Thoughts of the Day: December 18, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning: From the movie Dumb and Dumber …

Lloyd Christmas: What are my chances? Mary Swanson: Not good. Lloyd Christmas: You mean not good like one out of a hundred? Mary Swanson: I’d say more like one out of a million.

Lloyd Christmas: So you’re telling me there’s a chance! Yeah!


The 7th-ranked Florida Gators (8-2), champions of the SEC East Division, play top-ranked and unbeaten Alabama (10-0), champions of the SEC West, Saturday night in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Gators are 17-point underdogs. Most of the national pundits think Las Vegas is low-balling us with that point spread. They think the Gators are going to suffer a beatdown the likes of Florida’s 62-24 national championship loss to Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl after the 1995 season.


If you simply go by the last five games, Alabama has gotten progressively better each outing while Florida has spun its wheels in four of them, crashed and burned in last week’s rather stunning upset at the hands of an LSU team Bama whipped 55-17 only a week before. Bama, to put it bluntly, is sizzling hot on both sides of the football. Florida, on the other hand, is playing like a team that has allowed boredom to catch up with them.


The experts seem to think that if Alabama plays like it has in the last five games, not only is it an easy win but it could also secure an unprecedented 1-2-3 finish for the Heisman Trophy between QB Mac Jones (27 touchdown passes), WR Devonta Smith (15 touchdown catches) and RB Najee Harris (21 rushing touchdowns).


Kyle Trask? He’s the guy that seemed to need only the engraver to show up to put his name on the Heisman before maybe the worst game of his career last week against LSU. He threw a pick six, threw an interception that killed off a drive that was headed for a TD and then fumbled to give LSU a chance to kick a field goal on the last play of the first half. The Gators lost by three, Trask’s Heisman Trophy chances went on life-support and whatever anyone thought Florida’s chances were to score an upset over Big Bad Bama went the way of Lloyd Christmas.


When the Gators take the field Saturday night for their anticipated beatdown, this won’t be the first time folks have under-estimated Kyle Trask. They’ve been doing it since he was in the ninth grade, the last time he started a football game before his career was pulled out of the deep freeze in the fourth quarter of game three against Kentucky in 2019. Florida was down 11 in Lexington that night when Feleipe Franks dislocated and fractured his ankle. Nobody thought Trask could get it done then and all he did was lead the Gators to an improbable 19 straight as the Gators came from behind to win 29-21.


The Kentucky game was supposed to be a fluke. It was supposedly a matter of when not if Dan Mullen would re-introduce Trask to his ball cap and clipboard in favor of Emery Jones. The Gators would be lucky to go 6-6. If that.


One-by-one Trask kept proving people wrong. He put together the best season for a Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009 while taking the Gators to an 11-2 record, a second straight New Years Six bowl win and a second straight top ten finish. Along the way, he proved he could bounce back just fine from adversity (see losses to LSU and Georgia).


Every time we think Trask has run through all the magic woofie dust that has been keeping his fairytale career plugging along, he does something rather extraordinary to remind us that maybe – just like when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor (if you haven’t figured this one out, rent a copy of Animal House, please) – it won’t be over until he says it’s over.


Maybe Trask’s chances are one in a million Saturday night. Maybe this Alabama team is better than the LSU team that a lot of experts say is one of the two or three best teams in the history of college football. Trask, if you recall, lit up LSU for 311 yards and four touchdowns in Baton Rouge. He gave Florida a fighter’s chance to win that game.


I remember all too well that night in Baton Rouge last year. I remember all too well how Trask neutered a Georgia defense that was supposed to be the best in the country back on November 7. I know what he can do when he gets it going.


I also think this is precisely the kind of game Kyle Trask needs. People are doubting him once again and what he’s shown in going 16-4 in 20 starts is that he thrives on the doubts of others. Is there a better way to dispel the doubts than plunge an 8-inch stiletto through the heart of an Alabama fan base with the whole nation watching on CBS?


Before you count the Gators out, remember the words of Lloyd Christmas: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” It might not be the greatest chance in the world, but it is a chance. The Sayer Says Sooth: The Gator in me says pick Florida in what will go down as the biggest upset of 2020 and maybe one of the bigger upsets of the last decade or so. My heart says Gators. My head asks are you crazy? I’m compromising. I believe Trask will play lights out, that Kyle Pitts will do some things that make people believe they are watching the greatest tight end in the history of college football and that Kadarius Toney will remind the Crimson Tide that he’s an Alabama boy who knows how to play football. I believe the Gators are going to score enough points to win but I’m not sure the defense can get enough stops. Alabama 42, Florida 38


KEYONTAE IMPROVING; THREE GAMES POSTPONED

While Keyontae Johnson continues to show daily improvement at Shands the emotional toll that his hospitalization has taken on the Florida basketball team has forced more cancellations. Games with Florida Atlantic (Saturday), FAMU (Sunday) and James Madison (Tuesday) have been postponed which will allow the Gators to get a grip on emotions plus allow the team to go home for the holidays.


In a statement for the media Thursday, UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said, “Keyontae Johnson continues to show encouraging signs of progress as he undergoes tests and further evaluation at UF Health. He and his family have again expressed their gratitude for the outpouring of love, prayers and well-wishes.”


With these three games postponed, the Gators (3-1) won’t play again until December 30 when they open SEC play in Nashville against Vanderbilt.


THE SEC SOOTHSAYER

#5 TEXAS A&M (7-1) at TENNESSEE (3-6): This will become known as the game before the purge, as in the beatdown suffered by the Vols at the hands of the Aggies will lead Jeremy Pruitt to fire just about everybody on his staff. That is what folks are expecting and it is actually one of the dumber things that could be done. Pruitt isn’t going to be fired because Phattus Maximus isn’t going to admit until he absolutely, positively has to that he is absolutely clueless as an athletic director and he is the guy who hired JP. But, it will make for a good show. Pruitt will fire people left and right, tell the Big Orange Nation that he’s he’s head coached good but the fired guys assistant coached bad. Once that happens who in his right mind would want to go work for Jeremy Pruitt? The Sayer Says Sooth: Texas A&M needs a whole lot of positive things to happen to get into the College Football Playoff and it starts by beating Tennessee at Neyland Stadium. Lose and there is no chance whatsoever to get in. Win and it still won’t be easy but there will at least be a chance. If Pruitt had a clue this would be a winnable game for the Vols. He hasn’t a clue. It isn’t winnable. Texas A&M 37, Tennessee 17


OLE MISS (4-4) at LSU (4-5): Just think, if Florida Atlantic hadn’t come calling in 2017, Lane Kiffin would have been Coach O’s offensive coordinator and maybe we wouldn’t have this rather fun Lane Train vs. Coach O matchup on the final weekend of the regular season. The Lane Train can put a whole bunch of points on the scoreboard. LSU isn’t that great offensively, but the Tigers will look rather efficient Saturday when they go against an Ole Miss defense that does a weekly impersonation of Dunkirk (if they haven’t rewritten the history books then you should be able to look that up). Ole Miss will score 40 or more than put up about 600 yards on LSU. LSU will probably do the same. Whoever gets the ball last probably wins and Coach O and Lane will become buddies again. The Sayer Says Sooth: LSU can avoid the embarrassment of a losing season one year removed from an unbeaten national championship by winning Saturday afternoon. Ole Miss can do what was thought to be unthinkable and get to five wins. If Matt Corral can remember he’s supposed to throw to the people wearing the same color shirt he’s wearing Ole Miss could win in a blowout. If he doesn’t LSU has a chance. Ole Miss 44, LSU 41


MISSOURI (5-4) at MISSISSIPPI STATE (2-7): The last thing anybody expected was for Mizzou to win five this year. The next to last thing anybody expected was for Mike Leach and the Air Raid to look like the poster children for “Football for Dummies.” Eli Drinkwitz should be a runaway winner of SEC Coach of the Year for making Mizzou respectable. Strangely, the Tigers are only a 1-point favorite, which tells us that the folks in Vegas are expecting this one to go ugly early in the rain and chilly weather in Starkville. The Sayer Says Sooth: Missouri can run the football, which is why the Tigers should win this one. Larry Rountree III can surpass 1,000 yards with a big game (he needs 149 yards). Mississippi State can’t run the football and for about the eighth straight game the Bulldogs are going to go against a three-man rush, drop eight into coverage defense. Missouri 30, Mississippi State 24


A FEW OTHER THOUGHTS, SOME OF THEM PITHY: Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, where Hawaii plays its home games and bowl games are held, is expected to be condemned. A new stadium has been planned but isn’t scheduled to be finished until 2023. And here you were thinking Vanderbilt Stadium is about as bad as it gets … After the Big Ten (Plus Four) changed its requirements so that Ohio State could play for the league title even though the Buckeyes have only played five games, I think most of America will be happier than any two clams if Northwestern would win the championship game in Indianapolis … Why do I think Tulsa (6-1) is going to make life miserable for unbeaten and 9th-ranked Cincinnati (8-0) in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game? … Auburn can forget about hiring Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, who signed a 6-year extension worth $4.5 million a year … Speaking of Auburn, it seems the new coach will be either Louisiana HBC Billy Napier or AU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. It it’s Steele, Auburn is going to regret firing Gus Malzahn … The Fun Belt Sun Belt canceled its championship game because of a positive test within the Coastal Carolina (11-0) program. Coastal and Louisiana (9-1) will be recognized as co-champs.

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