WHERE THE ATHLETIC RATES DAN MULLEN
Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman of The Athletic each offered their rating of the top 25 coaches in all of college football. I’ll give you their lists before I chime in, particularly on where they rate Dan Mullen.
Stewart Mandel’s 25 Best Coaches 1A. Nick Saban, Alabama; 1B. Dabo Swinney, Clemson; 3. Ed Orgeron, LSU; 4, Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma; 5. Kirby Smart, Georgia; 6. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; 7. James Franklin, Penn State; 8. DAN MULLEN, FLORIDA; 9. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin; 10. Bill Clark, UAB; 11. Kyle Whittingham, Utah; 12. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota; 13. Mario Cristobal, Oregon; 14. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M; 15. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy; 16. Mark Stoops, Kentucky; 17. Jeff Monken, Army; 18. Scott Satterfield, Louisville; 19. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa; 20. Mike Leach, Mississippi State; 21. David Shaw, Stanford; 22. Bryan Harsin, Boise State; 23. Mike Norvell, Florida State; 24. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati; 25. Matt Campbell, Iowa State.
Bruce Feldman’s 25 Best Coaches 1. Nick Saban, Alabama; 2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson; 3. James Franklin, Penn State; 4. Ed Orgeron, LSU; 5. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma; 6. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M; 7. Kirby Smart, Georgia; 8. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; 9. Kyle Whittingham, Utah; 10. Scott Satterfield, Louisville; 11. Gary Patterson, TCU; 12. Mike Leach, Mississippi State; 13. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa; 14. DAN MULLEN, FLORIDA; 15. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota; 16. Matt Campbell, Iowa State; 17. David Shaw, Stanford; 18. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan; 19. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin; 20. Lance Leipold, Buffalo; 21. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State; 22. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy; 23. Chip Kelly, UCLA; 24. Mario Cristobal, Oregon; 25. Mike Norvell, Florida State.
Okay, I’ll start with Mullen. What he did at Mississippi State is phenomenal. What he’s done to resurrect Florida in just two years is even more phenomenal. I don’t think either of these guys have a clue just how bad a course Jim McElwain had the Gators on once the NFL defense Will Muschamp left behind either graduated or left for the pros. I think Mandel having him at eight isn’t that far off, but I would rate him better than Brian Kelly and James Franklin. I don’t think Kirby is the fifth best coach in college football. What LSU did to Georgia in 2018 and then in 2019 in the SEC Championship Game should have proven that. Jimbo Fisher has a national championship to his credit and he’s got the Aggies extremely close to becoming a serious threat to Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. Seriously? Bryan Harsin is ranked behind Mario Cristobal, Scott Satterfield and David Shaw?
As for Bruce Feldman, he lost me at James Franklin ranked third. Then he put Scott Satterfield and Gary Patterson ahead of Dan Mullen. Good coaches, but better than Mullen? He does have Jimbo at sixth which is close to where he should be. Chip Kelly at 23? Oh please. Maybe eight years ago.
A CHANCE TO FINISH ALL ALONE IN SECOND PLACE
Two or three weeks ago the Florida Gators (19-11, 11-6 SEC) finishing all alone in second place in the SEC seemed a bit preposterous yet after Wednesday night, it’s entirely possible. Should the Gators beat 6th-ranked Kentucky (24-6, 14-3 SEC) Saturday afternoon and both LSU and Auburn lose, the Gators finish the regular season all alone in second. If Florida, LSU and Auburn all win, it’s a three-way tie for second.
From a practical standpoint, Florida needs to finish among the top four in the regular season standings to get the double-bye at next week’s SEC Tournament. With a win Saturday, the Gators are assured of not playing until next Friday’s quarter-finals in Nashville. The Gators can lose to Kentucky and still finish in the top four in the league but they will have to have help from Ole Miss for that to happen since Mississippi State owns the tiebreaker over UF. Ole Miss, which already owns a 25-point win over Mississippi State in Oxford, can ensure the Gators get the double bye with a win in Starkville Saturday.
Now, if you are into chaos, then consider this: If Florida, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State all lose Saturday and South Carolina wins, then there will be a five-way tie for second place.
Here’s my take on the weekend: I like Florida to beat Kentucky at the O-Dome. I think LSU beats Georgia in Baton Rouge. I like Tennessee to beat Auburn in Knoxville and Ole Miss to beat Mississippi State in Starkville. If that happens the Gators will finish in a tie for second with LSU and they’ll have a two-day bye. Auburn will finish in fourth.
Duruji honored: Louisiana Tech transfer Anthony Duruji, who is sitting out this season due to NCAA transfer rules, was honored as a member of the SEC Community Service Team. Even though he can’t play, he’s endeared himself to the community with his active participation in several programs including volunteering at a domestic violence shelter.
SEC BASKETBALL Saturday’s games #6 Kentucky (24-6, 14-3 SEC) at FLORIDA (19-11, 11-6 SEC), CBS #17 Auburn (24-6, 11-6 SEC) at Tennessee (17-13, 9-8 SEC), ESPN2 South Carolina (18-12, 10-7 SEC) at Vanderbilt (10-20, 2-15 SEC), SEC Network Georgia (15-15, 5-12 SEC) at LSU (20-10, 11-6 SEC), ESPN2 Alabama (16-14, 8-9 SEC) at Missouri (14-16, 6-11 SEC), SEC Network
Arkansas (19-11, 7-10 SEC) at Texas A&M (15-14, 9-8 SEC), SEC Network Ole Miss (15-15, 6-11 SEC) at Mississippi State (19-11, 10-7 SEC), SEC Network
TOP-RANKED GATORS HOST USF AT MCKETHAN
This will be the final weekend before Florida’s baseball schedule amps up considerably. With 11th-ranked FSU on the schedule Tuesday night in Gainesville and 4th-ranked Georgia coming to town for the opening SEC series next Friday, South Florida (5-7) provides a last chance to really tune up. The Gators, who have a team ERA of 2.45, will go with their usual weekend rotation of Tommy Mace (2-0, 2.25 ERA), Jack Leftwich (1-0, 4.20 ERA) and Hunter Barco (2-0, 1.35 ERA) against a USF team that sports a team batting average of .197. The Gators are hitting .291 as a team with 15 home runs. Jacob Young leads the Gators with a .447 batting average and a 14-game hitting streak while Jud Fabian is hitting .321 with five homers and 13 RBI. As a team, the South Florida pitching staff has a 4.40 ERA although the Bulls’ pitching staff averages 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Other UF sports: Led by Trinity Thomas, who has been named SEC Gymnast of the Week six straight times, the 2nd-ranked gymnastics team takes its high wire act to #25 Penn State Saturday afternoon … Florida’s 8th-ranked softball team (18-4) opens SEC play this weekend when Auburn (14-8) comes to Gainesville for a three-game set starting tonight at 6 p.m. … The season came to an end for the Florida women’s basketball team as they dropped a 73-59 decision to LSU at the SEC Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina. The Gators finished the season 15-16 … The 6th-ranked men’s tennis team (14-2) will face #44 LSU in Baton Rouge today and 12th-ranked Texas A&M in College Station on Sunday … The 4th-ranked Gators hope to rebound from a midweek lacrosse loss to Dartmouth when they host High Point on Saturday … Florida’s 38th-ranked women’s tennis team (5-2) is at home this weekend with 25th-ranked LSU today and #36 Texas A&M on Sunday … Freshman Ricky Castillo was named the Ben Hogan Golfer of the Month after taking the individual championships at the Sea Best Invirtational and the VyStar Gators Invitational.
A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO BASTE: FRIDAY EDITION
(1) I’m still trying to figure out what Kansas thinks it will gain by challenging the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations on its basketball team. In a response to the NOA on Thursday, Kansas stated, “In this case, stemming from federal criminal trials in 2018, there are several facts that are in dispute, there are assumptions made; and, perhaps more importantly, there are unprecedented and novel theories put forward …” The NCAA allegations are based on evidence gathered by wiretap and testimony under oath in federal court. Alabama football tried disputing evidence that was part of a federal court trial in 2001 and the only thing accomplished was the NCAA came down even harder.
(2) Everywhere I turned on Thursday there was more talk about Tom Brady’s pending free agency. On one network, it was speculated that as many as eight NFL teams are ready to break the bank to bring in Brady. However true that might be, the only thing I am convinced is happening is Brady shopping to figure out his net worth before giving New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft a number that Kraft will almost certainly match.
(3) The three players I’m going to follow closely this Major League Baseball season are Pete Alonso of the New York Mets, Gerit Cole of the New York Yankees and Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves. If whoever hits behind Pete in the Mets lineup can hit with any measure of power, Pete will see enough good pitches to hit more than 40 homers and 50 isn’t out of the question. Cole gives the Yankees the ace they’ve needed. Acuna hit 41 homers and stole 37 bases last year as a 21-year-old. I wonder what he’s going to do when he grows up.
GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY LSU coach Ed Orgeron at a pre-spring practice press conference addressing moving on from last year’s glory to a great year in 2020: “I made a vow to myself that I’m going to work harder this year, more attention to the detail. And people need to see that from their leader. The culture we’ve built is fantastic, but we need to keep that standard up. I do believe it would be a fault to keep on talking about last year. We have to turn the page. This is a new team.”
Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated on the very distinct possibility that two teams from non-power conferences could wind up as #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament: “If the Aztecs of the Mountain West and the Zags of the West Coast Conference both nail down NCAA tourney No.1 seeds – which seems increasingly likely as other challengers fall by the wayside – it would be virtually unprecedented. The last time two teams from outside the putative power conferences were top in the same tournament was 1979, the first year seeding was publicly announced and even then it’s a murky designation. The teams were Indiana State of the Missouri Valley Conference (which definitely applies) and then-independent Notre Dame, but that was at a time when independents were both plentiful and powerful.
“San Diego State and Gonzaga are not alone within their leagues, either. Utah State is on the bubble for an at-large bit, which would give the Mountain West a second bid for the third straight season. Gonzaga will lead at least three West Coast Conference teams into the Big Dance – BYU and Saint Mary’s are the other two definites – something the league hasn’t had since 2012.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Gator Matt Every shot a 65 Thursday to take a 1-shot lead over world #1 Rory McIlroy after the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Former Gator Billy Horschel is tied for 45th at even par 72 while Brian Gay is tied for 60th, a shot back at 73 … Michael Irvin II is leaving Miami as a grad transfer. Unlike his famous dad, Irvin never had much of a UM career with just 11 catches for 111 yards in three years … San Diego State (29-1) took another step toward a #1 seed by winning its Mountain West Conference quarter-final game with Air Force, 73-60. National player of the year candidate Malachi Flynn had 16 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and three steals to lead the Aztecs.