A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:
Are you ready for some chaos in the Southeastern Conference? Although #1 Alabama and #6 Florida are in exceptionally good shape in their divisional races for a trip to Atlanta to play for the SEC championship, thanks to Covid-19 we now have a bit of chaos that will have to be dealt with perhaps creatively by commissioner Greg Sankey.
Due to a virus outbreak at LSU (2-3), Saturday’s home game with Alabama (6-0) was postponed. Also postponed were 5th-ranked Texas A&M (5-1) at Tennessee and Auburn (4-2) at Mississippi State (2-4). December 12 was built into all SEC schedules for just such circumstances so the Texas A&M-Tennessee and Auburn-Mississippi State games will be played on December 12.
It is the Alabama-LSU game that is a problem. Back on October 17, LSU’s visit to Florida was postponed due to a virus outbreak at UF. That game was rescheduled for December 12, which was the date Sankey set aside back in August for just such occasions. Since there are no available open dates remaining on the schedule, there is no room to reschedule Alabama-LSU. That puts Sankey in the position of having to decide which is more important – Florida-LSU or Alabama-LSU?
Both the Gators and Alabama hold a one-game advantage in their divisional races. Florida, by virtue of its 44-28 thrashing of Georgia (4-2) last Saturday, has the advantage in the East. Alabama walloped Texas A&M 52-24 the second week of the season for a one-game advantage over the Aggies. Both the Gators and Alabama could afford to lose one more game since they hold the tiebreaker. The only way UF and Alabama can lose their divisions is to go in the tank twice while Georgia and A&M run the table the rest of the way.
Should the Gators knock off Arkansas (Saturday) and then (at) Vanderbilt, Kentucky and (at) Tennessee, there would be no need to play LSU in the final game since UF would have clinched the East title. With wins over Kentucky, Auburn and Arkansas, Alabama would win the West and wouldn’t need to play LSU.
Would Sankey give Alabama a free weekend before the SEC Championship Game on December 19 without giving Florida the same advantage? It would be an unfair advantage for one to play while the other had a week to rest up, scout and prepare.
Something else to consider is the possibility of more outbreaks. That might force some creative changes to the schedules since there is no more wiggle room. Obviously, it’s to the SEC’s advantage to play as many games as possible but if divisional races are already decided then losing a game here and there won’t matter as far as the league championship goes. Bowl games? That’s another matter altogether.
So welcome to chaos SEC style. Dealing with the virus these next couple of weeks could force Greg Sankey to be at his creative best but Florida and Alabama can make the commissioner’s job so much easier. All they have to do is win out between now and December 5.
TWO UF FIRST ROUNDERS IN CBSSPORTS.COM MOCK DRAFT Ryan Wilson of CBSSports.com came out with a mock NFL Draft that has the Kyle-to-Kyle combination going in the first round. Wilson has tight end Kyle Pitts going 22nd overall in the first round to Jacksonville while Trask is slotted at #31 by the New Orleans Saints. Overall, Wilson’s draft has 13 SEC players taken in the first round including seven from Alabama.
PLAYING QB IN THE SEC Now that all 14 teams in the league are at least at the midway point, it’s time to rank the starting quarterbacks for all 14 teams.
(1) KYLE TRASK, FLORIDA: Trask has set an SEC record with at least four touchdown passes in five consecutive games while leading the Gators to the top of the SEC East. He’s thrown for more yards (4,918) and touchdowns (48) in just 21 games than Steve Spurrier did in a three-year career that resulted in a Heisman Trophy. For the season, Trask is averaging 10 yards per attempt with 22 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.
(1A) MAC JONES, ALABAMA: Nobody in the country throws a more accurate deep ball than Jones. It’s true he is throwing to a bunch of future NFL receivers like Devonta Smith but he puts the ball on the money with astonishing consistency (76.2% completions). Jones is averaging 12.4 per attempt and has 16 TDPs while only two picks. He’s played himself into the first round of the NFL Draft.
(3) KELLEN MOND, TEXAS A&M: Typically, Mond has all day long to throw. He’s only been sacked twice in six games while throwing for 16 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He’s averaging a career best 8.1 per attempt while putting the Aggies in position to make the College Football Playoff as an at-large team.
(4) FELEIPE FRANKS, ARKANSAS: Since throwing two picks in the season opener against Georgia, Franks has thrown 13 touchdown passes and only one interception. He’s thrown six TDPs the last two games without throwing one to the bad guys. He’s averaging 7.8 per attempt with 1,428 yards through six games.
(5) MATT CORRAL, OLE MISS: When Corral remembers to throw the ball to his own team (9 picks including 6 against Arkansas) he can be brilliant. He’s thrown for 1,846 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 9.9 per attempt. Against Vandy he was 31-34 for 412 yards and six TDPs.
(6) BO NIX, AUBURN: Against Ole Miss and LSU Nix has started to look like the QB everyone expected this year. His numbers for the season are pretty average (7.2 per attempt, 9 TDPs, 4 picks) and he still runs too often when he needs to hang in the pocket but he’s improving.
(7) MYLES BRENNAN, LSU: Brennan was looking like a future star when he went down with an injury a couple weeks back. He’s put up winning numbers (8.5 per attempt, 11 TDPs, just 3 picks). It’s not his fault the LSU defense stinks or that there isn’t much of a running game and the O-line doesn’t block all that well.
(8) CONNOR BAZELAC, MISSOURI: Bazelac was supposed to be the backup to TCU transfer Shawn Robinson, but he has taken over as the starter and isn’t about to give the job up. He lit up LSU for 406 yards and four touchdown passes. He’s got the big arm and he’s reasonably accurate. He is a redshirt freshman who has the potential to be very, very good once he gains more experience.
(9) STETSON BENNETT IV, GEORGIA: Bennett plays very well against bad teams. It’s the good ones like Alabama and Florida that remind us he was once a walk-on who is the Georgia QB because he is the best of a bad lot. Since halftime of the Alabama game, Bennett has thrown one touchdown pass and six interceptions. Against the Gators he averaged 4.9 per attempt.
(10) KENNY SEALS, VANDERBILT: He’s a true freshman who has no running game to help out and when his receivers run the 40 they get timed with an hour glass. That he’s thrown for six touchdowns and 1,091 yards with those handicaps is remarkable.
(11) COLLIN HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA: He is one of the more immobile QBs in the SEC and is all too content to dink and dunk. They’ve given him every opportunity to be productive and he hasn’t gotten the job done which is why he might find himself carrying a clipboard the rest of the season. He has as many interceptions (5) as touchdowns and averages just 6.5 per attempt.
(12) JARRETT GUARANTANO, TENNESSEE: Just when Tennessee fans thought they were getting a new starting QB due to a head injury suffered by Guarantano, the game with Texas A&M got cancelled. Figure HBC Jeremy Pruitt will start Guarantano next week against Auburn. He’s averaging just 6.5 yards per pass attempt, still makes bad decisions and he gets sacked a lot.
(13) TERRY WILSON, KENTUCKY: Kentucky has the most anemic passing game in the SEC and one of the worst in the country. Wilson is averaging just 6.0 per attempt and has thrown only four touchdown passes. As long as he’s the QB, opponents will stack the box with eight and dare him to throw.
(14) WILL ROGERS, MISSISSIPPI STATE: He’s a true freshman who has thrown more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (2) and is averaging just 4.6 yards per pass play. To his credit he is playing behind a line that does a nifty impersonation of a sieve and there is no running game (21.5 yards per game for the whole team).
TACKLE FOOTBALL PLAYED OTHER PLACES THAN THE SEC
With so many schools so upside down financially due to Covid-19, it’s unlikely we’ll see many coaching changes. It’s hard to justify buyouts and then spending the cash necessary to hire a new head ball coach and assistants when there isn’t a big enough tourniquet to stop the red ink from bleeding if you don’t have a sugar daddy like T. Boone Pickens. For a school that plans to take the plunge and fire its HBC, here are five Group of Five coaches that probably will get long hard looks by their Power Five brethren: (1) Josh Heupel, UCF; (2) Jason Candle, Toledo; (3) Tim Lester, Western Michigan; (4) Steve Clark, UAB; (5) Lance Leipold, Buffalo.
Yet a fourth player from Iowa has entered the NCAA transfer portal. The program is reeling from accusations of racism starting at the top with HBC Kirk Ferentz and budgetary problems that could see as much as a $100 million loss.
Former Auburn backup QB Malik Willis has plenty to do with Liberty’s rise to being ranked (22nd) and unbeaten (7-0). Willis has thrown for 1,339 yards (8.3 per attempt) and 12 TDs (only one pick) while rushing for 603 (6.7 per attempt) and seven more TDs.
Ninth-ranked Miami (6-1) is a 2.5-point road dog at Virginia Tech Saturday afternoon. Florida State (2-5) is a 7-point road dog at North Carolina State. UCF (4-2) is a 24-point home favorite against Shirley Temple. South Florida (1-6) is a 14-point road dog at Houston. Florida Atlantic (3-1) is a 9-point favorite at Florida International.
FEELING PITHY ON WEDNESDAY: The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0) are the NFL’s only unbeaten team but they could be without QB Ben Roethlisberger Sunday when they face the Cincinnati Bengals after Big Ben went on the reserve/Covid-19 list Tuesday. Roethlisberger has to isolate for five days and test negative for the virus before he will be cleared to play Sunday … Basketball Hall of Famer Tommy Heinsohn died at the age of 86. Heinsohn played on eight Boston Celtics world championship teams and coached the Celtics to titles in 1974 and 1976. He’s one of only four members of the Hall of Fame both as a player and as a coach. He played his college basketball at Holy Cross with Bob Cousy … Wichita State has fired basketball coach Gregg Marshall over allegations of verbal and physical abuse per a report from The Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.