1. The Playoff field is set, sans any real drama thanks to Utah’s failures this past Friday. If only that bout between the Utes and Ducks had been scheduled for a late kick on Saturday night. Imagine the drama, there. Wouldn’t mean a lick without a professional performance by Utah, but in this different universe, hey, maybe things would be different.
As is, we’ll be seeing LSU vs. Oklahoma and Ohio State vs. Clemson in the semis as we turn the calendar over from a weird 2019 which will almost cede way to an even weirder 2020. There were a few minor quibbles with seeding, as LSU and Ohio State backers jostled for who deserved the right to face an OU team that just went to overtime with Baylor third-stringer Jared Zeto, but nobody was arguing the field.
We’ll just leave this here -- who do you think gives LSU a better game, Oklahoma or Alabama? We literally saw Bama do it a few weeks ago. Mac Jones didn’t play in that one, but even with Jones vs. the Tigers, that’s a game in our book. Oklahoma played sloppy ball from mid-October onward. It feels somewhat icky to reward that. But we’ll see. To paraphrase THE SIMPSONS, prove us wrong, Sooners, prove us wrong.
2. Before FAU and Memphis had even won their conference titles on Saturday, Lane Kiffin and Mike Norvell already essentially existed on Twitter as the new head coaches of Ole Miss and Florida State. And by the end of the weekend, meme factory Kiffin was already viral kissing babies in Oxford.
Norvell’s hiring is the more traditional by just about every angle you think of. He posted a pair of double-digit win campaigns (none of four years saw fewer than eight wins) and just won his first AAC title. None of that means that he will find success in Tallahassee, but the hiring makes complete sense on a logical level.
Then there’s Kiffin, who finally returns to Power Five glory as a head coach for the first time since 2013. You could view his hire as a fireworks display more than a football play, if you choose to. But we choose to view it more charitably. Kiffin won conference titles in two-of-three years at FAU -- and just importantly, showed how quickly he could bounce back after a five-win 2018 season. And he knows the SEC, having coached with Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa.
Kiffin can be an off-the-wall personality, but this is not an off-the-wall hire. It’s certainly going to be more fun than if he had stepped in the decaying Bantha corpse (did we do the Star War reference correctly?) that is Arkansas.
3. Joe Burrow was soaking in LSU’s victory over Georgia when he was asked about what it was like to be the Heisman frontrunner. Burrow, by now accustomed to the postgame interview, gave the requisite “this is about the team” line. Two days later, he was named a Heisman finalist along with Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts and the lethal Ohio State combo of QB Justin Fields and EDGE Chase Young.
Absent from the New York invitations, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence -- who posted a 26/3 TD/INT ratio over the final eight games of the season (including the Tigers’ mauling of Virginia in the ACC Championship Game) -- Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor, Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard and yet another OSU standout in RB J.K. Dobbins.
Oh, and also Tua Tagovailoa. If you’re going to invite Young, who missed two games for violating an NCAA rule (we can all scream that the rule is dumb until we’re blue in the face, that isn’t changing its existence), why dock Tagovailoa for missing the final two games of the year due to injury? Even in just nine games, he threw for 2,840 yards (71.4% completions) with a 33/3 TD/INT ratio. Those numbers don’t rise to the Himalayan heights of Fields et al, but worth an invitation? Absolutely. It would have offered a nice “Thanks for Everything” tinge to the festivities, if nothing else.
4. Burrow has this thing in the bag, though, we would assume. LSU is going to roar through awards season like THE IRISHMAN. It’s already underway, the roaring. On Tuesday, passing-game coordinator/magician Joe Brady won the Broyles Award, handed out to the top assistant in the country. It’s easy to say that Brady and Burrow were always going to burn the SEC to the ground, but LSU’s offensive overhaul was not a foregone conclusion.
Burrow threw 16 touchdown passes last season and radical scheme changes do not always click immediately. Michigan learned that the hard way with Josh Gattis. It worked at LSU, though, with Brady. Burrow probably has both the Maxwell and Heisman in the bag. Though, we will say, we’ve never been great with our Oscar picks.
5. All quiet near the transfer portal. Well, that’s not true. Players are jumping in left and right, with Oregon RB Darian Felix and Washington State LB Dominick Silvels among those who took the plunge on Tuesday. But. As of yet, we have seen no transfer portalists who would truly change the landscape. Some interesting ones, yes, guys like PSU WR Justin Shorter, who come with starry prep pasts, but no Jalen Hurts or Justin Fields types to this point. Not even a Tate Martell (remember him?).
Just wait, though. Neither Hurts nor Fields actually got the transfer process rolling until after their bowl games last winter, recall. One name who won’t be entering the portal or transferring at all would be Utah State’s Jordan Love. Bleacher Report draft insider Matt Miller earlier this month broached the possibility of a Love transfer -- perhaps to Oklahoma, in the vain of Hurts -- but Love instead opted in for the draft on Tuesday.
To which we say, concerned emoji. Love did not play like an NFL prospect this season, struggling to a 17/16 TD/INT ratio while completing just 60.6% of his passes. He averaged a mediocre 6.2 YPA under Gary Andersen this year. A transfer rejuvenation for 2020 could have done him well.
As is, the physically-talented passer will have to hope that pro teams put more stock in his immaculate 2018 season than his utterly forgettable 2019. Your author is sure those pro teams are out there -- physical tools allow people to dream -- but would just offer a word of caution. Love’s play, on all fronts, was down this fall. While some of that is undoubtedly coaching, schemes and the like, Love has given us enough reason to pause, enough head-scratching games that a Day 1 pick starts to feel like a little bit of a gamble.