Thoughts of the Day: November 16, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:

Another day at the office for the 6th-ranked Florida Gators (5-1) means Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey needs to come up with a practical solution to December 12 and the sooner, the better.

With Kyle Trask throwing for 356 yards and six touchdowns in their 63-35 win over Arkansas at The Swamp Saturday night, the Gators looked more and more like a team that not only belongs in the College Football Playoff, but one very capable of winning the national championship. Florida’s defense may have taken a step back from the two previous games, but the offense was in a full-blown wowser mode. Not only was Trask flinging it all over the ball yard, but he had extraordinary protection and when the Gators elected to run the ball, John Hevesy’s big uglies looked the part of one of the better O-lines in the country.

It was enough that experts all over the country such as CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd moved Trask to the head of the potential Heisman Trophy class. Dodd went so far to proclaim the Gators as legitimate playoff contenders.

And this is where it becomes a dilemma for Sankey and the SEC. Florida is supposed to finish its regular season on December 12 against LSU, a makeup game for a Covid-19 postponement back on October 17. Top-ranked Alabama (6-0) had its game with LSU in Baton Rouge postponed just this past weekend and with December 12 already booked for Florida-LSU what does Sankey do? At the moment, it appears there are four options: (1) Either Florida or Alabama plays LSU on December 12 while the other gets an open date; (2) Sankey gets creative, allowing Florida-LSU or Alabama-LSU to take place while arranging the schedule so whichever team doesn’t play LSU plays someone on December 12; (3) he gives Florida and Alabama the week off prior to the SEC Championship Game (December 19); or (4) he does more creative scheduling so that both Florida and Alabama play LSU albeit on different dates.

There has been a suggestion that Sankey could move the SEC Championship Game back to the Saturday after Christmas (December 26), but that isn’t palatable since the College Football Playoff semifinals are scheduled for January 1.

The likely decision will be a combination of reshuffling of schedules and an outside shot of giving Florida and Alabama a week off prior to the SEC Championship Game if both have clinched their divisions.

In an appearance on College Game Day Saturday, Sankey said, "What we’re not going to do is have people play repeat opponents or grab opponents out of the air. What we have to do is look and see if there are two games that are postponed, can we match up a future game that’s scheduled and make it happen sooner, even on short notice. That’s the mentality, just to maximize flexibility.”

In other words, buckle your seatbelts because right now Sankey has a lot of options and hasn’t reached an effective conclusion. Plus if there are more postponements due to the virus, you can throw all plans and theories out the window.

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL

(1) Alabama 6-0; (2) Notre Dame 8-0; (3) Ohio State 3-0; (4) Clemson 7-1; (5) Texas A&M 5-1; (6) FLORIDA 5-1; (7) Cincinnati 7-0; (8) BYU 8-0; (9) Indiana 4-0; (10) Wisconsin 2-0; (11) Oregon 2-0; (12) Miami 7-1; (13) Georgia 4-2; (14) Oklahoma State 5-1; (15, TIE) Marshall 7-0; Coastal Carolina 7-0; (17) Iowa State 5-2; (18) Oklahoma 5-2; (19) Northwestern 4-0; (20) Southern Cal 2-0; (21) Liberty 8-0; (22) Texas 5-2; (23) Auburn 4-2; (24) Louisiana-Lafayette 7-1; (25) Tulsa 4-1

COACHES TOP 25 POLL

(1) Alabama 6-0; (2) Notre Dame 8-0; (3) Ohio State 3-0; (4) Clemson 7-1; (5) FLORIDA 5-1; (6) Texas A&M 5-1; (7) Cincinnati 7-0; (8) BYU 8-0; (9) Miami 7-1; (10) Indiana 4-0; (11) Georgia 4-2; (12) Wisconsin 2-0; (13) Oregon 2-0; (14) Oklahoma State 5-1; (15) Marshall 7-0; (16) Iowa State 5-2; (17) Oklahoma 5-2; (18) Coastal Carolina 7-0; (19) Southern Cal 2-0; (20) Northwestern 4-0; (21) Auburn 4-2; (22) Liberty 8-0; (23) Texas 5-2; (24) North Carolina 6-2; (25) Louisiana-Lafayette 7-1

RUMBLING, STUMBLING, BUMBLING IN THE SEC

#1 ALABAMA (6-0): Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who fractured his ankle against Tennessee, is set to have the cast removed from his ankle this week. While Waddle won’t see the field as the regular season concludes, he could very well be back in time for the College Football Playoff. At the time of his injury, Waddle had caught 25 passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns. Next week: vs. Kentucky (3-4)

ARKANSAS (3-4): Feleipe Franks threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns against the Gators, bringing his season totals to 2,171 yards (8.3 per attempt) and 16 touchdowns (three interceptions). Counting his time at Florida, Franks has now thrown for 6,271 yards and 54 touchdowns in his collegiate career. Next week: vs. LSU (2-3)

#23 AUBURN (4-2): Should Auburn be able to tee it up against Tennessee Saturday, it will have been 21 days since the last time the Tigers played a game. Auburn had a regularly scheduled bye week and then last week’s game at Mississippi State was postponed and rescheduled for December 12. Next week: vs. Tennessee (2-4)

#13 GEORGIA (4-2): It will be interesting to see who Kirby Smart goes with at QB this week. It’s highly unlikely Georgia will lose to Mississippi State so it might be an ideal time for Kirby Smart to replace ineffective Stetson Bennett IV with either D’Wan Mathis, Southern Cal transfer JT Daniels or true freshman Carson Beck. Next week: vs. Mississippi State (2-4)

KENTUCKY (3-4): Despite a 458-yard output in the win over Vanderbilt, Kentucky ranks dead last in the SEC in total offense at 318 yards per game. The Wildcats rank second in the league in rushing at 195.4 per game but they’re the worst pass offense in the league by a good 50 yards at 122.6 per game. Next week: at #1 Alabama (6-0)

LSU (2-3): Barring what Coach O says is “something miraculous,” QB Myles Brennan is done for the year. Brennan, who suffered an abdominal injury in the first half against Missouri a few weeks back, will see several doctors to determine if he needs surgery or if the injury will heal with rehabilitation. Next week: at Arkansas (3-4)

MISSISSIPPI STATE (2-4): With the decision of DB Marcus Murphy to opt out the rest of the season, Mississippi state is down to 65 scholarship players. The SEC requires at least 53 players available to play a game. Next week: at #13 Georgia (4-2)

MISSOURI (2-4): Missouri was already a 4.5-point favorite over South Carolina even before Will Muschamp was fired. The spread should widen by at least 4-5 more points in the next couple of days. Next week: at South Carolina (2-5)

OLE MISS (3-4): Nobody in the SEC is having more fun than Lane Kiffin, whose offense just keeps lighting people up. The Rebels are averaging 41 points and 564.9 yards per game. Matt Corral has thrown for 2,359 yards and 22 touchdowns, Jerrion Early has run for 608 yards and eight TDs, and Elijah Moore has 74 catches for 1,054 yards and eight touchdowns following his 13-catch, 225-yard game against South Carolina. Next week: at #5 Texas A&M (5-1)

SOUTH CAROLINA (2-5): South Carolina has fired Will Muschamp after a third straight loss in which the Gamecocks gave up a combined 159 points. Muschamp will have to squeeze by on a buyout in the $13.2-13.8 million range. South Carolina named offensive coordinator Mike Bobo as the interim head coach. Next week: vs. Missouri (2-4)

TENNESSEE (2-4): The Vols have lost four straight and won’t be favored in three of their four remaining games. It may come down to beating Vanderbilt in two weeks to avoid an 8-game losing skid. In a normal year – yes, I know it’s hard to use the word normal in the same sentence with Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt would be walking the plank, but this isn’t a normal year and Pruitt, for reasons completely unknown, was given a raise and a contract extension. Next week: at #23 Auburn (4-2)

#5 TEXAS A&M (5-1): The Aggies rank #1 in the SEC in total defense, allowing 338.2 yards per game. Saturday they take on the league’s number one offense in Ole Miss, which averages 564.9 yards per game including a league-best 212.7 rushing yards per game. Next week: vs. Ole Miss (3-4)

VANDERBILT (0-6): Vanderbilt’s running game has improved dramatically the last two games thanks to sophomore Keyon Henry-Brooks. Brooks followed up a 115-yard performance against Mississippi State with 121 yards in the loss to Kentucky. The Commodores have posted at least 400 yards of offense in each of the last three games (421 vs. Ole Miss, 478 vs. Mississippi State and 407 vs. Kentucky. Next week: vs. #6 FLORIDA (5-1)

THE TACKLE FOOTBALL PLAYING WORLD OUTSIDE THE SEC

With the firing of Will Muschamp at South Carolina, here are a few names that might come into play as Ray Tanner begins his search for a new head coach: Luke Fickell, Cincinnati; Billy Napier, Louisiana-Lafayette; Josh Heupel, UCF; Bill Clark, UAB; Rhett Lashlee, offensive coordinator Miami; and Brent Venables, defensive coordinator Clemson. Hugh Freeze is said to be atop the South Carolina wish list but he just signed a contract extension at Liberty with nice annual raises that keeps him in Lynchburg through 2026. Barring something extraordinary happening, he’s not going anywhere. Smart money is on Napier (age 41), who played QB at Furman, worked on the Clemson staff and is 25-11 as a head coach.

D’Eriq King, the guy who started for three years at Manvel (TX) High School while Kyle Trask did mop up duty, is putting together a seriously good season for 12th-ranked Miami (7-1). Through eight games, King is 167-262 passing (63.7%) for 2,086 yards (8.0 per attempt) with 17 TDPs and only four interceptions. He had also run for 421 yards (4.21 per carry) and three touchdowns. He’s the chief reason Miami is ranked in the top ten and should play in a New Years Six bowl game.

Here is Paul Finebaum’s take on Jim Harbaugh following Michigan’s 48-11 loss to Wisconsin: “This was once a coach that was respected and now, sadly, Jim Harbaugh has become a punch line in college football. It’s almost impossible to watch this guy. He makes $8 million per year. He was the talk of the sport a couple of years ago. Now, no one really knows that the future looks like. It looks pretty grim if Michigan decides to fire him. A lot of people up there are saying, ‘We want to keep him.’ For what reason? I have no idea.”

I’M FEELING PITHY; IT MUST BE MONDAY: Dustin Johnson won the Masters in record fashion at 20-under par, five shots better than his nearest competitor and a mere 10 shots better than Brooks Koepka and 18 better than Bryson DeChambeau. Koepka earlier in the year ripped Johnson for never having won a major, but he won the US Open and now has the Masters. DeChambeau said he would be playing Augusta National like a par 67. That means his best round (69) was two over par. DJ’s payday was $2,070,000, which is rather nice work if you can get it … When Drew Brees went down with an injury in the New Orleans Saints’ 27-13 win over San Francisco, Jameis Winston got into a game for just the second time this season. Winston completed 6-10 passes for 63 yards. The good news for the Saints is he didn’t complete a single pass to the other team … Tua Tagovailoa is 3-0 as the starting QB for the Miami Dolphins. I wonder what the folks who let him slide down to the #6 pick in the draft back in April are thinking now?

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