Blowin' Smoke Presented by Weston Tobacco
What's more fun than us giving you a chance to mock us every single week? In our new feature, Blowin' Smoke presented by Weston Tobacco, we will do that each and every Thursday. Gabe DeArmond and Mitchell Forde will make five predictions almost sure to go wrong every week in this space. These will range from big games to big picture predictions with a bit of the comedic and absurd mixed in most weeks as well.
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1) Are the SEC, ACC and Big 12 actually going to play and try to do this on their own?
Mitchell: They're going to try, as in probably start camp practices. They are not going to succeed. In my opinion, once the Big Ten pulled the plug, there was no way anyone was playing college football this fall. It just increases the scrutiny to a point that I can't imagine college presidents will be able to stomach. Now, as soon as you have an outbreak on one of these campuses and/or teams (which is inevitable with students coming back to campus), there's going to be increased pressure to shut down, there's going to be increased fear over liability — I know there's been lots of discussions that you can't prove where someone contracted COVID, but if half the country decided it was too risky to play football and you didn't and your team has an outbreak and something goes south, it's a really bad look, at a minimum — and there's going to be increased leverage for players to say, we're putting ourselves at risk, we deserve a slice of the pie. I just can't envision any scenario in which this season happens at this point. I know that's not what anyone wants to hear, but I've kind of had to get to the point where I'm done holding out hope and have to accept that we're going to have a fall without football. Tuesday was that point for me.
Gabe: They're committed to giving it a shot. The key is not really going to be the football team. The key is going to be the rest of the student body. Students are moving back in at Mizzou right now. If we get three weeks down the road and there are 1,500 cases on campus and kids are quarantining all over the place, they're going to shut down class and football won't happen. But I don't think this is "Let's kick the can down the road even though we're pretty sure we're canceling in three weeks." They're going to give it everything they have. And I think they actually start a season. I don't think it goes without interruption. I don't know if I think they finish. But as of today, I think they start.
2) Is spring football going to happen in the Big Ten and PAC 12?
Gabe: Ultimately probably not. The biggest question is what you do with the 2021 season. Playing six or eight games in the spring, then coming back and playing 12-15 more starting in September isn't going to happen in this day and age of player safety. Not to mention the fact that rosters are going to be depleted because everyone with a legit NFL shot is out. NFL teams aren't going to want a kid they draft in the third round to report to minicamp two weeks after his season ends. Every NFL player opts out. Then you've got second-stringers putting their bodies on the line for a season without any reward at the end. I think the next time we see those teams on the field is next September.
Mitchell: Nope. There's so many issues here, and I think it's telling that none of the administrators wanted to even try to formulate a plan for the spring until they had to. I think most know it's an exercise in futility. I'm not even concerned about all the potential NFL draftees opting out, because I think most college football fans will watch their team no matter who's playing. But issue number one: I think there are quite a few programs that couldn't afford to continue to test and feed and train fall sports athletes (if you play football in the spring, I assume you have to try to play all fall sports to keep up the charade that they're all the same) for another six months without football revenue. Two, even if they can, there's a solid chance that the virus numbers are similar to what they are right now. This is not me making the argument that it's too dangerous to play football right now, but that's what these conference commissioners have said when canceling the fall season, so I don't know how you can turn around and have a spring season unless cases decline significantly or a vaccine becomes widely available. That may happen, but I'm not counting on it. In the same vein, how can you say the decision to cancel the fall season was motivated by concerns about player safety then try to put them through two seasons and camp in a nine-month span? Talk about an opportunity for players to step in and say, yeah, we're not going for that unless we have a union that can negotiate some of these terms.
3) Whenever football does happen, what conference is Nebraska in?
Mitchell: Despite this week's temper tantrum, which did provide some needed comic relief, Nebraska will remain in the Big Ten. I think that was more about appeasing the fanbase and assuring them they did everything possible to try to play as anything. And at the end of the day, Big Ten schools make roughly $15 million per year more than their Big 12 counterparts (the only Power Five league that would take them in), plus I'm sure it would cost Nebraska significantly to leave the Big Ten. In a time when every school is going to be short on revenue, making that move would be dumb.
Gabe: They're obviously going to be in the Big Ten. As I've said all week, conferences aren't just things you can float in and out of. I respect that they're mad and I actually respect that they're saying it out loud. But this is all posturing so the fans hear what they want to hear. They aren't going anywhere. You can cry and take your ball and go home once. If you do it a second time, it's no longer everyone else that's the problem. It's you.
4) Do you think we see a big influx to the transfer portal?
Mitchell: This will be fascinating to watch if the three remaining leagues actually play. My gut reaction is probably not. The reason: I would bet very few teams have scholarships available right now. Maybe you could do a little roster gymnastics and free up one or two spots, but we're still only talking about maybe 30-40 spots between the three leagues still planning to play (one question I haven't seen answered or even asked: could you replace someone who opts out of this season, or does that player still count against the scholarship limit?). Plus, there are only so many players who could come in six weeks before the season starts and actually help a team, and I think a lot of those fall into the category of likely high-round NFL Draft picks, who would probably be better off just training for the draft.
Gabe: I actually don't think so. Most teams are full for this year. And there's still no guarantee you get to play. What if you transfer from Iowa to Kentucky and then the SEC shuts down the season? Then you're at a new school on a new team and you still didn't play any games. There might be a few, but I don't think it will be widespread.
5) The NFL is supposed to start four weeks from today. Does that happen?
Mitchell: I've been pessimistic enough today. I think so. I've said all along this will be much easier for the NFL to negotiate than college football because the players aren't on college campuses and have more incentive to isolate themselves, plus the league theoretically has an endless supply of potential players. College teams can't just pull random kids off campus to fill a spot on the offensive line if there's an outbreak, the NFL can sign whoever. I think it's possible that the NFL runs into some issues during the season with games delayed/canceled due to outbreaks, sort of like the MLB, but I believe it will start on time.
Gabe: Yeah. The NFL is too big to fail. They don't care that much about optics or bad press. They're going to play. Will it go perfectly? No idea. But they're going to play.