JUST WIN, BABY
Consensus is that despite Florida's 3-0 record (1-0 SEC) and #9 national ranking that the Gators have somewhat underachieved in the first 25% of the 2019 season. Critics are quick to point to how the Gators finished in 2018 with four straight wins and at least five touchdowns in each game. Michigan came to the Peach Bowl having spent much of the season with its defense being compared to some of the best units in college football history. Ohio State turned those comparisons into a myth and what the Gators did in the bowl game was like an exclamation point, albeit one that sent 2019 Florida expectations through the roof.
So here we are with three games in the books and the Gators are unbeaten, owners of a modest but very nice seven-game winning streak dating back to last November and yet you won't find many – if any – out there who will say the Gators have been impressive. And, with Feleipe Franks done for the year, the skeptics seem to think the lofty preseason expectations should be scaled way back. Like all the way back to seven or eight wins tops back.
Saturday's game with Tennessee (1-2, 0-0 SEC) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium won't change any perceptions. Tennessee was so bad in losing its first two games that even if the Gators win this one by 30 very few will be impressed. It's almost as if Florida is in a can't win situation at least in the court of public opinion. If Kyle Trask lights up the Vols people will say he should have and folks won't necessarily think it's remarkable that he just started for the first time since he was a 9th-grader in Manvel, Texas. If Trask has a decent game but the Gators win without walloping the Vols, critics are likely to say Florida was overrated to begin with and now with the second string quarterback in charge the Gators are in trouble.
Put the expectations aside and dwell on the only three things that really matter Saturday: (1) Get the win no matter the final margin; (2) get Trask another game of experience and the comfort of having started a game for the first time in years; and (3) don't get anybody hurt.
If the Gators can accomplish those three things, it really doesn't matter what the critics are going to say. In the immortal words of the late, great Al Davis, “Just win baby.” Al never cared what the final margin was as long as the Oakland Raiders won the game. Florida fans would be smart to take on that same mentality.
The Sayer Says Sooth: Trask is going to surprise us with his poise and his decision making. He may not finish with overwhelming stats, but he will be more than up to the task and will get the job done. The defense will play very well and the Gators will improve to 2-0 in the SEC by something like this – FLORIDA 37, Tennessee 17.
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER
#2 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) 54, Southern Miss (2-0) 10: Alabama is dealing with a slew of injuries and player transfers. Big deal. Southern Miss might have two guys on its roster who could crack Alabama's three deep.
#3 Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC) 31, #7 Notre Dame (2-0) 24: This is going to be closer than the 14-1/2 points Georgia is favored by. The Irish are really good in the secondary, good enough that they're going to load up the box to stuff Georgia's running game and take their chances against the Bulldogs' inexperienced receivers. Georgia is still going to win this game but it's not going to be a blowout.
#4 LSU (3-0, 0-0 SEC) 49, Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1 SEC) 17: There is no way the Commodores can stop the Jeaux Burreaux Express. They'll take their beating like a man knowing they might be able to win the next three.
#17 Texas A&M (2-1, 0-0 SEC) 28, #8 Auburn (3-0, 0-0 SEC) 21:The Aggies are going to dare Bo Nix to beat them by stuffing the box and leaving the corners on an island. If the corners can't cover, the Aggies are toast because Kellen Mond and the offense will struggle. If this game were in Auburn, the Tigers would win by two touchdowns.
Ole Miss (2-1, 1-0 SEC) 21, #23 California (3-0) 17:Ole Miss might have the most improved run defense in the country. If the Rebels stuff the run they'll score an upset over a ranked team. Okay, they're from the Pac-12, but Cal is still ranked.
Kentucky (2-1, 0-1 SEC) 21, Mississippi State (2-1, 0-0 SEC) 20:Sawyer Smith played well enough in the loss to Florida that Kentucky knows it can move the football. Mississippi State clearly isn't the same without Tommy Stevens and unless he's been visited by Benny Hinn, he's not going to be 100% Saturday. If he's not 100% Mississippi State will go down.
Missouri (2-1, 0-0 SEC) 30, South Carolina (1-2, 0-1 SEC) 28: South Carolina is going to score some points Saturday. The problem is the South Carolina secondary is playing like it took lessons in Croatian and there wasn't an interpreter handy.
Arkansas (2-1, 0-1 SEC) 38, San Jose State (1-1) 14: Hog fans should savor this win Saturday because there won't be many more Saturdays like this the rest of the year.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION FOUR
ON LIFE SUPPORT Phil Montgomery, Tulsa: He's 1-2 with a loss to Wyoming pending this weekend. He needs six wins and a bowl game to remain gainfully employed. Cincinnati, Memphis, Tulane, Houston and UCF remain on the schedule. He will be a member of the Extinct Species List soon.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: He has heart issues and he's 65 years old, so unless he wins 9-10 games (highly improbable) he will be gracefully retired to an administrative job. It's like being fired without actually being fired.
Lovie Smith, Illinois: Lovie lost to the Fighting EMUs (Eastern Michigan University). This week the Big Ten portion of the schedule kicks in with Nebraska. Lovie would be smart to go down to U-Haul to buy boxes that he will need to pack up his office sooner, not later.
Chris Ash, Rutgers: There is hope in New Jersey. After the way Kansas hosed Boston College, Rutgers folks are thinking win #2 could happen this weekend when BC comes to town in this head-to-head of former Urban Meyer assistants. Even if he wins, however, Ash is a short timer.
Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee: If he could somehow come up with a win over the Gators in Gainesville this weekend the people who write the checks to the boosters would probably find it in their pea picking hearts to forgive him for losing to Georgia State and BYU. Well, at least until the Vols get hammered by Alabama and Georgia. They won't beat the Gators, though. Color Pruitt short time.
Brent Brennan, San Jose State: Paycheck losses really shouldn't count against beleaguered coaches from cash-strapped programs, but the Spartans are probably going to get blasted by Arkansas this week, which will move Brennan one step closer to the unemployment line.
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST Clay Helton, Southern Cal: The loss to BYU didn't help matters but it was non-conference. If Helton can win the Pac-12 Southern Division he probably gets another year.
Randy Edsall, UConn: If he still has a job next year it's only because the athletic department is $41 million in the red and they have to pay $12 million to leave the AAC plus $3.5 million to join the Big East. As if that's not enough, when they leave they lose $7 million a year in AAC football TV revenue.
Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech: His VaTech football coaching career almost bought the ranch last week when the Hokies had to rally past D1AA Furman. He needs seven wins at a minimum or he's a goner.
Mike Bobo, Colorado State: In getting blown out last week by Arkansas, Bobo may have saved his job, all because of a late and dirty hit on his QB. The QB tore the same ACL for the third time. There's a lot of sympathy to keep Bobo now.
Tony Sanchez, UNLV: With Wyoming, Boise State, Vanderbilt, Fresno and San Diego State in the next five games, it's a matter of when not if Sanchez gets fired. He's probably On Life Support after this week.
Matt Luke, Ole Miss: Luke really needs to beat California Saturday because he's got Alabama next week and that beatdown isn't going to be pretty.
BEADS OF SWEAT FORMING Charlie Strong, South Florida: The good news for Charlie and the Fighting Strongs is that the next five games are very winnable starting with SMU a week from Saturday.
Kalani Sitake, Brigham Young: Wins over Tennessee and Southern Cal made everyone happy, but folks will have a very short term memory if the Cougars get poleaxed by Washington this week.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: His career record is 24-40. He really can't afford another losing season.
Steve Addazio, Boston College: When you get your doors blown off by Kansas, of all people, folks tend to forget that you whacked Virginia Tech. BC olks are used to “Old 7-6 Steve” but he might need an extra win to make up for losing to Kansas.
SAVED BY THE BUYOUT Willie Taggart, Florida State: A Tallahassee 4-year-old set up a lemonade stand with the promise to donate all the profits to the buyout of Taggart. FSU is so strapped for cash they will need bake sales and car washes galore to raise the $17 million it will take to make this the Willie Taggart Error.
Chad Morris, Arkansas: When the Hogs beat Do You Know the Way to San Jose this week, they'll be 3-1. Fans need to savor the moment because there is only one more winnable game (Western Kentucky) on the schedule after that. Unless one of the billionaire boosters feels like parting with $12.5 million yankee dollars, Morris will be back next year.
Chip Kelly, UCLA: Folks are starting to figure out that the Chip Kelly they got isn't the same Chip Kelly that coached Oregon six years ago. Being that this is California, it's only a matter of time before someone theorizes that Chip was abducted by aliens and this is his alien replacement on the UCLA sideline.
Will Muschamp, South Carolina: The Gamecocks scored 24 on Alabama last week and didn't let Bama score 50. That's progress. Muschamp isn't going anywhere this year and probably not for the two years after this. Ryan Hilinski is a very real deal at QB. Jake Bentley needs to start sizing up his grad transfer options now.
GOOD QUOTE FOR FRIDAY
From Emily Caron of Sports Illustrated, testimony at the trial of Austen Robertson reveals that Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was warned that Robertson had a history of sexual assault before signing his MSU scholarship:
“Former Michigan State recruiting director Curtis Blackwell said under oath that three Michigan State football staff members, including defensive tackles coach and former defensive line coach Ron Burton, and current quarterbacks coach and former offensive coordinator Dave Warner, warned head coach Mark Dantonio about a recruit with a history of troubling behavior and sexual assault before he was charged with sexual assault while on the team, according to a deposition by Blackwell that was recently made public."
RANDOM THOUGHTS:Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves hit his 40thhome run Thursday. With three more stolen bases he will be the first player in Major League Baseball history with 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in a season. Not bad for a 21-year-old … UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero will retire, which could be bad news for football coach Chip Kelly ... The New York Yankees clinched the American League East Division title Thursday with a 9-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels. It was the Yankees 100thwin of the season. The Houston Astros got their 100thwin Wednesday ... All eyes in the Pac-12 will be on Los Angeles tonight where Southern Cal (2-1) plays host to 10th-ranked Utah (3-0). A win and Clay Helton will be off the hotseat (again). Lose and Helton might not survive another week.