Florida hadn’t played well all night, but late in the fourth quarter for a blissful few seconds they’d gotten a stop and forced a punt. The fog that had descended onto the field and seemed to have ensorcelled their offense was no longer a major obstacle.
The Gators Heisman trophy caliber quarterback was set to take back over the ball with ample time on the clock and LSU’s defense, which had been gouged to the tune of nearly 600 yards of offense, was on the ropes. Surely the Gators were going to pull out a win in regulation.
And if they didn’t win in regulation then worst case scenario they’d head to overtime as a substantial home favorite.
But then this happened.
LSU was going to have to punt and then a Florida player threw this shoe. May have killed their playoff chances. One of the dumbest plays I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/wIsllDFvQr
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) December 13, 2020
And LSU, gifted a first down based on incredible stupidity, had another life.
Which the Tigers cashed in to bomb through a 57 yard field goal. A 57 yarder! So much for college kickers stinking.
(In typical LSU fashion, the Tigers were running on their field goal team without any timeouts left when Dan Mullen called a timeout. I think that was the right call, but I’m honestly not sure LSU would have gotten the kick off and made it without the timeout).
With hardly any time left, Trask got Florida into field goal range, but then Florida’s own stud kicker missed a 51 yarder for the tie and here we are, college football playoff chaos finally arrived, even if it took longer than usual.
I’ll dive into where this leaves us with the playoff in a moment, but let me just say here, this is why the number of games you play matters. Because of games like these. Florida outgained LSU by nearly 200 yards of offense, they turned the ball over three times, at least one of those interceptions, which took points off the board for the Gators, was a total carnival of insanity and the fog rolled in making visibility difficult.
Yet it still took a shoe being thrown twenty yards after a defensive stop, a 57 yarder banged through, and a 51 yarder missed on the final play of the game for them to lose.
Put simply, this was an exhilarating and improbable win for LSU, but it was a crushing defeat for the Gators.
And it’s the exact kind of game all of us have seen happen in college football for our entire lives.
This is why you play all the games, because pure bedlam can, and often does, happen.
Now let’s dive in to the Starting 11, but just before we do, let me remind you to go get your NFL bets in this morning. Pick the winner of the Steelers-Bills and you get a 15-1 payout. That means a $10 bet returns $150. Okay, here we go:
1. What’s the SEC’s playoff situation in the wake of the Florida loss?
First, let’s give some major props to the SEC. The conference has now played 65 of its 66 scheduled games on the season. With four games scheduled next week and the SEC title game, the SEC is poised to play 70 of 71 scheduled games.
That’s 98.6% of their scheduled games on the season.
And not only that, they’ve played all these games with fans present and zero significant covid health issues for any of the players or coaches in the league.
The coronabros told you all of this was impossible and yet the SEC has done it. This ranks as one of the most impressive accomplishments, if not the most impressive, in league history.
Okay, but where does this leave us in the playoff race, many of you are asking?
Alabama is in the playoff. The Tide rolled against Arkansas and Alabama is now 10-0, the most conference wins ever in SEC history. If Alabama wins this coming Saturday in the SEC title game then the Tide will be 11-0 and far from there being an asterisk on this covid-season title, you can argue Alabama will be the most deserving and accomplished SEC champion of all time. The Tide will have posted 11 conference wins, two more than any team has ever won in the history of the league.
And so far the Tide has won every game by at least 15 points.
Truly, this is one of the most dominant performances in league history.
Which is why Alabama is presently a 17.5 point favorite in the SEC title game against Florida. Stranger things have happened, but I’d be stunned if Alabama doesn’t win this game comfortably and lock up the number one overall playoff seed in the process.
But what if Florida pulls off the upset?
Well, like I said, Alabama is in the playoff and, unless Notre Dame wins, I think you can argue that the Tide still would be the overall number one seed. But would 9-2 Florida make the playoff too? Dan Mullen is arguing that the answer is yes and his decision to rest Kyle Pitts — think he might have helped some last night? — certainly makes it appear this wasn’t just lip service.
But what if Texas A&M beats Tennessee on Saturday, as they’ll be favored to do. Would you take 9-2 Florida over 8-1 Texas A&M that beat them head-to-head? Or would you take 6-0 Ohio State, presuming the Buckeyes beat Northwestern?
Because if Florida wins you’d likely have Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame in the playoff. So who would get that fourth spot? We’ll debate as we roll forward, but for now, the biggest impact of the shoe toss loss is it removed a guaranteed path for Florida in the playoff. Finish 10-1 with a win over Alabama and they were 100% in the playoff, now 9-2 is more of an uncertainty.
I still tend to think that 9-2 SEC champion Florida would get in the playoff — especially since both Gator losses were super close — but no one will know for sure until December 20th. And if Florida had finished 10-1 there would have been no doubt at all.
By the way, I know that last year we had the Ole Piss incident that cost Ole Miss the rivalry loss against Mississippi State, but this shoe toss, to me is worse because the outcome is far more significant. I know the Egg Bowl is a huge deal in Mississippi, but both teams stunk last year. That’s the reason both head coaches were fired, the winning and losing coach. But this shoe toss may well have cost Florida a chance to play for a national championship. I’m not saying it’s a worse decision — the Ole Piss incident was planned out beforehand and this was just a reaction in the spur of the moment — but this is far worse for Florida than the pissing incident was for Ole Miss. In fact, you can argue the Ole Piss incident was a massive break for Ole Miss because it got them Lane Kiffin.
So the Ole Piss incident was dumber, but the shoe toss was more significant.
Plus, it wasn’t just that the shoe was thrown — Florida probably would have gotten away with spiking the shoe on the ground as long as it didn’t hit the tackled player — it was the fact that the shoe was thrown farther down the field than Danny Wuerffel could throw the football in his prime.
And so here we are.
The SEC has one team in the playoff and two teams — Florida and Texas A&M — that are left in the playoff penumbra, hoping that their resumes are good enough to merit inclusion.
2. What about the ACC?
Well, now you see why the ACC kept Notre Dame and Clemson from playing yesterday, just to avoid a loss like this from happening.
Sure, Notre Dame and Clemson would have been unlikely to lose, but crazy things happen in college football every year. Twenty point underdogs sometimes rise up and pull off massive upsets that alter the trajectory of the season in unexpected ways, especially when the playoff stakes get ratcheted up really high.
But that didn’t happen in the ACC on Saturday because they changed the rules to protect their title contenders.
As a result the ACC’s playoff path is fairly simple: if Clemson beats Notre Dame then both teams are likely to be in the playoff barring a serious injury to Ian Book or a seismic blowout for the Fighting Irish.
If Notre Dame beats Clemson again — and presently the Tigers are around a ten point favorite so this would be a substantial upset — then Clemson would be out of the playoff and the door would be opened for a second SEC team and Ohio State to get in the playoff.
So the ACC playoff scenarios are pretty simple.
3. What about Ohio State?
Assuming Ohio State wins the Big Ten title then the committee will have a big decision to make.
Is 6-0 good enough to guarantee the Buckeyes a spot in the playoff?
Consider that Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame and Clemson will all have played eleven games and that Ohio State will have played just six. Texas A&M will have played nine games. Do those extra games matter when it comes to considering playoff resumes?
For years the playoff committee has told us the answer was yes. (Remember all the talk about Notre Dame only playing 12 games, with no conference title game, while everyone else played 13 games). Does that logic still hold this season?
Already coaches like Dabo Swinney and Dan Mullen are arguing that the number of games played should better.
And for Buckeye fans who argue that the number of games shouldn’t matter, how quickly we forget that Ohio State has twice lost as nearly three touchdown favorites in blowout fashion — 55-24 in 2017 at Iowa and 49-20 at Purdue in 2018. The Buckeyes were twenty point favorites over Iowa and 14 point favorites over Purdue.
These are the kinds of things that happen in college football when you play full conference schedules. Right now Ohio State has played half of a traditional Big Ten schedule.
So what will the committee do?
As I told you a couple of weeks ago, I expected this decision to come down to one loss Texas A&M vs. 6-0 Ohio State for the final playoff spot.
And I still do.
And I think the final argument will come down to that question, did Ohio State play enough games to make the playoff or not?
If the committee thinks they did, the Buckeyes will be in. If the committee thinks they didn’t, then Texas A&M will be in.
3. What happens if there is total chaos?
Okay, let’s have some fun.
What if every top playoff favorite lost next weekend?
That is, what if Florida beat Alabama, Notre Dame beat Clemson, Northwestern beat Ohio State, and Tennessee beat Texas A&M. (You can toss in USC losing as well just for fun too, but we don’t know with 100% certainty who USC is even playing.)
First of all, this would pay off on a moneyline parlay at like 1,000 to 1, so let’s not presume it’s very likely, but, again, we’re just taking the most chaotic possible outcome.
Even then Alabama and Notre Dame would take two of the playoff spots so that’s pretty simple. Then you’d have two spots remaining for the playoff and I think you’d end up with Northwestern and Cincinnati as your final two playoff teams. Really, I do.
So basically you’d end up with Alabama as your national champion.
4. What about USC in the Pac 12 title game?
It’s fascinating how preseason perceptions often dictate reality in college football.
Both USC and Ohio State are 5-0 and headed to their conference title games this weekend.
Yet the Buckeyes are considered a clear playoff contender and almost no one is talking about the Trojans as a playoff contender at all. That’s despite the fact that USC is likely to finish with the exact same record as Ohio State playing the exact same number of games.
I know, I know, USC hasn’t been very dominant in several of their wins — three of them have come in the final minute or so — but the point is most people are saying USC has no chance at the title because of the mess that is the Pac 12 conference and no one is saying the same thing about Ohio State.
Why is that?
It’s mostly preseason expectations.
If USC had started where Ohio State did then the Trojans would be in the playoff mix. Because they started off much lower in the preseason rankings, they aren’t.
5. So what’s the most likely playoff scenario?
I think it’s this: 1. Alabama 2. Clemson 3. Ohio State 4. Notre Dame
Why do I think this is the most likely playoff seeding scenario? I’m trying not to be too cynical here, but the answer is because it makes the most money for everyone.
You get Alabama against Notre Dame and Clemson against Ohio State, two games that are guaranteed to be ratings blockbusters and help to fill ESPN’s advertising coffers after a tough regular season.
I also think the playoff will bend over backwards to avoid rematches. There’s no way the playoff wants a third match up between Notre Dame and Clemson, especially not one that happens 13 days from the ACC title game.
So this is my expected playoff outcome.
As I discussed above, there are many different ways the playoff could still happen, but this feels like the most likely outcome.
6. The only canceled SEC game may end up hurting Texas A&M a decent amount.
Ole Miss is playing pretty well right now. If the Aggies had gone out and whipped them, which I’m not sure would have happened, but let’s just say it would have, then the talking points this morning would be all about the Aggies.
And given that the debate between A&M and Ohio State is likely to come down to one team playing ore games than the other, the Aggies being 9-1 and having played four more games than Ohio State would be helpful here.
Again, the SEC has done a remarkable job getting nearly their complete schedule played, but if it comes down to Texas A&M vs. Ohio State for the final spot, this game being canceled could hurt the Aggies.
7. Cincinnati will have had a month off by the time the AAC title game is played.
The Bearcats last took the field before Thanksgiving!
And it’s also a big reason why any playoff talk about the Bearcats has effectively dried up. I know it sucks for them not to be able to play, but absent the chaos scenario I discussed above the Bearcats are effectively out of the playoff running.
8. What do Texas, Michigan and Tennessee do from here?
I think all three schools are going to keep their coaches.
After flirting with Urban Meyer, Texas has announced that Tom Herman will be back next season. Michigan has a new contract offer in front of Jim Harbaugh and it seems like any strong momentum to force him out has dried up. The big question here is whether Harbaugh might bolt for the NFL. But it doesn’t seem like he’s aggressively entertaining that option and with football’s early signing day set for Wednesday, it would be a pretty dirty move for Harbaugh to sign his class and then leave immediately after that happens.
So I think Harbaugh will end up back at Michigan next season.
As for Jeremy Pruitt he got a win over Vanderbilt, which probably cemented his return for next season. 3-6 is a bad season, but the game against Vandy wasn’t close in the second half and with signing day on Wednesday all three schools have top 17 classes in the 247 composite recruiting class rankings.
I’d be very surprised if Tennessee isn’t bringing back Pruitt.
One note here on Tennessee-Vanderbilt, the Sarah Fuller charade continues to run full speed ahead.
Yes, she made two extra points, so congrats to her on that, but Vandy had a kicker drill a 39 yard field goal.
So Vandy has a field goal kicker who just made a 39 yard field goal, but Sarah Fuller is kicking their extra points and you’re telling me this isn’t a stunt? Come on.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) December 12, 2020
And that same kicker was long enough, but wide right, from 53 yards out.
Vandy just had a kicker attempt a 53 yard field goal. (He missed wide right). But he’s not good enough to kick extra points. That’s why they need Sarah Fuller, guys. No way he could kick extra points.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) December 12, 2020
He’s also seven for seven on extra points for the year.
Can you ever recall a team having a kicker on the roster who only attempts extra points? Because I can’t recall ever seeing it in my life.
Again, this was a stunt.
Anyone arguing it’s not a stunt is ignoring the clear evidence to the contrary.
And anyone arguing that this is the equivalent of a walk on getting to play is an imbecile. Walk ons work for years to get in at the end of games for a few plays. They don’t come in to play early in the game.
This isn’t anything like the Rudy situation.
9. What about the Heisman trophy race?
We’re down to three players who can win the award: Kyle Trask, Mac Jones and Devonta Smith.
The big question I have is whether Jones and Smith could end up canceling each other out and giving Trask the Heisman as a result.
I feel like Kyle Trask had an opportunity to lock down the title in many ways with a win last night against LSU, but it didn’t happen. However that wasn’t because Trask didn’t do everything he could. Trask had 474 yards passing and four touchdowns last night. Granted he had two interceptions, but he’s still thrown for forty touchdowns against just five interceptions and he’s rushed for two more touchdowns as well. Last night tied his career high for passing yards in a game.
But as if we needed more significance to the shoe toss heard ’round the world, it could end up costing Trask the Heisman as well.
10. Outkick’s National Top Ten
2. Notre Dame
3. Texas A&M
5. Ohio State
9. Iowa State
11. The SEC power ratings
2. Texas A&M
7. Ole Miss
12. South Carolina
13. Mississippi State