few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
Since the Gators aren’t playing football this week and Dan Mullen is quarantined with the virus, therefore no press conference on Monday, here are 10 observations about football in the Southeastern Conference that may or may not be within light years of reality. I reserve the right to be obnoxiously right, slightly prophetic or dead wrong.
(1) THE SEC HAS FOUR LEGITIMATE HEISMAN TROPHY CANDIDATES: Three of them are from Alabama – QB Mac Jones, RB Najee Harris and WR Devonta Smith. The fourth is Florida QB Kyle Trask, who can enhance his status if he can beat Georgia in three weeks and then take the Gators to the SEC East championship. It seems voters are pre-dispositioned to vote Climpson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields as the Heisman winner, but if Alabama and Florida are among the top four teams in the country as of December 19, then at least one of the SEC guys will be on the podium in New York when they hand out the big trophy.
(2) RANKING THE SEC STARTING QUARTERBACKS WORST TO FIRST: (14) Ken Seals, Vanderbilt; (13) K.J. Costello, Mississippi State; (12) Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee; (11) Connor Bazelac, Missouri; (10) Terry Wilson, Kentucky; (9) Bo Nix, Auburn; (8) Collin Hill, South Carolina; (7) Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia; (6) Matt Corral, Ole Miss; (5) Myles Brennan, LSU; (4) Feleipe Franks, Arkansas; (3) Kellen Mond, Texas A&M; (2) KYLE TRASK, FLORIDA; (1) Mac Jones, Alabama
(3) SANKEY LEVELED THE PLAYING FIELD: When SEC commissioner Greg Sankey re-booted the schedule after Covid-19 issues at Florida and Vanderbilt, he made it a point to level the playing field for Florida and Georgia by taking away the open date that both would have had on October 31 and giving them an open date this Saturday instead. The Florida-Missouri game, originally scheduled for Saturday got bumped back a week to give the Gators time to work through their virus issues that include Dan Mullen in quarantine. Georgia was scheduled to play Kentucky in Athens on October 24, but Sankey moved that game back to October 31, effectively leveling the playing field. Although Missouri is vastly improved, the Gators should have an easier time with the Tigers than Georgia will have with a Kentucky defense that has forced 10 turnovers and scored three pick sixes in the last two games. Georgia fans aren’t too happy with the re-schedule. Advantage Florida.
(4) STETSON BENNETT IS STILL GEORGIA’S QB: Stetson Bennett IV looked quite ordinary in the second half of Georgia’s 41-24 loss to Alabama. He was sacked twice, threw two more (three for the game) interceptions and had five passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. So far there has been no indication that Kirby Smart is willing to change quarterbacks. Either Georgia’s players believe so strongly in Bennett or else the three backups – D’Wan Mathis, Carson Beck and JT Daniels – aren’t as good as Bennett, are relatively clueless when it comes to running the offense or haven’t inspired the confidence in the rest of the team. It’s a real problem because while Georgia is a very good football team with Bennett at QB, the second half against Alabama showed he probably isn’t good enough to lead the Poodles the SEC East title. I bet the same folks who spent last year trashing Jake Fromm wish he had never left.
(5) THE BEST CORNER IN THE SEC IS … : Well, it isn’t Derek Stingley Jr. of LSU nor is it Patrick Surtain II of Alabama. The best corner in the league is South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, who completely dominated Auburn Saturday when he picked off two passes, deflected another one that was intercepted and finished the day with four pass breakups. He did have one long pass caught over him by Seth Williams but that was simply a ball that would have overthrown just about any receiver in the country not named Seth Williams. Take away that 44-yarder and Williams managed three catches for 30 yards with Horn blanketing him. NFL scouts love Horn’s size, speed and toughness. He will be matched up with LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr. (21-424, 7 TDs) on Saturday.
(6) IF MYLES BRENNAN CAN’T PLAY LSU IS IN DEEPEST AND DARKEST: A 1-2 start is not what the LSU faithful imagined when the season began. How about 1-3? That is entirely possible if QB Myles Brennan is unable to answer the bell. Brennan wouldn’t have played last week if LSU’s game with Florida hadn’t been postponed and he’s still listed as questionable for Saturday’s game with South Carolina due to what Coach O says is a “significant injury to his lower body.” This is the real world in which LSU is living: If Myles Brennan can’t play, then LSU will have to go with true freshmen Max Johnson and TJ Finley which means the Tigers could be 1-3 Saturday night and South Carolina could be 3-2.
(7) EARLY LINES FOR SATURDAY’S GAMES: Alabama is favored by 21 over Tennessee. That is giving Tennessee way too much credit. It’s going to be much, much worse. LSU is a 7-point favorite to beat South Carolina in Baton Rouge. If Myles Brennan doesn’t play, South Carolina has a really good chance to win this one. Kentucky is a 5.5-point favorite to whack Missouri in Columbia. This one has boring written all over it no matter who wins. Auburn is a 3-point favorite to beat Ole Miss in Oxford. Ole Miss will win this one if Matt Corral remembers to throw the ball to the people wearing the same colored shirt that he’s wearing.
(8) BEEN THROUGH THE DESERT ON A HORSE WITH NO NAME: Remember that song by the band America? That could be the theme song for the Arkansas defense. Coordinator Barry Odom has a bunch of no names he inherited from former HBC Chad Morris and DC John Chavis. The Razorbacks gave up 859 points in the previous two seasons with pretty much the same personnel Odom is working with now. He’s got two exceptional linebackers in Bumper Pool (that’s his real name) and Grant Morgan (19 tackles against Ole Miss Saturday including a pick six that sealed the win) and a freshman legend in walk-on Hudson Clark, who picked off three passes against Ole Miss. HBC Sam Pittman is putting Clark on scholarship as of January. If they held the voting now, Pittman would be the SEC coach of the year and Odom would be a finalist for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant.
(9) JEREMY PRUITT IS A TERRIBLE COACH BUT PHIL FULMER WILL NEVER ADMIT IT: Jeremy Pruitt’s list of woes: (1) Kentucky just smoked him by 27 points in a game in which the Wildcats failed to gain 300 yards; (2) He just fired his defensive line coach to whom a buyout of $900,000 or so is owed; and (3) Jarrett Guarantano is his quarterback and his best defensive player Henry To’o To’o is calling for true freshman Harrison Bailey to start this week against Alabama. To put things in proper perspective, everywhere Pruitt has coached there are burned bridges in his wake. We’re in year three of the Pruitt era at UT and we can conclude he’s not any better (maybe worse) than the coach they ran off (Butch Jones). UT fans would like to see Pruitt gone, but Phattus Maximus is the AD who (1) ran off the previous AD (John Currie) in what amounts to a coup and (2) hired Pruitt. Pruitt isn’t going anywhere. The rest of the SEC East is doing a collective happy dance.
(10) BUZZARDS ARE CIRCLING AROUND THE AUBURN FOOTBALL COMPLEX: Gus Malzahn is supposed to be an offensive genius but why is it that Auburn really hasn’t had an explosive offense since 2013? Back then, Rhett Lashlee (now at Miami) was the coordinator in name only but Gus called the plays. Lashlee left (fired is more like it) for UConn (nobody goes to UConn from Auburn unless they were fired) after the 2016 season. Then came Chip Lindsey (now HBC at Troy) and Kenny Dillingham (OC in name only at FSU). Now the guy supposedly revolutionizing the offense is Chad Morris, whose two Arkansas offenses scored a combined 517 points, which is 97 fewer than Alabama scored in 2019. Auburn is averaging 21.8 per game now, which is slightly less than Arkansas averaged last year. Now do you understand why Auburn fans are counting the buzzards in the sky who are circling around the football complex?
THEY PLAY FOOTBALL ELSEWHERE BESIDE THE SEC
How soon they do forget! Seminole fans are crowing about their 31-28 win over then 5th-ranked (and extremely overrated) North Carolina. Considering they may only win one or two more games the rest of the way it’s to be expected, but remember this: FSU lost to Georgia Tech, the same Georgia Tech that got poleaxed by Climpson 73-7, and the only reason the game was that close was because Dabo played everybody except those too feeble to suit up from the local homeless shelter.
The Big Ten cranks up its football season Saturday. Under most circumstances I probably wouldn’t care but since there haven’t been enough games on TV in the previous weeks, I’ll watch. There are only so many thrilling Kansas-West Virginia or Climpson-Georgia Tech matchups that I can handle. I do want to watch Ohio State to see if the Buckeyes are as loaded as everyone is saying. The Mountain West also kicks off this weekend. You know I’m really pining to watch Wyoming at Nevada.
Coastal Carolina is the only unbeaten and ranked team (#24) in the Fun Belt Sun Belt. Not bad for a school that only started playing football in 2003 and has been in Division I since 2016. The Chanticleers (imagine a state with two Division I teams named after chickens) have a Power Five win over Kansas. Okay, so it was Kansas, the Fun Belt just happens to be 3-0 against the Big 12 with wins over league co-leaders Iowa State (by Louisiana, who the Chants beat last week) and Kansas State (beaten by Arkansas State). Coastal’s center Sam Thompson has to be smallest center in all of Division I at 5-9, 290.
TUESDAY PITHINESS: Last week the New York Jets unloaded running back Le’Veon Bell. Monday they traded defensive tackle Steve McClendon to the Tampa Bay Bucs for draft picks. We aren’t even halfway through the season and already the Jets are making it obvious they’re in the tank for either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields … Former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is going to prove to be the steal of the NFL Draft. He ran for 161 yards Monday night to help the Kansas City Chiefs past the Buffalo Bills 26-17. He already has 465 rushing yards and 21 pass receptions for 177 yards in six games … Tiger Woods will be playing golf this week at the ZoZo Open which was moved from Japan to California. Oddsmakers list him 33-1 to win this week and 25-1 to win the Masters next month. I have to wonder if he can win again … The World Series begins tonight in Dallas and hardly anyone is giving the Tampa Bay Rays a chance to knock off the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’ll use the scientific method to make my prediction. Mike Zunino, a former Gator, catches for the Rays. There are no Gators on the Dodgers. Therefore, Tampa Bay wins it in six games.