A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:
IN A SEASON OF WHAT IFS, WHICH ONE WAS THE WORST?
“I’ll never forgive Marco Wilson for what he did,” a friend of mine whose passion for the Gators has been known to cause a full mental eclipse when zeal blocks out reality. He was speaking, of course, of what some Gator fans have dubbed “Shoe-Gate” when Marco found himself in possession of Kole Taylor’s shoe after he had tackled Taylor six yards short of a first down on third down with less than two minutes remaining, Florida and LSU tied at 34-34.
Instead of punting, LSU got a first down and wound up kicking a 57-yard field goal with 23 seconds left in the game. Florida’s Evan McPherson had a chance to send the game into overtime but his 51-yard field goal as time expired hooked inches beyond the goal post. Florida lost, 37-34.
“That bonehead Marco cost us the game,” my friend said, forgetting that in the first quarter on fourth and goal inches away the Gators were stuffed because the O-line failed or that Kyle Trask threw an interception that cost the Gators six points in the second quarter and a Trask fumble because the O-line didn’t do its job (again) with 23 seconds left in the half gave LSU a field goal and a 24-17 lead as time expired.
I mentioned those three plays and then asked my friend even if Marco doesn’t throw the shoe do the Gators still have to play Alabama in the SEC Championship Game the next week? And against Alabama what if Marlon Dunlap doesn’t jump offside in the first quarter to extend an Alabama drive that resulted in a TD? And in the second quarter what if Kyree Campbell doesn’t ease up on the way to the sideline, causing a substitution penalty that erases an incomplete pass on third-and-eight? On the next play Bama gets the first down then goes on to finish the drive for a TD that makes the score 28-10. Florida ended up losing 52-46.
Of course, there is the Malik Davis fumble at midfield in the Texas A&M game with 3:40 left. The score was tied 38-38 and the Gators were driving. The Aggies got the ball and drove for the game-winning field goal with 3:40 left.
And what about the Cotton Bowl? What if Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Brad Stewart had played?
My friend had no answers and blamed me for injecting logic into the argument he was trying to make.
What Marco Wilson did contributed to a loss but is it unforgivable? Were there other mistakes in the game every bit as costly? Were there mistakes in the LSU and Alabama games that could have changed the outcome? Would having a full roster have made a difference against Oklahoma?
We can play what if until the cows come home. Tell me which what if was the worst.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC: POST SPRING QB EDITION
Alabama: Bryce Young (6-0, 195, FR) will be the starter. As Mac Jones’ backup last year he was 13-22 for 156 yards and a TD. The backup after the spring was Paul Tyson (6-5, 228, FR).
Arkansas: K.J. Jefferson (6-3, 236, FR) was outstanding in the only game he started last year, throwing for 274 yards and three TDs (no INTs) while running for 32 yards and another TD in a 50-48 loss to Missouri. The backup is Malik Hornsby (6-2, 190, FR).
Auburn: Bo Nix (6-2, 207, SO) will be starting for the third straight season only this time with a new HBC and a new offense. Will it make him any better? He regressed last year when he threw for 2,415 yards (6.7 per attempt) and 12 TDs with seven picks while running for 388 and seven more. The backup is Bowling Green grad transfer Grant Loy (6-4, 226, GR).
FLORIDA: After patiently waiting three years Emory Jones (6-3, 210, SO) finally gets his chance to prove he can be a quality starter in the SEC. Backing up Kyle Trask last year, Jones was 18-32 passing for 221 yards (6.9 per attempt) and two TDs (1 pick) with 217 rushing yards (6.78 per carry) and two TDs. Jones has thrown for 599 yards and seven TDs (1 pick) with 514 rushing yards for six TDs. He will be pushed to the limits by Anthony Richardson (6-4, 235, FR) whose freshman totals were 1-2 for 27 yards passing (1 TD, 1 INT) and 7-61 rushing).
Georgia: JT Daniels (6-3, 210, SO) was cleared to play in September but wasn’t called upon to start a game until the week after the Florida loss. In four games he threw for 1,231 yards (10.3 per attempt) and 10 touchdowns (2 picks). The backups are Stetson Bennett IV, Carson Beck and Brock Vandagriff.
Kentucky: Former Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood (6-5, 221, SO) was clearly better in the spring than Beau Allen (6-2, 207, FR), but can either of them beat out Penn State transfer Will Levis (6-3, 222, SO) in the fall? Last year as a backup at Penn State Levis was 33-55 passing for 421 yards (7.7 per attempt) and a TD while running for 260 (3.17 per carry) and three more. Last year Gatewood was 17-35 for 109 yards and an INT while running for 62 (2.48 per carry). Allen was 3-7 passing for 40 yards.
LSU: Had Myles Brennan (6-4, 210, JR) stayed healthy last year this wouldn’t be a debate, but when he went down in the third game it opened the door for TJ Finley (6-6, 242, FR) and Max Johnson (6-5, 219, FR) to show just how capable they are. Brennan threw for 1,112 yards (8.2 per attempt) and 11 TDs before he went down with a season-ending injury. Finley threw for 941 yards (6.7 per attempt) and five touchdowns (5 picks also) in four starts. Johnson won both his starts and threw for 1,069 yards (7.1 per attempt) and eight TDs (1 pick). At the end of the spring it appeared a two-man race between Brennan and Johnson.
Mississippi State: Will Rogers (6-2, 205, FR) is the incumbent QB but he got a serious challenge in the spring from Southern Miss transfer Jack Abraham (6-0, 209, SR). Last year Rogers threw for 1,976 yards (5.7 per attempt) and 11 touchdowns (7 picks). Abraham threw for 1,224 yards (8.2 per attempt) and seven TDPs at Southern Miss.
Missouri: Connor Bazelak (6-3, 220, FR) emerged from the spring looking like he has a better command of the offense. Last year he threw for 2,366 yards (7.3 per attempt) and seven TDs (six picks). Brady Cook (6-4, 220, FR) is the backup.
Ole Miss: Matt Corral’s stats would have been more staggering if not for 11 picks combined in the games with Arkansas and LSU. As it was Corral (6-1, 205, SO) threw for 3,337 yards (10.2 per attempt) and 29 touchdowns (14 picks) while running for 506 yards. The backup will be Rhys Plumlee (6-0, 200, SO) if he doesn’t change positions. Otherwise it will be Kinkead Dent (6-5, 205, FR).
South Carolina: Luke Doty (6-1, 210, FR) got three starts after offensive coordinator Mike Bobo finally figured out that Colin Hill was incompetent. Doty threw for 405 yards (5.7 per attempt) and two touchdowns (3 picks). He’s the starter after spring ball with early enrollee freshman Colten Gauthier (6-3, 210, FR) and D1AA transfer Jason Brown (6-3, 235, SR) very much in the mix.
Tennessee: Here you were thinking the situation at UT couldn’t be any worse than it was last year when Jeremy Pruitt spent an entire season trying to make up his mind who was his QB. New coach Josh Heupel doesn’t have Jarrett Guarantano to kick around anymore but he has two returning QBs (Harrison Bailey and Brian Maurer) with starting experience and two transfers (Hendon Hooker from VaTech and Joe Milton from Michigan) who were starters at their previous whistlestop. Bailey (6-5, 225, FR) threw for 578 yards and four TDs last year while Maurer (6-3, 195, SO) heaved it for nine (count’em). Hooker (6-4, 220, JR) threw for 1,339 yards and nine TDs last year while running for 620 and nine more. Milton (6-5, 243, JR) threw for 1,077 and four touchdowns at Michigan.
Texas A&M: Haynes King (6-3, 200, FR) had a rotten spring game but he looks to be the starter in the fall. Last year he completed 2-4 passes for 59 yards, one TD (1 pick) and 43 rushing yards. The backup is Zach Calzada (6-3, 209, SO), who didn’t throw a pass last year but was 12-24 for 133 yards and two TDs (1 pick) in 2019.
Vanderbilt: Ken Seals (6-3, 218, FR) had a rather good freshman year – 1,928 passing yards (6.7 per attempt), 12 TDPs (10 picks) – especially when you consider how bad Vandy was. The backup is former juco transfer Jeremy Moussa (6-3, 219, SR), who didn’t throw a pass last year.
THE BEST QUARTERBACKS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2021
These are the 10 best returning starting QBs in the country for 2021. Please note none of them are named JT Daniels. For all his hype, Daniels isn’t as good as these guys or at least hasn’t proven it yet.
Sam Howell, North Carolina (6-2, 225, SO): Howell has passed for 7,227 yards and 68 touchdowns (14 picks) in two seasons. He has also run for five touchdowns. Last season, Howell threw for 3,641 yards (8.6 per attempt) and 30 touchdowns.
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma (6-1, 205, FR): Rattler finished the 2020 season strong enough that he’ll be in every early Heisman discussion. He threw for 3,031 yards (9.6 per attempt) and 28 touchdowns (7 INTs) while running for six more TDs.
D’Eriq King, Miami (5-11, 202, SR): It only seems like he’s been around since the Reagan administration. King comes back for a sixth year of eligibility and his second year at UM where he threw for 2,686 yards (8.2 per attempt) and 23 TDPs (5 picks) while running for 538 and four more. The career numbers are 7,611 passing yards for 73 touchdowns with 1,959 rushing yards for 32 TDs.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss (6-1, 205, SO): Running Lane Kiffin’s offense without the benefit of a spring, Corral threw for 3,337 yards (10.2 per attempt) and 29 touchdowns (14 picks) while running for 506 yards and four more TDs in 2020. His career numbers are 4,945 passing yards for 37 TDs (18 INTs) and 724 rushing yards for seven TDs.
Brock Purdy, Iowa State (6-1, 212, JR): Since he became Iowa State’s QB three years ago the Cyclones are relevant. They should be a top 10 team this year. Purdy has thrown for 8,982 yards and 62 touchdowns (25 INTs) in three years while running for 939 yards and 18 TDs. A year ago he threw for 2,750 yards and 19 TDs while running for 382 and five.
Kedon Slovis, Southern Cal (6-2, 200, SO): This former 2-star recruit is why former 5-star recruit JT Daniels transferred to Georgia. In what amounts to a season and a half (only six Pac-12 games last year), Slovis has thrown for 5,423 yards and 47 touchdowns (16 picks). He threw for 1,921 yards (7.3 per attempt) and 17 TDs (7 picks) last year.
Dillon Gabriel, UCF (6-0, 186, SO): In two seasons, Gabriel has thrown for 7,223 yards and 61 touchdowns (11 INTs). Maybe nobody in the country throws a deep ball as well. Last year Gabriel threw for 3,570 yards (8.6 per attempt) and 32 TDs (4 picks).
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (6-4, 215, JR): Ridder has thrown for 6,905 yards and 57 touchdowns (20 INTs) in three years while running for 1,814 yards and 22 TDs. More important, he’s 31-6 as a starting QB.
Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina (6-3, 200, FR): In leading Coastal to an 11-1 record McCall threw for 2,488 yards (10 per attempt) and 26 touchdowns while rushing for 569 and seven more TDs.
Malik Willis, Liberty (6-1, 215, JR): The former Auburn transfer was 10-1 as a starter last year when he threw for 2,260 yards (8.5 per attempt) and 20 TDs (six picks) and ran for 944 (6.7 per attempt) and 14 more.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, has extended the contract of president Mark Emmert through the 2025 fiscal year. Yes, the same Mark Emmert whose NCAA gave the basketball men in Indianapolis this gigantic weight room and the women in San Antonio the equivalent of about six Shake Weights. The same Mark Emmert whose NCAA forgot to include Arizona in its women’s Final Four hype (What? The college graduates at the NCAA can’t count to four?). The same Mark Emmert whose enforcement division has the FBI wiretap (it was submitted in Federal Court) of Will Wade bragging about buying players and yet can’t issue a Notice of Allegations? Yeah, that Mark Emmert. As Laurence J. Peter, author of “The Peter Principle” once wrote, “In an organization, each person rises to the level of his own incompetence.” He could have been writing about the NCAA and Mark Emmert.