Saturday Football: The Shoe Game, Gus Malzahn fired and uniform talk
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Good morning and happy Monday! What a wild weekend of college football we just witnessed! A top team went down in stunning fashion, fog was everywhere and some highly ranked teams made big-time statements. Now, as we head into championship weekend, we’ll get our last looks at these teams before the College Football Playoff field is announced on Sunday.
In today’s newsletter, we’ll dive into the incredible LSU-Florida game, in which a thrown shoe played a huge role in the Tigers’ victory. Then, we’ll head to Auburn, where Gus Malzahn has been fired. Finally, we’ll take a look at some of the best uniform combinations of the week. Let’s get started!
THE SHOE GAME
A costly shoe-throwing penalty helped LSU upset Florida. What does the loss mean for the Gators?
The Florida Gators entered Saturday night’s home game against a struggling LSU squad ranked No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings and eager to make a statement to the CFP selection committee. They made a statement, alright, but it wasn’t the one anyone expected, as the Gators fell to the Tigers 37-34 in dramatic fashion.
The key play happened late in the fourth quarter with the score tied at 34. That’s when Florida’s defense got a big third-down stop before insanity ensued. As you can see in the image above, Florida DB Marco Wilson picked up an LSU player’s shoe and threw it 20 yards down the field, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That kept LSU’s drive alive and the Tigers marched down the field before Cade York absolutely drilled a 57-yard field goal through thick fog to give LSU the lead.
What the heck happened? And what does the loss mean for the Gators? Let’s take a look at the aftermath of Saturday’s instant classic between the Gators and Tigers:
- The 57-yard field goal was the longest field goal in LSU history. The fact that York could barely see the uprights through the fog didn’t stop him at all. What was on his mind before the kick? Well, York hilariously explained that he already was thinking about his celebration. “What I was thinking about before the kick was running down the field doing the Gator Chomp,” York said. That is absolutely savage.
- Now, let’s go back to this whole shoe-throwing situation. Marco Wilson’s dad tweeted that his son feels sick about that penalty, but that didn’t stop the jokes and trolls. Media members made plenty of foot and shoe jokes after Florida’s loss. LSU trolled Florida by tweeting a picture of the now-infamous cleat. Even LSU coach Ed Orgeron had a laugh at the Gators’ expense, joking that he gives credit to the LSU training staff for making sure the laces were loose enough of TE Kole Taylor’s cleat. It was also a big moment for this scene from Austin Powers.
- Dan Mullen is understandably taking a ton of heat after the loss. After the game, he was asked about the shoe-throwing penalty. “I didn’t see that,” Mullen said. “I guess that’s a penalty. I have no idea what happened, I didn’t see it.” Of course it is a penalty to throw an opponent’s shoe down the field, Dan. Mullen was heavily criticized on social media for the devastating loss. Former Florida WR and current SEC Network analyst Chris Doering called Saturday’s loss “the most embarrassing loss” he can remember. Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara wrote that the shoe throw shows that the Gators weren’t ready for the big time.
- So, are the Gators’ Playoff dreams officially dead? We won’t know for certain until we see where they stand in Tuesday night’s new CFP rankings, but it looks like they’ll be on the outside looking in. Mullen tried to make a case for his squad, ripping teams like Ohio State for not playing enough games. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum shot down Mullen’s argument on Sunday morning on SportsCenter, though.
Florida already has its spot in the SEC title game against No. 1 Alabama locked up for this weekend, so not all is lost. A conference title would be a good consolation prize for the Gators after their CFP dreams were dashed. One Florida fan left Saturday’s game saying that the Gators would beat Alabama. Alabama will enter the game as a two-touchdown favorite, so we’ll see what happens in Atlanta on Saturday night. As we’ve seen recently, crazy things can happen!
There is only one more weekend of the college football regular season. Some teams will be finishing their regular-season slates this week, while others will be playing in their conference championship games. Then, we’ll have bowl season as the only games remaining.
Thus, time is running out for players to make their moves up the statistical leaderboards. Here are the guys who are currently leading the nation in nine key statistical categories (via CFBStats.com):
- Passing yards: Kyle Trask, Florida — 3,717
- Passing TDs: Kyle Trask, Florida — 40
- Rushing yards: Breece Hall, Iowa State — 1,357
- Rushing TDs: Najee Harris, Alabama — 22
- Receiving yards: DeVonta Smith, Alabama — 1,327
- Receiving TDs: Jaelon Darden, North Texas — 19
- Sacks: Patrick Johnson, Tulane — 10
- Tackles: Carlton Marshall, Troy — 114
- Interceptions: Four players tied — 5
There are some tight battles atop the leaderboards, though Trask’s touchdown pass lead seems safe for now. We’ll see which players put up big numbers this coming weekend to move up in the rankings!
- It was a crazy weekend in the SEC, particularly in Gainesville. The Gators lost their shot at the College Football Playoff (most likely), but they could still win the SEC title. Saturday Down South’s Joe Cox ranked all 14 SEC teams after this weekend’s action. Meanwhile, Saturday Tradition’s Jim Tomlin did the same thing for the Big Ten.
- There were some teams that boosted their CFP and bowl resumes. There were also plenty of teams that hurt their chances. So, who falls into which category? Bleacher Report’s Brad Shepard broke down the biggest winners and losers from the week.
- Iowa State was a surprise at No. 7 in the latest CFP rankings. The Cyclones jumped undefeated Cincinnati despite having a 17-point loss to Louisiana on their resume. So, does Iowa State really belong in the Playoff discussion? ESPN’s Seth Walder broke down how the Cyclones can earn a Playoff bid.
- This season doesn’t count toward a player’s NCAA eligibility. Seniors can return in 2021 for another year if they so choose, due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on college football in 2020. So, which SEC seniors would we love to see come back? Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara named 10 SEC stars he wishes would come back, even if most of them will probably head off to the NFL.
GUS MALZAHN FIRED
Auburn made the surprising decision to fire Gus Malzahn. Where will the Tigers turn for their next head coach?
Auburn beat Mississippi State 24-10 in Starkville on Saturday night to finish the regular season with a 6-4 record. After the win, coach Gus Malzahn was recorded dancing in the locker room with his players. However, that turned out to be his last dance with the Tigers, as he was somewhat surprisingly fired on Sunday afternoon.
Now, the longtime Auburn coach will be looking for a new job, and the Tigers are stuck looking for a new coach right before the Early Signing Period begins on Wednesday. So, what’s the latest out of Auburn? Here are some of the big stories in the immediate aftermath of Malzahn’s firing:
- Malzahn finishes his Auburn career with a record of 68-35. His teams went 39-27 in SEC play and he was 2-5 in bowl games, including a loss to Florida State in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. Auburn announced on Sunday that DC Kevin Steele would serve as the interim coach should the Tigers accept a bowl bid. Auburn players took the news of Malzahn’s firing hard, taking to social media to support him.
- Perhaps the biggest story here is Malzahn’s massive buyout. The Tigers will have to pay Malzahn $21 million not to coach the team anymore. Oh, and a whopping $10.5 million of that is due within 30 days. But, it seems safe to assume that Auburn has already raised that money or it wouldn’t have cut ties with Malzahn just yet. Per USA TODAY’s Steve Berkowitz, FBS public schools have already committed to a total of $49 million in buyouts, and coaching carousel season is just getting started.
- So, who will Auburn hire to replace Gus Malzahn moving forward? Liberty coach Hugh Freeze is a candidate at the top of many lists, and he has been included in much of the early speculation. Louisiana’s Billy Napier and Oregon’s Mario Cristobal are also being mentioned a lot. Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara writes that this has to be a play to get Freeze before anyone else can.
- It is quite possible that Malzahn isn’t out of a job for long. Though he has a hefty payday coming his way, as we mentioned earlier in this section, he might still be an SEC coach next season. Many are speculating that he could quickly enter the mix at Vanderbilt.
There will be plenty more to discuss in the coming days and weeks with this situation. However, there’s some speculation this could be a quick search, with one media member saying he’s heard Auburn wouldn’t have made the decision to fire Malzahn if it didn’t already have the next coach lined up. Could it be Hugh Freeze? Could it be Billy Napier? Someone else? Things are just getting started on The Plains!
JUST FOR FUN
The SEC was the first Power 5 conference to hold a conference championship game, starting in 1992. Since then, the other Power 5 conferences — the Big 12 (1996), ACC (2005), Big Ten (2011) and Pac-12 (2011) — have started holding championship games, too. For today’s quiz, can you name the school that has won the most conference championship games in each league? Bonus points if you can also guess how many titles those schools have won.
Scroll down for the answers to today’s quiz.
Army-Navy and other games featured great uniforms. Which teams wore it best this week?
Usually, the second weekend of December is the weekend where the annual Army-Navy game is the only FBS matchup on the schedule. It’s a bridge between the conference championship games (normally played on the first weekend of December) and bowl season (which normally starts the third weekend of December). Of course, this season, things were different and there was a pretty full slate of games.
Fortunately, that led to some great uniform combinations on display all around the country. So, let’s take a look at the teams with the best combos of the week:
- Let’s start with that iconic Army-Navy matchup from West Point. It was the first time the game had been played at West Point since 1943, and let’s just say uniforms have come a long way since then. As you can see above, both the Black Knights and the Midshipmen wore special jerseys. ESPN’s College GameDay had a great featured explaining the special uniforms prior to the game.
- Army-Navy had some competition for best uniforms, though The USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins played their annual rivalry game in the Rose Bowl on Saturday night, too. There’s just something about the Trojans in their red jerseys going up against UCLA in its blue jerseys with the iconic Rose Bowl in the background. So cool.
- Northwestern trounced rival Illinois on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats locked up a spot in the Big Ten title game and looked good doing it. They wore these Gothic-style uniforms for their showdown against their in-state rivals. That might need to become a more common combo for the ‘Cats.
- Finally, we’ll head to Boulder, where Utah did its best to blend in. The Utes wore their road white helmets and white jerseys, which made them tougher to see against Colorado in the snow. The red pants sort of gave them away, but we’re always here for some snowy football in December.
As of right now, there are 28 FBS games on the schedule for this week. Surely, some of those schools will break out some exciting new uniform combinations. So, tune in next Monday for perhaps the last uniform talk of the 2020 season!
The answers to today’s conference championship game quiz are:
- SEC: Alabama — 8 wins (4 losses)
- Big 12: Oklahoma — 10 wins (1 loss)
- ACC: Clemson — 6 wins (1 loss)
- Big Ten: Ohio State — 4 wins (1 loss)
- Pac-12: Oregon — 3 wins (0 losses) and Stanford — 3 wins (1 loss)
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m sure we’re gonna be underdogs by like 70.”
– Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has a feeling fans and media members will heavily favor Ohio State in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game. Can the Wildcats pull off the huge upset?
TWEET OF THE DAY
College football fans know ABC stands for “Always Be Crootin’.” Georgia coach Kirby Smart took that to heart with an interesting comment after the Bulldogs’ 49-14 win at Mizzou on Saturday. Could this be in reference to 5-star LSU freshman TE Arik Gilbert, the Georgia native who is reportedly “homesick” and considering transferring from the Tigers? Very interesting, indeed.
This edition of the Saturday Football newsletter was written by Adam Spencer.