TAKING THE NEXT STEP
There is that old saying that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be what you’ve always been. In so many words, that was what Dan Mullen was telling the Gators immediately after Florida stuck it to Michigan in the Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl back in January.
“That was the message, if you thought what we did last year was good enough to do the exact same thing, don’t expect us to be any better,” Mullen said at his Monday press conference.
The challenge this year has been to do whatever is necessary to be a better football team than Mullen’s first Gator team, which finished 10-3. The Gators (9-2) can match last year’s win total Saturday night against Florida State in The Swamp and then get to the 11-win mark in the bowl game. One more win is actually quite the accomplishment when you take into consideration the number of injuries the Gators have had to battle through.
“You look at the adversities we’ve had to face this year, with injuries and other things we’ve had to face,” Mullen said. “You look at how guys have bought in to what we’re doing and bought in and believed in that and really the confidence they have and the expectations they have to go win games. There’s a lot of guys on our sideline who expect to win the games. I don’t know that that was the case the year before.”
Getting to 10 regular season wins and then adding the 11th in the bowl game is very important, particularly when considering the state of the football program at FSU and Miami. The Seminoles and Hurricanes are barely bowl eligible. Meanwhile, Florida, with a win over FSU, will be going to its second straight New Year’s Six bowl game while the Seminoles and Hurricanes are likely headed to some exotic location such as Shreveport.
With a win over FSU Saturday night, Florida will make a statement that will resonate with recruits: The Gators aren’t going to simply spin their wheels and stay in the same place they were. They’re going to make progress and create distance between themselves and everyone else in the state of Florida.
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER
Thursday’s game Ole Miss (4-7, 3-4 SEC) 30, Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5 SEC) 28: Mississippi State’s suspect defense is going to have all sorts of issues with the Ole Miss running game and that will bring State’s nine-year string of bowl appearances to an end. They probably won’t fire Joe Moorhead if he loses to Ole Miss, but they wouldn’t beg him to stay if Rutgers offered him the job either.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF (College Football Playoff rankings) #5 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC): Wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and defensive linemen Phidarius Mathis and Raekwon Davis have all practiced this week and are expected to play in Saturday’s Iron Bowl game. Saturday: at #15 Auburn (8-3, 4-3 SEC) Arkansas (3-8, 0-7 SEC): There is an outbreak of mumps on the campus in Fayette Nam. Montaric Brown and Deon Edwards didn’t travel with the team to LSU last weekend due to an unspecified illness. Arkansas will not confirm if it was due to mumps. Friday: vs. Missouri (5-6, 2-5 SEC) in Little Rock
#15 Auburn (8-3, 4-3 SEC): Defensive end Marlon Davidson on facing Alabama starting QB Mac Jones: “I feel like we’re going to wake him up.” Saturday: vs. #5 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC)
#4 Georgia (10-1, 7-1 SEC): Leading receiver Lawrence Cager suffered an ankle injury in practice and could miss the Georgia Tech game. Saturday: at Georgia Tech (3-8):
Kentucky (6-5, 3-5 SEC): Kentucky faces a Louisville team that has trouble stopping the run (183 yards per game, 261 last week vs. Syracuse). That bodes well for the Wildcats who are averaging more than 254 yards per game on the ground and have run for 1,462 yards in their last four. Saturday: vs. Louisville (7-4)
#2 LSU (11-0, 7-0 SEC): Safety Eric Monroe returned to practice Wednesday after a one-day absence. Saturday: vs. Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3 SEC)
Missouri (5-6, 2-5 SEC): Missouri lost its appeal to the NCAA to have its one-year bowl ban lifted. Friday: at Arkansas (3-8, 0-7 SEC) in Little Rock
South Carolina (4-7, 3-5 SEC): On 107.5 The Game in Columbia Wednesday, athletic director Ray Tanner said Wednesday, “Will Muschamp is our football coach and I expect him to be our football coach for a long, long time.” Saturday: vs. #3 Clemson (11-0)
Tennessee (6-5, 4-3 SEC): HBC Jeremy Pruitt denies an ESPN report that he pressured his training staff with the way they handled injured players. Pruitt said Wednesday, “The athletic training staff has always reported to the athletic director.” Saturday: vs. Vanderbilt (3-8, 1-6 SEC)
Texas A&M (7-4, 4-3 SEC): Has anyone in the country faced a tougher schedule than the Aggies? When they face LSU Saturday they will have played the (College Football Playoff rankings) #2 (LSU), #3 (Clemson), #4 (Georgia) and #5 (Alabama) teams in the country. Saturday: at #2 LSU (11-0, 7-0 SEC)
Vanderbilt (3-8, 1-6 SEC): The Commodores beat D1AA East Tennessee State last week which prompted HBC Derek Mason to say, “Coming off the win I think these guys have confidence.” Saturday: at Tennessee (6-5, 4-3 SEC)
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION 14 (Thursday edition due to Thanksgiving college football scheduling)
Extinct Species List
Chris Ash, Rutgers: Tap the brakes on the Greg Schiano train has left the station. Apparently the fan base is in near revolt forcing admin back to the table to try to reel in a deal with Schiano. Stay tuned. Willie Taggart, Florida State: They have whiffed on Team Stoops, Parts I and II, and Mike Norvell has Memphis in the AAC championship game, plus if he wins that and is 12-1 he’s got a New Year’s Six bowl. He doesn’t want to abandon his team so there is every good chance he’s going to say thankee but no thankee as well. Odell Haggins might end up being the permanent head coach by default. Chad Morris, Arkansas: One of the more famous Arkansas alums – Barry Switzer – wants Mike Leach. That would be a very smart move but is Arkansas smart enough to make it? Bob Davie New Mexico: This program is an absolute train wreck. Probably the smart thing to do would be hire someone who runs a funky offense like the service academies. Tony Sanchez, UNLV: A name to watch for this open job is Kalen DeBoer, the offensive coordinator at Indiana, who had a terrific offense in the Mountain West at Fresno State in 2017-18 and who made the Hoosiers fun to watch in 2019. He won three NAIA national championships at Sioux Falls.
On Life Support Clay Helton, Southern Cal: This is going to get interesting. Alums and boosters want (a) Urban Meyer and if that fails (b) James Franklin but Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, who’s one of the best reporters in all of college football, says the new school prez and AD are leaning heavily toward retraining Helton, understanding that going 8-4 with all these injuries is quite an accomplishment. Mike Bobo, Colorado State: The Fighting Bobos are about to go 4-8 after Boise State does its excellent imitation of a runaway train and flattens them Saturday. Everybody likes Bobo, but he isn’t winning enough Phil Montgomery, Tulsa: Tulsa is favored to beat ECU Saturday. Will a last game win, a win over ECU and playing a lot of teams close save a school that really doesn’t have buyout money? Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion: Win or lose the final game against Charlotte, Wilder will be trying to figure out what’s next in life.
Endangered Species List Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: He’s due a $4.3 million longevity bonus on January 15 and then he would make another $4.3 coaching the team next year. Nobody is happy with that. Frank Wilson, Texas-San Antonio: It’s possible that he’ll be coaching next year if he beats Louisiana Tech Saturday. Possible, just not probable. Steve Addazio, Boston College: He really needs to beat Pitt to get bowl eligible. It’s going to be a close call even if BC wins this game, but a loss might make it easy for admin to pink slip Old 6-6 Steve. Kevin Sumlin, Arizona: Nobody is happy with the last two years and the direction the program seems headed. If he survives it’s because the administration thinks it’s only fair to give a coach three years to do something.
Beads of Sweat Forming Charlie Strong, South Florida: If they take into account all the injuries, then Strong gets another year. If they don’t, then he’s as good as gone after getting poleaxed by UCF Saturday. Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State: While the Greg Schiano saga continues at Rutgers, Moorhead remains on the radar. If he loses the Egg Bowl, the Mississippi State folks will be very happy if Rutgers makes Moorhead an offer he can’t refuse.
Saved by the Buyout and Other Teensy Details Matt Luke, Ole Miss: The new athletic director says Luke’s his coach moving forward. Some of that had to do with the buyouts, but it also had a lot to do with the new AD doesn’t want to start out with a firing. Chip Kelly, UCLA: The loss to Southern Cal sent ripples of grumbling throughout the fan and alumni base, but not enough that a megadonor would write a $9 million check. So, they’re stuck with Chip another year at least. Randy Edsall, UConn: When he goes in for his season review with the powers that be after getting kneecapped by Shirley Temple, Edsall will be able to say he doubled up last year’s win total. He did. The Huskies went from one win to two. They’re too broke to fire him. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: He’ll be back for 2020. The real reason for that he’s coming back is Vandy’s interim president would rather kick the football can down the road and led the new prez deal with a losing football program. Kilani Sitaki, BYU: The buyout wasn’t a problem. They just want to win games at the Y. Sitaki is at eight and extended until 2023 thanks to one of the weaker schedules on the planet.
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF Wednesday’s games #6 North Carolina 76, Alabama (2-3) 67 Ole Miss (5-1) 74, Penn State 72 Northern Iowa 78, South Carolina (4-3) 72 Georgia (5-2) 80, Chaminade 77 Thursday’s games Texas A&M (3-1) vs. Harvard in Orlando Alabama (2-3) vs. Iowa State in Nassau, Bahamas
GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY
Urban Meyer on how much he misses coaching football: “It used to be about an hour, hour and a half where I missed it so bad. But then I’m into this Fox college football team that I have. I’m so into some other things, whether it be business opportunities. It’s just intriguing, this other world. I’m also into my grandchildren and my wife and family, and we’re traveling and do some other cool things. I played Augusta two weeks ago. Who would ever think I would ever do that in the fall? It’s a nice life out there.”
College Football Playoff chairman Rob Mullens explaining to Rece Davis of ESPN how it was Ohio State jumped LSU for the number one spot in the weekly poll: “Well, Ohio State has been a complete team and that win over Penn State was their third win currently over teams that we have in the top 19. It’s probably the complete team piece. Ohio State’s been good on both sides of the ball.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: In getting Ohio U bowl eligible, Frank Solich ensured Akron a perfect season – in reverse (0-12). They never should have fired Terry Bowden. The Little Dweeb was good for at least four or five wins every year … The NCAA denied an appeal of a 12-game suspension against Memphis freshman James Wiseman. Wiseman won’t be allowed to play again until January 12 … Kentucky’s already thin frontcourt will be down a man for the next 3-4 weeks after grad transfer Nate Sestina broke his wrist. Sestina was averaging 7.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for the Wildcats.