HANDLING THE HANGOVER
The question heading into Saturday's Florida-South Carolina game in Columbia is which team can better handle the hangover. For 9th-ranked Florida (6-1, 3-1 SEC) it's the hangover of the Gators' first loss of the season to 2nd-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge last week. For South Carolina (3-3, 2-2 SEC), it's the hangover of a much unexpected upset of then #3 Georgia last week in Athens.
Florida's disappointment hangover is complicated by a battered and bruised defensive unit. Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga haven't practiced this week and both are considered game-time decisions. If they play it might be in very limited roles. Also banged up is linebacker Jeremiah Moon. The defense isn't the only Florida unit that is facing some depth issues. Over on the offensive side of the ball, right tackle Jean Delance hasn't been practicing this week and is considered doubtful. With Delance out, Richard Gouraige has taken the left tackle snaps this week with Stone Forsythe shifting over to the right side.
South Carolina has an injury situation of its own with quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who has been announced as the Saturday starter even though he suffered a knee injury against Georgia. With Hilinski expected to play and Florida with so many question marks due to injury, the Vegas oddsmakers have slid the line back to five points from the seven it opened at back on Sunday. What that tells us is Florida is very definitely on upset alert.
Here is how the Gators can (and should) win the game even with the injuries:
(1) Kyle Trask gets the protection he needs and Florida's exceptional wide receivers do to the South Carolina secondary what the Alabama wide receivers did a few weeks ago when Tua Tagovailoa threw for 444 yards and five touchdowns. Alabama had problems running the ball but didn't need to because the wide receivers kept beating the South Carolina secondary so badly.
(2) Florida puts the corners on an island and sells out to stop the South Carolina run. If the Gamecocks can't run, the play action with Hilinski won't work. Florida gets third down stops. (3) The Gamecocks are a woeful 32.8% converting third downs. If the Gators can win the third down battle, they'll get the defense off the field and give Trask and the receivers more opportunities to put points on the board.
The Sayer Says Sooth: This is going to be Kyle Trask's game to dominate. The Gators will protect him and he'll light up the South Carolina secondary. With the defensive injuries, the Gators may have to win a shootout, but they're better equipped to win that kind of game than South Carolina. FLORIDA 35, South Carolina 25.
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER
#1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) 56, Tennessee (2-4, 1-2 SEC) 14: The Tua for Heisman Show should be good for about five touchdown passes against the Vols. The euphoria of Tennessee's win over Mississippi State last week is about to get bitch slapped back into reality. There might be 10 players on the UT roster that could make the Alabama roster.
#2 LSU (6-0, 2-0 SEC) 49, Mississippi State (3-3, 1-2 SEC) 7: Joe Moorhead could very well lose the MSU fan base Saturday because the Bulldogs are going to get poleaxed by LSU. The Bulldogs are wising up to the fact that defensive coordinator Bob Shoop was so good last year because Dan Mullen left behind what amounts to an NFL defense. Shoop's troops have absolutely no chance to stop Threauxin' Jeaux Burreaux. As for that MSU offense? Well, when you can't move the ball on Tennessee you've sunk to the bottom of the septic tank.
#10 Georgia (5-1, 2-1 SEC) 28, Kentucky (3-3, 1-3 SEC): Lightning won't strike twice in the same place one week apart, will it? Georgia was a 3-touchdown favorite last week and lost to South Carolina in Athens. Georgia is a 3-touchdown favorite this week with Kentucky coming to town. If Kentucky somehow springs this upset it will be because Lynn Bowden Jr. ran Georgia silly and Jake Fromm had another bad day at the office. If Georgia loses this one there will be Poodle fans ready to burn Kirby Smart at the stake.
#11 Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC) 40, Arkansas (2-4, 1-3 SEC) 10: The native son (Gus Malzahn) returns home and it won't be pleasant for the home boys. What the Arkansas fans fantasize is that Chad Morris would go away and that Gus would give those fickle Auburn fans the finger and come back to his home state. Morris is a goner, whether this year or next. As for Gus, there are two chances he leaves Auburn to take the Arky job: no way and no how.
#22 Missouri (5-1, 2-0 SEC) 38, Vanderbilt (1-5, 0-3 SEC) 14: Derek Mason needs a win over a decent team in the worst way to remain gainfully employed much longer. Could it happen? Well, this is the same Mizzou team that lost to Wyoming on the road but maybe the Tigers have grown up a bit since then. They better hope so.
Texas A&M (3-3, 1-2 SEC) 38, Ole Miss (3-4, 2-2 SEC) 27: For Ole Miss to win this one, freshman QB John Rhys Plumlee has to have such a good game running the ball that the Rebels won't have to pass very much. Ole Miss could spring the upset if the Aggies are still hung over from the Alabama loss last week.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION EIGHT
Extinct Species List
Chris Ash, Rutgers: Among the names suddenly on the Rutgers hot list is former Tennessee coach Butch Jones. He's still being paid by Tennessee and Alabama pays him something like $50,000 a year as an analyst. Maybe Nick Saban can knock some sense in him and let him know that he should keep taking the buyout money from Tennessee until something better than Rutgers comes along. Butch won't salvage his coaching career at Rutgers, which is a graveyard.
On Life Support
Lovie Smith, Illinois: Will they wait to can Lovie after the seventh loss (the Illini are three away) or go ahead and pink slip Lovie after Jonathan Taylor tapdances his way through the Illinois defense for 200 or so yards and maybe four touchdowns Saturday afternoon? This is the big question.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: It's one thing to get your doors blown off by an SEC opponent, but UNLV is enough that the chadonnay and brie tailgate set has all but decided that unless Mason can pull a miracle out of his wazzoo, he's got to go. It probably won't happen until after game 11.
Tony Sanchez, UNLV: Sanchez got a win over a Power Five program last week. Okay, it was Vanderbilt so it's not really like the Rebels actually beat a decent team.
Mike Bobo, Colorado State: The Lambs beat New Mexico last week. That's probably the last winnable game on the schedule. They're ready for a new coach in Fort Collins.
Phil Montgomery, Tulsa: If Montgomery isn't fired during or after the season it will be because the school is in a serious financial crisis. The cost of buying out Montgomery and assistants, then hiring a new HBC and assistants is something the school can't afford and Tulsa certainly can't afford any upgrade to facilities, which it needs to get decent players. But, if you're a betting man, bet on Monty looking for a new job relatively soon.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: You know you're time is all but up when you lose to Colorado State, which the Lobos did last week. Because he cleaned up the mess left behind by Mike Locksley, they'll make this as painless as possible by kicking Davie upstairs into an administrative role, but whether it's painful or painless, he's a goner.
Kilani Sitaki, BYU: The coaching search began quietly after the Cougars blew a 23-14 lead in the fourth quarter and lost to South Florida last week.
Endangered Species List
Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee: Folks will be giddy about last week's win over Mississippi State until Alabama's second or third possession Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Pruitt probably goes back On Life Support after the Tua for Heisman Show goes off for about five touchdown passes.
Clay Helton, Southern Cal: Considering all the injuries, the Trojans really aren't that bad, but the faithful long for the good old days when Pete Carroll was good for 11 wins a year. They think Urban Meyer will be happy to leave a home that's across the fairway from Jack Nicklaus to come to the land of the homeless and 13% state income taxes. Helton is a goner. No doubt about that. Urban? Shelley says he's not going anywhere.
Steve Addazio, Boston College: The Eagles have the best offense they've had in the Addazio Era at Chestnut Hill. They also have the worst defense they've had, which is why the Eagles need to come up with at least three more wins to get bowl eligible. Do that and Addazio will be back another year, although he'll start 2020 On Life Support. A losing record and he is probably a goner.
Randy Edsall, UConn: Economically, firing Edsall would be the dumbest thing in the world, but nobody has ever accused the people modeled their economic finances after the Venezuela model of having functioning brains.
Beads of Sweat Forming
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: He's the winningest coach in school history but the combination of a scandal, five players entering the NCAA transfer portal in the last month and one of the worst offenses (again) in all of college football has the natives feeling rather restless these days. Maybe he doesn't get fired this year, but if he's still around next year, he'll start the season on the Endangered Species List.
Charlie Strong, South Florida: The Bulls have a two-game winning streak after their come from behind win over BYU last week. Charlie really needs the three wins it will take to be bowl eligible to know for sure he'll have a job next year.
Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech: The Hokies are 4-2 but they're a bad 4-2. Fuente needs three wins to be comfortable.
Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State: He lost to Tennessee but there are three winnable games remaining on the schedule so a 6-6 finish isn't out of the question. A losing season probably wouldn't get him fired although he might be encouraged to take another job somewhere else.
Saved by the Buyout
Willie Taggart, Florida State: Following the Clemson blowout loss, FSU boosters became resigned to the fact they are stuck with a coach who is going to set the program back a decade thanks to a buyout of nearly $18 million.
Chad Morris, Arkansas: The Hogs are going down in flames this year but Morris is safe unless someone decides to write a $12 million check.
Chip Kelly, UCLA: The Chipster got his second win of the season Thursday night. He only has to go 4-1 down the stretch to break even. That won't happen but UCLA won't fire him, either. Saved by the $9 million buyout.
GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY
Former Jacksonville Jaguars corner Jalen Ramsey on getting traded to the Los Angeles Rams:
“I feel free. I feel like I can be myself. A fresh start with a team who values who I am, obviously, with what they gave up to get me. And I truly respect that. I’m ready to do what I can to help this team win.”
Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated on the worst of the Power Five conferences:
“There is one – one – ACC team in the latest top 25: Clemson. Twelve of the 14 teams in the league have already picked up their second loss, and the conference has losses to Boise State, Kansas, Appalachian State and The Citadel. The Tigers should have a cakewalk to a fifth straight ACC title. The conference has become a one-team league.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is the new manager of the Los Angeles Angels … Don't be shocked if the New York Mets name Joe Girardi their new manager before the weekend is over … University of Alabama freshman Connor Bruce Croll has been arrested for calling in a threat to the Baton Rouge police claiming there was a bomb in Tiger Stadium last week during the Florida-LSU football game. Croll could face 20 years in the big house for the prank … Reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes suffered a knee injury Thursday night in the Kansas City Chiefs 30-6 win over the Denver Broncos. It is being reported that the extent of the injury won't be known until there is an MRI … The Houston Astros moved within a game of the World Series Thursday night when they beat the New York Yankees, 8-3, to take a 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series.