Thoughts of the Day: October 24, 2019

IT'S AN OFF WEEK SO MY MIND WANDERS

(1) If you saw Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt go ballistic on the sideline last Saturday night after a botched quarterback sneak at the goal line ended up a 100-yard fumble return for a defensive touchdown by Alabama, then you probably think this guy and sanity walk a very fine line. Well, add this to your reasons to think he's nuts. Wednesday after practice, Pruitt said, “We were leading Florida going into the fourth quarter. Those guys have a pretty good football team.” He is correct about the Gators having a pretty good football team, but Tennessee never led Florida at any point during UF's 34-3 win over the Vols. It was 17-0 at the half and 24-3 heading into the fourth quarter. I'm reminded of this from Yogi Berra: “I really didn't say everything I said.”


(2) SEC commissioner Greg Sankey issued a lengthy statement Wednesday in which he defended the integrity of his football officials. Nobody should have expected anything different but no matter how he defends his officials and stresses how the league is always trying to improve the way the games are called, it doesn't change the fact that far too many calls are blown. Now, I understand that officials aren't going to get all the calls right and I understand completely that there are split second judgment calls that have to be made but may or may not be overturned on replay. I totally understand that. My problem isn't with that split second call that gets overturned by people seeing slow motion replays from several different angles. My problem is the no-call that happens five feet away from an official. I watch a lot of college football and every single week I see defensive linemen getting tackled by offensive linemen with a zebra standing a few feet away swallowing his whistle. Those are the things that drive me crazy. But back to Sankey, I'm reminded that Yogi Berra once said: “Listen up! I've got nothing to say and I'm only going to say it once!”


(3) You know you're in trouble as a football coach when your athletic director uses an analogy that begins with “If Coach were hit by a bus tomorrow ...” Florida State athletic director David Coburn said that when asked about rumors that he was going to pursue Urban Meyer as the replacement coach for Willie Taggart, who is a most unremarkable 8-11 since taking over the program in 2018. Taggart's unaffordable $17 million plus buyout is made worse by the average attendance in FSU's four home games so far: 52,691 in 79,500-seat Doak Campbell Stadium. The late, great Bill Peterson, who brought FSU football out of the dark ages in the 1960s, once said, “I'm the football coach around here and don't you remember it.” The majority of FSU fans would probably choose to not remember Taggart if only they could.


(4) Jim Harbaugh is denying that he has an exit strategy to walk away from Michigan and return to the NFL. In a letter written to parents of current players and recruits who have committed to Michigan, Harbaugh called the rumors “total crap” and claimed the rumors are all part of a conspiracy to disrupt the Michigan program. Okay, maybe he isn't thinking about leaving although I would ask why not considering he's 1-10 in his Michigan career against teams ranked in the top ten and he's oh-fer his career against Ohio State. A good Yogi-ism seems appropriate right now: “You wouldn't have won if we'd beaten you.” Michigan is 5-2 and there is every good chance the Wolverines will finish 8-4 since they still have to play Notre Dame (this week) and Ohio State. An 8-4 record would mean Michigan is shelling out a mere $938,000 per win.


SEC FOOTBALL STUFF

#1 Alabama (7-0, 3-0 SEC): Nick Saban got what he thought was a dumb question after practice Wednesday. Someone asked if he was going to try to get some game reps for Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Tua Tagovailoa and now the backup QB with Tua sidelined for Saturday's game with Arkansas. Saban said: “We’re focused on winning the game, all right, so we’re going to try to win the game, and we’re going to play the best players that we can play to win the game. And we’re not assuming that it’s going to be an easy game, aight, and we’re not assuming that we’ll have an opportunity just to play anybody that wants play, to expedite anything except winning the game. So, we’re going to play everybody who can expedite winning the game, that’s what we’re going to do. So, I don’t think anybody should expect us to do anything else.” Saturday: vs. Arkansas (2-5, 1-3 SEC)

Arkansas (2-5 ,1-3 SEC): HBC Chad Morris says he has yet to decide who will start at quarterback vs. Alabama – Ben Hicks or Nick Starkel. Hicks was the starter last week against Auburn, completing 19-39 passes for 182 yards with a TD and an interception. Saturday: at #1 Alabama (7-0, 3-0 SEC)

#10 Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC): Edge rusher Nick Coe, who has had a disappointing 2019 and who was held out of last week's win over Arkansas, has reportedly responded in practice to the challenge of getting back into the good graces of HBC Gus Malzahn but on the SEC Coaches Teleconference Malzahn said he will “know much more once we get to Thursday.” Saturday: at #2 LSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC)

#9 Georgia (6-1, 3-1 SEC): On the SEC Coaches Teleconference, HBC Kirby Smart talked about the way Georgia struggled offensively against Kentucky and South Carolina: “I think 50% of that is conditions against Kentucky, it was tough to palm the ball, throw the ball, catch the ball… vs. SC, there were a lot of opportunities to pass it … some of it was route running, some of it was receiver route running … some of it accuracy, some of it pass protection.” Saturday: Open

Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC): Redshirt freshman corner Stanley Garner has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Garner played in seven games in 2019 and was in on one tackle. Saturday: vs. Missouri (5-2, 2-1 SEC)

#2 LSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC): The key for LSU's defense Saturday will be stuffing Auburn's running game. Auburn leads the SEC in rushing (239.6 yards per game), averaging 5.2 per carry with 20 touchdowns. LSU's is giving up 93.3 yards per game and a mere 2.8 yards per carry. Saturday: vs. #10 Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC)

Mississippi State (3-4, 1-3 SEC): The Bulldogs have pretty much decided to roll the dice with freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader over Penn State grad transfer Tommy Stevens. Shrader is 62-102 passing for 828 yards and four touchdowns and he's run for 440 yards and three touchdowns. Saturday: at Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2 SEC)

Missouri (5-2, 2-1 SEC): Freshman safety Martez Manuel will get the start Saturday with Tyree Gillespie suspended the first half due to a targeting call in the second half of last week's loss to Vanderbilt. Saturday: at Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC)

Ole Miss (3-5, 2-3 SEC): Eight of the 11 offensive starters are either freshmen or in their first year as a starter. Of the Rebels 3,068 yards of offense, 84.6% has been gained by freshmen. Saturday: Open

South Carolina (3-4, 2-3 SEC): Running back Rico Dowdle (knee sprain) is out for the Tennessee game while running back A.J. Turner (hamstring) is listed as doubtful … South Carolina is a 4-1/2 point favorite for Saturday's game. Saturday: at Tennessee (2-5, 1-3 SEC)

Tennessee (2-5, 1-3 SEC): Freshman QB Brian Maurer has yet to be cleared to play in Saturday's game and is listed as extremely doubtful. J.T. Shrout, who has spent the entire season as the third teamer, has been taking the first team snaps at QB. No word yet if Jarrett Guarantano will play although HBC Jeremy Pruitt said, “I think they [fans] trust we're going to play the best players who give us the best chance to win and have success.” Saturday: vs. South Carolina (3-4, 2-3 SEC)

Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2 SEC): It's a different Mississippi State defense the Aggies will face Saturday than the one that led the nation in defense last year. This year, the Bulldogs are 12th in the SEC in scoring defense (28.4 points per game), 10th in rushing defense (152.3 yards per game), 11th in pass defense (244.4 yards per game) and 11th in total defense (396.7 yards per game). Saturday: vs. Mississippi State (3-4, 1-3 SEC)

Vanderbilt (2-5, 1-3 SEC): If there is a bright spot for Vandy's dismal offense (14th in the SEC at 335.4 yards/18.4 points per game) it is running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, third in the SEC in rushing (131-703 for six touchdowns) and second in the league in all-purpose yards (926 for 132.3 yards per game). Saturday: Open


GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY

Stewart Mandel of The Athletic on what's happened with Georgia the last two games (loss to South Carolina, ugly win over Kentucky):

“As bad as that Illinois loss was for Wisconsin (the Illini came in 2-4), it did not alarm me the way Georgia has over the past two weeks. It’s hard to say that South Carolina game was fluky when the Dawgs came back the next week and looked arguably even worse against a Kentucky team playing a receiver at quarterback. A week after throwing three interceptions against the Gamecocks, Jake Fromm passed for a grand total of 35 – yes, 35 – yards against the Wildcats. Rainstorm or not, something’s going on there.”


From Ross Tucker of The Athletic on why Lamar Jackson is so dangerous as a running quarterback for the NFL Baltimore Ravens:

“In order to get an extra guy to stop the run, the defense can no longer have a safety in the deep middle of the field, which puts your coverage players into strict man to man with no help anywhere – an almost impossible task. Plus, there is nobody at the third level of the defense so if the run does break through the second level it could go for a long way.”


RANDOM THOUGHTS: New Mexico quarterback Sheriron Jones, who originally signed with Tennessee in 2015, has been suspended indefinitely for exposing himself to a woman in an on-campus parking garage … New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees plans to return to the team this week against the Arizona Cardinals after being sidelined five weeks with a thumb injury. In his absence Teddy Bridgewater led the Saints to a 5-0 record ... Former Major League Baseball umpire Joe West is suing former MLB player Paul LoDuca, who claimed in a podcast that West accepted a bribe from former closer Billy Wagner in exchange for a favorable strike zone when West was behind the plate … Former Gator catcher David Ross, who retired after winning a World Series ring with the Chicago Cubs in 2016, has been hired as the team's new manager … Call them the Disastros after Houston was hammered, 11-2, by the Washington Nationals in game two of the World Series Wednesday night. The Nationals hold a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Washington.

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