THINKING DURING AN OPEN WEEK: A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO BASTE (1) With one regular season game to go and a probable New Year’s Six bowl game for a second straight year if the Gators take care of business against Florida State on November 30, Dan Mullen is 19-5 as Florida’s head coach. He has the Gators a full year ahead of schedule in restoring Florida football back to a championship level, evidence of which is the only two losses this year are to the nation’s #1 and #4 teams and both games were winnable. Meanwhile, Chip Kelly is 6-14 at UCLA and instead of mounting a challenge for supremacy over cross-town rival Southern Cal, the Bruins have taken steps backward. Up at Nebraska, Scott Frost is 8-12. The athletic director says Frost will need two or three more recruiting classes before the Cornhuskers are serious challengers to win the Big Ten. I just thought I would remind any doubters out there who are still unconvinced that Mullen was, is and will be the right man for the Florida job.
(2) Georgia is 9-1 and has won the SEC East. Am I the only one who isn’t sold on the Poodles? They have an exceptional defense and some great athletes but I question they could have beaten Florida with a healthy Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga. I think Gus Malzahn wants to kick himself in the butt because Auburn had a number of chances to win Saturday. But, woulda, coulda, shoulda doesn’t count. Georgia won those games and goes to Atlanta. I still don’t think the Poodles are that good, however.
(3) In my occasionally lucid mind, the top five stories of the college football year are: (1) Joe Burrow emerging as the Heisman front runner while taking LSU to the #1 ranking; (2) Tua Tagovailoa going down with a season ending injury against Mississippi State; (3) Florida State and Arkansas firing head coaches who haven’t even made it all the way through their second seasons; (4) Kyle Trask finally getting his chance to start football games for the first time since he was a high school freshman and throwing multiple touchdown passes in eight consecutive games; and (5) Minnesota and Baylor making it to week 10 before suffering their first losses of the season.
(4) I’ve thought all season long that Penn State is overrated. Obviously, the people who set the point spreads in Las Vegas think so too. They’ve made Ohio State an 18-point favorite in Saturday’s Big Ten East showdown. I think Ohio State covers the spread and that James Franklin will be the next head football coach at Southern Cal. It’s a lot easier to win the Pac-12 South than it is to beat the Buckeyes in the Big Ten East.
(5) My all too early picks to make the College Football Playoff are LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oregon. I think LSU will dispose of Georgia in the SEC title game. Although I think Ohio State will win the Big Ten, I’m not as sold on the Buckeyes as some folks. I’m shocked that Clemson is playing at such a high level considering the ACC is top to bottom weaker than the Mountain West. The Tigers have won 26 straight games and that streak will be 28 when the playoff semifinals are played. Oregon could lose to Utah which could create an opening for Oklahoma to sneak in, providing, of course, the Sooners can beat Baylor a second time.
(6) Since donkeys might fly before a Group of Five school makes the final four of the College Football Playoff, I think it’s high time they establish their own national championship playoff. Why not? We have Division IAA, Division II and Division III all with their own playoffs. The only ones without a shot at a playoff are the Group of Five schools. Give UCF a chance to claim a national championship without claiming a piece of one won by Alabama.
(7) I’ve watched the replay several times of Myles Garrett swinging a helmet and hitting Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head. That’s inexcusable. What’s even more inexcusable is for Garrett’s Cleveland Browns teammate Sheldon Richards onto claim Garrett was “defending himself” from Rudolph. I guess everybody has to be a victim these days and times.
(8) Kansas basketball has been served with its notice of allegations by the NCAA. I keep waiting on the hammer to drop on Arizona, LSU, Southern Cal and Louisville. Even if the NCAA hits all five of these schools hard, it will only be scratching the surface of the corruption in college basketball.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
(Associated Press rankings)
#5 Alabama (9-1, 6-1 SEC): Tua Tagovailoa is reported resting comfortably at a Houston hospital after undergoing surgery to repair his dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture ... Defensive back Scooby Carter, formerly a four-star recruit, has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Carter has one tackle this season and was suspended for the Mississippi State game. Saturday: vs. Western Carolina (3-8)
Arkansas (2-8, 0-6 SEC): Besides the three candidates for the new HBC with Arkansas roots who are thought to be atop the Arkansas wish list – Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Mike Novell (Memphis) and Eli Drinkwitz (Appalachian State) – keep an eye on Washington State’s Mike Leach. He’s won with a whole lot less than he would have at Arkansas at both his previous head coaching outposts and if offered, it’s probably 90% certain he’d take the job. Saturday: at #1 LSU (10-0, 6-0 SEC)
#16 Auburn (7-3, 4-3 SEC): In the Tigers’ loss to Georgia the Tigers were 36-84 rushing the football. Freshman QB Bo Nix, who threw 50 passes, was the leading rusher with 13 carries for 42 yards. Saturday: vs. Samford (5-6)
#4 Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC): Georgia is the first team from the SEC East to make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game since the Gators went there five straight times from 1992-96. Saturday: vs. #24 Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2 SEC)
Kentucky (5-5, 3-5 SEC): The Wildcats rank second in the SEC and 16th nationally in rushing offense at 231.4 yards per game. In their last three games (two wins and a loss), the Wildcats have run for 1,000 yards and scored 10 touchdowns on the ground. Saturday: vs. UT-Martin (7-4) #1 LSU (10-0, 6-0 SEC): Linebacker Michael Divinity Jr., who left the team two weeks ago for personal reasons, has returned to practice. In that the Tigers gave up 614 yards (402 on the ground) and 37 points in their win over Ole Miss, Divinity’s timing seems rather good. Saturday: vs. Arkansas (2-8. 0-6 SEC)
Mississippi State (4-6, 2-5 SEC): A year ago the Bulldogs gave up 13.2 points and 263.1 yards per game. Following their blowout loss to Alabama, Mississippi State is giving up 31 points and 401.3 yards per game. They rank 11th in total defense, 12th in scoring defense in the SEC. Saturday: vs. Abilene Christian (5-6)
Missouri (5-5, 2-4 SEC): Missouri fans calling for offensive coordinator Derek Dooley’s head on a pike point to the Florida game as the reason why HBC Barry Odom needs to find someone new to design the offense and call the plays. Against Florida, the Tigers punted 10 times, threw an interception and had two field goals. Saturday: vs. Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 SEC)
Ole Miss (4-7, 2-5 SEC): Now that the Rebels are eliminated from going to a bowl game, HBC Matt Luke is calling the Egg Bowl in two weeks “a one game season.” Saturday: Open
South Carolina (4-7, 3-5 SEC): South Carolina school prez Robert Caslen said Monday, “Listen, for the record, [Will Muschamp] is my coach, period. And he’ll remain my coach, just for the record. If you look at the athletic director’s statement, that’s the same that I endorse.” Saturday: Open
Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 SEC): The Vols would like to clinch bowl eligibility this week but that might be tough against Missouri’s defense, which ranks second in the SEC (297.6 yards per game allowed). The Vols are #13 in the SEC and #109 nationally in total offense at 343.5 yards per game. Saturday: at Missouri (5-5, 2-4 SEC)
#24 Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2 SEC): When the Aggies travel to Athens Saturday it will be just the sixth time the two teams have ever faced off and the first since A&M joined the SEC back in 2012. The last time Texas A&M and Georgia met was in a bowl game in 2009. Saturday: at #4 Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC)
Vanderbilt (2-8, 1-6 SEC): After losing to Kentucky Saturday, embattled Vandy coach Derek Mason didn’t exactly win friends and influence neighbors among the boosters and alums when he said, “There’s going to be cycles of bowl teams and opportunities. It’s not going to be an every year opportunity unless these guys get it young and we hit it hot. I mean there’s going to be waves and cycles in this deal, and I’m just in a wave right now, just a wave and cycle where we’re not where we wanna be.” Saturday: vs. East Tennessee State (3-8)
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF Monday’s games #9 Kentucky (3-1) 82, Utah Valley 74 #19 Auburn (5-0) 91, Colgate 62 Missouri (3-1) 75, Wofford 56
Tuesday’s games Boston University at South Carolina (3-0) UM-Baltimore County at LSU (2-1) Seattle at Ole Miss (3-0) Furman at Alabama (1-2) Texas Southern at Arkansas (3-0)
GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network on why Auburn coach Gus Malzahn ought to take the Arkansas job – or some other Power 5 job – if offered: “Listen, we can whisper this, or we can scream it at the top of our lungs, if Gus Malzahn finishes the season 8-4, the appetite for him to return is going to be fairly muted at Auburn. I will be below 50 percent. Gus Malzahn needs to leave. He needs to find somewhere else to go because he can continue, it’s like banging your head against the wall, you’re going to get the same result. You’re going to have a headache and you’re going to feel terrible. You can quote Einstein or you can quote me, but I don’t see much of a path forward for him.”
Former Tampa Bay Bucs and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy on Colin Kaepernick, on what was and wasn’t answered by Colin Kaepernick’s Saturday workout: “If I was coaching, my big question would be, Colin Kaepernick is a good quarterback. He’s a good athlete. I know he can throw the ball. I know he is one of the top 100 quarterbacks playing. But what I don’t know is how badly he wants to play and I didn’t get that answered.”
Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated on why Tua Tagovailoa was in the game late in the second quarter when he suffered the dislocated and fractured hip against Mississippi State: “Saban told CBS at halftime that the series in which he was hurt was going to be Tagovailoa’s final one for the day. They wanted him to get some reps running the two-minute offense, which is actually understandable given the catastrophic interception he threw the previous week against LSU near the end of the half. Why not try to establish some success to build confidence in that area and flush the memory of a pick that played a significant role in Alabama losing its biggest game of the year.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Florida State wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator David Kelly has been canned, replaced by former D-lineman and analyst Mario Edwards. Should this be read as a sign that Florida State is going to hire interim coach Odell Haggins as its permanent coach? … Now that Kilani Sitaki has BYU bowl eligible, he’s been given a contract extension. Boosters and alums wanted him gone about a month ago … Even though we’re only a handful of games into the college basketball season, there isn’t a super team on the horizon which means this could end up one of the most wide open NCAA Tournaments in memory.