Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn would never say it so I’m going to say it for them: Saturday night’s game between Clemson and Auburn at Death Valley was always going to be big. It’s a nationally-televised, prime time ACC/SEC matchup between opponents ranked in the top 13.
But now the landscape has changed.
Now it’s bigger.
After the unfortunate season-ending injury to Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois, Clemson has shot up to No. 3 in both major polls and is now favored to repeat as ACC champs. Clemson gets Florida State at home on Nov. 11 and should be favored to win every game it plays. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
What does all this mean? It means that for Clemson, Auburn is now an early play-in game for the College Football Playoff.
In fact, it’s a play-in game for both teams because if Auburn can go up to Death Valley and win, then it will vault into the Top 10 and be in the discussion as long as it keeps winning. In fact, with a schedule that includes Georgia (home), LSU (road), and Alabama (home), Auburn could lose to Alabama at the end of the season and make the case that it should still be in the playoff at 11-1.
NESSLER TAKES OVER FOR UNCLE VERNE
Brad Nessler could hardly contain his enthusiasm when we talked on Wednesday.
On Saturday Nessler will be on the call when the SEC on CBS opens its 2017 season with the TCU-Arkansas game in Fayetteville. He will slide into the chair that was occupied by broadcasting legend Verne Lundquist for the past 16 years. The man affectionately known as “Uncle Verne” ended the college football portion of his career last season.
As transitions go, this will be one of the smoothest you have ever seen.
“I haven’t been this excited since the last time I worked for CBS, and that was 27 years ago,” said Nessler. “I can’t wait to get started.”
A couple of things Nessler wants you to know. He’s not taking Lundquist’s place because nobody, he said, can do that.
“I’m just sitting in his chair for a while,” said Nessler.
Nessler worked with Danielson for almost eight years when the two were at ESPN. So they know how interact with one another. They actually got to do a game together at the end of last season.
“My wife said it sounded like two 14-year-olds who haven’t been able to play catch for a while,” he said.
Nessler said he will call Lundquist after he gets to Arkansas.
“I’ve already gotten an email from Verne,” said Nessler. “He said he would be sitting with his feet up drinking an iced tea at his home at Steamboat Springs (Colorado) and as soon as we said something wrong he would start screaming at the TV.
“This is going to be fun.”
WHAT WILL BE THE VIBE AT TEXAS A&M?
As the whole world knows, Texas A&M had one of the biggest collapses of all time last Sunday in losing 45-44 to UCLA after leading 44-10 in the third quarter.
It was such a devastating loss that a member of the Texas A&M Board of Regents publicly called for Sumlin’s dismissal on his Facebook page.
That’s cold. That’s also life, and college football, in the great state of Texas.
And now the Aggies have to wait three weeks for a chance at redemption. Beating Nicholls State and Louisiana-Lafayette, which Texas A&M will do in the next two weeks, will do little to calm down the natives. That opportunity won’t come until Sept. 23 when the Aggies play Arkansas in Arlington, Tex.
Meanwhile Texas A&M will play two cupcakes at Kyle Field, which seats 102,773 and has seen $450 million of improvements over the past three seasons.
What will be the mood?
How about subdued at best and angry at worst?
CLASSY MOVE BY THE GATORS
It has not been a good week for the Florida Gators, either. A team picked by many (including this reporter) to win the SEC East basically got their butts kicked by Michigan and Coach Khaki Pants last Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
Coach Jim McElwain, whose offense was held to less than 200 total yards, is catching some heat from fans who want to see the offense fixed in time for the Sept. 16 meeting with Tennessee in Gainesville.
So I was told to look for some significant offensive changes when the Gators play Northern Colorado in a game on Saturday.
A side note: Because of Hurricane Irma, Florida officials decided not to use the hotel rooms where the team normally stays on the night before a home game. Those will be made available for folks who are evacuating parts of Florida South of Gainesville that are expected to be hard hit.
Kudos to McElwain and AD Scott Stricklin on that call.
HURRICANES WILL NOT MAKE UP GAME
Obviously, football isn’t very important when a historic storm is headed for your home. That’s why the University of Miami decided not to travel to Jonesboro, Ark., this weekend to play Arkansas State.
The concern by Miami officials was the ability to get back home after the storm. And they just didn’t feel it was appropriate to travel when there was going to be family members in harm’s way down in South Florida.
The game with Arkansas State is cancelled, meaning Miami will play only 11 regular season games and will not play again until a Sept. 16 game at Florida State.
Head coach Mark Richt will have some decisions to make on when his team—or IF his team—can practice next week.
**--While Irma forced Miami to cancel its game, both Florida (vs. Northern Colorado) and Florida State (UL-Monroe) moved their home games from night to Noon on Saturday.
**--LSU has won 47 straight home games against non-conference opponents. Chattanooga is the next victim.
**--North Carolina quarterback Brandon Harris, a graduate transfer from LSU, got off to a rough start in Chapel Hill, completing only 7 of 16 passes in a loss to Cal. He’ll share the job on Saturday against Louisville.
**--Missouri quarterback Drew Lock tied an SEC record with seven touchdown passes last week in a 72-43 win over Missouri State. He’ll be in another shootout with South Carolina on Saturday in Columbia, MO.