PRACTICE WELL, PLAY WELL
It won't take Dan Mullen long to figure out if the Gators (5-0, 2-0 SEC) are likely to play as well as he knows they will have to play to knock off 7th-ranked Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC) Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (3:30 p.m., CBS). Starting today, if he sees the effort in practice – not just from his starters but from the entire roster including those on the scout team – Mullen will know his team is focused and ready to take care of business. One thing experience has taught him, both as an assistant and as a head coach, is the team that practices well generally plays well.
“In every aspect of the game, if we don't get better this week we can't expect to win,” Mullen said Saturday evening after the 10th-ranked Gators had shut out Towson State, 38-0.
It's not that the Gators played poorly against Towson. Any time you shut out an opponent and you score five touchdowns and get a field goal in nine offensive possessions, one of which included an end of the half kneel down, you've played very well. Shutting out any opponent these days and times in a college game where the RPO is way ahead of the defenses that try to stop it is an accomplishment. But the Gators have to get better and getting better means an exceptional week on the practice field.
Practice isn't going to be so much about learning anything new although there may be a few new wrinkles thrown into the game plan that specifically aim toward an Auburn weakness. For the most part practice will be about staying so focused on carrying out assignments that distractions are blocked out. It's about being intense while at the same time building to a Saturday afternoon crescendo when all the hard work and determination of the week comes to fruition in a best performance of the year.
So far this season the Gators haven't played what amounts to a complete game. While they have taken care of business well enough each week to be undefeated at this point, Mullen is still waiting for a complete 60-minute effort. He's seen enough in spurts to know the Gators have a complete game in them but Saturday he needs to see the put it all together on the field.
If he sees it in practice starting today, Mullen will know he's got a team that can take the next big step.
GATORS AT #10 IN AP, #8 IN COACHES POLL
Florida's 38-0 win over D1AA Towson State certainly didn't impress the voters in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, who moved the Gators down to #10 (from #9). Meanwhile, voters in the Coaches Poll held the Gators steady at #8.
There was a change at the top of the poll as last year's national champ Clemson dropped down to #2 after a great escape 21-20 win over North Carolina, decided by a failed two-point conversion with 1:19 remaining in the game. Moving to the top spot was Alabama, a 59-31 winner over Ole Miss. Ohio State jumped LSU into fourth place in the AP poll. The Buckeyes jumped LSU into fifth place in the Coaches poll.
The Associated Press Top 25 Poll
(1) Alabama 5-0; (2) Clemson 5-0; (3) Georgia 4-0; (4) Ohio State 5-0; (5) LSU 4-0; (6) Oklahoma 4-0; (7) Auburn 5-0; (8) Wisconsin 4-0; (9) Notre Dame 3-1; (10) FLORIDA 5-0; (11) Texas 3-1; (12) Penn State 4-0; (13) Oregon 3-1; (14) Iowa 4-0; (15) Washington 4-1; (16) Boise State 4-0; (17) Utah 4-1; (18) UCF 4-1; (19) Michigan 3-1; (20) Arizona State 4-1; (21) Oklahoma State 4-1; (22) Wake Forest 5-0; (23) Virginia 4-1; (24) SMU 5-0; (25, TIE) Texas A&M 3-2 and Michigan State 4-1
The Coaches Top 25 Poll
(1) Alabama 5-0; (2) Clemson 5-0; (3) Georgia 4-0; (4) Oklahoma 5-0; (5) Ohio State 5-0; (6) LSU 4-0; (7) Auburn 5-0; (8) FLORIDA 5-0; (9) Wisconsin 4-0; (10) Notre Dame 3-1; (11) Penn State 4-0; (12) Texas 3-1; (13) Oregon 3-1; (14) Iowa 4-0; (15) Boise State 4-0; (16) Washington 4-1; (17) Utah 4-1; (18) Michigan 3-1; (19) UCF 4-1; (20) Wake Forest 5-0; (21) Texas A&M 3-2; (22) Virginia 4-1; (23, TIE) Memphis 4-0 and Michigan State 4-1; (25) Oklahoma State 4-1
RANKING THE SEC TOP TO BOTTOM
(1) Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC): What Devonta Smith did against Ole Miss (11 catches, 274 yards, five touchdowns) actually dwarfed what Tua did (418 passing yards, six touchdowns). Nick Saban has to love what he's seeing out of his offense, but when his defense gives up 31 points to Ole Miss with a true freshman quarterback there will be hell to pay in practice this week. Saturday: Open
(2) LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC): In his last outing, quarterback Joe Burrow threw for six touchdowns against Vanderbilt. Burrow said, “I think that was probably the worst game I've played so far.” Saturday: vs. Utah State (3-1)
(3) Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Through its first four games, the Bulldogs have one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the country, averaging 253 yards per game on the ground and 255.8 through the air. Saturday: vs. Tennessee (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
(4) Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC): In taking out Mississippi State, 56-23, Auburn scored on its first five possessions and built up a 42-9 halftime lead ... True freshman QB Patrick Nix threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 56 on seven carries.
(5) FLORIDA (5-0, 2-0 SEC): Through five games, the Gators are completing 74.8% of their passes (116-155) for 1,441 yards (9.3 per attempt) and 11 touchdowns. A year ago the Gators completed only 59.6% of their passes and averaged just 7.6 yards per attempt.
(6) Missouri (3-1, 1-0 SEC): The Tigers rank third in the nation in total defense at 231.3 yards per game allowed. Saturday: vs. Troy (2-2)
(7) Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1 SEC): Even though the Aggies got a win over Arkansas Saturday, HBC Jimbo Fisher wasn't exactly beaming afterward. “In no way a I happy, content or satisfied with how we're playing,” Fisher said. Saturday: Open
(8) Ole Miss (2-3, 1-1 SEC): True freshman QB John Rhys Plumlee, playing in place of injured Matt Corrall, threw for 142 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 109 yards and another TD against Alabama. Saturday: vs. Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
(9) South Carolina (2-3, 1-2 SEC): The Gamecocks ran the ball (247 yards) and played great defense against Kentucky (seven points and only 247 total yards). They get a week of euphoria with an open date, then reality sets in with (at) Georgia and Florida back-to-back.
(10) Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1 SEC): The Bulldogs are struggling on defense, giving up 28.8 points and 401.4 yards per game. Last year MSU ranked #1 nationally in total defense. This year the Bulldogs are tied for 77th. Saturday: Open
(11) Kentucky (2-3, 0-3 SEC): Mike Stoops gets a week off to see if he can get some people healed up before Arkansas comes to town. Of the remaining seven games on the schedule, only (at) Georgia is unwinnable. Saturday: Open
(12) Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC): The Commodores were able to milk the last 3:10 off the clock Saturday to score a 24-18 non-conference win over Northern Illinois. They'll have to play a lot better this week if they intend to knock off Ole Miss on the road. Saturday: at Ole Miss (2-3, 1-1 SEC)
(13) Arkansas (2-3, 0-2 SEC): The Hogs scared the bejabbers out of the Aggies but, of course, lost. They get a break with an open date this week before they travel to Kentucky. Auburn, Alabama and LSU are among the remaining games on the schedule. Saturday: Open
(14) Tennessee (1-3, 0-1 SEC): As ugly as it has been for HBC Jeremy Pruitt and the Vols, it's about to take a turn for the worse with Georgia next on the schedule. Phattus Maximus could be the interim head coach by this time next week. Saturday: at Georgia (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
ELSEWHERE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Chris Ash of Rutgers became the first Division I coach to join the Extinct Species List when he was fired Sunday. Ash, who was 8-32 in his Rutgers head coaching career, saw the bottom drop out on Saturday when the Scarlet Knights fell to Michigan, 52-0. To buy out Ash will cost Rutgers $8.47 million. Expect Greg Schiano's name to emerge as a leading candidate to take over. Schiano went 68-67 with six bowl games in 11 seasons in a previous stint as the Rutgers head coach.
Wisconsin's throwback uniforms for Northwestern, which featured khaki-colored pants to go with the red jerseys, had Twitter abuzz comparing the look to a corporate seminar for Target employees.
It's not even October and already the Pac-12 is without a single undefeated team, making it more than likely the league will not have a team in the College Football Playoff for the third straight year.
SMU (5-0) is ranked 24th in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. This is the first time SMU has been ranked since it was hit with the NCAA death penalty in 1987. The 5-0 start is the best for SMU since 1983.
GOOD QUOTES FOR MONDAY
Tweeted out by USA Today columnist Dan Wolken comparing Ohio State QB Justin Fields with Georgia QB Jake Fromm:
“I’m kind of surprised we aren’t talking more about the fact that Ohio State has a better quarterback than Georgia, given that Ohio State’s quarterback was at Georgia last year.”
From Bruce Feldman of The Athletic on the shaky status of Southern Cal HBC Clay Helton:
“The read I’ve gotten on what USC brass is thinking regarding whether Helton will be the coach beyond 2019 is this: People inside and around the program genuinely like and respect Helton. He’s done a lot of good things, and he always comes across as a mature, grounded person — something, quite honestly, USC didn’t have much of in the previous decade, when it often seemed as if USC was its own worst enemy and simply couldn’t get out of its own way. Truth is, that part of it goes way beyond football.”
From North Carolina coach Mack Brown discussing why he went for two points and the win instead of taking the safe route and kicking an extra point that could have sent the Tar Heels game with Clemson (won by Clemson 21-20) into overtime:
“How could I not? I’ve always had the theory that the longer the game goes, the best team wins – and they have the best team. So, my thought was, ‘Go now.’ We’ve got momentum, they’re tired, they’re on the field, so that was the best chance for us to win the game.”
From Washington State coach Mike Leach after the Cougars got blasted by Utah, 38-13, in Salt Lake City:
“We're a very soft team. We get a lot of good press and we like to read it a lot. We like to pat ourselves on the back, and if we get any resistance we fold.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Leonard Fournette carried 29 times for 225 yards to rally the Jacksonville Jaguars to a 26-24 win over the Denver Broncos. In addition to career bests in carries and yards, Fournette also had a career-best 81-yard run … How does Baker Mayfield respond to Rex Ryan's criticism? By throwing for 342 yards and a touchdown to help the Cleveland Browns to a 40-25 win over the Baltimore Ravens in a battle of former Heisman Trophy winners. While Mayfield was lighting up the Ravens, Lamar Jackson threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 66 … Antonio Brown is seeking $61 million from the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots after both teams cut him when allegations of sexual assault came out in the press … Former Gator Pete Alonso not only set the all-time rookie record with his 53rd homer of the season Saturday night for the New York Mets, but he led Major League Baseball in home runs. He also became only the third player to ever win the Home Run Derby and lead the Majors in home runs in the same season.