Heisman Tracker: The SEC Makes Its Entrance

We are back with this week’s Heisman Tracker, and the SEC has jumped into the picture! For those new to our Heisman Tracker, this list is exclusively based on 2020 performances to date. No preseason hype factors in, meaning that Justin Fields won’t appear until at least after October 24, and the ACC has a slight advantage right now do their early start in conference play. Because of this, the SEC’s top players will need another week or two to challenge the top of our list, but that doesn’t mean the conference is unrepresented in this version of the tracker. Let’s get into it:

The Finalists 

  1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson,
    Lawrence remains atop the rankings after an idle week. Last week’s #2, Spencer Rattler, had a chance to overtake him, but a 3-interception performance and second-half collapse doomed both the Oklahoma Sooners, and potentially Rattler’s Heisman hype. Lawrence has been a very efficient 30-37 for 519 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions on the season. He’s also run for three scores as well, giving him as many all-purpose touchdowns as incompletions. 
  2. De’Eriq King, QB, Miami
    Miami finished last year ranked 90th in the country in points per game, notching barely over 25 a contest. This year, albeit only three games in, the Hurricanes are averaging over 43 points per game, ranking 12th in the country. They looked strong in a road victory against a ranked Louisville squad in their second game, and they followed it up with a 52-10 bludgeoning of Florida State. King has been a huge reason, as the Houston transfer is completing passes at a 66.7% rate, throwing for 733 yards and 6 touchdowns. On the ground, King has added 157 yards and a TD on 5.6 yards per carry. He’s got a clear path to being #1 on this list…beat Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers in two weeks. 
  3. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
    Texas may have underwhelmed in their overtime victory against Texas Tech, but it sure wasn’t because of Ehlinger. The Longhorns’ signal-caller directed his offense to 63 points, including a miraculous 15-point comeback in the final four minutes. He’s tossed 10 touchdowns (plus a score on the ground) to just one interception, while completing passes at a 71% clip. He’s back up into finalist territory, and with Oklahoma’s loss, he and the Longhorns have a clear path towards a Big 12 championship and possible CFP berth. 
  4. Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
    This is almost certainly Williams’ last week as a finalist. He’s been the best player on a top-5 team with multiple victories, which allows him to keep his spot. Averaging 8.4 yards per touch, Williams has been very impressive for the Irish, rushing for 174 and adding 103 receiving yards, notching a pair of touchdowns. That also comes with limited minutes in Notre Dame’s second game, a 52-0 blowout of USF that saw most of the first-string pulled a series or two into the second half. 

Heisman Hopefuls

  1. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
    Trask immediately threw his hat into the Heisman ring on Saturday, throwing for six touchdowns and no interceptions in his season debut. A grain of salt has to be given, due to Ole Miss’s pretty abysmal defense, but Trask picked apart the Rebels’ secondary to the tune of 416 yards on 30-42 passing. Another strong performance against South Carolina this weekend could very well vault Trask another couple spots on this list. 
  2. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
    Harris is one of the top RBs in the country, and he immediately made his presence felt, despite only accumulating 17 touches in Alabama’s blowout season-opening win against Missouri. Harris posted 106 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, as the Crimson Tide won by 19, ahead of their home clash with #13 Texas A&M. 
  3. Richard Lecounte III, S, Georgia
    Let’s give out some love to defensive stalwarts on our list. Lecounte was the best player on the field for Georgia in a generally underwhelming season opener against Arkansas. The Bulldogs only put up five points in the first half, two of them coming via a defensive safety. Lecounte meanwhile, helped keep Georgia in the game, snaring a pair of interceptions, defending another pass, and recording another three tackles in a strong all-around performance. 
  4. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
    Etienne was surpassed by Harris, at least in the early going, but he remains on our top 10 list, as Clemson’s second player on the tracker. Clemson was off this past weekend, but Etienne is averaging 7.9 yards per touch, with 228 all-purpose yards and one touchdown through two games. 
  5. Dillon Gabriel, QB, UCF
    UCF is averaging 50 points per game, ranking fourth in the nation, and quarterback Dillon Gabriel has been front and center in their offensive onslaught. He’s tossed eight touchdowns in two games to just one pick, throwing for 825 yards on 59 of 88 passing. He’s unlikely to gain any real Heisman hype, particularly with no Power-5 games on the docket for UCF, but Gabriel has been dominant to start his campaign. 
  6. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
    Pitts solidified his status as the best tight end in the country with an outrageous 4-touchdown, 170-yard performance against Ole Miss, as he quickly became a favorite target for Trask to hit. Without Pitts’ presence, it may have been a lot tougher to pull away from the Rebels on Saturday. It’s tough for receivers or tight ends to get Heisman hype, as the quarterback usually receives twice the attention, but Pitts’ efforts this past weekend deserve the attention. 

Others Considered

  • Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
  • Cam’Ron Harris, RB, Miami
  • Joshua Moore, WR, Texas

Degeorge’s Takeaways: We Don’t Need The Big 10, and the Big 12 is An Entertaining Joke

What Is The Big 12

I love Big 12 football, and the reason is it is the most unpredictable conference in the Power 5, and possibly all of college football. The consensus best team in the conference, Oklahoma, looked to be cruising against a Kansas State team that lost their opener to Arkansas State. And suddenly the Sooners lose to the Wildcats 38-35, for the second year in a row. Highly touted Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler looked impressive most of the game, but he struggled in crunch time and made big mistakes. He was 30 of 41 for 387 yards and four touchdowns, great stats until you add in three interceptions, with one of them to end the game.

The presumed second-best team, Texas, beat Texas Tech in overtime 63-56, but they needed to come back down 15 points with a little over 3 minutes to play to tie it up, and then an overtime victory. The third best team, Oklahoma State, narrowly won for the second week in a row, this time beating a bad West Virginia team 27-13. And then you have Iowa State beat TCU 37-34, even though signal-caller Brock Purdy threw possibly the worst pick-six I have ever seen. This conference does not play defense, and there offenses just compete to outrun the other down the field.

If I have to pick a favorite right now I would say Baylor because they have experience at quarterback with Charlie Brewer, and they are the only team to play anything resembling defense. Am I confident in picking that? Not at all. The Big 12 right now is like March Madness, I have no conviction with any pick.

If you’re looking for a fun football game, I suggest watching the Big 12. That being said, if you’re looking for good teams who live up to expectations… do not watch.

An All SEC Conference Schedule Is A Bruiser

Mike Leach

In every other power five conference, there are two or three games you know are going to be difficult on your schedule, and the rest you do not generally have to worry about, but that is not the case in the SEC. The SEC West has six teams that any team could lose to on any given day. Alabama and Auburn are brutes, LSU is too talented to ever take for granted, and although Texas A&M has not put it all together, they have too many pieces to be taken lightly. Then theres the wonderful emergence of the Mississippi schools. If any state deserves Mike Leach of Mississippi State and Lane Kiffin – the Lane Train – of Ole Miss, it is Mississippi. Mississippi State knocked off the defending national champions, LSU 44-34, and there quarterback, K.J. Costello, threw for 623 yards, 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, effectively leading Mike Leach’s air-raid offense. Meanwhile, Ole Miss lost 51-35 to Florida, but they played the Gators competitively and really impressed me. Even Arkansas, who lost 37-10 to Georgia, looked competitive, leading the ‘Dawgs 7-5 at halftime.

Yes, we did already know the SEC West is tough, but is the East? Yes. Florida and Georgia are always powerhouses, Tennessee recruits at a high level, but does not seem to put it together, but they can win games. Florida’s offense was pretty much impossible to stop as Kyle Trask threw for six touchdowns. Georgia was slow out of the gate, but they eventually rolled Arkansas with their third-string quarterback, and the Vols gutted out a tough road win at South Carolina. Kentucky lost to Auburn 29-13, but the Wildcats were a couple plays away from a different game. Missouri got wiped by Alabama, but traditional cellar-dweller Vanderbilt only lost 17-12 to Texas A&M, So at best, there are 3-4 easy games. That is a grueling schedule for teams. We always see an SEC team come out undefeated or with one loss, and you know they are a legitimate team, because they need to go past so many dominant squads. If I am an SEC coach, there are not many game nights I would be able to get any sort of sleep.

BIG 10 and PAC 12, WE DO NOT NEED YOU

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I have been clear about my issues with the BIG 10, and I feel the same way about the PAC 12, but they are just followers of the BIG 10, so I will focus my anger on the BIG 10. Hear this loud and clear: we do not need you -and your shortened schedules – coming back. College football this weekend was extremely exciting. The SEC games were well played and interesting, the ACC games were competitive, the Group of Five games were close, and it was good football to watch, while the aforementioned Big 12 games were extremely hilarious and engaging. So Big 10, what gives you the right to jump in late because other conferences figured it out? And then think you can schedule Ohio State vs Michigan on the same day of Army vs Navy. This is a shame, and it is horrible that this was allowed to happen. Army-Navy is an American tradition. It is the only game played on week 16, and has been that way since 2008. This is the reason I boycott the BIG 10, because they do things like this. The average fan will watch Ohio State-Michigan and not Army-Navy. It is a shame for the game and a shame for the country. I will not be watching and I hope anyone who calls themselves a fan of college football will watch Army-Navy, not Ohio State-Michigan. BIG 10, how about you take The Game to the spring, and let us have the season we wanted, without you.

Best Big 12 Bets This Weekend

The Big 12 gets back into the swing of conference play this weekend, and it’ll be nice to see how some of these teams stack up against each other. The conference as a whole has not had great coverage over the first two weeks, as they collapsed versus the Sun Belt, and Oklahoma State didn’t look good in barely putting away Tulsa last week. The narrative is that it’s Oklahoma’s conference, Texas is pretty good, and it’s a lot of nothing after that, so we will see if anyone can shake that perception. That being said, let’s take a look at some of the best Big 12 bets to make this week. As with our SEC and ACC bets, nothing here includes odds better than -200.

Texas @ Texas Tech, OVER 70.5

This over/under probably would have had to have touched 80 before I would have considered betting the under. Texas dropped 59 points on UTEP in their opener, while Texas Tech gave up a horrific 33 points to Houston Baptist. Texas’s defense was not strong last year, and while I anticipate an improvement, I still think Texas Tech has the offense to put up around 30 points. But I’d also be betting on the Longhorns dropping another 50-piece on the Red Raiders, whose abysmal defense will be picked apart by Sam Ehlinger and Co. I’d consider betting Texas -17.5 here as well, but I think the over is a pretty secure shot.

Baylor (-18) vs. Kansas

Baylor has beaten Kansas ten straight times, and in nine of those ten games, they won by at least 19 points, including the past eight. Baylor has had several games postponed or cancelled and have been gearing up for gameday multiple times, so I don’t doubt that they’ll be ready to go out of the gate on Saturday. Meanwhile, Kanas lost to Coastal Carolina. By 15 points. At home. Roll Baylor here.

Kansas State (+28.0) @ Oklahoma, OVER 60.5

I’m hitting this game with the double bet. This seems like a pretty low over/under for two pretty solid Big 12 offenses. Kansas State put up 31 points in their first game, while the Sooners dropped 48. Meanwhile, Kansas State gave up 35 to Arkansas State, so I anticipate Spencer Rattler and the Oklahoma offense to easily eclipse 40+ points. If they hit 42, that leaves Kansas State needing just 19 to hit the over, bringing me to my second point.

This spread is just ridiculous to me. Over in the SEC, Georgia is a 28-point favorite against Arkansas, who hasn’t won a SEC game in two years. Kansas State went 8-5 last year…and they beat Oklahoma! How are they 28 point ‘dogs? Maybe I’m missing something drastic, but with Rattler making his first start against Power-5 competition, I just don’t see Oklahoma rolling over this 28 point spread.

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

Andrew’s Weekend Takeaways: The U Is Back

The U Is Back

A one time football powerhouse, tossed into a pit of shambles and mediocrity throughout most of the 21st century. There have been moments of greatness, but never anything sustained. Every time the U looks good, everyone theorizes that they are back to their winning ways, just like in the 1980’s. I am doing that right now. The University of Miami is back. They dominated Louisville on Saturday 47-34. They only won by 13, but this game never felt close. The defense did give up 34 points, but they forced three turnovers, which has become their niche. The turnover chain is what the new U is about. They are flashy, and they fly to the football. They bring to life the term “pressure defense”. They have been doing this since 2017 though, so why are they back?

D’Eriq King that’s why.

King was 18/30 for 325 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He was not very effective running the ball, just 8 carries for 9 yards, but the Hurricanes did not need his legs, just his arm on Saturday. I am also very impressed with offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. In their first game against UAB, Miami ran the ball very effectively and did not throw much, but ran King more frequently. He adjusted against Louisville and opened it up through the air. I predicted Miami was going to run a lot, but I was wrong as they had a very effective aerial attack, while mixing in a very solid ground game, getting 134 yards from Cam’Ron Harris. I do not know whether Miami can return to their former glory in the coming years, but I do know the U is a force to be reckoned with in 2020.

Oklahoma State Needs Spencer Sanders To Be Healthy

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Oklahoma State

The high powered, highly praised Cowboy’s offense looked abysmal against Tulsa on Saturday. An offense I thought would be among the best in the country this year could not get it together. They have a “big three” in Stillwater with running back Chuba Hubbard, wide receiver Tylan Wallace, and quarterback Spencer Sanders. Hubbard had 27 carries for 93 yards and 1 touchdown, Wallace had 4 catches for 94 yards and 0 touchdowns, and Sanders was 2/2 for 23 yards. Wallace was electric, Hubbard was good but could have been better, and Sanders was injured in the first quarter.

What should have been a blow out turned into a messy game for the Cowboys. Part of this was the poor offensive line play which gave up 6 sacks and were poor in run blocking. The other issue was the injury to Sanders. He is the least talked about in this ‘big three’, but a talented Sophomore who has experience and adds a dynamic component to the offense that his backups could not. Stillwater is known for good quarterback play, and head coach Mike Gundy is an offensive genius. If Sanders can stay on the field the Cowboys will be fine and I still believe will have an electric offense, but without him they really struggled.

The ACC Again Proves To Be Unpredictable

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Another good weekend of ACC football left me perplexed at how these games unfolded. I thought Duke would cruise against a bad Boston College team, but BC won by 20. I also thought Pittsburgh would blow out a horrendous Syracuse team, but they only won 21-10. Wake Forest and NC State played a close 3-point game, seemingly cementing both squads as middle-of-the-pack squads with a solid offense. Miami-Louisville was relatively close while providing high-scoring entertainment, even though Miami was in control. And of course, I have to mention preseason favorites Notre Dame and Clemson, who blew out bad non-conference opponents in USF and The Citadel, respectively. Another weekend proved to me that this league is going to be really competitive this year except for Clemson. It is not necessarily the best football, but the ACC will boast some very fun and exciting football games.

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.

Lapoint: Five 2020 Rivalries Left That Are Worth Paying Attention To

Obviously, Corona has vastly changed the landscape of college football and particularly the rivalry scene. This season we will miss rivalries such as Michigan and Ohio State, Georgia and Georgia Tech, Harvard and Yale, USC and Notre Dame, among many others. But don’t worry; there are five great rivalry games you won’t want to miss this CFB season.

  1. The Iron Bowl

If you don’t watch the Iron Bowl every year, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s time someone told you that you’re not a real college football fan. Auburn and Alabama have become the staple rivalry in college football every year. Played the Saturday after thanksgiving, the Iron Bowl in the past couple of years has given us the Kick Six, dominant performances from the likes of Cam Newton and Mark Ingram, and the SEC West title seems to always be on the line when these two teams meet. The Iron Bowl is everything a college football fan should want. This season is no different. Bo Nix is back under center for Auburn, and after beating Mac Jones and the Tide in his first Iron Bowl, he is looking to send Jones to 0-2 as a starting QB in the infamous rivalry clash. This year, the teams meet in Tuscaloosa on November 28.

2. The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry

Georgia Tech is no longer Georgia’s big rivalry game – that honor belongs to Auburn, and until things change in Atlanta, this trend will continue. Auburn is the perfect rival for Georgia as both teams have emerged as powerhouse SEC programs. The yearly clash between the SEC West and East’s storied programs is why this is The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Usually, the SEC East and West crossover games are on rotation, but this game has earned the right to be played every year as it is and will continue to be. With moments like the Miracle at Jordan Hare and the Hall of Fame caliber players such as Herschalle Walker and Bo Jackson, who once flashed their talent in this game, The Deep South’s oldest rivalry has become a staple of football below the Mason Dixon. This year’s matchup will be an exciting defensive battle in Athens on October 3. 

3. Red River Rivalry 

Played at the Texas State Fair every year in the Cotton Bowl, the Sooner and Longhorns have created one of the best rivalries in college football. This game gives off so many thanksgiving high school football game rivalry vibes, it’s crazy, and that’s what makes it so good. The Sooners hate the horns and will do whatever it takes to let the Longhorns know what’s up. This game in the past three years has featured two Heisman trophy winners and a runner up. Of course, all those guys played for Oklahoma. Still, Sam Ehlinger is looking to make his mark on the Red River Rivalry, winning the Golden Cowboy hat and becoming the third Heisman Trophy winner to play in this game in the last four years. The two teams square off at the Cotton Bowl on October 10 this season.

4. Bedlam

The name says it all. The rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is absolutely absurd every year, and we are so here for it. These teams don’t like each other whatsoever, and this year is no different. Two Heisman hopefuls will take their campaigns into Bedlam this season, hoping to have a signature Heisman moment in one of CFB’s most entertaining rivalry games. Chubba Hubbard had a great year last year, and after a fascinating offseason, he is back in Stillwater, ready to make his case for the Heisman. On the other hand, Spencer Rattler will be under center as the Sooners starting QB for the first time. This will be a pivotal game in the Big 12 and the College Football Playoff picture.  

5. The Commander-In-Chiefs Trophy

I’m aware the Commander-In-Chiefs trophy isn’t a one-game ordeal. The trophy is given to the service academy who has the best record against the other service academies that season. This season is no different, but at the same time, it is a little different for the service academy out west. The Air Force Academy is playing just two games this fall, and they are against Army and Navy. The Air Force’s entire season this fall is playing for The Commander-In-Chiefs trophy. The big rivalry game amongst the service academies is the Army-Navy game, and it will be essential again this year. Still, this season’s battle for the Commander and Chiefs trophy should provide three extremely entertaining games this year. Air Force hosts Navy on October 3, Army plays Air Force at home on November 7, and the Army-Navy game will be held in Philadelphia on December 12.

Andrew’s Week 2 Takeaways: ACC a Jumble Behind Clemson, Big 12 Top-Heavy

The Big 12 has a very strong top, and a very poor middle/ bottom

The top two teams in the Big 12 this weekend were dominant. Oklahoma destroyed Missouri State 48-0, and Texas waxed UTEP 59-3. Both played weak opponents, but beat them handily and proved they were good football teams who were ready to play a season. Oklahoma State, who is the third best team in the Big 12, did not play, but I expect them to be good as well. West Virginia also looked good this week beating Eastern Kentucky 56-10, but I do not expect the Mountaineers to be a contender in this conference. Baylor and TCU also did not play because of postponements, so they escape the coming criticism that the rest of the league will be hearing. Now for the rest of the conference, Texas Tech won 35-33 against Houston Baptist, and FCS opponent. Texas Tech comes out of this weekend looking the best compared to Kansas, Iowa State, and Kansas State. Kansas got blown out 38-23 by Coastal Carolina, who finished second to last in the Sun Belt last year. What’s even worse is this is the second year in a row Kansas has lost to Coastal Carolina. Kansas State followed the trend by losing 35-31 to Arkansas State, another Sun Belt opponent. They did lose on a touchdown pass with 17 seconds left, but this is a middle of the pack Big 12 opponent losing to a middle of the pack Sun Belt opponent. It is not acceptable. And lastly Iowa State dropped an egg against Louisiana, yet another Sun Belt team, losing the game 31-14. Highly touted Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy was 16-35 for 145 yards 1 interception and 0 touchdowns. He was absolutely atrocious, and to make matters worse, Louisiana scored two special teams touchdowns. Texas tech, Iowa State, Kansas State, and Kansas embarrassed themselves this week and embarrassed there conference.

The ACC is going to be interesting this year, but Clemson is really, really good

The ACC had a good weekend this week, with four inter- league games. In out of conference play ACC squads went 3-0, as Miami pulled away from UAB, Louisville beat Western Kentucky, and Pitt handled Austin Peay with ease. In conference play, Notre Dame vs Duke ended 27-13 in favor of the Fighting Irish, Georgia Tech beat Florida State 16- 13, North Carolina dominated Syracuse 31-6, and Clemson cruised past Wake Forest 37-13. The Notre Dame and Georgia Tech games were interesting and seemed like they could go either way – the Irish only led by four entering the fourth quarter, and Georgia Tech overcome a 10-0 deficit and two blocked kicks to top the Seminoles. North Carolina was so much better then Syracuse, and a 21-point fourth quarter exemplified that and put the game in the bag. Meanwhile, the #1 team in the country did what they were supposed to against Wake Forest – crush them.

This league looks to be really competitive for the second spot behind Clemson. There are a handful of teams that showed this weekend they are capable. Clemson is easily the best team in this league, and showed why against Wake Forest. With their offense led by the best and most experienced quarterback/running-back duo I’ve ever seen in Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, the Tigers are the most complete team in both the ACC and the country.

The Sun Belt had possibly its best weekend ever

Sun Belt logo

Four Sun Belt teams won this week, three against Big 12 opponents, and one against a Conference USA opponent. Also, South Alabama was close to beating a strong AAC team in Tulane. This conference showed to be stronger then expected, and they looked really impressive in one of the best weekends in conference history. The Sun Belt has become the “Fun Belt” conference officially. Appalachian State is still the best team, overcoming a slow start to beat Charlotte 35-20, but Louisiana (31-14 upset of #23 Iowa State) is very good, and there are other teams that could keep things interesting. For the first time ever, I can say I was impressed with the Sun Belt.