OPEN WEEK MEANDERING: SOME EARLY THOUGHTS ABOUT GEORGIA WEEK
The Vegas oddsmakers have established Georgia as an early 5-1/2 point favorite for next Saturday's Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville. I can't imagine Dan Mullen is disappointed. I doubt he'd admit it, but I expect he's just a teensy bit giddy. It's a lot easier for Mullen to play the underdog card and put a great big chip on the shoulders of the Gators than it is to play the role of the favorite. Meanwhile in Athens, it wasn't all that long ago that folks were claiming Georgia was the best team in the SEC and College Football Playoff bound. That was before Kirby Smart outcoached himself and did his part to help South Carolina upset the Poodles in Athens of all places. And Kirby didn't exactly bring back memories of Vince Lombardi the way he coached and Georgia played last weekend against Kentucky, either.
The seeds of disrespect that Mullen will be preaching were sown in the season opening win over Miami. Many in an unimpressed national media called Florida vastly overrated then and when Feleipe Franks went down with a season-ending injury against Kentucky, some of those same pundits were predicting a 6-6 or 7-5 season for UF. Kyle Trask has certainly answered the bell at quarterback and quite frankly, he might be a better fit in the Florida offense than Franks but there are still a lot of disbelievers out there. Not only does Vegas consider Georgia a favorite to beat the Gators, but in the week ahead expect a rather hefty number of media types to predict a Georgia win.
All of this is only going to play right into Mullen's hands. He learned from one of the real masters of turning disrespect – whether real, perceived or manufactured – into an art form. What Urban Meyer did to create an advantage for the Gators prior to their 41-14 national championship win over Ohio State in 2006 was pure psychological warfare at its best. Don't think for a second Mullen won't use some of those same tactics in the week ahead as he gets the Gators ready to play Georgia.
There is doubt, meanwhile, in the Georgia camp. The Poodles spent months as the media darling, told they were the new Alabama that was going to unseat the Crimson Tide at the top of the SEC and perhaps the entire nation. All that has changed in the last two games when the Poodles have proven they are anything but invincible. Maybe they could write off that loss to 21-1/2 point underdog South Carolina as a bad day at the office, but weather aside, there is no excuse for a second straight bad game like the dog's butt ugly win over Kentucky. In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “That's too coincidental to be a coincidence.”
Georgia is quite beatable. For Florida to beat the Poodles it will take a super effort. From a talent standpoint, Georgia has enough talent to stick with anyone in the country, but talent alone won't win this game. The coaching and psychological advantages all belong to the Gators.
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER
#1 Alabama (7-0, 3-0 SEC) 42, Arkansas (2-5, 0-4 SEC) 10: Alabama is starting Mac Jones for the injured Tua Tagovailoa. It doesn't matter. Alabama is going to win by five touchdowns and Arkansas is going to continue its quest for a second straight reverse run of the table.
#2 LSU (7-0, 3-0 SEC) 31, #10 Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC) 17: After the way he lit up the Florida defense, if Joe Burrow lights up Auburn he might very well take a rather hefty lead in the eyes of the Heisman voters. This may be close for awhile but LSU is going to win handily in the end.
Missouri (5-2, 2-1 SEC) 21, Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 SEC 7: If Lynn Bowden has to play QB then Kentucky isn't going to win this game since he can't hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle from point blank range. If Sawyer Smith is healthy enough to take at least some of the snaps and give the Wildcats a semblance of a passing game, then Kentucky will have a chance to spring an upset.
South Carolina (3-4, 2-3 SEC) 28, Tennessee (2-5, 1-3 SEC) 17: From all indications, Jeremy Pruitt is going to start J.T. Shrout at QB rather than play Jarrett Guarantano. But whether it's Shrout or Guarantano, the Vols probably aren't going to win this game. South Carolina has a better coach, better QB (Ryan Hilinski) and a better team.
Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2 SEC) 35, Mississippi State (3-4, 1-3 SEC) 20: Kellen Mond is a rather good quarterback when he plays at Kyle Field. Fortunately, for Texas A&M, this week's game is at Kyle Field. As for Mississippi State, the boosters are starting to get very restless about HBC Joe Moorhead. It might get hostile if the Aggies blow the doors off MSU.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION NINE
Extinct Species List
Chris Ash, Rutgers: Here's a new name for the coaching search at this graveyard – K.C. Keeler. He's at Sam Houston State but won a D1AA national title at Delaware and coached Rowan (NJ) to the DIII national championship game five times.
On Life Support
Lovie Smith, Illinois: The only thing that win over Wisconsin did for Lovie is make the alumni and boosters ask if he can beat Wisconsin then why can't he beat enough of the lesser teams on the schedule to go to bowls every year?
Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee: His sideline rant at Alabama only furthered the notion that he's unfit for the job. He desperately needs to beat South Carolina this week.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: The thin ice he's standing on started cracking in every direction when his starting QB allegedly exposed himself to a woman in an on campus parking garage.
Phil Montgomery, Tulsa: By American Athletic Conference standards, the rest of the schedule is brutal. A 2-10 record is in the works. He's being paid $1.6 million and the folks at this financially strapped institution of higher learning (and bad football) expect better.
Mike Bobo, Colorado State: Bobo is riding a one-game winning streak heading into Saturday's game with Fresno State. Of the last five games, only the UNLV game looks winnable and anything less than six wins will end Bobo's gainful employment.
Tony Sanchez, UNLV: A week after scoring a win over SEC Vanderbilt, the Rebels lost by 29 to Fresno State. UNLV has two wins and five games remaining. If Sanchez can't win four of the last five to get bowl eligible he's a goner.
Endangered Species List
Randy Edsall, UConn: What can be said that hasn't already? He's a terrible football coach at the dumbest school on the planet when it comes to fiscal integrity. It would be smart to fire him because he's a bad coach. It would be dumb because the athletic department bathes in red ink.
Clay Helton, Southern Cal: If he wins four of his last five games – or all five even – and takes the Pac-12 South, will they fire him? An 8-4 or 9-3 finish isn't out of the question. Or do they wait until they have a new AD and let him deal with the unrealistic expectations for this job?
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: Despite the euphoria of winning an SEC game, the cold hard facts are that Vandy is last in the SEC in both total offense and total defense. This is year five. The brie and chardonnay tailgate set expect better.
Kilani Sitaki, BYU: They're asking themselves how can you lose to Holy Toledo and South Florida on consecutive weeks then beat Boise State? If he loses to Utah State this week he will be oh-fer the state of Utah and that is unacceptable.
Chad Morris, Arkansas: Auburn beat him by 41. Alabama is likely to beat him even worse with the backup QB. Not even a $10,004,167 buyout will save him if he can't figure out a way to win 2-3 more games.
Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion: One more loss guarantees a losing season, which will be the third straight for the Monarchs. Barring some sort of fast finish ODU and Wilder will part ways, a sad day for everyone since he's the only coach they've had since they revived football back in 2009.
Beads of Sweat Forming
Steve Addazio, Boston College: A blowout win over North Carolina State was just what the doctor ordered. Two more wins and it's yet another 6-6 season for The Daz, just good enough to keep them from firing him.
Charlie Strong, South Florida: Barring a miracle of feeding the 5,000 proportions, the Bulls aren't going bowling this year. They would prefer not to fire him and nobody seems inclined to go about begging the boosters to come up with the $10 million they'd need to buy him out.
Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech: Just when he was about to go On Life Support, Fuente and the Hokies went on a three-game win streak. One more win means bowl eligible which will save the boosters the $15 million they'll have to raise to buy him out.
Saved by the Buyout
Willie Taggart, Florida State: In addition to not having the $17.7 million they would need to buy him out, school prez John Thrasher and interim AD David Coburn are retiring after this year and they would prefer to let whoever is next deal with all the economic nastiness of getting rid of a coach.
Chip Kelly, UCLA: That $9 million buyout will save him this year, but if he doesn't win at least 7-8 games next year the buyout will be far more affordable.
GOOD QUOTE FOR FRIDAY
From Andy Staples of The Athletic on the dilemma facing Florida State if the Seminoles can't pull off a drastic turnaround under Willie Taggart: “Now Florida – which is 17-4 since Dan Mullen took over – could cement itself in the top spot for a long time unless Florida State or Miami finds a way to improve. We have a large enough data set from Mississippi State and Florida to know that Mullen is elite as a tactician, as a gameday coach and as a developer of underappreciated talent. The only question mark has been whether he can sign enough elite talent to take a team to national title contention. If Miami and Florida State don’t offer much resistance, Mullen may be able to collect that talent as recruits in Florida who want to play in their home state choose the best performing program at the moment. (This means the rest of the SEC also is hoping Florida State can pull out of this dive, because those people don’t want to see Dan Mullen with a bunch of five-star recruits, either.)”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: They got rid of Terry Bowden at Akron because he wasn't winning enough football games. The Zips are 0-7 under first year coach Tom Arth. Little Terry wasn't nearly that bad … SMU became the first Division I team to go 8-0 with a 34-31 win over Houston Thursday might … After an incident with D-line coach Bret Bielema that got him suspended for a game, the New England Patriots traded DE Michael Bennett to the Dallas Cowboys for a seventh round draft choice … LSU booster John Paul Funes was sentenced to 33 months in Club Fed after he pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $500,000 from a hospital foundation and then giving some of the money to the parents of two LSU football players.