GATORS HAVE TO GO 2-0, CAN'T WORRY ABOUT GEORGIA
By winning their final two SEC games – at home this Saturday against Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4 SEC) and on the road November 16 against Missouri (5-3, 2-2 SEC) – the Florida Gators (7-2, 4-2 SEC) will have done everything in their power to affect their chances to win the East Division. They can't spend even one second worrying about Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC), which can afford to lose one of its three remaining SEC games (vs. Missouri, at Auburn and vs. Texas A&M) and still capture the East by virtue of holding the tiebreaker win over the Gators.
Florida is a big favorite to knock off Vanderbilt and even though Missouri has given the Gators fits the last couple of years (lost to the Tigers 45-16 in 2017 and 38-17 last year), it's likely UF will be favored to win. It's win those two and leave Georgia to its own devices. Georgia is favored to beat Mizzou by 21 Saturday. Auburn is certainly capable of beating Georgia and that one should be pick'em. The Aggies, at this point at least, don't look like they will offer a ton of resistance. But this is college football and just when you think you've got it all figured out something weird happens. Just ask Georgia about that loss to South Carolina four weeks ago.
For the Gators to win the East, they'll need Georgia to lose twice and that probably doesn't happen. Florida's job is to control what it can control. That means beating Vandy and Mizzou and leaving Georgia to its own devices. The incentive for the Gators is to finish 6-2 in the SEC then whack Florida State in the regular season finale to finish 10-2, which will ensure a very good bowl game. Anything more than that will be a gift.
GATORS DROP TO #10 IN AP; #11 IN COACHES POLL
The Associated Press Top 25 Poll
(1) LSU 8-0; (2) Alabama 8-0; (3) Ohio State 8-0; (4) Clemson 8-0; (5) Penn State 8-0; (6) Georgia 7-1; (7) Oregon 8-1; (8) Utah 8-1; (9) Oklahoma 7-1; (10) FLORIDA 7-2; (11) Baylor 8-0; (12) Auburn 7-2; (13) Minnesota 8-0; (14) Michigan 7-2; (15) Notre Dame 6-2; (16) Wisconsin 6-2; (17) Cincinnati 7-1; (18) Iowa 6-2; (19) Memphis 8-1; (20) Kansas State 6-2; (21) Boise State 7-1; (22) Wake Forest 7-1; (23) SMU 8-1; (24) San Diego State 7-1; (25) Navy 7-1
The Coaches Top 25 Poll (1) Alabama 8-0; (2) LSU 8-0; (3) Clemson 8-0; (4) Ohio State 8-0; (5) Penn State 8-0; (6) Georgia 7-1; (7) Oregon 8-1; (9) Utah 8-1; (10) Baylor 8-0; (11) FLORIDA 7-2; (12) Auburn 7-2; (13) Minnesota 8-0; (14) Michigan 7-2; (15) Notre Dame 6-2; (16) Wisconsin 6-2; (17) Cincinnati 7-1; (18) Iowa 6-2; (19) Memphis 8-1; (20) Wake Forest 7-1; (21) Boise State 7-1; (22) Kansas State 6-2; (23) SMU 8-1; (24) San Diego State 7-1; (25) Navy 7-1
RANKING THE SEC TOP TO BOTTOM (1) Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC): Citing sources in Tuscaloosa, Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network says he's hearing the ankle of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is healing up nicely ahead of next Saturday's matchup with LSU. Finebaum said, “100 percent is debatable but he is very close to that.” Next Saturday: vs. #1 LSU (8-0, 4-0)
(2) LSU (8-0, 4-0 SEC): Wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. is expected to be 100% for Saturday's game with Alabama. Marshall, who missed three games, has 22 catches for 333 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Next Saturday: at #2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC)
(3) Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC): After holding Florida to just 21 rushing yards Saturday, Georgia moved up to #4 nationally in rushing defense – 77.63 yards allowed per game and just 2.85 per carry. Next Saturday: vs. Missouri (5-3, 2-2 SEC)
(4) FLORIDA (7-2, 4-2 SEC): The Gators have been established as 24-1/2 point favorites to beat Vanderbilt this weekend. Next Saturday: vs. Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4 SEC)
(5) Auburn (7-2, 4-2 SEC): With an open date ahead, Auburn expects to get Boobee Whitlow healthy enough to have an impact against Georgia on November 16. In Whitlow's absence, freshman D.J. Williams has run for 223 yards and a TD in the last two games. Next Saturday: Open
(6) Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2 SEC): Freshman running back Isaiah Spiller had the best game of his young career Saturday against UT-San Antonio when he ran for 217 yards and three touchdowns … QB Kellen Mond was 16-21 passing for 210 yards and a touchdown vs. UTSA and he also ran for a TD. Next Saturday: Open
(7) Kentucky (4-4, 2-4 SEC): With four winnable games remaining in November and a defense that has played extremely well the last three (two wins and a loss), the Wildcats are hoping for a strong finish that will get them to a decent bowl game. Next Saturday: vs. Tennessee (4-5, 2-3 SEC)
(8) Missouri (5-3, 2-2 SEC): Any chance Mizzou has to upset #6 Georgia on the road will hinge on the health of quarterback Kelly Bryant's injured hamstring. HBC Barry Odom currently has Bryant listed day-to-day. Next Saturday: at #6 Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC)
(9) Tennessee (4-5, 2-3 SEC): The Vols need only to win two of their remaining three games (at Kentucky; at Missouri; Vanderbilt) to get to six wins and become bowl eligible. Next Saturday: at Kentucky (4-4, 2-4 SEC)
(10) South Carolina (4-5, 3-4 SEC): Tight end Nick Muse (ACL) will miss the remainder of the season and wide receiver Josh Vann (broken hand) will miss at least the four remaining games on the regular season schedule. Next Saturday: vs. Appalachian State (7-1)
(11) Mississippi State (4-5, 2-4 SEC): The Bulldogs went smash mouth against Arkansas and it worked quite well. They threw only 19 passes while calling 57 run plays that netted 460 yards. Kylin Hill was 21-234 for three touchdowns as he went over 1,000 yards (1,027 to be exact) for the season. Next Saturday: Open
(12) Ole Miss (3-6, 2-4 SEC): Ole Miss has just named a search committee to find a new athletic director and that can only be good news for HBC Matt Luke, who needs to finish 3-0 to become bowl eligible. It's highly doubtful the interim AD is going to can Luke, who played at Ole Miss just like his dad and older brother.
Next Saturday: vs. New Mexico State (0-8)
(13) Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4 SEC): About the only thing that can save Derek Mason from a note from the AD asking his lawyer/agent to start negotiating his buyout is to go 3-1 (at a minimum) the rest of the way. Next Saturday: at #10 Florida (7-2, 4-1 SEC)
(14) Arkansas (2-7, 0-6 SEC): The Hogs have all but sealed a second reverse run of the SEC table with LSU and Missouri still to play in league games. Arkansas has now lost 17 consecutive SEC games dating back to October 28, 2017. Next Saturday: vs. Western Kentucky (5-4)
JUST CALL TALLAHASSEE DYSFUNCTION JUNCTION
Florida State fired Willie Taggart Sunday, a day after the Seminoles were penalized 10 times and gave up nine sacks while losing to Miami, 27-10, before a reported crowd of 63,995 at Doak Campbell Stadium and another 16,000 or so who came cleverly disguised as empty seats. To Free Willie, FSU boosters will cough up more than $22 million, the cost of Taggart's almost $18 million buyout and the nearly $4 million to buy out some highly paid assistants such as coordinators Walt Bell and Kendall Briles. When FSU hired Taggart from Oregon, it stroked a check for $3 million to Oregon and another $1.3 million to South Florida. The money to USF was because Willie had financed his own buyout when he took the Oregon job so FSU paid off that debt.
Since exact figures aren't readily available and the assistants are a separate deal, let's just say FSU spent 22 million to land Taggart. That works out to $2,444,444.44 per victory (Taggart went 9-12) and $1,047,619.05 per game coached, which is nice work if you can get it. And now Willie can soak his toes in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and sip pina coladas while getting really big monthly checks NOT to coach. Or, if he can't shake the coaching bug, he can work for pittance subtracted from the FSU check. Again, very nice work if you can get it.
Now FSU boosters reportedly came up with $20 million to make firing Taggart possible but that still leaves a void for an athletic department that has been bleeding cash ever since Taggart was hired. The Seminoles played six games at The Big Erector Set (don't let the brick exterior fool you) to less than overwhelming crowds. Figure an average of 25,000 tickets went unsold for each game and multiply for an average ticket price of $50 and that's a $1,250,000 deficit per game or $7,500,000. That doesn't include concessions, parking and other goodies which all add up. And that's just for THIS YEAR.
The way it was explained to me was FSU couldn't afford to Free Willie but that actually made more economic sense than keeping him.
So now FSU will start another coaching search and you'll hear some big names called out, but hiring a new coach is going to cost a lot of money especially if there is a buyout involved. And don't think for a second whoever the new coach is won't demand all sorts of security after FSU fired Taggart 21 games into a five-year contract.
From the standpoint of affordability, the coach that makes sense is Mike Norvell of Memphis, who makes $2,600,000 and has a buyout of only $500,000 but he's turned down higher paying jobs before to remain in Memphis and might not think coaching in the same ACC division as Clemson makes a lot of sense.
ELSEWHERE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
The latest and greatest hot candidate to become the new head coach at Rutgers is reported to be Butch Jones, formerly the HBC at Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Tennessee, now an analyst on Nick Saban's staff at Alabama.
There are still seven unbeaten teams in Division I. That number will be reduced by at least two Saturday when #1 LSU (8-0) faces #2 Alabama (8-0) in the SEC and #5 Penn State (8-0) faces #13 Minnesota (8-0) in the Big Ten.
After getting torched 58-27 by Boston College, a game in which Steve Addazio's team ran for 496 yards with A.J. Dillion (242) and David Bailey (172) combining for 414 and five touchdowns, Syracuse fired defensive coordinator Brian Ward.
It's an almost foregone conclusion that Southern Cal HBC Clay Helton is living on borrowed time, but Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reports that “there's no danger Helton will be fired before the season is over.” Thamel believes Penn State's James Franklin will emerge as the top candidate to replace Helton.
Former Florida coach Jim McElwain has Central Michigan (6-4) bowl eligible. That earned McElwain a $20,000 bonus.
GOOD QUOTES FOR MONDAY
From Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated on Florida State firing Willie Taggart 21 games into a five-year contract: “If you want a sign of the times in college football, this is it: Florida State wildly overpaid to hire Taggart after Texas A&M wildly overpaid to steal Jimbo Fisher out of Tallahassee, and now the Seminoles will wildly overpay to make Taggart go away less than two years later … all the media-rights revenue pouring into the sport hasn't bought a lot of administrative common sense.”
Southern Cal coach Clay Helton after the Trojans got manhandled by Oregon, 56-24: “Each and every day I wake up and I represent them and our school; and I will continue to do that, each and every day. And I'll fight like hell with the people that I believe in and the people I love until they ask me not to do it anymore. And I'm gonna show up on Monday and work my butt off for the next one.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: In an in-depth article on sports safety, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cites a study by the University of North Carolina showed that teenage girl soccer players have a concussion rate second only to boys playing football. Football averages 10.4 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures followed by girls soccer at 8.19 concussions … World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, who still has four years and approximately $100 million remaining on a contract he signed in 2017, will exercise his option to become a free agent … Lamar Jackson accounted for three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) to lead the Baltimore Ravens past the previously unbeaten New England Patriots, 37-20, Sunday night. That leaves the San Francisco 49ers as the only unbeaten team in the NFL.