Saturday might have been the best college football Saturday we'll see all season. We had a classic, double-overtime battle between two legitimate College Football Playoff contenders that resulted in Clemson's first regular-season loss since 2017. We also saw what could have served as a playoff quarterfinal, with Florida eliminating Georgia from the race while taking control of the SEC East.
Yet, despite those games and fun results across the country -- and for the first time this season, I can write "across the country" and be accurate -- I couldn't help but find myself thinking about Jimmy Sexton at the end of it all. I thought about Sexton because he's Hugh Freeze's agent, and Hugh Freeze's Liberty team beat Virginia Tech 38-35 on Saturday. It was the second time the Flames have beaten an ACC team this season, and it bumped them up from No. 25 to No. 22 in the latest AP Top 25 poll. It also cemented the fact that, no matter what happens this offseason, Hugh Freeze is going to be back coaching at a Power Five program sooner than you might think.
Sure, his tenure at Ole Miss didn't end well. An NCAA investigation led to recruiting violations. Those violations led to a lawsuit, and that lawsuit led to the school finding out Freeze had "a concerning pattern" of calls to an escort service. But guess what? That was three years ago, and Freeze has won a lot of games since! Memories are short in this business, and they can get a lot shorter when there are plenty of wins to think about in the here and now.
So somebody is going to hire Freeze soon, but who? Let's break down the Power Five gigs from least to most likely.
Michigan -- I don't think Michigan will fire Jim Harbaugh, not even after the loss to Indiana. Changes could be made to Harbaugh's staff, but my sense of the situation is he won't be going anywhere unless he leaves of his own accord. I can't rule it out entirely, though, because it's 2020 after all. Still, as strange as this year has been, I can't see any scenario that finishes with Freeze behind a podium in a maize and blue striped tie.
Duke -- Considering Freeze's success beating ACC teams this year, it isn't crazy to think he could wind up there. Still, looking at the ACC, I don't see any obvious candidates for jobs to come open. Duke could be a possibility, though, seeing as how the Blue Devils are 7-13 since the start of the 2019 season. Even if it did come open -- and I don't think it will -- it's not a great fit.
USC -- It wasn't even noon in Los Angeles on Saturday before you had to wonder if Clay Helton was on the way out. The Trojans came back to beat Arizona State, but it always feels like Helton is another loss or two away from being done. Still, even if this job comes open, I don't think Freeze would be high on the school's list.
Texas -- Yes, the Longhorns are 5-2, but it's Texas. The seat is hot and always will be. Hugh Freeze doesn't strike me as a Texas coach, but it's a program that is tired of not being good enough, and Freeze could be the biggest name on the market this winter.
OK, now let's get to the real Hugh Freeze Market: the SEC.
Vanderbilt -- The Commodores are 0-5, and Derek Mason is 1-12 in his last 13 SEC games. I'm not sure Freeze would be considered a fit to the people in charge in Nashville, but Freeze should consider Vandy as a fit. Sure, it's a difficult place to win, but it's also a private school. No FOIA requests, coach!
Tennessee -- The 2-0 start to 2020 feels like a long time ago. The Vols have lost four straight since, and while two of those losses were to Alabama and Georgia, the Kentucky and Arkansas defeats are a hard pill to swallow. Jeremy Pruitt's trying to rebuild the program from the ground up, but you have to wonder if patience is beginning to wear thin.
Auburn -- I think this is the scenario many fans would love to see because Hugh Freeze returning to the SEC West to compete directly with Ole Miss and Alabama would make for excellent content. Still, even if he's perennially on the hot seat, I don't know if Auburn's going to fire Gus Malzahn. The Tigers are 4-2 and have been playing much better since a loss to South Carolina. That said, games against both Alabama and Texas A&M remain.
South Carolina -- The Gamecocks are 2-4 on the year and were just roasted by Texas A&M 48-3. It's fair to wonder if the clock is ticking on Will Muschamp's time with the program. Freeze would be a Spurrier-esque hire for Carolina and would rejuvenate the program.
My Official Prediction -- As I said, Auburn is the most entertaining option, but I think South Carolina is the one that's most likely to happen. When you consider the likelihood of a change being made and the job's overall attractiveness, I think it would make a lot of sense on both sides.
Wildest Ending of the Week
Oh, I almost forgot to mention how Freeze and Liberty beat Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Flames had lined up for a game-winning, 51-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds, but Virginia Tech blocked it and returned it for a walk-off win in incredible fashion.
Except they didn't because Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente called a timeout just before the snap that erased the play. Liberty would make the field goal when it counted.
Trick Play of the Week
How much more enjoyable is Rutgers football to watch under Greg Schiano? Season-opening win aside, the most significant change in the program is the level of competence shown on the field. Rutgers spent the last few seasons looking like a football team that didn't belong on the same field as the rest of its Big Ten brethren. Now it's not only won a game, but it's managing to lose to Ohio State by fewer points than Nebraska did.
Player of the Week
Ian Book became a Notre Dame legend on Saturday night. He didn't have eye-popping stats like Clemson's D.J. Uiagalelei did, but he made the plays that mattered the most. I've often criticized Book for what he isn't and why that hinders Notre Dame. In an era where we've seen that you need an elite QB to compete for national titles, Book has led the Irish to the College Football Playoff before, but getting there was one thing. Beating the teams you meet there is another.
On Saturday night, the Irish beat one of those teams, and they couldn't have done so without Book. When he fumbled inside the red zone late in the third quarter to squander a scoring opportunity, it was the kind of moment that would've buried other players. Book shook it off and led the Irish on a game-tying, 91-yard drive against one of the country's best defenses in the final minutes of the game. The key play was a 53-yard connection to Avery Davis. Book recognized the coverage before the snap, dropped back, waited out the oncoming pass-rush, stepped up in the pocket and unleashed an absolute dime to Davis between two Clemson safeties. It was the kind of throw elite quarterbacks make.
It was the throw of his life, and Notre Dame doesn't pull off the upset without it.
Collision of the Week
Football is a contact sport; however, contact is not typically made between players and camera operators. Luckily everybody was all right after Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder tumbled his way directly into living rooms everywhere.
Social Media Team of the Week
I hope Maryland continues to pull off upsets like its 35-19 win over Penn State because its social media team is putting in work this year. They're putting out nothing but bangers. Like, just imagine what we might see if the Terps knock off the Buckeyes this weekend.
Stat of the Week
NC State lost to Miami 44-41 on Friday night in a game that was much closer than many anticipated, and nearly got the weekend started with an upset. What was remarkable about the loss was that it was the fourth straight time the Wolfpack have lost against a ranked team when scoring 40 points or more.
No. 11 Miami
No. 3 Clemson
No. 1 Florida State
No. 11 Clemson
What's more remarkable? NC State doesn't even hold the record for this stat. Texas Tech lost five straight games against ranked teams while scoring at least 40 points from 2014 to 2016.
Punt of the Week
Listen, as one member of a small number of people in the world who care about Illinois football, let me say that I preferred last season when people noticed Illinois because it was doing things like beating Wisconsin or pulling off epic comebacks against Michigan State.
If the Illini could go back to that instead of being noticed for having to punt from the 48-yard line on fourth-and-goal, that'd be great.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
- Notre Dame
- Ohio State
Until the next Monday After!