A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
1. STYLE POINTS DO MATTER THIS TIME OF THE YEAR: Dan Mullen was being diplomatic Monday when asked about style points. “That’s probably more of a question for Scott [Stricklin] than me because I’m not in the room [of the College Football Playoff Committee,” Mullen said, adding, “I don’t know if style points matter. I’m not into that. I’m into how are we making our team better?” While Mullen isn’t the type to run up the score by throwing the bomb in the final two minutes when the Gators are ahead by an insurmountable margin, he knows that this is the time of the year when big wins count plenty in the minds of the people who do the rankings that affect the playoff and the New Years Six bowl games. Big wins against inferior opponents are expected. Close calls are frowned upon. Margin of victory isn’t supposed to be a factor in the playoff rankings but big late season wins are a sign of domination, of a team that has momentum at the right time. Close calls can be construed as a team that is losing its focus or has run out of steam at just the wrong time. Mullen is well aware that Saturday’s game with Vanderbilt (0-6) in Nashville is a perfect opportunity for his 6th-ranked Gators (5-1) to make an impression on the committee with a dominating performance, particularly since 5th-ranked Texas A&M (5-1) had a second straight game postponed due to Covid-19 concerns. The Aggies struggled to beat Vanderbilt (17-12) in game one and since they’re idle Saturday, they have no way to counter Kyle Trask lighting up the Commodores to lead the Gators to a blowout win. Florida is a 31.5-point favorite to demolish Vanderbilt. The committee will expect a big win by the Gators and while they may fully understand that the Gators outclass the Commodores at every position, so did the Aggies. Comparisons will be made. It’s human nature. Mullen won’t be looking to run up the score, but he’s well aware that winning by a significant margin can only help the Gators in the eyes of the committee.
2. “MO-RONS … I’VE GOT MO-RONS ON MY TEAM”: Those are the immortal words of Percy Garris (played by the late, great Strother Martin) in the movie classic “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” as he rides his mule down the mountain to pick up the payroll for the mine he manages in Bolivia. He could have been talking about the fine folks at Lindy’s Southeastern Conference 2020 preseason magazine, whose offensive unit rankings were off the charts bad. Here they are unit by unit:
Quarterbacks: 1. Georgia; 2. FLORIDA; 3. Texas A&M; 4. Mississippi State; 5. Auburn; 6. Alabama; 7. LSU; 8. Arkansas; 9. Ole Miss; 10. Tennessee; 11. Missouri; 12. Kentucky; 13. South Carolina; 14. Vanderbilt. COMMENT: Georgia? Oh please. Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Auburn ranked ahead of Alabama? The rankings should be 1. FLORIDA; 2. Alabama; 3. Texas A&M; 4. Ole Miss; 5. Arkansas; 6. Auburn; 7. Missouri; and then everyone else in just about any order you can think of.
Running backs: 1. Alabama; 2. Mississippi State; 3. Georgia; 4. Texas A&M; 5. LSU; 6. Auburn; 7. Arkansas; 8. Tennessee; 9. FLORIDA; 10. Missouri; 11. Kentucky; 12. South Carolina; 13. Ole Miss; 14. Vanderbilt. COMMENT: They got Alabama right. I might sound like a homer but ask Georgia about Florida’s running backs. The rankings should be 1. Alabama; 2. Texas A&M; 3. South Carolina; 4. Ole Miss; 5. Georgia; 6. Auburn; 7. FLORIDA; 8. Arkansas; 9. Missouri; 10. Kentucky; 11. Tennessee; 12. Vanderbilt; 13. LSU; 14. Mississippi State
Receivers: 1. LSU; 2. Alabama; 3. Georgia; 4. Auburn; 5. Texas A&M; 6. Arkansas; 7. FLORIDA; 8. Mississippi State; 9. Ole Miss; 10. Tennessee; 11. Missouri; 12. Kentucky; 13. South Carolina; 14. Vanderbilt COMMENT: The pick of LSU is forgivable since Ja’Marr Chase hadn’t opted out when the season began, but even with him, Alabama’s receivers are better. Georgia #3? I’m giggling. The rankings should be 1. Alabama; 2. FLORIDA; 3. Ole Miss; 4. Texas A&M; 5. LSU; 6. Auburn; 7. Missouri; 8. Arkansas; 9. Georgia; 10. South Carolina; 11. Mississippi State; 12. Tennessee; 13. Vanderbilt; 14. Kentucky
O-line: 1. Alabama; 2. Kentucky; 3. Tennessee; 4. Texas A&M; 5. Georgia; 6. South Carolina; 7. LSU; 8. FLORIDA; 9. Auburn; 10. Mississippi State; 11. Arkansas; 12. Ole Miss; 13. Missouri; 14. Vanderbilt. COMMENT: The Aggies have the best O-line in the SEC and one of the three or four best in all of college football. The rankings should be 1. Texas A&M; 2. Alabama; 3. FLORIDA; 4. Ole Miss; 5. Missouri; 6. Georgia; 7. Auburn; 8. Kentucky; 9. Arkansas; 10. Tennessee; 11. South Carolina; 12. LSU; 13. Vanderbilt; 14. Mississippi State
3. IF FROGS HAD WINGS THEY WOULDN’T BE GEORGIA FANS: You’ve heard that old saying, “If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his butt every time he jumps.” Think Georgia and Georgia fans when you think frogs. They’ve mastered the near national championship (see 2002, 2007, 2012 and of course their close encounter in a national championship game with Alabama in 2017) and now they’ve mastered the art of if only. As in, if only Jacob Eason hadn’t gotten hurt in 2017 he might have been better than Jake Fromm. As in, if only Kirby had been smart enough to play Justin Fields. As in, if only Justin Fields hadn’t seen the light and transferred to Ohio State. As in, if only Jamie Newman hadn’t been afraid of what might happen in real games against SEC defensive backs after Georgia’s DBs ate his lunch every day in fall practice, causing him to opt out because of the virus. Now Georgia fans are doing the if only about Mississippi State QB K.J. Costello, the Stanford grad transfer who’s miserable in the Air Raid but would be a step above Stetson Bennett IV, D’Wan Mathis, JT Daniels and Carson Beck in Georgia’s pocket-based offense. If you are a Georgia fan, you have an if only ready for any occasion. If only. The motto of the Georgia football fan, college football’s frogs that keep bumping their butts in search of their first national championship in 14,566 days. But who’s counting?
4. THE VIRUS AND THE SEC: Ole Miss at 5th-ranked Texas A&M has been postponed, the only SEC game so far this week to be affected by Covid-19. Keep a close eye on Missouri (2-4) at South Carolina (2-5). Due to contact tracing Missouri is down to 56 scholarship players and the SEC requires a minimum of 53 to play. Missouri’s game with Georgia was postponed last week due to an outbreak of the virus. LSU (2-3), which had its game with Alabama postponed last week, could see a second straight postponement due to an outbreak at Arkansas (3-4). Last week, Arkansas played at Florida without head coach Sam Pittman. Pittman should be back this week but two staff members and one player tested positive on Sunday and others are in quarantine due to contact tracing. As of Tuesday night, Arkansas expected to have more than the SEC minimum of 53 players ready for LSU.
5. DENNIS DODD ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MICHIGAN AND OHIO STATE: When thinking about the difference between Michigan and Ohio State, I’m reminded of that line from Elton John’s 1970s hit “Daniel” that goes, “I can see the red tail lights, heading for Spain.” The red tail lights belong to Ohio State and while the Buckeyes might not be heading for Spain, they might as well be since the distance between the two programs is large and growing. Ohio State is a rocket ship in the Big Ten (Plus Four). Michigan is a wannabe. Dennis Dodd of CBSSports knows. Tuesday he wrote, “Michigan likes to think of itself as an equal, but consider this amazing stat: The Wolverines have won 12 games just once since 1905, the last national championship season in 1997. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes have won at least 12 games seven times – since 2012.” When you put it in that perspective, Jim Harbaugh hasn’t been such a bad coach. He’s won 10 or more games three times since 2015, but he’s never beaten the Buckeyes. The last time Ohio State lost to Michigan was 2011 and that was after Jim Tressell had to depart Ohio State due to NCAA irregularities and Luke Fickell was the interim. From 2012-2018, Urban Meyer made Michigan his personal whipping boy and former UF grad assistant now Ohio State HBC Ryan Day is carrying on the tradition. At Michigan you’re supposed to beat Ohio State and you’re supposed to be as good as the Buckeyes even if it’s unrealistic to have those expectations. Hence, Harbaugh is going and someone else will have to try to beat Ohio State. Michigan is the Georgia of the Big Ten (Plus Four).
6. EXCUSE ME FOR GIGGLING, BUT …: Something called the Allstate Playoff Predictor, which is nothing more than a fancy name for an ESPN Analytics forecast about who’s going to make the College Football Playoff, gives the Big Ten (Plus Four) the best chance of all the conferences to put more than one team in the playoff. In the marvelous words of Steve Martin, “Well, excuuuuuuuuuse me!” Ohio State is going to get in even if a Covid-19 outbreak cancels three of the remaining four games on the Buckeyes schedule. For all practical purposes, Ohio State in the playoff has been pre-ordained and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it. The Buckeyes will win however many games they play the rest of the way against Big Ten opponents and they’ll be unbeaten so they’ll get in. But a second team is going to lose – most likely by a humongous margin – to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten (Plus Four) Championship Game. Wisconsin is 2-0 and has lost two games to the virus. Northwestern is 4-0 and struggled to beat a Nebraska team the Buckeyes could have beaten with their sorority powder puff league all-stars. If any league gets two teams in it will be either the SEC (any two of Alabama, Florida or Texas A&M) or the ACC (Clemson or Notre Dame).
7. FILE THIS UNDER MORE MONEY THAN BRAINS: The long-expected final resolution to the Gregg Marshall fiasco at Wichita State came to a conclusion Tuesday when Marshall and the school agreed to a $7.75 million severance to be paid over the next six years. Marshall is the school’s most successful basketball coach ever (331 wins in 13 seasons) but he was accused (he denied it) of verbal and physical abuse of his players. Consider Wichita State the latest member of the more money than brains club. If Marshall really did the things he’s accused of doing, then why pay him nearly $1.3 million a year for the next six years?