THIS IS A BUSINESS TRIP Nearly every Monday when he holds his press conference to discuss the upcoming opponent, Dan Mullen makes it a point to emphasize that the next game is the most important game on the Florida (8-2, 7-2 SEC) schedule. And, that's what Saturday's game with Missouri (5-4, 2-4 SEC) in Columbia is – the most important game on the schedule. Although the chances the Gators will win the SEC East championship are remote and require some help on consecutive weeks from Auburn this week and Texas A&M next, Florida has to approach this game like it's a championship game. Winning won't ensure a championship for the Gators, but if they lose, any chance goes down the drain.
If there is one thing college football teaches us it is expect the improbable at the least likely moment. Nobody gave South Carolina a chance to beat Georgia in Athens a few weeks back but the Gamecocks came away with perhaps the single most shocking win of the season. Both Auburn and Texas A&M are better football teams than South Carolina so while the chances of them knocking off Georgia on consecutive weeks is probably remote, it could happen. That means the Gators better show up ready to play in Missouri.
The game is important for the Gators even if Georgia manages to beat Auburn Saturday, which would clinch the SEC East for the Poodles. The Gators can still finish with 10 regular season wins and make a second straight New Years Six bowl game. Beat Missouri and FSU and then win the bowl game and it's an 11-win season, something that hasn't been done at UF since 2012. Not only do those kind of things resonate on the recruiting trail but they further the reality that Florida football is on the verge of returning to championship expectations every year.
So the Gators need to treat this like a business trip. They need to go to Columbia focused and ready to win the most important game of the season.
The Sayer Says Sooth: While Missouri's pass defense stats look pretty good, reality is the Tigers haven't played a consistently good passing team all season and certainly not a team with receivers like the ones the Gators will send out there. The Tigers don't get much pass rush (just four in the last five games) either so this sets up nicely for Kyle Trask. If you're looking for a wild card, it's Kadarius Toney, who's going to get the ball early and often. FLORIDA 34, Missouri 17
GATOR BASKETBALL NEEDED A TOUGH WIN A lot of good things came out of Florida's 66-60 win over Towson Thursday night at the O-Dome. First and foremost, the Gators (2-1) got a tough win over a well coached team that has a legitimate chance to finish near the top in a very good league (Colonial Athletic Association). The Gators had to strap it on and play exceptional defense in the game's final four or five minutes and they had to make clutch shots both from the field and the foul line.
Scottie Lewis gave us a glimpse why he was a McDonald's All-American and a five-star prospect, scoring all of his game-high 15 points in the second half, sealing the game with two free throws with 19 seconds remaining. Kerry Blackshear Jr. had his third straight double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, breaking a 60-60 tie with 1:06 left on a short jumper in the lane. Andrew Nembhard delivered 11 points and nine assists.
It was far from perfect, but it was an exceptional bounce-back game for UF. The Gators got pushed around by Florida State back on Sunday. When Towson pushed Thursday night, the Gators pushed back and that was a very encouraging sign.
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF Thursday's games #15 FLORIDA 66, Towson 60 Mississippi State (3-0) 62, Louisiana-Monroe 45 Richmond 93, Vanderbilt (2-1) 92
Friday's games Cal State-Northridge at #22 Auburn (3-0) Delaware State at Georgia (2-0) Western Michigan at Ole Miss (2-0) Cleveland State at South Carolina (2-0) Alabama (1-1) at Rhode Island #8 Gonzaga at Texas A&M (2-0)
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER (College Football Playoff Rankings) #1 LSU (9-0, 5-0 SEC) 42, Ole Miss (4-6, 2-4 SEC) 14: #12 Auburn (7-2, 4-2 SEC) 21, #4 Georgia (8-1, 5-1 SEC) 20: Auburn will be able to do what Florida didn't, which is get pressure on Jake Fromm (State Farm). The Tigers will also limit what Georgia can do with the running game. If this game were played in Athens, Georgia would probably win it by a couple of touchdowns, but it's in Auburn and that's good enough for the Tigers to win a squeaker and keep hope alive in the Gator Nation. #5 Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) 49, Mississippi State (4-5, 2-4 SEC) 17: Nick Saban doesn't even have to play Tua to win this game, but because the Bama schedule is so weak, he needs a blowout of epic proportions to get back in the good graces of the playoff committee. Hell hath no fury like a Nick Saban scorned.
Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2 SEC) 27, South Carolina (4-6, 3-4 SEC) 21: South Carolina has had far too many injuries this season and the Aggies are far too young. This game will be competitive but the Aggies have more healthy bodies and will win.
Kentucky (4-5, 2-5 SEC) 27, Vanderbilt (2-7, 1-5 SEC) 13: You get the feeling that Vandy is simply mailing it in and can't wait for this season to conclude. Kentucky needs two more wins to guarantee bowl eligibility. The Wildcats will get one of them Saturday in Nashville.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION 12 Extinct Species List
Chris Ash, Rutgers: Ash will be somebody's very good defensive coordinator next year. As for Rutgers, the coach is going to be Greg Schiano, probably the only coach who could at least get the Scarlet Knights to regular 6-6 records. If he can do that on this second go-round, Schiano will become a Rutgers legend. It doesn't take much to be a Rutgers legend.
Willie Taggart, Florida State: While Willie and his family have to figure out how they'll scrape by on $370,833.33 a month for the next four years, the Seminoles will have to spend big bucks to get a new football coach. There's a lot of excitement that the new guy will be Big Game Bob Stoops but if he turned down Florida at least three times why would he go to FSU to work for a yet to be named new president and AD (both Thrasher and Coburn are retiring)? Some sucker will take this job, but BGBS?
Chad Morris, Arkansas: Chad and his family will be squeezing by on $295,000 a month for the next four years. Arkansas, meanwhile, will likely focus in on Gus Malzahn, Mike Norvell and Eli Drinkwitz (Appalachian State), all of whom played college football in the state.
On Life Support Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: The Florida loss (56-0) was probably the very last straw. It wasn't all that long ago that James Franklin went to three straight bowl games and posted back-to-back nine win seasons. They would be very smart to try to hire the coach at either Army or Navy, coaches with funky offenses that work and who are used to difficult academic requirements. Clay Helton, Southern Cal: Mark May seems to think that Urban Meyer to Southern Cal is a done deal. The Trojans are 6-4 and if they win their next two and Utah loses one of its last three (entirely possible) USC will win the Pac-12 South. Do they fire a coach who's just won his division even when he has to play his fourth string QB due to injuries? This is a train wreck. Bob Davie, New Mexico: There are three remaining games on the Bob Davie Farewell Tour. They want a coach with an exciting offense that can put fannies in the seats. Announced attendance at UNM's last home game against Hawaii was less than 13,000. Phil Montgomery, Tulsa: Montgomery will lobby that last week's win over UCF and several close calls against good teams is reason to give him another year but he needs to win his last two to finish 5-7 to stave off firing. From a financial standpoint, Tulsa needs to keep him because the entire school is in dire straits. Mike Bobo, Colorado State: The Fighting Bobos have won three straight but is it too little too late to save his job? Two wins in the last three games would probably save his job but with Air Force, (at) Wyoming and Boise State still to go that's a tall order. Tony Sanchez, UNLV: Six of the Rebels' seven losses have been in blowout fashion, which has the faithful asking how the heck did they blow out Vanderbilt on the road in Nashville? Sanchez will be trying to figure this out in three weeks when he's no longer gainfully employed. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion: There's no way Wilder will survive this season, but the job will be attractive to a coach who can tap into the vast talent resources of Tidewater Virginia. The school has made overtures toward seriously upgrading facilities, which would go a long way toward landing a decent replacement coach.
Endangered Species List Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State: He has to win two of his last three to get the Bulldogs bowl eligible. Losing to Alabama Saturday is a given as is beating Abilene Christian from D1AA. That means Moorhead's job security could be decided against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Frank Wilson, Texas-San Antonio: There is so much talent in the state of Texas that a Conference USA school like UTSA ought to be able to win. The Roadrunners aren't attracting the talent nor are they winning. Wilson is hanging on by a thread. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: The Spartans probably will be bowl eligible which would normally be enough to save a Big Ten job, but there is so much controversy surrounding this program now that the faithful are weary and clamoring for change.
Beads of Sweat Forming Charlie Strong, South Florida: The boosters are restless but they really want to give him another year. Plus, nobody wants to raise the buyout money. Steve Addazio, Boston College: Losing to Florida State really didn't help his cause but the Eagles made it exciting. The knock on Addazio was great defense and rotten offense. Nowadays, he's got the offense but the defense sucks. Kilani Sitaki, BYU: After the Cougars won that epic Mormons vs. Baptists battle against the Fighting Falwells of Liberty, BYU has a three-game winning streak. The brethren would like to see the Cougars win their last three to close out the regular season on a six-game streak.
Saved by the Buyout and Other Teensy Details Matt Luke, Ole Miss: His buyout is a mere $6.5 million which is do-able but the buyouts for coordinators Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre means Ole Miss would be on the hook for $12.5 million. Then there is that teensy detail about no athletic director and that is the ultimate saving grace. Luke will live to coach another season. Chip Kelly, UCLA: The Bruins actually have a pulse after three straight wins. If Kelly can get two more in the last three he goes bowling and folks will forget the fact UCLA couldn't afford to fire him due to the $9 million buyout.
Randy Edsall, UConn: This is a train wreck and unless someone donates a ton of money to the school, he's not going to get canned. That is, of course, unless they do something stupid and that's not beyond the realm of possibility either.
GOOD QUOTE FOR FRIDAY From Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic on Saturday's Henderson State-Ouachita Baptist game, a rivalry that was first played in 1895: “On Saturday, the Henderson State football team will gather, dress and wait until 11:30 a.m. local time. That’s when police will block off the two-lane highway that separates that campus from the campus of Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia, Ark. And that’s when the team will walk across the street to play its archrival. It is the shortest road trip in college football.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: James Wiseman has dropped his lawsuit against the NCAA and has been declared ineligible by Memphis pending an attempt by the school to have the 7-foot freshman re-instated. History says Wiseman isn't going to be re-instated … Notre Dame's streak of 273 consecutive football sellouts could come to an end Saturday against Navy … Former Gator Antonio Callaway, who was facing a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL drug policy, has been released by the Cleveland Browns.