Thoughts of the Day: October 7, 2019

IT'S MONDAY, TIME TO FOCUS ON LSU

Dan Mullen was borderline giddy Saturday night. He had high-fived hundreds of fans Florida fans on his way to the locker room after Florida's 24-13 kneecapping of then 7th-ranked Auburn. It was almost as if the electricity that consumed the 90,584 fans in The Swamp was recycling through his body and had assumed command of his brain. The Gators had used a relentless, pursuing defense and just enough big plays on offense to offset four turnovers while turning The Swamp into The Swamp of old. The place was intimidating, so loud that it was next to impossible to escape without a temporary case of tinnitus. When the music blared through the loudspeaker system, the joint was rocking.


It was great to be a Florida Gator and Saturday night nobody felt greater than Dan Mullen. Leading up to Saturday's win over the visiting Tigers and again afterward, he made it perfectly clear that he fully expects The Swamp to once again be a visiting team's nightmare. Not just for the big games against the ranked teams, but for any team that makes the trip to Gainesville to face the Gators.


Mullen's emotions were on full display in front of the media in the South End Zone meeting room. The 20 or so minutes he spent answering questions were a necessity before his own celebration began. He was wired and ready to enjoy this one. Even though this is his 11th year as a head coach – second at Florida – you never grow weary of winning big games in front of a jam-packed stadium and with millions watching on television. With the wins come the celebrations but there is a time and a place to celebrate. For Mullen Saturday night would do. Sunday he and his coaches were breaking down the film of the Auburn win and going through LSU's latest win.


Monday morning, Auburn is the past and LSU is the future, the next step on Mullen's plan to not only restore The Swamp to its intimidating past, but the entire Florida football program.

Mullen said, "We're going to turn on that film on Monday and go watch LSU and know we've got to head to Death Valley and say, 'If we want to be there, go do it.' It's up to the guys in this room. When we get in here on Monday morning, the guys in this room will make that decision if we want to be there or not. If this year's team is going to be the team that's ready for us to be there."


GATORS MOVE UP TO #7 IN BOTH POLLS

With their win over then #7 Auburn Saturday, the Gators moved up three spots to #7 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and one spot to #7 in the Coaches poll. Alabama and Clemson remain 1-2 in both polls but there was a change at #3 in the AP poll where Ohio State moved into a tie with Georgia.


The Associated Press Top 25 Poll

Alabama 5-0; (2) Clemson 5-0; (3, TIE) Ohio State 5-0 and Georgia 5-0; (5) LSU 5-0; (6) Oklahoma 5-0; (7) FLORIDA 6-0; (8) Wisconsin 5-0; (9) Notre Dame 4-1; (10) Penn State 5-0; (11) Texas 4-1; (12) Auburn 5-1; (13) Oregon 4-1; (14) Boise State 5-0; (15) Utah 4-1; (16) Michigan 4-1; (17) Iowa 4-1; (18) Arizona State 4-1: 19) Wake Forest 5-0; (20) Virginia 4-1; (21) SMU 6-0; (22) Baylor 5-0; (23) Memphis 5-0; (24) Texas A&M 3-2; (25) Cincinnati 4-1


The Coaches Top 25 Poll

Alabama 5-0; (2) Clemson 5-0; (3) Georgia 5-0; (4) Ohio State 6-0; (5) Oklahoma 5-0; (6) LSU 5-0; (7) FLORIDA 6-0; (8) Wisconsin 5-0; (9) Penn State 5-0; (10) Notre Dame 4-1; (11) Texas 4-1; (12) Auburn 5-1; (14) Boise State 5-0; (15) Utah 4-1; (16) Michigan 4-1; (17) Wake Forest 5-0; (18) Iowa 4-1; (19) Virginia 4-1; (20) Memphis 5-0; (21) Texas A&M 3-2; (22) SMU 6-0; (23) Baylor 5-0; (24) Arizona State 4-1; (25) Missouri 4-1


RANKING THE SEC TOP TO BOTTOM

(1) Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC): Alabama is on pace to eclipse last year's record setting offensive pace. Through five games the Crimson Tide is averaging 8.3 yards per offensive play (5.3 per rush attempt, 11.2 per pass attempt). Tua Tagovailoa has 23 touchdown passes through five games. He had 43 in 15 games last year. Next Saturday: at #24 Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1 SEC)

(2) LSU (5-0, 1-0 SEC): Joe Burrow threw for 344 yards and five touchdowns in the win over Utah State. For the season, Burrow has thrown for 1,864 yards and 22 touchdowns … In holding Utah State to just six points, the Tigers allowed only 159 total yards and picked off three passes. Next Saturday: vs. #7 FLORIDA (6-0, 3-0 SEC)

(3) Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC): Georgia's offense (42.8 points per game) is one of the most balanced in the country. The Bulldogs are passing for 262.2 yards and rushing for 250 per game. Jake Fromm is 86-111 passing for 1,076 yards (9.7 per attempt) with eight TDPs and no interceptions. Next Saturday: vs. South Carolina (2-3, 1-2 SEC)

(4) FLORIDA (6-0, 3-0 SEC): The Gators rank #5 nationally in scoring defense (9.5 points per game), #15 in rushing defense (93 yards), #18 in pass defense (183.3), #10 in total defense (276.3), #3 in sacks (26 for -164 yards) and #1 in interceptions (12). Next Saturday: at #5 LSU (5-0, 1-0 SEC)

(5) Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC): Against Florida, quarterback Bo Nix played like the true freshman he is. He completed 11-27 passes for 145 yards (5.4 per attempt). Take away the two big pass plays (32-yard touchdown, 46-yard gainer) and he averaged 2.68 yards per pass attempt.

Next Saturday: Open

(6) Missouri (4-1, 1-0 SEC): The big concern at Missouri is the health of quarterback Kelly Bryant, who left the Troy game after taking a cheap shot to the knee. HBC Barry Odom said post game that the Bryant injury doesn't appear to have long term implications … Missouri's defense, ranked second nationally, is led by Cale Garrett, who has 42 tackles, three interceptions and three touchdowns. Next Saturday: vs. Ole Miss (3-3, 2-1 SEC)

(7) Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1 SEC): The Aggies are allowing only 299.8 yards per game, which ranks #23 nationally in total defense. This week they'll be trying to slow down an Alabama offense that averages 51.8 points and 554.6 yards per game. Next Saturday: vs. #1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC)

(8) Ole Miss (3-3, 2-1 SEC): Ole Miss ran for 443 yards in its win over Vanderbilt with freshman QB John Rhys Plumlee going for 165. True freshman running backs Snoop Conner and Jerion Ealy got into the act with Conner breaking off an 88-yard TD run and Ealy torching Vandy for a 78-yard TD. Next Saturday: at Missouri (4-1, 1-0 SEC)

(9) Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1 SEC): Grad transfer QB Tommy Stevens, who has been hobbled with injuries the last couple of weeks, was back in Happy Valley for Penn State's homecoming game over the weekend. Next Saturday: at Tennessee (1-4, 0-2 SEC)

(10) South Carolina (2-3, 1-2 SEC): Running back Rico Dowdle (ankle) is expected back for Saturday's game with Georgia. Backup QB Dakereon Joyner (hamstring) is day-to-day. Offensive lineman DJ Wonnum will be out another 2-3 weeks. Next Saturday: at #3 Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC)

(11) Kentucky (2-3, 0-3 SEC): The Wildcats might not know until midweek who's going to play QB against Arkansas. They're hoping to get Sawyer Smith back but if he can't go, then it will be either backup Walker Wood or wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr., who was a gifted high school QB.

Next Saturday: vs. Arkansas (2-3, 0-2 SEC)

(12) Arkansas (2-3, 0-2 SEC): Arkansas could see the return of three injured wide receivers at Kentucky this week – Trey Knox (hip), De'Vion Warren (concussion) and Mike Woods (hip). Next Saturday: at Kentucky (2-3, 0-3 SEC)

(13) Vanderbilt (1-4, 0-3 SEC): Vandy has one of the most talented running backs in the country in Ke'Shawn Vaughn but has all sorts of troubles running the ball. Vaughn had 69 yards against Ole Miss but his teammates combined for -7 yards. Next Saturday: vs. UNLV (1-4)

(14) Tennessee (1-4, 0-2 SEC): The Vols are the only team from a Power Five program that doesn't have a win over a Division I team. Next Saturday: vs. Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1 SEC)


ELSEWHERE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Oregon (4-1) is the Pac-12's last and only hope to make the College Football Playoff after Washington (4-2) got taken down by the same Stanford (3-3) team that got the scorched earth treatment by UCF.


For all the well-deserved talk about Ohio State's explosive offense (49.3 points, 534.5 yards per game), the Buckeyes rank third nationally in total defense (234 yards and 8.8 points per game).


That same Michigan (4-1) defense that gave up 359 yards to Wisconsin (5-0) a couple of weeks ago, held Iowa (4-1) to one rushing yard Saturday. So has Michigan improved dramatically or is Iowa just that challenged in the run game?


All the Heisman talk centers around the quarterbacks, but Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin (5-0) is making his own Heisman statement. In the 48-0 win over Kent State, Taylor ran for 189 yards and four touchdowns while catching passes for 29 yards and another TD. For the season, Taylor has run for 745 yards and 12 touchdowns while catching 12 passes for 114 yards and four more.


UCLA (1-4) has officially hit rock bottom after losing to Oregon State (2-3), 48-31. Prior to the win over UCLA, Oregon State's only win was over D1AA Cal Poly.


Les Koenning, who served as Dan Mullen's offensive coordinator at Mississippi State from 2009-13, was fired as offensive coordinator at Kansas by Les Miles. Through six games, Kansas is averaging 22.8 points and 354.5 yards per game.


GOOD QUOTES FOR MONDAY

From Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, Dan Mullen wasn't Florida's first choice to replace Jim McElwain but he has proven he was certainly the best choice:

“Florida wanted Chip Kelly. Then Florida wanted Scott Frost. It got neither, “settling” on the guy who had the best run in Mississippi State history. After beating previousy undefeated Auburn 24-13 Saturday in The Swamp, Mr. Third Choice is now 6-0 this season and 16-3 since taking the job … Kelly at UCLA, after a brutal home loss to Oregon State: 4-14. Bruins’ final 18 games before Kelly: 7-11 ... Frost at Nebraska, after a 13-10 victory over Northwestern over Saturday: 8-10. Cornhuskers’ final 18 games before Frost: 6-12.”


From Dan Kane of the News and Observer (Raleigh, NC) on how North Carolina escaped sanctions from the NCAA for its academic fraud case a couple of years ago:

“UNC escaped NCAA sanctions by claiming the classes did not violate university rules at the time they were offered, and the classes were made available to all students. But the prosecutor’s investigation found academic counselors to the athletes, particularly in the money-making sports of men’s basketball and football, knew that the secretary was creating the classes and grading them. Those counselors steered athletes to the classes, helping to explain why athletes accounted for nearly half of the enrollments while making up less than 5 percent of the student body.”


From Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports on how Ohio State has become scary good under first year HBC Ryan Day, who was a grad assistant at Florida for Urban Meyer in 2005-06:

“And that’s where the credit needs to be shifted to Day, as there are plenty of teams where the sum doesn’t become greater than their parts. He’s fast-forwarded the development of quarterback Justin Fields and overseen the resuscitation of a defense from historically bad to top five under new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley. Perhaps more importantly, he’s kept a program that spent 2018 ensconced in drama without a single tense moment on or off the field. The highest compliment to Day is that this Ohio State team has taken on his personality – focused, understated and highly competitive.”


RANDOM THOUGHTS: Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank expressed his confidence in HBC Dan Quinn after the Falcons were clobbered 53-32 by the Houston Texans Sunday. Bet the farm Quinn's on a short leash now … St. Louis Cardinals' relief pitcher Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, says he is offended by the Atlanta Braves use of the tomahawk chop, which he says depicts Native Americans as “caveman-people way who aren't intellectual” … Kyler Murray had the best game of his still young NFL career Sunday when he threw for 253 yards and ran for 93 yards and a touchdown to lead the Arizona Cardinals to a 26-23 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

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