A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:
GATORS STILL SIXTH IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF POLL
The College Football Playoff Committee has voted once again and for a second straight week the Florida Gators (7-1) are ranked sixth, one spot behind Texas A&M, which is exactly where the two teams were when the Associated Press voted on Sunday. While Gator fans may think of this as a sign of disrespect, take this into consideration: Florida has complete control over its playoff hopes. The Aggies do not.
With a win Saturday against Tennessee (2-5) in Knoxville, the Gators make it to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game where they will face #1 Alabama (8-0). Even with a loss to Tennessee (Gators are favored by 17.5 points), the Gators still make it to Atlanta if they beat LSU in Gainesville December 12. All Alabama has to do to clinch a spot in the game is beat LSU (3-4) in Baton Route Saturday night. As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, Bama was a 29.5-point favorite to clobber LSU. Should the unthinkable happen Saturday, Bama could still get to Atlanta with a win over Arkansas on December 12.
The only way the Aggies get to Atlanta is if Alabama loses two games and that just isn’t going to happen.
Florida wins the next two, then beats Alabama in Atlanta and the Gators make the playoff. If Alabama wins out in the regular season but loses to Florida, the Crimson Tide will still get in as a wild card. Count on it.
As for the Aggies, they have to win at Auburn (5-3) Saturday, then beat Tennessee (2-5) in Knoxville December 12 and Ole Miss (4-4) on December 19. The Aggies are going to smoke the Vols. Beating Auburn and Ole Miss will be dicey. Lose any one of those three and they have no playoff shot. Win all three and they still need Florida to lose to Alabama in Atlanta and for Clemson or Notre Dame to score a blowout win in the ACC Championship Game. Even then, there is that remote possibility the committee could decide Cincinnati deserves to get in if the Bearcats finish the season unbeaten.
The Gators only have to help themselves with three straight wins. Do that and there is absolutely nothing the Aggies can do.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF TOP 25: (1) Alabama 8-0; (2) Notre Dame 9-0; (3) Clemson 8-1; (4) Ohio State 4-0; (5) Texas A&M 6-1; (6) FLORIDA 7-1: (7) Cincinnati 8-0; (8) Georgia 6-2; (9) Iowa State 7-2; (10) Miami 7-1; (11) Oklahoma 6-2; (12) Indiana 5-1; (13) BYU 9-0; (14) Northwestern 5-1; (15) Oklahoma State 6-2; (16) Wisconsin 2-1; (17) North Carolina 6-3; (18) Coastal Carolina 9-0; (20) Southern Cal 3-0; (21) Marshall 7-0; (22) Washington 3-0; (23) Oregon 3-1; (24) Tulsa 5-1; (25) Louisiana 8-1
TOO MUCH RESPECT FOR OHIO STATE AND THE BIG TEN (PLUS FOUR) Ohio State has scored at least 38 points in every game so far against the likes of Nebraska (1-4), Penn State (1-5), Rutgers (2-4) and 12th-ranked Indiana (5-1). The Buckeyes beat Indiana by a touchdown on November 21. Two of their last three games have been cancelled because of the virus and there is every good chance their game with Michigan State on Saturday will also be postponed.
Indiana’s wins have come over Penn State, Rutgers, Michigan (2-4) and Michigan State (2-3). Northwestern (5-1) is ranked 14th but just got whacked by Michigan State, which would have trouble beating Vanderbilt. Wisconsin is 2-1 with three postponed games and a can’t pass the eye test loss to Northwestern yet the Badgers are ranked 16th.
Because Ohio State has (a) played only four games, (b) might not play another regular season game and (c) hasn’t beaten a decent team, the Buckeyes have no business being ranked in the top eight. Even if they finish the regular season unbeaten they won’t really have a signature win over a decent team. They’re overrated and so is the entire Big Ten (Plus Four). From what I’ve seen Ohio State is the only team in the league that would have a chance at a break even season in the SEC. That’s not SEC bias, either. All you have to do is watch for yourself. Neither the Buckeyes nor the Big Ten (Plus Four) pass the eye test no matter what Kirk Herbstreit tries to tell us.
NOT NEARLY ENOUGH RESPECT FOR #13 BYU The Cougars haven’t played a decent team. That much is true but if you’ve watched them more than once then you’re aware just how much they look like a Power Five team. They’re big, strong, mobile on both lines of scrimmage. They hit like a ton defensively and they have a QB in Zach Wilson who probably goes in the first five picks when the NFL drafts.
When everyone on the Left Coast followed the (rather stupid) lead of the Pac-12 and cancelled football, BYU elected to play on even though that meant piecing together a schedule on the fly. Instead of playing Utah, Michigan State, Arizona State, Minnesota, Missouri, Boise State and Stanford, the revised schedule included such toughies as Troy, Western Kentucky and North Alabama. When the Pac-12 and Mountain West woke up and started playing it was too late for BYU to re-schedule against good teams.
To their credit, the Cougars have scored at least 41 points in eight of their nine games. Having watched them play several games including their 51-17 stomping of Boise State, I think BYU would have stood a chance to go unbeaten against the original schedule too. That’s speculation. What isn’t speculation is they deserve better than a #13 ranking.
FINALLY, GATORS PLAY SOME BASKETBALL After four cancellations due to the Covid-19 virus, Mike White finally gets to see the Gators go head-to-head with another team against Army (3-0) at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut (2:30 p.m., ESPN2). Four Black Knights average in double figures and 11 on the roster average at least 10 minutes per game.
Three starters return from last year’s Florida team led by Keyontae Johnson (14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds), the preseason Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. He will be joined in the lineup by returning starters Noah Locke (10.6 points, 2.5 rebounds) and Scottie Lewis (8.5 points, 3.6 rebounds) along with Tre Mann (5.3 points, 1.9 rebounds) and Michigan transfer Colin Castleton.
Army’s top scorer is Josh Gray (14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds) and the top rebounder is Josh Caldwell (12.7 points, 7.0 rebounds).
Starting lineups: FLORIDA (0-0): Keyontae Johnson (6-5, 231, JR); Colin Castleton (6-10, 232, JR); Scottie Lewis (6-4, 175, SO); Noah Locke (6-2, 193, JR); Tre Mann (6-5, 191, SO)
ARMY (3-0): Charlie Peterson (6-9, 233, FR); Alex King (6-8, 210, SR); Josh Caldwell (6-2, 185, JR); Jalen Rucker (5-10, 180, FR); Lonnie Grayson (6-0, 180, SR)
TROUBLE, RIGHT HERE IN RIVER CITY On the banks of the Tennessee River, the football team at the University of Tennessee has lost five straight games. That’s bad. What’s even worse is the athletic director (Phat Phil) who hired this disaster of a coach (Jeremy Pruitt) gave said coach a raise and a contract extension so the fans (many, many) who aren’t happy (understatement) would like to burn said athletic director and said coach at the stake. As if that isn’t trouble enough, the formerly mighty (you have to go back a number of years, but yes, they were once mighty) Volunteers are 17.5-point underdogs Saturday when 6th-ranked Florida comes to town. They should be pulling all-nighters in Knoxville if the Vols keep it that close. Chances of actually playing it close took a serious hit Tuesday when starting linebacker Kivon Bennett was arrested on four charges related to drugs and possession of a firearm. Bennett, who leads the team in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (7.5) has been dismissed from the team. Back in the day when Phat Phil was the head coach, that might have resulted in suspension for the first quarter.
Bennett won’t be the only Vol missing on Saturday. Currently there are 16 players who aren’t practicing because of Covid-19. Some of them might be able to play Saturday if they test negative by Friday. At least one QB won’t be playing. Fans are hoping the QB in question is Jarrett Guarantano, who has a rather miserable 125.43 pass efficiency rating (Kyle Trask of Florida is a mere 196.79, which, by the way, is very good) and averages 6.7 yards per pass attempt.
RUMBLING, STUMBLING, BUMBLING IN THE SEC #1 ALABAMA (8-0): Unless he has another positive test for the virus, Nick Saban will be on the sideline Saturday when Alabama faces LSU in Baton Rouge.
ARKANSAS (3-5): A week after a postponement due to the virus, the Razorbacks are expected to have an almost full roster at Missouri Saturday. One player who will be missed, however, is running back Rakeem Boyd, who has decided to opt out for the rest of the season. Boyd had 82 carries for 309 yards and three touchdowns along with 10 receptions for 33 yards in seven games.
AUBURN (5-3): Cornerback Matthew Hill, who played in three games this season, has put his name in the NCAA transfer portal. The former 4-star recruit played wide receiver his first two years before moving to CB this year.
#8 GEORGIA (6-2): Georgia’s defense was once billed best in the country. That was before Alabama torched the Bulldogs for 41 points and 464 yards and Florida followed that up with 44 points and 571 yards. Florida and Alabama are a combined 15-1 this year. The other six opponents have averaged 13.3 points and 261.7 yards per game. The other six have a combined record of 17-32.
KENTUCKY (3-6): Corner Kelvin Joseph, who transferred to Kentucky from LSU, has elected to opt out for the Wildcats final game of the year against South Carolina. Joseph led the Wildcats with four interceptions and was in on 25 tackles.
LSU (3-4): The Tigers have been competing with just 59 scholarship players the last few weeks, which is why Coach O says he will be looking hard to lure grad transfers and ready-to-play jucos to go with a recruiting class that is currently ranked fourth by ESPN.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (2-6): The Bulldogs rank dead last in the country in rushing yards per game. Mississippi State’s 23.75 is more than 43 yards fewer than UMass.
MISSOURI (4-3): The story in Columbia this week is the return of former head coach Barry Odom, now the defensive coordinator at Arkansas. Mizzou’s offense averages 24.4 points and 403.6 yards per game while Odom’s defense gives up 30.9 points and 427.6 yards.
OLE MISS (4-4): Ole Miss is expected to pick up a commitment from quarterback Luke Altmyer (6-2, 190, Starkville, MS), who decommitted from Florida State on Tuesday. Altmyer was in attendance last Saturday when Ole Miss beat Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. That leaves FSU without a quarterback in its 2021 recruiting class.
SOUTH CAROLINA (2-7): Sophomore running back Kevin Harris needs 72 yards against Kentucky Saturday to reach 1,000 for the season. Harris, who has 14 rushing touchdowns, ran for 179 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman last year.
#5 TEXAS A&M (6-1): The Aggies have the top-ranked defense in the SEC, giving up 328 yards per game. The Aggies give up 87.14 yards on the ground and 240.9 yards passing.
VANDERBILT (0-8): A couple of names that might figure prominently in Vandy’s coach search are Alabama running backs coach Charles Huff and Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. Huff worked as a quality control assistant for James Franklin at Vanderbilt in 2010 and coached running backs for Franklin at Penn State from 2014-17. Gattis also has ties to Alabama and to Franklin. He coached wide receivers for Franklin at Vandy in 2012-13 and at Penn State from 2014-17. He was the co-offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2018.
PITHY ON WEDNESDAY: This comes from Jason Whitlock of Outkickthecoverage.com, who said this about Vanderbilt sending Sarah Fuller out to kick off to start the second half of last Saturday’s 41-0 loss to Missouri: “The people who hate football and the people who spent the whole summer trying to cancel college football over COVID concerns came together to celebrate the game Saturday. Sarah Fuller briefly made football socially acceptable for America’s most ardent virtue-signalers. That was her primary accomplishment, pleasing Make A Wish America.”