Degeorge: FCS ON ESPN? Takeaways From College Football’s Wild Season Opener

The 2020 season kicked off Saturday with the Austin Peay Governors versus the Central Arkansas Bears. The game was played at a neutral site – the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. Central Arkansas won 24-17. This game was whacky from the start; The football was sloppy, which is always expected in the first game of the season, especially with a shortened offseason and so much uncertainty around the season. The first play of the game was a 75-yard touchdown run by CJ Evans Jr. of the Governors. This game showed why we all love college football. Although the play was sloppy, it was still a thrilling game that had viewers on the edge of there seats.

Central Arkansas

Breylin Smith, QB- 26/49, 283 yards passing, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, -9 yards rushing, 1 fumble lost

Kierre Crossley, RB,- 12 carries, 110 yards, 1 touchdown

Cameron Myers, RB- 13 carries, 76 yards, 0 touchdowns

Tyler Hudson, WR- 5 receptions, 82 yards, 0 touchdowns

Lujuan Winningham, WR- 6 receptions, 80 yards, 1 touchdown

Central Arkansas came into the game as 4.5 point favorites. In an early season game, I predicted the team that turned the ball over the most would lose. Surprisingly, this was not the case, as the Bears lost the turnover battle 3-2, but still pulled out a thrilling victory. Junior quarterback Breylin Smith, who was outstanding last season, was not that sharp, particularly in the early going for Central Arkansas. Entering the contest, Smith was my key factor coming into this game because of the experience and body of work he has. He did not put forth his best performance, but I really credit the Bears’ coaching staff because they did not abandon the passing attack, and they tried to get Smith high percentage throws to shake the rust off.

I will especially credit Smith with performing like a good, experienced quarterback down the stretch – he kept throwing and continued to get better as the game went on. Also, with the game on the line, wow was he clutch. He hit Winningham in the end zone with 37 seconds left to score the game winning touchdown. He also made two big throws to Tyler Hudson on the game-winning drive. Smith’s performance was comparable him to a pitcher who did not have their best stuff, but battles to get a win. He was not very accurate or consistent throughout the game, but he stayed out of pressure, kept battling, and did what he had to do to keep his team in the game. And when it was crunch time, he was absolutely money.

I also want to highlight Hudson and Winningham. The Bears have some FBS-level talent at receiver in this duo. They were both phenomenal and are big time athletes. Meanwhile, the defense stepped up in a big way, limiting the Governors to 10 points after that initial 75-yard gutpunch to start the game. Evans was held to 23 yards on 9 more carries, while the Bears forced Austin Peay quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall into an ugly 14-31 performance, with an interception and fumble. All-in-all, I was very impressed with the talent and the grit of the Bears, pulling out a tough win in a nationally televised game, kicking off what is sure to be a strange and unique 2020 season. Central Arkansas has a short week with a game at UAB on Thursday, September 3rd. I look forward to see what they can do against a high level Conference USA team.

Austin Peay Key Stats

Jeremiah Oatsvall, QB- 14/31, 181 yards passing, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, 37 yards rushing, 1 touchdown, 1 lost fumble

CJ Evans Jr, RB- 10 carries, 98 yards, 1 touchdown

Brian Snead, RB- 13 carries, 43 yards, 0 touchdowns

Jay Parker, WR- 3 receptions, 55 yards, 0 touchdowns

BIG 12 Power Rankings, Award Predictions

Power Rankings

1: Oklahoma

  • To be the man, you gotta beat the man. And until they’re dethroned, the Sooners remain #1 here. To stay there, they’ll hope Spencer Rattler becomes the latest QB prodigy under Lincoln Riley, and playmakers aplenty populate the skill positions in Norman. They have plenty of talent to work with, and the Sooners should feature a loaded offense in 2020.

2: Oklahoma State

  • Chuba Hubbard is an absolute monster out of the backfield, and they may just have the offense around him to keep pace in the Big 12 this season. Quarterback Spencer Sanders was solid last season and looks to take another step forward, while his favorite receiver, Tylan Wallace, opted for another year wih the Cowboys.

3: Texas

  • Sam Ehlinger starts the season as the best quarterback in the big 12, although the development of Spencer Rattler for Oklahoma may change that. His Longhorns may not be ‘back’ just yet, as Texas looks good, but not great. The offense should be pretty good, but their defense that averaged over 30 points allowed per game must improve for the Longhorns to compete for a title.

4: Kansas State

  • Debuting a new coach last season, Kansas State went 8-5 and beat Oklahoma. They have to replace some production in the trenches, but Skylar Thompson is a fairly consistent quarterback not prone to making many mistakes. He should keep the Wildcats in a lot of ballgames.

5: Baylor

  • After nearly making the Playoff a year ago, Baylor figures to take a step back this season. They lost coach Matt Rhule to the NFL, They gave up under 20 points a game in the Big 12 – an extremely impressive feat. Their defense lost a lot of production (9 of their 11 top tacklers) but they return Charlie Brewer under center and have some intriguing offensive talent to keep them competitive in 2020.

6: Iowa State

  • Brock Purdy took a slight step back last season, but he remains a top-tier quarterback within this conference. Iowa State didn’t lose a single game by more than 10 points in the regular season last year, losing by more than 1 possession just once, losing five games by an average of 4.2 points. If they can turn some of those tight losses into wins, they’ll be improving on this 6th-place ranking.

7: Texas Tech

  • Texas Tech will hope to win a lot games 52-49, or by other similar scorelines. They return a lot of offensive talent from their 4-8 team a year ago, but they also lost lot of pieces from a defense that was already giving up a whopping 7.2 yards per play.

8: Texas Christian

  • TCU has struggled recently after a solid stretch of success in the middle years of the decade. Freshman 5-star running back Zach Evans could make an impact this season, and their defense appears to be solid, if not great. Solid defense can be good enough to win in the Big 12, if the offense is clicking, so the Horned Frogs will need to get their retooled offense up to speed pretty quickly with a conference-only schedule ahead.

9: Kansas

  • Not last – what a shocker here for the Jayhawks! Kansas showed marginal improvement in the debut season of Les Miles, including encouraging wins against Boston College and Texas Tech. They also lost 10 seniors off their defense and will be breaking in a new starter at quarterback. Running back Pooka Williams should be the bread and butter of Miles’ offensive scheme, and we’ll see if he can bring the Jayhawks a win or two.

10: West Virginia

  • West Virginia averaged only 19.6 points per game last season. In the air-raid, offense-heavy Big 12, that’s just not going to cut it. They could improve on that mark, with Jarret Doege returning under center and a promising group of receivers complementing him in the offense. However, the ground game is a major question mark after averaging just 2.63 yards per pop last season, so retooling the backfield and offensive line will be a must for the Mountaineers, if they are to stay competitive in any way shape, or form in 2020.

Offensive Player of the Year

Spencer Rattler- Quarterback, Oklahoma

  • Chuba Hubbard won this award last season, breaking a string of four straight Oklahoa players. Rattler is a 5-star recruit and figures to be an absolute stud in Lincoln Riley’s system. Far be it from us to start doubting Riley’s QB-whispering abilities now.
Peach Bowl

Defensive Player of the Year

Caden Sterns- Safety, Texas

  • Picking this award can feel like a crapshoot in a conference that routinely sees absolute slugfests, with both teams rising over 30 or 40 points. Stearns is an intriguing pick here, as he will have to be a leader for a Texas secondary that must improve if the Longhorns are to finally breakthrough.

Coach of the Year

Mike Gundy- Oklahoma State

The Cowboys haven’t made the Big 12 title game since it was re-instated in 2017, as 20`16 was the last year they finished top-2 in the conference. They haven’t taken home a Big 12 title since 2011, but they have as much promise as they’ve had in recent memory. Gundy came under fire this offseason for wearing a controverisal T-shirt in public, an act that was called out by some of his own players. If he can regain control of the locker room and get the Cowobys to the Big 12 championship, he is very deserving of this award.

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy takes the field prior to an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Championship Game

Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State

Oklahoma wins 42- 31

  • To be the man, ya gotta beat the man. And it’s not happening this year. Boomer. Sooner.

Preseason 2020 ACC Power Rankings

  1. Clemson
    The Tigers are the consensus favorite in the ACC. With Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne returning, their offense is loaded. Their defense lost a lot of pieces, but Dabo Swinney’s program usually reloads, rather than rebuild. The arrival of Notre Dame in the ACC gives them a stiffer challenge in-conference, but Clemson is certainly the team to beat here. 
  2. Notre Dame
    Notre Dame should be shooting for a conference championship appearance in what is likely their only year  – for now – in the ACC. They are widely assumed to be Clemson’s top challenger. Ian Book enters this third year as starter and 2nd complete one. They’ll need to rebuild their wide receiver corps, but the freshman playmakers have looked good in practice early for the Irish. 
  3. Florida State
    I’ll give the Seminoles a little of respect here. I think they’re not necessarily a championship contender, but I think FSU will put forth a better team than many expect. Cohesiveness has seemingly been the issue as of late, as they continue to rake in impressive recruiting classes. Next to Clemson, they have the 2nd-best recruiting in the ACC (including Notre Dame) over the past five years. They’ve had on-field struggles recently, but their talent is too tantalizing not to bet on. 
  4. Miami
    Much of what was said for Florida State can be said for Miami as well. The Hurricanes have disappointed on the field, but they continue to rake in pretty elite recruiting classes. With transfer quarterback D’Eriq King under center, the Hurricanes might be able to inject some life into their offense and put together a solid season. Prior to the merging of the divisions and addition of Notre Dame, Miami was my pick to reach the ACC Championship as a token sacrifice to Clemson. 
  5. Virginia Tech
    In my opinion, there’s a pretty decent drop off in talent after the top four teams in these rankings. Virginia Tech is a solid program, but their recruiting just does not compare with that of the aforementioned teams. They return arguably the most production of a defense that was pretty good in 2019. The Hokies looked very good for a 7-game stretch last year, that saw them go 6-1 with a one-point road loss to Notre Dame. I think this is a 7-8 win team if they play to their full potential. 
  6. UNC
    Count me in as a UNC-doubter. This ranking has little to do with Sam Howell. I think he leads an absolutely lethal offense, one I would probably rank 2nd to Clemson in the conference. Their defense should be pretty good, although maybe not the strength of their roster. I don’t think they’ll be bad by any stretch, and if a few bounces go their way, I could see the Tar Heels being a darkhorse challenger for a berth in the ACC Championship. But ultimately, I’m not positive this is UNC’s year just yet…it feels too early. 
  7. Pittsburgh
    Placing the Panthers smack in the middle of the power rankings feels about right. They are always pretty good and rarely terrible, but Pitt will rarely wow you with starpower. That being said, they can generally be counted on to be a feisty underdog, which makes them an undesirable opponent. I see this Pitt as exactly that – a solid roster with a defense I would argue may be a top-3 unit in the conference, and an intriguing offense led by NFL Draft prospect Kenny Pickett. 5-6 wins sound about right for Pitt, but you can be sure nobody will be exactly thrilled at the prospect of matching up with the Panthers. 
  8. Louisville
    This may be a tad low for the Cardinals, but I’m just not seeing Louisville take another big step forward after greatly improving their 2-10 mark in 2018 to 8-5 and a Music City Bowl victory last season. I don’t think they’ll be bad necessarily, but I think the Cards peak at around 6 ACC wins this season. Malik Cunningam is a talented quarterback, but I have questions elsewhere on the roster. The Cardinals avoid Clemson and face Virginia, Syracuse, Boston College, and Wake Forest to end the season, but the first half of their schedule involves a road trip to Notre Dame and clashes with Miami and Florida State. It’ll be tough road, and I’m thinking it’s a 5 or 6-win season in ACC play for Louisville. 
  9. Syracuse
    Some ACC rankings have Cuse as the worst team in the conference, and I don’t see it. They’re a year removed from a 6-2 ACC record, and while that may have been a one-off, I don’t see last year’s 2-6 record as a new normal. They lost two games by one score and one of their wins was an absolute slaughter of Duke in Durham, 49-6. I think Syracuse at least comes close to .500 this year. They’ll need Tommy Devito to play better under center, but the Orange look average, but not horrifically bad on both sides of the ball, so I’m seeing 4 or 5 wins for Syracuse in 2020. 
  10. Duke
    This won’t be a season to remember from the Blue Devils. Last season, they started 4-2 but then dropped five straight conference games last season, winning their Senior Day game over a floundering Miami team. I think it’s another tough road for the Blue Devils, who start with a road trip to Notre Dame on September 12. They have possibly the worst offense in the conference, as they still haven’t found answers in the post-Daniel Jones era, so it’s hard seeing much more than 2 or 3 wins from Duke in 2020. 
  11. Georgia Tech
    Georgia Tech is a team that I think may be sneakily good in a few years. But not this season. The Yellow Jackets are still moving on from the triple option, and they don’t have the playmakers to compete with many of the spread offenses that are taking over college football. Much like Duke, Georgia Tech should be happy if they exceed three wins in 2020, particularly with clashes against Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida State and Miami – three of which come on the road. 
  12. Virginia
    The Cavaliers became the 7th different ACC Coastal Champion is as many seasons last year, finally toppling archrival Virginia Tech en route to a 9-3 regular season. They finished with a ACC title game loss and Orange Bowl loss, but it was still their most wins since 2007, and first appearance in a major bowl game since a 1998 loss in the Peach Bowl. This year, however, with do-it-all quarterback Bryce Perkins off to the NFL, there’s a lot of questions about Virginia’s offense, and I’m not sure their defense has enough pieces returning to make up for it. I could potentially see Virginia stealing 4 wins, but I don’t think they’re better than Tech or Duke –  they just have an easier schedule.  
  13. NC State
    With Wake Forest, Duke, Virginia, and Georgia Tech all on the schedule, it seems unlikely that NC State can’t scratch out a win in 2020 – even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. But I don’t see the Wolfpack getting much more than that. After five straight winning seasons, NC State regressed to 4-8 last season, and I’m seeing another step back. They have a case for having the worst defense in the ACC, and their offense doesn’t raise any eyebrows. 1, maybe 2 wins for the Wolfpack in 2020. 
  14. Boston College
    I’m a believer in Jeff Hafley and that he can turn around the BC program. But not in Year 1. A team that has been mediocre at best returns a quarterback that had a 48% completion rate in 2019 in Dennis Grosel, and they lost A.J. Dillon to the draft in the 2nd round. Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec may take the starting reigns under center, but I’m reserving judgement as he as only thrown 17 meaningless passes in his career. BC also were a huge loser of the ACC schedule expansion, as Wake Forest was taken off their schedule, taking away a potential victory for the Eagles. Maybe Jurkovec plays better than he ever did in trying to win the QB battle at Notre Dame, but I’m not seeing many Ws on this schedule for the Eagles.
  15. Wake Forest
    Losing Jamie Newman to the transfer portal is a brutal loss for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons will struggle to replace their star dual-threat quarterback, and much like Boston College, they were disappointed to see their fellow cellar-dweller removed from the schedule. If I had to bet the house on 1 ACC team going winless, it would definitely be the Demon Deacons.

SEC Hot Takes: 1 Bold Prediction For Each Team

As many colleges across the country attempt to resume in-person classes – with varying degrees of success so far – at least 6 conferences are continuing their plans to start up the 2020 college football season, with the ACC slated to start kicking off the action on September 12. The SEC and Big 12, the other Power-5 conferences still intending to play, plan to start their schedules two weeks later. So as the clock ticks down – hopefully to the first day of games, let’s take a look at bold predictions for each SEC team, with one for a player and one team-based pick.

Alabama Crimson Tide: Finish 10-0, Najee Harris finishes in Heisman top-10, wins OPOY

I think Alabama enters the 2020 season as the favorite to take home the SEC title. Undoubtedly their toughest test comes with a trip to Death Valley and the defending national champions, but I’m not ready to say that one crazy dominant season makes LSU a favorite over a team that owned them for the entire decade. I think Alabama also takes care of business at home against a Georgia team that needs to prove their offense can support a defense that is sure to be dominant. 10-0 and another SEC championship and CFP appearance for the Tide.

Individually, Najee Harris enters this season as undoubtedly one of the best running backs in the country. I’m only putting him in the top 10 because running backs don’t get a lot of Heisman love, and Clemson running back Travis Etienne will likely steal votes from harris.

Arkansas Razorbacks: Win a conference game, Rakeem Boyd leads the SEC in rushing yards

The Razorbacks got royally screwed over by the additions to their conference schedule, and while they certainly didn’t add any wins by adding a couple of top-10 teams to their schedule, I still think Arkansas finally picks up a conference victory this season. In a normal season, I probably wouldn’t make that call, but heavily reduced or nonexistant crowds will make homefield advantages much less noticeable, so I like Arkansas’s chances at winning a crossover game versus Missouri in their penultimate game.

Boyd returns as the focall point of the Arkansas offense and the third-best returning rusher in the conference. Whether he can outpace Kylin Hill of Mississippi State and Harris of Alabama remains to be seen, but I like Boyd to rack up more touches simply due to the fact that his team has the worst passing attack of those three squads.

Auburn Tigers: Finish .500, KJ Britt has 7+ Sacks

I’m not high on Auburn this year at all. Trip to Alabama and Georgia just smell like big losses to me, while hosting LSU won’t be a picnic. I’m a little higher on Texas A&M than normal, and I like Ole Miss as my darkhorse team in the SEC, so toss in a pair of upset losses, and Auburn’s general inconsistency, and I don’t see the Tigers as a contender in the SEC.

Britt is the key piece of the Auburn defense, and he notched 3.5 sacks while playing in the shadow of 7th-overall pick Derrick Brown last season. I like Britt to double his total despite the shortened schedule. He’ll be a force to watch on the defensive line.

Florida Gators: Lose 3 of first 4 games, Kyle Trask leads the SEC in passing \

I really thought the SEC East might see a new champion at first, but upon further analysis, I’m just not confident the Gators are ready to compete. I also think they start their schedule in brutal fashion. A game I originally listed as a trap game – at Ole Miss – was bumped up to their season opener, and they also travel to Texas A&M and host LSU in the back to back weeks. It’s a gauntlet to start the year, as I think the Rebels surprise the Gators, and the Aggies take advantage of Trask and Co. looking ahead to their duel with the defending champs, who will also take care of business. Florida will go 5-1 after that start, but it won’t be nearly enough for an appearance in the SEC Championship.

I think due to the fact that Florida is trying to take the next step, and that they lost their top running back, Kyle Trask will be asked to do a lot more for this offense in 2020. With the aforementioned brutal schedule, I anticipate Trask to be throwing the ball a lot in come-from-behind situations, and I think he racks up significant yardage. He’s the top returning SEC quarterback in passing efficiency, so I definitely high on Trask, if not the Gators as a whole unit.

Georgia Bulldogs: 9-1 SEC East champions, Lecounte has 5 INT

Georgia continues their run of success in the SEC East post Jake Fromm, recovering from the departure of their quarterback and top two running backs to go 9-1. A road loss to Alabama will mark their only loss in the regular season, but their CFP hopes will be dashed by a second loss to the Tide in the SEC title game clash. The Bulldogs will ride their defense, which was one of the best units in the country last season and returns about 80% of their production.

Leading that defense will be Lecounte. I’m not ready to say he will be DPOY, but I think he improves on last year’s total of 4 interceptions, picking off five passes in 2020. He’s an absolute force in the secondary, and should be terrorizing opposing quarterbacks this season.

Kentucky Wildcats: Under .500 record, Jamar Watson leads the SEC in sacks

Kentucky may have a pretty great defense entering 2020, but I’m simply not sold on their offense, and I think their schedule is far too tough to merit prediction more than 3 or 4 wins this year. Road trips to Auburn, Alabama, and Florida will prove brutally difficult, while hosting Georgia. Those games alone make me think Kentucky’s ceiling is 6-4, but I’m also calling losses at Tennessee and vs. Ole Miss to drop them below .500 for the year.

Jamar Watson was tied for sixth in the SEC in sacks with 6.5 – I think he pushes for double digits in 2020 and leads the SEC. Statistically, it’s unlikely, but I think Watson is an absolute beast on a defense that will need to carry Kentucky if the Wildcats have any hope this coming season.

LSU Tigers: Start off 6-0, Derek Stingley wins DPOY

LSU faces as much of a cakewalk of a schedule as you can get in the SEC West, with their crossover games coming against Vanderbilt, Missouri, South Carolina, and Florida. Outside of the Gators, that’s a pitiful collection of opponents, and I truly think LSU is the 2nd-best team in the SEC entering this season. They will start 6-0 with big wins at Florida and Auburn, before dropping their clash with Alabama. Ultimately, I’m seeing a 9-1 record for the Tigers and a potential case for a CFP berth at the end of the season.

Stingely is a freakishly goo dathlete, and there’s talk of him playing two ways in 2021. That could be accelerated to this year, if LSU runs into depth issues caused by quarantines, leading them to utilize one of their stars on both sides of the ball. However, even if he’s just used defensively, I think Stingley is one of the best players in the SEC, and he led the conference with 6 picks last season. I think he’s a major asset for a very good LSU defense and earns him DPOY honors.

Mississippi State Bulldogs: Winless on the road, CJ Morgan collects 3 interceptions

Mississippi State’s brutal road slate includes games at LSU, Alabama, and Georgia, which should be three automatic losses for the Bulldogs. I don’t think they have the offense to take down Kentucky on the road, and I think the end the year with an Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss. It’ll be a tough path to ganering many victories in 2020, but home games versus Arkansas, Missouri, and Vanderbilt offer hope that wins are there for the taking.

I think CJ Morgan takes a step up this season for the Bulldogs, after he broke up eight passes and picked off one in 2019. Look for him to continue to grow as a main contributor for the Mississippi State defense, snaring at least three picks in 2020.

Missouri Tigers: No Wins by more than 7 points, Tyler Badie has 700+ receiving yards

Missouri has a schedule with pleny of opportunities to pick up victories, but I’m not confident if they have the ability to capitalize. I don’t think this team is dynamically strong enough to run away from any team in the conference.

Tyler Badie looks likely to emerge as Missouri’s #1 receiver in a corps that is full of question marks. Look for Badie to emerge as a leader of the offense, becoming a go-to guy on third downs for the Tigers.

Ole Miss Rebels: Winning Record, Plumlee posts a 2000/1000 stat line

Ole Miss is my favorite darkhorse pick in 2020, and I think they have a ceiling of 7 wins, so I’m going to pick them to come close that, either matching it or going 6-4 for a winning record in SEC play. They’ll take care of business against the teams they need to, and then I like the dynamic John Rhys Plumlee to lead this Ole Miss offense to victory in one or two upsets this season.

Speaking of Plumlee, I think he’s the best dual-threat quarterback in the conference, although he needs to improve his efforts in the passing game. I think Plumlee carries the Ole Miss offense and puts up huge numbers, particularly on the ground, en route to 2000 passing yards and 1000 rushing yards in 2020.

South Carolina Gamecocks: Start off 3-1, Mon Denson rushes for 800 yards

I think South Carolina is a .500 team in 2020, and they’ll make most of their progress towards those five wins in the early portion of their schedule. They’ll lose to Florida in Week 2, but take down Tennessee and Vanderbilt, before topping Auburn at home in what may essentially be their “Super Bowl” game. The Gameocks woun’t challenge for the SEC East title, likely finishing third or fourth in the division, but they’ll have at least a strong start to the season.

Mon Denson ran for just 232 yards last season, but his impressive average of over 5 yards per carry, combined with the potential for an increased workload in 2020, make him a prime breakout candidate. He’ll give South Carolina arun game that can be at least respected, giving quarterback Ryan Hilinksi more of a chance on play action passes.

Tennessee Volunteers: No losing streaks longer than 2 games, Guarantano posts 3:1 TD to INT ratio

I think Tennessee’s time may be coming, but the boys in Knoxville are not quite back yet. The Vols look like a 4-5 win team in 2020, but I think they’ll at least stay consistent and avoid skids that could completely tank their season. Look for Tennessee to go 2-3 both before and after their bye week en route to a mediocre season all the way around.

Jarrett Guarantano doesn’t scream elite when it comes to SEC quarterbacks, but I like his numbers to at least take a small jump in 2020. He put up 16 TDs and 8 INT last year, so let’s account for the shortened season and say 15 touchdowns, 5 interceptions this season for the Tennessee signal-caller.

Texas A&M Aggies: 8-2 record, Kellen Mond throws 20 TD

Unfortunately for the Aggies, in a loaded SEC West, this prediction will only land them a third place finish in the division, but I think Texas A&M finally deserves some of the preseason hype they get. The Aggies were notably ranked #5 in Phil Steele’s preseason rankings, and while I’m not sure I’d have put Texas A&M that high with every conference in play, I think Steele was onto something. A&M will struggle to put away LSU or Alabama, but they should certainly able to win their other eight games.

Kellen Mond threw for 20 TD, and I think he improves his numbers this season, which esentially means he should cut down on the 9 interceptions from last season and throw another twenty touchdowns in a shortened season.

Vanderbilt Commodores: Winless, Andre Mintze has 5 sacks

I just don’t see Vanderbilt winning a game. I’ve looked at the schedule frontways, backwards, upside down, and inside out, and I don’t see a win there for the Commdoores. They’re going 0-10 this season, as their fans go into hibernation until baseball season.

Defense should be the better side of the ball for Vanderiblt in 2020, and I like Andre Mintze to record five sacks, cracking the Top 10 in the SEC in that statistic.

Power Ranking The Top 5 Teams Not Playing In 2020

The Big 10 and Pac-12 have postponed their football seasons until the spring, and barring a miraculous change in direction, that means we are missing a few great teams worth watching this coming football season. There are rumors that certain teams from these conferences are still trying to put together a season, so while all hope is not yet lost, here’s the top 5 teams we are at least very unlikely to see play in the coming months.

5. Michigan Wolverines

Michigan faced an uphill battle this season in a loaded Big 10 East with Penn State and Ohio State. However, with Ohio State visiting Penn State, and the Nittany Lions travelling to Ann Arbor, there were hopes at potentially making a run at a 9-win conference season, which would at least keep them in the Playoff conversation. That may have required Jim Harbaugh to win a big game, so it may not have happened, but regardless, one of the best divisions in football is out of action this fall. We also miss some intirguing storylines, including Michigan’s quarterback battle, as they scramble to replace Shea Patterson. The Wolverines also will not get to break out running back Zach Charbonnet, who turned heads during an impressive freshman season. He averaged a touch under five yards per carry and notched 11 touchdowns on the ground. He was largely not Michigan’s feature back, but he figured to get an increased share of the carries in his sophomore season. Charbonnet will certainly miss out on a great chance to boost his draft stock, a common and unfortunate theme for many players in these conferences. It’ll be a weird season without the Maize and Blue roaming the gridiron.

4. Oregon Ducks

Maybe a tad low? That’s alright, I can deal with the protests of Oregon fans. Most college football fans were disappointed last year when Oregon lost a late-season battle with Arizona State, nullifying the Ducks’ chance at the Playoff. They were largely disappointed, simply because the general thought, which proved to be correct, was that Oklahoma could not match up in the Playoff, and the red-hot Ducks figured to be a higher-quality team. However, their late season loss doomed them, and Oregon settled for a Rose Bowl victory. This year, they would have had to replace quarterback Justin Herbert, who was drafted sixth overall after spending four years under center for the Ducks. Oregon figured to be a prime Pac-12 contender and potential darkhorse for the Playoff – however, barring any unlikely circumstances, they won’t be getting that chance in 2020.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions

I was really high on Penn State entering this season. I thought the Nittany Lions were truly one of the best teams in the country. They’re definitely one of the teams I am disappointed I won’t get to see in action. Whether it was defensive force Micah Parsons terrorizing opposing offenses, Journey Brown putting forth a dynamic season in the backfield, or quarterback Sean Clifford becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 10, Penn State had a ton of potential, I thought. Parsons opted out of the season, and Penn State also announced there would be no fans, nullifying their fairly significant homefield advantage at Happy Valley. Particularly affected was their home clash with Ohio State, which they figured to make their annual ‘whiteout’ game, which provides one of the most deafening atmsopheres in sports. That game, and this team as a whole, will be missed by the college football world in 2020.

2. USC Trojans

Entering this season, I was completely sold on Kedon Slovis as the best quarterback in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the nation. I believe USC had the best returning offense in the conference, a defense that could at the very least stack up as a top-5 unit. Slovis ended last season absolutely on fire, and I was ready for him to absolutely torch the Pac-12 this season. I truly could have seen him as a darkhorse Heisman contender, had the Trojans become a legitimate playoff contender. Slovis is an absolute stud, and I think he will elevate his draft stock to be one of the premier quarterbacks available in the 2022 draft, assuming he has a chance to suit up again by that point.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

This was the obvious number one. Whether you were excited to see Justin Fields ball out under center once more, or who in the Ohio States talented wide receiver corps would emerge, or exactly how well Master Teague could fill the shoes of J.K. Dobbins, or how dominant the Buckeyes’ defense could be, there was plenty to be excited for in this Ohio State team. They fell just short in the College Football Playoff Semifinals last season, and you can bet the house that they would have been raring to go out of the gate, ready to avenge that gutwrenching defeat. Ohio State was definitely on the shortlist of national title contenders in 2020, and one of the clear reasons that a national championship earned this coming fall season may have to come with a slight asterick.

Recent Virus Spikes Should Not Be The Reason To Shut Down College Football

The headlines have been both plentiful and negative this week, as reports of UNC reversing course and shifting to online learning, while Notre Dame did the same, although allowed students to stay on campus – for now. Both situations were caused by significant spikes in COVID-19 cases. UNC reported over 320 cases, with another couple of hundred students quarantined due to contact tracing. Notre Dame’s latest update had 222 confirmed cases as of Wednesday at noon. As with UNC, dozens of other students are currently quarantined. In an email, Notre Dame president Father Jenkins stated that the number of initial cases, just 15 days since freshman arrived on campus, and under two weeks after classes started, exceeded their initial estimates. New campus restrictions were set in place, and the student body is somewhat in limbo regarding their status for the rest of the semester. At UNC, most students are returning home. However, at both schools, sports, notably football, remains largely unhindered.

Notre Dame did not practice Wednesday, and they might not Thursday either. The players received tests for the virus, and it is believed that they will wait for results before continuing with practice. Their last set of test results came on August 10, with just 2 of 117 players and staff testing positive. Those who are against schools returning to in-person learning have been vehemently against a college football season. But quite frankly, recent developments show that these athletes may actually be safer with the season ongoing.

The COVID-19 virus remains a relative unknown, and obviously, player safety should be prioritized. However, can it be confidently said that cancelling the football season would make these players safer? I’m not so sure that the case can be made. Throughout the summer, many college football programs practiced, following strict health protocols and keeping case numbers extremely low and even nonexistent at times. These low numbers have been been a major point in the push from many college football players and coaches to keep their 2020 season alive. When seasons were cancelled, many coaches spoke out, discussing the guidelines they had successfully followed in order to earn the chance to play.

Would the numbers increase once the season started? Again, the virus can be a little unpredictable given how new it is, but it seems that if the testing capacity is there, it would not be the case. Look at the case in the NHL and NBA bubbles right now – no cases are being reported despite heavy contact sports being played with no masks and certainly very little distancing. Yet, with increased testing, there have been no cases in recent weeks. While they’re in a bubble, the MLB is not. And yes, the MLB has had some struggles with cases, but every team that has been shut down has been linked to activity that took place off the field, such as a few Miami Marlins’ players visiting a strip club. These sports aren’t particularly conducive to distancing, players aren’t wearing mask, and many of the other general safety protocols regarding COVID are not really in play in these bubbles. Football may be a new test, but it doesn’t appear at this point, given the success of summer practices, as well as the restart of professional sports, that playing sports dramatically increases the chance of infection.

But what about the bevy of Athletic Directors saying they won’t play football without their students on campus? We can only hope they will see sense. While yes, the college’s job is to educate their students, it would be ignorant to ignore the financial ramifications of losing the football season. Notre Dame, for example, uses the money from their contract with NBC to supplment financial aid packages for students. Football is the biggest moneymaker for many universities around the country. It’s not about prioritizing athletes over regular students – it’s about doing their best to dull the financial crisis that will arise out of this pandemic.

As for the recent spikes in cases? To this point, there is no reason to suggest that will be made better by cancelling football. Initial reports from Notre Dame said that the majority of their cases originated with a couple of large off-campus parties. UNC reported a similar situation. The trend has been pretty clear – off campus students, who have housing secured for the year, and non-athletes, with little to lose beyond in-person classes, have been careless and put their schools in tough positions. Notre Dame’s numbers showed that the majority of their cases came from two sources – senior students and business students. Seniors, and particularly seniors in business, often have jobs locked up, or close to locked up, entering their final academic year. Their housing situation would remain largely unchanged, and their future prospects would hardly be threatened by another virtual semester. Meanwhile, a general sense of outrage has permeated the campus, particularly among on-campus underclassmen, who would feel the brunt of the impact of a virtual semester.

There’s a reason that the numbers among football teams have been extremely low – these athletes are playing for their team and their future. Take away that season and all you are doing is adding hundreds of players to a careless student body. That doesn’t seem to lower the risk. The trend is clear – people with something to lose have been more careful, follow the guidelines, and keep the case numbers low. If we’re looking at a pros and cons list, the cons of cancelling football seem to outweigh the pros by a heavy margin right now. Fans or not, colleges need this financially, and if anything, recent events have shown that sports are not really the issue at hand – they’re simply becoming another victim in a hunt to end the virus that feels more and more like a chicken running around with its head cut off. Focus on the issue at hand and give the players the chance to play that they deserve.

And if you’re not an athlete – maybe don’t throw a massive party that gets your school shut down.

Possible College Football Playoff Formats For 2020

The SEC announced its schedule yesterday, with their first week of games still slated to start on September 26. The ACC is primed to begin play on September 12. The Big 12 marks the third Power-5 conference still intending to play in what will be a wild and wacky college football season, should we make it all the way through. In total, 6 of 1`0 FBS conferences are currently planning to play, while the Big 10, Pac-12, Mountain West, and MAC have all cancelled towards fall football. Though they hope to play a spring season, it looks somewhat improbable that the situation will be clearly better just 5-6 months from now. While some vaccines have reached Phase 3 of testing, the timeline still seems crunched if that is indeed what these conferences await. It’s too early to tell whether their intended spring season will pan out; for now, the focus is on the six conferences still seeking to play. And while each conference at this point seems to be moving forward with a conference-only (or close to) schedule, there’s a major question to be answered. How will the College Football Playoff look? Will we see a temporary one-year expansion? Will the committee simply have to say which conference’s match-ups they value more? Will a Group-of-5 team get a chance. Here’s a few possibilities to consider.

3 Conference Champions and a Wild Card

At the moment, barring any further announcement from the CFP, this seems like the most likely option. The Big 12, ACC, and SEC champions will all get an automatic berth, while a wild card berth will go to one non-champion. While this leaves the door open for a Group of 5 participant, the likelihood would be that this berth goes to one of the Power-5 conferences’ runners-up. It also leaves open the possibility of one diviison – namely the SEC West – getting two playoff teams. The ACC, at least for this season, has eliminated the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions, leaving them with just a 15-team conference, meaning the top two teams will clash for the title. The same can be said for the Big 12, while the SEC has maintained their two 7-team divisions. As has been the case for a while now, the SEC West remains the considerably stronger division of the two, and they have had a non division champion make the CFP. Could we get LSU and Alabama into the Playoff?

In this format, the Group of 5 is a clear loser. Even with a reduced playing field, they have next to no chance at attaining a postseason berth in this set-up. Even an undefeated run from a team like Memphis or Appalachian State would carry very little weight with zero, or maybe one, power-5 opponents. A Power-5 team with an appearance in the conference championship will almost certainly get that fourth and final bid.

Winners from this format, in my mind, are Notre Dame and Georgia. These are two teams that are currently favored to be in their conference championship, but not win. Had every Power-5 conference been in action this fall, this would almost disqualify them from playoff consideration. However, in this format, an appearance and competitive showing in the conference championship game could gift them that final slot. I didn’t list a Big 12 team, because I believe it is unlikely that a 10-team conference will be given two playoff spots, while one from the 14-team SEC and 15-team ACC are chosen. Also, there isn’t a clear 2nd-best team in the Big 12 at this moment. Texas is generally considered Oklahoma’s biggest challenger, but that could just be preseason “Hook Em” Texas bluster. Oklahoma State and Iowa State figure to be competitive, while Baylor looks to recapture the magic that almost had them in the Playoff a year ago. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is a unanimous favorite to be in the ACC Championship with Clemson, while Georgia also figures to have a very good chance at representing the SEC East for a fourth straight season in the SEC title clash. This format gives the Irish and the Bulldogs a far brigher outlook when it comes to playoff possibilites.

4 Conference Champions

An interesting and improbable idea. This idea made a few headlines when South Florida coach Jeff Scott floated out this tweet:

Could the Committee consider the AAC a “power-4 conference” for one season, giving a Group-of-5 team an automatic bid into the Playoff. This seems naturally unfair to Power-5 teams playing much more grueling schedules. The AAC certainly has some talent at the top in Memphis, Cincinnati, and UCF, but it’s simply not the same as having LSU, Alabama, Auburn, and Florida (such is the schedule of Texas A&M). This elevates the AAC to a status that it doesn’t seem to quite merit at this point, and while it would be a fun underdog story, such darkhorse tales tend to not fare as well in football, particularly at the collegiate level. Think about this way: Would you rather see Alabama or Clemson taking Notre Dame or Georiga in the Playoff, or would you be more likely to tune in to see one of the afoementioned powerhouses take on Memphis. Seems unlikely, no matter how good they are.

The AAC is a major winner in this format, while Conference USA and the Sunbelt Conference are left completely out to dry. Mainly, I think of Appalachian State, who may be one of the best group-of-5 teams this year, being given no chance at a Playoff berth, while the AAC is somewhat arbitrarily granted Power-4 status and a Playoff berth. And while the last system was a postitive, Notre Dame and Georgia will also frown upon this format, as their playoff hopes will now square on them beating favored opponents and national championship favorites in their conference championships.

“The Best Four”

The Playoff committee couold simply stick with their current system, which, hypothetically, selects the best four teams every single season. While this often brings in Power-5 champions, there’s been a few notable examples of non-champions cracking the four team field. The reason I view this as unlikely, is that the committee will have to essentially publically state with their selections that they value the other conference. Yes, Oklahoma has historically and recently been a very good team that looks like world-beaters inside the Big 12, only to faint on the big stage. Will the Playoff Committee naturally assume the Big 12 is again an inferior conference, thus looking for extra SEC teams ti fill out the bracket. The SEC has been the only conference to get two playoff berths in one season, and so this system likely benefits them far more than other conference. With a conference-only schedule, it seems very likely that should a second berth come from one conference, it would be an SEC Team.

In my mind, the biggest winner of this scenario is LSU. I think the Tigers enter this season as likely the 2nd-best team in the SEC to Alabama. However, may formats would disqualify a 9-1 LSU team from the Playoff; however, if Ed Orgeron’s squad looks convincing in their nine wins, they could be deemed one of the ‘best four’ teams here without making their conference championship.

The biggest loser of this situation would possibly be Oklahoma. While the Committee is never supposed to take past years into consideration, it’s getting hard to ignore the eggs that the Sooners lay on the big stage. Will they be wholly convinced that an Oklahoma team, possibly with 1 loss, is one of the best four teams. I wouldn’t count on it right now.

An Expanded Format

An expanded format may be unlikely to think about, but it could be a way to smooth out the inevitable wrinkles that will come with trying to select a playoff field. An 8-team playoff that guaranteed a berth to both participants in each conference championship game, plus two wild card berths, with one reserved for the best Group of 5 champion, has some interesting merit. It really ensures that we get the best teams – with a Group of 5 underdog – and the possibility for a deserving team that didn’t quite make a conference title game. This format would be hardpressed to exclude a deserving team, but there are some drawbacks. For one, it pretty much devalues the conference championship game, which becomes a ceremonial trophy with only an effect on seeding. For a team like Notre Dame, who doesn’t really have a vested interest in winning conference titles as a program, if they were to reach the ACC Championship against Clemson, would they be willing to start their stars in a game that had little affect on their future chances?

Some other interesting formats include a 5-team playoff that includes 3 Power-5 champions, one Group-of-5 champion, and a wild card. This way, the conference champions get a bye, while likely the Group of 5 representative takes on the wild card in a playoff-opening quarterfinal clash. This puts value on winning your conference title, but opens up a path to the playoffs without doing so – a key factor for teams like Notre Dame, Georgia, and LSU (assuming Alabama as the favorite this season).

In all likelihood, the Playoff will have to have either a guaranteed spot for a Group of 5 school, or simply maintain their “best teams” vernacular. Any system that only allows Power-5 champions or conference championship participants would be admitting to the obvious – that no Group of 5 team will ever get a playoff berth under the current system. While it’s true, the Committee won’t want to make a format that directly excludes them either.

The Committee has its biggest challenge ahead in 2020 – from comparing conference strengths, to determing a fair format, and everything else, they face some very tough decisions this coming season. Can they minimize the drawbacks and give us a CFP worth watching?

Thomas: NBA Mock Draft #2 – 2-Rounds

Round 1, Pick 1: Golden State Warriors select James Wiseman, C, Memphis
It’s been a month since my last mock and I still like this pick for Golden State. Their biggest needs clearly lie in the frontcourt, and Wiseman easily has the highest ceiling of any prospect. If they want a more NBA-ready prospect, the Warriors may target Onyeka Okongwu, but if I’m Golden State, I’m not overthinking it, and I’m taking Wiseman #1 overall. 

Round 1, Pick 2: Cleveland Cavaliers select Anthony Edwards, SG, Georgia
Obi Toppin would be an intriguing fit here in Cleveland, but I’m sticking with my original pick in Edwards. He’s a consensus top-three prospect on the board, and I believe the Cavaliers will take his high ceiling over Toppin’s high floor. If Edwards straightens out some defensive issues and becomes consistent from range, the Cavaliers may select a franchise level guard here.

Round 1, Pick 3: Minnesota Timberwolves select Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton
As seen so far, I really like the early stages of this mock to remain the same. I think Isaac Okoro would be another possibility at #3, but he’s considered a little bit more of a high-risk selection, especially this early. Obi Toppin may be the safest bet in the draft. There’s questions as to how much more he will improve, but he’s the best power forward available and addresses a major area of need for Minnesota. 

Round 1, Pick 4: Atlanta Hawks select Deni Avdija, SF, Israel
My first deviation from the original mock, my opinion of Avdija has risen the more I’ve analyzed the draft prospects from this class. One of his biggest strengths is playmaking off the ball, which would be an ideal fit for the Hawks, who are all-in on Trae Young as their franchise floor general. Last year’s draft class proved to be underwhelming for Atlanta, so grabbing a prospect with professional experience here would be ideal. He brings an aggressive mindset and stingy defense to the table, and I think his grit is a fit in Atlanta, where an injection of energy is needed to lift this team off the runway. 

Round 1, Pick 5: Detroit Pistons select Lamelo Ball, PG, USA
Lamelo slipping to #5 may seem somewhat improbable, but for the second straight mock, I don’t see a fit for him before Detroit selects here. The Hawks and the Warriors have entrenched point guards, and Minnesota has bigger needs elsewhere. I think he’s a fit in Cleveland, but ultimately, the availability of Anthony Edwards is too tempting. Thus, the steal of the draft heads to the Pistons who grab Lamelo Ball. After gaining some international experience in favor of the NCAA, Ball is ready to burst onto the scene in the NBA, and while there are concerns, there are too many pluses to overlook here. Detroit should jump at the chance to snare Ball at #5.

Round 1, Pick 6: New York Knicks select Killian Hayes, PG, France
My third straight pick that strayed away from the collegiate level, and my second pick that strays from my original mock. Okongwu and the rapidly slipping Okuru remain possibilities here, but I’m going for who in my opinion is the second best point guard on the board in this year’s draft class. Hayes has major playmaking ability, and his dynamic skillset should entice the Knicks to take a chance on their potential point guard of the future here at pick #6. 

Round 1, Pick 7: Chicago Bulls select Onyeka Okongwu, C, USC
Originally picked sixth overall in my first mock, Okongwu slips one spot further, where Chicago gladly snaps up the versatile and mobile freshman center out of USC. I mentioned Okongwu as a potential #1 pick, and I really could see a lot of teams grabbing him before Chicago picks at #7, but the Bulls would be happy to add an impact interior player who can complement the wildy athletic Zach Lavine. 

Round 1, Pick 8: Charlotte Hornets select RJ Hampton, PG, USA
Despite Okoro still available, the Hornets elect to go for their original pick from the first mock draft, selecting a creative guard who offers a versatile skillset offensively. Although Charlotte may not be getting the flashiest player in the draft, the Hornets need a solid point guard who can be the foundation of their rebuild.

Round 1, Pick 9: Washington Wizards select Isaac Okoro, SF, Auburn
Okoro’s sudden rise to stardom at Auburn may be unsettling to some teams picking in the lottery. Okoro wasn’t projected as a one-and-done pick entering the year, and there’s questions about his natural scoring ability. However his high ceiling is well worth the risk this far into the draft, as the Wizards snap up the SEC star at #9. 

Round 1, Pick 10: Phoenix Suns select Cole Anthony, PG, UNC
Phoenix has needs at virtually every position, and I have them going for Anthony, who’s draft stock probably slipped due to his injury during his lone season with the Tar Heels. I like Anthony over the other point guard option here – Tyrese Haliburton –  and a few of Phoenix’s other possible selections. I think Anthony has the highest ceiling, and picking at the edge of the lottery pick, selecting on potential seems like a great idea. 

Round 1, Pick 11: San Antonio Spurs select Tyrese Haliburton, PG, Iowa State
If the Spurs are faced with this pick with the aforementioned selections already made, then snagging Haliburton should be a no-brainer. Point guard is a clear need in San Antonio, and Haliburton is quite clearly the best prospect available here at pick #11. Considered to have one of the highest basketball IQs of any prospects, Haliburton may be a nice fit into Greg Popovich’s system. 

Round 1, Pick 12: Sacramento Kings select Theo Maledon, PG, France
There’s a decent amount of point-guard needy teams early in this draft, so Maledon goes slightly above his slot value (17th ranked prospect by ESPN). Maledon is an efficient and high-intensity player. After averaging just 17 minutes per game in the French professional ranks, Maledon’s lack of experience is a question, but playing alongside shot creators Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox should help him out early in his career.

Round 1, Pick 13: New Orleans Pelicans select Precious Achiuwa, PF, Memphis
Getting Achiuwa at pick #13 would be very solid value for the Pelicans, and I think that this selection comes down to a choice between the top two power forwards still available in Achiuwa and Saddiq Bey of Villanova. Achiuwa’s versatile defensive ability fits the needs of New Orleans’ exciting young core a little better, and he likely has the higher ceiling, so I like the Pelicans to take the Memphis star here. 

Round 1, Pick 14: Portland Trailblazers select Saddiq Bey, PF, Villanova
Also very needy for a power forward, the Trailblazer may find themselves taking whoever New Orleans leaves on the board with their 14th overall selection. Bey is a versatitle weapon, but there’s question marks as to whether he has an elite skill that will help him survive in the NBA game. Either way, he’s the best power forward available, so Portland would do well to make this selection here. 

Round 1, Pick 15: Orlando Magic select Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt
Ranked the 12th best overall prospect, Nesmith would be a steal at pick #15 for Orlando, who would be adding a versatile wing who may be the best shooter in the draft. After playing just fourteen games due to injury, sample size is an issue, but the Magic should take the risk on Nesmith, who averaged more than four 3-pointers a game, while shooting the three-ball at a 50% clip.

Round 1, Pick 16: Minnesota Timberwolves select Tyrese Maxey, SG, Kentucky
The Timberwolves need to fill a lot of gaps during this draft. After addressing the power forward position at #3 overall, Minnesota turns to the shooting guard position thirteen picks later, picking up the first Kentucky product in Tyrese Maxey. Described as a physical defender and an instinctive scorer with the touch to score from anywhere on the court, Maxey is one of the top shooting guards in the draft class, and the T-Wolves go with him over FSU’s Devin Vassell. 

Round 1, Pick 17: Boston Celtics select Jaden McDaniels, PF, Washington
Getting a big man is a priority for the Celtics, who need help at power forward and center. With an 8’11 standing reach, McDaniels fits the bill, although he may need a year or two to develop. However, finding a player who can be an NBA contributor right away is usually difficult outside the lottery, so McDaniels is a worthy, need-filling project. 

Round 1, Pick 18: Dallas Mavericks select Patrick Williams, SF, Florida State
This selection could depend on Dallas’s mindset entering the draft. If they feel they are ready to compete in the Western Conference, they may try and find a center that addresses their more glaring need. However, what I believe is more likely is that Dallas acknowledges they’re probably still a year or two away, and rather goes with a safer selection, with no elite center available on the board. Patrick Williams is a great option at shooting forward and a high-upside selection for Dallas. Would Dalllas try and trade up into the lottery for a shot at Okongwu or – in the case of an unlikely fall – Wiseman? It’s possible, but this mock doesn’t involve trades. 

Round 1, Pick 19: Milwaukee Bucks select Nico Mannion, PG, Arizona
This was a tough selection to choose here. I heavily considered going with Florida State’s Devon Vassell, but I ultimately felt that Mannion was a more NBA-ready prospect, and the Bucks are smack in the middle of their championship window. Mannion is a good facilitator with some questions regarding his scoring ability. However, Milwaukee has plenty of offense, and simply adding a skillful point guard that can take some attention off Giannis would be huge for the Bucks, so give me Mannion here at #19. 

Round 1, Pick 20: Brooklyn Nets select Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, Serbia
The Nets may opt for a more NBA-ready prospect, as Pokusevski is the youngest player in the draft class –  he won’t turn 19 until December. However, the Nets have three years left of Kevin Durant, and while expecting a championship in his first year as a healthy Net seems like high expectations, Brooklyn expects to be competing for a title in 2 or 3 years, which may fit Pokusevski’s timeline. Whomever Brooklyn selects here will likely give an indication of where the franchise thinks they stand in their rebuild timeline. 

Round 1, Pick 21: Denver Nuggets select Devin Vassell, SG, Florida State
My original mock had Vassell dropping all the way to the end of the first round, despite being ESPN’s 16th-ranked prospect. However, as I drafted my second version, I simply couldn’t justify Vassell slipping so far. The Florida State guard is too talented to be ignored for so long, after shooting 42% from 3-point range in his career. Denver, despite not desperately needing a guard, will go for the upside selection in Vassell here. 

Round 1, Pick 22: Philadelphia 76ers select Jalen Smith, PF, Maryland
Initially thought to be hunting for a power forward, Philadelphia’s priorities may change depending on Ben Simmons and how he performs in the NBA Restart. Simmons was recently moved to power forward, where his inability to shoot the three-pointer will be less noticeable, and if he performs well, he may stick there long-term. However, until he’s seen in game action, the assumption here is that Philly will still chase a power forward, and with Jalen Smith available, they’ll take the versatile offensive threat out of Maryland. Defensively a work-in-progress, Smith is still a good shot-blocker and made 60% of his two-point shots. He may be a good option for the 76ers, who love their big men. 

Round 1, Pick 23: Miami Heat select Tyler Bey, PF, Colorado
I love the pick of Bey here, who projects as a very solid defender at the NBA level after winning Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12. He’s got improvements to make offensively, and adding some size will be important if he’s to guard big men at the next level. Despite questions about his current offensive ability, scouts love his shooting touch, leaving hope that he will improve. For a young Miami team on the rise? Bey may just be a beautiful fit on the South Beach. 

Round 1, Pick 24: Utah Jazz select Kira Lewis, PG, Alabama
Point Guard and Center are the positions of need for Utah, so Isaiah Stewart also is a possibility. I also thought about having the Jazz snag Jahm’ius Ramsey out of Texas Tech. Ultimately, however, I was intrigued by the speed and soft shooting touch of the Alabama point guard, Kira Lewis. Lewis is considered one of the quickest players in the draft, and if develops into an above-average facilitator, the Jazz could find a sneaky 6th man or even starter at pick #24 here. 32-year old Mike Conley mans the point guard position in Utah right now, so Lewis could be groomed to take over in a year or two. 

Round 1, Pick 25: Oklahoma City Thunder select Josh Green, SG, Arizona
This is virtually a no-brainer here for the Thunder. Very needy at shooting guard, OKC sees Green, the 20th-ranked prospect on ESPN’s big board, slip to #25 here. He’s a safe pick with a high-floor and a steal this late in the first round. The Thunder are truly a confusing team as nobody thought they’d be in a position to pick this late in the draft, so their long-term set-up for success is somewhat unclear. Getting Green would be a very solid and need-filling selection for Oklahoma City. 

Round 1, Pick 26: Boston Celtics select Isaiah Stewart, C, Washington
A good first step for continuing to build a young core through the draft? How about grabbing two first-round freshmen who were a dynamic tandem during their lone year in college. Both projected first rounders out of Washington, Stewart and Jaden McDaniels were described by head coach Mike Hopkins as one of the best big-man duos in program history. With Stewart available, the Celtics could be intrigued by both addressing a position of need and pulling in the second half of that tandem, snaring a pair of players with a year of experience building chemistry behind them already. 

Round 1, Pick 27: New York Knicks select Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
After grabbing French point guard Killian Hayes with their first pick, the Knicks look to address a Kristap Porzingis-sized hole in the paint, opting to select one of the most dominant big men in the country from this past season. Watching Azubuike play at Kansas was reminiscent of watching vintage big men, even drawing comparisons to Shaq at times. There are questions about whether he can adapt to the modern NBA style of play. That question may limit his ceiling, but at the same time, do the Knicks have a lot to lose right now? They’re horrible, and Azubuike has looked very, very good at a position that the Knicks have looked very, very bad at. If he’s available, I like New York to pull the trigger on the Kansas star here. 

Round 1, Pick 28: Toronto Raptors select Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke
Carey is a fringe first-round pick, but with big men still going at a very high rate in my draft, he creeps up from the 32nd best prospect on ESPN’s big board and into the back end of the first round. The Raptors were expected by many to be in somewhat of a rebuild after losing Kawhi Leonard, but they remain in the NBA title chase as the league resumes play within their Orlando bubble. Carey is an elite rebounder and shows potential to add outside shooting to his skillset, which would make him a versatile asset on the Toronto roster. Injury concerns and questions on the defensive end have Carey ranked lower on the board than his talent and blue-blood experience at Duke would normally suggest, but if he capitalizes on his potential, this is a late round steal for the Raptors. 

Round 1, Pick 29: Los Angeles Lakers select Leandro Bolmaro, SG, Argentina
If the mock were to play out this way prior to pick 29, it would be crushing for the Lakers. Their clear biggest need is at center and after a bevy of the slipped to the end of the first round, three straight players that figure to be L.A. targets are taken right before the Lakers select. This may force Los Angeles to look elsewhere, as I’m not sure there’s another talent that can justifiably be taken in the first round at the position. Daniel Oturu from Minnesota could make a case, but it might be a reach. Instead, the Lakers get a pretty nice consolation prize in Leandro Bolmaro, who looks like the best player remaining on the board, ranked by ESPN as the 21st best prospect in the class. There’s less of a need for guards at the back end of the first round – hence the slip – but Los Angeles is picking up a very solid prospect here. There are questions about his ceiling as a shooter, but Bolmaro projects as a creative, playmaking guard who can finish effectively near the basket and play with great defensive intensity. Maybe this pick doesn’t address L.A’s biggest need, but it’s a really solid pick-up. 

Round 1, Pick 30: Boston Celtics select Jah’mius Ramsey, PG, Texas Tech
It seems extremely likely that the Celtics will trade one of their three first round picks, but this mock is trade-free, so having addressed their most prominent needs with their first two selections, the Cs have a little bit of freedom to pick a high-ceiling player here. Ramsey may be one of the top pure scorers in the draft with potential on the defensive side of the court. There’s questions about his decision making but given that he averaged 15 points a game while “living off contested jumpers” there’s a high ceiling if he cleans up his shot selection. 

Round 2, Pick 31: Dallas Mavericks select Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota
The Lakers passed on Oturu and Los Angeles’s loss is Dallas’s gain, as they snare the Minnesota big man, who measures in at 6’9 and 240 pounds. With good size, he will be an excellent complementary piece in the paint to franchise player Luke Doncic, making this some great value at the beginning of the second round. 

Round 2, Pick 32: Charlotte Hornets select Zeke Nnaji, PF, Arizona
The Hornets have so many holes to fill that virtually nobody is off the table when they are selecting. After grabbing point guard R.J. Hampton in the first round, Charlotte turns their attention to the frontcourt, picking up the 7-foot Nnaji out of Arizona. 25th-ranked prospect Robert Woodard does remain on the board, so that also seems like a viable possibility, but Charlotte chases the prototypical size and talent and a player from a more traditional basketball power. 

Round 2, Pick 33: Minnesota Timberwolves select Robert Woodard, SF, Mississippi State
Minnesota’s quest to fill a large number of roster holes continues early in the second round with their third selection of the draft. Picking at #33, the Timberwolve are met with a pleasant surprise as first-round talent Woodard has slipped into the second round, giving Minnesota a better-than-expected option in this slot. Woodard brings great defense and three-point shooting to the table, projecting as an off-the-ball forward. Best available player at a position of need? Mark it down, move him out – Woodard’s headed to Minnesota. 

Round 2, Pick 34: Philadelphia 76ers select Cassius Winston, PG, Michigan State
Heading away from their traditionally favored big men, the 76ers pick up the undersized but lethal Cassius Winston, who had the Spartans primed for a deep NCAA Tournament run after a rocky start to the season. Winston is considered to be a prospect that can immediately help at the NBA level, having shot 43% from three-point range as a three-year starter with the Spartans. Polished and ready to contribute, he’s both a perfect selection and great value here for the 76ers. 

Round 2, Pick 35: Sacramento Kings select Xavier Tillman, C, Michigan State
Sacramento picks up the next best center available, addressing their biggest need after electing not to so with their first pick. Tillman is a defensive stalwart, and he was one of the few players who had success in locking down Luka Garza in the paint this season. The second half of Michigan State’s star duo in this draft, Tillman goes one pick after Winston to the Kings, where he could compete for playing time right away. 

Round 2, Pick 36: Philadelphia 76ers select Desmond Bane, SG, TCU
Desmond Bane is an underrated prospect out of a TCU program that overwhelmed last season, finishing just 16-16 on the year. However, their lackluster record was not due to Bane, who averaged 16.6 points per game on 45% shooting, to go with 6.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists. After grabbing Winston two picks earlier, the 76ers double down with another guard and secure Bane’s services early in the second round. 

Round 2, Pick 37: Washington Wizards select Devon Dotson, PG, Kansas
Wizards neglected what is possibly their post pressing need, going for value with their selection of Isaac Okoro in round 1. If that happens in reality, look for Washington to try and trade up. As it is, landing Dotson at #37 is a nice consolation prize for a point guard-needy team. 

Round 2, Pick 38: New York Knicks select Elijah Hughes, SG, Syracuse
Keep the New York man in New York. Hughes is originally from New York, and he went to Syracuse, where he tore it up, particularly over his final two seasons. Hughes is comfortable in the Big Apple, and New York has a need at shooting guard, so this seems like a natural fit early in the second round. 

Round 2, Pick 39: New Orleans Pelicans select Tre Jones, PG, Duke
Duke is almost a farm system team for the Pelicans at this point, so why stop now. There are five Duke alumni on New Orleans’ roster, so picking up a 6th shouldn’t be a problem. Jones is a high-IQ player and impressed in his 2nd season after a disappointing debut year with the Blue Devils. New Orleans do have major needs in the paint, but after drafting Precious Achiuwa with their first pick of the draft, I don’t see a prospect that’s worth taking here, so the New Orleans Blue Devils – Pelicans – go with Tre Jones at #39 overall. 

Round 2, Pick 40: Sacramento Kings select Jordan Nwora, PF, Louisville
I’ve been a little surprised how little buzz Nwora has drawn throughout the draft process. The Buffalo, New York product put up 18 points a game on 44% shooting and was an excellent rebounder for Louisville, torturing the ACC night after night throughout his excellent career. The Kings bite on Nwora here, slightly ahead of his projected slot (44th ranked prospect on ESPN), as his talent is too tantalizing to pass up. 

Round 2, Pick 41: Memphis Grizzlies select Payton Pritchard, PG, Oregon
The Grizzles have the likely Rookie of the Year this season in Ja Morant, but not getting to pick until the 41st selection (barring a trade) will make repeating that feat unlikely. However, snaring Pritchard here would be an amazing find. Pritchard may go earlier, although he should definitely be a 2nd-round selection. If Memphis can address one of their biggest needs with the Pac-12 Player of the Year – they shouldn’t hesitate on pulling the trigger on the Oregon floor general. 

Round 2, Pick 42: New Orleans Pelicans select Skylar Mays, SG, LSU
Again, it is difficult for the Pelicans to find a big man that isn’t a reach with this pick, and there’s no top Duke prospect around, so instead, they go for an in-state gem in LSU’s Skylar Mays. Mays is 6’4 and 205 pounds – an excellent build for a guard – and was one of the best guards in the SEC last season. He’s originally from Baton Rouge and is Louisiana born-and-bred. Why not keep him where he’s comfortable? 

Round 2, Pick 43: San Antonio Spurs select Reggie Perry, C, Mississippi State
I’ll let the Spurs reach a little bit here. They’ve been on a slow decline for the last five seasons, but they remain at least somewhat relevant and may try and draft for need here. Perry fills one such glaring need at center, and after averaging a double-double as a sophomore in the SEC, he’s an intriguing selection in the middle of the 2nd round. 

Round 2, Pick 44: Portland Trailblazers select Malachi Flynn, PG, San Diego State
This is pretty much just a best-available pick for Portland. They addressed their biggest need by picking Saddiq Bey at power forward with their first selection. There may be a need at center, but having already snared a frontcourt addition, the Trailblazers opt for the backcourt, where Flynn is still available at #44. Great value and a worthy selection here for Portland. 

Round 2, Pick 45: Chicago Bulls select Grant Riller, PG, Charleston
Dotson, Pritchard, Jones, and Flynn represent some well known 2nd-round point guard prospects, but all have left the board by the time the guard-needy Bulls select here at pick #45. Riller has the scoring touch, averaging 21.9 points per game for each of his final two years with Charleston, and the mid-major product is most definitely an interesting 2nd-round addition for whomever drafts him. Ranked the 39th-best prospect by ESPN, he’s great value here for Chicago. 

Round 2, Pick 46: Orlando Magic select Tyrell Terry, PG, Stanford
The Magic went with shooting forward Aaron Nesmith with their first pick, and they remain in need of a point guard here. They’ll go best available and take the former Stanford floor general midway through the second round. 

Round 2, Pick 47: Boston Celtics select Cassius Stanley, SG,  Duke
The Celtics aren’t really drafting for need by this point, and they pick up an intriguing shooting guard prospect. Stanley put on a show at Duke at times, and while there are inevitable concerns that come with a prospect coming off the board late in the second round, there’s no doubt he has plenty of athleticism and could become a NBA contributor. 

Round 2, Pick 48: Golden State Warriors select Paul Reed, PF, DePaul
The Warriors haven’t made a selection since getting Wiseman #1 overall, but they continue to address the frontcourt with pick #2, grabbing the 6’9 Reed out of DePaul. It’s no secret that Golden State has plenty of star power at guard, so it makes sense for them to get rim protectors and wing players during this draft. 

Round 2, Pick 49: Philadelphia 76ers select Killian Tillie, C, Gonzaga
With a third 2nd round selection, the 76ers don’t really have glaring needs they haven’t already addressed, so they head to the frontcourt to pick up an intriguing prospect in Tillie, who tore it up under Mark Few at Gonzaga. Can his dominant play in the West Coast Conference translate to the NBA – the 76ers will take the chance on that here. 

Round 2, Pick 50: Indiana Pacers select Abdoulaye N’Doye, PG, France
The Pacers don’t get to pick until the tail end of the draft, and there’s a few holes they can focus on. They’ll address one of those needs at point guard, and hope that N’Doye, a 6’7 guard out of France, can fulfill his potential as an international prospect. 

Round 2, Pick 51: Golden State Warriors select Yam Madar, PG, Israel
The Warriors addressed the front court with their first two picks and now adds depth to their backcourt, adding Israelian prospect Yam Madar. They don’t need immediate contributors at guard, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson still roaming the court in the Bay Area, which gives the Warriors time to try and groom Madar to play at the NBA level. 

Round 2, Pick 52: Oklahoma City Thunder select Kaleb Wesson, C, Ohio State
There’s a fair amount of options for solid frontcourt prospects available to the Thunder, who are definitively needy at both power forward and center. Ultimately, the Thunder go with Ohio State’s 6’9 Kaleb Wesson, who averaged 14 points and 9.3 rebounds per game with the Buckeyes during his junior season. 

Round 2, Pick 53: Sacramento Kings select Kenyon Martin Jr., SF, USA
The Kings have a wealth of picks, making their fourth selection here, so they go with a position they haven’t addressed yet, picking up the 6’7, 215-pound Martin out of IMG Academy late in the second round. 

Round 2, Pick 54: Atlanta Hawks select Paul Eboua, PF, Cameroon
Having not selected since their fourth overall pick, the Hawks are looking for prospects with potential here, as picking up NBA-ready prospects at the tail-end of the draft will be extremely difficult. Eboua, weighing in at a wiry 198 pounds and standing 6’8, is certainly an interesting international prospect. For an Atlanta team that has struggled to get back into contention despite no glaring holes on their roster, he’s a pretty nice pick at this point in the draft. 

Round 2, Pick 55: Brooklyn Nets select Nick Richards, C, Kentucky
The Nets have glaring needs at power forward and center, but only two selections in the draft, spaced 35 picks apart. Thus, filling the need with NBA-ready talent will be difficult late in the second round, but Brooklyn gets solid value in the 7-foot out of Richards. If you have a position of need and no transcendent talent, pick the player who fits the physical profile and played for a program that pumps out NBA big men. 

Round 2, Pick 56: Los Angeles Clippers select Ashton Hagans, PG, Kentucky
A second straight Kentucky selection – the Clippers use their lone pick of the draft to snare a point guard, addressing a position of need with Hagans, who averaged 11.5 points and 6.4 assists in 2019-20. Hagans’ teammate Immanuel Quickley is also a possibility here, but I’ll lean towards Hagans for this pick. 

Round 2, Pick 57: Charlotte Hornets select Sam Merrill, SG, Utah State
Merrill, who we ran a draft feature on earlier this spring, prior to the postponement of the draft, was last seen hitting a buzzer-beater to stun San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference championship. The Utah State star has the ability to shoot his way onto a NBA roster, and Charlotte could be a place where he gets some early opportunities to showcase his stuff. 

Round 2, Pick 58: Toronto Raptors select Immanuel Quickley, PG, Kentucky
After Tyrese Maxey was their only selection in the first round, the Kentucky Wildcats see three of their players get selected in a four-pick span late in the second round, as Toronto picks up the second half of the Kentucky point guard duo, snaring Quickley. After getting Vernon Carey in the first round, the Raptors walk away with two productive collegiate players from blue-blood programs, so certainly not bad for Nick Nurse’s squad. 

Round 2, Pick 59: Philadelphia 76ers select Josh Hall, SF, USA
Hall elected to not play collegiate basketball, most recently competing for Moravian Prep in Hickory, North Carolina. He’s a fringe-level draft prospect, and this mock does have Hall coming off the board with the penultimate pick. The 76ers have their 5th selection of the draft and use it on the prep school 19-year old. 

Round 2, Pick 60: New Orleans Pelicans select  Nathan Knight, C, William & Mary
Not exactly a blue-blood selection to end our mock draft. The Pelicans pick up Knight with the final pick, taking a player who absolutely tore up the Colonial Athletic Association to the tune of 20.7 points and 10.5 rebounds on 52.4% shooting. The quality of competition was certainly lower, but Knight’s production makes him worth a flier at #60 .

CFB Greatest Of All Time Championship: 2001 Miami vs. 2012 Alabama

At long last, after 8 rounds of double-elimination bracket play, we’ve arrived at our championship in the Greatest of All Time College Football Simulation, pitting 2001 Miami vs. 2012 Alabama in a best-of-three series.

How We Got Here
2001 Miami emerged victorious from Bracket B, and there’s little complaints in that area. They trailed just once en route to the bracket championship and then engineered a game-winning drive on the strength of their backup quarterback in the Bracket B final. They roll into the championship series with an unblemished 5-0 record.

There was anger, shock, accusations of rigging, and everything else with the results of Bracket A. 7th-seeded 2012 Alabama stunned the field with an undefeated run. They went 5-0 in impressive fashion, toppling the 2019 LSU Tigers and 2018 Clemson Tigers twice. The Crimson Tide’s fearsome backfield trio of Kenny Drake, Eddie Lacy, and T.J. Yeldon has terrorized opponents throughout the tournament, and they’ll hope they can challenge Miami’s stout defense in the championship. 

Game 1 

Alabama 28 Miami 9

Wow. A stunner. The Miami team that has barely trailed all tournament long never even sniffed the lead in this one. That Alabama backfield was up to its usual tricks, with Lacy compiling 109 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown, and Yeldon tearing apart the ‘01 Miami defense to the tune of 117 yards on 15 touches. He notched his lone touchdown on a third-quarter 61-yard scamper, which gave the Tide a commanding 21-6 lead with 3:20 to play in the period. The Hurricanes notched just three field goals, racking up just 57 rushing yards on the game. Absolutely dominant effort from the Tide here in Game 1. Can they secure a sweep in Game 2?

Talk about lethal backfield duos – Lacy and Yeldon were also complemented by Kenny Drake

Game 2

Alabama 23 Miami 17

A miracle Cinderella run finds its happy ending, as the clock never quite strikes midnight on this 2012 Crimson Tide squad, which finishes the tournament 7-0. This one was a much tighter affair than the previous game, as the Crimson Tide clung to a 16-10 lead entering the final frame. However, Miami took the lead for the first time in the series on the strength of an 89-yard punt return touchdown with 10:47 to go. However, with plenty of time on the clock, Alabama was able to stick to their ground game. Lacy (87 yards) and Yeldon (106 yards) chewed up yards, while A.J. McCarron hooked up with Amari Cooper for 23 yards on a clutch third-down conversion. Ultimately, Lacy ran it in from 6 yards out with 6:19 to play. 

Miami still had a chance to claim victory, down six with plenty of game to be played, and they crawled down the field, struggling for every yard. Brock Berlin, who saved the Hurricanes in the Bracket B championship, assisted in a trick play, tossing a 22-yard completion to Ken Dorsey, who also found Daryl Jones for 25 yards on the drive. Beyond those chunk plays, Clinton Portis did the grunt work, grinding out 24 yards on 7 carries. The clock trickled down under 2 minutes as Miami reached the Alabama 11. However, Portis ran for just two yards, and Dorsey completed a 4-yard pass. After Dorsey scrambled for a yard on third down, the Hurricanes faced 4th and 3 at the 4-yard line. Needing a touchdown to win, Dorsey dropped back and lofted a pass towards the back corner of the end zone. Vinnie Sunseri of Alabama out jumped Ethenic Sands, snaring the pick and clinching the championship for Alabama.

College Football Down But Not Out: How Players and Coaches Are Fighting Back

As the coronavirus pandemic raged on through the summer – the promised dip in cases with the warm weather never really arriving – a pit began to form in the stomachs of many college football fans around the country. While the NFL has yet to make significant changes, outside cancelling preseason games, college football was always at greater risk. There’s limited ways to institute a bubble system that has allowed for successful restarts in the NHL and NBA. The MLB has allowed limited travel, and even that has not come without its drawbacks, with several teams seeing a multitude of games cancelled as the virus raged through their clubhouse.

Could college football ever survive? The early responses to that question began rolling in over the past couple of weeks, as FCS moved their season to the spring, while UConn became the first FBS team to cancel their fall season. The MAC became the first FBS conference to make the announcement – seemingly making it only a matter of time until the season fell by the wayside. On Monday, major dominoes finally fell, as the Big 10 voted to cancel their season by an overwhelming 12-2 majority. The Mountain West Conference soon followed. The Pac-12 is expected to vote their way into the same course of action today, which would leave the FBS with just 6 of 10 conferences still standings. However, don’t spell doom on the college football season just yet. 

Players Fighting Back

#WeWantToPlay. The hashtag has flooded twitter, after it was posted by itself in a Tweet by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The tweet was followed up by a longer explanation from the potential #1 draft pick, stating that the players and community at large would be at least as safe with a football season as without. Coming from Lawrence, who has little to gain in the way of draft stock this season, the statement was extremely important. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields echoed the sentiment, as did several other prominent players, with Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill being another notable name to join the cause. Several other Buckeyes’ players reacted to the Big 10’s decision, firing out tweets wondering whether they could join the SEC for a year. On Monday, Ian Book and the rest of the Notre Dame captains released a statement, affirming their support for a 2020 season: “As leaders of this team, we can confidently say that the metal and physical health of this team is in a better place with the football season taking place this fall”, the statement read. 

Joe Burrow, although a recent alum of the college football world, sent out an eye-opening tweet, saying that if this had happened last season, he would likely be looking for a job right now. The tweet referenced Burrow’s meteoric rise from a player barely projected to be drafted to a lock for the #1 overall pick, a stunning climb that hinged on his historical Heisman-winning 2019 season. Which players out there could make a similar move in 2020? If the decision to cancel the season is upheld, we may never get to find out. 

Coaches and Celebrities Get Involved

The desperate fight to play has not only involved players, as everal coaches got involved in the movement. Jim Harbaugh cited Michigan’s 0 positive results in their last 353 tests as evidence that the virus could be controlled, a point emphasized in a tweet from Michigan defensive lineman Adam Hutchinson.

Scott Frost said the Nebraska program was prepared to explore opportunities outside the Big 10 for a season, while Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Penn State’s James Franklin both expressed sentiments about hoping to reverse the decision. Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss also tweeted out the #WeWantToPlay hashtag in support of the movement to have the 2020 season. Nick Saban released a statement saying that the notion that college players could only get the virus from playing football was incredibly false, citing Alabama’s 2% positive test ratio since the 4th of July. 

Basketball legend Shaq and President Trump were also among the big names that advocated for the players via social media yesterday, however not everyone wants the season to be played. Stephen A. Smith said the season should be cancelled today, and evidently, there’s concern among some players as well, with 31 opt-outs to this point. Rashod Bateman (Minnesota), Rondale Moore (Purdue), and Micah Parsons (Penn State) highlighted the opt-out movement, as all three highly-ranked prospects elected to not play in 2020. However, a growing sentiment in the college football world was that the option to play should be as readily available as the option to opt-out. The virus has proved containable, and with effective measures in place and conference-only play, a season with an abbreviated slate of games seems attainable. 

Realignment and other ideas

The Pac-12 will likely announce their cancellation on Tuesday, and the Big 10 should make their decision official as well, officially bringing the number of conferences down to 6. The most updated reports have said that they may only delay their season, waiting before announcing an official cancellation. But if the season isn’t officially cancelled, and those 6 conferences want to play, we could see some weird things happening that would shake up the football world. The SEC has already reportedly begun courting several teams to join their conference for a season, including Texas and Oklahoma out of the Big 12. Could an SEC/Big 12 superconference be a possible solution. Such a deal would leave the ACC on the outside looking in, maybe hoping to secure some Big 10  and AAC teams to join their conference on a temporary basis. Nebraska and Iowa voted against the cancellation officially, and with several coaches speaking out against the decision, it would be foolish to declare the season dead just yet. Meanwhile, there could also be traction for an SEC/ACC alignment, while the Big 12 welcomes in teams from the Big 10 and Pac-12 that still want to play. Could some teams from the cancelled Mountain West (Boise State being the most prominent) link up with some hodgepodge conference in 2020? Conference USA intends to play as of this moment, despite Old Dominion’s announcement that they would not play in the fall. C-USA could also be a factor in regrouping teams into a realigned conference set-up. The logistics of any of these set-ups would be a nightmare to figure out, with playoff formats and schedules having to be reconfigured, but the possibility remains in play. 

Of course, the most likely situation may still be a spring season, which would at least recoup some of the brutal financial losses that programs across the country will suffer from the cancellation of the fall schedule. If a spring season can’t be played, it would be expected that dozens of athletic teams will be forced to shut down, due to the financial strain. We’ve already seen a bevy of programs cut due to this, and the reality of missing a year of football, easily the greatest money maker for nearly every school, would cause the program cancellations to increase greatly. The outlook is bleak right now, but don’t close the coffin just yet. College football is down but not out – #WeWantToPlay.