KENTUCKY NO LONGER FEARS THE FLORIDA GATORS
The Southeastern Conference portion of Florida's football schedule kicks off Saturday when the Gators travel to Lexington to face a Kentucky (2-0, 0-0 SEC) that has lost its fear of the Gators. From 1987 until 2017, you could almost pencil Kentucky into the Florida win column. Sure, there were a few close calls – “Doering's got a touchdown!” comes to mind – but you always knew that when crunch time arrived the Wildcats would find a way to lose.
All that changed last season when the Wildcats came to Gainesville and dominated the Gators in the second half (outscored the Gators, 20-6) for a drought-ending, 27-16, win in which Kentucky pounded away for 303 rushing yards. Florida had absolutely no answer for Benny Snell Jr. (175 yards rushing) and every time it seemed the Gators had Terry Wilson cornered, he escaped the sack and ran for another first down.
If this had been a fluke win, perhaps decided by a once-in-a-lifetime play like a Hail Mary at the end of the game, deep down the Wildcats might still be the Kentucky Mildcats, but this was a game of physicality and Kentucky was easily the more physical team. They won the game on both lines of scrimmage, which is why Kentucky has no fear of the Gators this year. The Wildcats are convinced they can once again impose their will on Florida and make it two wins in a row over an old nemesis. That Wilson is hurt (torn patela tendon in his knee) is of no consequence. Kentucky thinks it will do just fine with Sawyer Smith at QB.
No matter the UK quarterback, Florida has to not only match but exceed Kentucky's physicality in this game. The Gators have to win both lines of scrimmage and put an end to any notion that Kentucky is capable of matching up, whether it's size, strength, speed or talent. The Gators need to leave Lexington Saturday night having begun a brand new streak.
GATORS MOVE UP IN THE POLLS
The slide didn't last very long at all. A week after the Gators dropped from #8 in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls to #11 AP and #10 Coaches, UF is back in the top ten again. Florida moved up two spots to #9 in the AP, back to #8 in the Coaches. Even though Florida's 45-0 win over UT-Martin wasn't as spectacular as Dan Mullen might have hoped, it was a shutout, the Gators were never threatened and Feleipe Franks completed 25-27 passes. That obviously impressed quite a few voters.
The top three – Clemson, Alabama and Georgia – remained the same. That Clemson and Alabama are the top two comes as no surprise but I thought LSU's win over Texas in Austin would vault the Tigers past Georgia. LSU moved up two spots to #4 in the AP, one spot to #6 in the Coaches.
The big surprise to me is that Michigan remains in the top ten. I haven't been impressed at all with Michigan, particularly after the Wolverines needed overtime to beat Army. That's a game in which Army let the Wolverines off the hook two or three times.
The Associated Press Top 25 Poll
Clemson 2-0; (2) Alabama (2-0); (3) Georgia (2-0); (4) LSU 2-0; (5) Oklahoma 2-0; (6) Ohio State 2-0; (7) Notre Dame 1-0; (8) Auburn 2-0; (9) FLORIDA 2-0; (10) Michigan 2-0; (11) Utah 2-0; (12) Texas 1-1; (13) Penn State 2-0; (14) Wisconsin 2-0; (15) Oregon 1-1; (16) Texas A&M 1-1; (17) UCF 2-0; (18) Michigan State 2-0; (19) Iowa 2-0; (20) Washington State 2-0; (21) Maryland 2-0; (22) Boise State 2-0; (23) Washington 1-1; (24) Southern Cal 2-0; (25) Virginia 2-0
The Coaches Top 25 Poll
Clemson 2-0; (2) Alabama 2-0; (3) Georgia 2-0; (4) Oklahoma 2-0; (5) LSU 2-0; (6) Ohio State 2-0; (7) Notre Dame 1-0; (8) FLORIDA 2-0; (9) Auburn 2-0; (10) Michigan 2-0; (11) Penn State 2-0; (12) Utah 2-0; (13) Texas 1-1; (14) Wisconsin 2-0; (15) Texas A&M 1-1; (16) UCF 2-0; (17) Oregon 1-1; (18) Iowa 2-0; (19) Michigan State 2-0; (20) Washington State 2-0; (21) Washington 1-1; (22) Boise State 2-0; (23) Mississippi State 2-0; (24) Southern Cal 2-0; (25) Maryland 2-0
RANKING THE SEC TOP TO BOTTOM
(1) Alabama (2-0; 0-0 SEC): When questioned about scheduling New Mexico State and asked what could be gained from blowout wins like this (Alabama won, 62-7), Nick Saban replied, “Why don't you start calling around and see if you can get somebody else to play us?” … In the win over NMSU, wide receiver Henry Ruggs caught four passes for 66 yards including a 39-yard TD and had a 75-yard run for another TD. Next week: at South Carolina (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
(2) LSU (2-0):Beating Texas in Austin is far more impressive than anything Georgia has done. Joe Burrow is the real deal after 471 passing yards and four TDPs against Texas. For the season he is 54-66 for 749 yards (11.3 per attempt) with nine TDPs. Next week: vs. Northwestern State (0-2)
(3) Georgia (2-0, 1-0 SEC): In the Bulldogs' 63-17 win over D1AA Murray State, backup QB Stetson Bennett actually had more pass attempts than starter Jake Fromm. Fromm was 10-11 or 166 yards and a TD while Bennett was 9-13 for 124 yards and two TDPs. Next week: vs. Arkansas State (1-1)
(4) FLORIDA (2-0, 0-0 SEC): With his two touchdown passes against UT-Martin Saturday night, Feleipe Franks moved past Steve Spurrier into 10thplace on the all-time Florida list with 37. He needs three more to pass Terry Dean into 9th. Next week: at Kentucky (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
(5) Auburn (2-0, 0-0 SEC): The offense is rather pedestrian as freshman QB Bo Nix figures things out. Nix is averaging only 5.6 yards per pass attempt has completed less than 50% of his passes.
Next week: vs. Kent State (1-1)
(6) Texas A&M (1-1, 0-0 SEC): When the Aggies couldn't run the ball against #1 Clemson, their offensive game plan blew up in their faces. The Aggies managed only 53 yards in 27 carries in the 24-10 loss to the Tigers. Next week: vs. Lamar (1-0-1)
(7) Mississippi State (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Mississippi State won't know the status of QB Tommy Stevens until Monday. Stevens suffered an upper body injury in the second quarter of the Bulldogs' 38-15 win over Southern Miss. Prior to the injury he was 9-10 passing for 105 yards and two touchdowns. True freshman Garrett Shrader played the rest of the way, hitting 7-11 passes for 71 yards and running for 16 more. Next week: vs. Kansas State (2-0) (8) Kentucky (2-0, 0-0 SEC): With Terry Wilson done for the year, Kentucky will lean heavily on a ground game that is averaging 207 yards per game and 5.32 per carry led by the 1-2 tandem of Kavosiey Smoke (170 yards, 9.4 per carry) and AJ Rose (146 yards). Next week: vs. FLORIDA (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
(9) Missouri (1-1, 0-0 SEC): The Tigers got their running game going against West Virginia with Larry Rountree III going for 99 of the net 232. In their season opener against Wyoming, the Tigers ran for only 114 yards. Next week: vs. Southeast Missouri State (1-1)
(10) South Carolina (1-1, 0-0 SEC): It's officially Ryan Hilinski's team now as Jake Bentley will have surgery on his fractured right foot and will miss the remainder of the season. In his first start Saturday against Charleston Southern, the true freshman Hilinski was 24-30 passing for 282 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another score on a 4-yard run. Next week: vs. Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
(11) Ole Miss (1-1, 1-0 SEC): Linebacker MoMo Sanogo suffered a broken right fibula and a torn ligament in first quarter of the win over Arkansas so he's done for the year. Next week: vs. Southeastern Louisiana (1-0)
(12) Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1 SEC): The good news is the Commodores won't lose this week. That's because they won't play. Ball State grad transfer Riley Neal threw for 378 yards against Purdue so he's nailed that position down. They still haven't gotten Ke'Shawn Vaughn untracked. Next week: Open
(13) Tennessee (0-2, 0-0 SEC): In losing their second game of the season to BYU, the Vols had the Cougars pinned at their own 8-yard line with 31 seconds to go and still gave up the tying field goal that sent the game into double overtime. Tennessee is now 0-2 to start a seasonfor he first time since 1988. Next week: vs. Chattanooga (1-1)
(14) Arkansas (1-1, 0-1 SEC): The Hogs still haven't settled on a QB although Texas A&M grad transfer Nick Starkel seems better than SMU grad transfer Ben Hicks. They desperately need to win these next two games (Colorado State and San Jose State) since opportunities to win will be few and far between after that. If they're lucky, they'll go 4-8. Next week: vs. Colorado State (1-1)
ELSEWHERE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Defense was supposed to be the strong suit for Florida State (1-1) this season. Through two games the Seminoles have given up 80 points and an average of 520 yards per game. This week the Seminoles travel to #25 Virginia (2-0) which is scoring 41 points per game with a defense that allows only 228 yards.
Wisconsin has outscored two opponents, 110-0, while averaging 517 yards of offense and giving up only 107.5 per game. Jonathan Taylor has run for 237 yards and five touchdowns and already he's caught three touchdown passes.
How is Michigan ranked in the top ten in both polls? The Wolverines likely get some comeuppance in a couple of weeks when they travel to Madison to face Wisconsin. Since 2012, by the way, Michigan is 1-14 against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 10, 9-23 against teams ranked in the AP top 25.
After a week of doom and gloom predictions about Southern Cal following the season-ending ACL injury to QB JT Daniels, true freshman Kedon Slovis threw for 377 yards and three TDPs to lead the Trojans (2-0) to a 45-20 blowout of then 23rd-ranked Stanford. Slovis was a 3-star recruit out of high school where he was coached by former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner.
Last year Washington State QB Anthony Gordon was 3-5 passing for 17 yards. Npw a senior, Gordon has completed 81.1% of his passes for 884 yards (11.9 yards per attempt) and nine touchdowns as the Cougars are off to a 2-0 start. Coaching the wide receivers for Mike Leach and Wazzoo is Steve Spurrier Jr.
Through two games, Oklahoma is averaging 709.5 yards of offense per game with Jalen Hurts responsible for 407. Hurts has thrown for 591 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 223 and three more.
Chip Kelly is off to an 0-2 start at UCLA. He used to be an offensive genius but the Bruins are scoring only 14 points (tied for 118th) and 239.5 yards (127th out of 130 D1 teams) nationally.
Just a week removed from their win over Tennessee at Neyland Stadium, the Georgia State Panthers rallied from a 20-3 deficit to a 48-42 win over D1AA Furman.
And of course we have to include an update on the Fighting McElwains. Old Yeller and his Central Michigan Chippewas rose to a 61-0 crashing defeat at the hands of Wisconsin, a game in which their scorched earth offense bullied the Badgers for 58 (count'em) total yards (15 rushing, 43 passing). Just so you know that some things never change, the Mac Attack is averaging 293.5 yards per game thanks to the 529 they gained in their season opener with D1AA Albany. That's 117th nationally.
Maryland folks are getting excited after scoring 79 and 63 points in back-to-back games.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: In his NFL debut, Kyler Murray rallied the Arizona Cardinals from a 24-6 deficit to a 27-27 overtime tie with the Detroit Lions. Murray completed 29-54 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns … Nick Foles, who the Jacksonville Jaguars signed to a free agent deal in the offseason, broke his clavicle in the first quarter Sunday. His replacement, rookie Gardner Minshew, completed 22-25 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns … I was surprised that Serena Williams went down in straight sets (6-7, 5-7) to 15thseeded Canadian Bianca Andreecu in the women's final of the US Open … The men's final didn't seem the same without Roger Federer … Big shock here. Duke officials say they investigated and found no evidence that Nike paid Zion Williamson or his family to get him to attend Duke. Why am I not surprised?