It feels so good to have college football games to look forward to again. College football Saturdays feel like Christmas day for me, except once a week for five months straight instead of once a year. In week one, I had one of those Christmas day like games circled on my calendar: BYU visiting Navy. To say I was excited about this game would be a vast understatement. Hell, I got excited for Austin Peay to play Central Arkansas in week zero, so you can only imagine how excited I was for a week one matchup featuring two historically excellent college football programs. After all the country has been through with the Coronavirus and not having college sports since early march, we had earned a great labor day primetime college football game on opening weekend. Come to find out 5 minutes into the broadcast before kickoff, the Naval Academy hadn’t gone live since last January’s bowl win over Kansas State.
For those who listen to the College Kids Talking College Sports Podcast, you know I was all in on Navy when picking this game. The Midshipmen had been practicing for a while and are on one of the safest campuses in the country when it comes to the Coronavirus. I thought they would play Navy football and squeeze out a great opening victory, running the triple option to perfection. Oh, how wrong I was. BYU forced Navy to go 3-and-out on their first drive, giving up three yards to the Midshipmen and forcing a punt. The Cougars proceeded to go 74 yards in 7 plays taking a whopping 2:49 seconds to go up on the Midshipmen 7-0, and the rest of the game followed suit.
Final score: BYU 55, Navy 3. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love the Naval Academy, and I have great pride in the Midshipmen, but words can hardly describe how disappointing I found the performance they turned in on Monday night. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo decided going into preseason he would limit player interaction as much as possible. This included zoom position meetings, no live tackling or scrimmaging, and many other safety precautions to protect against the Coronavirus spread. I absolutely love that coach Niumatalolo is looking out for his players’ health and well-being, but if you aren’t going to give your players the best chance to compete on the field and win games, you should have opted out of the season.
I respect all people taking precautions to keep their players safe and away from the virus, but you can’t let your players go against grown men in a Division One football game underprepared. Thankfully none of the Midshipmen got hurt, but that was a severe concern of mine going into this game. Players who go into games underprepared get hurt. This team is not fit to continue to play college football at the rate they are going, and I think they need to change their mindset on practice or opt-out of the rest of the college football season to look out for their players’ best interest. These players and coaches are some of the best and the brightest in college football, and I have nothing but respect for each and every Midshipman, but I can’t go through a season of watching an underprepared Navy football team get waxed, hoping someone doesn’t get hurt.
There was some big recruiting news dominating the college football headlines yesterday, with a few big names making commitments, but there will be bigger news tomorrow, as the #1 All-Purpose back of the 2021 class in Will Shipley announced he will commit on Tuesday, likely deciding between Clemson and Notre Dame. How about the major commitments that came out yesterday? Here are the top ones.
Quarterback Garrett Nussmeier – LSU Nussmeier is a four-star quarterback, who 247Sports has occasionally floated around as the top QB in the 2021 class. Although he had initially said he wanted to wait until he had a chance to visit all the schools who offered him, he decided earlier than expected, and he’s headed to join Coach Orgeron and the defending national champions, picking them over Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, and others.
Running Back Cody Brown – Tennessee
Tennessee continues to kill things on the recruiting front, as they landed a commitment from 4-star running back Cody Brown. He’s the #9 running back in his class, and Tennessee scored big on this one, beating out Ohio State, Georgia, and Auburn for his services. Brown is the second running back to commit to the Volunteers and the seventh recruit they’ve landed in the past week. Tennessee on the come up?
Defensive End Najee Story to Northwestern When Northwestern was ranked #5 on ESPN’s list of top defenses in their FPI projections, there was a lot of questioning about the ranking – does ESPN know something about the Big 10 cellar-dwellers that everyone else doesn’t? Even if the ranking was generous, the Wildcats are trying to back it up, and they took a big step in that direction, landing four-star defensive end Najee Story. Northwestern beats out a bevy of Big Ten rivals for Story, including perennial powers Ohio State and Penn State. They even beat out the recent recruiting heavyweights in Tennesse, as well as Minnesota.
Georgia can either come out of the draft as winners or losers. The fate of Georgia lies in the hands of head coach Kirby Smart but not as you may think. It is no secrete the Georgia Bulldogs have dominated the SEC east the last couple seasons but if Kirby Smart doesn’t pull things together this season Kentucky and Florida will be looking for their opportunity to take to the top of the East.
Georgia can be huge losers coming out of the draft for the obvious reasons – they lost many of their biggest impact players. A three-year starter at quarterback in Jake Fromm left Athens a year early, only to drop into the 5th round to the Bills, where he will sit behind Josh Allen for the foreseeable future. The Bulldogs also lost their one-two punch in the backfield with D’andre Swift going in the 2nd round to the Lions and Brian Herrien signing with the Browns as an undrafted free agent. Now for most teams that would be difficult to rebound from, but that’s not all Georgia lost.
They also lost their top three offensive tackles with Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson going in the first round and Solomon Kindley going in the fourth to the Dolphins. Other notable departures on the offense were tight ends Eli Wolf and Charlie Woerner along with wide receiver Lawrence Cager. On defense, Georgia lost Tae Crowder and JR Reed among others. In total, Georgia lost 15 players to the draft and free agency leaving gaping holes both in their offense and defense. With schools like Kentucky returning quarterback Terry Wilson next season and only losing two starters things are not looking good for the Bulldogs for next season as of right now.
Georgia is unique though in the fact that if Kirby Smart plays things right in Athens this year’s team could be better than last years. Promptly following Jake Fromms’ decision to forego his senior season and declare for the draft Smart upgraded his quarterback groom by signing Wake Forest transfer, Jamie Newman. It will only take one game of watching Newman for Georgia fans to forget the name Jake Fromm. Georgia lost Justin Fields two years ago but they signed the next great dual-threat QB this off-season. Jamie Newman will transform the Georgia offense from the boring ground and pound offense it has been in the past to an explosive dual-threat offense. Another reason for Georgia fans not to worry? They are RBU, and that means you always have great running backs and this season should not be any different. Junior James Cook, brother of Minnesota’s Vikings’ running back Dalvin Cook, will be getting the majority of the carries and, although his carries have been limited with Swift and Harrien taking on the bulk of the workload last season, he is very capable of stepping up in a big way for the Bulldogs this season.
Georgia did lose three key offensive linemen this season, but this is not a cause for massive concern, due to the fact Kirby Smart brings in new monsters to protect his quarterbacks every year. The wide receiving corp should also be much better this year with new recruits coming in and other young wide receivers will have had another season to develop. My final argument for why Georgia should be absolutely fine next season is Kirby Smart is a defensive coach – after giving up 24 points per game in his first year, Smart’s defenses have given up under 20 points per contest for the past three year, lowering the mark to under 13 points in 2019. Their defense will always be a mainstay so long as Kirby Smart is coaching.
If you are a Georgia fan, wait on hitting the panic button for now. There’s little reason to panic unless you’ve already lost two games, and with the highly talented Jamie Newman taking over under center, that seems unlikely to happen in the diluted SEC East.
If you’re tired of the same old “Which NFL teams won and lost the 2020 NFL Draft”, but want to still relive the only live sporting event of the past month and a half, then please check out our latest episode! We launch a must-watch show on which players made a mistake by entering this most recent draft, which college programs won and lost the draft, and who is QBU, RBU, and WRU right now in the world of college football. Check out a hot (or really cold?) take by Andrew, some controversial arguments by Cal, and Nathaniel’s undying love for the Georgia Bulldogs.
In this piece, to wrap up college football season while we wait for the anticipation of mock drafts and all the other offseason coverage, we will do an end of season roundtable with all of our contributors. The questions at hand are to rank the top quarterback draft prospects by how well we think they’ll do in the NFL, describe your ideal playoff system, and look ahead at potential playoff teams. Let’s get into it.
Some of the top NFL QB prospects are Joe Burrow, Tua, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love, Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, Jalen Hurts
Rank these college QBS by how successful their pro careers will be and their best fit in the NFL
General Consensus: Herbert got 3 first-place votes, largely due to his experience (4 years of starting to Burrow’s 2) and consistent improvement throughout his career. Also, as he likely will be the third QB selected, he will be put in a slightly better position than what Burrow will have to deal with on the Bengals. The LSU QB is a special talent, but his career was made by one dominant season, and there are concerns about how sustainable that level of success is.
Describe your ideal College Football Playoff System
I would vote for an 8-team Playoff, keeping the bowl structure. This would allow for a non-power 5 team to get in. We do need to keep the bowl structure though, as bowl season is more for the players than fans. Bowl season is a free vacation and gifts some of these players wouldn’t get without it.
An increase in the playoff system would decrease the regular season and lead to a loss of a home game for schools. Like many others I would like to see the playoff expand but not sure how the NCAA will get another game in. My theory, do away with conference championship games and use that weekend to make the playoff go to 8 teams. No, I don’t like my plan either, and that’s why, unless another week is added and another extra game is played (like there is in the FCS) the playoff must remain as is.
I agree with Nathaniel about the 8-team player with one condition. Do not allow the Rose Bowl to become one of the quarterfinal or semifinal games. It is a classic game meant to pit the Big 10 against the Pac 12.
How the Playoff Would Look
(Same as Nathaniel’s
I’ll go a little outside the box with an 11-team playoff. Jim Harbaugh has suggested something similar to this although with some variations. In this system, the five conference champions receive a bye to the quarterfinals while teams 6-11 are seeded by the committee (with a Group of 5 guaranteed spot) (or BCS system?) and play a first round game to decide the final three spots. In this system, you would eliminate the conference championship and possibly eliminate one of the cupcake games that every team has on their schedule.
How the Playoff in 2019 would have looked:
LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Oregon – get byes
6. Georgia vs. 11. Memphis
7. Baylor vs. 10. Penn State
8. Wisconsin vs. 9. Florida
Looking ahead to 2020-2021 – Name your four Playoff Teams and your top darkhorse pick
Dark horse pick: With Jake Fromm leaving, Georgia struggles on offense, and Kentucky wins the SEC East.
Dark horse: USC stays healthy and becomes a contedner again
Dark-horse prediction: The ACC has four ranked teams, and UNC wins the Coastal Division.
Darkhorse Pick: Clemson loses @ Notre Dame and cannot fight their way back into the playoff conversation due to their weak ACC schedule.
What a game. What a season. The college football season came to a conclusion as LSU completed a historic season with a 42-25 victory over #3 Clemson, snapping a 29-game winning streak in the process. After a surge in the second quarter, LSU maintained their lead, pulling away in the fourth quarter. Joe Burrow tossed six touchdown passes, bringing his total to 13 TD passes and one rushing TD in the two-game playoff. They were historic numbers that capped the best season ever put forth by a college quarterback. And without getting too ahead of ourselves, we’d like to extend our best wishes to Joe Burrow in turning around the Cincinnati Bengals, as that is likely his next task as the #1 pick in the upcoming draft.
But, as fun as it is to pour over the LSU Tigers’ historic season from every angle, we’ll discuss 5 other takeaways from the CFP title game..
Takeaway #1: The Targeting Call
If I had to rank every factor that impacted the results of the College Football Playoff, my list would probably start with Joe Burrow, with targeting calls close behind. In each playoff game, there was a targeting call and ensuing ejection. Now the targeting call in the LSU-Oklahoma, where Clyde Edwards-Hilaire was blindsided by a brutal hit from behind, was not very controversial, and I don’t believe anyone really questioned that call. Nor did it really affect a game which LSU was already beginning to control and ended up winning by 35 points.
However, the other two calls? They were both controversial and definitely affected the game in a major way. Ohio State’s Shaun Wade was called for targeting for his sack of Trevor Lawrence. The sack was a big play that should have ended a Clemson drive and kept the score 16-0 Ohio State. Wade was called for targeting on the play, leading to his ejection, 15 yards and a first down for the Tigers, who later scored and turned around the momentum of the game.
By the rulebook, what Wade did was targeting, but that is horrible. Targeting, especially if it results in an ejection, should be reserved for clearly dirty hits that had the intent of injuring a player, or unnecessary violent acts in the game. Wade was making a football play and the fact that in the rulebook what he did merited an ejection is awful. At the very least, they need to have seperate targeting penalties, one for plays that were questionable but not ejection-worthy and then penalties, like the one in the LSU-Oklahoma game, that qualify for ejection.
In the title game, Clemson was the victim of a weak ejection, as stud linebacker James Skalski was tossed for a hard hit in the third quarter. Again, what Skalski did, by the rulebook, was targeting, but by no means was it excessively violent or even unnecessary. While he led with his head, Skalski did not make head-to-head contact, and his extra effort was enough to stop any further gain from LSU receiver Justin Jefferson. At the time of the call, Clemson was down 28-25 and had stopped LSU on consecutive drives. Without Skalski, the Tigers struggled and never seriously threatened again.
Between the two targeting calls, the team who had a player ejected was outscored 43-7 after the penalty, clearly demonstrating a major impact on the game. Neither of these plays were made with dirty or violent intent, and during the flow of play, they looked like normal football plays. Targeting is becoming far too controversial; the rule has to be fixed.
Takeaway 2: Pass Interference Is Still Unclear
This is a major problem at every level of the sport, and it was evident again last night. Clemson was first the beneficiary and then the victim of horrible pass interference calls. First, LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton made a great play, jumping a route by Justyn Ross and making an interception. The pick was a likely dagger, as it would have handed the ball back to a red-hot Joe Burrow with a chance to make the lead three possessions. But instead, Fulton was called for an extremely questionable pass interference call. Replay indicated that Fulton may have caught a small fistful of Ross’s jersey in his hand, but the contact seemed to neither affect the receiver’s movement or his balance as he stayed on his feet and appeared unimpeded. Yet after the pick, Ross began pleading for a flag, and the refs obliged, taking away a potentially game-winning play from the LSU defense.
However, once again, Clemson was victimized by a play that had earlier saved them. Down 42-25 and likely needing to score on every remaining possession, Trevor Lawrence unleashed a deep ball to Tee Higgins. He caught it and waltzed into the end zone only for a flag to deter his celebration. The official closest to the play deemed Higgins’ contact with his defender merited an offensive pass interference that not only negated the touchdown, but slapped Clemson with a 15-yard penalty and a 1st and 25 at their own 36. The Tigers punted soon after, and the game was never in doubt. Replay cast a lot of doubt on the call; LSU cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. made lots of contact with Higgins throughout the route, and when Higgins used his physicality to gain position, never extending his arms, Vincent either demonstrated horrific balance or exemplary acting and flopping skills, as he splayed out on the sideline, allowing Higgins to make the catch unimpeded.
Put it this way: If that was offensive pass interference…we definitely need to replay the Saints-Vikings OT possession, because what Tee Higgins did was not even close to what Kyle Rudolph did. There was contact on the play. Higgings kept his balance, and Vincent did not, yet Higgins was penalized. The call was not only horrible but also likely cost the game a lot of viewers as a potential 10-point game with ten minutes to go turned into a 17-point game with the winning team in possession. Game over. Thank you refs.
Takeaway #3 The SEC is the best conference in football
OK, we probably already knew that. But as a Notre Dame fan and Maine resident, I’ve often considered myself an SEC-hater and usually needed extra-convincing when regarding any positive take on the conference. But last night’s title game left no doubt; for one, the SEC put their third different team into the title game in the Playoff era – no other conference has more than one, and the Big 12 is yet to have a representative. That was impressive, but what was arguably more impressive was that Monday’s title game was not LSU’s biggest test of the season.
I would argue it was their third toughest game of the year, ranking their matchups with the Florida Gators and Auburn Tigers #1 and #2 on that list. The Gators were the only team to lead LSU at any point in the second half, leading the Tigers 28-21 in the third quarter. LSU played Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Texas, and Auburn; none of those teams ever led LSU in the second half. Clemson may have had a 10-point lead, but they ultimately never surpassed LSU’s halftime score, and they finished three points shy of what Florida put up on the scoreboard.
Meanwhile, Auburn put up the stiffest defensive resistance to LSU’s historic offense. Outside of this game, LSU never scored less than 36 points in a game. Against Auburn, they scored 23. Heading into the title game, I felt this was evidence that LSU’s offense could be stopped and Clemson could replicate Auburn’s performance. After the title game, I’m left with only one possible takeaway: the SEC is simply better than every other conference. Auburn was probably the 4th or 5th best team in the SEC and they were 20 points better than Clemson on the defensive side of the ball. Clemson put up a good fight last night, but they simply did not push LSU to the brink like Florida or Auburn did.
Takeaway #4: The ACC (and the rest of the country) should be very scared about facing Clemson next year
Trevor Lawrence has lost two football games as a high school and college quarterback. Last night, and his final high school game. The high school loss broke a 41-game winning streak, and Lawrence responded by opening up his college career with 29 straight wins. Whether you’re Notre Dame – Clemson’s top non-conference opponent – or the ACC, I would be extremely scared to be facing Trevor Lawrence. It’s his last college season before he declares for the draft, and you better believe he has one goal in his mind. The Tigers have already been declared 2020 national championship favorites – thanks to the departure of Joe Burrow -, and this team will come out ready to roll over their opponents next season. I would not look forward to this matchup if I’m on their schedule.
Takeaway #5: LSU Playmakers Boost Their Draft Stock
I could focus on the LSU receivers, but quite honestly, I don’t believe much happened today that was particularly shocking or eye-opening based on their previous play this season. Assisted by Joe Burrows’ precision passing, LSU wide receivers continue to put up gaudy numbers and win a ridiculous number of 1-on-1 battles. Many of them will be Day 1 and Day 2 draft picks when they declare, but I don’t think the National Championship particular boosted them excessively.
I would also praise Burrow for proving once more that he can throw and deliver under pressure. LSU’s offensive line did not have their best game and allowed Burrow to be pressured frequently, but the Heisman winner still delivered a near-immaculate performance. He didn’t really elevate his draft stock, as the Bengals were picking Burrow #1 no matter what happened on Monday, but they probably enjoyed watching him succeed under pressure, given the state of their own offensive line. The two offensive playmakers I thought truly boosted their draft stock for LSU was Thaddeus Moss and Clyde Edwards-Hilaire.
Moss often played second fiddle in the LSU receiving corps, and he never put up eye-popping numbers. But on Monday night, Moss hauled in two touchdowns and five receptions for 36 yards, proving himself capable of taking on a critical role, particularly in a red zone offense. Tight ends who can dominate in the red zone can elevate an offense to another level, and Moss proved that, along with his physical build and speed, he has the ability to be a difference maker near the end zone, and that will have a lot of teams anxious to take him, likely on Day 2 of the draft.
Edwards-Hilaire became a focal point of the LSU offense after their stagnant start on Monday’s game; once LSU adjusted to Clemson’s gameplan, their running back became a key cog of their performance, taking screens and short passes in the backfield and the flat, but also keeping Clemson off balance by churning out five or six yards per carry when necessary. The all-purpose back but up 164 yards and, after dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, proved his ability to be both versatile and physical. Not the fastest back in the upcoming draft, Edwards-Hillaire likely jumped up a few draft boards with his title game performance.
Heisman winner Joe Burrow took the shotgun snap, dropped back a quick two steps, and quickly found Thaddeus Moss streaking up the left sideline. Burrow floated a perfect pass, hitting Moss in stride as he took it the rest of the way for a 62-yard touchdown pass. The play capped a 2-play, 75 yard scoring drive and gave LSU an 42-14. After Oklahoma had finally drawn within 35-14, ending a 28-0 LSU run, Burrow and his squad sent a message: There would be no comeback today.
The tweets began rolling in. Oklahoma didn’t belong. The playoff should not be expanded. Why was Oklahoma even in the Playoff to start with? Dan Wolken wrote a piece, detailing why the final score of 63-28 indicated that there ought be no expansion from four teams. But, actually, the opposite is true.
As Nathaniel Lapoint, Andrew Degeorge, and Cal Christoforo discussed in the “College Kids Talking College Sports” podcast after the semifinals, Oklahoma was in the playoff because the current format allowed no other option. It has become apparent that a 1-loss Power-5 champion is almost certainly guaranteed a spot in the playoff. This stresses the inequity of the conferences – Oklahoma steamrolls the Big 12 year after year, only to be blasted on the national stage. After collapsing versus Georgia in 2017, the Sooners have laid a pair of eggs in their past two semifinal appearances. Oklahoma proved themselves against one other ranked team; that team happened to be Baylor, who also took advantage of the disgustingly mediocre Big 12 conference to post an 11-2 record, with both losses to Oklahoma. Yet Oklahoma, taking advantage of this horrible competition with virtually no defense, emerges triumphant and steals the last spot in the playoffs, where they have proved themselves completely unworthy.
“Put Alabama in the SEC – they won’t lose to Kansas State”, Lapoint argued in the podcast.
That the SEC is a better and deeper conference than the Big 12 in an objective fact. Behind
LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Florida, the SEC boasts a top-5 that could probably take down the Big 12 champion. Maybe not every time, but I believe all five teams would be favorites in a matchup with the Sooners. Even outside the SEC, there’s teams that probably would have put up a better fight than Oklahoma. Oregon, who outside a baffling loss to Arizona State, was one of the best teams in the country and beat Auburn. Wisconsin, who lost to Oregon by 1 and led Ohio State at halftime. Penn State, who was the first team to seriously challenge Ohio State. All of these teams likely would put up a better fight than the Sooners did versus Oklahoma, yet were left outside the Playoff picture.
So why is this evidence for expansion? Because, maybe, with expansion, we don’t even get that LSU-Oklahoma final. In a 16-team playoff, the Sooners would have had to take on #13 Alabama in the first round. They likely would not have even survived. Remember the 46-41 classic between Burrow and the Crimson Tide? That would be a savory semifinal matchup? LSU, assuming their first round win, would play the winner of Wisconsin-Florida in the quarterfinals. Wisconsin nearly knocked off Ohio State and the Gators are the only team to have led LSU in the second half at any point this season. Notre Dame, one of the hottest teams in the nation to conclude their season, gets a chance to stun the world and beat Ohio State. Toss an Auburn-Georgia first round matchup, a potential Clemson-Oregon quarterfinal, and a few other juicy matchups, and you’ve got a Playoff well worth watching.
But instead we have this system. A lackluster four-team system that so often forces the committee to select a team clearly not on par with the elite teams in the nation. An expanded playoff reduces the weight of these clearly unequal conferences and gives many teams who deserve to be in the conversation a chance.
You may get an occasional blowout here and there, but that’s already happening. Every single Playoff as seen one semifinal decided by at least 17 points, and 5 of the 6 Playoffs have had a game decided by 25+. The current system is dreadfully inadequate at picking exciting Playoff matchups.
Oklahoma’s semifinal dud may seem like a reason to keep the number of playoff teams at four. But in reality, it did the opposite. It clearly showed why the NCAA must expand the playoff as soon as possible. Because let’s be honest: Do you really want to see a 1-loss Oklahoma team lose be manhandled by the SEC in the semifinals again next year?