There are no Cinderella stories in college football. While it's typically a March tradition and one rarely seen in January, nothing seems impossible in this upside down 2020 season. It's the middle of November, and we currently have undefeated teams like Cincinnati, BYU and Indiana hanging out in the top 10 of both major polls. Should they remain undefeated, all three will likely be found in the top 10 of the first College Football Playoff ranking.
But do they have a real shot at making the College Football Playoff at the end of the season? Well, no, probably not. A lot of people would like to believe it's a possibility, but I suppose I'm a bit more of a pessimist in the matter. I'm of the opinion that, in a season like 2020 in which any bowl game that is played can choose from any team regardless of their record, the CFP will take a similar approach.
That's why I believe the College Football Playoff this season will consist of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State no matter their records or how many games they're able to play. The fourth team will come from a group that includes Notre Dame, Florida, Texas A&M, Oregon, USC, or Oklahoma. Maybe Wisconsin if the Badgers get enough games in and beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, but that's it.
My reasons for believing this are simple: the 2020 college football season isn't being played to determine a national champion as much as it's to offset as many financial losses as possible during a pandemic. So, when the College Football Playoff Selection Committee gets together on Zoom this year to decide the four teams that will play, they're going to choose the four most deserving powerhouses, not necessarily the four best teams.
I've also heard a notion along the lines of "hey, it's 2020. Why not let a Cincinnati or a BYU into the playoff this year if they're undefeated?" It's a fair and logical question, but this is college football we're talking about, and fair and logical have never found solid footing here. The CFP wouldn't make an exception this year because it would set a precedent in the future. If you allow an undefeated BYU or Group of Five champion into the playoff this year, what happens next year when there's another undefeated Group of Five champion and a one-loss Power Five champion outside the top three?
No, by keeping the Group of Five and others out, you can then expand the playoff to eight teams in a few years with the idea of "inclusion" being the narrative behind the decision rather than the reality of "adding more games means more money."
So enjoy the Cinderella stories of BYU, Cincinnati and Indiana while you can. They'll have their happy-but-not-too-happy endings shortly.
Firing of the Week
South Carolina fired Will Muschamp on Sunday evening, making Muschamp the first Power Five coach to lose his job this season. It wasn't much of a surprise. In fact, it was less of a surprise that Muschamp was fired after a 2-5 start to the season than it was he was still around for the 2020 season in the first place. There was plenty of speculation about Muschamp losing his job after going 4-8 last season, but he was kept on and entered the 2020 season on one of the country's hotter seats.
Even though it was expected, it still rubbed me the wrong way. While fully acknowledging the reasons and thoughts behind South Carolina doing it, firing a coach during the middle of this season feels wrong. Don't get me wrong, Muschamp will be fine. He has a $13 million buyout and will land on his feet somewhere. It's just, firing a coach for performance reasons during the middle of a pandemic season feels slimy. After all, it's not just the players who have to continually jump through hoops to help make sure the games are being played. The coaches are dealing with a lot of the same requirements and putting their health at risk as well.
Given all the work everybody has put in to get as much of this 2020 season played as possible, it just seems to me that the least you can do is allow them to see it through.
So when I read one of the reasons Muschamp was fired now was because South Carolina AD Ray Tanner is worried about possible fan apathy toward the program, it causes my head to spin. Why would you be worried about fan apathy during a season in which you're not allowed to fill your stadium? You can fire Muschamp at the end of the season, hire a new coach and that fan apathy you're worried about will disappear with the excitement of a new coach.
You're South Carolina. You're an SEC school. It's not like the fan base will stop caring about the football program if Will Muschamp coaches three more games.
Catch of the Week
While on the subject of South Carolina, check out the hands on Shi Smith. Catches like that are one way to make sure fans don't become apathetic toward your program.
Fake Fan of the Week
We've seen schools have fun with the cardboard cutouts they've put in the stands across the country, but I was surprised to find it in Ann Arbor. I'd have expected to see it if the game were in Madison. So at least we know that, despite the awful start to the season, somebody at Michigan is keeping their sense of humor about it.
Also, shout out to the production crew on the broadcast to realize it was there and have the camera trained on it like a sniper, just waiting for the perfect moment to unleash it during the broadcast. Wisconsin's Leo Chenal had barely gotten possession of the interception before the camera switched to it. That's just professional televisioning.
Quote of the Week
For context, Iowa beat Minnesota 35-7 on Friday night to win their annual rivalry game and take the Floyd of Rosedale trophy. For those unfamiliar with the trophy, old Floyd's a pig. As for the timeouts, Iowa dominated the game and was up 35-0 late. Minnesota, trying desperately to avoid a shutout, kept its offensive starters in for the entire game and was using its timeouts to stop the clock in the hope of scoring a late touchdown.
Well, even though it was up 35-0, Iowa was fond of the shutout it had going. So Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes used up their timeouts to get their defense together. Some of the most passive-aggressive middle fingers that two coaching staffs could send to one another from opposite sidelines. The kind of hate that makes rivalries great. Well, Minnesota would win this little battle, scoring a touchdown with 14 seconds left. Then, when asked why Iowa was using its timeouts while up 35-0 in the final two minutes of the game, Ferentz unleashed that dagger.
I love this sport so much.
Recency Bias of the Week
I'm a Heisman voter, and as a Heisman voter, I am strongly discouraged from revealing too much about my thought process before we know the winner of the Heisman Trophy. So, without going into too much detail about how I feel about the current state of the Heisman race, I'll say I was amused by the recency bias strongly on display this weekend.
Florida QB Kyle Trask -- who is definitely on my shortlist of contenders -- had another fantastic game against Arkansas on Saturday night. Trask threw for 356 yards and six touchdowns against an Arkansas defense that had performed well against the pass all season long. Trask has now put up some eye-popping numbers this season, and it led to talk about Trask emerging as a Heisman frontrunner this year.
But here's the thing: Trask didn't do anything on Saturday that he hadn't already been doing. He's on my shortlist of Heisman candidates for a reason. Saturday night wasn't even the first time he's thrown for six touchdowns in a game this season. He did it in Florida's opener against Ole Miss too, and he threw for more yards (416) in that game than on Saturday. The 356 yards he threw for against Arkansas are only the third-most he's thrown in a game this season. He threw for 474 last week against freaking Georgia.
Well THIS sure is something...— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) November 15, 2020
* Kyle Trask, first 6 games of 2020: 148 completions for 2,171 yards, 28 TD, 3 INT, 93.9 Total QBR (third)
* Joe Burrow, first 6 games of 2019: 148 completions for 2,157 yards, 25 TD, 3 INT, 93.1 Total QBR (fourth)
So why is this performance the one that suddenly has Trask emerging as a Heisman frontrunner? It's because it came on a weekend when Ohio State's Justin Fields, Alabama's Mac Jones, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and BYU's Zach Wilson weren't playing.
I'm not saying this to slight Trask in any way. He's been amazing, and he's very much on pace to be a Heisman finalist at an absolute minimum. But recency bias is a hell of a phenomenon, and the Trask-Heisman talk is an excellent example of it.
Tackle of the Week
That sound. My god, that sound. Texas Tech's Colin Schooler just delivered an absolutely perfect hit on Baylor's Charlie Brewer. Also, while the tackle itself is fantastic, if you missed it the first time, watch the highlight again to see Schooler discard an unsuspecting Baylor tight end who dared to get between him and his perfect tackle first.
I am not kidding when I tell you I've watched this highlight no fewer than 100 times since Saturday. This column will likely be 15 minutes late because I've been watching it again right now.
Clipboard Toss of the Week
Just between you and I, I think Lane Kiffin prefers it if his team has a bad defense. He wants them to give up points quickly so he can get his offense back on the field and start calling plays again.
Rankings Complaint of the Week
Can somebody explain why Iowa State is seven spots higher than Louisiana in the AP Top 25 poll and nine spots higher than it in the Coaches Poll? The Cyclones didn't play this weekend and remained in place in each poll. Louisiana, meanwhile, beat South Alabama to improve to 7-1 on the season. This bumped the Cajuns up a spot to No. 24 in the AP Top 25 poll and brought them back into the Coaches Poll at No. 25.
That one loss the Cajuns have came via a 30-27 defeat to the same Coastal Carolina team that is No. 15 in the AP and No. 18 in the Coaches. It did not come to Iowa State, which has two losses, with one of those losses coming against Louisiana.
Please, I need somebody to explain why an Iowa State team that has two losses is ranked so far ahead of a one-loss team that it lost to. I mean, I know the answer; I'd just like voters to try and justify it.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
I guess I should have put a spoiler alert at the top of the column?
- Notre Dame
- Ohio State
Until the next Monday After!