THE COMEBACK KID
Maybe Dan Mullen deserves that label. He's 17-4 as Florida's football coach (10-3 last year, 7-1 this year) and six of his wins have seen the Gators rally from a fourth quarter deficit to victory. The Gators did it three times in 2018 (trailed LSU 19-14 and won 27-19; trailed Vandy 21-20 and won, 37-20; trailed South Carolina 31-17 and won 38-35). This season the Gators have rallied from a 20-17 deficit to beat Miami 24-21, rallied from down 21-10 to beat Kentucky 29-21 and Saturday they trailed South Carolina 20-17 in the fourth quarter before putting it all together in the fourth quarter for a 38-27 win.
Some coaches only coach well when they're ahead. Stake them to an early lead and they do a dandy job of channeling their inner Knute Rockne but let them fall behind and brilliance tends to leak like oil from a Yugo. Then there are coaches who just can't handle prosperity. They're at their worst when they go into the fourth quarter with a lead.
Mullen tends to do well when going into the fourth quarter trailing largely because he (a) is supremely confident that he can push all the right buttons for his team; (b) he has a very keen understanding of when to take risks and when to play it safe such as go for it on fourth down or kick a field goal; and (c) he has convinced his team that if they'll trust the coaches and continue to play as hard as they can every single play that good things will eventually happen and they will win.
Although luck sometimes factors into comeback wins, Mullen isn't one to depend on lucky breaks. When he was Florida's offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer, I did a lengthy sit down interview with Mullen prior to the 2008 season when the subject of luck came up. Mullen told me, “You're always happy when you get a lucky break, but if you depend on lucky breaks coming your way you're going to be disappointed an awful lot. Make your own luck by playing harder and making fewer mistakes than the other guys. Believe in yourself. Believe in your teammates. Believe in your coaches.” That's exactly why the Gators are so good in the fourth quarter.
GATORS #7 IN AP POLL; #8 IN COACHES
Florida's 38-27 win over South Carolina combined with Wisconsin's stunning loss to Illinois allowed the Gators to move up in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls. The Gators made their biggest move in the AP poll where they jumped two spots to #7. In the Coaches Poll the Gators are #8.
Alabama remained #1 in both polls but there is discrepancy 2-4 in the two polls. In the AP, LSU is second with Ohio State jumping Clemson for #3. In the Coaches Poll, Clemson is #2 with LSU #3 and Ohio State #4.
It's surprising that Wisconsin only dropped to #13 after the Badgers lost to a 31-point underdog.
The Associated Press Top 25 Poll
(1) Alabama 7-0; (2) LSU 7-0; (3) Ohio State 7-0; (4) Clemson 7-0; (5) Oklahoma 7-0; (6) Penn State 7-0; (7) FLORIDA 7-1; (8) Notre Dame 5-1; (9) Auburn 6-1; (10) Georgia 6-1; (11) Oregon 6-1; (12) Utah 6-1; (13) Wisconsin 6-1; (14) Baylor 7-0; (15) Texas 5-2; (16) SMU 7-0; (17) Minnesota 7-0; (18) Cincinnati 6-1; (19) Michigan 5-2; (20) Iowa 5-2; (21) Appalachian State 6-0; (22) Boise State 6-1; (23) Iowa State 5-2; (24) Arizona State 5-2; (25) Wake Forest 6-1
The Coaches Top 25 Poll
(1) Alabama 7-0; (2) Clemson 7-0; (3) LSU 7-0; (4) Ohio State 7-0; (5) Oklahoma 7-0; (6) Penn State 7-0; (7) Notre Dame 5-1; (8) FLORIDA 7-1; (9) Georgia 6-1; (10) Auburn 6-1; (11) Oregon 6-1; (12) Utah 6-1; (13) Wisconsin 6-1; (14) Baylor 7-0; (15) Texas 5-2; (16) Minnesota 7-0; (17) SMU 7-0; (18) Cincinnati 6-1; (19) Iowa 5-2; (20) Michigan 5-2; (21) Boise State 6-1; (22) Appalachian State 6-0; (23) Wake Forest 6-1; (24) Arizona State 5-2; (25) Memphis 6-1
RANKING THE SEC TOP TO BOTTOM
(1) Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC): It's a high ankle sprain for Tua Tagovailoa, who had a surgical procedure performed Sunday morning. He will miss the Arkansas game this week and then has an open date before the November 9 matchup with LSU. He's expected to play against LSU but how mobile will he be and how capable of stepping fully into throws?
Next Saturday: vs. Arkansas
(2) LSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC): It has only taken Threauxin' Jeaux Burreaux seven games to break LSU's all-time single season touchdown pass record. Against Mississippi State he was 25-32 passing for 327 yards and four touchdowns, raising his record total to 29. Next Saturday: vs. #10 Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC)
(3) FLORIDA (7-1, 4-1 SEC): With three sacks against South Carolina, the Gators have 29 for the season (-185 yards), which ties UF with SMU and Ohio State for second nationally. Next Saturday: Open
(4) Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC): Freshman QB Bo Nix didn't have any hangover from the loss to Florida two weeks ago, throwing for three touchdowns and running for one as Auburn racked up 491 yards and 51 points against Arkansas. Next Saturday: at #2 LSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC)
(5) Georgia (6-1, 3-1 SEC): De'Andre Swift (21 carries, 179 yards, two touchdowns) was the offense against Kentucky in a game played in horrible weather conditions. Georgia threw for only 35 yards and tried only one pass in the entire second half.
Next Saturday: Open
(6) Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2 SEC): The inconsistency of QB Kellen Mond has to be driving Jimbo Fisher nuts. A week after throwing for 264 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama, Mond was back to very ordinary against Ole Miss with 172 yards, one TD and two picks. If not for a scoop and score on a fumble by Buddy Johnson, the Aggies would have been trying to win in overtime. Next Saturday: vs. Mississippi State (3-4, 1-3 SEC)
(7) South Carolina (3-4, 2-3 SEC): Will Muschamp has talked with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and supervisor of officials Steve Shaw about the officiating in South Carolina's loss to Florida. Muschamp has a point about some blown calls, but that is unlikely to spare him a fine for his post game criticism of the zebras. Next Saturday: at Tennessee (2-5, 1-3 SEC)
(8) Missouri (5-2, 2-1 SEC): The Tigers shot themselves in the feet over and over again by committing 12 penalties for -120 yards in the loss to Vanderbilt. On Vandy's final possession when the Tigers were out of time outs and trying to get a stop for one last try to win the game, the Missouri nose tackle Jordan Elliott jumped offside twice to give Vandy a first down. Next Saturday: at Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC)
(9) Ole Miss (3-5, 2-3 SEC): In their final five possessions of the Rebels' 24-17 loss to Texas A&M, the Ole Miss offense settled for a field goal (missed), threw an interception, punted twice and then settled for a field goal. Next Saturday: Open
(10) Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC): The Wildcats are good enough to beat a team like Arkansas with converted wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. at quarterback, but they'll need more of a passing game (Bowden was 2-15 for 17 yards against Georgia) to win three of their five final regular season games to become bowl eligible. Next Saturday: vs. Missouri (5-2, 2-1 SEC)
(11) Mississippi State (3-4, 1-3 SEC): It is becoming painfully obvious that Joe Moorhead is not exactly a good fit for this job. There are reports that he's Rutgers' top priority and that he's interested in making that move. Next Saturday: at Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2 SEC)
(12) Vanderbilt (2-5, 1-3 SEC): Prior to Saturday's 21-14 upset of then #22 Missouri, Vanderbilt's defense was giving up 36.8 points and 482.7 yards per game. Besides holding Mizzou to two touchdowns, the Commodores held the Tigers to 293 offensive yards. Kelly Bryant managed only 13-26 passing for 140 yards. Next Saturday: Open
(13) Tennessee (2-5, 1-3 SEC): While the Vols held Alabama to a season-low 373 yards and four offensive touchdowns, they proved to be their own worst enemy, committing 13 penalties for -93 yards and turning the ball over twice (one fumble, one interception). Next Saturday: vs. South Carolina (3-4, 2-3 SEC)
(14) Arkansas (2-5, 0-4 SEC): The Razorbacks had plenty enough problems without contributing four turnovers (two interceptions, two lost fumbles) and a botched fake punt to the 51-10 loss to Auburn. Next Saturday: at #1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC)
Lovie Smith, Illinois: Had the Illini gotten their doors blown off by Wisconsin there is a really good chance Lovie would have been pink slipped on Sunday. Now that he's beaten a decent team people will expect the Illini to play well the rest of the way. If they don't, Lovie will be gone but at least he's dodged an immediate bullet.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: The normally docile Vandy brie and chardonnay tailgate set has been rumbling that it's time for Mason to go. Beating Missouri might not have saved Mason's job but it will buy him a quiet couple of weeks (Vandy is open next Saturday).
Kilani Sitaki, BYU: BYU fans are wondering how a team that can beat Tennessee on the road, Southern Cal and then #14 Boise State can lose on consecutive weeks to (Holy) Toledo and South Florida? The win over Boise will hush the fire Kilani folks but they'll be screaming for his scalp if he loses this week to Utah State.
SHOOTING THEMSELVES IN AT LEAST ONE FOOT
Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee: Coaches have a right to get mad when their quarterbacks take matters into their own hands and screw up, but Pruitt crossed a line when he grabbed Jarrett Guarantano by the face mask after his fumble that Alabama returned for a TD. Pruitt is already on very thin ice, but this incident might mushroom into a reason to fire him at season's end.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: Coming out of halftime Saturday evening at Happy Valley, Harbaugh told ESPN that the second half against Penn State would be Michigan's “finest hour.” Of course, it wasn't. Harbaugh isn't going to get fired, but it's starting to become more and more apparent that the folks in Ann Arbor wouldn't be upset if he would just go away.
Willie Taggart, Florida State: In the final 2:13 of their 22-20 loss to Wake Forest Gump, the Seminoles missed a field goal and QB James Blackmon fumbled the ball twice to prevent a shot at a pass to set up a game-winning field goal. “Free Willie” has taken on new meaning for FSU alums. If only they had the $17 million it would take to buy out Taggart's contract.
GREAT QUOTES FOR MONDAY
In a conversation with Cowlin Cowherd on Fox Sports, Urban Meyer talked about the one job he would un-retire for, the Dallas Cowboys:
“That’s the one. Great city. They got Dak Prescott, you got Zeke Elliott. You got a loaded team. And I can’t speak for him obviously, I hate to even speculate because I don’t know him, that’s really not fair, but to me, that’s the one job in professional football that you kinda say, ‘I got to go do that.'”
From Wayne McGahee III of the Tallahassee Democrat after Florida State blew opportunities to win in a 22-20 loss to Wake Forest:
“Every Saturday of this football season has become groundhog day for the Florida State football program. We continue to live the same day over and over again and nothing ever changes. The results stay the same, the post game comments stay the same, and the "we'll get it together" hopes stay the same. But nothing ever changes.”
From Jesse Temple of The Athletic, Wisconsin linebacker Zack Braun on the Badgers' stunning 24-23 loss to 31-point underdog Illinois:
“It was kind of a trap game playing here in Champaign against a team like Illinois. I feel like we didn’t have the fire we had in previous games going into it and had a lot of missed opportunities.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinal Ritter High School has forfeited the rest of the season and dismissed its entire coaching staff for playing an ineligible player by changing his number and claiming he was another player on the roster … The American Athletic Conference (AAC) has been granted a waiver to continue playing a conference championship football game after UConn departs next year, leaving the league with 11 football playing members ... Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made corner Andrew Booth Jr. ride in the manager's bus all 450 miles back home after he was ejected for throwing a punch in the third quarter of the Tigers' 45-10 win over Louisville. Booth punched a Louisville player who was down on the ground. Swinney sent Booth to the locker room even before the officials announced he was disqualified … Brett Maher of the Dallas Cowboys became the first kicker in NFL history with three field goals of more than 60 yards in his career when he nailed a 63-yarder at the end of the first half of Sunday night's game with the Philadelphia Eagles.