Best SEC Week 1 Bets

The SEC is back in action this week, and they bring with them arguably the best game of this coming weekend, with #23 Kentucky travelilng to take on #8 Auburn. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the best bets you could make on SEC games this weekend. For our purposes, we’re making the odds no better than -200 – I’m not going to waste your time by saying that picking Georgia (-2800) against Arkansas is a safe bet. Whether you’re putting big money on it, or you’re a broke college kid like myself who might make a $5 dollar wager with a friend, here are some of my favorite picks.

Over/Unders

Kentucky-Auburn, Under 49.5

Neither of these offenses excite me, but I think they offer pretty solid defense. 5 of Auburn’s 8 SEC contests in 2019 went under 49.5, and the same can be said for six of Kentucky’s conference clashes. I don’t see either team putting up 30 points in this one, so I like the odds of this game hitting the under.

Spreads and Moneylines

Ole Miss (+14.5) vs. Florida

I’m higher than most on Ole Miss’s chances as an underdog this season. I think John Rhys Plumlee is a very good quarterback, particularly as a runner, and playing at home against a top-10 opponent, I think that he and the Rebels come to play in the opener. I’m intrigued by the payout of the +420 moneyline, but to me, picking Ole Miss to lose by less than two touchdowns is a solid pick for the SEC’s opening weekend.

South Carolina (+145) vs. Tennessee

I like the odds on this one. South Carolina enters as slight underdogs to the Vols, who are 1-3 against the Gamecocks since Will Muschamp took over as coach. South Carolina needs a win here to make a bowl game feasible, with a brutal SEC schedule ahead, and I think Tennessee is wildly overrated at #16. As far as underdog moneylines in Week 1 of SEC play, this one is pretty enticing.

Alabama (-27) vs. Missouri

I would rarely pick a spread so large in a conference opener, but I believe the stability of Mac Jones and Najee Harris leading the Alabama offense will allow the Crimson Tide to put up 40+ points, and I don’t see them allowing more than 10-14 to a lackluster Missouri team with a new quarterback. A four-touchdown victory seems pretty plausible here.

Games to Avoid

  • Georgia (-26) vs. Arkansas
    This is a large spread I like to avoid, and there’s a lot up in the air about the Georgia offense, which lost their top two running backs and will be led under center by J.T. Daniels, who was injured early last season with USC. I might take under 52.5 mark here, due to the stout nature of Georgia’s defense, but it’s not something I’m willing to say too confidently. If Georgia comes out firing on all cylinders, and Daniels proves to be a stud in replacing Jake Fromm, than the Bulldogs could definitely put up 40+ on Arkansas, putting that over/under mark in jeopardy.
  • LSU (-16) vs. Misissippi State
    There’s far too many unknowns here. I think LSU will definitely win, although their -800 moneyline odds are hardly worth looking at. Their offense should be decent with Myles Brennan and a plethora of receivers, but they’ve lost so many weapons, and with the weird and wild time that has been the COVID-plagued offseason, expecting this unit to gel right away may not be realistic. If K.J. Costello can get this offense moving, this spread seems too tight to call for my comfort.
  • Texas A&M (-30.5) vs. Vanderbilt
    Texas A&M is a little unpredictable. They should be a decent team in the SEC West, challenging for a top-two or top-three finish, depending on how the rest of the schedule shakes out. However, betting on Kellen Mond to beat this 30.5 point spread doesn’t feel right, but betting on Vanderbilt to exceed expectations anywhere on the gridiron also feels wrong. There’s no moneyline and the over/under set at 46.5. That may seem like a low mark, but Vanderbilt’s offense looks like a wilted plant, and they simply might not score points, which leaves it up to Mond and Co. to exceed that mark, which I won’t bet on.

My Favorite Parlay

Who doesn’t love a good parlay? My favorite parlays combine a couple of realistic bets with a few gimmes to make the odds reasonable but with only a few games in doubt. Here I do include some big moneylines, as they are being combined with smaller bets. With that being said, here’s a little four-leg parlay play to start off the SEC season, using none of bets I already listed as my favorites. I may throw those in a parlay, but I like to keep my top bets separate of my parlay.

  • Georgia-Arkansas, UNDER 52.5
  • LSU vs. Mississippi State, UNDER 56.0
  • Auburn (-300) vs. Kentucky
  • Florida vs. Ole Miss, OVER 57.0

Payoff: +828 ($10 bet = $82.80 profit)

Heisman Tracker: Miami, Clemson lead the way with 2 Top-10 players

We’re back with the second edition of the Heisman Tracker. It will be the final edition with no SEC players, as the best conference in college football kicks off their season next weekend. After another weekend of games concluded, highlighted by #17 Miami’s big win over #18 Louisville on Saturday night, let’s see who made moves on our Heisman tracker.

The Finalists

  1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
    Lawrence remains at #1 after a solid showing against a completely overmatched Citadel squad this past weekend. The projected #1 pick has had to do very little this year, but he’s been brutally efficient when called upon, going 30-37 for 519 yards and 4 touchdowns, with no picks. He’s a top performer on the #1 team in the nation, so that makes him the current frontrunner, particularly with four of the top six teams in the AP Poll yet to have played a game.
  2. Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
    Rattler was inactive this past weekend, and his first power-5 opponent lies in wait this coming Saturday, against Kansas State, a team that tripped up the Sooners last season. A big performance there will cement his early-season spot in our Top 4.
  3. D’Eriq King, QB, Miami
    King wasn’t even on the radar last season, but big early-season performances can cause huge swings in our Heisman tracker, and King shoots up into the top three this week. King went 18-30 for three touchdowns in Miami’s 47-34 win over Louisville, bringing his season stats to 33-53 for 466 yards and four passing touchdowns, while tacking on 92 yards and a rushing score on the ground. He replaces the inactive Sam Ehlinger in our Top 4.
  4. Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
    Williams put up another solid performance in limited minutes as Notre Dame’s lead back. The Irish didn’t ask too much of Williams in their 52-0 blowout of South Florida, but their sophomore star is up to 277 yards on 33 touches this year, adding his second touchdown of the year this past weekend.

The Heisman Hopefuls (#5-10)

5. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
Season Stats: 25-33, 426 yards, 5 TD

6. Cam’Ron Harris, RB, Miami
Season Stats: 26 carries, 268 yards, 3 touchdowns

7. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Season Stats: 25 carries, 170 yards, 1 touchdown
4 receptions, 58 yards

8. Brady White, QB, Memphis
Season Stats: 26-36, 295 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT

9. Elijah Mitchell, RB, Louisiana
Season Stats: 24 carries, 210 yards, 2 TD

10. Joshua Moore, WR, Texas
Season Stats: 6 catches, 127 yards, 1 TD

Others Considered

  • Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
  • Grant Wells, QB, Marshall
  • Tyler Allegier, RB, BYU

Offensive X-Factors For Top ACC Contenders

The X-Factor is one of my favorite discussion points in sports. Every year, contenders in college football enter the year with positions or players they have few question marks about – proven players who they trust to produce. However, teams that win or compete for championships are generally boosted by that surprise breakout performance, an excellent contribution from a player that wasn’t expected to do so. Without that player, that X-Factor, a championship team simply becomes a really good team, and a really good team can beocme borderline average. So with a game in the books for many teams who we consider to be contenders to qualify for the ACC Championship,. let’s take a look at who the X-Factors are for those squads, on the offensive side of the ball. For the purposes of this piece, we narrowed our list to the four teams with the best current odds to win the ACC.

Clemson Tigers – Braden Galloway, TE

Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne headline a lethal Clemson offense, but their wide receiver corps did have some question marks, as the season-ending injury to Justyn Ross forced Amari Rodgers to become WR #1 for the Tigers. This left an opportunity for someone to step up as Lawrence’s second option in the passing game, and Galloway played the part in the season opener. He tied with Rodgers for the team lead with five catches for 60 yards. After not playing in 2019 and having just five total receptions in 2018, Galloway looks primed for a breakout season that could add another layer to this dynamic Clemson offense.

UNC Tar Heels – Michael Carter, RB

Carter maybe doesn’t fit the traditional ‘X-Factor’ definition, as he is a proven player who has produced for the Tar Heels. However, he is so critical in both facets of the UNC offense that, with a lack of unproven breakout prsoepcts, makes Carter my choice for the X-Factor here. The biggest key for Carter will be an increased role in the passing game. Taking too much from one game is dangerous, but Carter collected six passes for 60 yards in their opening clash with Syracuse. He had more than 2 receptions in a game just once in 2019. Combine that with his seven carries for 78 yards, and Carter averaged nearly 11 yards per touch in his first outing of 2020. He’s explosive, and he looks like he might have added more versatility to his toolkit in 2020.

Miami Hurricanes – Jaylan Knighton, RB

The addition of a freshman playmaker is always exciting, and Knighton looks like he could add another dimension to this Miami offense in 2020. The hype regarding the Hurricanes has largely revolved around the arrival of transfer quarterback D’Eriq King. King is a great dual-threat quarterback, and Miami complements his skills with Cam’Ron Harris, a proven running back. However, Knighton played a significant part in the gameplan during Miami’s season-opening victory against UAB. The true freshman notched nine carries for 59 yards, over 6.5 yards per pop. With the sturdy Harris taking the bulk of the rushing load, Knighton, weighing in 20 pounds lighter than Harris, provides a great change of pace. His arrival in Miami hints at dynamic potential and creativity to the Hurricanes’ playcalling.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Michael Mayer, TE

Mayer is currently listed as the 3rd-string tight end for the Irish, but he flashed some of the playmaking ability that enticed the Irish to seek him out as their top target of the 2020 class. He caught three passes for 38 yards, continually racking up yards after the catch and proving very difficult to take down. At 6’5, 235, Mayer is an absolute monster on the field, and Notre Dame offensive coordinator showed an inclination to use tight ends in the passing game, targeting starter Tommy Tremble (5 receptions, 38 yards) frequently. Notre Dame lacks proven playmakers in their receiving corps, and quarterback Ian Book has lost his safety net that was Chase Claypool last season. If Mayer can emerge as a dependable threat, that will be a huge boost for the Irish.

Thomas: My COVID-Altered Gameday Experience

My freshman year, I woke up on September 14th at 7am to the sound of “Shipping Up to Boston” blaring through the hallways of my dorm. Notre Dame’s home-opener kicked off in 7 ½ hours, yet the atmosphere was already through the roof. Tailgates started as early as 8am, and the despite the fact that the Irish were taking on a massive underdog New Mexico State, it was an ecstatic sell-out crowd of students who packed Notre Dame Stadium for the lopsided clash, which Notre Dame won 66-14.

Flash forward a year (almost) and it’s September 12, 2020, and I woke up at 9:45 to almost complete silence. Notre Dame would kick off their season in just 4 hours and 45 minutes, against the Duke Blue Devils, yet there was no blaring music, no massive crowds filling up the quads, nothing to signify that gameday was here. With a multitude of restrictions in place due to Covid, the opportunity to get properly hyped for the first game of the season was noticeably lacking. Walking through my dorm, the sound of a few speakers could be heard playing in rooms, but with nobody outside your section allowed in your room, there were no raucous pre-game celebrations occurring behind the doors. I walked through campus to pick up a morning breakfast sandwich, startled by the eery lack of noise on campus. Accustomed to the hundred thousand people that flooded my campus on game days, the lack of noise and activity was off-putting. 

However, despite the delayed start, slowly the vibes around campus began to pick up. My roommate and I pumped up our own speakers and starting blasting the Irish gameday classics – Thunderstruck by AC/DC, “Shipping Up to Boston” and “The Boys are Back” by the Dropkick Murphys were a few of our selections. By 11am, we were down on the quad, where the atmosphere was becoming noticeably more active. Rather than the standard view of parking lots packed with cars, tents, grills, food, and beverages, the ‘tailgate’ scene was far more casual. Cornhole, KanJam, and Spikeball games littered the quad, while large Chik-Fil-A orders were brought to various groups. Maybe Notre Dame could ban official tailgaiting, but they damn well were not going to takeaway our gameday chicken nuggets – such an offense would have been close to unforgivable. A “No open containers” policy was only loosely enforced, as ambassadors largely watched to ensure that students were wearing masks and staying in small groups. As gametime got nearer, the excitement was finally becoming palpable. Notre Dame Football was back, and we were getting a chance to watch in person,  a possibility that seemed virtually impossible when Notre Dame switched to online learning from August 19 until September 2nd. 

Entering the stadium was business as usual, and, quite honestly, a lot less chaotic than under normal circumstances. The seating arrangement was obviously different, and for myself, it was very strange. Assigned seats were granted by ‘household’ or rooming assignment, and these seats were spaced around the stadium. I ended up on the south side of the stadium, almost directly across from the standard sophomore student section, giving me a new view of the action. There was ample evidence of fans leaving their assigned seats to sit in small groups, but largely, the crowd was at least fairly distanced. The environment was unique, but not altogether bad. I entered the stadium with very low expectations, and I was pleasantly surprised with the results. The band still led our chants from the bleachers, the best game-day songs still blasted throughout the stadium, and many traditions remained as similar to their old form as possible. The atmosphere did quiet down in the second half, although I attribute that largely to Notre Dame’s struggles to pull away from an inferior Duke team. The game was strange because it never felt like Notre Dame was going to lose, but with zero interceptions on defense and very few explosive offensive plays, the game lacked the standard sizzle to fire up the crowd. 

Despite the ho-hum 27-13 result, the corona gameday experience far exceeded my expectations as a student. The social aspect of the football games was slightly depleted, but still readily available. The general buzz, the willingness to do “touchdown push ups” or sing loudly and off-key to the kickoff song with people you’d never met before that day, still existed, and the camaraderie that has always been an enticing aspect of the Notre Dame football experience for myself, was evident, as we banded together to make the best of a wildly unique gameday situation. Even more promisingly, there has been no massive spike in COVID cases among the team or student body. Notre Dame had two positive cases among over 400 conducted in the days before and after the Duke game. The student body, which made up most of the 15,000+ attendance, has had just 14 positive cases diagnosed of the 1,441 tests conducted since gameday. College football is possible, and it’s happening 

I wasn’t even sure whether I wanted tickets to the Notre Dame games this year – that’s how hesitant I was about how corona would alter the experience. But having tasted Irish football once more, I’m now more than ready for another dose of gameday action. Two days until South Florida comes to town, and Notre Dame’s new gameday normal is put on display once more.

Heisman Tracker: 3 QBs, 1 RB highlight initial Top 4

Each week of the college football season, we will track the ‘leaderboard’ for the Heisman trophy, which will display – in my eyes – the current front runner to win it all, finalist favorites, and a follow-up 6 players who are knocking on the door (semifinalists). For the first few weeks, this board will be a little wacky, as we will not be including players who haven’t played. For instance, although you may love the Kyle Trask Heisman hype, he is 0-0 for 0 yards on the season, and so he has not earned a spot on this leaderboard yet. Undoubtedly, there will be some surprising names in the early weeks, but as the season (hopefully) rolls on, our Heisman tracker should begin to narrow in on the group of favorites.

That being said, here’s the Heisman tracker after the ACC completed its first week of play.

The Finalists

  1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
    This is fair enough. Clemson is ranked #1, and Lawrence threw for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns on an efficient 22/28 effort under center. He projected to be the #1 NFL Draft pick in the 2021 draft, and he’s an insant Heisman contender by being on a team with clear national championship potential.
  2. Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
    I’m not all-in on Rattler, personally, but his debut was about as good as you could want if you are an Oklahoma fan. Yes, the competition was not stiff, and there are far greater tests ahead. But Rattler looked poised and ready to compete at the collegiate level with 290 yards and four touchdowns while playing just one half of the Sooners’ opener.
  3. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
    Again, I’m not going to go all-in and say “Texas is back” or buy the Ehlinger hype being shoved down my throat by pained yet overconfident Longhorn fans. However, Ehlinger was lights-out against an admittedly horrible UTEP squad in the Texas opener. The Heisman hopeful threw for 426 yards and 5 touchdowns on 25-33 passing.
  4. Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
    As the top performer on one of four top-10 teams to be 1-0, Williams gets the nod as the only non-QB to crack our initial list of Finalists. Williams was all over the field for the Fighting Irish in a 27-1`3 win over Duke. He averaged 5.9 per rush behind a shoddy offensive line performance, notching 112 rushing yards and an additional 93 yards in the passing game. He had two touchdowns and was far and away the best performer for Notre Dame on Saturday.

The Heisman Hopefuls (#5-10)

5. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Stats: 17 carries, 102 yards, 1 TD
3 receptions, 47 yards

6. Brady White, QB, Memphis
Stats: 26-36, 295 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT

7. Joshua Moore, WR, Texas
Stats: 6 catches, 127 yards, 1 TD

8. Cam’Ron Harris, RB, Miami
Stats: 17 carries, 134 yards, 2 TD
4 catches, 10 yards

9. Tyler Allegeier, RB, BYU
Stats: 14 carries, 132 yards, 2 TD

10. Marcus Williams, RB, Appalachian State
Stats: 14 carries, 117 yards, 1 TD

Others Considered

  • Javonte Williams, RB, UNC
  • Malik Cunningham, QB, Louisville
  • Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson

The Rundown With Lapoint: Big 12, FSU Humiliated, Sun Belt on the Come Up

Nathaniel Lapoint: The Rundown with the kid who never played a down

The Humiliation of the Big 12

What an amazing week for everyone in college football except for the Big 12. The Big 12 got absolutely bullied this weekend by the Sun Belt Conference. The losses started in Des Moines, where the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns absolutely took it to the 23rd-ranked Cyclones and Brock Purdy. Let’s keep in mind that a lot of college football analysts had picked Iowa State as a potential opponent for the Oklahoma Sooners in the conference title game. The Cajuns’ special teams made sure all those analysts ate their words on Saturday, beating the Cyclones 31-14 with a pair of long touchdowns coming on kickoff and punt returns. Louisiana special teams alone would have tied former Heisman hopeful Brock Purdy on Saturday. 

The Cyclones weren’t the only Big 12 team to get stomped out by teams in the Sun Belt. Coastal Carolina for the second time in two years rolled the Mad Hatter and the Jayhawks in Lawrence. The Chanticleers put up 28 unanswered points to take a 28-0 lead into the half and went on autopilot in the second half on their way to a very comfortable 38-23 win. 

Luckily not everyone in Big 12 scheduled Sun Belt teams but one more unlucky member of the conference did schedule a game with a Sun Belt opponent and that was Kansas State. The best team in Arkansas – no that’s not a typo – went into the Little Apple, and showed the rebuilding Wildcats how to play football. Final score Arkansas State 35, K State 31. Arkansas State had a dominant performance from wide Receiver Jonathan Adams Junior, who caught 8 passes for 98 yards and three TDs. They also saw four different players complete passes en route to victory. 

Florida State Suffers Embarrassing Loss To Hapless Yellow Jackets

For anyone who stuck around through all of the lightning delays in the FSU GT game, you were in for a treat. In the first half, the Yellow Jackets threw two picks inside the red zone and had two field goals blocked. The exact same team that couldn’t do anything right especially in the kicking game came back from a 10-0 deficit at half time to beat the Seminoles in Tallahassee 16-13. Georgia Tech was picked to be the worst team in the ACC this season and turned in one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen by a Power-5 team in the first half and still won. The world of college football needs to apologize to Georgia Tech for talking that trash because this team went on the road in Week 1 of conference play – in the weird world of corona college football – and handed FSU one of the most embarrassing losses I’ve seen in years. This GT team left 21 points on the field ( 2 INT inside the 20, 2 missed FG, 1 missed PAT) and still won.

Florida State – you are quickly becoming a basketball school…

Duke is in business, and Notre Dame looks ordinary

Don’t look too much into the Duke Notre Dame game because both teams have a lot of potential this season. However, there are a few takeaways from the season opener in South Bend: Duke’s O-line isn’t that bad. In the first half particularly, they looked very competent at opening up running lanes against Notre Dame’s vaunted defense. They also only gave up three sacks in the game, which is not bad considering the overall expecations of this unit. This is a good sign for the Blue Devils because quarterback Chase Brice won’t be able to do anything with a terrible line. Chase Brice is going to be a good QB in Durham – he just needs time to settle in and become comfortable with his new team. This season is not geared towards transfer quarterbacks having success especially early in the season. If you’re a Duke football fan, if they come out of hiding before basketball season, don’t worry: you’re in good hands. 

Now for Notre Dame. The defense looks solid, but Jay Bramblett was arguably their best player and he’s the punter and Ian Book needs receivers… badly. Having lost his top three receivers from last year, Book turned in the 2nd worst performance of his starting career by quarterback rating. These Fighting Irish are solid and in a year without the Pac=12 and no Big 10 (as of now), they could have some success, but this team is not special in my eyes. 

Texas State Makes Me Sad

The Texas State Bobcats have made me so sad this season. I’m not disappointed in them – they just make me sad because they play well and are so close to snaring a result, but they can’t get out of their own way. In Week 1, the Bobcats almost took down SMU in Dallas but came up just short. As if last week’s loss to SMU wasn’t bad enough, this weekend, after battling back from being down 31-14, to UTSA midway through the third quarter. They tied it up on a 91-yard punt return with 1:16 left in the 4th, with an opportunity to take the lead with the extra-point, 42-41. Things were looking good for the Bobcats until kicker Alan Orona hooked the PAT to send the game to OT. Both teams scored in the first OT but in the second OT, Orona missed the game-tying 20-yard field goal, and UT San Antonio won 51-48. I’m not even a Texas State fan, but this team tears at my heartstrings and makes me sad every week.

The Sunbelt is making moves this season

The Sun Belt is on the up and up and if anyone tells you otherwise its because they don’t watch college football. Not only did they win three games against Big 12 opponents this past weekend, Appalachian State looked great in their opener featuring their third head coach in three years, and the South Alabama Jaguars also looked very good this weekend suffering a tight and controversial loss in Mobile on Saturday night against Tulane, as some questionable calls did not help their case. With the American conference struggling early this season look for Sun Belt to make a move at that Power 6 spot if this trend of great Sun Belt football continues.

Three Quarterbacks who had great opening weekend games that I could care less about:

Spencer Rattler: We have heard for a long time now that Spencer Rattler is a good QB and let’s be honest Lincoln Riley is one of the best QB coaches in the country. I very much expected Spencer Rattler to have a great debut against Missouri State which he did throwing for 290 yards and 4 TD in his one half of play. Sooner won 48-0

Sam Ehlinger: The Heisman hopeful from Texas opened his 2020 campaign against the always impressive UTEP (lol not). Ehlinger hung 426 yards and 5 Touchdowns on the Minors in his one half of play. Horns won 59-3. 

Trevor Lawrence: The likely 2021 first overall pick in the NFL draft also started his season on the road Saturday against the Demon Deacons. Lawrence threw for 351 yards and 1 TD and ran in 2 TD against Wake en route to a 37-13 win. Lawrence and the Tigers looked like they never came off of autopilot and cruised to an easy opening win over Wake Forest.

College Kids Talking COllege Sports Official Preseason Power Rankings

It’s that time of year. Miami toppled UAB 31-14 Thursday night, bringing the first power-5 team into action in the 2020 college football season. And with most of the rest of the ACC getting into the action tomorrow, we’ve gotten together to vote on our first set of power rankings. Here’s the top 10 (and a few extra).

Honorable Mention

  • Iowa State
  • Memphis
  • UNC

The Rankings

#10 – Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys are an intriguing CFP pick due to competing in a watered-down Big 12. They are considered to be in a 3-team race to challenge Okahoma for the Big 12 title with Texas and Iowa State. Oklahoma State hosts both those teams, so picking up a couple wins is certainly a possibility. They also return 19 starters and one of the best running backs in the nation in Chuba Hubbard. This team could put forth a very good campaign.

#9 – Texas Longhorns

A couple of Big 12 teams kick off our power rankings, as Sam Ehlinger and the Longhorns slot in at #9. Say what you want about Ehlinger, but he had a pretty solid statistical year last season and was often let down by other parts of the Texas team, including a porous defense. That defense is expected to be improved in 2020, and Ehlinger returns with a chip on his shoulder and eyeing the Big 12 title. They’re an obvious CFP darkhorse and could make headlines this fall.

#8 – LSU Tigers

The placement of the LSU Tigers was a source of controversy in our individual sets of rankings as high as #6 and as low as #9. To be quite frank, this is a huge year for LSU. They saw the beautiful results of an epic combination of generational talent last year, going 15-0 in a historically dominant season. This year, they lost their top two wide receivers, their quarterback, their running back, and both high end talent and depth up and down the roster. The draft and opt-outs have murdered the LSU roster, and if Ed Orgeron can keep this team in SEC title contention, he should receive Coach of the Year.

#7 – Auburn Tigers

Ranking the Tigers was another controversial part of our rankings, as some of our voters are very high on what Bo Nix can do in his sophomore season, listing Auburn as the preseason SEC favorites, while others excluded the Tigers from the Top 10. Auburn is ranked 11th in the preseason AP Poll, and they haven’t been ranked that high and at least matched their preseason ranking since 1994. Bo Nix is a good quarterback, but a sophomore slump could doom the Tigers’ hopes in 2020.

#6 – Florida Gators

A third consecutive SEC team in our Top 10, but this one comes from the SEC East. Florida is given the third-best odds to win the conference this year, as they likely just have Georgia standing in their way of a title game appearance. They have to navigate a tricky crossover schedule, hosting LSU and travelling to Texas A&M and a potential dangerous underdog in Ole Miss, but Florida returns a solid squad. Their defense should remain solid, and if they get production from playmakers around Kyle Trask, the top returning SEC quarterback in passing efficiency, the Gators could be tough to take down.

#5 – Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia would have very likely challenged from a top-3 ranking, but the recent opt-out of Jamie Newman definitely hurts their chances. J.T. Daniels is not a bad consolation prize but it’s been a while since we’ve seen him in action, and whether he can work with a Georgia offense that lost their top two running backs remains to be seen. Georgia sticks around in the top 5 due to the fact that their defense will likely be the best in the country, or at least one of the top units. They had the best defense in the SEC last season and return about 80% of their production, so expect an absolutely lethal defense in Athens.

#4 – Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame likely benefited from Georgia’s slip. They’ve been listed anywhere from 5-8 by most preseason rankings, but the Fighting Irish are definitely eyeing a CFP berth in 2020. With third-year starter Ian Book returning under center, an offensive line that returns all their starters, and an intriguing yet somewhat unproven group of skill position players, Notre Dame figures to have a strong offense to complement their traditionally solid defense. Their ACC schedule is filled with potential trap games and a looming showdown against Clemson, but this may be the best Notre Dame team in the Brian Kelly era if they play to their potential.

#3 – Oklahoma Sooners

Yes, Oklahoma has struggled to win on the big stage. But exactly who should go above them? They’ve got Spencer Rattler, who looks like a transcendent talent under center, and they have never had an issue reloading their dynamic offense. Their defense is at least good by Big 12 standards, and it took some big jumps last season. While they got smacked by LSU in the semifinals, it’s hard to attribute that defensive meltdown strictly to the Sooners without giving credit to LSU’s historic offense. This team is the clear favorite to reach the CFP once more, where they will finally try to land a playoff victory.

#2- Alabama Crimson Tide (1 first place vote)

Alabama got one first place vote, with all of our voters placing the Tide in the top 3. Nick Saban has gotten every single one of his recruits since 2008 a national championship ring, but that streak is in danger if he fails to claim a title for a third straight season. Coming off their first-ever CFP miss, the Tide are out for blood, and they’ve got the roster to win it all. Mac Jones is a solid quarterback, Najee Harris may be the best running back in the country, their receivers are deep and talented, and their defense figures to be stellar once more. They’ll have to survive a road trip to Death Valley and host Georgia, but if they can beat those tests, the Tide should be back in the Playoff.

#1 – Clemson Tigers (3 first place votes)

Even with the loss of Justyn Ross, this team remains the most loaded roster returning to college football, at least when it comes to proven talent. Travis Etienne is an absolute stud and likely a first round draft pick next year. Trevor Lawrence is possibly the #1 pick overall and has lost just one game at the collegiate level. Their defense reloads year-in and year-out, and Clemson enters this year with really only one game to think about – their road trip to South Bend in November. Not only that, but they should have two chances to beat the Irish, as even a regular season loss shouldn’t take Clemson out of ACC championship contention, and thus CFP consideration. Clemson vs. Alabama for the title for the fourth time in six years anyone? We’re not saying it’ll happen.

But we’re not saying it won’t either.

“Get Your Head In The Game” – Weekly Takeaways From Week 1

College Football is back and so are the boys with the weekly recaps of the week 1 action. Although we only saw six games this past Saturday, with a laugher of a contest being played out on Monday, the boys still discussed their takeaways from last weekend’s slate.

Who are players and teams of the week? What did each of our podcast personalities offer as their takeaway of the week? Check out the summary and be sure to listen to our latest episode!

Get Your Head In the Game

In this segment, Nathaniel Lapoint, Cal Christoforo, and Andrew DeGeorge looked at the teams, conferences, or even analysts who didn’t look ready for the season to start this past weekend. Lapoint questioned how safe it is for Navy to play after the epic 55-3 beatdown they suffered at the hands of BYU, while Cal didn’t have kind words for the American conference. DeGeorge wasn’t to keen on analyst Desmond Howard.

Teams of the Week

South Alabama, BYU, and Army all got shoutouts from our podcast personalities. South Alabama picked up their first road win since 2017, BYU throttled Navy, and Army walked all over Middle Tennessee in a season-opening victory.

Players of the Week

Cal and Andrew chose standouts from their teams of the week, as Cal highlighted Tyler Allgeier of BYU, who carried the ball 14 times for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Andrew opted for South Alabama quarterback Desmond Trotter, who put up 299 yards and 2 TD while engineering the stunning win over Southern Miss.
Nathaniel steered away from his team of the week, instead choosing Grant Wells of Marshall, who posted 307 yards and 4 touchdowns under center for the Marshall Thundering Herd in a 59-0 demolotion of Eastern Kentucky.

3 Games That Will Shape Each Power-5 Conference Title Race

Well, the college football season is officially underway, proving many wrong who believed that no games would be played this fall. While there’s still a lot of uncertainty – what happens when games are almost inevitably postponed? SMU and TCU have already called off their September 11th contest due to COVID testing results, and if conference games begin to be afflicted, it could be very difficult to stay on course with a tight window to play the season.

But that’s the pessimistic view. The optimist in me is thrilled we have college football and ready to start taking a look at the conference championship race. In each of the Power-5 conferences, lets take a look at which games will shape the title races.

Big 12

  1. Texas @ Oklahoma State, October 31
  2. Iowa State @ Oklahoma State, October 24
  3. Iowa State @ Texas, November 28

There’s a clear pattern in the three games listed above, as these three squads – Texas, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State – are generally considered the three contenders to face Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship. The Sooners should be in it, even as they break in their third quarterback in three years, so none of their games make the list. The separation from #2-4 in the conference is slim-to-none, so these three games will be absolutely crucial in deciding who gets to challenge the Sooners in the Big 12 championship. In a season with just three Power-5 conferences in play, a 1-loss Big 12 champion is virtually guaranteed a Playoff berth, so if one of these teams can go 2-0 in these games, they give themselves a probable win-and-in situation in the title game.

Just from an early outlook, Oklahoma State is probably the favorite to emerge from this group. Chuba Hubbard is just an absolute monster in the backfield, and the Cowboys return a whopping 19 starters. They host both the Longhorns and the Cyclones, and although home field advantage is diluted this season, it still means something, and if the Cowboys can hold up in back-to-back weeks, with Oklahoma looming just two weeks after the Texas clash, then they could emerge. However, one slip from Oklahoma State, and Texas and Iowa State will be chomping at the bit to take advantage.

A worst-case scenario for the Big 12, is each of these teams knocking each other off and losing to Oklahoma, bringing into play a 2-loss Big 12 champion that may be left out of the CFP, a disastrous look for the conference. \

ACC
1. Notre Dame at UNC, November 27

2. Clemson at Notre Dame, November 7

3. Clemson at Virginia Tech, December 5

Notre Dame is a major factor in these games, as the Irish were a consensus pick to finish 2nd in the conference, but we will see if they can match the hype. They’ve got a November 7th showdown with Clemson that they hope to enter unbeaten. An October 24 road trip to Pitt, who always seem to play Notre Dame tough, may be their toughest obstacle to achieving that goal, and if they get to that point, beating Clemson in South Bend seems like a real possibility. But if they don’t, that will leave the margin for error absolutely razor-thin for Notre Dame, who will be forced to potentially play for a berth in the ACC championship with a late-season road trip to Chapel Hill to take on Sam Howell and the UNC Tar Heels. Can the Fighting Irish pull it off? That game may decide if they have a shot at bringing home their first ever conference championship.

I’m listing the Clemson-ND game as the 2nd game, because it leaves the loser with a series of must-win games. This may seem more perilous for Notre Dame, but Clemson has some tricky games as well. The winner of this game is a virtual lock to be one of the two teams in the ACC Championship. Not to mention, it’s arguably the biggest regular season game of the year.

And finally, I’m listing the season-ending contest between Clemson and Virginia Tech. Blacksburg is not an easy place to play, and the Hokies might look forward to a Senior Day clash with the Tigers. If Clemson has lost a road game to Notre Dame and is caught looking ahead to a rematch with the Irish, Virginia Tech may do more than just step on Clemson’s toes in the season finale. Clemson is definitely the favorite in the ACC, but don’t write their name in the championship game in sharpie just yet.

SEC

  1. Georgia at Florida, November 7
  2. Alabama at LSU, November 14
  3. Georgia at Alabama, October 17

The SEC has the best chance of putting two teams in the College Football Playoff, so making the SEC championship could be a ticket to the postseason. Georgia faces Florida in what is listed as a home game, but it is being played in Jacksonville. The pressure is on Dan Mullen to break through and win the SEC after back-to-back New Year’s 6 bowl victories. Can he make it happen against Kirby Smart and Co? This game, barring any surprises, should decide the SEC East.

Alabama at LSU could very well decide the SEC West. Alabama is hosting the Iron Bowl, which makes this their biggest obstacle to an undefeated season. LSU has been hit hard by opt-outs, but the defending national champs won’t go down without a fight at their home stadium against the Tide. Texas A&M and Auburn are also interesting picks in the division, but ultimately, I believe the West comes down to this battle.

That being said, Alabama has to escape an early-season battle with the Georgia Bulldogs. A loss there puts the Tide on the edge, well before they get to Death Valley. By the same vein, it puts Georgia behind the 8-ball in the SEC East race, so that game will serve as a critical clash en route to deciding who makes it to Atlanta in December.

3 Headlines To Watch In College Football’s Opening Week

Since watching the conclusion of the LSU-Clemson national championship in January, I have watched parts of two college football games. And both have included FCS squad Central Arkansas. Tack that weird informational nugget onto what has been a year in sports like no other. The only FCS teams I watched growing up were my home-state Maine Black Bears, and occasionally the dynastic North Dakota State in the championship game. Yet I’ve watched Central Arkansas, a team that has never made it past the 2nd round of the FCS playoffs, twice in a span of five days.

The sports drought was real.

But, this weekend, we are kind of, almost all the way back. Although this season will lack some top teams and playoff contenders, my recent watching habits indicate that I would gladly watch just about any college football right now. And this Saturday, barring any late postponements, we have 6 full clashes occuring on the gridirion at the FBS level. Although there may be no national title contenders in action this weekend, it’s still a full day of college football. So, if you’re starved for college sports like myself, you’ll at minimum have these games on in the background of your primary Saturday quarantine activities. Might as well know what you’re watching.

A Primetime Quarterback Battle

While we may have to wait another week or two to see some of the popular Heisman candidates take the field, don’t assume there’s a lack of QB talent taking the field this weekend. One of Saturday’s primetime kick-offs slates Brady White and the Memphis Tigers against Layne Hatcher and the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Brady White is absolutely a top-10 quarterback in the country in my opinion, while Hatcher put up a very impressive season in his debut as a starter last year.

Brady White led an explosive Memphis offense last season that seemed to fly under the radar for most of the year. In the Cotton Bowl against Penn State, despite an eventual loss, White torched the Nittany Lions for 454 yards and led Memphis to 39 points, eleven more then Penn State had allowed all season in any one game. He’s back under center, and after a 4,000 yard, 33-touchdown season, I’d rank White inside my Top 10 quarterbacks, and likely as the best Group-of-5 signal-caller entering the 2020 season.

Meanwhile, Hatcher has been very impressive in his own right. After a year at Alabama, Hatcher transferred and started as a redshirt freshman with the Red Wolves. There he tossed 27 touchdowns and over 2900 yards in just ten games. Outside of his first start, a road loss to #3 Georgia, Hatcher threw at least two touchdowns in every game, notching at least four scoring passes in four different contests. He punctuated his season witha 393-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Camellia Bowl. If the Big 10 does not play this season, Hatcher will return as the #1 quarterback in passing efficiency (#3 behind Justin Fields and Tanner Morgan if the B1G season is played). He’s a special talent with likely another couple of college seasons ahead of him. There’s no Power-5 clash this weekend, but if there’s one game you want to watch, make it this one, because this is a pretty sweet QB duel to start off the season.

Can Army Rally Back Into Relevance?

Things were looking bright for Army – a two-season stretch saw the Black Knights go 21-5 with two bowl game victories, with one of those losses an overtime duel with the Oklahoma Sooners. Throw in their 8-5 season in 2016, and it was three straight years of 8+ wins for Army, a stretch they hadn’t matched since 1948-1950. They cracked the top 25, rising to #19, which was their first time in the poll since 1996. When their 2019 campaign started with a win and an overtime loss at Michigan, Army seemed in line for another big year. However, the Black Knights regressed in brutal fashion, fading to 5-8, ending their season with a blowout loss to Navy, ending a three-game winning streak over the Midshipmen.

There was some bad fortune involved in Army’s tailspin last season, as they lost five straight games, with three of the defeats by one possession, and none by more than nine points. When their offense was rolling, their defense couldn’t get a stop, such as in their 42-33 defeat to Tulane, or 34-29 loss to San Jose State. When the defense stiffened, the offense looked like a limp noodle, scorinng a combined 21 points in losses to Western Kentucky and Air Force.

My belief is that Jeff Monken is too good a head coach to let that type of season define what has ultimately been a successful tenure with the Black Knights. Jabari Laws is likely to take the reigns under center, and he looked good in his brief showings last year, going 16-20 for 311 yards. He also averaged 6.4 yards per carry on the ground as Army’s fourth-leading rusher. He’l be a key to Army having a resurgent year in the Covid-shortened season.

Army kicks off their season on Saturday against Middle Tennessee at 1:30. It’ll be the first clash of the day involving both FBS teams. The Blue Raiders saw a four-year bowl game streak come to an end last season, but they also haven’t put up 10 wins in a season since 2009. I like Army to come out and make as much of a statement as they can in their home opener.

Is SMU a NY6 Contender?

SMU, led by quarterback Shane Buechele, may have one of the most lethal offenses in the country. The Mustangs soared to a 10-3 record last season, their first 10-win campaign since 1984. They start their 2020 season with a battle against Texas State. The Bobcats haven’t had a winning season since 2014, and they finished 3-9 last season, but Saturday’s game isn’t just about the result for the Mustangs. SMU is a darkhorse contender for the Group of 5’s guaranteed berth in a New Year’s 6 bowl game, and this game, albeit not against the stiffest of competition, could give us an idea of how legitimate those lofty hopes may be.

SMU averaged 41.8 points per game last year, ranking 7th in the country, but their defense struggled, allowing over 33 points per contest. Buechele threw for nearly 4000 yards and 34 touchdowns, and he returns to lead the Mustangs into battle this season. He will need to help SMU navigate a tricky AAC, which boasts UCF, Memphis, and Cincinnati – all dangerous programs with New Year’s 6 aspirations. The Mustangs will need to be firing on all cylinders to escape that conference with one loss or less, so it’s important for them to get off to the right start on Saturday.