Saturday Football: Trevor Lawrence's looming decision, Michigan-Minnesota stakes and upset alert
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Good morning and happy Friday! The Big Ten is officially back tonight, with Illinois traveling to take on No. 14 Wisconsin! Then, Saturday features a fuller slate of games than we’ve seen thus far in 2020, as the Mountain West also returns to action.
In today’s newsletter, we’re going to break down why the Michigan-Minnesota game is so important to both teams. We’ll also discuss a big decision looming for Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. Then, we’re going to put a few ranked teams on upset alert. Let’s get started, shall we?
TREVOR LAWRENCE’S BIG DECISION
Trevor Lawrence is the likely No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Should he take his chances or return to Clemson?
There isn’t much Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence hasn’t accomplished during his college career. He’s won a national title and made the College Football Playoff field both years as the Tigers’ starter. If there’s one thing he hasn’t done, it’s win the Heisman Trophy, but he’s among the frontrunners for the award as things stand now. He’s also the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, should he choose to forgo his senior season.
But, all of a sudden, many analysts and media members don’t think he should be so quick to leave Clemson after this season. Let’s take a look into some storylines regarding Lawrence’s looming decision:
- Right now, there is only one winless team in the entire NFL. That team is the New York Jets, and they are an absolute mess right now. There are seriously articles out there saying the Jets should keep embattled coach Adam Gase around until the end of the year simply because of his incompetence. The theory is that Gase can lead you to 0-16 and then you can draft Lawrence and hire a new coach. Could that coach be Clemson’s Dabo Swinney? There’s plenty of speculation about that, too.
- Many former players and analysts think Lawrence should avoid New York. ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, a Jets fan himself, thinks Lawrence should return to Clemson if the Jets have the top pick. Former NFL star WR Roddy White said he’d give Lawrence that same advice. LaVar Arrington would be avoiding a catastrophe by not going to the Jets. FOX analyst Joel Klatt doesn’t necessarily think Lawrence should return to school, but said he supports the Clemson QB using any leverage he has to end up in an advantageous position in the draft.
- Even comedians and parody sites are getting in on the situation. TV writer and podcast host “Cousin Sal” joked on Twitter that the Giants and Jets should split Lawrence’s services, each getting him for their eight home games per season. The Onion joked that Gase is too busy focusing on wasting the careers of current Jets players to worry about ruining Lawrence’s career next year.
Of course, the Jets might not end up with the top pick. Yes, they’re 0-6, but a whopping nine NFL teams have only one win thus far. The competition is fierce. You can’t blame Lawrence if he’s watching and weighing all his options, including potentially returning to Clemson for the 2021 season. We’ll see what happens at the end of the year.
We have an almost completely full slate of games this weekend with the Big Ten and Mountain West coming back! And, it’s only a matter of time until the Pac-12 and MAC join the party, as well. Still, this weekend, there are a ton of great games featuring ranked teams.
Who are the favorites in some of the top games of the week? Well, you’ll see a lot of ranked home teams that are expected to win by some impressive margins. Here’s a look at some of the key lines of the weekend:
Friday, Oct. 23:
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- Illinois at No. 14 Wisconsin (-19.5)
Saturday, Oct. 24:
- No. 23 NC State at No. 14 North Carolina (-15)
- Syracuse at No. 1 Clemson (-46)
- Georgia Southern at No. 25 Coastal Carolina (-6)
- Nebraska at No. 5 Ohio State (-26.5)
- Kansas at No. 20 Kansas State (-20)
- Florida Atlantic at No. 22 Marshall (-17)
- No. 3 Notre Dame (-10.5) at Pitt
- No. 2 Alabama (-21.5) at Tennessee
- No. 19 Virginia Tech (-9) at Wake Forest
- No. 8 Penn State (-6) at Indiana
- No. 17 Iowa State at No. 6 Oklahoma State (-3.5)
- No. 18 Michigan (-3) at No. 21 Minnesota
- Virginia at No. 11 Miami (-12.5)
- No. 9 Cincinnati at No. 16 SMU (2.5)
- Texas State at No. 12 BYU (-29)
We’ve seen major upsets almost every week this year, so it’ll be interesting to see which teams hit a speed bump this weekend. No one is safe from chaos in 2020!
- Alabama has beaten Tennessee 13 years in a row. When the two SEC rivals take the field this weekend, the Crimson Tide will be favored to make it 14 straight over the Vols. Saturday Down South’s Chris Marler took a look back at his 10 favorite moments from Alabama’s long winning streak.
- The winners of that rivalry game (and their fans) smoke cigars afterward. This tradition has been going on for a long time, but where did it start? ESPN’s Alex Scarborough dove into the history of the tradition, finding this beautiful story about Bear Bryant, a longtime trainer and a long-lost letter.
- Ohio State is considered to be the class of the Big Ten this year. The B1G returns to the field this weekend, but will the Buckeyes’ limited schedule and late start allow them to catch up with current College Football Playoff frontrunners Alabama and Clemson? Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon writes that Ohio State might be playing for the No. 3 seed, at best.
- What would it be like if conferences could exchange teams for a year? What if Auburn could go to the Big Ten and Penn State could come to the SEC for a season? Banner Society’s Ryan Nanni takes a long look into what it would take to make this crazy idea possible. It’ll never happen, but it’s a fun read anyway!
No. 18 Michigan vs. No. 21 Minnesota is the B1G Game of the Week. What’s at stake in Minneapolis?
Every game of the B1G season is critically important this year, with just eight games scheduled for the regular season. But perhaps no game is more significant than Saturday night’s showdown between No. 18 Michigan and No. 21 Minnesota in Minneapolis. Hey, there’s a reason College GameDay is heading to the Twin Cities, right?
Both Michigan and Minnesota are trying to prove they are legitimate contenders in their respective divisions. The Wolverines continue to play second-fiddle to Ohio State in the B1G East and are hoping to soon change the narrative. The Golden Gophers are attempting to replicate a magical 11-2 season in 2019, and show the world it wasn’t a flash in the pan.
There’s no question that, on Saturday night, one team’s B1G championship aspirations will get a huge boost while the other’s will take a significant blow:
- Michigan has a lot of unknowns entering this season. The Wolverines lost all but one starter on the offensive line, three of their top four wide receivers and are ushering in a new quarterback. Other than that, not much has changed (we hope you caught the sarcasm). A lot of hype surrounds QB Joe Milton, who ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit called a potential “superstar” for Michigan. With Michigan struggling at the game’s most important position in the Jim Harbaugh era, is Milton finally the guy capable of leading the Wolverines to a B1G title? If Milton “attacks each day” like Harbaugh says he does, the Wolverines might be in fine shape this fall.
- We actually kind of know what we’re getting with Minnesota. Even with offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca taking a the job at Penn State, the Gophers should have an explosive offense. QB Tanner Morgan is back and has top target Rashod Bateman returning, as well. Minnesota’s offensive line is one of the biggest and most experienced in the B1G, which is a pretty significant piece to the success puzzle. With all that returning, Minnesota has a great chance to turn a disastrous year into another Cinderella season, according to Saturday Tradition’s Phil Ervin.
- There’s mutual respect between the two teams? Both sides know this is going to be a challenge. Jim Harbaugh said Minnesota has talent at “every position,” and Michigan OL coach Ed Warinner, who was on P.J. Fleck’s staff in 2017, says the Gophers can’t be taken lightly. Fleck commented that Saturday’s game is an “important week” because of the rivalry, in addition to playing a skilled team like Michigan.
- Who’s going to win the Little Brown Jug? Isn’t the Little Brown Jug a great rivalry trophy? If you say it isn’t, you’re just lying to yourself. So, who wins it? Minnesota opened the game as a 3-point favorite but the line has since shifted to favor Michigan by 3.5. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Wolverines a 55.8% chance to win, as well.
Has it been mentioned that this game is important? The difference between 1-0 and 0-1 to start this wild, weird and wacky 2020 season is significantly more dramatic than in any other year. It’s even bigger for two teams hoping to compete for division crowns. The winner gets a ton of momentum to start the season and keeps their B1G Championship hopes alive. A loss doesn’t eliminate either team just yet, but it’s certainly back to the drawing board.
JUST FOR FUN
For today’s quiz, let’s test your knowledge of some of the top quarterbacks in the country. So far this season, there are five FBS quarterbacks who have thrown 10 or more touchdown passes with only 1 interception. Can you name them and the schools they play for?
Scroll down to see the answers to today’s quiz.
More games this weekend means more possible upsets! Which ranked teams are on upset alert?
There are more games on TV this weekend than there have been all season, which is great news for those of us who love spending our Saturdays watching countless hours of college football. And, with the way the 2020 season has been going thus far, more games will almost certainly mean more upsets.
So, which teams in the current AP Poll top 25 are most in danger of losing this weekend? Let’s take a look at four teams on upset alert, starting with a game on tonight’s schedule:
- Last year, Wisconsin was favored by 30 points at Illinois and lost. Who could forget that James McCourt field goal sail through the uprights to clinch a 24-23 victory? Well, tonight, the Badgers host the Illini in the first Big Ten game of 2020. They’re favored by 19.5 points, even without QB Jack Coan, who is injured, and RB Jonathan Taylor, who now plays on Sundays. Things could get weird in Madison.
- Marshall has been one of the best Group of 5 teams thus far. The Thundering Herd have a 4-0 record and are up to No. 22 in the AP Poll. Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic is only 1-0 and has had multiple games postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Thus, we don’t really know how good the Owls are yet. They beat a talented Charlotte team 21-17 on Oct. 3 and haven’t played since. ESPN’s Football Power Index favors Marshall in every remaining game, but this week’s matchup against FAU is the Thundering Herd’s toughest matchup, according to FPI, as they have only a 73.6% chance to win.
- Undefeated Notre Dame could soon learn a harsh lesson in the ACC. That lesson? Never, ever, take Pitt for granted. Yes, Pat Narduzzi’s Panthers are 3-3 (and only 2-3 in ACC play), but two of their three losses were by 1 point. Oh, and they have an unknown at quarterback, as starter Kenny Pickett could miss the game. Will the Panthers get Pickett back, or will Arizona State transfer Joey Yellen be forced into a starting role again? For a Notre Dame team that just squeaked by Louisville last week, having to prepare for two quarterbacks could spell trouble.
- Finally, keep an eye on No. 8 Penn State’s first game of 2020. The Nittany Lions are heading to Indiana to take on a Hoosiers squad that is no longer a B1G doormat. And, they’re doing so without star LB Micah Parsons, who opted out, and RB Journey Brown, who is injured.
With four matchups of ranked teams, we know at least four ranked teams will lose this weekend. How many others will go down in upset fashion? We’ll find out starting tonight with the much-anticipated return of the Big Ten!
Here are the answers to today’s FBS quarterbacks quiz. The five quarterbacks who have thrown at least 10 touchdown passes with only 1 interception are:
- Trevor Lawrence, Clemson — 15 TDs, 1 INT
- Kyle Trask, Florida — 14 TDs, 1 INT
- Zach Wilson, BYU — 12 TDs, 1 INT
- Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina — 11 TDs, 1 INT
- Layne Hatcher, Arkansas State — 10 TDs, 1 INT
Who will be the last of that group to throw his second interception?
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Nebraska is a complete wild card,” he said on the show. “I think, on paper, they look closer to what they were supposed to be last year than they did last year. I think they absolutely have top-30 potential if the defense comes along and if Adrian Martinez has a couple of receivers.”
– ESPN analyst Bill Connelly said during a podcast appearance that he isn’t sure what to make of Nebraska this season. The Cornhuskers could end up being one of the most-intriguing teams in the Big Ten.
TWEET OF THE DAY
LSU coach Ed Orgeron cracked a joke about the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner coming back if 2020 starter Myles Brennan’s injury keeps him out against South Carolina. Sorry, Coach O, but Joe Burrow ain’t walking through that door!
This edition of the Saturday Football newsletter was written by Adam Spencer and Dustin Schutte.