Updated: Nov 8, 2019
AVOIDING THE FALLOUT A year ago, the fallout from Florida's 36-17 loss to Georgia was a 38-17 loss to Missouri, a game in which the Gators were there physically but their minds seemed to be on a slow journey to another planet. The Missouri loss was so bad that quarterback Feleipe Franks was yanked in the second half. Kyle Trask played so well that he was expected to get the start the following week against South Carolina, but he broke his foot in practice. Given the reprieve as the starter, Franks went on a four-game tear as the Gators went on to finish 10-3 with a Peach Bowl win over Michigan.
The circumstances are certainly different this year following yet another loss to Georgia (Florida's third straight). Unlike last year, there is no brewing quarterback controversy. The job belongs to Trask who is 4-2 as a starter since taking over for Franks in game three (dislocated ankle) and has played well even in the losses to #1 LSU and #6 Georgia. There is also the feeling that this Florida team is far more mature than the one that went into the funk against Missouri in 2018.
“We're not going to let this negatively affect us,” Trask said Monday as the 10th-ranked Gators (7-2, 4-2 SEC) began their preparation for Saturday's 12 noon encounter with Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4 SEC). “I think we're going to do a great job of taking the positives away from the game (Georgia) and seeing what we can learn from this tough game and just move forward.”
The Gators can't afford any kind of letdown Saturday. Even though Vanderbilt is dead last in the SEC East, the Commodores did shock Missouri a couple of weeks ago with a 21-14 win that came on the heels of a blowout loss to non-conference UNLV. The Commodores are bad enough to get blown out by anyone on their schedule but good enough that any team that doesn't take them seriously can suffer the same fate as Missouri.
And, while an SEC East championship is improbable due to the loss to Georgia, it's not out of the question even though it might take a miracle of feeding the 5,000 proportions. The Gators need to focus on finishing strong, going 3-0 the rest of the season for a 10-win regular season and leaving Georgia to its own devices.
“Obviously when I say we have a lot to play for, we still know we have a shot at the SEC East but at the end of the day none of that matters if we don't go 1-0 each week,” Trask said. “So we have a lot of great guys on this team and we're going to do a great job of focusing on one week at a time. We're going to do our best to take care of business against Vanderbilt this week.”
FIRST GAME BASKETBALL OBSERVATIONS
A roller-coaster ride of a first game is what Mike White got from his 6th-ranked Florida basketball team, which played well in spurts in a 74-59 win over North Florida Tuesday night. The Gators shot poorly right out of the gate, had a couple of outstanding spurts like their 18-0 run in the first half and a 10-3 run to start the second, and they played like a team that was seriously bored the final 14 minutes of the game.
White played all 10 scholarship players who were dressed out – five freshmen, three sophomores, one redshirt junior and one graduate – and that involved just about every imaginable combination. Grad transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. was as good as advertised with a double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds) in his first game as a Gator. Freshman Tre Mann scored 11 points and looked the part of a natural scorer. Freshman big Omar Payne (six points, five rebounds, two blocked shots) has tremendous upside as a rebounder and defender. He's got work to do on the offensive end, but he's good enough right now to play a lot of minutes. Once freshman Scottie Lewis (nine points, five rebounds, one blocked shot) settled down, he played defense at a very sophisticated level. He's got to improve as a shooter, but he doesn't need to hit many shots to score because he can get points on stickbacks, off his defense and in transition. Noah Locke (14 points) overcame a sluggish shooting start to score 14 points, Keyontae Johnson stuffed the stat sheet (seven points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal) and Andrew Nembhard had a game high four assists without a turnover.
This was far from the performance White wanted to see from the Gators in game one, but he saw enough when his team was fully engaged to know what they're capable of doing. The trick is going to be getting them to stay focused for the full 40 minutes, something they'll need to do Sunday when they face always tough FSU at the O-Dome.
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
#2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC): Offensive linemen Landon Dickerson and Evan Neal, wide receiver DeVonta Smith and running back Najee Harris – all of whom left the Arkansas game with injuries – are practicing and show no ill effects of their injuries. Saturday: vs. #1 LSU (8-0, 4-0 SEC)
Arkansas (2-7, 0-6 SEC): Redshirt freshman QB John Stephen Jones, grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, will get the start against Western Kentucky. Jones is 10-16 for 74 yards and two touchdowns in the two games in which he has played. Saturday: vs. Western Kentucky (5-4)
#11 Auburn (7-2, 4-2 SEC): Running back and leading rusher Boobee Whitlow, who has been slowed by a knee injury, is not 100 percent but he's practicing this week and anticipates a full recovery for next week's Georgia game. For the season Whitlow is 113-553 rushing for seven touchdowns. Saturday: Open
#6 Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC): Through eight games, Georgia has yet to allow a single rushing touchdown. The Bulldogs are allowing only 77.63 yards per game on the ground, which ranks fourth nationally. Saturday: vs. Missouri (5-3, 2-2 SEC)
Kentucky (4-4, 2-4 SEC): Amid speculation that HBC Mark Stoops might bolt for Florida State, it should be noted that he is currently making $4.75 million with guaranteed increases of at least $250,000 a year every year until 2025. Saturday: vs. Tennessee (4-5, 2-3 SEC)
#1 LSU (8-0, 4-0 SEC): All-American safety Grant Delpit has missed some practices while getting treatment for his sprained ankle but he's expected to play Saturday when the Tigers travel to Alabama. Saturday: at #2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC)
Mississippi State (4-5, 2-4 SEC): The open week gives the Bulldogs a chance to get quarterbacks Tommy Stevens and Garrett Shrader healthy. The Bulldogs need to win two of their final three games (Alabama, Abilene Christian and Ole Miss, all three at home) to become bowl eligible. Saturday: Open
Missouri (5-3, 2-2 SEC): Since Missouri can't go to a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions and its appeal has something like a 99.99% chance of being rejected, the next two games – at Georgia and Florida – are being touted to the team as the Tigers' bowl games. Beating one or both top ten teams in successive weeks would definitely ease some of the pain of being on probation. Saturday: at #6 Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC)
Ole Miss (3-6, 2-4 SEC): Since they don't have an athletic director, it's highly unlikely Matt Luke will lose his job despite all the speculation that he's on the hottest of seats. Only last week Ole Miss named a search committee to find a new AD to replace Ross Bjork, who left for the AD job at Texas A&M. Saturday: vs. New Mexico State (0-8)
South Carolina (4-5, 3-4 SEC): Quarterback Jake Bentley, out since game two following surgery on his foot, will walk out on Senior Night Saturday even though he has a year of eligibility remaining. With Ryan Hilinski playing so well at QB as a true freshman and Bentley set to graduate in December, you can almost bet the ranch Bentley will find a new place to play next season. Saturday: vs. Appalachian State (7-1)
Tennessee (4-5, 2-3 SEC): The Vols began the week as 4-point underdogs for their Saturday game at Kentucky, but the line has swung in Tennessee's favor. The Vols are now listed as a 1-point favorite. Saturday: at Kentucky (4-4, 2-4 SEC)
Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2 SEC): With three games to go in the regular season and a bowl game, quarterback Kellen Mond is well on his way to surpassing last year's stat totals. Through nine games, Mond has completed 64.4% of his passes for 2,214 yards (7.5 yards per attempt) for 17 touchdowns with six picks with 353 rushing yards for six touchdowns. In 13 games last year, Mond completed 57.3% of his passes for 3,107 yards (7.5 per attempt) for 24 touchdown with nine picks with 474 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Saturday: Open
Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4 SEC): With Mo Hasan and Riley Neal still dealing with concussions, Vanderbilt is preparing junior Deuce Wallace (33-76 passing for 217 yards and three interceptions) and freshman Allan Walters (no stats) to play against 6th-ranked Florida. Saturday: at #10 FLORIDA (7-2, 4-2 SEC)
MEANWHILE OVER AT DYSFUNCTION JUNCTION
Our fine friends 140 miles (and 250 SAT points) to the west seem to be striking out even before they've really gotten their coaching search off the ground. There were reports that Big Game Bob Stoops had been offered the Florida State job with five years and $40 million, all guaranteed. Stoops said thankee, but no thankee. Thinking that FSU might be calling to offer its coach, Minnesota tacked seven years onto P.J. Fleck's contract with a $1 million raise for Fleck and very nice raises for his entire coaching staff.
With Bobby Stoops and Fleck crossed off the list, names to watch are Mark Stoops (Kentucky), Mike Norvell (Memphis), Lane Kiffin (Florida Atlantic) and Clemson co-OC Jeff Scott.
The advantage for Scott is that he would work cheap, he knows the state of Florida since he grew up in Tallahassee (dad Brad Scott was on Bobby Bowden's staff for years and was OC from 1990-93) and he could help bring Clemson's recruiting model to FSU. Scott might not be the flashy name FSU seeks and he doesn't have head coaching experience but there are a lot of reasons why he would make the most sense. Of course, good sense and the FSU athletic department are recently like two ships that pass in the night.
FSU has hired a search firm headed up by Glenn Sugiyama, the same guy who led Kansas to hire Charlie Weis.
GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson on ACC football games televised on Friday nights (the Demon Deacons had to play three consecutive Friday night games): “To me it was just circumstantial that we got picked for three games. We didn't choose that. If you ask every coach in our league – do they want to play on Friday nights? – I don't think one of them would say yes. That's always been the night for high schools but this is the era we're in.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban on whether or not quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be ready to go Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts #1 LSU: “He's practicing and doing OK in practice. It's still going to be a game day decision or game time decision as to whether he plays in the game or not.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: When The Athletic named its all-time college football team, the quarterback was Florida's Tim Tebow. What is absolutely mind blowing is that Alabama's Lee Roy Jordan didn't make the team either as a center or linebacker. Lee Roy is one of the five best players ever in the Southeastern Conference … Greg Schiano has met with Rutgers administration and could be close to a contract that will bring him back. Schiano was the HBC at Rutgers for 11 years, compiling a 68-67 record. Wins at Rutgers are a lot like dog years. One win at Rutgers is like four wins at a place that takes football seriously … Tom Allen of Indiana has the Hoosiers bowl eligible at 7-2. He's the lowest paid coach among the Power 5 conferences but Indiana is planning to remedy that with a contract extension and a nice raise … Former FSU coach Bobby Bowden will turn 90 on Friday. Bowden can still shoot his age on the golf course.