A RODNEY DANGERFIELD GAME: GATORS GETTING NO RESPECT
Start with the folks in Vegas who make their living setting the betting lines for ball games. They have 6th-ranked LSU (5-0, 1-0 SEC) favored by 13 over 7th-ranked Florida (6-0, 3-0 SEC). Then throw in just about every national pundit and they all have the Tigers winning this one, some (like Stewart Mandel of The Athletic) by 14. Talk about no respect for the Gators!
Make no mistake about it, LSU's offense is impressive and the Tigers did win a shootout in Austin against Texas in the second game of the season but they have yet to face a defense like the one they will see Saturday night. The NCAA defensive rankings bear that out. Florida has the overall 10th-ranked defense in the country. The most highly ranked defense the Tigers have faced is #60 Georgia Southern of the Sun Belt Conference. The other three Division I wins for LSU have come against defenses ranked #95 (Utah State), 104 (Texas) and 125 (Vanderbilt).
Now Joe Burrow is a fine quarterback who can make all the throws and he will be heaving it to one of the nation's best wide receiver units. Everybody points to the fact that LSU's passing game is much improved over last year. They tend to forget that Florida's defense is also much improved and last year the Gators sacked Burrow five times for 30 yards in losses, held him to 5.6 yards per attempt and picked him off twice with Brad Stewart running one back 25 yards for a touchdown. LSU came into that game ranked fifth nationally while the Gators were #22 but Florida won the game, 27-19.
Can the Gators make it two in a row over the Tigers? It will be tougher this year because the game is in Baton Rouge and the Tiger Stadium crowd started drinking Wednesday night. They will be greased and as loud as any crowd in America, but they can be silenced. Here is how the Gators quiet the crowd and win the game: (1) Get pressure on Joe Burrow without wholesale blitzing. This is how the Gators got the job done last year. Jachai Polite and Jabari Zuniga were terrors off the edge but that opened the gate for Vosean Joseph to come on the blitz to pick up two of UF's five sacks. (2) By keeping the blitzes to a minimum, the Gators can consistently get seven or eight in coverage and keep the LSU receivers in front of them. Burrow is going to complete passes but the Gators have to make sure he can't go over the top. (3) Win the turnover battle. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said the goal is to always get one more turnover than the opponent. If the Gators can avoid turnovers and can force a couple themselves, they are going to win this game.
The Sayer Says Sooth: The Gators will play with an enormous chip on their shoulder and they won't be disrespected any more when this one is over. Look for a repeat of last year, FLORIDA 21, LSU 14.
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER
#1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) 41, #25 Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1 SEC) 21: Someday Jimbo Fisher might become the first former Nick Saban assistant to knock off The Boss. Someday. Not this year. Tua is going to throw for at least four touchdowns and Alabama will move to 6-0.
#3 Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) 30, South Carolina (2-3, 1-2 SEC) 14: South Carolina QB Ryan Hilinski is about to learn a lesson similar to the one Auburn's Bo Nix learned last week at Florida. True freshman quarterbacks rarely do well on the road against ranked teams in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina's defense is actually really good but Hilinski is going to struggle against the Georgia defense.
Missouri (4-1, 1-0 SEC) 28, Ole Miss (3-3, 2-1 SEC) 21: Losing Cole Garrett in the middle of the Mizzou defense is a huge blow, especially against an Ole Miss team that has transformed into a run team with an option QB and some serious running backs. Mizzou will have Kelly Bryant back at QB and even though he won't be at 100% he should have enough to get the Tigers past Ole Miss. Watch this one closely, however. If John Rhys Plumlee can keep the chains moving and keep the ball away from Mizzou, an upset is possible although not probable.
Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1 SEC) 27, Tennessee (1-4, 0-2 SEC) 17: Put Mississippi State on upset alert. The Bulldogs have had all sorts of problems against teams that can throw the ball well and if they can't get consistent pressure on UT freshman Brian Mauer, this could be a surprising win for the Vols. The difference, however, will be MSU's ability to run the football.
Kentucky (2-3, 0-3 SEC) 33, Arkansas (2-3, 0-2 SEC) 27: If Sawyer Smith starts this game, Kentucky will win it. If Kentucky has to go with redshirt freshman Walker Wood or wide receiver and former high school QB Lynn Bowden Jr. Arkansas probably wins the game.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION 7
Extinct Species List
Chris Ash, Rutgers: This place is a graveyard. Whoever takes this job will be battling Maryland and Indiana for fifth place in the Big Ten East every year because Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State are always going to be in the top four.
On Life Support
Lovie Smith, Illinois: Illinois got its doors blown off by a mediocre Minnesota team last week and has Michigan and Wisconsin next on the schedule. There will probably be regime change before the end of October.
Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee: Even with the big buyout (more than $9 million) UT athletic director Phattus Maximus knows he's got a couple of gozillionaire boosters who will write the check but Pruitt will coach the entire season.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: It's never a good thing to lose to Liberty and San Jose State on consecutive weekends, which is what the Lobos have done. Davie will not be coaching New Mexico next year. That is a certainty. They'd like to move him to some administrative capacity and spare him the indignity of a firing.
Phil Montgomery, Tulsa: Just when it looked like Montgomery was going to save his job by beating SMU, the Golden Hurricane was outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter and then lost in overtime. It will be an upset if any of the next six games is close.
Mike Bobo, Colorado State: If the Lambs can't beat New Mexico this week and UNLV the first Saturday in November, they'll go 1-11 this year. Everybody in Fort Collins likes Bobo but they want to see progress and that just isn't happening.
Tony Sanchez, UNLV: Buzzards are perched on the power lines that hook up to the UNLV football offices. The Rebels have lost four straight by blowout and they're about to get skunked by Vanderbilt.
Endangered Species List
Randy Edsall, UConn: Everybody keeps saying Edsall is still coaching because of the money. The UConn athletic department is $41 million in the red and has to pay $12 million to leave the AAC and $3.5 million to join the Big East plus it would take $9 million to buy out Edsall. Common sense says they won't fire Edsall, but if UConn actually had common sense there's no way the school would be about as fiscally responsible as Venezuela.
Clay Helton, Southern Cal: Helton will probably make it to the end of the year but unless the Trojans score some high profile wins like this Saturday at Notre Dame, he will be coaching somewhere else next year.
Steve Addazio, Boston College: They've grown weary of 7-6 seasons at BC, which would actually be an outstanding season this year. The loss to Louisville last week didn't exactly help the cause.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: Mason moves up to the Endangered Species List after the Commodores were smoked by Ole Miss, whose freshman quarterback spearheaded a 413-yard rushing attack. Mason is supposed to be a defensive maven. This year the defense sucks and the offense is back to being totally Vanderbilt.
Beads of Sweat Forming
Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech: After blowing a 35-7 lead against Miami last week, VaTech pulled out a 42-35 win, which probably saved Fuente from being fired on the spot. If Fuente doesn't manage seven wins in the regular season (currently has three) he'll be negotiating his buyout.
Charlie Strong, South Florida: Blake Barnett's high ankle sprain might turn out to be the best thing that could have happened for the Bulls. Freshman Jordan McCloud took his place last week and South Florida's dormant offense came to life. If McCloud can dial up another win this week against BYU in Tampa, Charlie Strong might be able to breathe a little easier.
Kilani Sitaki, BYU: Nobody in Provo is happy with that loss to Holy Toledo last week. They will start a coach search if Sitaki loses at South Florida in Tampa this weekend.
Saved by the Buyout
Willie Taggart, Florida State: If Clemson succeeds and delivering an epic beatdown this weekend, the boosters might start figuring out ways to raise the $17 million it would take to buy him out.
Chad Morris, Arkansas: The $12 million buyout is only one of the reasons why Morris will be back at Arkansas next year. The biggest reason he will be back is the powers that be are determined to give Morris a third year even if it means suffering through another losing season in 2019.
Chip Kelly, UCLA: If they had the money, Kelly would already be gone. They don't and so they're stuck with him. Nobody in Westwood is particularly happy after that loss to Oregon State last week.
Will Muschamp, South Carolina: The buyout is $18 million but even if they had the cash on hand to pink slip Muschamp, they'd keep him one more year. The Gamecocks are very young and the kids are talented.
GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic on the future of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts who has won four straight National League West championships but hasn't won a World Series and won't this year after losing to the Washington Nationals Wednesday night:
“So now the Dodgers must ask: Is this the manager we want going forward? Roberts’ salary is not known, but buying out his final three years probably would cost the team somewhere in the range of $10 million. The Dodgers then would need to pay another manager, but none of the money would count against the luxury-tax threshold. A team that just completed the sixth year of its 25-year, $8.35 billion local TV deal with Time Warner certainly can afford two managers.”
From Ethan Strauss of The Athletic on the the NFL's viewership superiority over the NBA:
“For a quick and dirty comparison, look at average NBA Finals viewership over the years versus average Super Bowl viewership. In 1998, Michael Jordan’s last Finals registered as the most watched in NBA history, yielding an average viewership of 29 million. The best Finals viewership since Jordan happened in 2017, the year of Kareem’s article, when the Durant-led Warriors first took on LeBron’s Cavs. That Finals yielded an average viewership of 20.38 million. Impressive, but roughly down 9 million from that high in 1998. Keep in mind, the U.S. overall gained 50 million in population between 1998 and 2017 … For contemporaneous contrast, the January 1998 Super Bowl drew an average of 90 million viewers. Nearly two decades later, the February 2017 Super Bowl drew an average viewership of 111.3 million viewers. In short, the NFL has added 10s of millions in viewers to its championship since the 1990s, while the NBA has remained flat at best and dwindling at worst.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, has vacated the 2016 Division III national championship won by Mary Hardin-Baylor because the head coach let a football player use his 2006 Subaru during the 2016 season. He let another player use the car, too, but the car broke down and had to be towed. Seriously … The Houston Astros will face the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series after their 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday night … Clemson coach Dabo Swinney responded to rumors that QB Trevor Lawrence is injured by stating, “There is nothing wrong with Trevor.” Swinney did confirm that Lawrence does have a bruise.