Friday Five: Saban Out, South Carolina Losing Recruits, Clemson Bringing in Nation's Best
Thanksgiving week didn't dampen the college football news cycle in any way.
The SI All-American hits on curiosity throughout the sport to wrap up the work week with the Friday Five.
1. Saban to miss Iron Bowl
The unfortunate news of Alabama head coach Nick Saban testing positive for COVID-19 broke earlier in the week, with Saban set to miss the highly-anticipated matchup vs. rival Auburn Saturday. All know how exceptional Saban has been in career, notching six SEC titles and five National Championships during his tenure in Tuscaloosa. He nearly missed the Georgia game earlier this fall due to a false-positive COVID-19 test, however, this time Saban is experiencing mild symptoms. While some feel his absence may not have as big of an impact on the Iron Bowl as others may think, it will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator/interim head coach Steve Sarkisian fares in Saban’s place.
“Sark” last saw the game from the head view when he was leading USC 2014-2015. He finished with a 12-6 record, and things ended rather embarrassingly for him in Los Angeles due to alcoholism. Yet after the Tide’s offense played well last season, Sarkisian did receive some interest from schools to become a head coach again. Will he try to use the big platform this weekend to impress observing athletic directors and coach himself back into a head job again? Or will he simply view the moment as one of him just maintaining his rhythm as offensive coordinator while only making sure the wheels don’t fall off until Saban is back?
2. South Carolina Exodus
The Gamecocks have had a rough season, firing head coach Will Muschamp on November 15th. While there is some hope with Shane Beamer interviewing for the job soon and whispers of Hugh Freeze and Scott Satterfield coming to Columbia, things on the recruiting trail are not as promising right now. South Carolina has seen five, yes five, recruits decommit this week and its recruiting class is down to just 10 pledges. LB Trenilyas Tatum, S Jayden Johnson, LB Bryce Steele, WR Simeon Rice and WR Rodarius Thomas have all backed off their commitment to be Gamecocks since November 20th and we hear more could be on the way.
With the early signing period commencing in just a matter of weeks, beginning December 16, it’s imperative for South Carolina officials to quickly move through their search and get the right coach in place as soon as they can. If not, the five recent decommitments may not be the only recruits opting not to play at South Carolina.
3. Foreman Returning to Clemson
The biggest singular recruiting story of the week is still developing as the nation's No. 1 interior defensive line prospect readies for his next trip. Korey Foreman, a one-time Clemson commitment, is returning to Death Valley this weekend for a final look at campus before making a final decision between CU, LSU, Georgia, USC, Arizona State and others.
Of course the NCAA dead period remains in place so this visit is on Foreman's dime and won't feature any in-person contact with Dabo Swinney's staff, but he will spend time with an unofficial Tiger ambassador that knows a thing or two about the transition from California to Clemson given his son's move in January -- Dave Uiagalelei. Yes, DJ's dad, has let the recruiting world know the Foremans will be guided in part by him while in town. Few programs can re-gather the pledge of an elite after a decommitment, but recall Foreman's initial move stemmed around the inability to visit other programs while committed.
4. CFP Rankings Still Not Sitting Well
The top six of the initial College Football Playoff ranking has the right group, even if the order is up for small debate, but beyond the half-dozen things got a bit wonky this week, right? It's great to see Cincinnati at No. 7 with a legit shot as as far as G5 CFB chances go, but Georgia No. 9 and Miami 10th above Indiana? Then there's BYU at 14...sheesh.
Georgia is the highest-ranked two-loss team in the land per the CFP, fresh off of a survival performance AT HOME against Mississippi State? JT Daniels looked better than any other starting quarterback Kirby Smart has rolled out there but the undermanned visiting Bulldogs were still in position to go tie the game with it on the line. Vandy allowed MSU to score as many points as UGA did.
No. 10 Miami and No. 12 Indiana each have one loss to a program it should have fallen to, Clemson and Ohio State respectively, but only one of those games was a legitimate contest where the outcome wasn't known from the outset. IU created the most problems for Justin Fields in 2020 and racked up more points versus the Bucks than any other opponent thus far. The CFP liked The U over IU in the ranks but we'd be hard pressed to agree the Canes would be favored on a neutral field.
As for BYU, we'd be curious to know the number of quarters the committee has spent watching and digesting Cougar football. Cincy is the better G5 program with the better wins, no doubt, but a seven spot different in the ranks including three two-loss teams between them? That's just not right so let's hope they can schedule a Power 5 opponent to bolster or drop their case ASAP.
5. Abiara bends away from South Bend
We noted Notre Dame had a great week on the recruiting trail last week. The momentum continued through the early part of this week, with the Fighting Irish picking up a commitment from CB JoJo Johnson on Tuesday. However, things hit a speed bump on Wednesday with EDGE David Abiara decommitting from Notre Dame. We’ve heard whispers through the summer and fall about Abiara not being solid to the Golden Domers, and he confirmed just that by backing off his pledge. Notre Dame isn’t completely out of it, but Oklahoma could now be the team to beat for the Texan’s services, with Alabama and Baylor also being in the mix. Irish head coach Brian Kelly and his staff have navigated this specific process before, seeing CB Philip Riley de-commit before getting him to re-commit only several weeks later.
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