A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:
The upside for the Florida Gators having a second straight open date is that it’s one more week for Todd Grantham and his defensive staff to figure out what has been going wrong. Tweaks, patches, benching, shuffling the roster … whatever they need to do, they need to do it and now they have an extra week to get it figured out before they go into game week preparation for Missouri on October 31. That was originally supposed to be an open date but the Covid-19 virus shot that down.
The downside for the Gators is the offense. Through the first three games the Gators were operating at a very high level, averaging 42.3 points and 464 yards per game. Kyle Trask has thrown for 14 touchdowns and 996 yards. Tight end Kyle Pitts has 17 catches for 274 yards and seven touchdowns. Slot receiver Kardarius Toney has established himself as a legitimate downfield threat and he continues to make people miss after he catches the ball (18-237, 4 TDs) or in the running game (5-60). Twelve different players have caught passes. The running game seems on the verge of breaking loose and the offensive line has given up only four sacks in three games. The Gators have all this momentum going offensively. Will it still be there when the season resumes on October 31?
Probably the most important questions are will Florida’s brush with Covid-19 be over and done with in plenty of time so that Dan Mullen can return to his head coaching duties and all the players who tested positive for the virus can return to practice? Due to the re-booting of the schedule, the Gators will have to play seven straight weekends, and if they win the SEC East the SEC Championship Game will mean eight straight weeks of football without a break. Getting everybody healthy as quickly as possible and back to full strength will have plenty to do with Florida having a chance to supplant Georgia as the SEC East champ.
ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL (1) Clemson 5-0; (2) Alabama 4-0; (3) Notre Dame 4-0; (4) Georgia 3-1; (5) Ohio State 0-0; (6) Oklahoma State 3-0; (7) Texas A&M 3-1; (8) Penn State 0-0; (9) Cincinnati 3-0; (10) FLORIDA 2-1; (11) Miami 4-1; (12) BYU 5-0; (13) Oregon 0-0; (14, TIE) North Carolina 3-1, Wisconsin 0-0; (16) SMU 5-0; (17) Iowa State 3-1; (18) Michigan 0-0; (19) Virginia Tech 3-1; (20) Kansas State 3-1; (21) Minnesota 0-0; (22) Marshall 4-0; (23) North Carolina State 4-1; (24) Southern Cal 0-0; (25) Coastal Carolina 4-0
COACHES TOP 25 POLL (1) Clemson 5-0; (2) Alabama 4-0; (3) Notre Dame 4-0; (4) Georgia 3-1; (5) Ohio State 0-0; (6) Oklahoma State 3-0; (7) Penn State 0-0; (8) FLORIDA 2-1; (9) Texas A&M 3-1; (10) Cincinnati 3-0; (11, TIE) Miami 4-1, BYU 5-0; (13) North Carolina 3-1; (14) Wisconsin 0-0; (15) Oregon 0-0; (16) SMU 5-0; (17) Michigan 0-0; (18) Iowa State 3-1; (19) Kansas State 3-1; (20) Virginia Tech 3-1; (21) Minnesota 0-0; (22) North Carolina State 3-1; (23) Southern Cal 0-0; (24) Coastal Carolina 4-0; (25) Marshall 4-0
RUMBLING, STUMBLING, BUMBLING IN THE SEC
#2 ALABAMA (4-0): Georgia was giving up only 38 rushing yards per game before Saturday night. Najee Harris ran for more yards (152) than three previous opponents had gained collectively. Through four games, Harris has gained 499 yards (6.01 per carry) while scoring 11 rushing touchdowns. He is 715 yards away from Derrick Henry’s school record 3,591 yards and 11 touchdowns away from Henry’s record 42. Next week: at Tennessee (2-2)
ARKANSAS (2-2): The Hogs already have as many wins through four games as anyone could have predicted for the entire season. They have a QB in Feleipe Franks who is making good decisions and accurate throws. Their defense has picked off 10 passes and recovered three fumbles. Linebacker Grant Morgan has 52 tackles, a sack, three pass breakups and a pick six. HBC Mike Pittman deserves a ton of credit for changing the football culture in Fayette Nam and surrounding himself with excellent assistants like defensive coordinator Barry Odom and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
Next week: Open
AUBURN (2-2): The hiring of Chad Morris was supposed to be just what the doctor ordered to elevate QB Bo Nix from very good to elite but through four games it is obvious Nix is going in the wrong direction. Is Morris the problem? Or is it that Bo Nix was as good as he’s ever going to be as a true freshman? If Gus Malzahn doesn’t figure that out in a hurry, both he and Morris are going to be looking for gainful employment someplace else when this season comes to an end. Next week: at Ole Miss (1-3)
#4 GEORGIA (3-1): For the first half against Alabama, Stetson Bennett IV seemed capable of leading the Poodles to a win. In the second half, he looked like the walk-on he once was. Georgia can win big games with Bennett at QB if the defense dominates, but if it comes down to a shootout, he’s not going to get it done. So does Kirby Smart roll the dice and count on his defense dominating every single game or does he ease one of his other quarterbacks into the lineup. JT Daniels didn’t transfer in from Southern Cal to sit the bench. Next week: Open
KENTUCKY (2-2): Kentucky is 2-2 because the defense has played lights out against two highly overrated opponents (Mississippi State and Tennessee). For the second straight week the offense produced fewer than 300 yards. The Wildcats run the ball fairly well, but they’re going to have to throw it to have a chance to win some of the remaining six games on their schedule. How long does Mark Stoops stick with Terry Wilson and at what point does he give Joey Gatewood a shot at running the offense? Against Tennessee, Gatewood was 1-1 passing for six yards and ran three times for 23 yards. Next week: at Missouri (1-3)
LSU (1-2): Did the unexpected week off give Bo Pelini the time he needed to get LSU’s ailing defense well again? The Tigers are off to a historically bad start, allowing 32 points and 494.7 yards per game. It’s the pass defense that is really bad. LSU is giving up 380.7 yards per game and 10 TDPs. They gave up only 20 TDPs last year in 15 games. Next week: vs. South Carolina (2-2)
MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-3): K.J. Costello has now thrown 10 interceptions (only six TDPs) and is averaging a rather sloth-like 6.5 yards per attempt. Freshman Will Rogers (4.9 pet attempt) has thrown two picks and only one TD. Why hasn’t Mike Leach given Garrett Shrader a shot? Shrader averaged 7.6 per attempt last year as a true freshman (8 TDPs, 5 INTs) and ran for 587 yards in Joe Moorhead’s offense. Given the state of MSU’s ground game (114 net yards through four games) Shrader would at least give the Bulldogs some semblance of a running attack. Next week: Open
MISSOURI (1-2): Postponement of the Vanderbilt game gave the Tigers and redshirt freshman QB Connor Bazelac a week to prep for Kentucky, which is playing great defense. Since taking over for TCU transfer Shawn Robinson, Bazelac has completed 49-69 passes (71 percent) for 692 yards (10.0 per attempt) with four TDPs and only one pick. Next week: vs. Kentucky (2-2)
OLE MISS (1-3): What happened Saturday at Arkansas is the perfect example of what happens when the Lane Train goes from unstoppable into their can I give you a helping hand mode. The first three games of the season Matt Corrall was absolutely brilliant. Against Arkansas, he derailed The Lane Train by throwing six interceptions and fumbling once. So how long a leash will Corral be on against Auburn?
Next week: vs. Auburn (2-2)
SOUTH CAROLINA (2-2): Before Saturday’s 30-22 win, the last time the Gamecocks had beaten Auburn was 1933. They got it done Saturday with a stout defense that harassed Bo Nix into three interceptions, sacked him three times and had five quarterback hurries. In a season in which many pundits have proclaimed Will Muschamp’s seat very, very hot, the Gamecocks are 2-2, should be 3-1 and have been highly competitive in every game Next week: at LSU (1-2)
TENNESSEE (2-2): Jarrett Guarantano was bad Saturday. That it was Kentucky is a surprise since he’s owned the Wildcats in his career, but with Guarantano it’s always a matter of when, not if, he will implode. As bad as he was against Kentucky, Guarantano is probably the best the Vols have to offer. What does that tell us? There is every good chance the Vols are going to finish 5-5 at best this season no matter who is the QB. Next week: vs. #2 Alabama (4-0)
#7 TEXAS A&M (3-1): The Aggies were held to a season-low 325 yards of offense against Mississippi State, but they held the Bulldogs to 217 yards, forced a pair of turnovers and sacked the QB six times.
Next week: Open
VANDERBILT (0-3): Thanks to UMass, which opened its season with a 41-0 loss to Georgia Southern Saturday, Vanderbilt no longer ranks dead last in the country in total offense (261.3 yards per game) and scoring (8.7 points). The Commodores do bring up the rear in the Southeastern Conference, however. There isn’t a single remaining game on the schedule in which Vanderbilt will be favored.
Next week: Open
THEY PLAY FOOTBALL ELSEWHERE BESIDE THE SEC
Seminole fans shouldn’t mistake what happened Saturday night as proof FSU football is back. It isn’t. It’s just the Always Climpson Conference is just that bad. North Carolina had no business being ranked in the top ten much less fifth. FSU is now 2-3 and hits the road to face a disappointing Louisville (1-4) team that took Notre Dame to the mat before losing. Louisville has opened as a 5.5-point favorite.
Since we’re on the topic of the ACC, did you catch Notre Dame (4-0) eke out that win over Louisville, the same Louisville that is dead last in the league? The same Louisville that gave up 46 points and lost to Georgia Tech, which was obliterated by Climpson 73-7? If the Irish are the nation’s 3rd-ranked team then we are in serious trouble.
UCF (2-2) put up 49 points and gained 798 yards against Memphis Saturday night and still lost. In the six losses since that memorable “national championship” season of 2017, the Knights have allowed 220 points and in every game there has been a fourth quarter collapse. Memo to Dillon Gabriel, who about three weeks ago declared the Knights the best team in the state: Sure you can throw for 601 yards and five TDs without an interception against the likes of American Athletic Conference defenses, but when you lose those kind of games you aren’t the best team in the state. Memo to UCF coach Josh Heupel: One of the constants in those fourth quarter collapses is defensive coordinator Randy Shannon. Maybe he can recruit, but he is over his head as a coordinator.
Eight former Iowa players are demanding the firings of HBC Kirk Ferentz, assistant coach Brian Ferentz and AD Gary Barta as well as $20 million in compensation for racial discrimination during their time in the football program. Earlier in the year many complaints were raised about strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Doyle, who was placed on administrative leave and has since reached some sort of settlement with the university.
A DAY WITHOUT A FEW PITHY COMMENTS IS A DAY WITHOUT SUNSHINE: Former Gator Mike Zunino’s two-run homer Saturday night helped the Tampa Bay Rays make it to the World Series where they will face Los Angeles Dodgers, who won three games in a row over the Atlanta Braves … Tua Tagovailoa finally got into a game with the Miami Dolphins, completing 2-2 passes for nine yards. The Dolphins are 3-3 with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB but how long before he becomes Captain Clipboard? They aren’t paying Tua a bazillion dollars to sit on the bench … Phil Mickelson is 2-2 on the seniors PGA tour. He shot a final round 65 Sunday to win the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond.