A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:
Does it get any better than this for Kyle Trask? The kid from Nowheresville is the starting quarterback for the fourth-ranked team in the nation after waiting six-plus years to start a football game. He’s on every Heisman watch list now, making a mockery of recruiting rankings (he was about the bazillionth-ranked high school player in the nation back in 2015) and he’s even got NFL scouts intrigued because he’s so smart and throws so accurately.
And now, thanks to the pandemic which has caused the Southeastern Conference to toss out the old schedule and replace it with a 10-game, SEC-only slate for all 14 teams in the league, Trask will get a homecoming game of sorts when the Gators (2-0) face off with Texas A&M at Kyle Field Saturday (12 noon, ESPN). Kyle Field is just 116 miles from Trask’s home town in Manvel, Texas, which is just south of Houston and a stone’s throw from Alvin, where Nolan Ryan and his 100 mph fast ball grew up. If not for the virus, the only way Trask would have gotten to play the Aggies would have been in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game.
This won’t be like a normal Texas A&M game when the marching band entertains with all those funky military maneuvers and fans sing a fight song called the Aggie War Hymn that starts out “Hulabaloo caneck caneck” and includes words like chigaroogarem which only an Aggie has a clue what it means. No marching on the field and only 25,000 or so fans in the 102,000-seat stadium that was paid for in cash ($480 million) raised in a matter of a month or so. There is a certain amount of truth to the saying in the Lone Star State that only God and the Longhorns have more money than the Aggies.
So maybe it won’t be quite as thrilling for Trask as it would be if Kyle Field was stacked to the rafters, but it will be quiet enough that he can hear it when Dan Mullen screams to him from the sideline to check out of a certain play and into something that will work. A quiet stadium will work to Trask’s advantage and to the advantage of the Gators, who come into the game 6.5-point favorites to hand the Aggies their second straight loss.
Whether it’s a full stadium or one that’s three-quarters empty, this will be a homecoming Kyle Trask won’t ever forget. The Sayer Says Sooth: A week ago the Aggies played their safeties in another area code and the Alabama receivers still got behind them. If the Aggies elect to drop seven or eight into coverage, the Gators will pound them between the tackles and Dameon Pierce will have a punishing fourth quarter. If they play the Gators straight up, Kyle to Kyle (Pitts) will have another one of those games that will keep both of them on the Heisman Trophy Watch List and the Florida defense will wake up from its long winter nap to play its first respectable game of the season. FLORIDA 38, Texas A&M 17
SOOTHSAYING IN THE SEC
#2 ALABAMA (2-0) at OLE MISS (1-1): When he was the offensive coordinator at Alabama, you know darn well that Lane Kiffin thought about putting a whoopee cushion in Nick Saban’s chair before a staff meeting on more than one occasion. How fun would that have been? Lane is the Prince of Imps and Nick is … well Nick. Nick allows himself to laugh maybe three times a year. This isn’t one of those times. Saban knows darn good and well that Kiffin is one of the most gifted offensive minds in all of college football and he has the QB and personnel capable of hanging a bunch of points on any team in the country. Nick also knows the Ole Miss defense has a better chance of getting invited to North Korea to conduct a football clinic than they have of stopping the Alabama passing game. The Sayer Says Sooth: Don’t be surprised if Kiffin and the Rebels score somewhere between 35 and 40 points on Alabama. Also don’t be surprised if Alabama hangs nine or ten touchdowns on Ole Miss. Mac Jones might throw six or more touchdown passes. Alabama 59, Ole Miss 38
#14 TENNESSEE (2-0) at #3 GEORGIA (2-0): The Vols are the Rodney Dangerfield of college football. They don’t get any respect which is what happens when your quarterback is Jarrett Guarantano. Nobody needs a win over Georgia more than the Vols. Nobody needs a win over a decent team more than Guarantano, whose one win over a ranked team in his career is Kentucky. Try going into a bar and impressing a woman who has any kind of knowledge about football that you were the QB who knocked off Kentucky in 2018. Of course, Georgia’s QB is former walk-on Stetson Bennett IV who threw a couple of deep balls against Auburn so high into the sky they came down wet. Georgia doesn’t ask Bennett to do anything special, which is a good idea since he doesn’t do anything special. He’s only asked to throw the ball to the guys in red shirts and avoid fumbling the ball away. The Sayer Says Sooth: For the Vols to win this game, Guarantano has to have the game of his life and the charmed life Bennett has been living has to come to a screeching halt. The Vols truly believe they can win this game, in part because they have a massive offensive line that matches up well with Georgia but also because of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Chaney was Kirby Smart’s OC for three years and he knows the Georgia defense inside out. Will that be an edge for the UT offense? Georgia probably can’t smash mouth its way to a win here so Bennett is going to have to complete some passes. Georgia is a shaky pick here but the Vols will cover the 12.5-point spread. Georgia 23, Tennessee 20
ARKANSAS (1-1) at #13 AUBURN (1-1): Feleipe Franks could run for mayor of Fayette Nam and get elected. If he makes it two wins in a row for the Hogs, he could be the next lieutenant governor of Arkansas. Meanwhile, Auburn fans wish Gus Malzahn would take up an exciting career as a professional Guts Yahtzee player and while he’s about it, they’d be quite happy if he took offensive coordinator Chad Morris with him. Arkansas goes into this game believing it can win. Auburn goes into this game praying it doesn’t lose. If the game comes down to quarterback play, Franks is brimming with confidence right now. Bo Nix, meanwhile, is trying to remember you’re not supposed to throw off your back foot every time and that it’s not illegal to scramble to your left (90% of his scrambles are to the right, which makes him a lot easier to defend). The Sayer Says Sooth: Auburn is a 13-point favorite but if the Tigers do the unthinkable expect Go Fund Me pages to spring up by the hundreds calling for the AU faithful to donate the $14 million it will take to buy out Gus. Arkansas is a much better team than the one Chad Morris coached last year before he was fired. Good enough to beat Auburn on the road? Maybe not, but good enough to create plenty of tight sphincters among the Auburn faithful in the fourth quarter. Auburn 27, Arkansas 20
#17 LSU (1-1) at MISSOURI (0-2): This battle of two of the three SEC Tigers was supposed to be played in Baton Rouge but instead it’s in Columbia due to Hurricane Delta. Mizzou folks will be calling this the Hurricane Bowl but it could be better named The Haves (LSU) vs. The Have Nots (Mizzou). After the ostrich-sized egg they laid in week one, The Haves get a second straight game against the equivalent of a college football JV in which to get the kinks worked out before a most important roadie to Gainesville to face the Gators. Myles Brennan, who was sacked seven times by Mississippi State, remained upright and breathing the entire game against Vandy last week, which had everything to do with him throwing for four easy TDPs. This is the third straight game against a ranked team for the Have Nots, who can take heart because next week they face Vandy in The Have Not Bowl. The Sayer Says Sooth: Mizzou might get caught looking ahead to Vandy next week and allow LSU to hang 50 or more on the scoreboard. Wins are going to be really hard to come by this year for Mizzou which may just decide to grab for all the gusto it can get. LSU is going to win this game. The only question is by how much and even if the Tigers win it by seven or more touchdowns, we still won’t know if they’re any good. The Mississippi State loss looks even worse after that debacle against Arkansas last week. Vandy looks and plays like a Division III team. Nothing will be proven against Mizzou unless LSU goes completely in the tank and loses. But that won’t happen. LSU 44, Missouri 14
MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-1) at KENTUCKY (0-2): Kentucky must be feeling snakebit in a lot of ways. They lost to Auburn thanks to a goal line fumble at a point when they had the game in control. They lost by a point to Ole Miss in overtime because of a missed extra point. Earlier in the game A.J. Rose started celebrating what he thought was a 75-yard touchdown run 25 yards before he got to the goal line. He was caught three yards shy of a TD then fumbled the ball away two plays later. From a defensive standpoint the Wildcats lost the Auburn game because none of their guys in the secondary could hang with Seth Williams. They lost the Ole Miss game because none of their guys in the secondary had a clue how to hang with any of the Ole Miss receivers. Now they face K.J. Costello and the Mississippi State passing game. They might think Ole Miss was a walk in the park by the time they get a full dose of the Air Raid.
The Sayer Says Sooth: For Kentucky to win this game, the Wildcats have to shorten it by pounding the ball between the tackles to keep the clock running and the chains moving. Of course, they tried that against Ole Miss, gained 408 yards and still lost. They are going to lose again. Mike Leach will make certain Costello doesn’t make the same mistakes he made last week against Arkansas and with Hill back in the lineup, the Bulldogs will be able to run the football. Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 28
SOUTH CAROLINA (0-2) at VANDERBILT (0-2): One team’s attempt to do a reverse run of the table will end Saturday afternoon. Vanderbilt is coming off a blowout loss to LSU while South Carolina dinked and dunked its way to an 18-play, clock-eating drive that came up empty in the fourth quarter of a 14-point loss to Florida. Of the two, South Carolina’s loss to Florida was far more impressive than Vandy’s (no) showing against LSU. In any other season, this game might be the one that the losing coach punches his buyout ticket but since both athletic departments are bleeding millions of dollars of red ink, Derek Mason and Will Muschamp will both be gainfully employed in 2021. Vandy’s offense stinks. South Carolina’s offense looks like the second coming of the Kansas City Chiefs comparatively speaking. The Sayer Says Sooth: South Carolina’s defense isn’t exactly a world beater but it will look like the second coming of the Steel Curtain against Vandy’s inept offense. The only way the Gamecocks lose this one is if they give it away. Wait! Didn’t they do that week one against Tennessee? Well, they can’t even give this one away. South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 7
FEELING PITHY ON A FRIDAY:The fourth time was a charm for Houston. The Cougars finally got to play a game after three Covid-outs. Tulane’s defense did a lot of social distancing in the game which has everything to do with the Green Wave taking a 49-31 powder … Tom Brady lost track of the downs in Tampa Bay Bucs 20-19 loss to the Chicago Bears Thursday night. Brady thought it was third down so he took a deep downfield shot that was incomplete instead of making sure he got a six-yard completion that would have moved the chains. After the incompletion Brady looked dazed and confused when he held up four fingers as if to ask the zebras, “Don’t we have another down?” … NFL TV ratings are down in many cases more than 35%. Roger Goodell is trying to spin the nosedive as the result of an election year but nobody is buying what he’s selling. Fans have had it with the political activism and until the NFL and NBA (also tanking) figure that out, fans will continue to find something else to do rather than watch