Thoughts of the Day: October 6, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:

In Florida’s 51-35 win over Ole Miss, the Gators held a 35-14 lead two plays into the third quarter. The Gators were ahead 44-21 with 12:54 left in the game. A week later in the Gators’ 38-24 win over South Carolina, UF held a 38-14 lead with 4:44 left in the third quarter.

In both games, the Florida defense was anything but consistent through three quarters but what happened in those two fourth quarters is warning shot that something bad will happen if the Gators can’t figure out a way to finish what they started. Against Ole Miss, the Gators missed tackles and blew far too many assignments late in the game. In the South Carolina game, the Gators didn’t give up big plays like they did against Ole Miss, but they couldn’t get off the field.

Was it a lack of focus? Did the Gators think they had the game in the bag so they put it in cruise control? The answers to those and many other defensive questions need to be found before Saturday when UF faces a desperate Texas A&M (1-1) team in College Station (12 noon EDT, ESPN). A Florida win will make certain the Gators are no worse than tied for the lead in the SEC East. If the Aggies win they stay within striking distance of Alabama while a loss all but eliminates them from the SEC West race.

The Aggies, who put up 24 points and gained 450 yards on Alabama last week, aren’t as explosive as Ole Miss, but they are significantly better than the South Carolina team that squeezed off 83 plays and dominated the fourth quarter.

"Defensively [we] had 40 plays for 160 yards, more than a third of their yards came after we were up 38-14," Florida head ball coach Dan Mullen said at his Monday press conference. South Carolina ran 29 plays in the fourth quarter while holding the ball for more than 11 minutes. There weren’t any explosive plays but the Gamecocks kept gaining three, four and five yards to keep the chains moving and the Gators on the field. South Carolina’s final drive covered 74 yards and took up 18 plays before the Gators got a fourth down stop near the goal line.

The Gators have the offensive firepower to do something similar to the Aggie defense that Alabama did this past Saturday. Offense isn’t Florida’s problem. Defense is, at least at this point. Going brain dead late in the game like they did against South Carolina isn’t an option.

“We kind of started a little bit slow defensively, got into a rhythm and jumped out big, and then kind of, instead of ‘let's finish the game,' we just kind of cruised to the finish line,” Mullen said. “And we've got to get that that changed."

JORDAN POUNCEY GETS NCAA WAIVER: Texas transfer wide receiver Jordan Pouncey got word that he’s been granted a waiver by the NCAA Monday. Pouncey (6-2, 205), who has two years eligibility remaining, is immediately eligible. Younger brother Ethan Pouncey is a Florida freshman who will miss the season due to an injury.

RUMBLING, STUMBLING, BUMBLING IN THE SEC

#2 ALABAMA (2-0): For all the talk about how Alabama’s defense is improved, the Crimson Tide is allowing 294 passing yards per game. A year ago the talk was how bad Bama’s pass defense was but the Tide allowed only 187.2 yards per game. One reason perhaps for the increase is the lack of pass rush, which was supposed to be better this year. Through two games, Alabama has only recorded three sacks. Saturday: at Ole Miss (1-1)

ARKANSAS (1-1): A year ago, Arkansas was regularly pounded between the tackles but through two games, opponents have found it tough sledding against Barry Odom’s front seven. Arkansas gave up 221 yards per game in 2019 but Georgia managed only 121 yards on 42 attempts (2.21 per carry) and Mississippi State 87 on 24 attempts (3.63). The Hogs rank 20th nationally allowing only 104 yards per game rushing. Saturday: vs. #13 Auburn (1-1)

#13 AUBURN (1-1): The Georgia game was a complete and utter disaster for the Tigers. Offensively, they were well into the second quarter before they got their initial first down of the game. Play calling was borderline bizarre and blocking was non-existent. Defensively, they couldn’t get Georgia off the field. Georgia converted 9-14 on third down and 1-2 on fourth down, pounding out 202 rushing yards and complementing it with 240 through the air. Saturday: vs. Arkansas (1-1)

#3 GEORGIA (2-0): All Jake Fromm did in three years was win one SEC title and take the Poodles to two other SEC championship games as well as the national championship game as a true freshman. He was 36-7 as a starter and threw for 78 touchdown passes in his career. Stetson Bennett has come off the bench to beat a bad Arkansas team and then win his only start against a mediocre Auburn team. So why is it Kirk Herbstreit and David Pollak are hyping Bennett as if he’s Moses and he’s just parted the Red Sea. I wonder what they will be saying if Tennessee beats the Poodles Saturday?

Saturday: vs. #14 Tennessee (2-0)

KENTUCKY (0-2): The SEC doesn’t hand out a Dummy of the Week award but if they did it would go to Kentucky running back Asim Rose. On Kentucky’s first play from scrimmage against Ole Miss, Rose broke what should have been a 75-yard touchdown run except he started celebrating his TD at the 23 and got caught from behind at the three. Two plays later Rose fumbled at the one, Ole Miss took over and eventually won the game 42-41 in overtime. Saturday: vs. Mississippi State (1-1)

#17 LSU (1-1): Dropped passes, which were such an issue for LSU back in 2018, are a problem once again. Through two games the Tigers have dropped eight passes – five against Mississippi State in the season opener and two more against Vanderbilt – which puts them on track to drop as many in 10 games as they did in a 15-game schedule last year. Saturday’s game: vs. Missouri (0-2)

MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-1): Against LSU, Mississippi State had 15 plays of 20 or more yards. Against an Arkansas defense that dropped eight into coverage on almost every play, the Bulldogs had only one play for 20 or more yards. They averaged 10.4 yards per play against LSU, but only 5.3 against Arkansas. Throw in two interceptions thrown and a lost fumble and it’s not too difficult to understand how the Bulldogs went from the penthouse of beating LSU to the outhouse of losing to Arkansas. Saturday: at Kentucky (0-2)

MISSOURI (0-2): Redshirt freshman Connor Bazelac will be the starting quarterback at LSU Saturday. Now if he can find reliable receivers who can catch the football. The Tigers shot themselves in the foot time and time again against Tennessee with five dropped passes. Saturday’s game: at #17 LSU (1-1)

OLE MISS (1-1): Nick Saban has never lost to one of his former assistants, a fact that isn’t lost on former Alabama OC and Ole Miss HBC Lane Kiffin. At his Monday press conference, Kiffin said, “Everyone thinks it’s an advantage that I’ve worked with him, but if it’s an advantage, why is he 20-0 against his former assistants? If you think it’s an advantage, you’re not a very good gambler.” Saturday’s game: vs. #2 Alabama (2-0)

SOUTH CAROLINA (0-2): Will Muschamp on the final South Carolina drive that took 18 plays to cover 74 yards against the Gators and resulted in zero points and turning the ball over on downs: “Could we have played with a crisper tempo? Yeah.” Saturday’s game: at Vanderbilt (0-2)

#14 TENNESSEE (2-0): For the Vols to have a chance to upend Georgia in Athens Saturday, they’re going to have to run the football. They’re coming off a 232-yard game against Missouri in which Eric Gray ran for 105 yards and Ty Chandler ran for 90. With Jahmir Johnson coming back from injury, Tennessee’s monstrous offensive line will be at full strength for the first time all season.

Saturday: at #3 Georgia (2-0)

#21 TEXAS A&M (1-1): Jimbo Fisher on the Aggie defense, which gave up 52 points and 544 yards to Alabama last Saturday: “I think we’re making tons of progress.” Really Jimbo? Saturday: vs. #4 FLORIDA (2-0)

VANDERBILT (0-2): The more things change the more they stay the same. Vanderbilt had the worst offense in the SEC last season but nearly all the people who made it bad are gone. The new people aren’t any better. Through two games the Commodores are averaging a whopping 9.5 points and 260.5 yards per game. Saturday: vs. South Carolina (0-2)

THE SEC ISN’T THE ONLY PLACE WHERE COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS PLAYED

Former FSU coach Bobby Bowden has tested positive for Covid-19. Bowden was just released from the hospital in Tallahassee where he was being treated for an infection in his leg. Bowden is 90. Sure he coached St. Bob’s Home for Wayward Boys and Convicted Felons but keep him in your prayers.

After losing to TCU, Texas coach Tom Herman is feeling the heat from boosters and fans who will be ready to nail his hide to a barn door if the Longhorns end Oklahoma’s two-game losing streak Saturday in Dallas. A win over Oklahoma will get Herman back in the fans good graces. If he loses the cries to hire Urban Meyer will be long and loud. Texas played Alabama for the national championship in 2009. Since then the Longhorns are 71-57. Herman is 26-17 and is paid $6 million a year. Only God has more money than the Longhorns, but even well-heeled Texas boosters must be thinking Herman is a teensy bit overpaid.

It’s three weeks before Iowa plays a game but the Hawkeyes will be without starting linebacker Dhimon Colbert and D-lineman Taajhir McCall, who have opted out. Both say they will remain on scholarship and won’t lose a year of eligibility. If you’re into betting on such things, put your money on both of them putting their names in the transfer portal rather than hanging around Iowa City and watching their teammates play.

Notre Dame has been established as 21-point favorites over Florida State Saturday night. Clemson is a 14-point favorite to beat Miami.

UCF, which saw its “national championship” hopes crash and burn with a loss to Tulsa, has committed 45 penalties for 314 yards in three games.

FEELING PITHY ABOUT PRESEASON HEISMAN HYPE ON A TUESDAY

LINDY’S PRESEASON TOP 12 HEISMAN CANDIDATES: (1) Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State; (2) Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson; (3) Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia; (4) D’Eriq King, QB, Miami; (5) Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma; (6) Myles Brennan, QB, LSU; (7) Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas; (8) Bo Nix, QB, Auburn; (9) Mac Jones, QB, Alabama; (10) Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame; (11) Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina; (12) Kedon Slovis, QB, Southern California

ATHLON PRESEASON TOP 10 HEISMAN CANDIDATES: (1) Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson; (2) Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State; (3) Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma; (4) Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson; (5) Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State; (6) Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas; (7) Najee Harris, RB, Alabama; (8) Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina; (9) Kedon Slovis, QB, Southern California; (10) Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame

STREET AND SMITH PRESEASON TOP 5 HEISMAN CANDIDATES: (1) Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson; (2) Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State; (3) Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma; (4) Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas; (5) Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED PRESEASON HEISMAN TROPHY ODDS (TOP 10): (1) Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State 7/2; (2) Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson 4/1; (3) Jamie Newman 10/1; (4) Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma 12/1; (5) Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas 18/1; (6) D’Eriq King, QB, Miami 20/1; (7, TIE) Mac Jones, QB, Alabama; Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State; and Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson 22/1; (10, TIE) Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame; and Myles Brennan, QB, LSU 28/1

Forgive me for laughing but … : Jamie Newman? The joke around Athens is he couldn’t beat out Stetson Bennett IV so he opted out. Spencer Rattler? How can you look bad throwing against Big 12 defenses? Sam Ehlinger? He’s got talent, but let’s face it, Big 12 defenses make Ole Miss look like a lock down unit. Myles Brennan? Joe Burrow he ain’t! Chuba Hubbard? What I said about Big 12 defenses applies here also.

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