BARNEStorming: SEC Stats and Some Thoughts Around the College Football World
Editor’s Note: Our Steve Barnes continues his “BARNEStorming” column where he takes a look at interesting news and notes from the game we all love.
The 2020 season has thrown most of college football a big curve ball. Some games have gone away, ceremonies have been postponed, and some of the action on the field has provided things no one could have anticipated. It’s also interesting to see who is atop some of the NCAA rankings.
Heading into this week, here is what we know, or what we think we know, or what we hope we know:
NOT YOUR GRANDPA’S SEC
Back in the day, the SEC was ruled by Alabama’s wishbone, Auburn’s Bo-over-the-top and Georgia’s, well, pretty much whatever Herschel wanted to do that game.
Now, here is how things have changed in these weird times…guess which conference has the top three passing offenses after the first week of play?
No, it is not the Big 12. It is the S-E-By-God-C!
After shocking LSU with Mike Leach’s air-raid offense, Mississippi State leads the nation with 623 yards passing, followed by Florida at 446 and Ole Miss’ 443.
Rebels sitting pretty
The Rebels also lead the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 209.43. (We may need a Vanderbilt graduate to calculate the passer efficiency rating.)
Three of four of the nation’s best passers who sit atop the stat sheet are from the Southeastern Conference. MSU QB K.J. Costello is first after throwing for a gazillion yards against LSU, with Kyle Trask of Florida behind him. Dillon Gabriel of UCF snuck in at number three just ahead of Matt Corral of Ole Miss.
Also, the SEC boasts the top three teams in college football in third down conversion percentage, with Ole Miss tied for the nation’s best. The Rebels sport a .643 third down conversion rate, tied at No. 1 with Alabama, while Kentucky comes in third at .632.
The top four leaders in receiving yards also reside in the SEC. Elijah Moore of Ole Miss is in first with 227 yards per game, followed by Osirus Mitchell from State with 183 per game, Kyle Pitts of Florida with 170, and State’s Kylin Hill with 158.
Maybe the Big 12 should look a tad to the southeast to see how the footballs can fly.
BE CAREFUL OF THOSE BOYS FROM BAMA
Liberty hosts North Alabama this week. UNA may not be known as a football power with the big boys, but when the Lions were in NCAA Division II, they were a force. UNA won national titles in three consecutive seasons (1993, 1994, 1995) and were runners up twice.
UNA has a winning tradition. As do other teams in the state. Prior to joining the FBS, Troy won a pair of D-II titles and one in the NAIA.
West Alabama won an NAIA national championship in 1971 when the school was known as Livingston College.
Tuskegee has also won ten black college championships.
Jacksonville State has appeared in four national title games, winning in 1992. The Gamecocks are at Florida State this week.
Be careful when a team from Alabama appears on the schedule. The Crimson Tide and Auburn are not the only schools that can play football.
AT LEAST HE IS RESTED
Defensive back Marcus Jones decided to transfer from Troy to Houston after the 2018 season, knowing full well he would have to sit out the 2019 season. However, it is doubtful he knew his career would be dormant for this long.
Houston has had its first five games scrubbed due to COVID-19. The Cougars have missed games with Rice, Washington State, Baylor, Memphis, and North Texas.
The Cougars finally open next Thursday against Tulane.
The last time Jones took the field for a real game, was Dec. 22, 2018 when Troy beat Buffalo 42-32 in the Dollar General Bowl where the versatile Jones had two tackles on defense, rushed once for four yards, caught four passes for 28 yards, returned a punt for three yards and four kickoffs for 98 yards.
After that performance, perhaps Jones needed a hiatus. And what a break. Between games for Jones, 656 days will have passed. In a bit of irony, had he stayed in Troy, he would not have played this week. The Trojans’ game Saturday at South Alabama has been nixed by the virus.
SOME PATRIOTIC NORMALCY
Saturday, we get to see two service academies play when Navy heads west to Colorado Springs to battle Air Force. It is the first leg to find the winner of the Commander-in-Chief trophy.
The Air Force Academy is a member of the Mountain West Conference which decided to not play football this season. But recently, the league concluded it could safely play beginning Oct. 24. Had that not happened, Air Force would have had just two games. The first would have been this week against Navy, then on the road at Army Nov. 7 at West Point.
No matter what college football does this year, this three-team round-robin tournament needs to be played. Not just for sports, but for the morale of our service members.
Personally, I am a tad torn in this game. I served in the First Special Operations Wing in the U.S. Air Force, but it was a Navy doctor who rebuilt my disaster of a shoulder.
Anchors aweigh and soar into the wild blue yonder gentlemen!
WHAT ABOUT HER?
The plan to retire Eli Manning’s No. 10 has been shelved by Ole Miss this year. With the pandemic attendance restrictions, it would truly be a disservice to him to do it with fewer than 20,000 fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Instead, the ceremony will take place in 2021 when, hopefully, we get back to somewhat normal.
So, Ole Miss will have two Manning family numbers retired – Eli and Archie – and the Manning Center is vital to the athletic department. There was a Manning who got away and headed north. At Tennessee, Peyton has his number retired and Neyland Stadium is right next to Peyton Manning Way.
Can anyone think of three family members who have their jerseys retired?
Still, that is not quite enough.
When Eli, Peyton and the oldest son, Cooper, were young, Archie was still playing in the NFL. So how did these boys grow up to be such good men? Simple. Their mother.
Olivia Manning deserves some recognition. A former Ole Miss Homecoming Queen, she did a lot to help Archie when they were students in Oxford. Rebel and Volunteer fans should also respect her for raising possibly the best quarterbacks in each school’s history.
The first lady of the Ole Miss Rebels should be shown how special she is and how much she is appreciated. Thank you, Mrs. Manning.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.