. That game also gave us our first SEC ejection, as Florida S Shawn Davis Jr. was flagged for targeting on this iffy call. Davis went straight to his phone in the locker room, ripping the refs on Twitter within minutes. The Gators still cruised to a 51-35 win, and QB Kyle Trask launched his Heisman campaign, throwing for 416 yards and six touchdowns.
- Next, let’s head to Auburn, where the Tigers made a big statement. Many were on the Kentucky bandwagon, but big plays like this from WR Seth Williams led Auburn to a 29-13 victory. It wasn’t all good, though. There was a questionable sequence at the end of the first half. First, it appeared Kentucky was denied an obvious touchdown. Then, a questionable penalty brought back an Auburn pick-six (and infuriated Gus Malzahn). Hey, it was Week 1 for the refs, too!
Oh, and of course, there was Will Muschamp’s name trending on Twitter after midnight on the East Coast. Safe to say South Carolina fans weren’t thrilled with the loss to Tennessee. What a week in the SEC! Glad to have it padding our Saturday schedules. We’ll see what next weekend brings.
The SEC was back in action on Saturday and there were some insane offensive numbers put up by top players. However, since other conferences already have multiple games under their belts, there aren’t any SEC stars showing up on the national stat leader list just yet.
As we head into Week 5 of the college season (and Week 2 of SEC play), here are the players who lead the FBS level in the following nine statistical categories (via CFBStats.com):
- Passing yards: Jack Abraham, Southern Miss — 877
- Passing TDs: Sam Ehlinger, Texas — 10
- Rushing yards: Ulysses Bentley IV, SMU — 380
- Rushing TDs: Two players tied — 7
- Receiving yards: Jacob Cowing, UTEP — 377
- Receiving TDs: Jaelon Darden, North Texas — 5
- Sacks: Victor Dimukeje, Duke — 4.0
- Tackles: Lorenzo McCaskill, Louisiana — 36
- Interceptions: Nine players tied — 2
Who will put up big numbers this weekend and earn their way onto the list? Check back in next Monday’s newsletter for a look at the updated stat leaders.
- The SEC season started Saturday, and what a day of games it was. There was an upset (Mississippi State over LSU), an offensive explosion (Florida over Ole Miss), a shocking near-upset (Texas A&M over Vanderbilt) and more. So, where do things stand in the SEC entering Week 2? Saturday Down South’s Joe Cox ranked each of the 14 SEC squads following Saturday’s action.
- The Big Ten will return to action in a few weeks on Oct. 24. The offseason has been full of twists and turns for commissioner Kevin Warren and the conference. Can the B1G change its public image after repeated embarrassments over the summer? Saturday Tradition’s Phil Ervin writes about the path forward for the Big Ten.
- Florida QB Kyle Trask had an incredible day on Saturday. He threw for 416 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions against Ole Miss. Was that a Heisman-level performance? Six touchdowns tied him with Joe Burrow for most touchdown passes in an SEC opener. Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer writes that Trask could be college football’s next Joe Burrow. High praise.
- How will Saturday’s crazy results impact the College Football Playoff? No. 3 Oklahoma lost to unranked Kansas State. Florida looked legitimate. Georgia struggled. LSU lost to Mississippi State. Where do things stand now in the Playoff race? ESPN’s Heather Dinich breaks down the wild weekend and how it impacted the Playoff picture.
THE U IS BACK?
Miami is getting a lot of attention following a 3-0 start. Are the ‘Canes College Football Playoff contenders?
Doesn’t it feel a little bit like we’ve stumbled upon a time machine and traveled back in time? Miami might be the hottest, most talked-about team in college football right now and it doesn’t involve shutout losses, a coach on the hot seat or low fan attendance. Three games into the 2020 season, the Hurricanes are back in the national spotlight.
It started with a 47-34 road win over Louisville and elevated with a 52-10 victory over Florida State. On the efforts of new quarterback D’Eriq King and an opportunistic defense, Miami sits at 3-0 and is ranked No. 8 in the latest AP Top 25. In two weeks, they’ll put their talent to the test against No. 1 Clemson in what has become one of the premier ACC matchups this season — a game ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit is already excited to see.
How have the Hurricanes gotten to this point after an utterly forgettable 6-7 campaign in 2019?
- It all starts at the quarterback position with the transfer from Houston. King is a major upgrade from anyone Miami had under center last season, and he’s proving it on a weekly basis. Through three games, King has thrown for 736 yards and six touchdowns with a 67% completion rate and no interceptions. He’s also totaled 147 yards and reached the end zone once on the ground. King’s performance has not only resulted in three Hurricanes wins, but he’s becoming a true contender for the Heisman Trophy.
- Hiring Rhett Lashlee was a smart move by Manny Diaz, too. We’re all aware of the cliched saying “it’s the Jimmies and the Joes, not the Xs and the Os,” but you still need at least some ingenuity offensively in today’s game. Lashlee has brought that to Miami and he knows exactly how to put the football in the hands of his playmakers. This was a smart hire by Diaz, but Herbstreit doesn’t think it will be long before Lashlee leaves Miami for a head coaching job.
- The defense deserves a lot of credit, as well. Miami’s defense probably isn’t the most feared in college football, but it is a unit that plays an opportunistic brand of football. Through three games, the ‘Canes have racked up a ridiculous 31 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and forced six turnovers — which includes an embarrassing trick play attempt by Florida State that was sniffed out immediately by Miami’s defense.
- But do the Hurricanes actually have a shot at the College Football Playoff? The safe answer here is we simply don’t know. Bold take, right? But if Miami continues to play as well as it has on both sides of the ball, there’s a legitimate path to sneak into the four-team field. There are a couple analysts at ESPN who have already penciled the Hurricanes into the field when a few obstacles were cleared this weekend. No. 3 Oklahoma blew a 21-point lead at home to Kansas State to fall to 1-1. Ask Urban Meyer, and he’ll tell you the Sooners are “done” in the national championship race. And then Mississippi State upset defending champion and No. 6 LSU 44-34 in Death Valley. With a generous schedule and a year full of unpredictably, this is certainly Miami’s best shot to creep into the College Football Playoff.
Let’s be honest, it’s probably a little too early to start talking about how Miami is a threat to the likes of Clemson and Notre Dame in the ACC this year. The Hurricanes have been the beneficiaries of a generous schedule, with wins over UAB, a 1-2 Louisville team and a winless Florida State squad. There’s no doubt this team is much better than it was a season ago, though.
Miami gets an off week before a showdown with top-ranked Clemson, and both teams will (likely) be 3-0 for that showdown on Oct. 10. That will be the moment of truth for Diaz and the Hurricanes.
JUST FOR FUN
Reigning national champion LSU lost at home against Mississippi State, 44-34, on Saturday afternoon. Reigning champs don’t often lose their first game the following year. In fact, it hardly ever happens. Can you name the last reigning AP national champion to lose its first game the following season?
Scroll down to see the answer to today’s quiz.
This weekend was a great one for uniforms. Which top programs brought out the best combos on Saturday?
We are truly living through a golden age when it comes to uniform combinations. Teams are more willing to experiment, and that has led to some all-time great combos in recent years. The 2020 season has also featured its fair share of great looks already.
From Georgia’s anniversary look to an awesome reveal for Air Force to a touching tribute at Auburn to Pitt’s bold new look above, let’s take a look at some of the best combinations from around the country:
- Let’s start with those black and gray Pitt uniforms you can see above. Pitt picked up a narrow 23-20 home win over a ranked Louisville squad with that look. The story behind the uniforms? They’re a tribute to Pittsburgh’s heritage as “Steel City.” Take a look at all the uniform details here. Hopefully, this cool new look stays in the rotation.
- Week 1 in the SEC featured a bunch of unique, awesome combinations. First, check out this look from Georgia, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship. Ole Miss had perhaps the best look of the weekend, breaking out powder blue jerseys to go with its powder blue helmets. Then there was South Carolina. The Gamecocks were looking sharp in this all-black combo.
- Now, let’s look not at uniforms, but Gus Malzahn’s coaching attire. Legendary Auburn coach Pat Dye died back in June, and Malzahn paid tribute to Dye with his look during the game. As you can see here, Malzahn sported a throwback hat and Dye’s signature style of tie. What a great gesture.
- Finally, we’ll head west of the Mississippi River to Colorado. The Air Force Falcons only have two games on their current schedule (though the Mountain West is exploring options to return), so they’re planning on making their uniforms count. The Falcons announced they’d be honoring the Tuskegee Airmen with these uniforms they’ll wear against Navy on Oct. 3. Incredible.
See? We told you it was a golden age for uniform combinations. With shortened seasons for many conferences, schools are having to jam all their fun looks into the condensed schedules. We can’t wait to see what combos this coming weekend brings. Check back next Monday for more uniform talk!
To find the last reigning national champion to lose in Week 1 the following season, you have to go all the way back to 1998. That’s when the Michigan Wolverines, who were the 1997 AP national champions, lost 36-20 at No. 22 Notre Dame in their first game. How long ago was that? Well, the 1997 season in which Michigan was the undefeated champion (splitting title honors with Nebraska) was the last one before the BCS era began!
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I tell you what, it’s a hell of a job by those kids. I think Coach Spurrier probably owes me a drink then tonight when I get home. I’m gonna have to go over to his house right there, because that would be hard to do, to pass some of the things that he did here.”
– Florida coach Dan Mullen joked about going over to Steve Spurrier’s house for a drink after Florida’s 51-35 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday. The Gators set a school record with 642 total yards of offense. It is also an SEC record for a team playing a conference game.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Bleacher Report NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller set Florida Twitter ablaze on Saturday afternoon, comparing QB Kyle Trask to Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen. Miller meant it as a compliment, but fans were quick to point out all the differences they see in Trask and Allen’s games.
This edition of the Saturday Football newsletter was written by Adam Spencer and Dustin Schutte.