THE TEAM WITH THE POISED QUARTERBACK WILL WIN THIS ONE
Essentially, you can forget everything that's happened in the five weeks leading up to Saturday's Florida-Auburn clash at The Swamp (3:30 p.m., CBS). Consider all those other games preliminaries. This is The Main Event because it's the first Southeastern Conference game that matches unbeaten, top ten teams and it will be played before a frenzied sellout crowd that should easily top 90,000 while millions more watch on national television. As if more hype is necessary, ESPN's College GameDay Crew will be set up on the Plaza of the Americas, meaning this is more than just a football game. It's an event.
For all the theories about which team – 10th-ranked Florida (5-0, 2-0 SEC) or 7th-ranked Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC) – has the upper hand, you can almost count on this one being decided by which team's quarterback plays with the most poise. Both Florida's Kyle Trask and Auburn's Bo Nix have come up big in tight situations already. Trask has only two collegiate starts to his name but he came off the bench to rally the Gators to 19 straight fourth quarter points to pull out a 29-21 win on the road at Kentucky. Nix, in his very first college football game, rallied Auburn from a 21-6 deficit to a 27-21 win over Oregon at a neutral site in the season opener.
Neither Trask nor Nix, however, has ever played in a college football game of this magnitude and certainly, neither has faced a defense this good. Which one will make the fewest mistakes? And, which one will be able to put mistakes behind him and move on to the next play without reliving the bad plays in his mind over and over? Whoever can do that is going to win this football game for his team.
The Sayer Says Sooth: Trask has the home crowd advantage and that's going to be a real factor. For as much poise as Nix has shown so far, he's never been in an environment quite like this. He'll discover what it's like when it's so loud you can't think, which is why he will blink first and blink more often. Trask, meanwhile, is going to get the ball in the hands of Florida's receivers and Auburn will struggle to cover them. When the dust settles it will be FLORIDA 24, Auburn 17.
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER
#3 Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC) 37, Tennessee (1-3, 0-1 SEC) 7: This will qualify as one of the great upsets of the 2019 season if Georgia breaks into a sweat Saturday night in Knoxville.
#5 LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) 55, Utah State (3-1) 17: Jeau Burreaux will threaux for at least five touchdowns. Coach Oeaux will crush at least two Red Bull cans against his forehead. This one will be all but over by the end of the first quarter.
Ole Miss (2-3, 1-1 SEC) 27, Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC) 17: It's not often we have a “must win” for a couple of teams with losing records, but since there are only a handful of wins remaining on both their schedules, the team that loses this one can almost guarantee a sub-.500 finish.
Missouri (3-1, 1-0 SEC) 35, Troy (2-2) 21: Barry Odom needs to send over a case of single malt Scotch to whoever came up with Missouri's October schedule. Unless the Tigers go totally in the tank there isn't a game they can lose until Georgia on November 9.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION SIX
EXTINCT SPECIES LIST Chris Ash, Rutgers: It was reported that Rutgers is taking a long look at Mississippi State's Joe Moorhead, which raises the question – does he want to start each year battling it out for fifth place in the SEC West or fifth place in the Big Ten East? Now that Dan Mullen is no longer in Starkville, Mississippi State is once again a graveyard. Do you leave one graveyard for another?
ON LIFE SUPPORT
Phil Montgomery, Tulsa: Other than the fact the academics are tough, the facilities suck and the weather is brutally hot in the summer, colder than a well digger's butt in the winter, this is a wonderful place to coach. All Montgomery has to do is win six games – seven would be really nice – and he'll get to coach another year at this buckle on the tornado belt.
Lovie Smith, Illinois: Buzzards are circling the Illini (2-2) football offices. There are exactly two (Rutgers and Purdue) winnable games remaining on the schedule and 4-8 isn't going to cut it. Alums are praying that Army's Jeff Monken, who grew up in Illinois, was dropped on his head as an infant and grew up thinking Illinois is his dream job.
Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee: Two things of note happened in the last 48 hours – (1) Phillip Fulmer said he doesn't want to coach the Vols, which means he's going to let Pruitt crash and burn with a 2-10 or 3-9 season; and (2) Fulmer gave Pruitt the dreaded vote of confidence. Translation: Fulmer is going to fire Pruitt but he doesn't have the buyout money (more than $9 million) just yet.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: The Bob Davie Farewell Tour stops in San Jose Saturday evening. The Lobos (2-2) have a chance to win this one. Win or lose, however, Davie will be in administration next year and someone else will be head ball coach.
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
Brent Brennan, San Jose State: The euphoria of beating an SEC team didn't last long. A week after beating Arkansas, Brennan and the Spartans crashed and burned against Air Force. They have a chance to win against New Mexico. A loss probably means Brennan goes On Life Support next week.
Clay Helton, Southern Cal: Helton deserves better than he's going to get at Southern Cal. They're going to fire him. Not this week because there is an open date, but there's a really good chance it happens next week when the Trojans visit Notre Dame.
Randy Edsall, UConn: This should tell you how bad things are at UConn. As bad as South Florida is, the Bulls are still favored by 11 points and that's on the road up at Dysfunction Junction. If they took a vote for the worst HBC in all of Division I, Edsall might win in a landslide.
Tony Sanchez, UNLV: About the only thing that can save Sanchez's job would be for UNLV to win six or seven of the remaining eight games. Donkeys might fly first.
Matt Luke, Ole Miss: Six wins and Luke coaches the Rebels next year. The big question is where is he going to find four more this season?
Mike Bobo, Colorado State: Bobo and the Lambs – sounds like a bubble gum band, doesn't it? – have lost four games and there are at least five more losses on the schedule. This isn't going to end well.
Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech: Fuente hasn't hit rock bottom yet but that could happen Saturday at Miami. If the Himmicanes give the Hokies a beatdown like the one they got last week at the hands of the Dookies,
BEADS OF SWEAT FORMING
Charlie Strong, South Florida: The Bulls (1-3) go on the road to UConn (1-3) Saturday. If they lose, Charlie Strong is as good as gone and he might not make it until Monday. If they win it might simply be a delay of the inevitable.
Kilani Sitaki, BYU: Everybody expected the Cougars to lose to Washington and they did. Losing to Holy Toledo last week wasn't expected and isn't acceptable. Sitaki is 2-3 and needs to get to at least seven regular season wins or else he will be going through the Rolodex looking for a friend who could offer an assistant's job.
Steve Addazio, Boston College: If the folks who make the decisions in Chestnut Hill are content with 7-6 records, then Addazio will be there for awhile. This season has 7-6 written all over it. If they want more, then Addazio needs to be finding a new place to work.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: With a roadie to Ole Miss Saturday and UNLV coming to town next week, that ever so rare 3-game winning streak is possible for the Dores, who ensured they wouldn't oh-fer the season last week when they beat Northern Illinois. Everybody likes Derek Mason and they really don't want to fire him, but those two straight 9-win seasons for James Franklin convinced Vandy folks they don't have to settle for 3-9 and 4-8 anymore.
SAVED BY THE BUYOUT
Willie Taggart, Florida State: They won't be screaming for Taggart's scalp this week. That's because the Seminoles have an open date. They will be screaming next Saturday after Clemson decides it's midseason and time to break out of its funk. The screaming won't help, however. Nobody has $17 million to buy Taggart out.
Chad Morris, Arkansas: They won't have Chad Morris to kick around this week. That's because the Hogs have an open date. Unless one of the gozillionaire boosters writes a $12 million check, Morris will be back next year even though the Hogs are going to lose eight or more games.
Chip Kelly, UCLA: Just when Bruin fans thought Chip Kelly had finally turned the corner with that wild comeback over Washington State, UCLA goes in the tank to lose to Arizona, 20-17. It's entirely possible UCLA could lose to Oregon State this week, which would get Kelly fired except for the $9 million it would cost to fire him.
Will Muschamp, South Carolina: The Gamecocks are 2-3 while playing one of college football's most brutal schedules. The win over Kentucky last week was nice for public perceptions but the fact is Muschamp isn't going anywhere. That $18 million buyout ensures he's got at least one more year.
GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY
Bruce Feldman of The Athletic on Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley and why the Buckeyes are one of the best tackling teams in all of college football this year:
“Hafley said he learned a lot about the nuances of tackling from (Greg) Schiano, the guy he followed in Columbus and his old boss at Rutgers and with the Tampa Bay Bucs. Schiano taught him that when you wrap and roll, sweep the ankle, and that you should try to put a shoulder pad through the ball carrier’s sternum.”
From the San Jose (CA) Mercury-News, San Francisco 49ers corner Richard Sherman opines about California's Fair Play to Pay law and what he hopes it does to the NCAA:
"I hope it destroys the NCAA in general because I think it's corrupt and it's a bunch of people taking advantage of kids, and doing it under a mask of 'fair play.' Even the things they're suspending these kids for are ridiculous. You're suspending kids for YouTube channels and they're saying, 'Oh it's because other kids can't do it.'"
From Yahoo Sports, Washington State coach Mike Leach on what he sees is the danger to college sports of California's Fair Play to Pay law:
“Obviously bigger schools with bigger media bases and richer alums are always going to have the biggest advantage. Because it literally opens the door to buying players without really any salary cap. Even the NFL has a salary cap. This would be openly buying players without any salary cap. None whatsoever. Because virtually anybody can go up to anybody and say ‘Hey, I’ll endorse you for this or that.’”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The New England Patriots signed placekicker Mike Nugent to replace injured Stephen Gostkowski … Prosecutors in Palm Beach County plan to appeal a judge's ruling that blocked use of surveillance video of New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft visiting the Orchids of Asia Day Spa … The New York Mets fired manager Mickey Callaway after two seasons and an 86-76 record in 2019 that was a 9-game improvement over 2018 … Aurora, the Air Force Academy's falcon mascot, died Wednesday. Aurora suffered injuries to both wings last year when Army cadets abducted the bird in a prank.