MULLEN LOOKS FOR LOUD, BOISTEROUS SWAMP SATURDAY NIGHT Dan Mullen didn’t exactly come right out and say it at his Monday press conference, but he made it fairly clear that he wants a jam-packed Swamp that is loud and intimidating. Obviously, when the decibels are at ear-splitting levels, it will make it far more difficult for Florida State (6-5) to spring the upset on the 8th-ranked Gators (9-2). The residual effect of a Swamp rocking the way it was against Auburn is an atmosphere that is not only going to be conducive to winning but will appeal to the 150 or so recruits in the South End Zone.
“I’ve said it for years and years, you want to win, pack the stadium, not we win and THEN you [pack the stadium],” Mullen said. “Fans are like, ‘Hey, if you win we’ll show up.’ It actually works the other way. You show up and we’ll win. If you look at how the stadium has been this year, the excitement, the energy within the stadium for our home games has been awesome. As a result of that we’ve won and hopefully the same things continue and we have an unbelievable environment on Saturday night with a packed stadium.”
As for recruiting, Mullen said, “A lot of recruits probably coming to this game because of the type of game it is. Anytime you can do that, it helps. They come. They want to see what’s the environment? What’s it like? What’s the energy within this stadium? Is this a place I want to play? I think that’s how people look at recruiting when they come to see the game. Winning will help, but a lot of our fans creating the environment will help. All of that leads to one goal, which is us trying to find a way to get a win.”
SENIOR JOSH HAMMOND ON HOW HE HOPES TO BE REMEMBERED It will be Senior Day at The Swamp, which means the last home game for guys like Josh Hammond (24 catches, 307 yards, two touchdowns; 5-96, one touchdown rushing; career 84-1,099, six touchdowns receiving; 8-129, two touchdowns rushing). At the Monday press conference, Hammond talked about how he wants to be remembered as a Gator:
“I just wanna be remembered as a person that always put his best foot forward. Always, you know, was willing to help others within the team and always worked his hardest every day to try to help our team to accomplish the goal of winning. And I think I’ve been able to do that within my four years here. So just excited to be able to put the Gator jersey and represent my family the way that I have been able to and win as many ball games as I could.”
GATORS BACK IN TOP 25 HOOPS POLLS It’s amazing what three impressive wins in a row will do for you. Just when many in the media were ready to write off the Gators as overrated, they went to Charleston and knocked off St. Joseph’s, Miami and then 17th-ranked Xavier to improve to 5-2. Shooting was an issue in the first four games of the season but in the three wins in Charleston the Gators shot 50.3% overall from the field and 40.7% from the 3-point line. Defensively, the Gators held all three opponents to 65 or fewer points, 40% overall from the field and 25.8% from the 3-point line. When you shoot the way the Gators did and you play that kind of defense, you win a lot of basketball games.
The Gators still aren’t where Mike White wants them to be, but the Charleston tournament showed what happens when the shots begin to fall. The Gators are playing very good defense that is only going to get better. Offensively, this is a team that is still finding itself so while there might be a few more games when they struggle, the struggles aren’t going to last. The Gators are 24th in the AP poll and 25th in the coaches poll. Expect them to start making the slow but steady climb back into the good graces of the people who vote in the polls and for Florida to eventually get back to a top ten ranking.
The Associated Press Top 25 Poll (1) Duke 6-0; (2) Louisville 6-0; (3) Michigan State 3-1; (4) Kansas 3-1; (5) Maryland 5-0; (6) North Carolina 4-0; (7) Virginia 6-0; (8) Gonzaga 6-0; (9) Kentucky 5-1; (10) Ohio State 5-0; (11) Oregon 5-0; (12) Texas Tech 5-0; (13) Seton Hall 4-1; (14) Arizona 6-0; (15) Utah State 7-0; (16) Memphis 5-1; (17) Tennessee 4-0; (18) Auburn 5-0; (19) Baylor 5-1; (20) VCU 5-0; (21) Colorado 4-0; (22) Villanova 4-2; (23) Washington 5-1; (24) FLORIDA 5-2; (25) Xavier 6-1
The Coaches Top 25 Poll (1) Duke 6-0; (2) Louisville 6-0; (33) Michigan State 3-1; (4) North Carolina 4-0; (5) Kansas 3-1; (6) Virginia 6-0; (7) Gonzaga 6-0; (8) Maryland 5-0; (9) Ohio State 5-0; (10) Oregon 5-0; (11) Kentucky 5-1; (12) Texas Tech 5-0; (13) Seton Hall 4-1; (14) Arizona 6-0; (15) Utah State 7-0; (16) Tennessee 4-0; (17) Auburn 5-0; (18) Baylor 5-1; (19) VCU 5-0; (20) Memphis 5-1; (21) Villanova 4-2; (22) Washington 5-1; (23) Xavier 6-1; (24) Colorado 4-0; (25) FLORIDA 5-2
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF (Associated Press rankings) Monday’s games #17 Tennessee (5-0) 58, Chattanooga 46 #18 Auburn (6-0) 84, New Mexico 59 Vanderbilt (4-1) 78, Southeastern Louisiana 70 Dayton 80, Georgia (4-1) 61 Arkansas (6-0) 62, Georgia Tech 61, OT Butler 63, Missouri (4-2) 52
Tuesday’s Game Wichita State at South Carolina (4-1)
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF (Associated Press rankings) #5 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC): Nick Saban on why he thinks QB Mac Jones is ready to play well on the road Saturday against Auburn: “I think the team has confidence in him … We have every confidence that he’ll be able to manage the game well and do what we need to do to be able to get the ball to the skill players we have to create balance on offense.” Saturday: at #16 Auburn (8-3, 4-3 SEC) Arkansas (2-9, 0-7 SEC): Interim coach Barry Lunney indicated that he might start Jack Lindsey at quarterback against Missouri. If Lindsey, who was 3-4 passing for 51 yards and a TD against LSU, starts he will be the fifth QB to start a game for the Razorbacks this season. Saturday: vs. Missouri (5-6, 2-5 SEC) in Little Rock #16 Auburn (8-3, 4-3 SEC): In the win over Samford, freshman QB Bo Nix broke the school freshman record for completions and tied the freshman record for touchdown passes. For the season, Nix is 185-321 passing for 2,193 yards and 14 touchdown passes. He needs 50 yards to break the single season freshman passing yardage record. Saturday: vs. #5 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) #4 Georgia (10-1, 7-1 SEC): Since throwing three interceptions in the loss to South Carolina, Jake Fromm has thrown eight touchdown passes without an interception. Fromm has completed fewer than 50% of his passes in each of the last three games while throwing six TDPs. Saturday: at Georgia Tech (3-8) Kentucky (6-5, 3-5 SEC): Monday Mark Stoops made it abundantly clear that the FSU job is not in the cards: “I think I was pretty clear, I’m really intent on being here and building this program. We have unfinished business and I’m excited about the future, so I’m pretty clear.” Saturday: vs. Louisville (7-4) #1 LSU (11-0, 7-0 SEC): Coach O talked Monday about how motivated the Tigers will be to face Texas A&M, which beat them in a marathon 7-overtime game last year: “We’re going to be sky high, but we can’t be too high to where we are committing a bunch of penalties and all that. It’s going to be an emotional game because of what happened last year, because of where we’re at – we’re 11-0, we want to finish the season undefeated.” Saturday: vs. Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3 SEC) Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5 SEC): HBC Joe Moorhead on the importance of winning the Egg Bowl game with Ole Miss: I understand the magnitude of it. President (Mark) Keenum clearly stressed that when I got the job. We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure that trophy stays put.” Thursday: vs. Ole Miss (4-7, 3-4 SEC) Missouri (5-6, 2-5 SEC): Kelly Bryant’s hamstring issues are well known but Bryant had to have his knee drained before the loss to Tennessee. The knee injury was caused by a hit taken in the Florida game. Saturday: at Arkansas (2-9, 0-7 SEC) in Little Rock Ole Miss (4-7, 3-4 SEC): Here is the motivation for Ole Miss Thursday: Although the Rebels won’t qualify to go to a bowl game, they know if they beat Mississippi State they will break the Bulldogs streak of nine straight years of going bowling. Thursday: at Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5 SEC) South Carolina (4-7, 3-5 SEC): Running back Tavien Feaster, a Clemson transfer who graduated in 2-1/2 years, is expected to play against his old teammates Saturday. Despite missing three games with a groin injury, Feaster leads South Carolina in rushing with 625 yards (5.58 per carry). Saturday: vs. #3 Clemson (11-0) Tennessee (6-5, 4-3 SEC): QB Jesse Guarantano was thankful Monday that his teammates stood by him even when he was getting death threats and his sister was getting mean text messages from Tennessee fans after the Alabama game. Saturday: vs. Vanderbilt (3-8, 1-6 SEC) Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3 SEC): Jimbo Fisher isn’t pointing fingers at the zebras who blew numerous calls in the Aggies loss to Georgia, but admitted that Texas A&M submitted several blown calls for review to the SEC office. Saturday: at #1 LSU (11-0, 7-0 SEC) Vanderbilt (3-8, 1-6 SEC): Official attendance for the win over East Tennessee State was announced at 19,683. Photos of the stadium show less than half that actually attended the game. Saturday: at Tennessee (6-5, 4-3 SEC)
GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated on the fact that beating Miami was very, very personal for Florida International coach Butch Davis: “Why so personal? No one wants to get into specifics, but we all know those reasons. At least three times in the last several years, the Hurricanes passed on a chance to welcome back Butch Davis as coach, the man who overcame the NCAA rule-breaking transgressions of Dennis Erickson in the late 1990s to lay the foundation for a championship won without him in 2001. Instead, Miami hired, Randy Shannon, then Al Golden, then Mark Richt, a trio that went 90-63 in 12 seasons, claimed zero conference championships and finished ranked in the top ten zero times.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter on the fact that not a single NFL team has bothered to contact Colin Kaepernick since his workout in front of seven NFL teams in Riverdale, Georgia: “The fact that the NFL tried to spark interest in Kaepernick last week, and could not, and that his reps made sure that video of the workout was delivered to every team, are just the latest signs that the chances are bleak that a team will step forward and sign him.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Even though Rutgers, Florida State and Arkansas jumped the gun, the firing season for college football officially began Monday when UNLV fired Tony Sanchez and New Mexico pink slipped Bob Davie … Maine quarterback Chris Ferguson has entered the NCAA transfer portal and will be immediately eligible somewhere next year as a graduate transfer. Ferguson is 6-4, 230 with a big arm. In the six games before he was hurt this season he threw for 1,635 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2017-18, he threw for 4,436 yards and 38 touchdowns. He is expected to get multiple Division I offers … Cost overruns for the new Los Angeles stadium that will be home to the Rams and Chargers mean the final price tag will be in excess of $6 BILLION, which is more than the combined cost of the Cowboys, Colts and Eagles stadiums … There was a report in Monday’s Tampa Bay Times that Willie Taggart never signed his contract at Florida State, opening the door that FSU might not owe Taggart the full amount of his nearly $18 million buyout. A later report by sports business analyst Darren Rovell claims that Taggart signed the contract but Florida State did not. Considering Taggart’s agent is Jimmy Sexton, it seems more likely that Rovell’s report is the more accurate of the two, but it is another negative coming out of Tallahassee at a time when FSU needs all the publicity it can generate.