Thoughts of the Day: December 9, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:

In their 31-19 win over Tennessee last week, the 6th-ranked Gators ran the ball for 19 yards, a total not lost on both Florida fans and the national media. Everybody seems so upset about Florida’s running game. Well, everyone but the only person whose opinion really counts.


Dan Mullen doesn’t think it’s such a big deal although he probably does wish the Gators had blocked better in the running game.


The Gators ran 66 plays against Tennessee. Kyle Trask threw the ball 49 times, completing 35 for 433 yards and four touchdowns. The Gators only ran the ball 17 times.


Asked about the high number of passes and the lack of rushing attempts, Mullen responded Monday, “And a couple of them were sacks (2 for -11 yards), right? Because they count as rushes. So we really didn't run the ball that much and a couple of them were at the end of the game when we were trying to kill the clock, too. So if we ran the ball 40 times and didn't have many yards, that would probably go into the concern area. The fact that we weren't really trying to run it doesn't really throw it into my concern area."


Heading into the game, Mullen wasn’t planning on running the ball all that much. He figured Tennessee would try to stuff the run, get after the quarterback and zone up against the passing game. The strategy might have worked against other quarterbacks, but Trask got enough time to find holes in the secondary. The results might not have been as spectacular as some previous games but it’s hard to argue with 433 passing yards and four touchdown passes.


Trask found tight end Kyle Pitts seven times for 128 yards, Kadarius Toney eight times for 108 yards and a TD, Trevon Grimes six times for 52 yards and two touchdowns and Jacob Copeland three times for 53 yards and the fourth scoring pass of the game.


To use a worn out cliché, Mullen and the Gators took what the Tennessee defense gave them.


“I don't think we really tried to run the ball very much,” Mullen said. “So, we can go spend a lot of time and we can go run the ball. We'll find a way to run the ball and go do it, you know, probably small the game down, ball control, grind it out. But that doesn't really fit the strength of our team right now when we have success throwing it and can matchups all over the field that cause problems for people. So I think it's a lot about what we want to do. It'd be one thing if ... I didn't look at the numbers, I don't think we were run efficient. That was disappointing."


Mullen has a history of adapting his offense to his personnel. He’s had plenty of teams that ran it as much as they threw it although the last two seasons at Florida the offense has been more pass heavy, largely because he’s got a pure pocket passer in Trask who is probably the most accurate he’s ever coached.


But whether it’s running the ball or throwing it, the one thing Mullen expects is excellent execution.


“No, we just gotta execute better, you know I mean?” he said. “Like, I don't know that we were very good last week offensively, to be honest with you. You know, I mean, which is kind of I guess hard to say, I think - it's not to say we weren't very good, I think we missed a lot of opportunities last week.

I think we had three possessions start on the plus side of the field with zero points,” Mullen said. “I mean you should be 100% at that. So, I think we left 21 points out there on the field that we should have had.”


Had the Gators lit the Vols up for three more touchdowns, they would have hung 52 on the Neyland Stadium scoreboard. That would have probably quieted the critics, but Mullen might have sung the exact same tune when he met the media. He is a perfectionist so he would have found something to nitpick.


COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF POLL: WEEK THREE: (1) Alabama 9-0; (2) Notre Dame 10-0; (3) Clemson 9-1; (4) Ohio State 5-0; (5) Texas A&M 7-1; (6) FLORIDA 8-1; (7) Iowa State 8-2; (8) Cincinnati 8-0; (9) Georgia 6-2; (10) Miami 8-1; (11) Oklahoma 7-2; (12) Indiana 6-1; (13) Coastal Carolina 10-0; (14) Northwestern 5-1; (15) Southern Cal 4-0; (16) Iowa 5-2; (17) North Carolina 7-3; (18) BYU 9-1; (19) Louisiana 9-1; (20 Texas 6-3; (21) Colorado 4-0; (22) Oklahoma State 6-3; (23) North Carolina State 8-3; (24) Tulsa 6-1; (25) Missouri 5-3


POLL REACTIONS Ohio State’s game with Michigan was canceled Tuesday but that shouldn’t affect the Buckeyes’ chances of making the College Football Playoff because the Big Ten isn't going to let an undefeated team miss the playoff. So if the Big Ten holds steady with its requirement of six games to make the Big Ten Championship Game, Ohio State will go to the playoff as a 5-0 team. Count on it. That might cause a stir in Indiana where the 12th-ranked Hoosiers (6-1) came within a TD of knocking off the mighty Buckeyes, but the higher ups in the league aren’t going to care. They know Ohio State is the Big Ten’s only chance to win a national championship so figure this: Even if they play only five games, the Buckeyes will be in the playoff. If the six-game rule is waived, they'll make the league title game needing only a win over Northwestern to make the playoff. You could call it Big Ten bias and you wouldn’t be wrong, but in this season in which there aren’t enough tourniquets to stop the cash bleed the committee understands fully well what Ohio State in the playoff can mean. I think Alabama, Texas A&M or Florida from the SEC and both Clemson and Notre Dame would beat Ohio State if they played. I also think a team that has played only six games shouldn’t make the playoff but this is a pandemic year and the committee is going to make darn sure it gets four teams that bring the ratings. If the Buckeyes are the unbeaten Big Ten champs they will be in the playoff. Period. End of story.


I do think the Aggies would beat Ohio State in a head-to-head matchup but the Buckeyes are in as long as they are unbeaten. Barring a scenario in which Alabama beats Florida in the SEC Championship Game and Clemson embarrasses Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game, the Aggies will have to settle for a New Year’s Six matchup, most likely in the Cotton Bowl.


Georgia (6-2) dropped one spot but the Poodles are still in the top ten. I have no doubt they would put the kibosh on Iowa State, which is ranked seventh but that doesn’t mean either Georgia or Iowa State belong in the top ten.

Somebody tell me how it is that two-loss Iowa State – which will probably lose for a third time to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game on December 19 – is six spots higher than Coastal Carolina, which is unbeaten, has a power five win and a win over then unbeaten BYU; and 12 spots better than once-beaten Louisiana, which poleaxed the Cyclones in the season-opener?


If you’re going to have two-loss team in this playoff poll, it ought to be Oklahoma. The Sooners losses are by a combined 10 points and they are currently working on a 6-game winning streak in which the average margin of victory is 25.8 points.


Cincinnati is still unbeaten (8-0) but the Bearcats dropped a spot behind two-loss Iowa State. I’ve seen both teams and wouldn’t hesitate to pick Cincinnati to beat Iowa State head-to-head, but the Bearcats didn’t play last week and their Saturday game with 24th-ranked Tulsa has been canceled. When you’re from the Group of Five, you need that exposure and you can’t afford to have a game with a ranked team canceled.


RUMBLING, STUMBLING, BUMBLING IN THE SEC #1 ALABAMA (9-0): Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is a semifinalist for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach. Alabama leads the nation in scoring and ranks X in total offense. In his two years as the OC, Alabama has scored at least


ARKANSAS (3-6): No word yet on who Arkansas will start at quarterback this week against #1 Alabama. Feleipe Franks didn’t play last week against Missouri because of a rib injury. In his place, redshirt freshman K.J. Jefferson played very, very well.


AUBURN (5-4): Auburn is getting very little respect from Las Vegas. The Tigers are 6.5-point road favorites at Mississippi State Saturday. Although it’s expected that the Tigers will win the game and that Gus Malzahn will return next season, a loss to MSU could change those plans.


#9 GEORGIA (6-2): Running back Kendall Milton and defensive tackle Jordan Davis could play against Missouri. All-American safety Richard LeCounte is practicing but is highly unlikely to play.


KENTUCKY (3-7): The search for a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach is on. Kentucky HBC Mark Stoops and athletic director Mitch Barnhart have committed to spend top dollar to lure better assistants than the fired Eddie Gran and Darrin Hinshaw.


LSU (3-5): There are some fairly good reasons why LSU is in the midst of a monumental collapse but they begin with the fact that 34 players from last year’s national championship team aren’t with the Tigers at this moment. Sixteen players are cashing NFL paychecks while others transferred or opted out for 2020. Currently the Tigers have around 63 scholarship players on the roster.


MISSISSIPPI STATE (2-6): Although it’s been announced that QB KJ Costello will play in the East-West Shrine Bowl game, HBC Mike Leach says there are ongoing discussions with Costello about possibly returning next season since the NCAA ruled that 2020 will not count against anyone’s eligibility.


#25 MISSOURI (5-3): Tre Williams, who had 21 tackles and two sacks in eight games, has left the team and is exploring options somewhere other than Missouri.


OLE MISS (4-4): Grant Tisdale, a former 4-star quarterback recruit who was moved to wide receiver by the previous coach (Matt Luke) has placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal with the hope of playing QB once again. Ole Miss has a full QB room with Matt Corral, John Rhys Plumlee and Kinkead Dean. Last week freshman QB Kade Renfro also placed his name in the transfer portal.


SOUTH CAROLINA (3-7): Wide receiver Shi Smith (57-633, 4 TDs) and linebacker Ernest Jones (86 tackles, 5 tackles for loss) are leaving for the NFL.


TENNESSEE (2-6): Apparently, HBC Jeremy Pruitt has moved on past Jarrett Guarantano. This week, Pruitt plans to go with Harrison Bailey and JT Shrout at QB when the Vols play Vanderbilt in Nashville. Guarantano isn’t going to be drafted by any NFL team so figure he’ll be a grad transfer. Sophomore Brian Maurer could be putting his name into the NCAA transfer portal as well.


#5 TEXAS A&M (7-1): With the other 12 SEC teams all playing this weekend, there was no wiggle room for commish Greg Sankey to work out something so that the Aggies could get some style points for the College Football Playoff Committee after the postponement of their game with Ole Miss.


VANDERBILT (0-8): Vanderbilt has interviewed Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea, a former Vandy linebacker, for its vacant head coach job. There are plans to interview Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell, Charlotte’s Will Healy and Army’s Jeff Monken. It is also believed that Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold might be interested.


MEANWHILE AT MICHIGAN …

The soap opera that is Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at his alma mater has taken a brand new twist and it’s really juicy. There is a report that Michigan AD Warde Manuel has offered Harbaugh a contract extension (he has 13 months remaining on his $8 million a year deal) with a lower salary and buyout but with incentives that could raise his pay. The same report says that at least five NFL teams are interested in hiring Harbaugh. This report runs contrary to one by Paul Finebaum a few weeks ago. Finebaum said that Michigan and Harbaugh had agreed to part ways.


PARTING PITHY SHOT: Boise State is making noise about leaving the Mountain West Conference. The only problem is where would the Broncos go? The American Athletic Conference needs a 12th team but Boise is so far away that it would add a serious financial burden due to increased expenses. The American isn’t a deep enough pockets league to absorb that kind of hit. Leaving the MWC might sound good but it’s not practical at least until there is a breakaway from the NCAA by the Division I football schools. When that happens we may see another wave of realignment, but not until. So for now, Boise can make all the noise it wants because nobody is listening.





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