SEC's Back to Help Ease Burden on Not-Ready-for-Primetime ACC and Big 12

Herb Gould

 The SEC comes back on Saturday. Welcome back!

After the slim pickings that passed for a college football schedule on Saturday, the power in the Power 5 can’t get here soon enough.

Southeastern Conference this week. Big Ten in a month. If the Pac-12 can find a way to play, even better.

I still wonder if playing college football this fall will ultimately prove to be a good idea—if the nation is serious about containing the Coronavirus. But if college football is going to be played, let it be the best that it can be.

Clemson beat The Citadel 49-0 in its annual charity fundraiser for Palmetto State football. The Tigers failed to score in the second half, yet another tribute to Dabo Swinney’s sportsmanship and command.

UCF beat ACC bottom-feeder Georgia Tech 49-21, pouring on three fourth-quarter touchdowns to break open a 28-21 game and help make the Group of 5’s case for a playoff bid. Which won’t happen.

If the Group of 5 wants a playoff slot, it will need an eight-team playoff, barring a magical set of circumstances.

Pitt labored past another ACC bottom-feeder, Syracuse, 21-10.

Kudos to Boston College and its Notre Dame transfer QB, Phil Jurkovec, for breaking up the monotony with a 26-6 win over Duke in a matchup of two more ACC bottom-feeders.

In this small pond, Miami-Louisville, two programs that have had great falls, was billed as the Game of the Week. Which it was. But it’s way too soon to say Miami, despite a potent offense, is ready to be an elite program again.

The Big 12 provided no relief on a Saturday that only a college-football addict could love.

After trailing 7-3 in a first half that saw supposed Heisman candidate Chuba Hubbard rush for 35 yards, Oklahoma State survived 16-7 against Tulsa. Lingering turmoil between coach Mike Gundy and his Cowboys, who supposedly had patched up their differences? Or just a bad day in Stillwater? Time will tell.

The other scheduled Big 12 game, Houston-Baylor, might have been a good one. Unfortunately, Baylor did not meet conference standards for virus clearance.

Yeah, the Group of 5 played a couple of games of note. Marshall upset Appalachian State. In yet another ominous sign for Big 12 football beyond Oklahoma and Texas, Louisiana, which had looked so good at Iowa State, needed a late rally to beat Georgia State in overtime.

Would anybody have noticed these games if 60 percent of the Power 5 had not been social-distancing?

Good thing Notre Dame signed up for the ACC’s fall campaign to kindle hopes that somebody will be more than a ball-of-yarn plaything for Clemson’s Tigers. The Irish looked sharp in a 52-0 rout of South Florida.

Notable: Seven Irish did not play for undisclosed reasons. Covid-19 would seem to be the explanation.

Keep an eye on that. In South Bend. And wherever college football hopes to be played.

Welcome back, SEC.

Barring upsets, the SEC’s first week shapes up as What-We-Learned games rather than actual dramas. Except for No. 16 Tennessee at South Carolina, the SEC openers are all double-digit affairs in the eyes of the oddsmakers. And the Vols, a 3.5-point favorite in Columbia, probably would be favored by a touchdown if they were playing in Knoxville.

Which raises the question: How much is home field worth when crowd size (and presumable, noise) is severely limited by Coronavirus concerns?

No. 2 Alabama at Missouri, . . No. 4 Georgia at Arkansas. . . No. 5 Florida at Ole Miss. . . Mississippi State at No. 6 LSU. . . Vanderbilt at No. 10 Texas A&M. . . No. 23 Kentucky at No. 8 Auburn.

That’s a gaudy set of top-25 rankings.

Which raises the question: How and when are those beleaguered AP voters going to re-introduce the Big Ten to their Top 25?

When I was an AP voter, we just had to worry about taking heat for not ranking Utah, which was then a Group of 5, high enough? And social media wasn’t as fearsome a cudgel as it is today.

What are the current voters going to do with Ohio State? Penn State? The other usual Big Ten suspects?

Whatever it is, I am thinking folks in the SEC won’t like it,

I’ll hang up and listen.