TIME TO MAKE A FEW SHOTS Defense isn’t the problem for the Florida Gators (2-2) although they’ll get a serious challenge this afternoon when they face St. Joseph’s (2-2) in the Charleston Classic, a three-day event that could see the Gators getting a rematch with UConn on day three. Day three will take care of itself. Today, the Gators have to stop a St. Joseph’s team that lit up UConn, 96-87, last week. That’s the same UConn team that held the Gators to 59 points and dismal 25% shooting from the 3-point line back on Sunday.
Florida has played good enough defense in all four games to be 4-0 and the Gators figure to keep the Hawks (four of their five starters average double figures) from reaching their average of 79.8 per game. The question is can the Gators break out of their shooting slump – 38.4% from the field overall and a miserable 24.1% from the 3-point line – well enough to get a win?
The signs are there that the Gators are going to break out. There wasn’t a lack of open shots against UConn, just a lack of the ball finding the bottom of the net. Shooting can be contagious and if UF can get Noah Locke or Tre Mann going offensively, it will definitely make things easier around the basket for Kerry Blackshear Jr. (14.5 points, 11 rebounds per game).
SOUNDING OFF ABOUT BOWL GAMES
There are 130 teams in Division I and in approximately three weeks the bowl season will kick off which means 78 of them – many who barely broke even – will playing football in such exotic locations as Detroit (Quick Lane Bowl), Montgomery (Camellia Bowl) and Boise (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl). Since the advent of the College Football Playoff, fewer people actually attend the games and TV ratings for anything but those rare games that actually pit decent teams against each other are in the tank.
I love college football, but I have a hard time getting enthused about watching a couple of mediocre teams squaring off before maybe 8,000 people frying in a soccer stadium in something called the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. There is this misconception about Makers Wanted. It sounds like a Caribbean rum but it is actually the slogan of Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Elk Grove Village is best known for the industrial park that is adjacent to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and they sponsor a bowl game in The Bahamas. Go figure.
I bring up the bowls because Paul Finebaum raised a legitimate question a day or so ago when he said the injury to Tua Tagovailoa is going to make a lot of players think seriously about skipping meaningless bowl games and playing only in the playoff and the marquee games like the Rose Bowl. Do you really think players have trouble going to sleep at night thinking about their approaching bowl trip to Shreveport where if you’re on the losing team you’re required to stay an extra week?
Reality is most of the bowl games are meaningless. The biggest reason they exist is so (a) ESPN doesn’t bombard us with more X Games coverage and those fabulous college basketball shootouts between Alaska-Fairbanks and Southern Utah State and (b) bowl teams get 15 days of practice, which is the equivalent of a second spring practice.
If you’re buying into that tall tale that the schools make money on their bowl trips, then consider yourself duped. Very few actually make money although if you’re from a conference like the SEC which typically sends 8-10 teams to bowl games, the collective payout – split 15 ways of course (14 teams and the SEC gets its cut) – gives everyone a modest profit.
Conference USA, the AAC, Mountain West and the like? They lose big time but they get the practices in and they’re on TV. Probably the only time anyone in SEC Country will ever watch a game played by the Fighting Falwells of Liberty U is if they are either total football junkies or don’t wish to watch the Southeast Asia Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships from Kota Kinabalu. Oh, and did you know that the bowls make the schools buy a big block of tickets and then try to unload them on the fan base?
I liked it better when there were fewer bowl games and the only teams that got to play had better than average records. I would like to see a rule that you can’t go to a bowl game unless you won seven games against Division I opponents. That would eliminate a bunch of games and put a premium on scheduling decent teams in the regular season instead of loading up on pansies so you can get bowl eligible.
My guess is that we’re only a few years from seeing the bowl system as we know it now come to an end. If it survives it will be part of an expanded College Football Playoff. I could live with that.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF (College Football Playoff Rankings) #5 Alabama (9-1, 6-1 SEC): Questionable for Saturday’s game with Western Carolina are wide receiver Henry Ruggs (bruised ribs), nose tackle DJ Dale (twisted knee), defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis and defensive lineman Raekwon Davis (sprained ankle). Saturday: vs. Western Carolina (3-8)
Arkansas (2-8, 0-6 SEC): Former Arkansas and Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt claims an Arkansas assistant athletic director reached out to gauge his interest in returning as HBC. Nutt compiled a 75-48 record at Arkansas and a 24-26 record at Ole Miss. Saturday: at #1 LSU (10-0, 6-0 SEC)
#15 Auburn (7-3, 4-3 SEC): Defensive tackle Derrick Brown was named one of the five semifinalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given annually to the nation’s best defensive player. Saturday: vs. Samford (5-6)
#11 FLORIDA (9-2, 6-2 SEC): Dan Mullen is a semifinalist for the George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award. It’s nice that Mullen is being noticed, but it will be shocking if the Coach of the Year isn’t either Coach O or Minnesota’s PJ Fleck. Saturday: Open
#4 Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC): Freshman quarterback Austin Kinsley will transfer from Nevada to Georgia where he will walk on. Kinsley took a redshirt in 2019. He is from Marietta. Saturday: vs. Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2 SEC)
Kentucky (5-5, 3-5 SEC): Quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. has run for more than 100 yards in four of his five starts and ranks eighth in the SEC in rushing with 822 yards. There is every good chance he will crack the 1,000-yard barrier Saturday against D1AA UT-Martin. Saturday: vs. UT-Martin (7-4)
#1 LSU (10-0, 6-0 SEC): The Tigers are mere 44-point favorites over Arkansas but Coach O warns, “Don’t underestimate them. They always play well against LSU.” Arkansas can play lights out against LSU and still lose by six touchdowns. Saturday: vs. Arkansas (2-8, 0-6 SEC)
Mississippi State (4-6, 2-5 SEC): Mississippi State is listed as a 37-point favorite over D1AA Abilene Christian Saturday … The Bulldogs have yet to throw for 250 yards in a game this season. Saturday: vs. Abilene Christian (5-6)
Missouri (5-5, 2-4 SEC): Missouri’s defense has held five opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing. The Tigers rank 10th nationally in total defense at 297 yards per game. Saturday: vs. Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 SEC)
Ole Miss (4-7, 2-5 SEC): Ole Miss is listed as an early 1-1/2 point underdog to Mississippi State for next week’s Egg Bowl game in Starkville. Saturday: Open
South Carolina (4-7, 3-5 SEC): Record setting wide receiver Brian Edwards (256-3,238 and 22 touchdowns) has had arthroscopic surgery on his knee and is considered doubtful for next week’s game with Clemson. Edwards is one touchdown catch short of the school record. Saturday: Open
Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 SEC): Running back Carlin Fils-aime will take a redshirt and return for a fifth season next year. Fils-aime has played in three games without any stats and hasn’t seen the field in more than a month. Saturday: at Missouri (5-5, 2-4 SEC)
Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2 SEC): Speaking of quarterback Kellen Mond, HBC Jimbo Fisher said, “He works hard, kids love him, he is very competitive. If he has to take a hit to make a throw he does it. All the great quarterbacks do that.” Mond has thrown for 2,435 yards and 18 touchdowns and run for 400 yards and seven more. Saturday: at #4 Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC)
Vanderbilt (2-8, 1-6 SEC): Vanderbilt will do a home and home with Virginia Tech in 2024-25, playing in Nashville in 2024 and in Blacksburg in 2025. Saturday: vs. East Tennessee State (3-8)
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF Wednesday’s games
#20 Tennessee (4-0) 76, Alabama State 41
Georgia (4-0) 82, Georgia Tech 78 Missouri (4-1) 70, Morehead State 52 Texas A&M (3-1) 56, Troy 52 Vanderbilt (3-1) 90, Austin Peay 72
Thursday’s games FLORIDA (2-2) vs. St. Joseph’s in Charleston, SC Mississippi State (4-0) at Tulane
GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY Dennis Dodd of cbssports.com on why Penn State’s James Franklin could become the target coach for Southern Cal if Urban Meyer says no:
“Bottom line: The guy is not going to embarrass your school. Franklin’s smoothness, confidence and ability would play well in Southern California. Not to mention, the dude can coach – and recruit – his ass off. There have been five consecutive top 20 recruiting classes at Penn State, per the 247Sports Composite team rankings.”
Joe Rexrode of The Athletic quoting Vanderbilt athletic director Malcolm Turner on why he elected to keep HBC Derek Mason for one more year even with fans and boosters demanding change: “I understand that people want a quick and easy fix and, in difficult years, it’s typical to focus on the usual suspect -- a coaching change. But we can’t recycle the same problem and buy yet even more time with the fan base without really addressing core issues. That’s offensive to a fan base that truly cares. Look, this has been a disappointing year without question -- but we are going to focus on root causes. We have had 50 years of routine ‘kick the can’ coaching changes without accompanying fundamental underlying change. Out of respect for all who truly support Vanderbilt football, and with the focus on building a successful and sustainable football program, this is the cycle we need to break. Vanderbilt offers the nation’s best degree, in the nation’s best city, in the nation’s best conference. Now we’re going to provide significant upgrades to what’s currently in place while also keeping laser focus on providing first-class resources for student-athletes.”
Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated on a chaos scenario that could see Alabama as the SEC’s only representative in the College Football Playoff: “Jimbo Fisher starts really earning that 10-year, $75-million contract Saturday when his hot Texas A&M team upsets No. 4 Georgia between the hedges. That second loss all but dooms the Bulldogs playoff chances … Jimbo strikes again on Nov. 30, this time upsetting No. 1 LSU in Bator Rouge. (Fisher’s nephew is not involved in postgame altercations this time around at least, as he was after last year’s utterly ridiculous 74-72 Aggies victory.) Also on November 30, Georgia dispatches Georgia Tech and Mac Jones leads No. 5 Alabama past Auburn in the Iron Bowl … On Dec. 7, the Bulldogs also take down LSU in the SEC championship game. Like that, the Tigers dream season dissolves in the final two weeks. And the SEC champ is a team that lost to South Carolina … So the SEC champion has two losses. The SEC runner-up has two losses. And who is still sitting there with one loss, at 11-1, with a win at Auburn and a win at Texas A&M that just skyrocketed in value? America, reintroduce yourself to Alabama.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The NCAA announced that Memphis 7-1 freshman center James Wiseman will be suspended until January 12, which means he will sit another 11 games. How is it that Hardaway isn’t suspended as the Memphis coach for giving Wiseman’s family more than $11,000 to move into his school district when he was a high school coach and a Memphis booster? … Former NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown has filed a countersuit against Britney Taylor for defamation. Taylor claims Brown raped and sexually assaulted her on three separate occasions ... Suspended Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett met with NFL officials Wednesday morning to appeal his ban for the remainder of the regular season and any postseason games the Browns might play.