TIME TO BOUNCE BACK BIG Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4 SEC) pulled off a shocker a couple of weeks ago when the Commodores whacked Missouri, 24-7, in Nashville. What that tells us is 10th-ranked Florida (7-2, 4-2 SEC) needs to come to the ball yard Saturday with memories of last week's Georgia loss erased and fully focused on winning the week. A focused and ready Florida team will blow Vandy's doors off. If the Gators left their heads in Jacksonville, then they're going to have some real problems.
While winning the SEC East is the longest of shots and will require Georgia going in the tank twice, a New Year's Six bowl game is well within Florida's reach. The Gators ranked 10th in the first College Football Playoff poll so a 3-0 finish to the regular season almost certainly will earn a New Year's Six bowl for the second straight year. Right now, most of the people who project these things with a reasonable degree of accuracy, have the Gators playing Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.
So the goal for the Gators Saturday at The Swamp (12 noon, ESPN) is win the week and stay focused on things they can control. Then repeat the process two more times to finish 10-2 with a shot at an 11-win season in the bowl game. If Georgia elects to do the unthinkable and lose a couple of games in which the Bulldogs will be favored, that's a bonus for UF but not something you plan on.
The Sayer says sooth: Vanderbilt is allowing 32.4 points and 453.6 yards per game. The Commodores have given up 18 touchdown passes while picking off three. Opponents average 5.21 yards per carry. The Gators will score a bunch of points and they'll run the ball for more than 200 yards for the first time since Tennessee-Martin in game two. FLORIDA 45, Vanderbilt 14,
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER
#1 LSU (8-0, 4-0 SEC) 35, #2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) 31: The game is in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban is coaching Alabama. Everything says Bama has all the advantages and will win this game. I think these two teams are about as even as it gets and my gut is telling me Coach O and Threauxin' Jeaux Burreaux are going to find a way to pull this one out.
#6 Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC) 24, Missouri (5-3, 2-2 SEC): Because of its NCAA bowl ban, Mizzou is treating this like its bowl game. In every bowl game someone wins and someone loses. Mizzou loses.
Kentucky (4-4, 2-4 SEC) 27, Tennessee (4-5, 2-3 SEC) 21: Kentucky has a real shot to finish the season on a five-game winning streak. Win #2 on the road back to respectability starts with putting a serious dent in Tennessee's bowl hopes.
South Carolina (4-5, 2-4 SEC) 30, Appalachian State (7-1) 20: This would be a Power 5 scalp for the Happy Appys but even though they're good enough to make it close, they aren't good enough to win this one.
Ole Miss (3-6, 2-4 SEC) 40, New Mexico State (0-8) 7: This might be the last win of the season for Ole Miss. Rebel fans need to savor it because it's a long time until the 2020 season begins.
Arkansas (2-7, 0-6 SEC) 28, Western Kentucky (5-4) 27: John Stephen Jones, grandson of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is starting at QB which means grandpa will be there to watch. Should the Hogs lose this, Jerry might immediately write the buyout check to end the Chad Morris era short of two full seasons.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION 11 Extinct Species List
Chris Ash, Rutgers:All signs point to Greg Schiano as Ash's replacement. If a deal can't be struck with Schiano, look for former Tennessee coach Butch Jones to get the call.
Willie Taggart, Florida State: FSU had to make a decision about which was cheaper: to scrape together the money it would take to buy out Taggart or keep losing millions on game days due to so many thousands arriving at the ball yard cleverly disguised as empty seats? Firing was cheaper. Now let's see if the Seminoles can hire a big name coach.
On Life Support
Bob Davie, New Mexico: The Air Force game, originally scheduled for Saturday, has been rescheduled for November 23. All that might do is delay the inevitable.
Phil Montgomery, Tulsa: About the only remaining question is does Tulsa fire Montgomery before the season ends or wait until after the final game? Either way, Monty is a goner.
Mike Bobo, Colorado State: The Fighting Bobos have shocked the Mountain West with their unexpected three-game win streak but they will need two wins in the last three (Air Force, at Wyoming, Boise State) to save the HBC's job.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: When the Commodores lose to Florida Saturday, it will guarantee another losing season.
Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion: They really love Bobby Wilder in Norfolk, which is why it's going to be so painful when they announce he's fired.
Tony Sanchez, UNLV: Since beating Vandy in Nashville, the Rebels have lost three straight to ensure yet another losing season. Barring a three-game win streak to end 2019, Sanchez is a goner.
Clay Helton, Southern Cal: The new athletic director says it's way too early to make a decision about Clay Helton but no matter what Mike Bohn says publicly you can bet the farm he was told when he took the job that he's got to bring in a new football coach.
Chad Morris, Arkansas: If the Hogs manage to lose to Western Kentucky, Morris might not survive the weekend. If he loses his final two SEC games (at LSU, Missouri) it will be a second straight 0-8 conference record. The gozillionaires at the top of the Arky booster food chain already have their checks ready to cover the $10 million buyout.
Endangered Species List
Lovie Smith, Illinois: The fact that Illinois is a shocking 5-4 at this point is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because the Illini could go to an exotic locale like Shreveport or Birmingham for a bowl game if they win one more game; a curse because if they win and go to a bowl game they'll be stuck with Lovie one more year and nobody is buying into him being the long term solution to this downtrodden program.
Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State: Nobody's really happy here, not Moorhead nor the people who pay his salary. He's not a good fit here and everybody knows it. They were really hoping he would take the Rutgers job but the folks up in New Jersey thought he would be a bad fit there, too. He buys himself another year with two wins in the final three games (Alabama, Abilene Christian, at Ole Miss).
Frank Wilson, Texas-San Antonio: The Roadrunners play in a weak conference and they don't win. There is plenty of talent in the state of Texas and they don't recruit well. They also don't put fannies in the seats of the Alamo Dome. This is why buzzards are circling the UTSA football complex.
Beads of Sweat Forming
Steve Addazio, Boston College: If he kneecaps FSU this weekend (really good chance of that), he'll be 6-4 which means another bowl game so even if the Eagles go 0-2 in their final two (at Notre Dame, at Pitt) they won't pink slip him. Everybody would be a lot happier if he gets to 7-5, however.
Charlie Strong, South Florida: There is very little chance Charlie will be shown the door no matter what happens the next four games (Shirley Temple, Cincinnati, Memphis, at UCF) but if the Bulls oh-fer those games it will ensure he starts next season on one of the hotter seats in college football.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: He's the winningest coach in school history but the Spartans are mediocre, plus he has the combination of a scandal and heart problems working against him. This might end up being a non-firing firing, which is to say they'll find a “job” for him in administration and he'll “retire.”
Matt Luke, Ole Miss: They're just now forming a committee to bring in a new athletic director at Ole Miss, which should buy Luke one more year. However, if the committee moves quickly and brings in a gung-ho type who thinks the house needs to be cleaned, Luke is in deepest and darkest.
Kilani Sitaki, BYU: The Cougars should be highly favored to win the next three (Liberty, Idaho State, at UMass) which would guarantee a seven-win season. Nobody is happy in Provo with seven wins but seven means Sitaki lives to coach another year.
Saved by the Buyout Chip Kelly, UCLA: There are signs of life as in three straight wins but there is every good chance the Bruins will lose two of the last three to ensure another losing season. But, even if the people in admin wanted Kelly gone, they couldn't afford to fire him.
Randy Edsall, UConn: They really need to fire him. They really want to fire him. They won't fire him. Unless, of course, they do something stupid. These folks are stupid enough to fire him but there are more than $50 million reasons to believe common sense prevails. It will be a white knuckles decision just the same.
GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY
Andy Staples of The Athletic on why Penn State coach James Franklin (he's very interested) would be the perfect answer to whatever ails Southern Cal football: “Franklin would be a perfect fit at USC, and that job would allow him to collect the best talent on the west coast and cherry-pick for positions of need (offensive and defense line) throughout the rest of the country … At the moment, Oregon is the best recruiting program on the west coast, but Franklin would change that almost immediately if he came to USC. He and Ducks coach Mario Cristobal would wage some epic recruiting clashes – and probably play some great games as well – but Franklin would hold the advantage of location. Unlike the current USC regime, his staff would be able to develop players along the line of scrimmage. This is how Cristobal has made Oregon so good so fast, and Franklin could do the same but with an easier recruiting pitch. This plus USC's schedule (with its annual game against Notre Dame) would give the Trojans an easier path to the Playoff than the Nittany Lions. Once you're in the Playoff, you've just got to string together two good games to win the national title. The trick is getting in, and there would be less resistance at USC.”
Aaron Suttles of The Athletic on quarterbacks Joe Burrow (LSU) and Tua Tagovailoa who will be matched up in what promises to be one of the best college football games in recent years: “According to Sports Info Solutions, Burrow and Tagovailoa are the nation's No. 1 and 2 quarterbacks in percentage of passes thrown on-target (minimum of 150 attempts). Tagovailoa is deadly on third down, completing 71 percent of his throws for seven touchdowns and one interception and a pass efficiency rating of 209.25. Burrow is the nation's most efficient passer under pressure and Tagovailoa is fourth. When defenses pressure Burrow, he's 55 of 73 for 803 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception. Tagovailoa is 25-41 for 421 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Howard University put football coach Ron Prince on administrative leave amid allegations of verbal abuse and intimidation of his players … Wide receiver Antonio Brown, who said he was through with the NFL once and for all after the New England Patriots cut him after he was accused of sexual assault, now says he's working to clear his name and play football once again. He probably discovered that working as a greeter at Walmart doesn't pay nearly as well as a job catching passes in the NFL … Clemson ranked #5 in the initial College Football Playoff poll is no big deal. When the final four is chosen, Clemson will be 13-0 with a 28-game winning streak. Do you think for even a nano-second the committee would leave Clemson at home?