NO WIGGLE ROOM, BUT THE PATH TO ATLANTA IS CLEAR
A four-game playoff for the SEC East Division championship is essentially what the Florida Gators (6-1, 3-1 SEC) face following the loss to LSU Saturday night in Baton Rouge. Florida's path to Atlanta is assured if the Gators beat (in order) South Carolina (3-3, 2-2 SEC) on the road, Georgia (5-1, 2-1 SEC) in Jacksonville, Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-3 SEC) at The Swamp and Missouri (5-1, 2-0) on the road. A 4-0 record will win the SEC East. There is no real wiggle room because losing would require a whole lot of help to get to Atlanta, so the goal from here on out is just win, baby.
Before Saturday the national consensus was that Georgia was better than Florida and Florida would get taken to the cleaners by LSU. That all changed when Georgia was kneecapped by South Carolina in Athens. Georgia can make every excuse in the world why it lost but the fact is this Georgia team was overhyped from the beginning. Now, even the win over Notre Dame is being looked at differently. The way Florida played at LSU – a loss, yes, but a game the Gators could have won – has most of the national media believing the Gators not only should beat the Poodles but probably will.
Among Georgia's five remaining SEC games are Florida (Jacksonville), Missouri, (at) Auburn and Texas A&M. No one would expect Georgia to lose all four of those although all four games are losable, but after the loss to South Carolina it's not difficult to picture a couple of losses.
The wildcard in the SEC East Division race is Missouri, which is ineligible to play in the postseason (SEC Championship Game is considered postseason) due to NCAA sanctions. Although the Tigers could go unbeaten in league play, they can't go to Atlanta or to a bowl game unless there is a last second appeal granted by the NCAA (highly unlikely). Even though the Tigers can't win the division, their games count in the standings, win or lose, Both Florida (at Missouri, November 16) and Georgia (Missouri in Athens on November 9) have to play Missouri in the two weeks following the game in Jacksonville.
GATORS REMAIN IN TOP TEN IN BOTH POLLS
The fact the Gators weren't overwhelmed by LSU Saturday night in Baton Rouge wasn't lost on the people who vote in both the Associated Press and Coaches top 25 polls. The Gators dropped only two places in both polls to #9. The big move in the AP poll was made by LSU, which moved up to #2, shoving Clemson down to #3. The Tigers moved up to #3 in the Coaches poll.
The big loser, as expected, was Georgia, which not only dropped to #10 in both polls but was made to look quite ordinary by unranked South Carolina.
The Associated Press Top 25 Poll
(1) Alabama 6-0; (2) LSU 6-0; (3) Clemson 6-0; (4) Ohio State 6-0; (5) Oklahoma 6-0; (6) Wisconsin 6-0; (7) Penn State 6-0; (8) Notre Dame 5-1; (9) FLORIDA 5-1; (10) Georgia 5-1; (11) Auburn 5-1; (12) Oregon 5-1; (13) Utah 5-1; (14) Boise State 6-0; (15) Texas 4-2; (16) Michigan 5-1; (17) Arizona State 5-1; (18) Baylor 6-0; (19) SMU 6-0; (20) Minnesota 6-0; (21) Cincinnati 5-1; (22) Missouri 5-1; (23) Iowa 4-2; (24) Appalachian State 5-0; (25) Washington 5-2
The Coaches Top 25 Poll (1) Alabama 6-0; (2) Clemson 6-0; (3) LSU 6-0; (4) Ohio State 6-0; (5) Oklahoma 6-0; (6) Wisconsin 6-0; (7) Penn State 6-0; (8) Notre Dame 5-1; (9) FLORIDA 6-1; (10) Georgia 5-1; (11) Auburn 5-1; (12) Oregon 5-1; (13) Boise State 6-0; (14) Utah 5-1; (15) Texas 4-2; (16) Michigan 5-1; (17) Arizona State 5-1; (18) Baylor 6-0; (19) SMU 6-0; (20) Minnesota 6-0; (21) Cincinnati 5-1; (22) Iowa 4-2; (23) Washington 5-2; (24) Appalachian State 5-0; (25) Temple 5-1
RANKING THE SEC TOP TO BOTTOM
(1) Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC): There is absolutely nothing wrong with Alabama's offense. The Crimson Tide is going to score plenty of points. The defense, however, was exposed at Texas A&M. If they have this much problem stopping Kellen Mond, imagine what's going to happen when Joe Burrow comes to Tuscaloosa. Next Saturday: vs. Tennessee (2-4, 1-2 SEC)
(2) LSU (6-0, 3-0 SEC): With his performance against Florida, Joe Burrow has elevated himself into the thick of the Heisman Trophy conversation. If he lights up Alabama and outplays Tua in the process on November 9, he might emerge as a frontrunner. He's thrown for 2,157 yards (11.6 per attempt) and 25 touchdowns in only six games. Next Saturday: at Mississippi State (3-3, 1-2 SEC)
(3) FLORIDA (6-1, 3-1 SEC): The Gators have opened the week as 7-1/2 point favorites to knock off South Carolina in Columbia on Saturday. Next Saturday: at South Carolina (3-3, 2-2 SEC)
(4) Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC): Auburn has the defense to be a legitimate contender for the SEC West title but the offense better figure some things out. Bo Nix has to play better than he did against Florida and someone has to step up in the running game to replace Boobee Whitlow, who won't be back until November. Next Saturday: at Arkansas (2-4, 0-3 SEC)
(5) Georgia (5-1, 2-1 SEC): Not only was Georgia physically beaten up by South Carolina, but Kirby Smart was thoroughly outcoached by Will Muschamp. If Ryan Hilinski hadn't hurt his knee on a late hit, Georgia would have lost by at least two touchdowns. At HOME! Next Saturday: vs. Kentucky (3-3, 1-3 SEC)
(6) Missouri (5-1, 2-0 SEC): Without Gerrit Cole in the middle, the Mizzou defense looked like a shell of its former self against Ole Miss, giving up 236 passing yards, an alarming 204 yards on the ground and 27 points. Next Saturday: at Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-3 SEC)
(7) Texas A&M (3-3, 1-2 SEC): What's going on in Aggieland is all about the future and it is very, very bright. Jimbo Fisher has this team pointed to 2020, which should be a year in which the Aggies contend to win the SEC West. Next Saturday: vs. Ole Miss (3-4, 2-3 SEC):
(8) South Carolina (3-3, 2-2 SEC): Ryan Hilinski's knee is sprained but HBC Will Muschamp says it's not serious enough to keep him out of Saturday's matchup with 9th-ranked Florida. At the point when he went down after a late hit against Georgia, Hilinski had completed 15-20 passes for Next Saturday: vs. #9 Florida (6-1, 3-1 SEC)
(9) Ole Miss (3-4, 2-3 SEC): For the Rebels to get the three more wins they will need to become bowl eligible, they'll have to win shootouts. The offense is actually quite good, but the defense struggles mightily with any team that has a decent passing game. Ole Miss has allowed five of its seven opponents to throw for more than 300 yards. Next Saturday: at Texas A&M (3-3, 1-2 SEC)
(10) Kentucky (3-3, 1-3 SEC): Sawyer Smith couldn't answer the bell, so converted wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. played QB for the first time since high school and delivered a critical win that may be the beginning of the Wildcats salvaging their season. In the win over Arkansas, Bowden was 24-196 rushing for two touchdowns and 7-11 for 78 yards and a TD passing. Next Saturday: at #10 Georgia (5-1, 2-1 SEC)
(11) Mississippi State (3-3, 1-2 SEC): The honeymoon is officially over for Joe Moorhead. He went 8-5 last year with a loaded roster left behind by Dan Mullen. There's still lots of Mullen talent left behind but now the Bulldogs are 3-3 and they've lost to Tennessee. Next Saturday: vs. #2 LSU
(12) Tennessee (2-4, 1-2 SEC): The Vols won't oh-fer the SEC schedule, not after their defense rose to the occasion and held Mississippi State to 267 total yards and only 10 points. Reality for the Vol defense will set in next Saturday in Tuscaloosa. That one will get ugly early. Next Saturday: at #1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC)
(13) Arkansas (2-4, 0-3 SEC): Arkansas knew Kentucky wasn't going to throw the ball but even playing eight in the box, the Hogs couldn't stop the Wildcats from running for 330 yards. There is every good chance Arkansas does another oh-fer the SEC for a second straight year. Other than Mississippi State, there isn't another SEC game that's even remotely winnable. Next Saturday: vs. #11 Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC)
(14) Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-3 SEC): When Countdown to Firing Day, Edition Eight comes out next Friday, Derek Mason will occupy a prominent spot On Life Support. Vandy folks can tolerate a loss to an SEC team but not to a Mountain Wes bottom feeder like UNLV. Buzzards are circling the Vanderbilt football complex. Next Saturday: vs. #22 Missouri (5-1, 2-0 SEC)
ELSEWHERE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Jalen Hurts is an extraordinary college quarterback but he showed in Oklahoma's 34-27 win over Texas exactly why Tua is the QB at Alabama. Alabama is running an offense that requires precision throws which Tua can make in his sleep. Hurts needs receivers running wide open because he doesn't have the arm to hit people on the break. That being said, Hurts had a great game – 16-28 for 235 yards and three touchdowns passing, 17-131 rushing for another TD – but it's one thing to be a great college QB, something altogether different to be good enough play the position in the NFL.
The ACC solidified its position as the worst of the Power Five conferences over the weekend. Wake Forest, which was unbeaten and the highest ranked (19th) ACC team not named Clemson, lost to Louisville, 62-59. Friday night, Virginia, which came into the game ranked 20th and the only team in the Coastal Division without a league loss, dropped an ugly 17-9 decision to Miami, which came into the game as the only Power Five team without a win over another Power Five team. Tied for the Coastal lead are Virginia, Duke and North Carolina, all at 2-1.
Wisconsin, which leads the nation in scoring defense (4.8 per game) and has four shutouts in six games. The 6th-ranked Badgers will sleepwalk through next Saturday's game at Illinois in anticipation of the showdown with #4 Ohio State on October 26. Penn State, which is ranked 7th, can put 16th-ranked Michigan out of its misery this weekend in Happy Valley.
Memphis saw its unbeaten season come to an end against Temple, in part because the American Athletic Conference replay officials bizarrely overturned a catch by tight end Joey Magnifico on a fourth-and-9 at the Temple 30 with 1:50 to go. On the field officials ruled a catch but the replay booth overturned the call. If you watch the replay it was a catch all the way and the ball didn't come close to touching the ground.
GOOD QUOTES FOR MONDAY
From Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports on why LSU should be the #1 team in the country after beating the Gators:
“In beating Florida 42-28 in Tiger Stadium, LSU staked its claim to being ranked No. 1. It won’t happen, because pollsters are incapable of the flexible thinking necessary to jump a team from No. 5 to the top of the polls. But what other undefeated team has two victories as good as the Tigers, who paired this defeat of the Gators with their road win over Texas on Sept. 7?”
Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the end of then 3rd-ranked Georgia's 20-17 double overtime loss to unranked South Carolina, which was a 21-point underdog:
“The Bulldogs ran the ball once and threw it twice. They gained nothing. They summoned Rodrigo Blankenship – who’d made every kick this season until having a field-goal try blocked at the shank of the first half – and the folk hero pulled it left. South Carolina players started running toward the far end zone, and your first thought was, 'Why are they running?' And then the incredible truth hit: Because they’d won. They upset the nation’s No. 3 team behind their No. 3 quarterback.”
From Wayne McGahee III of the Tallahassee Democrat on Florida State's 45-14 poleaxing at the hands of Clemson:
“FSU is nowhere close to Clemson as a program right now. From the talent level to the coaching to the recruiting. It's been a steep drop and the climb is going to take a long time with no end in sight. The gap doesn't seem to be getting any small either.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The Atlanta Falcons are off to a 1-5 start, their latest loss to Arizona, 34-33, when the game-tying extra point was missed. Arizona's Kyler Murray threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns in the win … Somebody named Lanto Griffin won the Houston Open. Were you watching? Didn't think so … A Los Angeles Angels employee says he provided pitcher Tyler Skaggs with oxycodone for several years. Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room on July 1 on an overdose of what a toxicology report says was a combination of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone.