College football Week 7: Picks and preview

Posted 18 hours ago | By Jeff Mezydlo

Another week filled with more postponements due to COVID-19, including two games in the SEC. Plus, one of the nation’s top coaches has contracted the virus. This all adds to the intrigue for this weekend’s action.

Here are our previews and predictions (spreads courtesy of BetOnline.ag) of those games for Friday and Saturday featuring teams from The Associated Press Top 25 and other interesting matchups around the country. All times Eastern.

No. 17 SMU (4-0) at Tulane (2-2), Friday, 6 p.m., ESPN

No. 17 SMU (4-0) at Tulane (2-2), Friday, 6 p.m., ESPN
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

The Mustangs have had a couple of weeks off after beating then-No. 25 Memphis to stay undefeated. Behind quarterback Shane Buechele (1,326 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, two interceptions, SMU has scored at least 30 points in every 2020 contest. This will be just the second home game for Tulane, which allowed 49 points in an 18-point loss to Houston last weekend.

Prediction: SMU (-6)

No. 14 BYU (4-0) at Houston (1-0), Friday, 9:30 p.m., ESPN

No. 14 BYU (4-0) at Houston (1-0), Friday, 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Rick Bowmer/Pool Photo/USA TODAY Sports

BYU is making the most of its condensed schedule and doing it with success on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Zach Wilson is a remarkable 82 of 101 throwing the football, with eight touchdowns and a single interception. Defensively, the Cougars have yielded 44 points on the season. Houston, meanwhile, finally started its season with a 49-31 win over Tulane last weekend. However, Houston is dealing with a number of players potentially out for this contest, although those absences don’t appear to be COVID-19 related.
Prediction: BYU (-5)

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Alabama football coach Nick Saban, athletic director Greg Byrne test positive for COVID-19

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 10/14/20

Arguably the biggest name in college football, if not in all of collegiate athletics, has tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, who has guided teams to national titles on six occasions, confirmed on Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19. Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne also tested positive. 

In a statement shared by Mark Schlabach of ESPN, Saban said: 

“I found out earlier this afternoon that I had tested positive for COVID-19. I immediately left work and isolated at home. At this time, I do not have any symptoms relative to COVID, and I have taken another PCR test to confirm my diagnosis.”

No. 2 Alabama (3-0) is preparing to host the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (3-0) on Saturday evening in what is, to date, the most anticipated game of the college football campaign. Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will lead in-person practice sessions as Saban works from home.

Byrne added: 

“Today, I received notice that my COVID-19 test from this morning came back positive. Upon hearing the news, I immediately entered self-isolation and will remain at home and follow all guidelines. We’ve been diligent about mask wearing and social distancing from the start and want to continue to encourage you all to take the necessary precautions to help stop the spread of this virus for yourself and those around you.”

Saban joins Kansas’ Les MilesArizona’s Kevin SumlinFlorida State’s Mike NorvellArkansas State’s Blake Anderson and Toldeo’s Jason Candle on the growing list of FBS coaches who have tested positive for the virus from the early days of the pandemic through and beyond the start of the football season. 

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Report: Big Ten to announce October return for college football

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 9/16/20

Fans of Big Ten football can rejoice. 

According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, the Big Ten is expected to announce on Wednesday a return to college football in October. Dan Wetzel adds that games will be played on campus without fans and that the title game will take place on Dec. 19.

The news comes after the conference decided to postpone all fall sports seasons on Aug. 11 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 to postpone, with Nebraska, Ohio State and Iowa voting to proceed with a normal season. 

All of Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors met for hours on Sunday afternoon with members of the return to competition task force, which plans scheduling and television. The medical subcommittee also reviewed the latest medical information about a safe return to play amid the pandemic. 

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Commissioner Larry Scott ‘confident’ Pac-12 will play football by January

Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Vincent Frank | Last updated 9/4/20

There’s seemingly some good news on the college football front with three of the Power Five conferences slated to start their seasons later this month.

A recent update includes the fact that the Pac-12 has come to an agreement with the medical community for rapid COVID-19 testing and results. That’s a game changer for the sport and the entire United States during this age of the pandemic.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is now adding more fodder to the belief that his conference will soon get on the field.

When the Pac-12 decided to cancel its fall college football season last month, there was no word on whether the season would be played at all. Meanwhile, the Big Ten has pointed to Thanksgiving weekend as a potential start time for its season.

With the SEC, ACC and Big 12 all slated to start their conference-only seasons later this month, there’s some major logistical concerns.

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Big Ten presidents, chancellors voted 11-3 to postpone football due to pandemic

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 8/31/20

The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach confirmed on Monday that 11 of 14 Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted to postpone the college football season because of fears related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

That news was included in a brief and two sworn affidavits related to a lawsuit filed by eight Nebraska players who are looking to get the season reinstated. Earlier this month, league commissioner Kevin Warren declared in a letter the decision to postpone “will not be revisited.” 

Auerbach added that at least 60 percent of Big Ten presidents and chancellors were required to vote to postpone for that call to be made.

Players and parents have written letters, voiced anger over the decision to delay the campaign via social media and protested outside of Big Ten headquarters. While bodies such as the Pac-12MACMountain West and Ivy League also canceled fall schedules due to the uncontrolled virus outbreak, the ACC, SEC and Big 12 intend to begin altered football seasons in September. 

Per The Athletic, a study conducted by Ohio State director of sports cardiology Dr. Curt Daniels found that roughly 15% of student-athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 experienced cases of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that can cause sudden cardiac arrest. It’s believed the findings of that study led to the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponing. 

That study is awaiting peer review. 

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Clemson No. 1 in AP Top 25 preseason poll

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 8/24/20

If an already altered version of the 2020 college football season kicks off in September amid the coronavirus pandemic, as planned, the Clemson Tigers will enter opening week the country’s top-rated team.

Per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), Clemson earned 38 first-place votes to land above No. 2 Ohio State. Alabama is No. 3, Georgia is No. 4, and Oklahoma rounds out the top five.

Defending champion LSU sits at No. 6. Penn State is No. 7.

Unlike the other top-seven programs, both Ohio State and Penn State will sit idle when football gets underway this fall. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have postponed football and other fall sports through at least the end of the year due to the uncontrolled virus outbreak.

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Big Ten could move 2020 football season to winter?

Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Matt Johnson | Last updated 8/20/20

Despite Ohio State Buckeyes star Justin Fields’ best efforts, the Big Ten conference is sticking by its decision to suspend its 2020 football season. However, there could now be a chance that Big Ten programs take the field this winter.

The conference faced plenty of criticism from players, coaches and fans in recent weeks after officials decided to suspend fall sports. While Big Ten officials aren’t backing down, they could be considering an alternative that would delight the football world.

The decision to suspend the upcoming college football season didn’t come without some internal push back. Once the decision was made, many speculated that teams could return to play football this spring.

Of course, a spring college football season comes with its own complications. As former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer detailed, colleges would be requiring student-athletes to play two seasons in a calendar year. While the Ivy League and other conferences are hoping to play football next spring, the Big Ten might have another solution.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde, there is momentum building around the league for Big Ten football programs to return for the winter to hold a shortened 2020 season.

Moving the college football season into the winter would provide the Big Ten with more time to prepare. Coaches would have more practices to work with their teams and players would be in better physical conditioning and less prone to injuries with an extended acclimation period.

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College football in the time of COVID-19

Originally posted on RealGM | By Jeff Risdon | Last updated 8/18/20

Training camps are now fired up around the NFL. We’re back to having actual football, offense vs. defense. While it’s not the typical setup and there won’t be any actual game action until Sept. 10th, it’s great to see some football back in our lives.

It won’t be that way for most college football fans, or high school football players and their families in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped those seasons before they even started in many places, including the Big Ten and PAC-12, as well as all lower-level conferences around the country.  

Despite the college cancellation, I remain confident the NFL will indeed kick off on time and play a full slate of games in Week 1. The teams have embraced personal responsibility and protective measures against possible infection, and it’s working. No player has been added to the reserve/COVID-19 list for a positive test or exposure to an infected person in over two weeks. That’s after a rash of players was added at the start of organized summer activities and nearly 70 NFL players opted out due to the risks involved with playing in a global pandemic. 

The players and coaches have done what they needed to do. It’s been awkward for them. Some have sequestered themselves away from family members. They’re wearing masks wherever they go, no matter how much they dislike it. Their reward is the ability to operate as normally as possible and actually progress with their careers and their lives. America gave them carrots and they harvested them successfully (so far). 

Sadly that is not true at the lower levels. Many college programs can trumpet the same successful plans. Players bought in and did everything they were told to do in order to try and have a season. They avoided parties, they stayed away from mingling with other students, they made sure to take precautions to avoid any chance of getting infected. Not all did, of course, but the overwhelming majority embraced the challenge and rose to it.  

Yanking the carpet out from these young men after they did precisely what was demanded of them is a crushing blow. It’s devastating to the mental health and psyche of thousands of ambitious young men. When they were asked to jump, they responded “how high,” but the powers that be decided that jumping wasn’t ever going to be high enough. 

Put yourself in those shoes. Imagine living almost solely on hope, however unrealistic it might have been, and then have that hope completely extinguished despite doing every single thing you were tasked with to attain that hope. Now factor in that there are no outlets for these disaffected, disappointed young men. They can’t go to a movie, a concert, a bar, a library. In many places, they can’t eat at a restaurant when it’s raining because indoor gathering is still prohibited. Group dates are strictly taboo. Here in Michigan, they still can’t go to a gym to lift a weight or run on a treadmill. 

That’s why players like Ohio State QB Justin Fields and others have lashed out, demanding the chance to play. Who can blame them? There is quite literally nothing else for them to do. They look around in the pandemic and they don’t see any of their peers dying or even getting sick beyond what might be a bad cold. They’re not visiting with middle-aged aunts, they’re not going to jobs where they might come into contact with an immunocompromised person, they’re not picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy around possibly sick people. Their prism on the pandemic is different because of that, but that difference in life stage and perspective doesn’t matter. People are indeed dying and suffering major, life-altering conditions from COVID-19 infection, but the typical college football player is mostly far removed from being involved in those groups. 

Do the college players need to be protected from themselves in the pandemic? Absolutely. But guess what — they were being protected. They did exactly what the NFL players did, rising to the challenge of doing everything right. Now they see the NFL veering into full action but their own aspirations shattered. What kind of message is that to send to young men who have been leaders and are at a critical point in their life-shaping mentalities?

The colleges and the sports machines that drive them are definitely deserving of blame. Many have known for months that trying to operate during the pandemic was a pipe dream, a logistical impossibility. But they continued to sell the hope that maybe if everyone did exactly as told, maybe we might get a chance to play an altered season. Maybe. That’s shameful conduct by the colleges, the sports networks, and most specifically, the NCAA for not doing anything. 

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Ohio State no longer pursuing options to play college football in fall

Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports | By Grey Papke | Last updated 8/12/20

One Big Ten school that was absolutely intent on playing college football in the fall appears to be giving up on that dream.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Wednesday that, after initial exploration, the Buckeyes will no longer pursue avenues to play football in the fall despite the Big Ten’s cancellation of fall sports. Smith said the school will instead turn all its attention toward preparation for a spring season.

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Report: Big 12 leaning toward playing fall college football season

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 8/11/20

The Big 12 doesn’t yet intend on following the Big Ten and Pac-12 in postponing or canceling football and other fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuesday afternoon, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported that the Big 12 was still leaning toward playing this fall ahead of a 6 pm ET call among conference presidents.

“The mindset is it’s too early,” a Big 12 source reportedly said. “Unless the medical folks flip the switch, [we’ll go].”

The Big 12, ACC, and SEC all continue to monitor developments as it concerns the uncontrolled virus outbreak. After the Big 12 canceled its virtual media day in late July, league commissioner Bob Bowlsby explained that a final decision on football and other fall sports would be made at a later time.

Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke infectious disease specialist who also serves as chair of the ACC’s medical advisory team, recently told Michael Smith of Sports Business Daily he believes football seasons can begin, as scheduled, this fall.

“We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe,” Dr. Wolfe said.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey tweeted on Monday that he intends to remain patient before making a call on fall seasons: 

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