Starting 11: College Football Fans Declare Independence From Covid

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Last year fans, players, coaches and athletic administrators fought the sports media and wimpy presidents and chancellors of schools to ensure a college football season was played. Playing college football safely last fall was an incredible victory for those of us who looked at covid data and made logical decisions based on that covid data.

But this weekend may have been the most important statement made in generations by college football fans. Because all over the country college football fans showed up in massive crowds without wearing masks and sent America the message that it was time to get back to normal, the covid fear porn purveyors had lost the battle to keep us living in fear forever.

While bars and restaurants in New York City might be checking people for vaccine cards, millions of college football fans all over the country in both red and blue states, vaccinated and unvaccinated, having had covid and not had covid, with nary a mask to be seen among them, stuck up a big middle finger to the coronabros and all their supporters still trying to restrict our freedoms in this country. College football fans were speaking with a loud voice and the message was clear: we’re done being scared.

Joe Biden ran on the false idea that he would return normalcy to America. Judging by his 43% approval rating in an NPR poll this week — seriously if Joe Biden is getting 43% approval ratings in an NPR poll what’s the real number?! — that pledge to restore normalcy to America has already failed. But that was inevitable because that’s not how America works, normalcy isn’t a top down directive, Americans return normalcy to America. And massive college football crowds are a gargantuan part of normalcy in America. Because if the most popular college football team in your region of the country has tens of thousands of people showing up for a game then no matter what the coronabro purveyors of fear porn try and sell you, they’ve lost the battle to keep the country abnormal.

That’s especially the case when you consider the this Labor Day weekend there are MORE CASES of covid than there were last Labor Day weekend in 2020 when the Big Ten told its players they weren’t allowed to play football games because it wasn’t safe. Think about that for a minute as you exult in this scene yesterday from Wisconsin.

Last year Virginia didn’t allow high school football to be played in the fall because it wasn’t safe. This September, even with covid cases higher in the country than last year, this was the scene in Blacksburg, Virginia on Friday night as Virginia Tech ran onto the field.

Wisconsin and Virginia are two “blue” states, but their people were letting their voices be heard — enough was enough. Make no mistake about what happened in 2020, the media elite, big tech, and the Democratic party colluded to convince you that covid was so terrifying you couldn’t live your normal life. Your kids couldn’t go to school, you had to wear masks everywhere, your kids couldn’t play sports and your stadiums couldn’t be full. And they did this, to a large degree, so they could say it was all Donald Trump’s fault and hurt him in the 2020 election. As if that wasn’t enough they hid Joe Biden in the basement and dragged him across the finish line “Weekend At Bernie’s” style by changing voting rules all over the country.

And if you doubt the fact that they used college football to try and beat Trump, they ran television advertisements all over the Big Ten — and in Arizona — blaming Donald Trump for college football not being played. Democrats used covid fear porn, including limiting college sports, to execute the biggest power grab in my life. And they tried to make sports a part of their power grab. But fortunately we at least won most of that battle by having a season last year. Even still, there’s absolutely no reason we couldn’t have had full stadiums last year too.

Again, cases are higher this Labor Day than they were last year. (I know there’s a vaccine, but the death rate for people under the age of sixty, which is most of college football fans, has been minuscule since March of last year when covid arrived in earnest on our shores.)

My point here, college football fans returning in massive numbers is a tremendous signal for what the country feels, a national litmus test. The coronabros in the media tried to attack the huge crowds this weekend, but people finally stepped forward and shot them down, pointing out the absurd hypocrisies in their own life choices.

Witness, Rex Chapman’s Tweet here as he tried to steal the joy of college football fans.

Indeed despite the fact that stadiums all over the country, in both red and blue states, were completely full, left wingers are so scared of Florida governor Ron Desantis for keeping his state open, that they singled out the Florida Gator crowd as particularly “scary.”

We’re in the middle of an incredible Outkick college football road trip — thanks to everyone we met in Knoxville and Charlotte this weekend and I can’t wait to see you guys in Fayetteville for Texas-Arkansas this weekend — and what I’m seeing and hearing from college football fans all over the country is an embrace of American exceptionalism, a rejection of the denigration of America that has been ascendant for the past five years in our media and in our cultural elite.

Just look at Texas A&M’s red, white and blue game yesterday, in honor of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Tell me this doesn’t send shivers down your spine as you watch this video.

Trust me on this, there’s a real groundswell out there, the American people have had enough. I think you’re going to see it explode this week on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Don’t look at what “people” — who are often anonymous bot armies — say on social media about it being unsafe to return to normalcy because of covid, look at WHAT THEY ACTUALLY DO.

It’s way past time to stop letting the blue checkmark brigade’s fears dictate your and mine’s freedoms.

God bless all of you college football fans of all stripes and persuasions, you officially ended covid fear porn this weekend. We’re not going back to restrictions any longer. We’re going to be in our stadiums and our tailgates — without masks — living our best lives. Because college football provides the real antidote this country needs — true normalcy.

Okay, let’s get rolling with the Starting 11.

1. Georgia should be favored to make the playoff after the Bulldog win over Clemson.

In fact, Georgia doesn’t play a currently ranked team again until the Cocktail Party against Florida on October 30th and that’s the only ranked team they are scheduled to play all season. (The Outkick bus tour, by the way, will be at the cocktail party that day. I can’t wait.).

Now as huge as this win over Clemson was, there are also reasons for nervousness, namely on the offensive side of the ball. The Georgia offense only posted 256 yards of offense and didn’t show any ability at all to stretch the field in any kind of significant way. (Clemson’s defensive performance is being underrated because Georgia was so good. But we may have seen the two best defenses in football playing last night.)

Indeed, the only touchdown scored all night by either team was by the Georgia defense.

That means the Bulldogs, whose defense was simply incredible last night, holding Clemson to two yards rushing on 23 attempts, may find themselves in some close games. That could especially be the case if the offense turns the ball over a few times or runs into a team making some plays on special teams.

But let’s not underrate what this win means, Georgia could punch its ticket to the playoff by going 12-0 in the regular season and losing to Alabama, or maybe Texas A&M, in the SEC championship game. That is, this Clemson win is a likely eraser of a loss and it will loom large all season long in the playoff race.

A 12-1 Georgia team is virtually assured a playoff berth.

There’s just no way to underrate how seismic this outcome has the potential to be come December.

2. Ed Orgeron is looking more and more like Gene Chizik 2.0 every week.

On November 1st of last year, I wrote this:

“The Bayou Bengals are 2-3 and look eerily similar to Auburn back in 2011, the year after Cam Newton went number one overall and they lost Gus Malzahn to Arkansas State.

Consider the following analogy between national title teams at Auburn and LSU: all world quarterback leads you to undefeated championship season, wins the Heisman trophy, goes number one overall in the NFL Draft, and then the offensive genius who helped make that quarterback excel leaves for a new job.

The remaining team struggles the next season — Auburn went 4-4 in the SEC, right now LSU is 2-3.

The year after that the wheels truly come off, Auburn went 3-9, 0-8 in the SEC and they fired Gene Chizik.

I’m not saying that LSU 2019 is a mirror image of Auburn 2010, but the analogy sure seems to fit right now, doesn’t it?”

LSU finished last year 5-5, with a big win in Gainesville thanks to the Florida shoe toss heard around the world, but the stats that jumped out at me from last night were on the line of scrimmage. UCLA ran the ball 43 times for 223 yards while LSU ran the ball 25 times for 49 yards.

While Coach O may have been disparaging the sissy blue shirts of UCLA as he walked into the Rose Bowl, those sissy blue shirts on the football team whipped his team’s ass.

Less than two years after posting one of the greatest seasons in college football history, LSU fans are all feeling like this woman right now.

LSU has time to recover — McNeese State, Central Michigan, at Mississippi State, Auburn and at Kentucky are on the schedule until Florida comes to town on October 16th — but the Gene Chizik 2.0 warning signs are clearly flashing. The Tigers didn’t look like a good team on Saturday night and they haven’t looked like a good team for most of the past two years.

Will the wheels completely come off in 2021 for LSU like they did for Auburn in year two after the national title with Gene Chizik? I doubt that since 0-8 in the SEC is an epic collapse that’s rare for any true SEC power to ever accomplish, but I also think things could be bad enough for LSU that Coach O is in danger of being fired by the end of this year or early next year.

He needs to win at least eight or nine games this year to hold off the jackals.

And based on what I saw last night that doesn’t feel very likely to me.

3. Chip Kelly has UCLA back and this is big for college football.

UCLA and LSU felt like two ships passing in the night yesterday evening.

Chip Kelly went 3-9, 4-8, and 3-4 in his first three seasons at LSU. But now in the fourth year he’s suddenly 2-0 and looking at last year’s Pac 12 games you can point to a three point loss against Oregon, a five point loss against USC, and a one point overtime loss against Stanford and see how close to a breakthrough the team really was last year.

Well, this win was the Bruin breakthrough.

And Chip Kelly being good at UCLA would, honestly, be great for college football, which desperately needs the west coast of the country to matter to help strengthen the overall brand of the game.

Right now the biggest criticism you can have of college football , my favorite sport in the country, is we already know who the playoff teams are when the season begins. You can pencil in Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma pretty much every year, it feels like. (This year the top three are favored to make the playoff along with Georgia.)

That’s one big reason I support an expanded playoff, to give new teams a chance to compete for a title.

Without that eventually those same programs dilute the interest across the rest of the country. And that’s particularly been the case on the west coast. So far the Pac 12 has one playoff win — Oregon in the first year of the playoff — and the Big 12 has none. The playoff has pretty much been the SEC’s best team against either Clemson or Ohio State.

But if Chip Kelly can get UCLA rolling then things turn way more interesting in a hurry.

Remember, the South is the only region of the country where people live and breathe college football every day of the year. It really does mean more down here. Heck, LSU, which still has a million people without power from a devastating hurricane, had more fans in the Rose Bowl than UCLA. Think about how insane that is. If anything, I think that’s totally underdiscussed.

The Midwest is the second most football obsessed region of the country, but the east and west coasts are total fair weather fans. When a team like USC is good, people buy in, but when they are mediocre or bad, there’s no interest. USC under Clay Helton doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to cut through the noise in a big way, but Oregon and UCLA might. (Especially with how Oregon is recruiting).

We’ll see how UCLA does going forward, but they feel like a legit Pac 12 South contender this year, which could mean that the USC-UCLA battle actually matters in a major way on a national scale for the first time in a long time.

4. Alabama is the best team in college football right now and there might be a big gap between them and everyone else.

I don’t know how you can take any other lesson away from the Miami game.

The most remarkable thing about the most remarkable dynasty in college football history is how different Alabama today looks compared to Alabama in 2007. Nick Saban has evolved as the game as evolved, something that most coaches aren’t willing to do. While Alabama once won titles based on their defensive dominance, now Nick Saban just keeps bringing in incredible offensive coaches and lets them dominate in the college game with his top recruits. Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and and now Bill O’Brien are all former head coaches who have come to Alabama to serve football apprenticeships in Nick Saban’s island of misfit coaches.

All of them have failed in one way as head coaches, either in football or life, sometimes in both simultaneously, and they come to Alabama, get rehabilitated and redeemed and go on to take head jobs elsewhere. Along the way Saban, who for a long time brought in game managers as his quarterbacks, is now working on his fourth straight stud NFL quarterback in Bryce Young, who is now the Heisman favorite.

As if that weren’t enough, Alabama even makes field goals now.

The Tide will get tested at Florida, at Texas A&M and at Auburn, just because it’s a rivalry game. Plus there’s the SEC championship game as well. But Alabama is +190 to win the title at FanDuel right now.

Georgia is +400
Ohio State is +500
Clemson is +600

Then there are big jumps with Oklahoma at 12 to 1 and Texas A&M at 30-1.

My point? After one week, the Tide are a pretty big favorite to be hoisting the hardware come January. And the gap between Bama and the rest of college football looks like it’s growing instead of shrinking.

5. The ACC’s playoff hopes are struggling already.

The three highest ranked teams in the ACC all lost this weekend: Clemson, North Carolina and Miami. The losses by Clemson and Miami to top ten opponents make the ACC 2-40 all time in openers vs. top ten opponents. Yikes.

Right now Vegas makes Clemson such huge favorites over the remaining teams on their schedule that the Tigers have a decent chance to get back into the playoff mix — Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Clemson are favored to be the four playoff teams after week one of the college football season.

There’s even a decent pathway now to three different SEC teams in the playoff. What would that look like? Alabama or Texas A&M go 13-0 and the team that loses goes 11-1. Then you could have 13-0 Alabama, for instance, 12-1 Georgia, and 11-1 Texas A&M. Your playoff choices might then come down to 12-1 Clemson vs. 11-1 Texas A&M.

Regardless, if you are a Clemson fan you now become a huge Georgia Bulldog fan. You want the Bulldogs to run the table in the SEC and go 13-0 because then if you go 12-1 with a one touchdown loss in week one your resume looks pretty solid.

But the problem is this, who’s the second best team in the ACC? And is that team good enough to make Clemson’s ACC title look impressive at all? That feels doubtful right now.

6. Penn State got a monster road win over Wisconsin.

Last year the Nittany Lions went 0-5 to start the season before finishing with four straight wins.

Meanwhile Wisconsin got hit by covid and the season essentially fell apart for them.

So this opening game was a major, signature opportunity for both schools to come out and reclaim the successes they’d had prior to 2020.

And Penn State, despite an incredible home crowd advantage for Wisconsin, found a way to get the win, riding a few big plays in the passing game to a road upset. Now Penn State gets Ball State back home before Auburn rolls into Happy Valley for a big battle.

Are the Nittany Lions a legitimate challenger in the Big Ten East against Ohio State? That still seems unlikely given the game is taking place in Columbus, but it’s still a signature road win for James Franklin after a disappointing 2020.

Meanwhile Wisconsin will try and get its offense figured out between now and Notre Dame in two weeks.

7. Oklahoma and Texas both won in what might be their final seasons in the Big 12.

The Sooners still don’t have a defense, but Texas looks like they might have an offense.

I can’t wait to see Texas in person this coming weekend in an early SEC preview of a game that will be a great conference rivalry — Texas at Arkansas.

By the way, major props to Oklahoma for the way they handled the game against Tulane. They turned it into a home game for Tulane to help with hurricane relief. And how about the Green Wave fighting this hard despite being uprooted by Hurricane Ida? It was fantastic to see.

8. Montana, Northern Illinois and East Tennessee State all snagged big wins over power five conference teams in Washington, Georgia Tech, and Vanderbilt.

And can we all agree this is absolutely, positively not taunting by ETSU?

9. I had an incredible time in Knoxville and Charlotte.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think that 17 years ago I was a young attorney living in the United States Virgin Islands writing online about college football for an audience of nearly zero people.

Fifteen years ago when I wrote “Dixieland Delight,” I was virtually anonymous as I traveled around the SEC chronicling the best conference in college football.

Now I’ve got a fall bus tour for Outkick featuring a bus emblazoned with my picture and the Outkick logo and I’m sitting down interviewing Herschel Walker and doing a TV show with Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Brady Quinn, and Bob Stoops. Not to mention hosting the biggest radio show in America.

It really is my own incredible version of the American Dream.

Whatever your dream is, chase it. There’s nothing stopping you from achieving it all in his country. I’m perfect evidence of that fact.

Here’s Herschel Walker arguing yesterday morning that Reggie Bush deserves his Heisman Trophy back.

By the way, the coronabros tried to come at me for interviewing Herschel with attacks like these. It didn’t go well for them. Enjoy these comments:

10. The Outkick National Top Ten

Reminder, I rank teams only based on what we’ve seen on the field not what I expect to see on the field. That is, I don’t have a preseason ranking. This is entirely based on the games that have been played so far. I will update my top ten after all week one games are completed on Sunday and Monday nights. But for those of you who are new readers, early in the season I value wins over FBS opponents, with additional value given for road or neutral site wins.

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
4. Virginia Tech
5. Penn State
6. Iowa
7. Texas
8. Ohio State
9. Michigan State
10. (tie). Ole Miss
10. (tie) Montana
(I know, I know, but they beat a top twenty ranked team on the road, how do you not give the Grizzlies some shine?)

11. My SEC power rankings:

I tried to balance out the quality of the opponent and the margins of victory here, but this is obviously hard to do after week one with many of these teams having played big underdogs. So I used expected margin of victory for the Vegas odds here as well.

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Ole Miss
4. Texas A&M
5. Auburn
6. Kentucky
7. Florida
8. Tennessee
9. Arkansas
10. Missouri
11. South Carolina
12. Mississippi State
13. LSU
14. Vanderbilt

I look forward to seeing many of you in Fayetteville this weekend and in Gainesville next weekend.

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.


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  1. Love what the Weeknd brought and love the article… But please pause for a moment and reflect on our overall stupidity as a society over the last 19 months… of course not necessarily the viewpoints of this forum! The article sums it up best: we have more cases now and a year ago the Big Ten was not even playing football! Now Bucky badger and the jump around crowd are acting like “the world has changed“ and we are all liberated??!! WTF has changed??? Vaccines, barely… Data was pretty solid by July 2020 That 99.9% of us were at very low risk of anything significant. I AM ALL FOR what we witnessed this weekend and we need to push for freedoms, but trust me the next couple months are going to be a Covid battle like we have never seen with the Coronabros and the blue politicians!!! They HATE what they witnessed over the weekend and will be striking back… and yes reported cases will go through the roof from these events, particularly in the Midwest.
    Again WTF has changed??? Americans, namely college football fans, are pulling a 2nd “American revolution” which is EXACTLY WHAT ENDS THIS BS!!! NON-COMPLIANCE!!! BTW – I tested positive for Covid yesterday afternoon and 100% stand behind what I witnessed and what I state here this morning!

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