The Best Sport returned yesterday, and for fans it almost felt pretty normal. Like a bye week from the couch, except there were more people sharing the couch than ever because very few people could actually attend a game.
We take a look at some winners and losers from the first big week of the 2020 college football season.
Winner: The Sun Belt Conference
With so much drama in the SBC, the league had one of its best weekends ever. Three teams in the league picked up P5 road wins this weekend: Louisiana (+13) went into Jack Trice and knocked off #23 Iowa State 31-14, Arkansas State (+14.5) beat Kansas State 35-31 in the Little Apple, and then Coastal Carolina (+6.5) had a 28-0 lead on Kansas before throttling down for a 38-23 win.
These are quality wins that will benefit the league at the end of the season in the rankings, and we could be looking at some higher-ranked #FunBelt teams than we normally see in the polls. Especially if Iowa State can find a way to still make some noise in the Big XII. There are so few non-conference games available this season, so each one increases in importance exponentially. And right now, there’s no statistics-only power rating you could create where the Sun Belt doesn’t deserve a spot in the College Football Playoff for their champion over the Big 12.
And because college football is a sport with a deep-seated tradition of honor, justice, and making sure the right thing always happens, we look forward to the SBC Champ finally getting their shot at the Final Four in January.
P.S.: This also makes the SEC deciding to duck non-conference play all-together look pretty brilliant by comparison.
Loser: Brock Purdy’s Heisman Campaign
There was some early buzz around the Iowa State quarterback as someone that could reach the Downtown Athletic Club in December, but what a rough start to his campaign: 16/35 for 145 yards and an INT against the Ragin’ Cajuns might put that to bed in such a truncated season.
Considering he’ll be eligible for the NFL Draft next year, head coach Matt Campbell might be regretting hanging around Ames for another year when he had plenty of job offers during the last silly season. His covert private plane flight schedule might not be as full as it was last year.
Winner: A Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech
It has been the considered opinion of this space that Geoff Collins is building a quality program in Atlanta. Their “The 404” campaign is so prevalent the area code is sewn into the team jerseys, and despite not having the most talent during their 3-9 rebuilding campaign last year, they played really hard every week. They also have the best punter in America in Pressley Harvin III, and there is no special teams human in football that brings more joy to the game than him.
But going into Tallahassee and spoiling the debut of Florida State with a 16-13 win has to feel really good for a team picked to finish dead last in the ACC. Freshman quarterback Jeff Sims got the start, and though he made some mistakes, he looks like a piece that could be really good for a long time: 24/35 for 277 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT’s.
Collins went 15-10 at Temple (at some point we’re going recognize North Philadelphia as a cradle of coaches: Matt Rhule won 10 games there twice, and that should get him a statue) before the rebuilding season last year. But they’ve got buy-in from their community, and the recruits are on board. They picked up a true signature win they can build on yesterday. Welcome back, BEES.
Loser: Citadel Punter Matt Campbell
From the same Raymond James Stadium end zone that brought you this moment of brilliance from Rutgers...
We now have this all-timer: It officially goes as a -10 yard punt, no return, Touchdown if you’re scoring at home.
The easiest punt return TD you'll ever see pic.twitter.com/rH3bQUTCPv— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 13, 2020
Twas a rough day for Matt Campbell’s in college football.
Winner: The limited schedule
There were 19 games played on Saturday, and in a season where four conferences aren’t playing, that means most weeks we’ll see around 30 games or so happening on college football’s big day.
Now we’re never going to argue more college football is a bad thing. If you force us to drink it in like a fraternity pledge, we’re never turning down more of The Best Sport. But yesterday had a really nice pace and flow to it for fans on their couch. There weren’t so many games you felt like you were always missing something.
Two tv screens was plenty to keep up on what was happening everywhere. And because the Pac-12 and Mountain West aren’t playing, everyone on the East Coast was done at a reasonable hour. It was, dare I say, a lovely day of college football.
Yes it’s very sad we won’t have the Hawai’i games with Robert Kekaula as a digestif. But in 2020 maybe that’s a good thing because who wants to go to bed with images of new coach Todd Graham and his headset reminding you that you’re still hungry and want something from the drive-thru before bed.
In an effort to re-track everything in Upstate New York, Dino Babers brought in new coordinators on both sides of the ball yesterday. At times Tony White’s new defense looked pretty solid against Sam Howell and the Tar Heels, particularly in the first half. They held a Top-10 team to 6.6 yards per play overall, and showed flashes of a
But offensively, their head-scratching choice of Sterlin Gilbert to lead the unit appears to have shown the same maladies that Sterlin Gilbert brings wherever he goes. Here’s Gilbert’s resume this decade:
Not gonna lie, forgot well-traveled OC Sterlin Gilbert is at Syracuse now. I hope this guy rents, not buys. pic.twitter.com/B6ZukXg0bJ— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) September 12, 2020
You’re reading that correctly: He became head coach at McNeese State in 2019 despite all the non-winning from the teams above. Then after asking all the players to commit to his system and going 7-5, he left for the Orange under cover of night.
And here are some of ‘Cuse’s stats yesterday from our friends at The Daily Stampede:
* 2.8 yards per play
* 202 total yards
* No TDs
* RBs carried 19 times for 38 yards
* QB sacked seven times
They looked awful and uncreative, and did so at breathtaking speed. No one goes faster to go nowhere than the 11 guys being coached by Gilbert. And for a guy on the hot seat after a 4-8 campaign last year, Babers might be regretting this decision while working for another school soon.
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