A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:
Can we get real for just a moment? Prior to the Tennessee Vols scoring two fourth quarter touchdowns and gaining 190 yards against a mishmash of starters and backups, the Gators were playing as well as they had on defense all season. Up to that point, the Gators had allowed just 148 total yards and a single touchdown.
Maybe a 31-19 win over a not so good Tennessee (2-6) team isn’t going to rank up there with some of the great victories in Florida football history, but it was solid and it accomplished the single most important goal of all – it clinched the East Division championship of the Southeastern Conference and assured the Gators of their first trip to Atlanta since 2016. Additionally, it ensured that Georgia will be sitting home, blaming Jamie Newman for a season gone bad instead of asking why it is “the best defense in the nation” (per Poodle fans) gave up a collective 85 points and 1,135 yards to the only two decent teams they faced all year (Florida and Alabama).
Offensively, the Gators didn’t run the ball at all against the Vols – a rather pitiful 19 yards – and Kyle Trask wasn’t at his sharpest even though he did go 35-49 for 433 yards and four touchdowns. Think about it for a second. Trask wasn’t at his best yet he still had his third 400-yard passing game of the season and seventh with at least four touchdown passes. Eight of his completions went to Kadarius Toney for 108 yards and a TD; another seven to Kyle Pitts for 128 yards. Trevon Grimes caught six for 52 yards and two TDs. Jacob Copeland had three catches for 57 yards and a TD. He would have had two except Grimes intercepted the intended pass for his second score.
Could the Gators have scored at least a couple more touchdowns? Sure. Could the defense have gotten off the field in the fourth quarter after it was 31-7 and the game was safe and secure. Of course. But don’t let the final 11 minutes of the game cloud your judgment. Really, don’t even judge at all except for the outcome. Florida totally outclassed the Vols. Sure, the running game is a concern but Dan Mullen will have a chance to pound it a bit this week against LSU, which hasn’t stopped the run against anyone except Mississippi State.
The Gators definitely need to get some momentum back next week because they will need it in Atlanta against Alabama. Once again, the important thing against Tennessee was get the win. Mission accomplished. Florida goes to Atlanta on December 19. On that same day Georgia will be playing Vanderbilt.
ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL: (1) Alabama 9-0; (2) Notre Dame 10-0; (3) Ohio State 5-0; (4) Clemson 9-1; (5) Texas A&M 7-1; (6) FLORIDA 8-1; (7) Cincinnati 8-0; (8) Indiana 6-1; (9) Miami 8-1; (10) Iowa State 8-2; (11) Coastal Carolina 10-0; (12) Georgia 6-2; (13) Oklahoma 7-2; (14) BYU 9-1; (15) Northwestern 5-1; (16) Southern Cal 3-0; (17) Louisiana 9-1; (18) Tulsa 6-1; (19) Iowa 5-2; (20) North Carolina 7-3; (21) Colorado 4-0; (22) Liberty 9-1; (23) Texas 6-3; (24) Buffalo 4-0; (25) Wisconsin 2-2
COACHES TOP 25 POLL: (1) Alabama 9-0; (2) Notre Dame 10-0; (3) Clemson 9-1; (4) Ohio State 5-0; (50 Texas A&M 7-1; (6) FLORIDA 8-1; (7) Cincinnati 8-0; (8) Miami 8-1; (9) Indiana 6-1; (10) Georgia 6-2; (11) Iowa State 8-2; (12) Oklahoma 7-2; (13) Coastal Carolina 10-0; (14) Northwestern 5-1; (15) Southern Cal 3-0; (16) BYU 9-1; (17) Louisiana 9-1; (18) Iowa 5-2; (19) Tulsa 6-1; (20) North Carolina 7-3; (21) Liberty 9-1; (22) Colorado 4-0; (23) Texas 6-3; (24) North Carolina State 8-3; (25) Wisconsin 2-2
GATORS IMPROVE TO 3-0 WITH EASY WIN OVER STETSON There might have been more competition in a full court scrimmage than what Florida got Sunday when the Gators blew out Stetson 86-40 at the O-Dome, but right now it’s important for Mike White to figure out rotations and see his guys going against unfamiliar faces even if the opponent is bad and Stetson is bad. In improving to 3-0, the Gators played all 13 scholarship players and two walk-ons as 11 players logged 10 or more minutes.
Keyontae Johnson led four Gators in double figures with 19 points in 22 minutes. With a 5-6 effort from the three-point line, Noah Locke added 15 points while Tre Mann hit double figures for the third straight game with 10. Scottie Lewis had the best all-around game for UF with 10 points and game-highs in rebounds (10) and assists (6).
The Gators hit 45.2% from the field, 39.1% from the three-point line and 21-24 from the foul line. Florida forced 23 Stetson turnovers that were converted into 24 points.
Next up for the Gators is Florida State in Tallahassee next Saturday morning (11 a.m., ESPNU).
RUMBLING, STUMBLING, BUMBLING IN THE SEC #1 ALABAMA (9-0): Devonta Smith (8-231 receiving) and Najee Harris (21-145 rushing) became the first two players to score three touchdowns each in the same game in Alabama football history. QB Mac Jones also threw for 385 yards and four TDs. For the season Smith has 80 catches for 1,305 yards and 15 TDs. Harris has 1,038 rushing yards for 20 touchdowns. Jones has thrown for 3,113 yards and 27 touchdown passes.
Next week: at Arkansas (3-6)
ARKANSAS (3-6): Even with Feleipe Franks sidelined with a rib injury, the Arkansas offense racked up 566 yards and 49 points behind freshman redshirt freshman QB KJ Jefferson (274 passing yards, 3 TDPs; 32 rushing yards, 1 TD) in a last-second loss to Missouri. It was the defense of coordinator Barry Odom, formerly the HBC at Mizzou, that did the Razorbacks in. Arkansas gave up 380 passing yards and 273 on the ground. Next week: vs. #1 Alabama (9-0)
AUBURN (5-4): Back-to-back losses to Alabama and Texas A&M make a coaching change possible even though the school is swimming in red ink. Gus Malzahn has a $21,450,000 buyout but Auburn has wealth enough alums to cover the cost if the decision is made to part ways with the Gus Bus.
Next week: at Mississippi State (2-7)
#12 GEORGIA (6-2): Georgia thinks JT Daniels will be back for the 2021 season. That’s quite possible but it’s also possible Daniels will declare for the NFL Draft or transfer somewhere else. If he elects to stay, it’s highly possible freshman Carson Beck will join D’Wan Mathis in the transfer portal. And what will hotshot recruit Brock Vandagriff do? If Daniels stays does he bolt since Daniels has three (count ‘em) years of eligibility remaining (2020 doesn’t count against anyone’s eligibility)? Next week: at Missouri (5-3)
KENTUCKY (4-6): Kentucky is seeking new direction for its offense. Coordinator Eddie Gran and QB coach Darin Hinshaw have been pink slipped.
LSU (3-5): There are plenty of questions for LSU but one that nobody seems to be talking about openly is what to do about Myles Brennan? He threw for 11 touchdowns and averaged 370.7 yards per game when he got hurt against Missouri. Freshmen TJ Finley and Max Johnson have shown plenty of potential as Brennan’s replacement but will they stick around if Brennan (two years of eligibility remaining) wants to come back? Does Coach O want Brennan back? Next week: at #6 FLORIDA (8-1)
MISSISSIPPI STATE (2-7): Jack Kristofek, a D1AA redshirt freshman QB from Sam Houston State, is transferring to Mississippi State. In his last two high school seasons in Dallas, Kristofek threw for 6,530 yards and 84 touchdowns.
Next week: vs. Auburn (5-4)
MISSOURI (5-3): By beating Arkansas, 50-49, on the last play of the game Saturday, Missouri guaranteed a break-even regular season. Back in August there were questions whether the Tigers could win more than 1-2 games. The win also made it a no-brainer that Eli Drinkwitz will be selected SEC Coach of the Year.
Next week: vs. #12 Georgia (6-2)
OLE MISS (4-4): Ole Miss won’t be resuming team activities until Wednesday after taking a pause for Covid-19 protocols. That will leave the Rebels two days to prep for their roadie to College Station for 5th-ranked Texas A&M.
Next week: at #5 Texas A&M (7-1)
SOUTH CAROLINA (3-7): There is a double dose of good news for the Gamecocks. First, the season has come to a merciful end. Second, and actually more important, Oklahoma associate head coach and special teams coordinator Shane Beamer will be named the new head coach. Beamer was Steve Spurrier’s best recruiter from 2007-10 when he lined up much of the talent that won 42 games in four years, the best run in South Carolina history.
TENNESSEE (2-6): CBS television analyst made this observation about the state of the Tennessee football program Saturday when the Vols lost for the 15th time in 16 years to the Gators – “Jeremy Pruitt thinks the gap is closing. It just doesn’t show on film and I don’t think it’s a lack of talent.” Pruitt is now 15-18 in three seasons.
Next week: at Vanderbilt (0-8)
#5 TEXAS A&M (7-1): Isaiah Spiller ran for 120 yards against Auburn, his sixth 100-yard game of the season. Other than Alabama’s Najee Harris, he is probably the best running back in the SEC and is on the short list of the best backs in the country. Spiller has 897 yards and six touchdowns with two games to go. Next week: vs. Ole Miss (4-4)
VANDERBILT (0-8): Georgia assistant Scott Cochran, the former Alabama strength and conditioning coordinator, has had contact with Vanderbilt in regard to the head coaching vacancy. Cochran interviewed for the Southern Miss head job which went to Tulane offensive coordinator Will Hall. Next week: vs. Tennessee (2-6)
NON-SEC TACKLE FOOTBALL GOINGS ON
BYU (9-1) lost its first game of the season Saturday on the teal turf at Coastal Carolina (10-0). As well as Coastal played, much credit must go to BYU, which agreed to play that game last Wednesday when Liberty had to cancel due to the virus. To agree to a game on Wednesday and three days later play that game 2,211 miles away says plenty about BYU. It also says plenty about the stupidity of our scheduling processes. I’m not one to buy into this notion that we have to schedule years in advance. I know there are extenuating circumstances in 2020, but if things can be done this quickly in a year in which things are going sideways in too many places, then it’s possible to give us decent scheduling a year or even months in advance.
There is a Sunday night report that Urban Meyer told Texas thankee but no thankee and that he is unlikely to ever coach again due to health reasons.
Notre Dame’s decision to join the ACC for football this season was made out of convenience when the Big Ten (Plus Four) and Pac-12 did their temporary opt out. The Irish are members of the ACC in all sports but football but now that they’ve gone 10-0 to secure a spot in the ACC Championship Game opposite Clemson (9-1) maybe it’s time to say good-bye to playing as an independent and join the league full-time for football. The ACC would be all too happy to let Notre Dame keep its home game television contract with NBC and since the league only plays eight conference games, Notre Dame could continue its longstanding rivalry with Southern Cal. This seems like a no-brainer.
Marshall’s dream of an unbeaten season came crashing down at the hands of Rice, 20-0. The Thundering Herd played like a team that had its last two games postponed because of the virus. QB Grant Wells completed five passes to the Rice defense.
South Alabama has fired head coach Steve Campbell. Keep an eye on Tennessee assistant head coach Tee Martin, a native of Mobile, and Indiana DC Kane Wommack, who was the South Alabama DC a few years back.
A PITHY COMMENT OR TWO ON A MONDAY: Upon hearing that backup QB Jack Tuttle had led then 12th-ranked Indiana past then 16th-ranked Wisconsin, I couldn’t help but think about one of the two or three-best episodes of M*A*S*H. If you are too young to have watched the show or your recall fails you, check out the full episode on youtube.com … It has been a bad year for SEC officials and the folks in the replay booth. Check out video of the “targeting” call that got Mizzou linebacker Nick Bolton ejected. Phantom! Maybe Greg Sankey gets a decent coordinator of officials in the offseason, one who demands far more accountability. From what I’ve seen more than a few of them need to either go back to zebra school or be fired.