A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
“It just goes to show you it’s always something. If it isn’t one thing, it’s always something else.” – Roseanne Rosannadanna
First it was the virus which forced postponement of the LSU game until December 12. Then came the quarantine which along with Covid-19 related issues at Vanderbilt forced SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to reshuffle Florida’s football schedule, meaning the Gators will have to play seven consecutive weeks without a break. And now comes the aftermath of the two weeks off in which the Gators have to prep for a Missouri team that comes in hot with consecutive wins over LSU and Kentucky. Okay, maybe LSU isn’t the LSU of last season and Kentucky certainly looked inept on both sides of the ball in losing to Mizzou last Saturday, but at least the Tigers got in a game last weekend.
The 10th-ranked Gators will be playing for the first time since their 41-38 loss to Texas A&M and while it’s possible they might be somewhere close to full strength – at least from a numbers standpoint – there is also the chance they will be somewhere north of the bare minimum 53 players the SEC says you have to have ready to suit up in order to play a game. Dan Mullen didn’t exactly sound like he has any kind of a handle on just how many players the Gators will have ready Saturday when Missouri (2-2) takes the field in Gainesville.
“I think you need 53,” Mullen said at the first Monday press conference he’s held since October when he was talking about an impending road trip to Texas A&M. The league says if you have 54 you have to play. I’m sure we’ll have 53 guys ready to play.”
How many and how ready are questions that will probably take all week to answer. Mullen said the Gators were excited to get back out on the practice field, but practice and all football-related activities have been shut down since October 14. Who’s to know how many players will be cleared to play, how many still have the virus and how many may have lingering issues such as fatigue. Mullen questioned just how sharp the Gators could be when they took to the practice field.
“You missed a whole week of game practice and then you missed another whole week of bye week practices, so we’ve missed a bunch of practice opportunities,” Mullen said.
And as if that’s not enough, the Gators won’t be able to practice next Tuesday as they prep for Georgia because it has been mandated by the NCAA that everyone has to take the day off to vote.
In the immortal words of Roseanne Rosannadanna, “It’s always something.”
THE LANE TRAIN TAKES A $25,000 HIT
The Southeastern Conference did what Lane Kiffin expected Monday, fining the Ole Miss coach $25,000. Considering Lane makes just south of $4 million a year, it’s not like he’s really going to miss the money, but in this case it’s the principle of the matter, not the amount of the fine.
Yes, it’s against SEC rules for coaches to complain in public about the officiating. It’s not an unsound rule. Theoretically, if coaches are allowed to call out the zebras then it will make it extremely difficult to hire good officials. Most officials are in the game because they love it and not for the money, which can be more than $30,000 a year for the good ones. That’s not bad for weekend work in the fall months.
The problem is the officials make far too many mistakes. Most of them are overturned on replays in the booth but then you get games like Auburn-Arkansas and Auburn-Ole Miss. In the Auburn-Arkansas game, the mistake was blatant and it definitely cost Arkansas a win. It was a far more subtle mistake in the Auburn-Ole Miss game when a kickoff apparently touched Auburn’s Shaun Shivers. Ole Miss recovered in the end zone, but it was ruled Shivers never touched the football. Television replays convinced the SEC Network announcing crew that Shivers had touched the ball, but the zebras didn’t change the call. When Kiffin asked about it, the explanation was the play had been briefly reviewed and the call stood. Ultimately, it cost Ole Miss the football game.
Monday, the SEC issued a statement that admitted the play should have gotten extensive review which is the equivalent of saying, “Gee, we goofed. Too bad it cost your team a victory.” This is the same kind of idiotic answers we always get when officials blow critical calls. Late to his own Monday press conference because he was getting an explanation from the SEC office about the decision on the field and the fine the league was about to levy on him, Kiffin said, “I really wish for our players, for our fans, that they could hear what I was just told. I think they deserve to.”
I’ve been writing sports for the majority of my adult life (and I’m old!), much of it spent writing about football in the Southeastern Conference. I can’t remember a time when the officiating was as bad as it has been in the past few years. I’m not talking about bad calls perceived against the Florida Gators, either. I’m talking about bad calls in games played by just about every team in the conference. Zebras blow the call. The SEC issues a goofed again statement and everything is expected to be fine and funky. The same zebras are calling games the next week as if nothing happened.
Only everything isn’t fine and something did indeed happen. The officiating doesn’t get better and we keep hearing the exact same lame goofed again excuses. I’m at that point where I wish there were coaches willing to speak out even though they know they will get fined $25,000. The worst paid coach in the league makes nearly $3 million a year so while $25,000 is a lot of money, even to someone in the multi-million tax bracket, it’s not like paying the fine will put them in the poor house.
Perhaps by speaking out about bad officiating, some young and up and coming official might think twice about staying in the profession. On the other hand, if the coaches sufficiently embarrass the league and call out an incompetent official, then maybe the SEC will actually do something about it.
MORE RUMBLING, STUMBLING AND BUMBLING IN THE SEC #2 ALABAMA (5-0): Alabama has the receivers to make up for the lost production of Jaylen Waddle, who is gone for the year with a broken ankle. Alabama replaces exceptional wide receivers every single year so it’s no big deal. The place where it’s a big deal is in the punt return game where Waddle consistently made a difference in field position. In three years, Waddle returned 39 punts for an average of 18.76 yards and two touchdowns.
ARKANSAS (2-2): The Razorbacks’ surprisingly good defense took a hit Monday when corner Jerry Jacobs announced he is opting out the rest of the season. Jacobs was in on 17 tackles, which ranked seventh on the team.
AUBURN (3-2): True freshman running back Tank Bigsby is the lone bright spot in an otherwise dull Auburn offense. Bigsby is 74-432 (5.34 per carry) running the ball with three TDs. Can someone explain why it is Auburn has the fastest receiver in college football in Anthony Schwarz and yet he’s averaging only 8.89 yards per reception? Has anyone at Auburn figured out it’s legal to make a vertical throw to a really fast guy?
#5 GEORGIA (3-1): Stetson Bennett IV is still Georgia’s quarterback according to Kirby Smart, who said Monday, “Stetson is still repping with the ones, taking reps.” Not exactly a powerful, confidence-inspiring statement but Bennett isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring after his second half performance in Georgia’s loss to Alabama. Georgia fans would love to see a change, but there is every good chance that Bennett is the best they have, in which case they have a game manager and not a playmaker who’s going to win close games with his brilliant play. If Georgia fans wish to watch great quarterbacks from the state of Georgia, they should tune in to watch Ohio State’s Justin Fields or Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.
KENTUCKY (2-3): Mark Stoops has listed both Terry Wilson and Joey Gatewood as his potential starting quarterback for Saturday’s game with Georgia. Kentucky is averaging an SEC low 124 passing yards per game.
LSU (2-2): Myles Brennan’s status remains questionable for Saturday’s road trip to Auburn, which means true freshman TJ Finley could get his second straight start … LSU has suspended starting left tackle Dare Rosenthal indefinitely for undisclosed reasons.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-3): Mike Leach hasn’t decided on who he starts at quarterback Saturday against Alabama, either grad transfer K.J. Costello or true freshman Will Rogers. The two of them have thrown more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (7).
MISSOURI (2-2): The Tigers are coming off a game in which they snapped the ball 92 times (30 passes, 62 rushes). When Mizzou travels to Florida this weekend, the Gators can expect a steady dose of running back Larry Rountree III (85-396, 3 TDs), who has back-to-back 100-yard games to his credit. In his career against the Gators, Rountree is 36-185 rushing for four touchdowns.
SOUTH CAROLINA (2-3): The Gamecocks were blown out 52-24 by LSU, in part because they gave up a pick six, a kickoff return for a TD and missed three field goals. Take away the 14 those 14 they gave up and add three field goals to their total and it’s a 38-33 game. Of course, if frogs had wings they wouldn’t bump their butts every time they jump.
TENNESSEE (2-3): Tennessee has lost three consecutive games by a combined 81 points, which might have something to do with why Vol fans find it curious that HBC Jeremy Pruitt says he’s got the program going in the right direction. When you’re in year three and going in the right direction you don’t get blown out three straight games. Three years ago, the Vols could have hired Greg Schiano, who’s back at Rutgers where he got a 38-27 win over Michigan State, the Scarlet Knights’ first Big Ten win in three years.
#8 TEXAS A&M (3-1): With Alabama and Florida behind them and Georgia not on the schedule, the Aggies have a legitimate chance to finish 9-1. With the distinct possibility whoever wins the SEC East having two losses, the Aggies could very well find themselves very much in the playoff picture as an at-large team.
VANDERBILT (0-3): The Commodores are allowing 33.7 points and 451.7 yards per game. Their offense (8.7 points per game) gets to go against the horrendous Ole Miss defense this week, but the Ole Miss offense could hang 50 on the Commodores.
A VERY PITHY TUESDAY MORNING: Several mock NBA Drafts have LaMelo Ball, younger brother of Lonzo and son of LaVar Ball, going to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the first pick. LaVar is certifiable. Are the T-Wolves so desperate they would choose to deal with LaVar meddling? Just as the Lakers, who were all too happy to trade Lonzo to the New Orleans Pelicans get LaVar out of their hair ... As we near the midway point of the NFL season, it’s quite clear that Tom Brady (now with the Bucs) still has some football life and that Cam Newton (now with the Patriots) is on life support. The Bucs could make the Super Bowl. The Brady-less Patriots could battle the Jets for the rights to draft either Justin Fields or Trevor Lawrence … As expected Arizona has requested that the NCAA’s case against its basketball program and head coach Sean Miller be turned over to the Independent Accountability Resolution Process. This is a court-like procedure that supposedly lacks the potential for prejudice of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Considering Zona has been hit with nine violations, six of which are Level I (the worst), they’re going to need a successful “if the shoe don’t fit, you got to acquit” defense. By the time the NCAA gets through with LSU, Zona’s record six Level I violations will be in serious jeopardy.