I’d like to clear something up for anybody who tuned into ABC or ESPN on Saturday night and was greeted with this image of Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy front-runner Baker Mayfield:
lol ESPN blurred out Baker Mayfield grabbing his crotch. THE HORROR pic.twitter.com/Xfv7KccbwY— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) November 19, 2017
Based on this screencap alone, you would presume that Mayfield whipped his penis out on the field of play during a college football game. But in reality, he didn’t do anything conventionally worthy of a blurred screen—he just grabbed his crotch and cursed at Kansas’s bench.
Baker Mayfield didn't feel like taking the high road today pic.twitter.com/30Q5UFk264— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 18, 2017
Vulgar? Totally. Mayfield will not start Saturday’s regular-season finale against West Virginia as punishment. But typically clothed humans aren’t considered obscene enough to earn censorship. Clearly, ABC’s college football broadcast team learned from their colleagues at The Bachelor, who like to place black boxes over various body parts to hint at scandal that may or may not exist.
Mayfield is college football’s hero and villain. Some find him to be a classless jerk; some see him as a fighter who always finds ways to stay motivated and get his team wins; some see him as a potential top pick in the next NFL draft; others say his numbers are typical College System fodder, and that he’ll never thrive outside of the Big 12.
When Mayfield strutted and screamed against Kansas, one of the worst teams in college football, suddenly even more people had Mayfield opinions than usual. Even those who supported Mayfield when he celebrated one of the biggest wins of the season with an over-the-top attempt at a flag plant could have been swayed by Mayfield shaking his junk at Kansas, or telling winless Baylor “I’m gonna have to spank you today.” Mayfield also spent Saturday mocking the poor Kansas fans who made their way to watch their 1-10 football team get throttled.
Does this dude’s jerk machine have an off switch?
But, of course, some feel that Mayfield was justified. The Kansas captains had started the drama by refusing to shake Mayfield’s hand:
Oh man, Baker might drop 100 on ‘em now. pic.twitter.com/Dj4Br4Ushk— Max Olson (@max_olson) November 18, 2017
Kansas’s players acknowledged the snubbed handshake was intentional, and coach David Beaty kinda defended it, saying he was proud that his players wanted to “defend [their] grass.” Oh, Kansas also cheap-shotted Mayfield in the second quarter:
Kansas wouldn't shake Baker Mayfield's hand, but they did find the time for this cheap shot pic.twitter.com/R6vIhS1dC3— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 18, 2017
I don’t care about whether things are classy. I care about whether they’re dangerous, and that was dangerous. If you’re concerned about the crotch grab and not a player using his helmet as a weapon against another player’s head, we have different values in life.
But there’s one thing that is not up for debate: Mayfield’s Heisman Trophy status. I bring this up now because some have wondered whether Mayfield’s crotch grab will take him out of consideration for a trophy that many believe stands as a symbol of the sportsmanship and class of amateur athletics. So, let’s just clear this up now: No, Mayfield’s crotch grab will not cost him the Heisman. Yes, the Heisman’s mission asks voters to select “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity … (who) epitomize(s) great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.” That sounds like it should be one of the most subjective trophies in sports, but by the end of the season, the award’s winner is rather easy to predict. Mayfield is probably the best player in college football, and nobody else that could compete for that title is in position to win the trophy—Lamar Jackson will lose votes as a repeat candidate, especially because Louisville isn’t great, and Saquon Barkley’s performance hasn’t been stellar enough to make up for the fact he’s a running back. Mayfield is without a doubt the best quarterback on a team whose record is good enough for its quarterback to win the Heisman, and therefore he will win the Heisman. Mayfield won’t even be the first quarterback this decade to win the trophy despite a preseason arrest for being dumb and drunk in public.
Just like with whatever was behind the blurry box, you can see Mayfield however you want. A lot of people probably think Mayfield is what the blurry box was supposedly blocking out. What I see in Mayfield is college football’s best grudge-holder (and the second-best in the state of Oklahoma, behind Russell Westbrook). I doubt we’d be friends, but if you can make Oklahoma vs. Kansas interesting, I support your existence.
Play of the Week
USC pulled off my favorite trick play against UCLA:
USC fooled everyone with a perfectly executed decoy punt return pic.twitter.com/PyQBWmHGBW— Sporting News (@sportingnews) November 19, 2017
I investigated how this play works in 2015, but judging from the widespread confusion from announcers and people on Twitter after the play, there are still football fans on the planet who haven’t read that post, so I’m going to keep promoting it until everybody understands the magic of this play. Kirk Herbstreit pinned the blame on the punter—“UCLA had punt left set up, and the punter punts it all the way to the right!”—but that’s not really how punt coverage works. The coverage team is taught to follow the return man, because they need to tackle him anyway and it’s easier than running with your neck craned to follow a football. But if a special teams coach scouts an opposing punter and notices a tendency to kick in a certain direction, the return team can exploit that by running this trick play.
As always, the only guy who knew which direction the punt went was the UCLA punter. When I interviewed Utah’s special teams coach about this play, he said the Utes didn’t have a plan in place specifically for blocking the punter. USC did, though, and UCLA’s poor guy didn’t have a chance:
USC won 28-23, and Jim Mora was fired on Sunday. Everybody knew that the axe was coming eventually, but this play accounted for the winning margin in his last game. Sounds like an important play to learn about.
Win of the Week
Georgia Southern entered Saturday 0-9. The Eagles fired their coach, Tyson Summers, last month after a blowout loss to then-0-6 UMass that made them 0-6. They’re bad.
On Saturday, they didn’t just win, but beat South Alabama 52-0. South Alabama beat Troy, which beat LSU, which beat Auburn, which beat Georgia, so the hapless Eagles are still in the mix for a transitive property national championship. Georgia Southern is the best team in college football.
Loss of the Week
Oregon has a cool new thing! When one of their players gets a turnover, they get to wear a cool chain on their necks!
smh The U needs to send a cease and desist to Oregon NOW pic.twitter.com/KwYe8MLzJc— Angry Sports Bro Jack (@JackMacCFB) November 19, 2017
Miami’s Turnover Chain is the Game Boy; Oregon’s is Game Child. The only reason you’d ever pick Oregon’s chain over Miami’s is if you weren’t savvy enough to spot the obvious bootleg, or you’re in a sorry enough situation that you’ll settle for an obviously inferior product just to have something. When you see this chain, you know that at some point in the past two weeks, an Oregon graduate assistant called up every jeweler within 100 miles of Eugene and found out one by one by one that none of them specialize in bling.
Earlier this century, the Ducks crafted a powerhouse at a school with little noteworthy football history in the sleepy woods of Oregon thanks to a connection with Nike, a hookup that gave the Ducks the freshest uniform concepts and combinations. Now they’re pulling a DIY version of a gimmick another school made famous. College football is about identity. Oregon should know that better than anybody, but now the Ducks are hoping recruits buy the Game Child.
Weekly Heisman Winner
The actual Heisman is going to Mayfield, but let’s cast some love on the Kansas fans who were yelled at by Mayfield. He told them to go cheer for basketball, but they stayed in the stands, in spite of their team’s non-competitive loss. They stayed, even though it hurt:
These fans deserve something for their troubles. And it probably won’t be a win, so let’s give them an imaginary Weekly Heisman.
Weekly National Champion
UCF is 10-0 now, putting it on pace to complete one of the strangest five-year stretches in college football history: In 2013, the Knights went 12-1, launching the great Blake Bortles saga. UCF’s only loss that year was to Jadeveon Clowney’s South Carolina team, and they won the Fiesta Bowl over Baylor. It was one of the most impressive seasons for a non-power-conference team in recent memory. Two years later, the Knights went 0-12, with longtime coach George O’Leary quitting before the season ended. The Knights even lost to a sub-.500 FCS team in Furman. Before “I Am Sad,” the fans at the 12th game of that season were without a doubt the saddest I’ve ever seen. They might still be sadder, since that game was on Thanksgiving.
And now just two years after bottoming out, they’re a game away from an undefeated regular season. Coach Scott Frost is a miracle worker.
But sadly, the Knights have no shot at winning a national championship. UCF’s résumé is about as good as any non-power-conference team can hope for—they have the best offense in the nation, scoring 48.2 points per game; they have a margin of victory (27.7) better than the points per game of over 50 FBS teams; they have only one one-possession win (a 31-24 victory over SMU); and they destroyed the lone power-conference team on their schedule, beating Maryland 38-10. But they’re ranked 15th by the College Football Playoff committee. I’m not saying they should be in the top four, but the fact they’re 15th makes me think no non-power-conference team will ever have a reasonable shot at making the playoff. And surely, Frost will leave for some other job at the end of this year—everybody seems to think it’ll be at his alma mater, Nebraska.
So let’s celebrate the Knights now. In a 45-19 win over Temple, UCF kicked a field goal and then celebrated a score out of the shotgun formation:
Surely, they were shotgunning La Croix. Some of those kids aren’t 21 yet.
The star of the team is actually quarterback McKenzie Milton, but in my heart, it’s punter Mac Loudermilk. He looks like this, and he celebrates like this:
UCF’s specialists would presumably have even better celebrations, if the NCAA hadn’t ruled kicker Donald De La Haye ineligible because he has a popular YouTube channel.
Anyway, go Knights. Just two seasons ago, the Knights were so bad that a campus bar offered free beer to any fans willing to sit through a game, a promotion the bar said would end after a win that never came. Now, they’re undefeated and pretending to shotgun on the field. The lesson here is to keep drinking until your sad beers turn to happy beers. It will always work!
Whuppin’ of the Week
Whuppin’ of the Week has been canceled because Week 12 was Cupcake Week. I understand why power schools schedule garbage games last week—it’s nice to rest up for the rivalry games during Hate Week, most schools have opted to play more competitive games in Weeks 1 and 2 (which is nice!), and the games work out for both parties, since the losers get a big paycheck.
Florida State, which is 4-6 this season, hung 77 points on Delaware State, the highest point total of any FBS team this season. As the win pushed the Noles one game closer to a bowl that FSU fans would normally scoff at, I wondered: Did any of this make anybody at Florida State happy?
Congrats to the Citadel for making a field goal against Clemson.
College Football Moment of the Week
Tennessee played Saturday in a monsoon, which was miserable for everybody. Well, everybody except LSU, who won. But the real action was in a Knoxville restaurant, where fans claimed to have seen ESPN commentator (and longtime Future Tennessee Coach) Jon Gruden eating.
Calhoun’s management confirms with me that Jon Gruden was at their Calhoun’s on the river location earlier and that he requested privacy.— Dan Harralson (@danharralson) November 18, 2017
Guy I know says he held the door open for Peyton and was told by others in the restaurant that Gruden was there. https://t.co/lRj39ZwvKx— Patrick Murray (@PatMurrayWBIR) November 19, 2017
Soon, fans were breaking down pictures of the party in question, which included Peyton Manning, dissecting an image of the back of a man’s head like Sasquatch searchers:
The restaurant even began to spread the rumor on Twitter:
However, Gruden was not in Knoxville. He was in Seattle, doing his job:
This led to what might be the College Football Moment of the Year: a ribs joint issuing an apology for spreading rumors that a person who fans wanted to coach their team was eating at their restaurant:
We’d like to take a moment to clear things up as well as apologize. We got excited- like everyone. Please read: pic.twitter.com/AIyVvmppKC— Calhoun's (@calhouns) November 19, 2017
I don’t think Gruden is ever going to coach Tennessee, or any college football team—he gets paid $6.5 million to announce NFL games once a week, which is so much better than being a college football coach, one of the closest things to a 24/7/365 job imaginable. Gruden, who hasn’t coached in college since working as a wide receivers coach at Pitt in 1991, might not even be good at coaching in college. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and what Tennessee wanted on Saturday was for Jon Gruden to be eating ribs.
Worst Coaching Decision
#Pac12AfterDark was still going at 1:40 a.m. Eastern time, and was threatening to go even longer. Tied 30-30 with under 30 seconds to go against Utah, Washington coach Chris Petersen seemed content to play for overtime, calling a run play on first down with no timeouts. If Utah coach Kyle Whittingham had done nothing, the Huskies likely would have waited for the clock to expire. But Whittingham figured he could end the game in regulation, calling a timeout with 23 seconds remaining in hopes of getting the ball back.
This is already a dumb idea. If Utah had successfully stopped Washington’s next two plays, the Huskies would have punted with 10 to 15 seconds left, and Utah would have caught it with 5 to 10 seconds remaining, leaving Utah about five seconds to run a long, successful pass play to put them in field goal range. That’s a lot of ifs. But it was even dumber, because Utah had only two timeouts at the start of Washington’s drive. If Petersen had really wanted to play for overtime, Whittingham couldn’t have stopped him.
But Petersen decided that if Whittingham wanted to end the game in regulation, he would oblige. Washington’s Jake Browning completed back-to-back passes for 47 yards, setting up a game-winning field goal for Tristan Vizcaino:
Here is the field view from Tristan Vizcaino’s game-winning field goal pic.twitter.com/i7LKcRbaFs— Lars Hanson (@LarsHanson) November 19, 2017
It’s the second time this year that Whittingham has attempted to avoid overtime on the road and come away with a loss. In Week 7, he had the Utes attempt a two-point conversion in a 28-27 ballgame against USC. It failed, but it was reasonable for Whittingham to believe his team had a better chance of winning on one two-point play than in an extended overtime on the road against a ranked team.
But Saturday night, Whittingham was gambling that his team had a better chance of scoring on a hypothetical drive with about 10 seconds on the clock than Washington did on its actual drive with 23 seconds on the clock. Coaching is about giving your team the best chance to win, and on Saturday night, Whittingham did not.