A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:
Do you remember the feeling in the pit of your stomach a year ago in Lexington when Feleipe Franks suffered a dislocated/fractured ankle near the end of the third quarter with the Gators trailing Kentucky, 21-10? Did you write off the game as a loss when Kyle Trask came into the game cold off the bench? Kentucky fans, although polite in their applause for Franks as he was wheeled off the field on a stretcher, went into a celebratory mood. They just knew a second straight win over Florida was about to take place. You have to go back to 1975-76 to find the last time that happened.
How shocked were you when Trask drove the Gators 62 yards in six plays for a touchdown on his first series in the fourth quarter? He was 4-5 on that drive for 54 yards. The Gators scored when Trask executed an option play on the left side to perfection, drawing the defenders to him before pitching to Lamical Perine who skipped in for the TD.
On his third possession, Trask had a 30-yard completion to Kyle Pitts (sound familiar?) to set up the go-ahead touchdown. That was a straight QB keeper from four yards out that caught the Wildcats flatfooted. Trask running near the goal line was the last thing they expected.
Florida’s final touchdown came on a 76-yard run by Josh Hammond on a jet sweep Trask executed so perfectly that Hammond was 20 yards downfield before most of the folks at Commonwealth Stadium realized he had the football. That’s what you call carrying out a fake to perfection.
From down 11 to 19 straight points and a come-from-behind road win. Did you think that was possible? You probably didn’t. Nor did anyone in the media. With Franks gone folks were predicting the Birmingham Bowl for the Gators. Instead, with Trask going 8-2 as the starter, the Gators made it to their second straight New Years Six Bowl and a final record of 11-2.
Here we are more than a year later and Trask is still amazing people. He’s 14-3 as Florida’s starting QB, has the Gators (6-1) ranked sixth nationally and is considered by most reputable pundits – Mike Griffith, who covers Georgia for the AJC not being one of them – as the Heisman Trophy front runner. Saturday he gets a start against Kentucky. This time it’s doubtful he’ll need to bring the Gators back from 19 down. The Sayer Says Sooth: Barring a bunch of unexpected Covid positives when Kentucky (3-5) boards the plane in Lexington Friday morning, football will be played at The Swamp Saturday. And, barring something totally unforeseen, Kyle Trask will continue his Heisman Trophy hunt with another brilliant day. He’ll have Kyle Pitts back so the Kyle Squared duo will need to put a couple of scores on the board, part of what could be another four TDP day. FLORIDA 49, Kentucky 17
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER #22 AUBURN (5-2) at #1 ALABAMA (7-0): It’s called the Iron Bowl but it could be renamed the Will Gus Malzahn Keep His Job Bowl. Every year Gus comes into this game with his job seemingly hanging by a thread. Three times in seven games he’s defied the odds and walked away with a win. To even his record at 4-4 against Alabama might be his biggest challenge yet even with Nick Saban on the sidelines due to Covid-19. Alabama’s offense looks unstoppable and the defense seems to be catching up. In the last three games, opponents have averaged only 227 yards and 6.7 points. You win a lot of games when your offense is pouring on 49.4 a game and your defense is giving up less than a touchdown. Auburn has gone from a team on the brink after a stunning road loss to South Carolina to a team that has won three straight. To beat Alabama, Bo Nix will have to play a near perfect game and Auburn’s defense will have to play substantially better than it did last week when it gave up 222 rushing yards and 242 through the air in a win over Tennessee. The Sayer Says Sooth: Two things have to happen for Auburn to win this game: (1) Bo Nix has to have the game of his life with zero turnovers and (2) Alabama has to play like it’s working off a three-day bender. Alabama 47, Auburn 24
LSU (3-3) at #5 TEXAS A&M (5-1): If you go back a few years you’ll discover that it’s about time for the 5th-ranked Aggies to start their annual cliff dive. Every year since Johnny Manziel departed it seems the Aggies start fast and finish slow. They’ve won four in a row now so it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the week the Aggies elect to go in the tank, especially since they’ll take the field for the first time in three weeks against LSU. LSU has already had two games postponed due to the virus but the Tigers did get in a win last week over Arkansas even if it did require a teensy bit of help from the zebras. The Tigers will be starting true freshman QB TJ Finley who can be effective when he’s got a running game going. The Aggies gave up only 50 rushing yards to South Carolina last week. The Sayer Says Sooth: LSU can score points but can they score enough against an A&M defense that ranks best in the SEC? And do they have answers for QB Kellen Mond and RB Isaiah Spiller? Texas A&M has an outside shot at making the College Football Playoff as a wild card team but to do that there can be no letdowns. There won’t be one this week. Texas A&M 35, LSU 24
#9 GEORGIA (5-2) at SOUTH CAROLINA (2-6): The most delusional fan base in all of college football is in full blame mode, saying that by not playing JT Daniels Kirby Smart cost Georgia an SEC and national championship. Daniels has the Poodles on a 1-game winning streak after throwing for 401 yards and four touchdowns in his first start against a Mississippi State team that dressed out the chittlin’ slingers from the school’s hog farm last week. Daniels will face a similar situation in Columbia Saturday. South Carolina’s starting corners, who happen to be the team’s best two defensive players, have opted out to get ready for the NFL so the secondary will be in a full prevent breaking up any passes mode. South Carolina has lost four in a row and barring a miracle of burning bush proportions will end the season 2-8. The Sayer Says Sooth: Count on the Georgia media to start the Daniels for Heisman in 2021 hype after this one. South Carolina is bad. Really bad. Georgia 31, South Carolina 14
MISSISSIPPI STATE (2-5) at OLE MISS (3-4): It has been an interesting year in the SEC for Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin. Leach and Mississippi State have underperformed while Kiffin and Ole Miss have exceeded expectations particularly on the offensive side of the ball. This is going to be a redemption game for Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore. He’s the guy who scored a TD in last year’s Egg Bowl then hiked his leg like a dog taking a pee. The result was a 15-yard penalty, a missed extra point that cost Ole Miss a chance to send the game into overtime and ultimately, Matt Luke’s job. Moore never got a chance to do the things with Luke that he has done with Kiffin calling the plays. The Sayer Says Sooth: There isn’t anyone in the Mississippi State secondary capable of sticking with Moore (74-1,054 and 8 TDs). Mississippi State’s only hope is to dink and dunk up and down the field to keep the Ole Miss offense off the field. The Bulldogs will score some points but not enough to derail the Lane Train. Ole Miss 44, Mississippi State 33
VANDERBILT (0-7) at MISSOURI (3-3): Vanderbilt, which is making a serious run at a reverse perfect season, actually has a chance to win this one. Mizzou’s offense has gone south (54 points in the last three games) since its 45-point explosion against LSU. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, has found some offense with four consecutive games of more than 400 yards. In all of 2019 Vandy had only two games of 400+ yards. Vandy is doing it this year with true freshman Ken Seals, who has thrown for 1,610 yards and 10 TDs. Meanwhile, Missouri’s offensive woes can be traced to a running game that has produced only 138 yards in the last two outings against Florida and South Carolina. For Connor Bazelac to have a chance throwing the ball, he’s got to have some sort of running threat and that hasn’t been happening lately. The Sayer Says Sooth: Mizzou comes into this game a 14.5-point favorite which seems a teensy bit on the high side since the Tigers haven’t really played well in weeks and Vandy seems to be getting better. If this game were in Nashville the pick would be Vandy but it’s in Columbia. Missouri 24, Vanderbilt 21
TACKLE FOOTBALL AROUND THE US OF A
You don’t have to be a UCF fan to cheer for McKenzie Milton this weekend. Two years ago Milton suffered such a horrendous knee injury that his leg almost had to be amputated. Several surgeries later he’s able to play again and should get into Saturday’s game with USF in Tampa on the same field where he suffered his knee injury. When he got hurt two years ago, Milton was one of college football’s most dynamic playmaking quarterbacks and UCF was working on a second straight unbeaten season. The Knights aren’t nearly as good as they were back then although they have a star QB in Dillon Gabriel, who happens to be Milton’s best friend and from the same high school in Hawaii. The offense is still dynamic so the Knights will likely put up a bunch of touchdowns against a bad USF defense. A big lead means Milton will get in the game. Whether he completes a single pass or runs for even one yard is irrelevant. The only thing important is that McKenzie Milton not only is walking, something doctors said he would be lucky to do again, but he’s playing football. That’s worth celebrating.
The Big 12 (Minus Two) heats up this weekend even with the postponement of 11th-ranked Oklahoma (6-2, 5-2 Big 12) at West Virginia (5-3, 4-3 Big 12). The game that will draw the most attention is 11th-ranked Iowa State (6-2, 6-1 Big 12) at #17 Texas (5-2, 4-2 Big 12). A Texas loss will all but eliminate the Longhorns from the race and would definitely make HBC Tom Herman’s seat immensely hotter. If Texas whacks Iowa State and 23rd-ranked Oklahoma State (5-2, 4-2 Big 12) wins at Texas Tech (3-5, 2-5 Big 12) we could have a four-way tie at the top on Sunday morning.
When the national preseason football magazines hit the racks, Penn State was considered a legitimate national championship contender. Street and Smith had the Nittany Lions ranked fourth while Athlon had them fifth and Lindy’s had them sixth. Here we are more than halfway through the abbreviated Big Ten (Plus Four) season and Penn State is winless. Although injuries and opt outs have changed Penn State from contender to pretender, fans are starting to get a bit restless about HBC James Franklin. This is his seventh season on the job and he has yet to make the College Football Playoff. Franklin can ease the heat somewhat this week if the Lions can get their first win against a bad Michigan (2-3) team. Don’t worry about heat on Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh if he loses. He’s already negotiated his way out.
A PITHY THOUGHT ON FRIDAY: The Dallas Cowboys got their doors blown off, 41-16, by the Washington Football Team Thursday afternoon in a battle of NFL teams owned by the two worst owners in all of professional sports. Washington owner Dan Snyder has absolutely nothing to show for 21 years of ownership except a lot of losing records and fired coaches. Jerry Jones once had a good thing going when he had Jimmy Johnson running the football operations but then he (Jones) decided he was just as smart as Johnson. It’s all been downhill since then. As far as sports owners go, the one redeeming quality Snyder and Jones have is they are rich and they pay well.