BARNEStorming: Thoughts Around the College Football World
“To protect and serve.”
That motto appears on many law enforcement vehicles in America, and it appears to be a mantra held by most powerbrokers in college football.
The Atlantic Coast Conference opted to protect its assets last weekend, giving both Notre Dame and Clemson the week off rather than chancing a slipup which would denigrate the meaning of the upcoming ACC Title Game this week between the two teams.
Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey decided to serve college football over the weekend, allowing the two squads that will square off for the league championship to take the field one more time before settling the conference title.
Alabama took care of its business with an easy win over Arkansas, but Florida did a faceplant at home and lost to heavy underdog LSU. That takes a little bit of luster off the title game, but the SEC showed it wanted to prove to the college football world they would play every game it could.
Or did the league hedge its bet?
Texas A&M is in the wings hoping for a confluence of events that might get the Aggies into the playoffs. A&M has only one loss – to Alabama – which gives it a strong resume, but its biggest win this season was over Florida and that does not look as impressive after the Gators blew it against LSU.
The Aggies have one more game this season, Saturday at Tennessee. But to accommodate a cross-division game, the league cancelled an intra-divisional one. Texas A&M will be a decided favorite over the Volunteers who are 3-6 and had a six-game losing streak snapped Saturday with a 42-17 victory over winless Vanderbilt.
But the game that is being skipped is Ole Miss visiting the Aggies. That one would be much more competitive than the one that will be seen this week. The Rebels are 4-4, riding a three-game winning streak, and posses an offense that is tough to stop. Perhaps the SEC would rather see the Aggies play at Tennessee than take on a hot team.
After all, with Florida out of the equation, Texas A&M is the only other option to get two SEC teams into the playoffs this season. It might be better to protect than to serve in this case.
THE SUN BELT CAN TAKE A BREATH NOW
Like the SEC and ACC, the Sun Belt had a chance to alter its schedules and it did – sort of. The conference championship game was set a week ago with Louisiana set to play at Coastal Carolina this week. But the Sun Belt decided to play its hand by splitting its cards.
Louisiana was off last Saturday because the Ragin’ Cajuns don’t have a shot at a New Year’s Six Bowl game, so there was nothing to gain. Coastal, on the other hand, does have a shot and the conference sought to enhance the Chanticleers’ resume with another game.
After a thrilling win over BYU last week, Coastal was sent to play a rescheduled game on the road at Troy. Yes, AT Troy.
First, Troy is not an easy place to get to logistically. From Conway, S.C., to the small southeast Alabama town is a 1,070-mile round-trip bus ride, and yes, the Chants did take the bus.
Second, ask ranked teams about playing in Veterans Memorial Stadium. Oklahoma State and Missouri each rode into Troy with a national ranking in recent years and not only did each lose, but each was also thoroughly beaten. Coastal barely escaped Saturday.
A late score at Troy pushed the Chants into the top ten. With Saturday's win, Coastal Carolina finished off an unbeaten regular season, and the Chanticleers moved to number 9 in this week’s AP Poll. Coastal faces 17th-ranked Louisiana in the Sun Belt championship this Saturday. pic.twitter.com/75BwJzc9Pq
— FoxSportsRadio1400 (@1400FoxSports) December 14, 2020
The Chanticleers scored the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left for a 42-38 win. But no fewer than nine Coastal Carolina players suffered minor injuries in the game. Well, maybe they did. Each time the Trojans’ high-powered offense moved into the CCU red zone, a Chants’ defender channeled its inner Fighting Irish and came up lame to stop the momentum.
In this case, Coastal would probably be happy to admit to the ploy. The alternative would be loading up a bunch of banged-up players on a bus to make a seven-hour trip home.
Either way, the Sun Belt is breathing a sigh of relief.
A GOOD DAY TO BE A SEMINOLE
Florida State took to the Doak Campbell Stadium field Friday after a long COVID-19 layoff. The Seminoles looked impressive with a 56-35 win over Duke.
As much as the Noles enjoyed that victory, some FSU fans liked other games just as well. Miami was throttled by North Carolina 62-26 and were thoroughly embarrassed in the process.
That was nothing compared to the joy that ensued in Tallahassee when Florida fell to LSU 37-34.
The euphoria felt by the Seminoles came with a bit of pride after the final in Gainesville was announced. LSU was led by freshman quarterback Max Johnson Saturday. His dad, Brad, played quarterback at Florida State.
A NEW CONTRACT, BUT A NEW QUESTION
ESPN announced last week it has agreed to a 10-year arrangement to increase the number of Southeastern Conference games it will broadcast beginning in the years 2024-25.
The benefit of the agreement will enhance the brand of both the league and the network. ESPN is the preeminent sports broadcasting network and the SEC yearly produces the best and most competitive athletics in the nation.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) December 10, 2020
One thing this agreement changes, however, is CBS will no longer broadcast the conference’s football game-of-the-week when the agreement commences.
That begs that one question being asked: With CBS no longer involved, that means Gary Danielson will no longer be the SEC color commentator so what will the league fans be able to complain about each week?
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.