A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
Dan Mullen knows his 6th-ranked Florida Gators (7-1) have to do a better job Saturday when they face Tennessee (2-5) in Knoxville needing just a win to clinch their first Southeastern Conference East Division championship since 2016. The Gators go into the game on the heels of a 34-10 win over Kentucky in which they racked up an uninspiring 418 yards, four touchdowns and two field goals. With the defense doing its part, particularly in the second half when they allowed Kentucky just 46 yards of offense (33 on the ground, 13 passing), it was a 24-point win over an SEC opponent but Mullen clearly wasn’t happy when he talked to the media Monday.
“I don’t think we were very efficient offensively last week,” Mullen said. “We didn’t hit any of our goals offensively going into the game, so I don’t think we played very well there. But that gets into, you know, I mean it’s hard to say, ‘hey, OK, we’ve got to scrap everything and start over.’ I just don’t think we played at a very high level and weren’t very efficient.
“They were a good defense. You knew that coming in, that they were one of the top pass defenses in the country, big, stout guys up front. And then you look – because you look at the drives – you end up with two punts, a missed field goal, two turnovers … that’s not very good offensively. We want to get back to just having a consistent, efficient offensively [sic].”
Kyle Trask threw for three touchdowns, 254 yards on 21-27 (77.8%) and averaged 9.5 yards per attempt. Those are great numbers except when you compare to the norm for Trask this season – four games of 300-plus yards, two games of 400-plus yards, six games of at least four touchdown passes.
The Gators ran for 104 yards on 25 rushing attempts, a letdown after the last two weeks in which the Gators went off for 208 against Arkansas and 173 against Vanderbilt.
Evan McPherson hit field goals of 34 and 40 yards but he boinked a 45-yarder off the right upright, just his second miss of the season.
Jacob Finn had to punt twice for the second straight week.
Saturday the Gators will face a Tennessee team that has lost five games in a row by at least 11 points, the longest streak of consecutive double-digit losses in school history. The Vols have allowed 102 points and 1,385 yards in their last three games including 48 points and 587 yards to Alabama. The only team all season the Vols held to fewer than 300 yards was Kentucky (294), a game in which the Wildcats ran for 187 yards and won 34-7.
The Gators are favored by 17 Saturday and even though this is not a good Tennessee team it is one the Gators cannot take lightly. The Vols know their head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s job could be in jeopardy is they suffer a sixth straight blowout loss so they will be motivated.
Will the Gators have more motivation, though? A win guarantees a trip to Atlanta as the SEC East champ. A win gives the Gators a shot at the SEC title which all but assures a spot in the College Football Playoff. To do that the Gators need to play better offensively than they have the last two weeks.
FLORIDA BASKETBALL GETS UNDER WAY WEDNESDAY
Now that the Covid-19 issues are at least temporarily out of the way, the Gators will finally get their basketball season started with two impromptu scheduled games at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. The Gators will face Army Wednesday (2:30 p.m., ESPN2) and Boston College Thursday (9:30 p.m., ESPN).
Florida will play its first home game on December 6 against Stetson.
MAGARITY STEPS DOWN AS GEORGIA AD: Greg Magarity, who spent 18 years as Jeremy Foley’s top lieutenant on the Florida athletic staff, will retire at the end of the year. When he leaves the job, senior associate AD Josh Brooks will serve as the interim and will be considered a candidate to have the interim title removed. It’s going to be interesting to see how much input Kirby Smart has in who becomes the new AD and how much rope the new boss will give basketball coach Tom Crean, whose first two Georgia teams finished 13th in the SEC.
Magarity will be remembered as the AD who fired Mark Richt, the second winningest coach in Georgia history, after a 9-3 season in 2015. Magarity hired Smart who is 50-14 through his first 64 games. Richt was 52-12 through his first 64.
A FEW COLLEGE FOOTBALL WHY NOTS
WHY IT’S NOT WORKING AT TENNESSEE: From 1990-2008, Tennessee tied with Miami and Florida State for the fourth-most wins (175) in all of college football (Florida #1 with 189, Nebraska and Ohio State tied for #2 with 182). During that time, most of it under the direction of Phil Fulmer (Phattus Maximus), the Vols won five SEC East championships (1997, 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007), three SEC championships (1990 although UF had the best record; 1997-98) and the 1998 national championship. Since Fulmer was fired in 2008 after enduring a second losing season in four years, the Vols are just 99-89, which ties them for 62nd nationally. Since Fulmer, UT has run through three head coaches (Lane Kiffin 2009; Derek Dooley 2010-12; and Butch Jones 2013-17). The current head coach Jeremy Pruitt is 15-17 but only 2-5 this season after starting out 2-0.
So what’s gone wrong at Tennessee? How is it that a school with one of college football’s most iconic stadiums, great facilities and a rabid booster base can’t seem to hire a competent football coach? How is it that every time Tennessee fires a head coach (some say Pruitt is hanging on by a thread), it seems the new guy hired is something like the 10th choice. Why is it that Tennessee, with all these positives, can’t get a top coach with its first choice and instead settles for someone who couldn’t have landed an SEC job?
The only logical answer is the athletic director. Since 2010, the Vols have gone through four of them and the current AD – Fulmer – got the job as the result of a palace coup that ran John Currie off after eight months. When you hire competent athletic directors, they tend to make better decisions and there is stability. Football isn’t the only sport at Tennessee that has been a revolving door. The Vols are on their fifth basketball coach (Rick Barnes) since 2001. The winningest baseball coach in school history (Rod Delmonico) was run off in 2007. The Vols are on their third coach since then.
It stands to reason that Tennessee could once again be a perennial challenger for the SEC East championship with the right coach, but it’s not going to happen with Fulmer as the athletic director and it darn sure isn’t going to happen with Pruitt as the head coach.
WHY IT DIDN’T WORK AT SOUTH CAROLINA: There are plenty of theories about why Will Muschamp will be trying to squeeze by on $15 million after South Carolina opted him out for 2020 a couple games back. Most of them will center around the defense collapsing on him after the Gamecocks upset Auburn 30-22, but one of the main reasons Muschamp got canned is because he hired former teammate and old buddy Mike Bobo as his offensive coordinator.
Instead of rejuvenating the offense, the Gamecocks are spinning their wheels in 2020 just as they did in 2019 when Bryan McClendon was calling the plays. The Gamecocks had a promising incumbent QB in Ryan Hilinski, who played well when thrown into the fire as a true freshman, so well that three-year starter Jake Bentley transferred to Utah. Bobo, who was fired as the HBC at Colorado State, brought with him weak-armed, immobile Collin Hill and gave him the reigns of the offense, allegedly because Hill already knew it and there was no spring football to help Hilinski. Bad move there. Until he was finally replaced midway through the blowout loss to Georgia last Saturday, Hill was sacked more than 20 times and averaged 6.6 yards per attempt with as many interceptions (6) as touchdowns. Hilinski should have been the QB all along.
There are two morals of this story: (1) When you are a defensive-minded coach who has an HBC gig, go out and hire the best possible DC you can find; and (2) don’t go hiring any friend unless the word genius is often associated with him.
WHY IT DIDN’T WORK AT VANDERBILT: Derek Mason is out of a job at Vanderbilt. Eventually we knew that was going to happen, just it wasn’t expected this year due to the financial hit everybody is taking due to the pandemic. But, Vanderbilt elected to roll the dice, fire Mason and see if they can find another James Franklin.
Franklin worked at Vandy (three straight bowl games, two straight 9-win seasons) because he got the administration working with him. They gave Franklin an indoor practice facility and there were other promises made when he left for the big bucks at Penn State. Apparently, the promises died when Franklin departed. The stadium hasn’t gotten any upgrades and the rest of the facilities have lagged even further behind.
Mason is a good football coach, but not good enough to overcome the combination of bad facilities and tough academics. Maybe it would have been different if the higher ups at Vandy had kept promises put in place when Franklin was the coach. To get a decent coach, they’re going to have to make a whole slew of promises, particularly regarding facilities. Whoever takes the job is going to have to believe the school is willing to spend some of that $45 million-plus a year of SEC money to make Vanderbilt a place where good high school kids want to play football. That’s going to be one tough sell.
WHY THE AGGIES WON’T MAKE THE PLAYOFF: The second College Football Playoff Poll will be out tonight and whether Texas A&M remains one spot in front of the Gators or falls one behind is irrelevant for two reasons. First off, while the Aggies may have knocked off Florida on a last play field goal, they lost to Alabama by four touchdowns, struggled to beat a bad Vanderbilt team by five points and didn’t pass the eye test with their 20-7 win over LSU.
About the only way the Aggies can make the playoff is for Alabama to blow the doors off Florida in the SEC Championship Game, Notre Dame to score a convincing win over Clemson with Trevor Lawrence on the field in the ACC Championship Game and for Ohio State to either lose a game or finish at 5-0, which wouldn’t be enough games to make the Big Ten Championship Game. Texas A&M can win its last three regular season games but can’t get in the playoff without a lot of help and the odds are stacked against everything falling perfectly into place. As for the Gators, they control their own destiny. Go 3-0 and they’re in, no help needed.
A FINAL PITHY COMMENT FOR TUESDAY: Now that Texas is 5-3 and officially out of the running for the Big 12 (Minus Two) Conference championship, the alums and boosters are calling an involuntary opt out by head coach Tom Herman. Herman is 30-18 since arriving in 2017 after two seasons as the head coach at Houston where he was 22-4. Naturally, the folks calling for Herman’s head are making it well known that they’ll raise whatever money is necessary to buy out Herman $15.416 million and hire Urban Meyer. Meyer is healthy, content doing his Fox Sports Saturday gig and probably wouldn’t take a job vacated by one of his former assistants. Would that deter Texas boosters and alums? Hardly. Rich they are. Smart? Debatable.