On the surface, there wouldn’t appear to be anything special about today’s game between Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The two teams have just two combined conference wins this season, although Vandy looks like they may be on the upswing after close games against Georgia, Arkansas and Florida; Kentucky appears to be rebuilding again after a bowl appearance last season.
But the two head coaches — Kentucky’s Joker Phillips and Vandy’s James Franklin — will be part of a milestone today as two African-American coaches will face off against each other for the first time in the history of the SEC.
“I understand the significance of it and respect it and appreciate it, and the fact it’s Joker, who I have tremendous respect for and really like as a man,” Franklin said earlier this week. “But I hope that we get to a point here pretty soon that this isn’t even a discussion point. But I understand the significance of it.”
Franklin brings up a good point. This story is great for us, and it’s a nice moment, but this should be commonplace enough that it’s not history-making. Both coaches have maintained their focus is squarely on getting a win today — each team will need to win two of their next three games starting today to become bowl eligible — more than the history they’re making.
“I didn’t know it, and I’m not sure if James knew it also,” Phillips said of the pairing. “It’s another SEC game, much-needed for both parties involved to reach some of the goals that we’ve both set.
“I’ll tell you this: It’ll mean more to me if I can be the African-American coach who gets his team to a bowl game every year. That would mean more to me than coaching in the game with two African-American coaches.”
(Tip of the cap: Louisville Courier-Journal)
Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.
Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.
And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.
“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”
Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.
You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season? Watch lists are being whittled.
The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior. The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.
The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).
The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten. The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).
Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah