The Fifth Quarter: Week 8 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

FSU IN SEEDING DRIVER’S SEAT
Entering Week 8, seven weekends of the 2014 college football season were already in the books. Seven more after this weekend await. That means Week 8 served as the official midway point of the regular season… and again reminded us of the chaos awaiting us at season’s end.

Thanks to losses by Baylor and Notre Dame, there are just three undefeated teams left at the Power Five level: Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Florida State.  The first two will square off in what could be an epic Egg Bowl at season’s end, meaning there will be, at most, two undefeated teams at season’s end — and that’s provided either the Bulldogs and the Rebels make it through the SEC West meat grinder unscathed leading into the rivalry game.

At least on paper, however, FSU looks like a shoe-in to make it out of the regular season unblemished.  The five remaining teams on the Seminoles’ schedule — Louisville, Virginia, Miami, Boston College, Florida — are a combined 21-14. The road trips the remainder of the season consist of visits to the Cardinals and the Hurricanes.  Should FSU run that no-so-daunting gauntlet sans a loss, the defending BCS champions will cement a seat at the first College Football Playoff table, and likely either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

The chaos of the last couple of weeks, though, is ensuring that a gaggle of one-loss teams remain very much a significant part of the discussion — and that a two-loss team could be part of it as well.

Counting the three remaining undefeated teams, there are more than a baker’s dozen squads, with seven weeks left in the regular season, who could make a valid argument that they should be a serious part of the playoff discussion: Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, Michigan State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Georgia, Alabama and Auburn.  And that’s without even mentioning teams like 5-1 Arizona, 5-1 Arizona State, 6-1 Nebraska or 7-0 Marshall, the only Group of Five member still unbeaten.

And what of a team like a two-loss LSU?  Down the stretch, they have games remaining against No. 3 Ole Miss, No. 7 Alabama and No. 21 Texas A&M.  If they were to run the table, what kind of case could the Tigers make, especially if all hell continues to break loose at or near the top of the polls?

In that same vein, a number of those one-loss teams mentioned above could possible absorb one more loss and potentially remain in the mix.

Any way you slice it, we’re in for one hell of  stretch run in college football.  And for all of the doom and gloomers when it comes to the new system for determining a national champion?  We’ll let Dan “Death to the BCS” Wetzel handle that part of the equation.

As has been evidenced the past couple of weeks, what was always a straw man’s argument that “a playoff would devalue the regular season” has been further exposed for what it was: a scare tactic by those too narrow-minded to realize that the exact opposite would happen with a bigger postseason field.

SATURDAY RESET
Below is a list of links out to a handful of the gamers posted by the CFT crew, placed in one handy and convenient space for you, our beloved and dear readers.

  • In the latest edition of the “Game of the Century,” the contest actually exceeded the immense hype as Florida State remained unbeaten with a thrilling win over Notre Dame.  The win extended FSU’s winnig streak to a nation’s best 23 straight, while the Irish suffered its first loss of the season.
  • West Virginia hits the reset button on the Big 12 race as the home-standing Mountaineers stunned No. 4 Baylor in Morgantown.
  • It was a feeding frenzy for Ole Miss’ “Land Shark” defense as the Rebels rolled to a 34-3 win over the Vols.
  • With the 42-13 loss to Missouri, Will Muschamp‘s seat at Florida is hotter than it’s ever been.  Given the fact that the Gators go on a bye this weekend, there’s a good chance the head coach doesn’t make it to the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party the  week after that.
  • Oregon continues its bounce-back from its first loss of the season a couple of weeks ago with a 45-20 trouncing of Washington.
  • With its beating of a ranked Oklahoma State, TCU not only bounced back from a tough loss last week but kept itself in the conversation for both the Big 12 title and College Football Playoff.  In fact, the Horned Frogs could very well be the favorite for the former and the favorite to represent the conference in the latter.
  • Kansas State has made its way back into the playoff conversation as well thanks to its road win over Oklahoma.  Never, ever underestimate the wizardry of one Bill Snyder.
  • There’s taking a team to the woodshed, and then there’s what Alabama did to Texas A&M.  The best example of the 56-0 evisceration?  The Tide’s 602-179 edge in total yards.  Once again, and despite a loss, ‘Bama showed that it’s still a force to be reckoned with on both the conference and national stages.
  • Essentially, the game was over in the first half as Ohio State jumped out to a 35-7 lead after two quarters and cruised to an easy 56-17 win over Rutgers.  Since the inexplicable home loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2, OSU has been on a roll as it has outscored its four opponents (RU, Maryland, Cincinnati and Kent State) by the combined score of 238-69 to get back on the cusp of the playoff conversation.
  • Arizona State takes control of the Pac-12 South with an impressive win over Stanford.
  • The football machine known as Duke continues rolling along, with a win over Virginia securing another season of bowl eligibility and keeping the Blue Devils in the thick of the ACC Coastal race.
  • With the win over Purdue, Minnesota is 3-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1990.
  • Unbelievably, yet like clockwork, another Maryland quarterback went down with an injury in the win over Iowa.
Tennessee v Mississippi
Tennessee v Mississippi

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Sunday if I, ya know, had a real vote.

1. Mississippi State — After ascending to No. 1 in the polls for the first time in the football program’s history, the Bulldogs were able to rest and relax and bask in the top-spot glow. That basking should come to an end post-haste, if it hasn’t already, as MSU will go on the road next week to face a team that is no longer a gimme.(Last week: No. 1)
Next up: at Kentucky, Oct. 25

2.  Ole Miss — No one who’s sober will ever confuse Tennessee’s offense with Baylor’s, but holy hell is this “Land Shark” defense for real.  In the 34-3 win over the Vols, the Rebels allowed zero rushing yards on 28 UT carries and 191 total yards. Unlike in year’s past, that unit has the talent and ability to compensate for the offense even when “bad” Bo Wallace makes an appearance. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: at LSU, Oct. 25

3. Florida State — This was FSU’s narrowest margin of victory during the regular season in its lengthy winning streak, but it was also the Seminoles’ most impressive and complete performance of the 2014 season.  Despite all of the off-field tumult, Jameis Winston showed in the second half exactly why he is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.  As explained earlier, FSU now has the easiest path to a spot in the CFP. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: bye weekend

4. Notre Dame — After one of the best college football games you’ll ever witness, there’s no way I could drop the Irish out of the Top Five.  In fact, thanks to Baylor’s loss, the Golden Domers actually moved up a spot from a week ago.  While the loss to FSU will be crushing emotionally in the here and now, the Irish are still very much in the thick of the playoff race. (Last week: No. 5)
Next up: bye weekend

5. Oregon — Thanks to Baylor’s loss, the Ducks make their way back into the Top Five after falling out following a Week 6 loss to Arizona.  Still, UO hasn’t quite looked like the complete team it appeared to be the first three games in the last four. (Last week: unranked)
Next up: vs., Oct. 24

(Dropped out: No. 4 Baylor)

Heisman TrophyHEISMAN RACE, BY THE NUMBERS
A statistical look at how some of the top contenders for this year’s stiff-armed trophy fared this weekend, listed in alphabetical order so as not to offend any of the delicate sensibilities readers in the audience may possess or get their unmentionables all wadded up over “their” player being excluded. Also, each week at least one name will be sliced from a list that began in Week 6 at a baker’s dozen and, if need be, names will be added as well.

J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (5-1, No. 23)
Saturday: 19-31 (61.3), 261 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions; 107 rushing yards, two touchdowns
Season: 107-164 (66.2%), 1,615 yards, 20 touchdowns, five interceptions; 383 rushing yards, four touchdowns

Trevone Boykin, QB TCU (5-1, No. 12)
Saturday: 26-39 (66.7%), 410 yards, three touchdowns, one interception; 41 rushing yards
Season: 146-247 (59.1%), 1,873, 14 touchdowns, three interceptions; 356 rushing yards, three touchdowns

Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina (5-1, No. 18)
Saturday: bye weekend
Season: 166-252 (65.9%), 2,129 yards, 16 touchdowns, four interceptions; 73 rushing yards, three touchdowns

Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall (7-0, No. 25)
Saturday: 15-27 (55.5%), 214, four touchdowns, one interception; 23 rushing yards
Season: 119-204 (58.3%), 1,912 yards, 19 touchdowns, six interceptions; 225 rushing yards, four touchdowns

James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh (4-3, unranked)
Thursday: 16 carries for 85 yards (5.3 ypc), two touchdowns; two catches for 10 yards
Season: 172 carries for 959 yards (5.6 ypc), nine touchdowns; four catches for 30 yards

Jameis Winston,Everett Golson
Jameis Winston,Everett Golson

Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame (6-1, No. 9)
Saturday: 31-52 (59.6%), 313 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions; 33 rushing yards
Season: 166-268 (61.9%), 1,996 yards, 19 touchdowns, six interceptions; 242 rushing yards, four touchdowns

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (4-2, No. 17)
Saturday: bye weekend
Season: 132 carries for 1,046 yards (7.9 ypc), 13 touchdowns; six receptions, 27 yards, one touchdown

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (6-1, No. 2)
Saturday: 24-36 (66.7%), 336 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions; minus-one rushing yards
Season: 152-223 (68.2%), 1,897 yards, 21 touchdowns, zero interceptions; 214 rushing yards, five touchdowns; one reception, 26 yards

Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (6-0, No. 1)
Saturday: bye weekend
Season: 96-156 (61.5%), 1,569 yards, 15 touchdowns, four interceptions; 576 rushing yards, eight touchdowns

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (7-0, No. 2)
Saturday: 23-31 (74.2%), 273 yards, two touchdowns, one interception; eight rushing yards
Season: 149-211 (70.6%), 1,878 yards, 13 touchdowns, six interceptions; 47 rushing yards, two touchdowns

(Dropped out: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty)
(Added: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin)

Will Muschamp
Will Muschamp

COACHING HOT SEAT
My weekly look at a couple of the current head coaches who could most likely be ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

1. Will Muschamp, Florida
(Writer’s note: I’m just going to trot this same note out week after week, with the records updated, until athletic director Jeremy Foley finally and mercifully puts Gator Nation out of its collective misery.)
In his three years at UF,Ron Zook was 23-14 overall and 16-8 in the SEC.  Since beginning his Gator career at 4-0, Muschamp has gone 22-20 overall and an embarrassing 13-14 in the conference.  The last 18 games, Muschamp’s record is 7-11 and 5-8.  In other words, there’s been nothing but regression instead of the progression that an 11-2 second season portended.  The worst part?  There’s no hope as far as the eye can see.

2. Brady Hoke, Michigan
(Writer’s note: same goes for the UM fan base.)
In what turned out to be Rich Rodriguez‘s last season at Michigan in 2010, the Wolverines’ began the year 6-1; in what could turn out to be Hoke’s last season at Michigan, the Wolverines are 3-4 as they had a bye in Week 8.  From Oct. 3, 2009, through Oct. 9, 2010, UM went 7-8 under Rodriguez; from Oct. 12, 2013, through Oct. 11, 2014, UM has gone 5-10 under Hoke.  In his first 31 games at UM, Rodriguez was 14-17; in his last 31 games at UM, Hoke is 16-15.  You see where this is going, right?  So should Hoke, athletic director Dave Brandon and the entire UM football program as a different direction is needed on that hallowed sideline.

Dabo Swinney
Dabo Swinney

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured single-digit close shaves vs. unranked opponents

No. 20 Utah 29, Oregon State 23 (2-OT): If the Utes, currently one of four Pac-12 South teams with just one conference loss, go on to win the division, they can look back at this game and thanks their lucky stars for Devontae Booker.  In the double-overtime win over the Beavers, the running back ran for 229 yards and scored three touchdowns.  The last of those scores was the game-winner in the second overtime.  Booker has now rushed for 563 yards the last three games after rushing for just 179 the first three.

No. 24 Clemson 17, Boston College 13: Now we see how much Deshaun Watson meant to Clemson’s offense.  In the two full games the true freshman started, the Tigers averaged 45.5 points per game; the last two games, including the one Watson left early due to injury, the Tigers are averaging 20 points per game.  Dabo Swinney and Company had better figure a way to turn things around offensively as Watson will miss up to five weeks after undergoing hand surgery last week.

Bryce Petty
Bryce Petty

HE SAID IT
“Any game’s hard to lose. Losing sucks.” — Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, following the stunning upset at the hands of West Virginia.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“However you cut it that performance was unacceptable and embarrassing.” — Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, after watching his Aggies suffer a 56-0 evisceration at the hands of Alabama.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“Right now will be a true test of character for us. As men. As coaches. And players. And certainly as a team. You finish this one up tomorrow afternoon. Tomorrow night you go out to practice and get ready for the next game.” — Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, following a 33-point loss to TCU.

HE SAID IT, THE QUADQUEL
“What some of our guys need to do is look in the mirror. They need to play better.” — Florida head coach (for now) Will Muschamp after an embarrassing loss to Missouri, not indicating whether or not he and his coaching staff will take a peek too.

HE WROTE IT
“The smell of this performance is something the Gator fans in attendance won’t be able to get out of their clothes for awhile. It was rotten milk and burnt hair poured into a used diaper and left in the sun for a month.” — Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley, perfectly summing up the stench emanating from The Swamp Saturday evening.

GAMEDAY SIGN OF THE DAY
Tallahassee brought its sign game to GameDay, but this one had me chuckling well into the afternoon and on into the evening.

Jeff Driskel GameDay Sign

Well played, ‘Noles.  Well played.

EX-PLAYER HISSY FIT OF THE DAY
Apparently, former USC great LenDale White was not very pleased with athletic director Pat Haden.

The reason for the outburst, the tweet of which was subsequently deleted?

Here’s to guessing White most certainly won’t be allowed in his old locker room moving forward either.

AWESOME OF THE DAY
Have you ever wondered what it’s like skydiving into a college football stadium? If so, today’s your lucky day. Prior to the Oct. 3 Washington State-Stanford, the U.S. Navy Parachute team made a grand entrance, which, thanks to a helmet-mounted camera, you can get a first-hand view of below (fast-forward to the 1:55 mark to see the actual beginning of the jump).

 

That. Is. Awesome.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE SCORING KICKER
It’s not often kickers get the opportunity to score a touchdown. Even rarer? Scoring a touchdown on their own kickoff. That’s the situation Dayton’s William Will found himself in last weekend, when he, well, did this:

In all my years of watching football, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen that play before at any level. Kudos to the player with two first names. Work on your post-touchdown celebration, though. That was pathetic, even for a white dude.

STREAKING
Florida State has won a nation’s best 23 straight games, extending the record for an ACC school by knocking off previously-unbeaten Notre Dame. The Seminoles’ last loss came Nov. 24, 2012, a 37-26 home setback to in-state rival Florida.  FSU has won 18 of those games during this current streak by at least 14 points. Of those, 11 wins have come by 30-plus points, with three being by 50-plus points and two by 60-plus. FSU is the only team in the country with a double-digit winning streak, although Mississippi State at nine in a row is closing in.  Idaho, meanwhile, snapped a 13-game losing streak with a win over New Mexico State, leaving SMU’s eight straight losses as the longest such streak.

GOING BOWLING
After the first six teams qualified for the postseason in Week 7, a total of 10 did the same in Week 8.  Here they are:

Alabama
Colorado State
Duke
Georgia
Louisville
LSU
Michigan State
Minnesota
Nebraska
Oregon

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK
Arkansas’ game against Georgia marked the 83rd consecutive season the Razorbacks have played a game in the state’s capitol. The Hogs are 167-69-4 all-time in that city. The UGA-UA game, incidentally, was the first time the two teams have ever met in Little Rock.

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK II
Entering Week 8, Iowa’s State’s first six opponents had a combined 30-6 overall mark, the highest winning percentage (83.3 %) in the FBS. The Cyclones have faced three ranked teams (No. 4 Baylor, No. 14 Kansas State, No. 15 Oklahoma State). Iowa was 5-1, while unbeaten North Dakota State is the top-ranked FCS team and 4-3 Toledo sits atop the MAC West.

OFF THE CHARTS
Courtesy of the Arkansas sports information department, and entering Week 8, the six FBS quarterbacks who have seen the greatest increase in passing efficiency from a year ago.

Passing Efficiency

OFF THE CHARTS, ENCORE
The 10 coaches with the best winning percentages during the first five years of a career.

Top Winning Percentage First Five Years

SAY WHAT?
The three tallest FBS players in the country are Kentucky’s John Gruenschlaeger, who is 6’11”, and Arkansas’ Dan Skipper and Minnesota’s Nate Wozniak, who are both 6’10”. Gruenschlaeger and Skipper are offensive linemen — the former a guard, the latter a tackle — while Wozniak is a tight end. Skipper has started every game at left tackle for the Razorbacks this season.

DULY NOTED
North Carolina State is the only FBS team with a kicker (Niklas Slade), punter (Wil Baumann) and long-snapper (Scott Thompson) who are starting together for the fourth straight year? The trio came to the Wolfpack in 2011 and have been the starters at their respective positions since the first game of that season.

Les Miles
Les Miles

DID YOU KNOW THAT…

Les Miles is the only coach at the FBS level to beat all three Stoops brothers when they were head coaches?  He beat Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) when Miles was the head coach at Oklahoma State in 2003 and 2004, and Mike Stoops (Arizona) in 2006 and Mark Stoops (Kentucky) in Week 8 of this season.

… Oregon’s Marcus Mariota now has the longest streak without an interception (353 attempts) and the second-longest (232) in Pac-12 history?

… Army’s leading receiver is named Edgar Poe? And, yes, his middle name is Allan for good measure. The original AEP also attended West Point, and rose to the rank of sergeant major, although the totality of his military career at the service academy didn’t go nearly as well as this current pass-catching cadet’s.

… UNLV punter/kicker Nicolair Bornand is also officially listed as a linebacker on the Rebels’ roster? Bornand, who handles kickoffs and long-range field goals, has been credited with two tackles defensively, both of them solo.

… six FBS quarterbacks lead their respective teams in passing and rushing? Those are BYU’s Taysom Hill (albeit out for the year with an injury), Boston College’s Tyler Murphy, Iowa State’s Sam Richardson, Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas, Kansas State’s Jake Waters and North Carolina’s Marquise Williams.

…entering Week 8, USC running back Javorius “Buck” Allen was the only player in the country with at least 750 yards rushing (781 entering, 909 exiting) and 250 yards receiving (278 then, 290 now)? Boise State’s Jay Ajayi (709-to-867 rushing, 280-to-317 receiving) joined Allen in that select company in Week 8, while Miami’s Duke Johnson (787, 187), on a bye, is on the verge of doing the same.

Jarvion Franklin
Jarvion Franklin

… entering Week 8, a true freshman, Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin, led the nation in rushing touchdowns (15) and scoring (90), and was sixth in both rushing yards (843) and rushing yards per game (140.5)?  He had one rushing touchdown and 149 yards in an easy win over Bowling Green.

… since the start of the 2013 season, Indiana running back Tevin Coleman leads the nation in 20- (15), 30- (14), 40- (11), 50- (7), 60- (7), and 70-yard (3) touchdown runs?

… the last time Ole Miss started off a season 7-0, minimum wage was $1.25 an hour; a gallon of gasoline cost .25¢; the average price of a new car was $2,500; a first-class stamp was .04¢; and the average price of a new home was $15,000? The year was 1962, incidentally.

… with the loss to Maryland, Iowa is now 0-3 in their first-ever meetings with the three newest Big Ten teams? The Hawkeyes lost to Penn State in 1993 and to Nebraska in 2011. Iowa and the other new B1G member, Rutgers, are scheduled to meet on the football field for the first time on Sept. 24, 2016, so schedule your wagers accordingly.

… the road trip to Minnesota Saturday was Purdue’s first game outside of a 100-mile radius of West Lafayette this season? Five of the Boilermakers’ first seven games were played at home, while the other two were played in Indianapolis (Notre Dame) and Champaign (Illinois), which according to Mapquest.com are approximately 65 and 95 miles away from campus, respectively.

…USC has no players from the state of Colorado on its roster, while the Buffaloes have 55 from the state of California on theirs?

How much does Tua Tagovailoa’s injury actually impact Alabama and the College Football Playoff? Not as much as you’d think

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Since the moment Tua Tagovailoa went down with a season-ending injury on Saturday, the focus of the bigger College Football Playoff picture has been hotly debated. Should Alabama be given the benefit of the doubt? Would Alabama with one loss and no SEC title and no Tua be more deserving of a playoff shot over a one-loss Pac-12 champion? How does a potential 1-loss Alabama compare to some other 1-loss teams in the country right now, including Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma, Penn State and, of course, Georgia?

We are in the time of the season when hypothetical scenarios are the most fun to rationally discuss debate with great intensity explore for the fun of it, and this new Alabama situation is a wrinkle we haven’t exactly seen since the inaugural College Football Playoff with Ohio State. As it turns out, Ohio State is the prime example Alabama fans and defenders will point to as one of their top arguments. Of course, 2014 Ohio State and 2019 Alabama are still very different situations.

In 2014, Ohio State lost starting quarterback Braxton Miller to an early season-ending injury but managed to get through the regular season with just one early loss with J.T. Barrett stepping in to guide the Buckeyes offense. But Barrett was injured in the regular-season finale and Cardale Jones had to keep things rolling. Ohio State demolished Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game and convinced the College Football Playoff selection committee they were still worthy of a playoff bid over a pair of 1-loss Big 12 champions (Baylor and TCU) even with their injury concerns at quarterback. This precedent would seem to favor Alabama. Although the Tide may not be as deep at quarterback as Ohio State certainly was, there is an embarrassing amount of riches around the rest of the roster thanks to top recruiting class after top recruiting class being signed by Nick Saban.

There is just one major problem for Alabama. They aren’t likely to get a shot at playing for the SEC championship and prove their case one final time. LSU would have to lose its final two games in order to open the door to the SEC Championship Game for Alabama, and that assumes Alabama wins at Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Alabama (and Ohio State) have made the playoff without winning their divisions before, but this year’s field could be a bit too crowded to allow for that possibility to happen again.

Alabama is in the toughest spot it has been in during the College Football Playoff era. The only team to play in each College Football Playoff, Alabama still has a shot at playing in the playoff once again. At least one team currently ranked ahead of them is going to lose. If it’s Georgia and Alabama stands firm on its ranking, that could see Alabama slide into the fourth spot. But if the season ends with undefeated champions in the ACC (Clemson), Big Ten (Ohio State) and SEC (LSU) and 1-loss champions in the Pac-12 (Oregon or Utah) and Big 12 (Oklahoma or Baylor), how exactly would Alabama compare with no more than one top 25 win? With or without Tua, Alabama should be in some danger of being left out of the playoff for the first time.

And that doesn’t even account for the scenarios that see Penn State beat Ohio State and both the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes end the year with one loss. In that case, Ohio State would still be more worthy of a top-four spot than Alabama, and they may not even make it under these conditions. And if Georgia beats LSU in the SEC title game and both teams end the year with one loss, they’d each get in the playoff before Alabama.

Simply put, Alabama’s playoff odds are probably not as drastically impacted by Tagovailoa’s injury as it is being presented. Alabama would still probably need some help no matter if Tagovailoa or Joe Namath was playing quarterback. It may not be too much help that is needed, but some help would absolutely be welcome in Tuscaloosa.

On Tuesday night, however, we’ll get our first taste of just how this injury to Tagovailoa impacts Alabama in the playoff race. The selection committee will release its third set of rankings this season and determine just where Alabama sits in the pack. Alabama fell to No. 5 after their loss to LSU, firmly keeping the Tide in the hunt. They still managed to control their game against Mississippi State this weekend, but other contenders had good performances as well (see: Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma). Alabama is also still lacking a top 25 win the way a few other 1-loss teams now own (see: Oklahoma, Penn State, Minnesota).

How will the committee react? We’re about to find out Tuesday night.

American sticking with 8-game conference schedule, no divisions in 2020-21

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With UConn about to unceremoniously depart the American Athletic Conference to live life as an FBS independent and realign with their old Big East basketball family, the American Athletic Conference was in need of figuring out how to adjust the schedule for football beginning next season. It has done just that.

The AAC announced on Monday how the football schedule will work for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The 11-team conference will stick with an 8-game schedule and rotate the schedule around to every team in the conference will face each other conference member at least once over the next two seasons. Each school will get four home conference games and play four more on the road. On top of that, there will be no divisions in the conference.

“This scheduling model provides balance and competitive equity and will contribute to the exciting seasons to which we have become accustomed in the American Athletic Conference,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a released statement. “It is a fair model that was unanimously supported by our athletic directors.”

The AAC has not shared details on how the two teams to participate in the AAC championship game will be determined, although the simple answer is the top two teams in the standings will get to play. But tiebreakers may have to be re-evaluated with the new scheduling format just to cover all of the bases.

This format is only mapped out for the next two seasons, so it remains to be seen what will happen in 2022 and beyond. This does leave room for the possibility of adding a 12th member to return to a division format if that is desired by the conference. At this point, there has never been a peep that suggested the AAC was interested in adding a 12th member, but that is something that can always change on any given day ending in “Y.” Or perhaps the conference will just reshuffle the conference schedule again for the next two seasons after 2021.

Semi-finalists for Ray Guy Award announced, but missing last year’s winner

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Who is the best punter in the land? According to the Ray Guy Award, there are now 10 players left in the running for that title in the 2019 season.

This year’s semi-finalists for the Ray Guy Award are Oscar Bradburn (Virginia Tech), Joseph Charlton (South Carolina), Max Duffy (Kentucky), Tyson Dyer (New Mexico), Sterling Hofrichter (Syracuse), Adam Korsak (Rutgers), Dane Roy (Houston), Tommy Townsend (Florida), Michael Turk (Arizona State), Owen White (Navy).

Somehow, last year’s winner, Texas A&M’s Braden Mann, didn’t make the cut. Mann is third in the nation in punting average (48.21 yards per punt). Not exactly sure how that happened, but there will be a new Ray Guy Award winner this season as a result of this slip form the award’s committee.

John Mackey Award names eight semi-finalists for top tight end award

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Eight of the nation’s top tight ends were officially named semi-finalists for this season’s John Mackey Award on Monday. The award, named after Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end and former Syracuse player John Mackey, is presented to the nation’s top tight-end as determined by a select voting panel.

This year’s semi-finalists are:

  • Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic
  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

A couple of notable omissions from this list stand out. Florida’s Kyle Pitts, who has the second-most receptions and fifth-most receiving yards among the nation’s tight ends somehow slipped through the voters here. The sophomore for the Gators has averaged 4.2 receptions per game and has accounted for 566 yards and five touchdowns for the Gators. No other tight end in the SEC has more yards per game than Pitts. Penn State’s Pat Freiemuth being omitted was also slightly surprising. Freiermuth has seven touchdowns, easily more than any other Big Ten tight end this season and tied for third-most in the conference this season.

Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson won the John Mackey Award in 2018. Other past winners of the award include Dallas Clark of Iowa, Tyler Eiffert of Notre Dame, Jake Butt of Michigan, Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington, and Aaron Hernandez of Florida.

This year’s Mackey Award winner will be announced on Dec. 11th.