Thoughts of the Day: September 21, 2020

A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:

It’s way too early and there are way too many variables to be talking about championships. If you asked Dan Mullen point blank about Florida’s chances to win a championship he might tell you that championships are the goal and that he really likes his team. He should because for the first time since he became the head Gator in December of 2017 he has a roster built for a championship run. But this is only week one of ten and you win championships by winning each week until there are no more games remaining.

This week the Gators open their season on the road at Ole Miss (12 noon, ESPN) where Lane Kiffin will be making his return to an SEC sideline as the head coach. There are few coaches in the profession as polarizing as Kiffin, but he really does know how to coach. Nothing would light a fire under an Ole Miss program that he intends to rebuild than to bushwhack 5th-ranked Florida in the first game of the season. Kiffin will spend the week playing up the fact the Gators will come into Saturday’s game double-digit favorites (10.5 points as of Sunday evening). Kiffin knows you can’t win a championship the first week of the season but you can lose one. He’ll convince the Rebels they can torpedo Florida’s championship aspirations if they can play over their heads.

Mullen knows fully well what Kiffin will be preaching at Ole Miss. He used to do the same thing when he was the coach at Mississippi State. Now Mullen is at a place where winning big is expected so he has to spend the entire week pounding it into the Gators’ heads that Ole Miss is far better than a 10.5-point home dog. He will also spend the week convincing the Gators that this – not Texas A&M, LSU, Georgia or anyone else on the schedule – is the single-most important game of the season. His daily sermonette will be to focus on what you can control which is being the best prepared team heading into Saturday’s game. Once that one is won and out of the way, then it’s time to shift the focus to week number two. In Mullen-think, once Ole Miss is disposed of, then the single-most important game of the season is South Carolina on October 3. It will be like that for all 10 weeks of the regular season.

There won’t be any bold predictions or cocky statements from Mullen this week but don’t for even one second think he isn’t confident about 2020. He knows the kind of team he has. He’s got quality at every position to go with the kind of depth it will take to make it through a 10-game SEC only grind along with the potential roster fluctuations caused by the Covid-19 virus. The Gators have exactly what it takes to run the table and make it to Atlanta undefeated for the first time since 2009.

Atlanta is a long way off, however. That is the long-term goal, but for now, the goal is to beat Ole Miss in Oxford Saturday afternoon.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25

(1) Clemson 2-0; (2) Alabama 0-0; (3) Oklahoma 1-0; (4) Georgia 0-0; (5) FLORIDA 0-0; (6) LSU 0-0; (7) Notre Dame 2-0; (8, TIE) Auburn 0-0 and Texas 1-0; (10) Texas A&M 0-0; (11) North Carolina 1-0; (12) Miami 2-0; (13) UCF 1-0; (14) Cincinnati 1-0; (15) Oklahoma State 1-0; (16) Tennessee 0-0; (17) Memphis 1-0; (18) BYU 1-0; (19) Louisiana-Lafayette 2-0; (20) Virginia Tech 0-0; (21) Pittsburgh 2-0; (22) Army 2-0; (23) Kentucky 0-0; (24) Louisville 1-1; (25) Marshall 2-0

THE COACHES TOP 25

(1) Clemson 2-0; (2) Alabama 0-0; (3, TIE) Oklahoma 1-0 and Georgia 0-0; (5) LSU; (6) FLORIDA 0-0; (7) Notre Dame 2-0; (8) Auburn 0-0; (9) Texas -0; (10) Ohio State 0-0; (11) Texas A&M 0-0; (12) North Carolina 1-0; (13) Penn State 0-0; (14) Miami 2-0; (15) UCF 1-0; (16) Cincinnati 1-0; (17) Wisconsin 0-0; (18) Oklahoma State 1-0; (19) Michigan 0-0; (20) Memphis 1-0; (21) Tennessee 0-0; (22) Minnesota 0-0; (23) BYU 1-0; (24) Virginia Tech 0-0; (25) Louisiana-Lafayette 2-0

GATORS IN THE NFL: It was a big night for Freddie Swain and Quinton Dunbar. Swain caught a 21-yard pass for his first NFL touchdown in the third quarter of Seattle’s 35-30 win over the New England Patriots while Dunbar was in on six tackles and had an interception … Tight end Jordan Reed caught seven passes for 50 yards and a pair of touchdowns in San Francisco’s 31-13 win over the New York Jets. Marcus Maye had seven tackles and Brian Poole had six for the Jets … Van Jefferson had four catches for 45 yards in the Los Angeles Rams’ 37-19 win over the Philadelphia Eagles … Jeff Driskel came off the bench to complete 18-34 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns in Denver’s 26-21 loss to Pittsburgh … Dante Fowler Jr. had two tackles and a half sack in Atlanta’s 40-39 loss to the Dallas Cowboys … CJ Henderson was in on six tackles in Jacksonville’s 33-30 loss to the Tennessee Titans … DeMarcus Robinson had three catches for 28 yards in Kansas City’s 23-20 overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

HEAVY THOUGHTS AFTER A LIGHT WEEKEND OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL

(1) Who does the Big Ten think they are fooling when they talk about player safety? That they have hastily thrown together an 8-game schedule without any bye weeks should tell you plenty. If they truly cared about the health of the athletes – and led us not forget that was the explanation given when they cancelled the season way back when – they certainly wouldn’t have scheduled eight straight weeks of play with a championship game the following week and matchups for the other teams in the league. It’s almost like two teams playing for the title and six consolation games. Yeah, that makes sense. The reason they are playing? Pretty simple. It’s called money. The Big Ten Network has no programming, the league is getting stiffed by the networks since they aren’t playing and all 14 schools are bleeding cash. So don’t be fooled when they talk about how they re-examined all the health data and how that impacted their decision. The Big Ten is selling. I’m not sure if anyone with a functioning brain is actually buying.

(2) UCF blew the doors off Georgia Tech in Atlanta (49-21) despite playing badly in the first and third quarters. After the game, QB Dillon Gabriel proclaimed the Knights are the best team in Florida. Don’t laugh. They really do think they can play and beat anyone in the state. That, of course, is seriously debatable. What isn’t debatable is they’re better than Florida State, which lost to Georgia Tech the week before. The Seminoles go down to Miami this weekend where they have an extraordinary chance to lose by three or four touchdowns. They will be playing without HBC Mike Norvell, who has tested positive for Covid-19. Some people think Norvell wishes he were still in Memphis but there are $5 million (X5 years) worth of reasons why he isn’t thinking about bolting Tallahassee. See. The Big Ten isn’t the only place where it’s all about the money.

(3) Now that Miami is 2-0, Himmicane fans have done their cockroaches from out of the woodwork routine which they do periodically and they’re claiming The U is back. They’re better than they were last year because D’Eriq King is a better QB than they had last year but back? Oh please. The offense is better than last year but there is nothing impressive about their defense, which gave up 513 yards to Louisville including 206 on the ground. They will kneecap Florida State this weekend but FSU might be lucky to win three games this year. Then comes Miami’s date with reality on October 10 when they visit Climpson. That will get ugly early. Because they play in the Always Climpson Conference Miami go something like 7-3 but by no means are the Himmicanes back.

(4) It’s entirely possible that Okie State running back Chuba Hubbard will discover his mojo and have a lights out season, but from what I saw of him against Tulsa, it would be an absolute shock if he makes the Heisman podium. Hubbard ran for 93 yards on 27 carries against Tulsa. He ran for 256 yards and three TDs on Tulsa last year. Put Hubbard against SEC defenses and if he can run for the big yards, then I’m a believer. From what I saw Saturday I’m a Chuba agnostic.

(5) The commissioners and presidents of the Pac-12, Mountain West and Mid-American conferences have been meeting and while there are reports that decisions have been made, there really hasn’t been anything official regarding playing football in the fall. Dan Patrick reports the Pac-12 will play a six-game schedule that begins November 7 and finishes with a championship weekend plus five consolation games. There are reports the Mountain West is thinking about playing but they can’t seem to decide whether they should start on October 24 and October 31. As for the MAC, its presidents seem dazed and confused. They met over the weekend and nobody came to any decision so they will meet again this week. These people have had months to come up with contingency plans yet when it comes time to make a decision they’re all clueless. Aren’t college presidents supposed to be smart, decisive people? You coulda fooled me.

(6) Linebacker Anthony Hines, who was the second leading tackler (73) at Texas A&M last year, has decided to opt out for 2020. He’s the second significant player to opt out. Earlier last year’s leading receiver Jhamon Ausbun (66-872, 5 TDs) opted out. The Aggies won’t need either Hines or Ausbon to win their season opener against Vanderbilt, but they travel to Alabama week two and host the Gators week three.

SIX DAYS OF DOCTOR DUTY MAKES YOU FEEL PITHY: How is it that Tate Martell went from the 6th-ranked QB recruit in the country in 2017 to an impressive backup to Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State in 2018 to a total bust at Miami? In case you missed it, he’s opted out for 2020. Maybe he can transfer to a D1AA team that won’t play until the spring … Am I the only one who thinks Tom Brady is playing like a 43-year-old through two games with the Tampa Bay Bucs? Meanwhile Cam Newton’s career seems reborn in New England. File that under things that make you go hmmm … Since I have opted out for the NFL this year, Sunday I watched the US Open. It was quite fun watching the best players in the world fight the good fight and lose to Winged Foot. Sometimes I need to see course win and it did. Winner Bryson DeChambeau was the only one to score in red figures (-6). Wasn’t it a month ago that Dustin Johnson went -30 to win the Northern Trust Open in Boston? At the US Open there were lots of scores in the 80s which meant plenty of double bogeys and a few snowmen by the best golfers in the world. I can relate to snowmen … This is the final week of the regular season of the shortened Major League Baseball season. Have you or anyone you know watched three games? Two? One? … Something to think about from Jason Whitlock: “Many are unaware that Nike, and not the NBA, controls basketball. One could make a fair argument that the NBA is nothing more than the in-house marketing department of Nike.”

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