Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day – Story of William Clarence Matthews

Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day – Story of William Clarence Matthews

While baseball fans prepare to celebrate the 74th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking MLB’s color barrier on April 15, 1947, few people know of another rumored to beat Robinson to it 42 years earlier.

Almost 90 years before Martin Luther King Jr. made his five-day, 54-mile trek from Selma to Montgomery, William Clarence Matthews made his.

Born in Selma on January 7, 1877, Matthews lived with his two siblings, Fannie, the oldest, and Walter (or Buddy), the second oldest. His father died in the 1890s, and his family moved to Montgomery, Alabama.

Where did this rumor start?

In his seminal “Only the Ball was White” in 1970 on the Negro Leagues, Robert Peterson described Matthews as a great college player at Harvard in the first decade of the century and cites his rumored entry into the National League.

Sol White’s book “History of Colored Baseball” – published in 1907 – referenced this note on Matthews

“It is said on good authority that one of the leading players and a manager of the National League is advocating the entrance of colored players in the National League with a view to signing ‘Matthews,’ the colored man, late of Harvard.”

Most thought that manager was Giants legendary manager John McGraw, an enormous believer in the talent residing in anyone who could help his team win. McGraw, in 1901, tried to sneak Charlie Grant, second baseman of the Columbia Giants of Chicago, a black team, onto his roster as Tokohama, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. McGraw also employed two black stars, Rube Foster and Jose Mendez, to coach his pitchers.

Article in “The Boston Traveller

On July 15, 1905, local paper “The Boston Traveller” (some sources reference the spelling with one L and others with two) – one of nine local Boston papers and known to stretch the truth sometimes for sales said this.

It is very probable that [Matthews] will become a member of the Boston Nationals very soon.

It has been hinted at for the past few days. Now it is rumored that it will transpire.

A person ‘on the inside,’ one who generally knows whereof he speaks, has this to say: ‘Captain Tenney has long been hunting for a lively second baseman to strengthen his infield. On hearing of Matthews’ remarkable ability, and after following the career of the young negro collegian-professional while at Harvard and Burlington, (he) decided that William C. was just the laddy buck he needed.’

The source “on the inside” then offers a rationale for Matthews’ acceptance where others would fail:

“As Matthews is a Harvard man, he should prove a great attraction… Matthews is a well-educated, gentlemanly fellow, as well as a clever ballplayer.

If Harvard men do not object to associating with and idolizing the negro, certainly none of the National IJeague players will object to breaking bread with him.”

The article refers to player/manager of the Boston Beaneaters (became the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves) Fred Tenney (fellow Ivy Leaguer from Brown and off-season teacher at Tufts University).

Boston was awful – middle infielders Ed Abbaticchio and Fred Raymer had combined to commit 80 errors by mid-July on a team that finished 51-103. Would Boston’s futility open the door for talented players like Matthews?

Matthews Adulthood

He enrolled at the Tuskegee Institute from 1893 until 1897, where he graduated second in his class Tuskegee (was first football coach). Booker T Washington arranged for him to continue his study in the north, first at the Phillips Andover Academy, where he was the only African-American in his class of 97 students. Then, in the fall of 1901, at Harvard University.

Aaron Molineaux Hewlett & William Henry Lewis

While few schools provided opportunities for African-Americans, Harvard broke ground in many categories. Aaron Molineaux Hewlett, hired in 1859, became the first physical culture teacher in the nation. Hewlett also taught physical education, sparring lessons and coached baseball and rowing from 1859-71.

One of the foremost football minds of any generation, William Henry Lewis earned All-American honors at Harvard (the first African-American to do so), then coached the Crimson from 1895-1906. Harvard won over 85 percent of their games under Lewis (114-15-5).

Standing at 5’8″ 145 pounds, Matthews gained popularity with his classmates after arriving on campus in the fall of 1901. Under Coach Lewis’ guidance, his “wonderful quickness and pertinacity” helped him succeed playing QB. 

Baseball Career and Racism from Opponents

During his Freshman season, Matthew’s hitting coach was Wee Willie Keeler, while Cy Young coached the pitchers (both HOF). 

While Harvard initially sat Matthews when opponents like the University of Virginia refused to play if he was in the lineup, they eventually stood behind him. Georgetown and West Point considered forfeiting but relented after Harvard declined to accommodate their threats. 

Despite playing with future MLB players Eddie Grant and Walter Clarkson (combined to play 15 MLB seasons), Matthews was Harvard’s best player (2B-SS). 

He led the team in hitting his final three years (he hit .400 and stole 25 bases during his senior year). During his four years at Harvard, the Crimson won 81 percent of their games (76-18).

Breaks Northern League Color Barrier

On July 4, 1905, Matthews became the starting second baseman for the Burlington, Vermont team in the Northern League. Matthews became the only African-American playing in white professional baseball leagues at the time. He got three hits in his first game and fielded excellently. He played well for the whole season, with the Burlington team taking second place and narrowly missing first place.

Matthews was one of only four players who played the entire season for Burlington. 1905 was his only year in professional baseball as he entered Boston University School of Law to work on his law degree in Fall 1905.

Matthews other accomplishments 

  • married wife married Pamela Belle Lloyd from Hayneville, Alabama, in 1908.
  • Replaced his mentor at Harvard, William Henry Lewis, as the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Boston area.
  • Named chief legal counsel for the Marcus Garvey founded Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League.
  • named the Head of the Colored Division of the Republican National Committee in 1924. (Matthews’ position was the first time a major U.S. political party put an African-American in charge of organizing the African-American vote).
  • Following the 1924 election, Matthews delivered a list of seventeen demands to improve African-Americans’ position in the Coolidge administration.
  • Under Coolidge, Matthews became U.S. Assistant Attorney General. 
  • Matthews died on April 9, 1928 (51 years old) of a perforated ulcer. 

Legacy

Obituaries for Matthews ran in most of the major newspapers in the country. The New York Times called him “one of the most prominent Negro members of the bar in America.”

Over 1,500 people attended his funeral in Boston, with William Henry Lewis serving as an honorary pallbearer.

He’s buried in the Cambridge Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Great quotes 

Negro Leagues historian Larry Lester

We have to look at this in the context of history; America during that period was under the separate but equal doctrine, upheld by the 1896 Supreme Court decision [in Plessy v. Ferguson, which allowed state-sponsored segregation]. The most visible Black athletes at that time were jockeys. The Black athlete was not acceptable in mainstream society and especially not in the most popular sport in America. That tells me that William Clarence Matthews must have been one hell of a shortstop.”

Boston Globe (1905 quote concerning Matthew’s ethics)

“For seven years, Matthews could have earned much money by playing for semi-professional teams, but this he has refused to do … Here is a man who, to maintain his amateur standing, has repeatedly refused offers of $40 a week and board to play semi-pro baseball in the summer. He had the example of many contemporaneous college ballplayers who were accepting ‘indirect’ compensation in an underhanded way, but he has kept his record clean, and his, it is sad to say, is an exceptional case.”

William Clarence Matthews

“I think it is an outrage that colored men are discriminated against in the big leagues. What a shame it is that black men are barred forever from participating in the national game. I should think that Americans should rise up in revolt against such a condition. Many negroes are brilliant players and should not be shut out because their skin is black. As a Harvard man, I shall devote my life to bettering the condition of the black man, and especially to secure his admittance into organized baseball”.

Sources:

1 – Wikipedia  

2- Research.Sabr.Org – Karl Lindholm “William Clarence Matthews” (Page 67-72)

3 – The Professor and the Pugilist – January 6, 2014

4 – https://vtdigger.org/2020/06/14/then-again-breaking-the-color-barrier-in-baseball-in-vermont-in-1905/ – VTDigger.org

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).

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.

A Different Look at CFB Playoff Standings

A Different Look at CFB Playoff Standings

Another week passes by, and College Football fans draw closer to the end of a strange season. One hopes we never again face the issues that plagued the nation in 2020.

Here are my latest College Football Standings. Since the NCAA puts out their standings on Tuesday, I try to put mine out earlier. I use my own formula, which I think is more accurate in placing the teams.

SEC Postpones Ole Miss at #5 Texas A&M

COVID-19 cancelations continue to affect every conference. While the SEC announced their insistence on each team completing a 10-game schedule last week, positive tests surrounding the Ole Miss program forced the cancelation of their game against Texas A&M Saturday at College Station. The cancelation signficantly affects the Aggies argument based on games played (their nine regular season games played would be the fewest among the teams with one loss).

2020 CFB Playoff Standings
CKMagicSports/WorldWideSportsRadio
W-LPoints
1. Alabama9-0248.4
2. Notre Dame10-0209.7
3. Clemson9-1206.2
4. Florida8-1161.9
5. Texas A&M7-1148.9
6. Ohio State5-0144.2
7. Cincinnati8-0128.9

Why isn’t Ohio State in the Top Four?

The main difference I have with the CFB Committee is with Ohio State. Due to canceled games and the Big Ten Conference decision to initially not play, then recant, left them vulnerable. The Buckeyes schedule has them playing at least four fewer regular-season games than the teams they are competing with for those spots.


One can’t change the criteria for each team due to canceled games. Teams in the ACC, SEC, Big 12, AAC, etc., faced the same issues and risks as the Big Ten. Winning six games without a loss means nothing to Florida, Texas A&M, and Clemson.

Ohio State and Justin Fields’ talent is unquestionable, but the Big Ten put them in an awkward position by starting their season so late.

Since one can’t assume wins for games not played, that eliminates Ohio State, in my opinion. Without rules that regulate each team, providing similar criteria to judge them, you can’t have a valid system.

If the committee wants to include Ohio State, they need to expand the playoff to eight, which would help their case. While talent isn’t the question, suggesting other Power Five conference teams step aside after playing full schedules, creates significant issues.

The NCAA thinks differently. On November 22nd, they announced “no minimum” is neccessary for programs to reach in order to be eligible for the College Football Playoffs. Regardless, my opinion is nothing more than that, and judging by their previous standings, creates a challenging scenario to explain.

2020 College Football Standings
Playoff Resumes
W-LSOSW-L vs Top-25PPG Diff.YPG Diff.
Alabama9-023-030.9191.3
Notre Dame10-0232-020.6159.8
Clemson9-141-125.3*197.5*
Florida8-1111-116.9121.9
Texas A&M7-131-19.3100.3
Ohio State5-0132-023.4169.5
Cincinnati8-0652-024.5*165.4*
*Adjusted to eliminate totals vs subdivision opponent

More Issues for Ohio State?

Another issue plaguing Ohio State is the uncertainty of hosting Michigan this Saturday. The Wolverines battles with COVID forced the cancelation of last week’s game against Maryland. Jim Harbaugh’s team has been for limited workouts and light practice on Monday, but doubt still surrounds their visit to Columbus.

According to their rule book, the Big Ten states teams must play six regular-season games to qualify for the Conference Championship Game. 

So what happens if COVID forces the cancelation of this weekend’s game? The conference put the following plan in place (Special thanks to ESPN’s Heather Dinich for asking the same question). 

 “If the average number of Big Ten games falls below six, then teams must play no less than two fewer conference games than the average number of Big Ten games played by all teams to be considered for the league championship,”

“The champion will be determined in each division by its winning percentage unless there is an unbalanced schedule because of the cancellation of games.”

By giving special treatment to their Conference Championship Game representatives, the ACC encourages favoritism.

Since Rules Cease to Exist…

Perhaps the Big Ten should forego tradition and place the teams finishing with the two best records, regardless of division (the ACC adopted this format to accommodate Notre Dame).

What About the ACC Schedule Changes?

The ACC canceled December 12th games between Notre Dame at Wake Forest and Clemson at Florida State. The conference listened to the recommendation of its Athletic Director football subcommittee who stated this is “part of an effort to preserve the integrity of the conference’s football season.” Yeah, right.

We witness daily examples of corruption concerning “elite” bureaucracies in government and the mainstream media, so why shouldn’t the conferences and NCAA follow suit?

I disagree with any conference (or state for that matter) changing rules to benefit the “elite” teams. The ACC taking such measures weakens their argument against Ohio State and the Big Ten. Antics such as these, intended to create exceptions, are a slap in the face to the middle class/minority programs. While the Irish and Clemson receive an escort to the Conference Championship Game, ten “other” ACC programs will take the field.

I know I’m Biased, But..

Notice the one conference who could easily claim special treatment, hasn’t. The one representing 10 of the last 14 Champions (while playing in all but one of the College Football Championship Games) did not create circumstances concerning their Conference Championship teams to sit out Saturday. Just saying…

What are your thoughts?

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).

SEC Week 11 Wrap Up: Gators, Tide Clinch; Aggies Add to Resume

SEC Week 11 Wrap Up: Gators, Tide Clinch; Aggies Add to Resume

An exciting Saturday of college football secured the anticipated matchup for the SEC Championship Game on December 19th.

Florida (SEC East) and Alabama (SEC West) clinched their 13th division titles each, clearing the way for their 10th meeting in the SEC Championship Game.

Most Division Titles Won
SEC Since 1992
Division TitlesSEC Championships
Alabama138
Florida137
Georgia83
Auburn72
LSU65

The Gators defeated Tennessee 31-19, as Kyle Trask threw for 433 yards and 4 TD. He leads the NCAA with 38 passing TD. Only Colt Brennan in 2006 (NCAA officially started sorting records in 2000) threw for more in his teams first nine games (39).

Most TD Passes, First 9 Games
CFB Since 2000
YearTDYds
Colt Brennan, Hawaii2006393,347
Kyle Trask, Florida2020383,243
B.J. Symons, Texas Tech2003374,313
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech2007353,979

Trevon Grimes two TD catches helped Kyle Trask reach 38 TD passes for the season. Florida clinched the SEC East with a 31-19 win over Tennessee, their 15th win in last 16 games vs the Vols.

The Crimson Tide defeated LSU 55-17. Mac Jones completed 20-28 attempts for 385 yards and 4 TD, helping keep pace with Kyle Trask for the Heisman Trophy. DeVonta Smith registered another magnificent game, recording eight catches for 231 yards and 3 TD.

Most TD Receptions
Single Season, Team History
TD Season
Amari Cooper162014
DeVonta Smith 152020
DeVonta Smith 142019
Jerry Jeudy 142018

Alabama finished with 650 total yards, the seventh most recorded in team history (second-highest this season – 723 at Ole Miss). Their offense totaled at least 500 yards for the 32nd time in 49 games (the seventh time recording 600 yards over that span). Alabama’s offense scored 35 points or more in their 22nd straight game, adding to their NCAA record. Smith’s TD receptions of 66 and 61 yards marked the 60th and 61st TD of 30 yards or more from scrimmage since 2018.

Najee Harris ran for 145 yards and three TD against LSU

Alabama QB Through 9 Games
Since 2018
Mac JonesTua TagovailoaTua Tagovailoa
202020192018
W-L9-08-19-0
Passing Yds3,1132,8402,361
Passing Yds PG345.9315.6262.3
TD-INT27-333-325-1
Comp. Pct.75.771.467

Nick Saban won his 10th division title in the SEC, including his eighth at Alabama. Saban’s teams are 8-1 in his previous nine SEC Championship Game appearances and currently owns a six-game win streak.

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

Texas A&M won their sixth consecutive game, improving to 7-1 on the season. The SEC rescheduled the Aggies matchups hosting Ole Miss (December 12th) and at Tennessee (December 19th), helping complete a full 10-game schedule.

Kellen Mond ran and threw for a TD for the 17th time in his career at Texas A&M, helping the Aggies defeat Auburn. 31-20.

Here are the rest of the teams remaining schedules.

SEC Remaining Schedule
2020 Season
EastW-L12/12/2012/19/20
Florida8-1vs LSU (3-5)vs Alabama>>
Georgia6-2at Missouri (5-3)vs Vanderbilt (0-8)
Missouri5-3vs Georgia (6-2)at Mississippi St. (2-6)
Tennessee2-6at Vanderbilt (0-8)vs Texas A&M (7-1)
Kentucky2-8
South Carolina2-8
Vanderbilt0-8vs Tennessee (2-6)at Georgia (6-2)
>>SEC Championship Game

WestW-L12/12/2012/19/20
Alabama9-0at Arkansasvs Florida>>
Texas A&M7-1vs Ole Miss (4-4)at Tennessee (2-6)
Auburn5-4at Mississippi St. (2-6)
Ole Miss4-4at Texas A&M (7-1)at LSU (3-5)
LSU3-5at Florida (8-1)vs Ole Miss (4-4)
Arkansas3-6vs Alabama (9-0)
Mississippi St.2-6vs Auburn (5-4)vs Missouri (5-3)
>>SEC Championship Game