Two weeks ago, there was a distinct possibility that there might not be an SEC team in the College Football Playoff. What if LSU, Alabama, and Florida all came in with two losses? A two-loss SEC team would never make the playoff, regardless of how strong you perceive the conference. Right now, it’s looking like a one-loss Alabama will be the SEC’s entry into the wackiness of the playoff, and rightfully so. With the exception of the first half of the Arkansas game, Alabama has played like a top four team over the past month. They just held Heisman contender Leonard Fournette to a measly 31 yards on Saturday. Yes, that same Fournette who averaged 193 rushing yards per game. Conversely, Fournette’s top competitor for the position of best running back in the nation, Derrick Henry, topped 200 yards rushing and had three scores.
It was an impressive performance by Alabama, who are looking more and more like the Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram-led teams who focused on a punishing ground game and an elite front seven. Alabama held LSU to less than 200 total yards, and it wouldn’t surprise me come Tuesday night when the playoff rankings are released if the Crimson Tide are ranked #1 and Clemson drops to #2.
1. My two-cents on the situation at the University of Missouri.
For those of you who live under a rock, the football team at the University of Missouri went on strike in support of a group called #ConcernedStudent1950. #ConcernedStudent1950, a predominantly African-American organization, called for system president Tim Wolfe’s firing, because they believe he hasn’t done enough in response to a string of disturbing racist incidents on campus over the past month. The football team joined in the movement, declaring that they wouldn’t participate in any football activities until Wolfe has been removed from his position.
This was a decision made by the athletes, who were later supported by the coaches. These are 20-somethings who have laid their scholarships on the line to say, “this isn’t right, and it needs to be fixed.” Regardless of where your opinions lie on this matter, you have to applaud these kids for taking a stand. It takes a lot of courage to put your college education on the line to stand for something you believe in. This will be a major turning point for the University of Missouri, and the nation as a whole, and it’s in part because the players realized their group power and stepped up to it.
Wolfe resigned this morning around 10 a.m., and via various beat writers, it appears the players have gone back to work. This situation sets an interesting precedent in terms of future player demands. The taboo on athletes using their group power to get what they want had largely been ignored until this point, and with the crowd advocating to pay collegiate athletes, it’ll be interesting to see if there are more instances of athletes using their power to mandate a pay-for-play system.
2. Leonard Fournette should still win the Heisman.
Yes, Fournette had an absolute dud of a game Saturday, but don’t discount his body of work this season. The guy was averaging 193 yards per game going into Saturday, with multiple games of 200+ yards. LSU is starting at quarterback for LSU, and he’s essentially a rich man’s Treon Harris. Without Fournette, LSU wouldn’t be a one-loss team by this point In an alternate, Fournette-less universe, it’s likely LSU would have lost to Mississippi State and Florida by this point. The only other player on the Heisman watch list who carries his team’s offense so entirely is Trevone Boykin, and he just had a game as bad, if not worse, as Fournette’s. You can try to make a case for guys like Henry, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, or Baylor’s Corey Coleman, but Alabama has an elite defense, Stanford has Kevin Hogan at quarterback, and Art Briles’s offense at Baylor lends itself to big numbers for receivers. While Fournette had a bump in the road this weekend, don’t let it wipe your mind of the dominance he’s shown the rest of this season.
3. If Kevin Sumlin leaves Texas A&M, he should go to the Tennessee Titans.
Ken Whisenhunt was fired last week after going 3-20 in his year and half long stay in Nashville with the Titans. Mike Mularkey took over as interim head coach, and his 17-32 record at previous stops in Buffalo and Jacksonville would suggest the Titans will be looking for someone with a better history of success. Enter Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin would have the opportunity to develop a franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota, work with offense that is underrated in terms of talent, and would likely have the option to go full Chip Kelly and control all his personnel. Sumlin would essentially be moving his program and offense to the NFL level. At some point, all great college coaches try their hand at the NFL level, and the Tennessee Titans would offer a situation similar to Texas A&M in terms of quarterback talent and the ability for Sumlin to mold the team into something of his style.
4. The Butkus Award snubbed two major players from the SEC.
The semifinalists for the Butkus Award, the award given to the nations best linebacker, had two glaring absences on the list. First was Missouri’s Kentrell Brothers, who currently leads the nation in tackles with 117, with the next closest player at 101. Brothers also has three sacks, two interceptions, and a forced fumble on his resume this season. I don’t understand how the nations leading tackler by a wide margin gets left off as a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. The second major snub is South Carolina’s Skai Moore, who has actually single-handedly won South Carolina a game, by intercepting a game-winning touchdown against North Carolina in the season opener. Moore currently ranks 16th in tackles per game, with 9.9, and has four interceptions, which is second among all linebackers in the NCAA. There are plenty of deserving players who deserve to be a semifinalist, but I just don’t understand how you can leave off Brothers or Moore.
5. Bret Bielema should still be fired after this season.
Over the past three weeks, Arkansas has put up 50 points in three straight games and is on a three game win streak, but two of those games went into overtime, and the third was against UT-Martin. Arkansas now sits above .500 for the first time this season at 5-4, and is chugging along towards a 6-6 or 7-5 finish, which is not the result Arkansas had in mind when they hired Bielema away from Wisconsin.
Given the dearth of head coaches that will be floating around this offseason, wouldn’t there be a better coach out there than Bielema? Outside of a couple stretches of a few good weeks, Bielema has proven so far that he can’t win at competitive level in the SEC. Bielema lost three straight games to Toledo, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M in the first month of the season, and as of right now, it looks like Toledo might be the only respectable team of the bunch. Freaking Toledo. The only reason Arkansas has been winning is because Bielema is coaching like a guy who has nothing to lose, which he doesn’t. What happens when Arkansas brings him back next season? Probably the same start as this season, except Arkansas fires him midway through the year after going 2-4.
Why delay the inevitable? There will be plenty of better coaching candidates out there looking for jobs, and by holding out for another season, Arkansas might miss out on a good one.