Updated: Dec 1, 2020
A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:
We learned three things about the Florida Gators when they beat Kentucky 34-10 Saturday to improve to 7-1 on the season.
First, you know we’re reduced to nitpicking anytime there are complaints after a 24-point win against an SEC team and when a 21-27 passing performance for 256 yards and three TDs by Kyle Trask has both the Florida fan base and national pundits thinking the Gators under-performed.
To address the first point, for the second straight game the Gators played like a very bored team. Bored teams fumble away two potential touchdowns and boink field goals. This could have been a 40-point win but winning by 24 in the SEC is nothing to sneeze about. Dan Mullen needs to do whatever is required to get the Gators fully focused before they go to Knoxville Saturday. A focused Florida team is at least four touchdowns better than the Vols. As for Trask, he didn’t have any style point moments against UK, but how can you complain when your QB doesn’t turn the ball over, finds nine different receivers and has an efficiency rating of 194.09?
Second, the return of Kyle Pitts – five catches for 99 yards and three touchdowns – served as a reminder that the Gators might have rung up that vaunted Georgia defense for 60 points if not for that vicious illegal hit that sidelined Pitts for 2-1/2 games.
Pitts is uncoverable. He has 29 catches for 513 yards and 11 touchdowns. Imagine what those numbers would be like if had played the last 2-1/2 games. Imagine the excuses Georgia would be making now if Pitts had played the second half?
Third, the way Florida’s defense got with it in the second half tells us it’s time for Grantham’s troops to put an entire game together.
In the second half Saturday, the Gators allowed just 33 rushing yards on 11 attempts and just 13 passing yards with three interceptions. The defense has been exceptional in spurts like the second half against Missouri or the last three quarters against Georgia or like they were Saturday. When they are out of sorts they force the Gators to win shootouts. When they play motivated and focused, they are capable of getting stops and giving the offense more chances to score.
What eight games have told us is the Gators have yet to play a complete game on both sides of the ball. If this team ever gets it together with the offense and defense functioning at the highest level at the same time and for four full quarters, there isn’t a team in the country they can’t beat.
ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL: (1) Alabama 8-0; (2) Notre Dame 9-0; (3) Ohio State 4-0; (4) Clemson 8-1; (5) Texas A&M 6-1; (6) FLORIDA 7-1; (7) Cincinnati 8-0; (8) BYU 9-0; (9) Miami 7-1; (10) Indiana 5-1; (11) Georgia 6-2; (12) Iowa State 7-2; (13) Oklahoma 6-2; (14) Coastal Carolina 9-0; (15) Marshall 7-0; (16) Northwestern 5-1; (17) Southern Cal 3-0; (18) Wisconsin 2-1; (19) Oklahoma State 6-2; (20) Louisiana-Lafayette 8-1; (21) Oregon 3-1; (22) Tulsa 5-1; (23) Washington 3-0; (24) Iowa 4-2; (25) Liberty 9-1
COACHES TOP 25 POLL: (1) Alabama 8-0; (2) Notre Dame 9-0; (3) Clemson 8-1; (4) Ohio State 4-0; (5) FLORIDA 7-1; (6) Texas A&M 6-1; (7) Cincinnati 8-0; (8) BYU 9-0; (9) Miami 7-1); (10) Georgia 6-2; (11) Indiana 5-1; (12) Iowa State 7-2; (13) Oklahoma 6-2; (14) Coastal Carolina 9-0; (15) Marshall 7-0; (16) Southern Cal 3-0; (17) Northwestern 5-1; (18) Oklahoma State 6-2; (19) Wisconsin 2-1; (20) Oregon 3-1; (21) Louisiana-Lafayette 8-1; (22) Tulsa 5-1; (23) Washington 3-0; (24) Iowa 4-2; (25) Liberty 9-1
RUMBLING, STUMBLING, BUMBLING IN THE SEC
#1 ALABAMA (8-0): Alabama has scored at least 35 points in 21 consecutive games, which is an NCAA record. The last time Bama failed to score at least 35 was the 2018 national championship game, won by Clemson, 44-16. This season Alabama averages 48.5 points per game, tops in the SEC and third nationally. Next week: at LSU (3-4)
ARKANSAS (3-5): Arkansas is 3-5 and if not for goofs by the zebras would be 5-3. None of that would be remotely possible except for grad transfer QB Feleipe Franks, who has thrown for 2,017 yards and a career-high 8.8 yards per attempt. Franks has 17 TDPs and only four interceptions. Next week: at Missouri (4-3)
AUBURN (5-3): Although a win over 5th-ranked Texas A&M won’t ease the bitterness over losing to Alabama by 29 points in the Iron Bowl, it might calm things down enough to save the job of HBC Gus Malzahn. The Tigers are 4-0 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, 1-3 on the road. They are +67 in points at home, -51 on the road. Next week: vs. #5 Texas A&M (6-1)
#10 GEORGIA (6-2): The quarterback situation at Georgia could be chaotic in the next month. Start with the latest savior, JT Daniels. He could actually declare for the NFL Draft rather than stick around at Georgia. Backup D’Wan Mathis is expected to put his name in the NCAA today. Whether or not Daniels elects to stay at Georgia for another year, freshman Carson Beck may elect to go since Georgia is expected to sign 5-star dual threat QB Brock Vandagriff in the early signing period. This season didn’t count against Beck’s eligibility so he’s still got five years to play four and with the new NCAA transfer rule almost certain to pass in January, he can be immediately eligible somewhere. And given how Kirby Smart handled Justin Fields, will Vandagriff believe he will get a fair shot if Daniels stays? Stay tuned. It could be better than a sitcom. Next week: vs. Vanderbilt (0-8)
KENTUCKY (3-6): Kentucky fans are calling for the head of offensive coordinator Eddie Gran on a pike after the Wildcats managed only one offensive touchdown and just 221 yards against Florida. For the season, Kentucky is averaging only 19.6 points (12th in the SEC, 114th nationally) and 291.8 yards (14th in the SEC, 121st nationally) per game. Next week: vs. South Carolina (2-7)
LSU (3-4): Tiger fans must be looking to heaven and asking why me? The Tigers just faced #5 Texas A&M and their next two games are against #1 Alabama and on the road at #6 Florida. If they’re still standing after that gauntlet, they will need a game for December 19 to finish out with ten games. LSU will be doing the rest of the season without its best offensive player, wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (48-731, 10 TDs), who elected to opt out after the Saturday loss at Texas A&M. Next week: vs. #1 Alabama (8-0)
MISSISSIPPI STATE (2-6): The Bulldogs aren’t winning much, but they are finally adapting to Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. Leach has a terrific pass-catch combo in QB Will Rogers (1,312 passing yards, 6 TDPs) and receiver Jaden Walley (35-462, 1 TD), both of whom are true freshmen. Next week: Open
MISSOURI (4-3): Eli Drinkwitz may have sealed SEC Coach of the Year with the Tigers’ 41-0 win over Vanderbilt. Mizzou has exceeded expectations with four wins and can be assured of at least a break-even record with a win over Arkansas Saturday. Drinkwitz has also found his quarterback in Connor Bazelac, who is hitting 70.7% of his passes and averaging 7.8 per attempt as a redshirt freshman. Next week: vs. Arkansas (3-5)
OLE MISS (4-4): There are no more games remaining on the Ole Miss schedule so if they’re going to get in ten games, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is going to have to get creative. They are off this week so that leaves December 12 and December 19. It’s likely the Rebels will play Texas A&M on December 19 since that game could have an effect on the College Football Playoff for the Aggies but December 12 will require some finagling by Sankey. Next week: Open
SOUTH CAROLINA (2-7): The season comes crashing to an end next Saturday in Lexington, at which time South Carolina will be working as fast as possible to hire a new coach. The two names that have emerged as the leading candidates are Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, a former South Carolina assistant under Steve Spurrier, and West Virginia HBC Neal Brown. Beamer has been a prime candidate since Will Muschamp was fired. Brown only recently popped up on the radar. Next week: at Kentucky (3-6)
TENNESSEE (2-5): One reason the Vols have regressed (five straight losses after a 2-0 start) after getting to the 8-win mark in 2019 has been the play at QB of Jarrett Guarantano, whose QB rating for 2020 (125.43) is worse than it was when he was a freshman in 2017 (128.74). Plenty of Vol fans as well as numerous pundits believe it’s past time for Jeremy Pruitt to make the switch to dual threat true freshman Harrison Bailey, particularly with Florida coming to town Saturday. Next week: vs. #6 FLORIDA (7-1)
#5 TEXAS A&M (6-1): Fortunately for the Aggies they got their best defensive effort of the season in the win over LSU. That was a necessity since Kellen Mond had his worst game of the year (11-34 passing for 104 yards and just 27 rushing yards). Next week: at Auburn (5-3)
VANDERBILT (0-8): It was thought Derek Mason’s job would be safe no matter what happened this year, but Vanderbilt pulled the plug Sunday. Mason finishes his career 27-55 as a head coach. Vanderbilt is going to try for a splash hire, perhaps Clark Lea, the Notre Dame DC. Lea is a former Vandy fullback, but until there is a serious commitment to upgrade the stadium and facilities, nobody extraordinary is going to come to spend the next five or so years competing for last place in the SEC East. Next week: at #10 Georgia (6-2)
ELSEWHERE IN THE COLLEGE TACKLE FOOTBALL PLAYING WORLD
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is leaving Clemson after this season for the NFL. I know you’re all shocked. Trevor says he loves Clemson so much that it’s really hard to leave. At what point does love of Clemson intersect with the reality of being drafted by the New York Jets, the place good quarterbacking skills go to die?
The Big Ten is an absolute disaster. Penn State is 1-5. Michigan is 2-4. Northwestern just lost its first game to the same Michigan State team that Iowa whacked 49-7. Ohio State is unbeaten at 4=- and somehow ranked third but has had two postponements due to the virus and there is no way to make those games up. Right now the only reason Ohio State will get into the College Football Playoff is because the committee will think TV ratings and not if the Big Ten deserves a team in the final four.
If you think the Big Ten is a disaster, then direct your attention to the Pac-12, which has the misfortune of being led by Larry Scott, a commissioner so bad he makes Big Ten rookie commish Kevin Warren seem competent. Oregon was supposed to be the one team in the league capable of making the playoff in spite of the abbreviated schedule but the Ducks lost to Oregon State. In the South Division a tiebreaker may have to be used. Southern Cal and Colorado could finish unbeaten but didn’t play each other due to the virus and there is no makeup date available.
Having seen both 7th-ranked Cincinnati (8-0) and 8th-ranked BYU (9-0), I would take BYU in a head-to-head matchup. Since neither one has a win over a ranked team, they need to find a way to play before December 19 if they want a shot at the College Football Playoff. If the SEC can schedule games on the fly to ensure everybody gets in 10 games, then Cincinnati and BYU could follow that lead to play and give a chance to a team from the Group of Five to make the playoff.
A PITHY MONDAY COMMENT: The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) have a legitimate shot at a 1-15 finish which would ensure them of no worse than the second selection in the 2021 NFL Draft and a chance to select either Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields. In anticipation of a chance to draft a franchise QB, the Jags fired GM Dave Caldwell Sunday night but given their history, figure the next GM will fail to surround Lawrence or Fields with the kind of personnel it takes to win in the NFL.