Saturday Football: SEC's awful week, Hoosier uprising and upset alert
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Good morning and happy Friday the 13th! It hasn’t been a great week in terms of college football games being canceled and postponed due to COVID-19, but there are still a number of high-profile matchups across the country on track to be played tonight and tomorrow.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll discuss the SEC’s awful week, as the conference has been hit hardest by COVID. Then, we’ll talk about the resurgent Indiana program under coach Tom Allen. Finally, we’ll put a few ranked squads on upset alert. Without further ado, let’s get started with today’s newsletter!
SEC’S AWFUL WEEK
The SEC has lost four games to COVID-19 concerns this week. Will the league be able to make up all the games?
The SEC currently has five teams ranked in the AP Poll. On Saturday, only one of those squads will actually take the field — No. 6 Florida. That’s because the SEC has lost four games this week to COVID-19 concerns. Alabama-LSU, Texas A&M-Tennessee, Georgia-Mizzou and Auburn-Mississippi State have all been postponed. There are concerns about making up those games, too, as some of the teams involved already have games scheduled for Dec. 12, which was supposed to be the flex week to play postponed matchups.
So, how is the SEC handling this no-good, very-awful week? Let’s take a look at what’s being said about this rough week down south:
- The SEC is actively looking into options to get games played. All the conference ADs have reportedly agreed to use Dec. 19 as an additional makeup date for teams not in the SEC Championship Game (also scheduled for Dec. 19). Of course, that won’t solve the rescheduling issues for LSU. The Tigers are supposed to make up a game with Florida on Dec. 12. With Alabama and Florida looking like the likely title-game participants, LSU would have to go without one of those matchups. Should it come to a tiebreaker for a division title, the SEC released some updated guidelines for eligibility. It’ll be interesting to see if those have to be used.
- What does the league office think of the outbreaks at programs? SEC Network host Paul Finebaum says the SEC is growing frustrated with player behavior. LSU’s outbreak was reportedly due to a Halloween party, though coach Ed Orgeron said he doesn’t know anything about that.
- Texas A&M could be in a precarious position for a couple of weeks. The Aggies’ matchup this weekend can be made up on Dec. 12, but there’s concern about next weekend’s game against Ole Miss. One unnamed source says it is 99% likely to get postponed or canceled. What’s going on in College Station? AD Ross Bjork explained that there are only three active COVID cases in the A&M program, but due to contact tracing from last week’s road game, many others are in quarantine.
- This situation is causing plenty of headaches for commissioner Greg Sankey. Sankey said the league wouldn’t be opposed to a massive schedule reshuffling if it would allow all the games to be played. There was already one big shakeup earlier this year. Flexibility is the name of the game, and Sankey seems to understand that. Sankey said the league will be flexible, but will try to get the SEC title game played on Dec. 19. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, a member of the College Football Playoff operations committee, said the Playoff and New Year’s 6 bowl games could be open to changing dates, too. That would allow leagues like the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 more time to get their games in. Finally, Sankey said the SEC would have conversations about visitor’s locker rooms. They are often much smaller than home locker rooms and could be contributing to virus spread.
College football isn’t the only area of life where the virus continues to make headlines. Cases are on the rise across the country. If the season is going to reach the finish line, flexibility will be important. Crazy ideas might be needed. Heck, Ohio State’s punter even tweeted at Alabama joking about potentially playing each other this week (since the Buckeyes and Tide had their games postponed due to outbreaks at Maryland and LSU, respectively). While that game won’t happen (at least until the Playoff, perhaps), we could see some big schedule changes coming in the next few days. Stay tuned!
As mentioned in the previous section, the SEC has been hit hard by games being postponed due to COVID-19. No. 3 Ohio State’s game against Maryland has also been canceled. But, that doesn’t mean the college football slate is empty this weekend. There are still some intriguing matchups scheduled to take place.
So, which teams are expected to win the big games remaining on the schedule? Here are some of the lines for this weekend’s important matchups (via the DraftKings Sportsbook):
Friday, Nov. 13
- East Carolina at No. 7 Cincinnati (-27.5)
Saturday, Nov. 14
- No. 10 Indiana (-7) at Michigan State
- No. 9 Miami at Virginia Tech (-2)
- No. 15 Coastal Carolina (-11.5) at Troy
- Middle Tennessee at No. 16 Marshall (-24)
- Western Carolina at No. 22 Liberty (-32.5)
- South Alabama at No. 25 Louisiana (-16)
- No. 2 Notre Dame (-13.5) at Boston College
- No. 20 USC (-14) at Arizona
- No. 23 Northwestern (-2.5) at Purdue
- Arkansas at No. 6 Florida (-17.5)
- No. 11 Oregon (-10) at Washington State
- No. 19 SMU at Tulsa (-2.5)
- No. 13 Wisconsin (-4.5) at Michigan
Will we see some carnage in the rankings this week? Or, will the big favorites continue to win? We’ll put a few ranked teams on upset alert later in today’s newsletter.
- The SEC has several intriguing quarterbacks this season. From a pair of Heisman contenders at Alabama and Florida to Georgia’s mess to Tennessee’s uncertainty, there’s plenty of interest across the conference at the most important position in football. Saturday Down South’s Matt Hinton ranks all 14 SEC QB situations in his weekly column.
- There are always teams that don’t get the attention they deserve. From resurgent Power 5 teams to under-the-radar Group of 5 squads, there are plenty of teams that deserve more love. Bleacher Report’s Brad Shepard named 9 teams from around the country that are underrated.
- North Texas’s QB coach was arrested on serious charges two days before the opener. In his place, graduate assistants Quinn Shanbour and Dane Evans have stepped up and are big parts of the Mean Green’s dynamic offense, which currently ranks No. 2 nationally in yards per game. FootballScoop.com’s Zach Barnett profiles the journey that brought both Shanbour and Evans to North Texas.
- On Thursday, Kentucky announced OL coach John Schlarman had died. He was 45 and had battled cancer for two years. His impact was immense on the Kentucky program. Saturday Down South’s Joe Cox wrote a moving piece on just how much Schlarman meant in Lexington.
Indiana has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. How long can the Hoosiers keep winning?
Many consider 0-3 Penn State to be one of the biggest surprises/disappointments of the 2020 season thus far. On the other end of that spectrum is 3-0 Indiana. The Hoosiers have been magnificent under coach Tom Allen, who is in his fourth full season as the team’s head coach. So far, the Hoosiers have beaten Penn State, Rutgers and Michigan in exciting fashion.
So, how real is this Indiana team? Can the Hoosiers continue to rack up wins? Here’s what is being said about Indiana as the Hoosiers prepare for this week’s game at Michigan State:
- Indiana is up to No. 10 in the AP Poll after beating Michigan last week. That’s its best ranking since 1969. Yeah, that’s a really long time. Allen knows that’s a reason to celebrate. He certainly celebrated after the Hoosiers sealed the win vs. Michigan. He explained that a celebration was how he cut open his cheek. He added that this wasn’t the first time he’s hurt himself celebrating, sharing a story of cracking his front teeth during his time at Ole Miss. Ouch.
- A big reason for Indiana’s success is QB Michael Penix Jr. The left-handed quarterback has thrown for 750 yards, 7 touchdowns and only 1 interception through 3 games. He’s added 2 scores as a runner. Penix got the game ball after the win over Michigan. Saturday Tradition’s Kyle Charters writes that Penix is quickly moving up the list of Indiana’s greatest quarterbacks.
- The big question is — can the Hoosiers keep up this level of play? Indiana has a winnable game at Michigan State this weekend, but Allen isn’t taking anything for granted. Kyle Charters breaks down the road ahead for the Hoosiers, noting that they haven’t won at Michigan State since 2001. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Hoosiers a whopping 88.5% chance to beat the Spartans, but only a 10.5% chance to beat the Buckeyes on Nov. 21. The Hoosiers will also be major underdogs at Wisconsin on Dec. 5. Tougher roads lie ahead for Allen’s squad.
FOX’s Tim Brando called Indiana one of the great stories of the year. It won’t be easy, but the Hoosiers have the potential to have a special season. This week’s game is important, but next weekend’s showdown at Ohio State also looms large. We’ll see how long the magic lasts in Bloomington.
JUST FOR FUN
With college basketball getting ready to start on Wednesday, Nov. 25, let’s combine football and basketball once again for today’s quiz. Can you name the schools from each Power 5 conference (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) with the most recent titles in men’s basketball and football? (Note: It doesn’t have to be the same school. Also, for football, we’re going with AP titles only.)
Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.
Even with all the postponements, there are some great games this week. Who is on upset alert?
Yes, a number of big-time games have been canceled or postponed this week, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be excitement on Friday and Saturday nights. A number of top teams are in action, and even though there are no matchups of ranked squads, there are some potential upsets on the schedule.
So, which ranked teams are on upset alert heading into the weekend? Let’s take a look at four squads that could potentially go down to lesser foes on Saturday:
- Let’s start with another great story out of the Big Ten. Northwestern, like Indiana, is an impressive 3-0 after an abysmal 2019 season. The Wildcats are winning on the strength of their defense, which incredibly has yet to allow a second-half point this season. But, Purdue’s offense poses a big challenge. WR David Bell has been incredible, and per coach Jeff Brohm, elite WR Rondale Moore will be a game-time decision on Saturday. That duo could put up points on Northwestern.
- Next, let’s look at a game that has “letdown” written all over it. Florida is fresh off a huge win over rival Georgia and now the SEC East title is well within reach. However, a tough Arkansas team is coming to Gainesville this weekend. Former Florida QB Feleipe Franks will be eager to beat his old teammates. Yes, Arkansas will be without coach Sam Pittman, but acting head coach Barry Odom has plenty of SEC experience. Saturday Down South’s Neil Blackmon broke down 3 key matchups that will determine the winner in Saturday’s game.
- Now, let’s discuss another team facing a potential trap game. After beating No. 1 Clemson last week, Notre Dame is riding high. However, a trip to Boston College looms large this Saturday. This is the same Boston College team that nearly upset Clemson earlier this season. Boston College upset Notre Dame back in 1993 a week after the Irish knocked off No. 1 Florida State. Just don’t remind Brian Kelly of that fact. He had a great reaction when asked about that historic Notre Dame game this week. Good news for the Irish — there weren’t any COVID-19 issues within the football program after fans stormed the field last week. Don’t count out the Eagles, though.
- Finally, let’s talk about the Miami-Virginia Tech ACC matchup. The No. 9 Hurricanes are somehow underdogs in this game. Yes, it’s in Blacksburg, but Liberty just beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last week. And, to make things even better, the Hurricanes are hoping to get star TE Brevin Jordan back for this game. Something seems strange about Virginia Tech being favored, but hey, crazy things have happened a lot this year!
Every week thus far has featured crazy results and wild upsets. Even without some of the top teams in action this week, there are sure to be some surprises. How many of the teams mentioned above will lose on Saturday? We’ll find out soon enough!
The schools from each Power 5 conference with the most recent men’s basketball and football titles are:
- ACC: Clemson (football, 2018) and Virginia (basketball, 2019)
- Big 12: Texas (football, 2005) and Kansas (basketball, 2008)
- Big Ten: Ohio State (football, 2014) and Michigan State (basketball, 2000)*
- Pac-12: USC (football, 2003)** and Arizona (basketball, 1997)
- SEC: LSU (football, 2019) and Kentucky (basketball, 2012)
* Maryland won in 2002, but was a member of the ACC at the time.
** USC’s 2004 title was vacated. Also, USC split the 2003 title with LSU, but the Trojans were No. 1 in the AP rankings.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We are very excited to welcome ESPN’s College GameDay to Augusta National this Saturday. This will provide additional excitement for college football and golf fans alike. It affords us a unique opportunity to expose our sport to an audience that may be seeing the Masters for the very first time.
“And I have to say, I can’t wait to hear our friends on the College GameDay set recap the Florida Gators’ convincing win this last Saturday over the Georgia Bulldogs. I apologize to my Georgia friends, but I just had to say that.”
– Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley, a former Florida golfer, couldn’t help but troll Georgia during his pre-Masters address this week. ESPN’s College GameDay will be live from the iconic tournament tomorrow.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Kentucky announced the passing of OL coach John Schlarman at the age of 45 on Thursday. Tributes quickly poured in on social media. It’s clear he made a major impact on his players and the Kentucky program. Our thoughts go out to the Kentucky and Schlarman families.
This edition of the Saturday Football newsletter was written by Adam Spencer.