BURROW IS THE BEST QB THE GATORS HAVE SEEN SO FAR
It was the combination of The Swamp going retro and returning to those thrilling days of yesteryear when deafness was only a silly decibel away and a defensive coordinator intent on making a true freshman quarterback rue the day he ever came to Gainesville in a visiting team's uniform that did in Auburn freshman Bo Nix Saturday. It's tough enough to play a defense like Florida's if you can hear the pitter patter of the feet of a church mouse at vespers, next to impossible when you're trying to play and think in the world's largest outdoor insane asylum while the defensive coordinator plays mind games with you.
It was advantage Florida almost from the moment the Gators ran out on the field right after the intro video finished playing on the giant video boards at either end of The Swamp. Once foot hit football, the transformation of Bo Nix from legend in the making to freshman doing what freshmen tend to do in wild and crazy environments began. From the Auburn standpoint, Nix picked a fine time to come down with a severe case of freshmanitis.
The Gators won't have the advantage of a constant barrage of ear-splitting noise working for them Saturday night at Tiger Stadium, nor will defensive coordinator Todd Grantham have the impressionable mind of a true freshman quarterback to screw around with. Instead, the Gators will have to figure out ways to impede the progress of LSU's fifth-year senior QB Joe Burrow, who is well on his way to becoming the greatest single-season passer in school history.
Benefitting from a shift in offensive philosophy that began when LSU coach Ed Orgeron hired Joe Brady from the New Orleans Saints staff, Burrow has hit 127-162 passes (78.4%) for 1,864 yards (11.5 yards per attempt) and 22 touchdowns with only three interceptions in just five games. What a contrast to last year when the offense was rather pedestrian. In 13 games in 2018 after he came to LSU as an Ohio State grad transfer last year, Burrow was 219-379 (57.4%) for 2,894 yards (7.6 per attempt) and 16 touchdowns with five interceptions.
While Burrow is the straw that stirs the Tigers' drink, he has benefitted from improved play from his receivers. Six LSU receivers have already caught 20 or more passes led by Justin Jefferson (30-547, seven touchdowns) and JaMarr Chase (23-451, six touchdowns). Chase had 10 catches for 229 yards and four touchdowns in LSU's 66-38 win over Vanderbilt a couple of weeks ago.
"He's got great skill players around him; you can see his trust in those guys to go make plays out there,” Florida HBC Dan Mullen said at his Monday press conference.
Mullen knows that Burrow presents challenges the Gators haven't seen in their six previous games.
"He'll be the best quarterback, obviously, we've seen so far this year,” Mullen said. “He can make all the throws. He's got experience; he's been out there on the field. Playing in big games, that's not new for him; he's played in a bunch of big games.”
And Saturday night at Tiger Stadium will be as big a game as there is in the country. LSU (5-0, 2-0 SEC) comes into the game ranked sixth in the Associated Press poll while the Gators (6-0, 3-0 SEC) are ranked seventh. If there is an advantage for the Gators it is the fact they're coming off a win over then seventh-ranked Auburn while LSU was blowing out unranked Utah State of the Mountain West Conference.
LSU has been established as a 13-1/2 point favorite largely because of Burrow and the offense. Nobody has been able to slow down that passing game so far, but let's be perfectly clear about one thing. While this LSU offense has been dynamic through its first five games, Auburn's offense had been pretty dynamic through its first five and we know how that turned out. Auburn hadn't seen a defense quite like Florida. Neither has LSU.
SWAIN, DAVIS HONORED BY SEC
Wide receiver Freddie Swain and safety Shawn Davis were singled out by the Southeastern Conference for their play against Auburn. Swain, who had a career day with six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week while Davis, who had five tackles and an interception that he returned 41 yards was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week.
Others honored by the league were Missouri linebacker Cole Garrett (Co-Defensive Player of the Week); Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship (Special Teams Player of the Week); Ole Miss offensive tackle Ben Brown (Offensive Lineman of the Week); Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (Defensive Lineman of the Week); and Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee (Freshman of the Week).
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF
#1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC): Starting center Chris Owens (knee) is still day-to-day. If Owens can't go Saturday against Texas A&M, Landon Dickerson will get the start. Saturday: at #25 Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1 SEC)
Arkansas (2-3, 0-2 SEC): For the Hogs to score a win on the road Saturday in Lexington, they're going to have to get after whoever plays quarterback for Kentucky. Through five games, Arkansas has 15 sacks with the front four accounting for 11 of them. Saturday: at Kentucky (2-3, 0-3 SEC)
#12 Auburn (5-1, 2-1 SEC): On WJOX in Birmingham Monday, Paul Finebaum said Auburn's loss to Florida affects the remainder of the season – “A win there and you figure out a way to navigate the brutal three-game stretch that will define your season. Without the cushion of the Florida win, Auburn’s season is completely up in the air.” Saturday: Open
#3 Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC): Starting OG Solomon Kindley will be back for the South Carolina Game. HBC Kirby Smart says Kindley could have played against Tennessee if it had been necessary. Saturday: vs. South Carolina (2-3, 1-2 SEC)
Kentucky (2-3, 0-3 SEC): After getting an entire week off from practice, HBC Mark Stoops anticipates a healthy Sawyer Smith will be the starting quarterback Saturday when the Wildcats play host to Arkansas. Saturday: vs. Arkansas (2-3, 0-2 SEC)
#6 LSU (5-0, 1-0 SEC): Discussing how LSU plans to prepare for Florida's ferocious pass rush, Coach O said, “We have to be prepared for everything, but the biggest thing that we have to do in practice is simulate the speed of their defensive line, so we’re going to put our fastest guys on the rush team and rush our guys.” Saturday: vs. #7 FLORIDA (6-0, 3-0 SEC)
Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1 SEC): Running back Kareem Walker, who came to MSU from juco after originally signing with Michigan in 2016, will take an academic redshirt according to HBC Joe Moorhead. Saturday: at Tennessee (1-4, 0-2 SEC)
Missouri (4-1, 1-0 SEC): The Tigers got good news and bad news Monday. First the good news. QB Kelly Bryant has been cleared to play Saturday after taking a nasty (and dirty) hit to the knee vs. Troy. The bad news is leading tackler Cole Garrett, who has three defensive touchdowns this year, will have surgery to repair a torn pectoral tendon. He's likely done for the year.
Saturday: vs. Ole Miss (3-3, 2-1 SEC)
Ole Miss (3-3, 2-1 SEC): Is there a quarterback controversy brewing in Oxford? Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez says Ole Miss has “two starting quarterbacks” in freshman John Rhys Plumlee and redshirt freshman Matt Corrall. Plumlee was SEC Freshman of the Week after he ran for 165 yards and a TD and passed for 99 yards to lead Ole Miss past Vanderbilt. Corrall has missed the last two games after going down with an injury against California. Saturday: at Missouri (4-1, 1-0 SEC)
South Carolina (2-3, 1-2 SEC): With four available scholarships for the recruiting class of 2020, Will Muschamp said the South Carolina staff had “some very productive days” on the recruiting trail during last week's open date. Saturday: at #3 Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
Tennessee (1-4, 0-2 SEC): Asked if he plans to start freshman quarterback Brian Maurer Saturday, Tennessee HBC Jeremy Pruitt said, “I think he'd have to have a bad week of practice not to.” Saturday: vs. Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1 SEC)
#25 Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1 SEC): HBC Jimbo Fisher says there is no secret formula to beating Alabama. You just have to avoid “negative plays, penalties, turnovers, and you’ve got find a way to get big plays on offense.” Saturday: vs. #1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
Vanderbilt (1-4, 0-3 SEC): After giving up 512 offensive yards (413 on the ground) and the offense only producing six points in the loss to Ole Miss, HBC Derek Mason threatens major changes. Mason said, “There's a time you've got to draw a line in the dirt. The time has come.” Saturday: vs. UNLV (1-4)
GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY
From Zach Goodall of Sports Illustrated on Florida's defense vs. Auburn:
“Florida's defense has proven itself to be one of, if not the, best defense in the country. The pass rush, which was largely without defensive end Jabari Zuniga throughout the game, was giving Auburn quarterback Bo Nix a headache from start to finish, and the secondary capitalized with interceptions and great coverage … Auburn recorded 269 yards on the day, with only 100 in the first half. It's just about impossible to consistently move the ball against the Gators.”
From Woody Wommack of Yahoo Sports on Miami under first year coach Manny Diaz:
“When Manny Diaz was hired as the Miami coach last year, he promised to bring Miami back to its rightful place among the college football elite, even coining the term 'The New Miami.' The phrase was used to fire up the fanbase and kick start recruiting efforts, but after five games The New Miami is starting to look a lot like the old Miami. The Hurricanes are 2-3 on the season after a feverous comeback attempt fell short against Virginia Tech on Saturday and now might also have a quarterback controversy brewing.”
From Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports on Kansas athletic director Jeff Long trying to explain away Snoop Dog's vulgarities when he performed at KU's version of midnight madness:
“We made it clear to the entertainers' manager that we expected a clean version of the show and took additional steps to communicate to our fans, including moving the artist to the final act of the evening, to ensure that no basketball activities would be missed if anyone did not want to stay for his show. I take full responsibility for not understanding what acrobatic dancers are in today’s entertainment world and offer my apology to anyone who was offended. We strive to create a family atmosphere at Kansas and fell short of that this evening.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The Washington Redskins fired HBC Jay Gruden after their blowout loss to the New England Patriots. Some sucker will want to go work for Dan Snyder and will eventually get fired, too. Snyder must hold some sort of NFL record for buyouts of fired coaches ... Speaking of the Redskins, SportsBetting.ag gives odds of 250-1 that Nick Saban will be the next head coach … Saturday night at halftime of the Stanford-Washington game in Palo Alto, the Stanford band played Afroman's song “Because I Get High” while spelling out VAPE in large block letters on the field … Wisconsin's All-Interplanetary running back Jonathan Taylor has scored a touchdown on all six of the Badgers' opening drives this season … Michigan torched Iowa for 10 (count 'em) points this past Saturday. Monday, Michigan HBC Jim Harbaugh said the Wolverines offense is close to hitting its stride. I did NOT make that up.