A GREAT TIME FOR AN OPEN DATE
As if we needed proof that timing is everything we have the open date that annually precedes the Florida-Georgia game. The week off is exactly what the 7th-ranked Gators need as they prepare to take the second step of their de facto 4-game playoff for the Southeastern Conference East Division championship. Banged up and bruised, the Gators will use the week to get everybody healthy and could go into the Georgia game healthier than they've been all season.
When the Gators take the field against Georgia there is a very good chance UF will be healthier than any time this season. With the exception of Feleipe Franks, who is done for the year with that ankle fractured and dislocated in the Kentucky game, the Gators should be able to field a two-deep on both sides of the ball that closely resembles the one Dan Mullen thought he would have way back in August.
There are plenty of banged up and battered Gators who need this week off, not to mention plenty of players who just need some R&R. And then there are Kadarius Toney, Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga. Expect all three to be ready to go on November 2. Toney is recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in the game two win over Tennessee-Martin. With Toney in the lineup and so capable of going the distance on drag patterns and short stuff, safeties have to play closer to the line of scrimmage and that takes away their ability to defend vertically. So, even when Toney doesn't get the football he's creating plays for teammates. Greenard and Zuniga both have ankle injuries but they will go into the Georgia game with three weeks of rest. With them operating as bookends, the Gators have the potential to create widespread panic an offensive line that has to deal with their speed and athleticism and a quarterback who has to get rid of the ball perhaps a bit sooner than he'd like.
A healthy Florida team is a very good thing. A healthy Florida team with Toney, Greenard and Zuniga available is one that could make it 2-0 in the unofficial 4-game playoff.
GATOR BASKETBALL RANKED 6TH IN AP PRESEASON POLL
The Associated Press has released its preseason basketball poll with Florida beginning the 2019-20 season ranked sixth. This is the highest preseason ranking since the 2006-07 season when they began the season #1 and finished #1 with their second straight NCAA championship. This is the 13th time in school history that the Gators began a season with a top ten ranking. The last time was 2017-18 when they began at #8.
(1) Michigan State; (2) Kentucky; (3) Kansas; (4) Duke; (5) Louisville; (6) FLORIDA; (7) Maryland; (8) Gonzaga; (9) North Carolina; (10) Villanova; (11) Virginia; (12) Seton Hal; (13) Texas Tech; (14) Memphis; (15) Oregon; (16) Baylor; (17) Utah State; (18) Ohio State; (19) Xavier; (20) Saint Mary's; (21) Arizona; (22) LSU; (23) Purdue; (24) Auburn; (25) VCU
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
#1 Alabama (7-0, 3-0 SEC): With Tua sidelined and Arkansas coming to Tuscaloosa, it's the perfect time for Nick Saban to tune up the running game. In their last two games, the Hogs have allowed 330 rushing yards to Kentucky and 298 to Auburn. Saturday: vs. Arkansas (2-5, 0-4 SEC)
Arkansas (2-5, 0-4 SEC): How bad are things at Arkansas? After the weekend blowout loss to Auburn, 4-star linebacker Martavius French (6-2, 240, Memphis, TN Whitehaven) announced on Twitter he has decommitted from Arkansas. French, the second highest rated player in the Arkansas recruiting class, saw the 51-10 loss to Auburn while on an official visit to Fayetteville. Saturday: at #1 Alabama (7-0, 3-0 SEC)
#10 Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC): Auburn BUCK Nick Coe, whose lack of productivity has been a mystery, didn't play against Arkansas. Post game Saturday, HBC Gus Malzahn said Coe was held out “because he did not meet our standard in practice this week.” Saturday: at #2 LSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC)
#9 Georgia (6-1, 3-1 SEC): Georgia fans booed the team throughout the first and second quarters of the win over Kentucky. It got really loud when the Poodles left the field for the locker room at halftime. Saturday: Open
Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC): It was a bad weekend for Kentucky and its linebackers. First, freshman Shawn'Kel Knight-Goff left the team. Second, Xavier Peters, who transferred to UK from Florida State, didn't make the trip to Georgia due to disciplinary action. Peters, who signed with FSU in 2018, is a former Under Armour All-American. Saturday: vs. Missouri (5-2, 2-1 SEC)
#2 LSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC): Wide receiver Terrence Marshall could return for Saturday's game with Auburn. Prior to a stress fracture in his foot, Marshall had 20 catches for 304 yards and six touchdowns. He has missed the last three games. Saturday: vs. #10 Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC)
Mississippi State (3-4, 1-3 SEC): Needing three more wins to become bowl eligible, the schedule over the final five games looks favorable for the Bulldogs who have winnable games with (at) Arkansas, Abilene Christian and Ole Miss. Saturday: at Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2 SEC)
Missouri (5-2, 2-1 SEC): After losing to Vanderbilt Saturday, HBC Barry Odom said, “I think we got outcoached and I think we got out-executed for four quarters.” Add Odom's name to the Endangered Species List. Saturday: at Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC)
Ole Miss (3-5, 2-3 SEC): QB John Rhyss Plumlee had a minor procedure on his knee and RB Jerrion Ealy is in concussion protocol. Fortunately for Ole Miss, the Rebels have an open date this week. Saturday: Open
South Carolina (3-4, 2-3 SEC): South Carolina is waiting results of an MRI to determine the extent of tailback Rico Dowdle's knee injury suffered against Florida. Dowdle is the team's second leading rusher with 457 yards and four touchdowns. Saturday: at Tennessee (2-5, 1-3 SEC)
Tennessee (2-5, 1-3 SEC): Freshman QB Brian Maurer has already suffered two concussions. Does Tennessee shut him down the remainder of the season? And if Maurer is shut down, does Jeremy Pruitt start Jarrett Guarantano? Is Guarantano even interested in remaining with the team after the way Pruitt treated him on the sideline Saturday night? Saturday: vs. South Carolina (3-4, 2-3 SEC)
Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2 SEC): DB Larry Pryor, who did not make the trip to Ole Miss, is no longer with the team. Pryor played in the first six games and had 12 tackles. Saturday: vs. Mississippi State (3-4, 1-3 SEC)
Vanderbilt (2-5, 1-3 SEC): Official attendance for the win over Missouri was 23,900. Actual attendance looked to be about half that, which is precisely why Derek Mason is probably going to get pink-slipped. Saturday: Open
A FEW COLLEGE FOOTBALL OBSERVATIONS
Clemson is bored: There really isn't anything wrong with Clemson other than the fact that boredom has settled in. This is the problem of sustaining greatness in a weak conference like the ACC. There isn't a team in the league capable of challenging a focused, engaged Clemson team. Dabo has to find a way to channel his inner Lou Holtz to make each one of the homeless shelters and convents remaining on the schedule seem like the reincarnation of '95 Nebraska. If he can't do that, then the Tigers might find it hard to break the boredom and rise to the occasion of the playoff later on.
Joe Moorhead may leave for Rutgers: Moorhead has already figured out that he is a rotten fit for this job. I don't think he had a clue what it takes to win in Starkville. He had the perfect model to follow in Dan Mullen but whereas Mullen embraced all things Mississippi, Moorhead has not. Mullen built the program from scratch, made Mississippi State fans believe they could compete, took them to bowl games every year and made folks forget he was a Yankee from New Hampshire. Moorhead only reminds folks every day that he's not from Mississippi and they tend to think he'd rather be somewhere else. So, the choice for Moorhead is (a) do you wish to compete for fifth place in the SEC West every year or (b) do you wish to compete for fifth place in the Big Ten East? My guess is he goes East.
Clay Helton makes it uncomfortable for Southern Cal administration: It's no secret Southern Cal wants to move on from Clay Helton. They appreciate that he inherited a mess and has done an admirable job cleaning up the program but they don't think he can bring back the glory years of Pete Carroll when championships were expected and won. The Trojans are 4-3 right now but 3-1 in the Pac-12 South where they are tied with Utah for first. If the Trojans can get healthy and stay that way, there is a real possibility they could run the table and finish 9-3. To do that would include knocking off Oregon at the Coliseum on November 2. Since he owns the tiebreaker over Utah, Helton could win the Pac-12 South. There are some people in admin who are sweating this one. Personally, I wish Clay would take another job (he'll have opportunities), which would be like giving the USC folks the finger.
Manny Diaz is in way over his head: Based on the returning talent on defense alone, Miami figured to be a 9-3 or 10-2 team in 2019 but the Hurricanes are 3-4, 1-3 in the very weak Coastal Division of the ACC. Probably the only game the Canes will be favored to win the rest of the way is their matchup with FIU. The spin out of The U is that this is a “rebuilding” year. Why are they rebuilding when you consider Mark Richt's last two recruiting classes (2017-18) were ranked 12th and 8th? You can conclude the following: (1) Miami is poorly coached; (2) Manny Diaz is in way over his head and should have learned how to be a head coach at a Group of Five school instead of on the job training at The U; and (3) if things continue to go south, Diaz will get an ultimatum to either overhaul his staff or find gainful employment elsewhere.
GOOD QUOTES FOR MONDAY
Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network on Jeremy Pruitt's sideline outburst in which he grabbed the facemask of quarterback Jarrett Guarantano:
“I’m not saying it’s a fireable offense, because it’s not, it’s just one more thing that you look at in his overall resume, and you wonder how much upside does this guy have. Because I believe he’s a really good football coach, but the other things that are necessary to be successful, he doesn’t have. His PR skills are terrible, his sideline demeanor is not impressive and when you put a hand on another player, you are inviting a lot of trouble and a lot of criticism.”
From Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports on Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt grabbing the face mask of QB Jarrett Guarantano as he screamed and yelled at him:
“It’s a sign a coach is so limited that he doesn’t have a better means of getting his message across. No great communicator needs to go that route.”
From Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones with an un-vote of confidence to head coach Jason Garrett after the Cowboys blasted the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10:
“Well, I think it's one game.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Georgia/Miami head coach Mark Richt suffered a heart attack Monday morning. A quick recovery is expected … Zion Williamson will miss as much as eight weeks of the NBA season after undergoing knee surgery … Buddy Hield of the Sacrificial Kings signed a four-year contract extension worth $86 million, which sounds like a lot of money except that the Boston Celtics signed Jaylen Brown to a four-year extension worth $115 million. Hield averaged 20.7 per game last year. Brown averaged 13. Something seems very wrong here … Coming off his fifth surgery on the same knee, Tiger Woods will play this week in the PGA ZoZo Championship in Japan.