Thoughts of the Day: November 2, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:

Funny how quickly perceptions can change. Just a week ago when the Florida Gators were slammed with the Covid-19 virus and Dan Mullen was unsure how many of his key personnel would even be able to play against Missouri, the perception was the annual Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville would be a fairly easy win for Georgia. That was before 5th-ranked Georgia (4-1) got a most uninspiring 14-3 win over Kentucky while suffering a slew of injuries and before the Gators, minus 14 players including three in the secondary and kicker Evan McPherson, put the kibosh on Missouri, 41-17.

While Georgia struggled offensively, Florida not only kicked off the rust from inactivity with its offense but found its defense. Now, suddenly, there are doubts about Georgia. The offense was shut out in the second half of that 41-24 blowout loss to Alabama, a game in which perceptions about the invincibility of the Georgia defense were put to rest. Against Kentucky, Georgia struggled to find any offensive consistency. The defense looked good, but it was Kentucky, one of the worst offenses in the entire country so it’s not like the Poodles were challenged.

As for the Gators, they found their offensive rhythm in the second quarter against Missouri and then poured it on in the second half. Kyle Trask threw four touchdown passes, his fourth consecutive game with at least four TDPs, which is an SEC record. Missouri was so intent on keeping Kyle Pitts from having a big game that it seemed they forgot all about Kadarius Toney. Big mistake there. The Gators threw it well and they ran better than they have all year.

We’ve come to expect that kind of productivity from the offense. It’s the defense that put it all together which is surprising considering the number of starters and backups who were unavailable on that side of the ball. The Gators held Missouri to 248 yards and only 42 on the ground. That’s important because Georgia has issues in the passing game and has to rely on running the football. The game plan will be simple: Stuff the run and put all the pressure on Stetson Bennett IV.

A week ago, Georgia probably would have opened up as a 10-12 point favorite. As of Sunday night, Georgia was a shaky 4.5-point favorite. Perceptions have changed. There is every good reason to believe Florida can put a halt to Georgia’s run of three straight SEC East championships.

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL

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

COACHES TOP 25 POLL

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

RUMBLING, STUMBLING, BUMBLING IN THE SEC #2 ALABAMA (6-0): Devonta Smith torched Mississippi State for 11 catches, 203 yards and four touchdowns and in doing so, tied Chris Doering and Amari Cooper for the most touchdown receptions (31) in Southeastern Conference history. For the season, Smith has 56 catches for 759 yards and eight touchdowns

Next week: Open date

ARKANSAS (2-3): Although the Razorbacks lost to Texas A&M, 42-31, they had their best offensive game of the season, rushing for 222 yards and passing for 239 while averaging 6.23 yards per snap. Quarterback Feleipe Franks had a solid outing, throwing for 239 yards and three touchdowns without an interception while running for 91 yards on 16 carries. Next week: vs. Tennessee (2-3)

AUBURN (4-2): Was Auburn’s 48-11 win over LSU a case of the offense finally figuring out what coordinator Chad Morris wants them to do or that LSU is just that bad? Quarterback Bo Nix, who had his struggles in the first five games, had his best game of the season, hitting 18-24 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns while running for 81 yards on 11 carries. Auburn’s 506 yards and 48 points represented the best offensive game of the season for the Tigers. Next week: Open date

#5 GEORGIA (4-1): Georgia has numerous injuries it will have to deal with this week including wide receiver George Pickens, running back Kenny McIntosh and defensive linemen Julian Rochester and Jordan Davis, but the injury that is the most concerning is safety Richard LeCounte, who suffered several non-life threatening injuries in a motor vehicle accident after the team returned to Athens Saturday night. As of Saturday night, LeCounte will not require surgery but is expected to miss several weeks.

Next week: vs. #8 FLORIDA (3-1) in Jacksonville

KENTUCKY (2-4): The Wildcats rank dead last in the SEC in total offense, which is difficult when you consider Vanderbilt plays in the league. Nationally the Wildcats rank 92nd out of 103 teams that have strapped on a jock and helmet this year. The UK folks were hoping that Joey Gatewood taking over at QB would open up the offense, but against Georgia he averaged just 3.6 yards per pass attempt. You don’t win SEC football games with that kind of pathetic production in the passing game. The problem at UK might not be the QB, however. It might very well be the play caller, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. Twitter was alive Sunday with calls for Gran to find gainful employment someplace else. Next week: Open date

LSU (2-3): A week ago the SEC Network announcing crew anointed freshman QB TJ Finley as THE guy and suggested Myles Brennan put his name in the NCAA transfer portal. How silly and it just goes to show that the announcers for the SEC Network are hired by ESPN, which insists of having Beth Mowins do the play-by-play of college football games. Finley looked like a lost ball in the tall weeds against Auburn, his second straight start for the injured Brennan. Fortunately for LSU Brennan has a week to heal and get ready for Alabama. Meanwhile, there is that teensy problem with the LSU defense, which made Bo Nix look like the second coming of Joe Montana. LSU is going to struggle to finish 5-5. Next week: Open date

MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-4): The Bulldogs’ 41-0 loss to Alabama marked the first time a Mike Leach-coached team has ever been shut out. Since scoring 44 points and six touchdowns in their season opening win over LSU, Mississippi State has scored only four touchdowns and 30 points in the subsequent four games. Their next game against Vanderbilt might be the final game they have a shot at winning this season. Next week: vs. Vanderbilt (0-4)

MISSOURI (2-3): A week after Mizzou pounded the ball between the tackles against Kentucky for 220 yards on 62 carries, the Tigers managed just 42 against Florida on 23 attempts. Not only did the Gators stuff Mizzou’s running game, they forced the passing game to dink and dunk away, averaging a mere 5.2 yards per attempt. Next week: Open date

OLE MISS (2-4): In their 54-21 win over Vanderbilt, the Rebels got record-setting performances from quarterback Matt Corral and wide receiver Elijah Moore. Corral (31-34 passing for 412 yards) broke Eli Manning’s school record with six touchdown passes. Moore, who caught 14 passes for three touchdowns, broke A.J. Brown’s single game receiving yards record with 238. Next week: Open date

SOUTH CAROLINA (2-3): Will the Gamecocks stick with largely immobile Collin Hill at QB or make the move to sophomore Ryan Hilinski, who was last year’s starter as a true freshman? Hill is averaging a very pedestrian 6.9 yards per pass attempt and has thrown only five touchdown passes. He’s been sacked an SEC worst 16 times. Next week: vs. #7 Texas A&M (4-1)

TENNESSEE (2-3): The Vols had the week off but that isn’t going to solve any problems. The quarterback is still Jarrett Guarantano, who gets dazed and confused every time he sees a zone defense. He will see plenty of that this week in Fayette Nam. Just ask Matt Corral of Ole Miss how much he loved reading the disguised coverage packages dreamed up by Barry Odom. Next week: at Arkansas (2-3)

#7 TEXAS A&M (4-1): The schedule looks favorable for the Aggies to finish 9-1, but they always find a way to blow a game they should have no problems winning. That could be this week when they go to South Carolina, which has a habit of playing substantially better at home than on the road.

Next week: at South Carolina (2-3)

VANDERBILT (0-4): Vanderbilt had its best offensive game of the season and still lost by 33 points to Ole Miss. The Commodores had 421 yards (319 passing) and scored three touchdowns, both season highs. That output allowed Vandy to move past Kentucky in both the SEC and national rankings. The Commodores are now 13th in the SEC in total offense, 91st in the nation, averaging 297.8 yards per game. The Commodores rank 101st (out of 103 teams) in scoring at 11.8 per game.

Next week: at Mississippi State (1-5)

TACKLE FOOTBALL PLAYED SOMEWHERE BESIDE THE SEC

Wisconsin didn’t play because of the Covid-19 virus and its game against Purdon’t is all but certain to be cancelled, too. Both the first and second team quarterbacks are under quarantine for two more weeks. Amazingly, the AP hd Wisconsin #10 and the Coaches had the Badgers #11.

Paul Finebaum on Jim Harbaugh, whose seat is feeling the warmth after his 24.5-point favorite Michigan Wolverines took it on the chin from their country cousins Michigan State: “This is who Jim Harbaugh is. He gets paid $8 million per year. We all act like he’s Nick Saban, but he’s not. He’s a slightly better than average college coach. Anyone who claims he’s an elite coach, that’s just not true at all.” And what do you really think, Paul?

Now that Oklahoma State has suffered its first loss of the season (to Texas) there isn’t a single unbeaten team remaining in the Big 12 (Minus Two) Conference. Given the league has never won a College Football Playoff game, not having an unbeaten could keep the league from sending a team to this year’s playoff.

The Pac-12 will kick off its season this week. I’m sure all of you have been waiting with bated breath for that to happen.

Clemson, which holds a 2-point lead over #2 Alabama in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll, will be without Trevor Lawrence when the Tigers visit 4th-ranked Notre Dame. That means the Tigers will be going for a second straight game with true freshman D.J. Uiagelelei, who led Clemson from 18 points down to a 34-28 win over Boston College, throwing for 342 yards and two touchdowns and running for 25 more and a TD. Clemson is a 7-point favorite to win in South Bend.

SOME PITHY THOUGHTS FOR A MONDAY: Former Gator Brian Gay birdied the 18th hole, then nailed a 12-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a playoff to beat Wyndham Clark for the Bermuda Championship on Sunday. Gay finished the tournament at -15 for the fifth win of his PGA career. He picked up a check for $720,000 for winning. If you go up and down the leaderboard there are a lot of people you’ve never heard of. Needless to say, the guys who regularly make the big bucks on tour are getting ready for the Masters instead of playing for a paltry $720,000 first place prize … Billy Tubbs died. He won 609 college basketball games at Lamar, Oklahoma and TCU. His 1988 Oklahoma team lost to Kansas and Danny Manning in the NCAA Championship Game. I remember him for this quote: “This year we plan to run and shoot. Next season we hope to run and score” … Cam Newton needs to chat with his financial advisor and agent to make sure he’s got plenty of money socked away for the future because his days as an NFL quarterback seem numbered. Sunday he fumbled the ball away at the Buffalo 14 yard line with 31 seconds to go as the New England Patriots fell to the Bills 24-21 … Giancarlo Stanton could opt out of his New York Yankees contract, but why? He’s owed $218 million in guaranteed money in a deal that doesn’t expire until 2028. That’s nice work if you can get it.

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