College Football Roundup: COVID Consequences; Heat on Harbaugh; Mississippi Misery; Pac-12 Lucks Out
Another college football weekend. Another week of COVID. Another week of games cancelled.
Wisconsin, with 22 active cases on the football team, including head coach Paul Chryst, cancelled its game against Nebraska. Next weekend's game vs. Purdue is very much in doubt.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, perhaps the No. 1 player in the country, tested positive, experienced symptoms, and missed Saturday's game with Boston College. He will also miss this weekend's massive matchup with No. 4 Notre Dame.
Remind me again why we're playing?
Michigan's Misery: Last week we wrote that Jim Harbaugh was going to be on the hot seat if the Wolverines didn't produce this year. After Saturday’s loss to three-touchdown underdog Michigan State, Harbaugh's seat just got much warmer.
Mississippi Burning: Former Washington State coach Mike Leach started his tenure at Mississippi State with an impressive upset win over defending national champion LSU. It has turned out to be a mirage. LSU has imploded, getting beaten by Missouri and crushed by Auburn.
And Mississippi State has cratered, losing on four successive weekends to Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama. Leach's vaunted Air Raid offense has scored only two offensive touchdowns in four weeks and was shut out for the first time ever against Alabama. Quarterback K.J. Costello, the Stanford transfer, has been benched or removed due to injury in each of the last three games.
Another ex-Pac-12 coach of questionable character, Mississippi's Lane Kiffin, also is failing in the SEC. After six weeks, the former USC head coach has 2-4 record at Ole Miss.
We predicted this would happen when Leach and Kiffin were hired back in January. And it's only going to get worse.
Pac-12 Wins: The Pac-12 hasn't even begun playing football yet, but the conference was a big winner on Saturday.
Undefeated Oklahoma State, the Big 12's last undefeated team and its only realistic hope for a berth in the College Football Playoff, was upset by Texas in overtime. Since perennial playoff participant Oklahoma has already lost twice, the Big 12 now is virtually certain to be left out.
The second best team in the SEC, Georgia, already has one loss. In the Big Ten, Wisconsin has been felled by the virus and Penn State has lost twice.
So the Pac-12 has an opening. Right now, Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama and Notre Dame appear to be the front-runners for the Playoff. But if Clemson beats Notre Dame Saturday without starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the Irish's chances would be dealt a serious blow.
So, suddenly, it appears that an undefeated Pac-12 champion would have a good shot at the CFP for only the third time in seven years.
Note that we said "undefeated." A one-loss Pac-12 team would have no chance, given that there will be no non-conference games this year to boost its resume.
Fight On: Most pundits expect No. 9 ranked Oregon to win the conference. I disagree. The Ducks have a new quarterback and a rebuilt offensive line. I have a hard time envisioning them running the table against the North Division and UCLA.
I think the conference's best hope is USC. The Trojans return the top quarterback in the league, Kedon Slovis, and have their usual array of five-star studs. Plus they drew a weak Washington State team as their only opponent from the North.
If they can get by tough Arizona State in the "Big Noon Saturday" 9:00 am kickoff this weekend, I look for the Trojans to go undefeated.
Election Reminder: One of the candidates for president claims he brought back Big Ten football by calling commissioner Kevin Warren. That claim, like so much of what Donald Trump says, is bogus, according to conference officials and school presidents.
Since tomorrow is Election Day, some of you may not have voted, so here’s a friendly reminder that Trump has fed us nothing but lies about the coronavirus for the past nine months.
Some of the claims from the alternate orange universe:
COVID is "their latest hoax"
"15 cases will be down near zero in a few days"
It will "magically disappear in warm weather"
It's "totally under control"
It'll be "over by Easter"
Take hydroxychloroquine, inject bleach
"99% have no symptoms"
"It affects virtually nobody"
We're "rounding the corner"
"Doctors profit off COVID"
Scientists are "disasters" or "idiots"
We’ll have a vaccine "momentarily"
And here’s the reality:
9 million cases
Cases surging to new national and state highs every day
A vaccine is months away
So please vote to restore honesty, decency, competency and democracy. Vote for Joe Biden.