CAN A TWO-LOSS TEAM MAKE THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF?

CAN A TWO-LOSS TEAM MAKE THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF?

NEW YORK, N.Y.- A white cleat flew through the Saturday evening fog in Gainesville, Florida. A seemingly harmless act on the surface could have ripple effects that travel 450 miles north and affect the entire college football landscape moving forward. Is it possible that the monumental upset that LSU pulled off over then No. 6 Florida last Saturday night in the Swamp, aided by the most memorable shoe toss college football fans will ever see, could set a precedent to allow a two-loss team to make the College Football Playoff for the first time in its existence?

Before we go any further, some clarification is necessary. This isn’t a Florida puff piece, opining for the Gators to still make the Playoff. This is actually an argument as to why the Clemson Tigers, ranked third in the poll, should still make the final four even if they lose to Notre Dame for a second time this weekend. This would have never been a thought I considered at any point in the last 16 weeks of this season or in the seven years that the Playoff has been in existence, but things changed a few days ago. There are two reasons why I believe that if the Tigers lose close to Notre Dame, they still would make the Playoff over No. 5 Texas A&M.

The first reason has to do with the College Football Playoff committee. They set the precedent just days ago that losses aren’t the end of the world. Really, in their mind, losses are almost irrelevant. Look at what happened last week as Florida, ranked sixth, lost at home to a talent depleted, opt out filled LSU team. This was their second loss of the season and should have ended any hopes of making the Playoff. But instead, the committee agreed to only slide the Gators down one whole spot, from sixth to seventh as we enter championship weekend. If Florida essentially goes unpunished for losing a game that it had no business losing, how can the committee justify dropping the third ranked Tigers more than one spot after losing to an elite Notre Dame team? It’s why despite having two losses, Clemson would still remain in the top four.

Clemson has made the College Football Playoff five consecutive years. Even with a loss to Notre Dame on Saturday, could they make it a sixth straight appearance? (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

If the committee’s precedent isn’t enough to convince you, how about a straight up resume comparison between the two teams in question. When it comes to strength of schedule, ESPN’s FPI ranking has the Tigers with the third hardest schedule in the country while the Aggies hold the 10th most difficult slate. A&M can boast a better win, as they defeated No. 7 Florida while Clemson’s best win is over a Miami team that just got their doors blown off by North Carolina.

While the Aggies hold a more impressive win, who has a worse loss? Both of the Tigers’ losses would be to the Irish, both times coming when Notre Dame was ranked in the top four. A note has to be made that the first loss came in double overtime while Trevor Lawrence and a few other key defensive leaders were out. The SEC West contender would have one less loss than Clemson, but their loss was about as competitive as a race between a cheetah and an elephant. The Aggies were beatdown by Alabama, losing by four touchdowns in their showdown. So, while Clemson would have twice as many losses as A&M, I would give the Tigers the edge because they were actually competitive in those games.

Could this tossing of an LSU player’s cleat open the door for a two-loss Clemson team to make the Playoff? (Photo courtesy SEC media relations)

The last two metrics are courtesy of The Athletic and are two measures used by the committee to determine a team’s dominance week in and week out. Clemson is sixth in the country in yards per play differential (how many yards are you outgaining your opponent by on a per play basis) while Texas A&M is 29th. When it comes to points per game differential, the Tigers are fourth while the Aggies are 32nd. The numbers don’t lie. Clemson has been significantly more dominant on a weekly basis than Texas A&M.

Whether it’s the committee’s indifference towards losing or the straight up statistics that outline Clemson’s dominance compared to Texas A&M’s this season, Saturday’s ACC Championship Game can almost be considered meaningless. Both teams should feel confident that win or lose, they still will have a chance to compete for the ultimate prize. A cleat toss setting the stage for a two-loss team to make history is very fitting. It is 2020 after all. And this is college football.

2020 SEC Championship Preview:Alabama Looks to Continue West’s Dominance

2020 SEC Championship Preview:Alabama Looks to Continue West’s Dominance

The College Football world experienced shock on Saturday night when Heisman hopeful Kyle Trask and Florida fell to LSU, 37-34. The devastation of losing at home as a 24-point favorite was compounded by thrown foot attire.

Whatever possessed Marco Wilson to heave Kole Taylor’s Clete 20 yards downfield, erasing a third-down stop, thus leading to the game-winning 57-yard FG, will haunt Florida fans forever. Wilson’s unsportsmanlike penalty prevented the Gators from gaining possession and setting up a potential game-winning drive. In one of the most bone-headed decisions ever to invade conscious thought, the Gators National Championship dreams went up in smoke.

In Defense of Marco Wilson

Florida’s inability to convert red zone opportunities, something they thrived at all season, cost them dearly against LSU.

In their first nine games, the Gators converted 96 percent (43-45, FG or TD) of their visits in the red zone. Against LSU, they equaled their season total with two failed possessions (6-8), including Trask’s only red-zone turnover of the season, a tip drill landing in the hands of a kneeling Jay Ward, balancing on the sideline.

Speaking of turnovers, we find the second reason the Tigers pulled the upset. Trask committed only four turnovers (3 INT, 1 Fumble) in his first nine games. His three turnovers against LSU, including his third pick-six of the season (Eli Ricks joined Eric Stokes and Jarvis Ware) led to 10 points for the Tigers.

While such an outcome eliminates some drama concerning College Football Playoff implications, Saturday’s matchup still presents excitement.

Marco Wilson’s brainfart, eliminated Florida from any realistic chance to qualify for the College Football Playoffs.

SEC Championship – #11Florida (8-2) vs #1Alabama (10-0), 8 PM EST

Matchup By the Numbers

SEC Championship Game
2020 Season Stats
AlabamaFlorida
W-L10-08-2
PPG49.541.2
PPG All.16.826.3
PPG Diff.32.625.4
Yards PG537.8513.5
Yards PG All.340.1384.9
Yards PG Diff.197.7128.6

Familiar Foes

Alabama and Florida have dominated this game. Both will be making their 13th appearance and meeting for the 10th time to decide the Conference champion. The Gators seem to be magnetic toward Alabama when winning the East. This marks the fifth straight championship game appearance Florida’s opponent is Alabama.

Most Meetings
SEC Championship History
MeetingsResults
Alabama-Florida10Alabama, 5-4
LSU-Georgia4LSU, 3-1
Alabama-Georgia2Alabama, 2-0
Arkansas-Florida2Florida, 2-0
Auburn-Tennessee2Tennessee, 2-0
LSU-Tennessee2LSU, 2-0

Alabama owns a current six-game win streak against Florida, with three of those victories coming in the SEC Championship Game. Florida’s last win against the Tide was in the 2008 SEC Championship.

Nick Saban is making his tenth appearance in the SEC Championship (his eighth with Alabama). He is 8-1 in his previous nine appearances (2-0 w/LSU, 6-1 w/Bama). This is the fifth time Saban will coach against the Gators in the SEC Championship Game. Overall, Saban is 8-4 against Florida, including 3-1 in the Championship Game. Dan Mullen is the third different coach in Florida’s SEC Championship Game history to oppose Saban. He is winless in nine games against Alabama.

Most Division Titles Won
Head Coaches, SEC
Nick Saban>>10
Steve Spurrier8
Philip Fulmer5
Mark Richt5
>>LSU (2), Alabama (8)

Saban is looking to win his ninth SEC Championship. He is the only coach to win titles at two different programs (LSU in 2001, 03)

Each program has represented their respective division well, ranking 1-2 in SEC Championships. Overall, Alabama is 8-4 in SEC Championship Games while Florida is 7-5. Among their previous nine meetings includes the inaugural SEC Championship in 1992 at Legion Field.

Most Division Titles, Best W-L
SEC Championship Game
Division TitlesW-L
Alabama138-4
Florida137-5
Georgia83-5
LSU65-1
Auburn63-3

NUMBER 1

2020 marks the third consecutive season and ninth time since 2008 to feature the number 1 ranked team. From 1992-2007 only the 1998 Tennessee Volunteers entered first in the nation (#1 ranked team is 7-2 overall, winning six straight).

#1 Ranked Team
SEC Championship Results
2019#1 LSU 37#4 Georgia 10
2018#1 Alabama 35#4 Georgia 28
2016#1 Alabama 54#15 Florida 16
2014#1 Alabama 42#14 Missouri 13
2011#1 LSU 42#12 Georgia 10
2010#1 Auburn 56#19 South Carolina 17
2009#2 Alabama 32#1 Florida 13
2008#2 Florida 31#1 Alabama 20
1998#1 Tennessee 24#23 Mississippi State 14
>>2020 Alabama ranked #1

.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the SEC played a 10-game conference only schedule in 2020. The Gators and Tide played eight common opponents this season. Florida’s two losses against Texas A&M and LSU were by six total points, both decided on last-second FGs. Despite those two losses, they managed a 14.3 PPG differential in those eight games. Perhaps it’s not fair to compare anyone to Alabama, but the Tide went undefeated against those same eight opponents, with a winning margin of 25.7.

Stats vs 8 Common Opp.
2020 Season
FloridaAlabama
W-L6-2>>8-0>>
PPG Diff.14.3>>25.7>>
>>Alabama beat LSU (38 pts) & Texas A&M (28 Pts)

For the first time since adding Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012, both teams played more than two opponents from the opposite division. The East against West matchups stayed one-sided concerning results this season, keeping with the trend since 2012 (Texas A&M at Tennessee and Missouri at Mississippi State also play Saturday, completing the 28-game schedule between divisions).

SEC, East vs West
Head to Head, Since 2012
Regular SeasonWinsLossesWin Pct.
East5187.381
West8751.625
Conference ChampionshipWinsLossesWin Pct.
East17.125
West71.875
>>West won 17 of 26 matchups in 2020

Common Opponents Affect Success

Alabama and Florida are polar opposites comparing team success against the other division. Despite the drastic difference (undefeated Alabama, 9-11 Florida), success is determined by the “common opponent” when understanding why a team’s won-loss record isn’t better.

Best W-L, East vs West
SEC, Since 2012
Regular SeasonPostseason
Alabama20-06-0
LSU16-42-0
Texas A&M15-4
Georgia14-61-5
Mississippi St.11-80-0
Missouri11-80-2
Ole Miss11-9
Auburn10-101-1
Florida9-110-2
South Carolina6-140-1
Vanderbilt5-15
Arkansas5-15
Kentucky5-15
Tennessee2-17

Each team schedules two games against the other division. Only one of those games rotates, as each team faces their common opponent every season to complete the two games. Alabama’s common opponent is Tennessee, while Florida’s is LSU. That helps explain – a little bit – why Florida hasn’t faired better against the West.

Kyle Trask set numerous team records with his fantastic 2020 season.

Breaking Down the Florida Gators

Kyle Trask set Florida Gators single-season records for TD Passes (40), Passing Yards PG (371.1), Completion Percentage (70.2), and Passing Efficiency (187.9). His 40 TD passes through 10 games ranks first in SEC history, two more than 2019 Heisman Trophy Winner Joe Burrow, and fifth in FBS history.

Most Passing TD, First 10 Games
SEC History
TDSeason
Kyle Trask, Florida402020
Joe Burrow, LSU382019
Drew Lock, Missouri352017
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama332019

Florida’s potent passing attack ranked first in the nation, averaging 386.4 yards per game. Trask does an excellent job spreading the ball. His favorite receiver is another Kyle, Pitts, who’s 11 TD receptions ranks fourth in FBS and first among TE.

WR Jacob Copeland (22 touches, 443 Yards From Scrimmage) is the Gators big-play threat. Copeland’s 20.3 YPT ties him with Jaylen Waddle for the highest in the SEC. Kadarius Toney leads Florida in receptions (62) and receiving yards (831). Toney (9 TD) and Pitts are the only FBS teammates with 9 TD receptions. Florida is also the only FBS team with six players totaling 20 catches, 3 TD, and 225 receiving yards.

Most Passing YPG, Single-Season
Florida Gators History
Pass YPGYear
Kyle Trask371.12020
Rex Grossman354.12001
Danny Wuerffel301.81996
Danny Wuerffel296.91995
Shane Matthews284.51991

Kyle Pitts 11 receiving TD is the fourth-most in FBS in 2020.

The 2020 season ranks among the best in team history for the Gators offense. Their 41.6 PPG places 7th highest. Their 513.5 Total Yards PG sits third, behind 1995 (534.4) and 2001 (527.5), while their 386.4 Passing YPG trails only 2001 (405.2). Their offense wasted few red zone opportunities, scoring a TD on just under 70 percent of their 53 red zone attempts.

Highest Percentage of Red Zone TD
2020 Season
Pct.TD-Att.
UAB.71923-32
Wake Forest.71127-38
Florida.69837-53
Georgia State.69723-33
Oklahoma.68635-51

Florida’s defense struggled early, but the return of Kyree Campbell saw the group improve in every category. Campbell missed the first three games before returning against Missouri. The Gators defense allowed ten fewer PPG, 158 YPG, and 31 Rush YPG in their final seven games.

The return of Kyree Campbell paid huge dividends for the Gators defense.

Florida Gators
2020 Defensive Stats
1st 3 GamesLast 7 Games>>
PPG33.323.2
Yards PG495337
Rush YPG164133
Rush YPC4.13.7
TO PG11.5
Sacks PG2.63.3
Rush TD56
>>Kyree Campbell Returned

How Dominant is Alabama?

Explaining how the Crimson Tide have dominated the best conference in College Football since the arrival of Nick Saban defies logic. The numbers are incredible. Alabama is 99-15 in conference play under Saban, giving them 19 more wins than their closest opponent (Georgia, 80).

Conference Play, Since 2007
Nick Saban at Alabama
DivisionW-LPctDivision TitlesSEC ChampionshipsNational Championships
1. AlabamaWest99-150.868865
2. GeorgiaEast80-330.708510
3. LSUWest76-370.673332
4. FloridaEast76-380.667511
5. Texas A&M>>West41-310.569000
>>Joined Conference in 2012

Saban’s teams dominate the East division, winning 30 consecutive games and 40 of 43 overall by an average of 21 PPG since joining Alabama. The last time Alabama lost to an East opponent was October 9, 2010, which will equal 3,724 days on Saturday. Former Gators Head Coach Steve Spurrier led his South Carolina Gamecocks to a 35-21 victory over #1 Alabama.

Alabama vs SEC East
Under Nick Saban (Since 2007)
Current Win Streak30 games
W-L40-3>>
PPG Diff.21.2
>>6-1 in SEC Championship Games, 1-0 in National Championship

Record-Setting Offense

Starting with Tua’s sophomore season in 2018, Alabama’s offense kicked into another gear. Alabama’s PPG, YPG, and ability to score from anywhere on the field at any time, has tortured defenses.

Their offense averaged over 46 PPG, 515 Yards PG scored an unthinkable 62 TD from scrimmage 30 yards or longer while posting a point differential of 27.3 – and this is against the best conference in FBS.

Alabama Offense
SEC Play, Since 2018
PPG46.6
PPG Diff.27.3
Yards PG514.9
TD from scrimmage, 30+ Yds62

QB Mac Jones leads this explosive offense, setting school records for PPG (49.5), Yards PG (537.8), Yards Per Play (7.9), and Passing Yards PG (347.8). Jones figures to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, setting an SEC record for completion percentage (.764), while leading the nation in passer efficiency (203.9) – 2nd best in SEC history trailing only Tua last season (206.9).

Mac Jones
2020 Season
SEC RankFBS Rank
Pass YPG345.92nd3rd
TD/INT27-32nd5th
Completion Pct..7641st1st
Yards Per Att.11.71st1st
Passer Efficiency203.61st1st

Mac Jones performance in 2020 could see become the first QB in team history to win the Heisman Trophy.

Jones often is overlooked compared to his predecessors Tua and Jalen Hurts, both current starters in the NFL, and winners of a National Championship (both played in 2). Through their first 14 games, Jones outperforms both, throwing for more yards, TD, and a higher completion percentage.

Alabama QB
First 14 Games of Career
Mac JonesTua TagovailoaJalen Hurts
W-L13-114-014-0
Passing Yds4,4933,6712,662
Passing Yds PG320.1262.2190.1
TD-INT40-541-421-8
Comp. Pct.75.169.563.1

Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith are also Heisman contenders. Harris shares the FBS lead for most TD with 22. DeVonta Smith leads the nation in receiving yards (1,327) while making 2-3 plays a game that leave you mesmerized.

Smith and Metchie III are explosive players that torment defences with their speed.

Defense Back on Track

After a down year in 2019 and a slow start in 2020, Alabama’s defense is back enforcing their will. Through four games, opponents averaged just under 29 PPG while running 150 YPG and totaling 460 YPG.

Over their last six games, Alabama allowed under 90 rushing yards PG, less than 265 total yards per game, and held opponents to only 4 TD and 8.3 PPG.

Alabama Defense
2020 Season
1st 4 GamesLast 6 Games
PPG28.88.3
TD All.144
Total YPG458.3261.3
Rush YPG149.388.3
Rush YPC42.7

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Everett Kelly is a former two-time Emmy Award winning writer/researchere from ESPN. Mark retired in 2008 due to the onset of long-term side effects from cancer treatment (chemotherapy, radiation and bone marrow transplant). This led to Mark’s current health problems (Crohn’s Disease. Lymphedema and Hemochromotosis). To help support Mark in his battle, click on these links (Paypal, and Patreon).

The Jets Fired the Wrong Guy This Week…

The Jets Fired the Wrong Guy This Week…

When the New York Jets lost a heartbreaker of a game to the Las Vegas Raiders 31-28 on Sunday December 6th, the focus was not on the fact that the Jets played their most competitive game of the 2020 season thus far. The focus was not on the fact that the Jets running game (after losing RB Frank Gore to a concussion early in the game) took a major step forward with RB’s Ty Johnson and Josh Adams and, even produced its FIRST 100-yard rusher of the season. The focus was not on the fact that the Jets showed some personal pride and rallied from a 24-13 deficit to take the lead 28-24 with 5:34 left in the game and the Jets Defense coming up huge on the ensuing Las Vegas drive stopping the Raiders on a 4th and 3 in the red zone. What the focus was on was a terrible play call by Jets Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams on the final play of the game- a play which ultimately cost the Jets the football game and Williams his job as DC the very next day.  To paint the picture for those who may have not watched the game, The Raiders had a 3rd and 10 with 5 seconds left to go in the game so, the obvious play that would have to be defended would be a “Hail Mary” pass to the endzone. Simple, right? Well, not for the 2020 New York Jets! Coach Williams made the decision to stack the box and send a “Zero Blitz” after Raiders QB Derek Carr instead of playing a “Prevent” defense- the scheme that usually designed to defend against plays like the “Hail Mary”. Now, a “Zero Blitz” is when you are pretty much sending “The House” to attack the QB. In doing this, you take away any extra deep coverage for your DB’s on either side of the field so, they would be lined up in what is called ‘man to man’ coverage. So, if your opponent has a fast receiver, like the Raiders have in Las Vegas WR Henry Ruggs III, they can typically beat the coverage and provide their QB with a wide-open target. Carr was able to escape the blitz and pass to Ruggs who beat rookie CB Lamar Jackson for the game winning TD. Raiders 31, Jets 28. And, let the media firestorm begin! To be fair, it was a very crappy play call by Williams in that situation but what the focus should have been on was the series before the Raiders final drive of the game. The Jets had the ball with 1:37 left to go in the game with their offense on the field. The Raiders had 2 timeouts left at that point so only 2 more chances to stop the clock in the hopes of maybe getting one more possession. Jets HC Adam Gase calls 3 straight running plays which gain a total of 5 yards. By the time the Jets had to punt the ball, there was only 42 seconds left in the game- a game that had the Jets gained a first down, all it would have taken to secure the Jets first victory of the season was a Sam Darnold kneel-down to run out the clock. So, my question is where is all the outrage for HC Adam Gase’s conservative play calling during that drive when the Jets could have ended the game right there? Why is the media outrage only directed at Gregg Williams for his crappy play call? If you really think about it, the Raiders game-winning drive was more a product of Gase’s incompetence than Williams’s in my opinion. Now I don’t want to make this sound like I am defending the actions of Gregg Williams because in a situation like that, he should know better but, should the game have ever gotten to that point at all? This is just one of a myriad of reasons why Adam Gase is not the right coach for the New York Jets- not now, nor in the future. And, HE is the man who should have lost his job this week, not Williams. How much more embarrassment do the Johnson’s need to experience before they realize that they have made a huge mistake? And how much more will the Jets fan base continue to tolerate before they say “Enough is Enough”? Welcome to the 2020 New York Jets season- the gift that keeps on giving!
Two Words to Both BYU & Coastal Carolina: Thank You

Two Words to Both BYU & Coastal Carolina: Thank You

NEW YORK, N.Y.- It’s not often that we say the phrase “Thank You” in 2020. It’s been a year from hell to put it lightly. With regards to sports, this year has been anything but normal, from stoppages of seasons to delayed starts to no fans in the stands. But something happened this past weekend that had me and many other college football fans uttering those two words.

Last Saturday’s slate featured many timeless rivalries that run deep in the blood of college football. Alabama-LSU. Florida-Tennessee. Ohio State-Michigan State. But the game that caused the most excitement and held the most anticipation was a game that wasn’t on anyone’s radar two weeks ago. Heck, it wasn’t even officially on the schedule until 48 hours before kickoff. But BYU-Coastal Carolina not only turned out to be the game of the weekend, it hopefully broke an age-old stigma that will make the sport better going forward.

In case you missed the backstory, the Chanticleers, ranked 18th in the College Football Playoff poll, were originally scheduled to host Liberty with College Gameday on hand for that matchup. Instead, because of COVID issues with Liberty, the game had to be canceled. Coastal acted quick and helped out not only themselves, but college football fans in the process. BYU, in a bye week, was also looking to add a game to counter the argument from the CFP committee that cited a weak schedule in justifying their No. 13 ranking. The Cougars were available and took the game, agreeing to fly across the country on the drop of a hat and play a game in which both teams had a grand total of two days to get ready for.

Coastal Carolina & BYU put on one of the most thrilling games of the 2020 season and it all came together just days before kickoff. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

This set the stage for one of the most thrilling games to have been played this season. The Cinderella story that is Coastal Carolina continued, as despite being smaller, slower and weaker than the Cougars, their spread option offense gave BYU enough fits and their mullet inspired defense got a stop at the two-yard line to win the game.

Spinning this forward, college football needs more of what Coastal Carolina and BYU did. Not intimidated to play another good team or complain about the hurdles their team has to clear in order to play a game on short notice. This brings me to voice one of my biggest frustrations that commonly occurs in the sport: Scheduling non-conference games 10 years in advance.

Some games are scheduled so far in advance that the players who would play in that game aren’t even born yet. As we sit here in 2020, there is a game between Kansas State and Rutgers scheduled for 2031!!! Seniors on that team are just wrapping up their first year on this earth. Notre Dame and Alabama will play a home & home series starting in 2028. Other incredible future matchups include LSU-Oklahoma, Michigan-Texas, Oklahoma-Michigan and Notre Dame-Texas A&M. All of these intriguing and different games are at least four years away. So, the question is: Why? If BYU and Coastal can schedule a game 48-hours away from kickoff, why are these big-time programs scheduling games that feel like they are 48 years away?

Texas will head to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines in 2024, 10 years after they agreed to play each other (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Whether the excuse was it’s never been done before or it’s too difficult to do, this crummy year has proven that those excuses aren’t valid. Fans want to see big games between great teams, and they want to see them now. On paper, Michigan-Texas or Alabama-Notre Dame sound like tremendous matchups if they were played next year, but who knows down the road if any of these teams are even good by the time they actually play. There’s no guarantee that Nick Saban will still be leading the Crimson Tide when they head to South Bend in 2028, as he’ll be 77 years old. If the program takes a step back once Saban retires, that sexy matchup now is less intriguing.

It’s extremely rare and frankly unprecedented that football powers like Alabama and Texas would take the lead from a small school like Coastal Carolina, but it’s been a year for the unthinkable. So, thank you to both Coastal Carolina and BYU, who put on an incredible show and gave college football fans a lasting memory. We’ll see if other schools notice this and change their scheduling habits in the future. Even if nothing else comes out of this, these two schools proved that in a year that has given everybody lemons, you can still make lemonade.

Should the Mariners trade for Blake Snell?

Should the Mariners trade for Blake Snell?

The Seattle Mariners, just like the rest of the MLB, have had a very slow offseason so far. With most big league teams opting to cut player salaries this winter, in part to recoup losses from the lack of fans in the stands during the abbreviated 2020 season, most of the transactions around the league have been good veteran players getting non-tendered to save money.

The Mariners have a great opportunity to use this to their advantage, with outfielders like Kyle Schwarber, Eddie Rosario and David Dahl all options to pursue – as well as relievers like Brad Hand, Cam Bedrosian and Jake McGee.

However – one of the most notable players the team could opt to pursue is Tampa Bay left-hander Blake Snell, a local product who is on the trade market after a rather strained ending to his season, when he was pulled early from Game 6 of the World Series in favor of Nick Anderson, who promptly gave up the series ending run.

Snell, 28, was born and raised in Shoreline, Washington, mere minutes from T-Mobile Park, and he was/is a diehard University of Washington fan. He committed to play for UW’s baseball team, but ultimately followed his dream and signed with the Rays as a first round pick in 2011.

Now, the former Cy Young winner is on the market, and the Mariners absolutely have the pieces to acquire him in a deal. But should they?

Snell is under contract through the 2023 season, and will cost about $10 million per year. That’s an incredible steal for a pitcher of his caliber, which no doubt means the Rays will be looking for a king’s ransom in return for Snell’s services, as they should.

For the M’s, ‘a king’s ransom’ is code for one of Jarred Kelenic or Julio Rodriguez, and it is my belief that the team should not engage any further if they would need to move either of them for three years of Snell.

While moving prospects for established MLB players is what teams hoping to claw their way into relevance should be doing, it’s too early for the Mariners to commit to going from a rebuilding team to a contending team, and Snell’s three year deal doesn’t quite line up with Seattle’s contention window. I believe the Mariners are at least a full year away from really putting all their chips on the table, and so having at least 33% of Snell’s contract be wasted on a rebuilding year seems silly, especially if it costs them one of the very key pieces they are building around.

Kelenic and Rodriguez, alongside Kyle Lewis, are foundational pieces of this team’s future, and giving them up for a player who is currently in his prime, before the team is ready to go all-in, just doesn’t make a lot of sense for this team at this time.

However, if Seattle can somehow make a deal for Snell work without giving up either Kelenic or Rodriguez, or shortstop Noelvi Marte, then this could be a deal to get behind. A package including Taylor Trammell, George Kirby and a third piece (maybe Shed Long, Luis Torrens, Sam Carlson or Juan Then) is something I would strongly consider offering if I was Seattle – although I suspect Tampa Bay wouldn’t be interested.

Snell is a local guy and a great pitcher, and it is easy to see why sliding him into a rotation with Marco Gonzales, Justus Sheffield and Yusei Kikuchi would be pretty fun – and very left-handed – but the timing isn’t quite right, and Mariners fans should be prepared to be patient for at least one more season. I firmly believe, however, the payoff will be well worth it.