WILL THIS BE A NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER?
Despite the Vegas oddsmaker's love affair with 8th-ranked Georgia (6-1, 3-1 SEC), there are substantially good reasons to believe the 6th-ranked Florida Gators (7-1, 4-1 SEC) are going to walk away from Jacksonville Saturday halfway home on their four-game elimination SEC East Division elimination series. With a win Saturday, the Gators will have a one-game lead over the Poodles and they'll own the tiebreaker. If the Gators get the win – and I think they will – they'll only need wins over Vanderbilt and Missouri to claim the SEC East outright and a win over FSU in the season finale to make this truly a November to remember.
Here are three very good reasons why I believe the Gators win Saturday and send Georgia fans everywhere to the nearest ledge wondering what went wrong in a boom (national championship) or bust (second place to Florida in the SEC East) season:
(1) Kyle Trask is the best quarterback Georgia has faced this season: Earlier in the week, Georgia linebacker Monty Rice admitted, “I don't think we've faced a quarterback as good as Trask this year.” No kidding. Before he got hurt, South Carolina freshman Ryan Hilinski was busy carving up the Georgia defense. Hilinski is good and one day he's going to be great, but he's not as good as Kyle Trask. Georgia will try to confuse Trask with exotic looks and blitzes. Trask can say been there, done that and he won't flinch.
(2) Florida's offensive line can handle the Georgia pass rush: LSU brought the kitchen sink against Trask and only got to him twice. That was in Death Valley where the decibel level made it tough to hear yet Florida's O-line handled both the noise and the rush. Of Georgia's 16 sacks this year, the Poodles have only six in their four SEC games. Also, only two (count 'em) of their sacks have been registered by their defensive line. Georgia is going to have to expend so much energy trying to get to Trask that it's going to open the field for a quick hitter in the passing game and in the second half, the Gators will pop some big plays in the running game. Think Lamical Perine vs. Auburn. Think Dameon Pierce vs. South Carolina. (3) Florida can cover the Poodle receivers one-on-one and load the box to stop the run: One of the real benefits of getting Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard back is Todd Grantham won't have to blitz to get pressure on Jake Fromm (State Farm). The Gators will also be able to play press coverage and load up the box. That's what South Carolina did and while the Poodles did run for 173 yards, they averaged only 4.02 per carry, which is very ordinary. Georgia doesn't have receivers capable of stretching the Florida defense so the Gators will be able to keep everything in front of them.
The Sayer says sooth: Since the start of the season Georgia hasn't gotten any better and what the Poodles last two games have taught us is they are ready for a serious fall. Florida, meanwhile, has been getting better every week and now the Gators are healthy. The Gators are going to win the turnover battle and In the fourth quarter will bust this one wide open. FLORIDA 28, Georgia 17
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER
#11 Auburn (6-2, 3-2 SEC) 41, Ole Miss (3-5, 2-3 SEC) 24: Ole Miss will have all sorts of problems trying to run the ball against Auburn's defense and Bo Nix will find it a whole lot easier to throw the ball against Ole Miss than he did last week against LSU.
Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC) 56, Texas San-Antonio (3-4) 7: Jimbo will get the Aggies bowl eligible with an easy win against Paycheck Tech. It will be all but over by the time the clock starts ticking in the second quarter.
South Carolina (3-5, 2-4 SEC) 32, Vanderbilt (2-5, 1-3 SEC) 21: If the Gamecocks are going to get to a bowl game, they've got to win this one. As for Vandy, if Derek Mason intends on being the HBC at Vandy next year, he has to win this one. He won't.
Arkansas (2-6, 0-5 SEC) 21, Mississippi State (3-5, 1-4 SEC) 20: Arkansas hasn't won an SEC game since October 28, 2017. The Hogs have a real shot to break that 16-game SEC losing streak against a Mississippi State team that is fading fast and teetering on the verge of mailing it in the rest of the season.
Tennessee (3-5, 2-3 SEC) 28, UAB (6-1) 24: How will the Vols handle success after blowing out South Carolina last week? UAB has a shot at nailing the hide of an SEC team on its barn door if the Vols don't come into this one fully focused.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION 10 Extinct Species List Chris Ash, Rutgers: If they're smart they'll do whatever it takes to bring back Greg Schiano to pick up the pieces and start over. Nobody ever said Rutgers was smart.
On Life Support Lovie Smith, Illinois: The Illini just might buy Lovie one more year. They're 4-4 with Rutgers this week, a bad Michigan State the week after then they finish up with a very good Iowa team and a bad Northwestern team. If there aren't two wins in there to make the Illini bowl eligible, then Lovie deserves to get pink slipped.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: Before his QB unzipped and whipped it out to a woman in a parking garage on campus, Davie could at least point to the fact his players don't embarrass the program the way they did when Mike Locksley was the head coach. Only four games remain in the Bob Davie Farewell Tour.
Phil Montgomery, Tulsa: Tulsa almost won a game last week against Memphis, the second straight almost win for the Golden Hurricane. By the time Two Lane gets through with Tulsa Time on Saturday it will ensure a third straight losing season and end any pretense of Montgomery that he will live to coach another year.
Mike Bobo, Colorado State: The Fighting Bobos play UNLV this week. It will seem like a playoff game with the losing coach first to get fired. With Air Force, Wyoming and Boise State the last three games on the regular season schedule, UNLV will be the final win of the Bobo era should the Lambs win this one.
Tony Sanchez, UNLV: The only thing that can save Sanchez is to win the last four games for a 6-6 regular season that will get the Rebels to a bowl game. That isn't going to happen. These guys are really bad. How did Vanderbilt manage to lose to UNLV?
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: Oh how they hate to fire coaches at Vandy but since James Franklin proved you can win there, the pinot grigio and camembert tailgate folks want someone who can (a) win and (b) convince folks to attend games. If Vandy can't get to five wins Mason won't be able to convince administration that he's got the program pointed in the right direction.
Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion: There is only one winnable game remaining on the schedule which means ODU will go 1-11 or 2-10 which means Bobby Wilder, the only coach the school has known since it revived football, will be looking for gainful employment elsewhere.
Endangered Species List
Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State: Mississippi State's run of nine straight bowl games is in serious jeopardy. So is Joe Moorhead's job. Alums and boosters are well aware that Dan Mullen left a roster that should have won 10 games last year (Moorhead won eight) and there is enough talent to win eight this year but the Bulldogs will struggle to get to six. If the Bulldogs lose to Arkansas, buzzards will begin circling in StarkVegas. Randy Edsall, UConn: UConn won a game last week. Okay, it was UMass so it wasn't like it was a real team they beat. Edsall is a rotten coach and they can't afford the buyout but the UConn administration didn't get $41 million (and counting) in debt by accident. Firing Edsall would be the smart thing to do for football but the dumb thing to do for the athletic department.
Clay Helton, Southern Cal: If he beats Oregon Saturday – the game is played in LA – he might very well postpone his firing for at least another year. USC doesn't have an athletic director yet and the interim and school prez aren't going to hire someone they like ahead of the new AD. Of course, if Oregon puts the whammy on the Trojans, there will be buzzards sitting on the power lines that surround the USC football complex.
Kilani Sitaki, BYU: The Cougars are 3-4 and need to win four of their last five to save Sitaki's job. If they lose to Utah State Saturday that would make them oh-fer the State of Utah and that wouldn't settle well with the LDS brethren who long for the thrilling days of yesteryear when LaVell Edwards was good for 10 wins a season.
Chad Morris, Arkansas: They really would like to give him three years, but if he goes oh-fer the SEC for a second straight year the AD will start asking the billionaires who spend like crazy to have their names on facilities to pony up the $10 million or so it will take to buy him out. That's tip money to these guys. Frank Wilson, Texas-San Antonio: The Roadrunners will finish 4-8 if they're lucky. It doesn't help that each loss brings more empty seats.
Beads of Sweat Forming Steve Addazio, Boston College: Losing by 52 to Clemson didn't exactly help his cause but if he can win two more games, another 6-6 season is assured, therefore another year of sweating out gainful employment.
Charlie Strong, South Florida: The Bulls had an impressive 25-point win over ECU last week and the next three games are homers. They probably won't fire Charlie because they can't afford the buyout but win two of the next three and his underarms will be a lot drier.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: The Spartans are a bad football team with a horrible offense and Dantonio is going to have to answer questions under oath about former player Auston Robertson in a very messy lawsuit. Dantonio's seat isn't on fire yet, but it could be.
Saved by the Buyout Willie Taggart, Florida State: The boosters will be hopping mad if the Seminoles lose to Miami this week, but if they win they'll be a game away from bowl eligible. Of course, that will mean another year of the Taggart era. Winning, you see, doesn't cure everything. Even if they could hold enough car washes and bake sales to Free Willie they don't have enough cash to buy out the assistants and then bring in a decent coach to clean up the mess.
Chip Kelly, UCLA: The glass half full folks think the Bruins have turned the corner with their two-game winning streak. The glass half empty folks see four straight losses on the horizon and a 3-9 record. Doesn't matter. Win or lose any or all of the last four and Kelly will still be the coach next year because UCLA can't afford to fire him.
GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY
Bruce Feldman of The Athletic predicting the Florida-Georgia outcome:
“The Gators are getting some of their most talented players back, and they have been more impressive than the Dawgs, but the hunch here is that Kirby Smart will get them dialed in after a few clunker performances. Georgia wins the game by being more physical. Georgia 20, Florida 17”
Stewart Mandel of The Athletic predicting the Florida-Georgia outcome: “Tough, tough call. Georgia's defense is capable of dominating this game, but its offense has had major issues for weeks. Meanwhile, Florida is getting back star defensive ends Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard, plus explosive WR Kadarius Toney, who's been out since Week 2. This feels like Florida's year. Florida 24, Georgia 21”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Michigan State's best player, All-Big Ten linebacker Joe Bachie, has been ruled ineligible after testing positive for PED use … After a 12-year absence, the Hula Bowl is returning, featuring college players from the US, Australia and Japan ... There is one less undefeated team in Division I after Georgia Southern upset 20th-ranked Appalachian State 24-21 Thursday night … Fox coverage of the World Series earned the third worst ratings in history … The San Francisco 49ers remained unbeaten Thursday night with a 28-25 win over Arizona … Baylor is 8-0 after its 17-14 win over West Virginia.