Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper saw his unit put up 58 of Florida’s 65 points in the season opening win over Eastern Michigan, a great debut for sure but the first year coach isn’t about to allow complacency to creep in for even one second.
“We’re all pretty hard on them on the practice field,” Roper said Tuesday. “Sometimes that’s where you go out there and try to coach them back into reality. There is enough on the film to show them, hey, there were a lot of things that could have been better or really cost us.”
Fortunately, any mistakes the Gators made against Eastern Michigan were against an overwhelmingly outmatched team. While the Gators are perhaps superior at nearly every position against Saturday opponent Kentucky, the talent gap isn’t nearly as great as it was last week and then there is the streak. If you’re a Gator, it’s a 27-game winning streak over Kentucky with an average differential of 34.8 points in games since 2008.
If you’re Kentucky, it’s a losing streak that has become a sore spot and motivation. From the Wildcats’ perspective, to knock off the Gators in The Swamp would not only be a signal that Kentucky football is becoming relevant in the Southeastern Conference, but a signal to recruits that signing with Kentucky is not a sentence to four years of getting kicked around by teams like Florida.
So how does Roper keep the Gators focused and avoiding complacency or overconfidence in a week after a blowout win and an upcoming game against a team that doesn’t have a single player who was alive the last time it came away with a win against UF?
Roper says it’s about getting the Gators to “buy into one day at a time. If they’ll do that and we go get a little bit better, then we’ve got a chance to keep our minds right as I like to say.”
Georgia is a 6-point favorite on the road at South Carolina.
Missouri is a 9.5-point home favorite against UCF.
Vanderbilt is a 17.5-point favorite at home against UMass.
Arkansas is a 1-point road underdog at Texas Tech.
Mississippi State is a 15.5-point favorite on the road at South Alabama.
Ole Miss is a 26-point favorite at home against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Tennessee is a 20-point road dog at Oklahoma.
LSU is a 31-point favorite at home against Louisiana-Monroe.
Texas A&M is a 29-point favorite at home against Rice.
Alabama is a 41-point favorite at home against Southern Miss.
#3 ALABAMA: Alabama is still trying to find the right mix on the offensive line. The right guard position is unsettled with both Leon Brown and Alphonse Taylor trying to earn the start. Brown started the West Virginia game but gave way to Taylor after he committed three penalties.
ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks, who are averaging 324 rushing yards per game and an outstanding 9.39 yards per carry through two games, are hoping they can control the ball on the ground to offset Texas Tech’s passing game. The Red Raiders are averaging 365 passing yards per game and 8.7 yards per pass attempt. Overall, they average 570 yards per game and 7.70 yards per play. While the Red Raiders are averaging 74 plays per game, Arkansas averages 57.
#5 Auburn: Bad news for defensive coordinators around the SEC and the nation. As fast as Auburn runs its offense, head coach Gus Malzahn knows it can go much faster and be much more productive. Through its first two games, Auburn snapped the ball with 31 seconds remaining on the play clock and averages 2.47 plays per minute with the goal of a minimum of three snaps per minute. “Really, I’m hoping in the future that we’ll get faster,” Malzahn said.
#6 GEORGIA: Asked what kind of game he expects Saturday when the Bulldogs travel to Columbia to face South Carolina, head coach Mark Richt said, “I’ve got a feeling this game could get a little bloody. I think both teams are tough physically and I think both teams have backs that can pound. I know both teams know how to throw and catch, there’s no doubt about that but before it’s over it might get down to a little bit of a fist fight” ... Receivers Jonathan Rumph, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are all out for Saturday’s game. Speaking about the depth at the position, Richt said, “It’s a little shaky now. We better keep recruiting. I can tell you that.”
KENTUCKY: Off to a 2-0 start that has everybody talking about how much improved the Wildcats are this year, head coach Mark Stoops is doing his best to avoid talking about Kentucky’s 27-game losing streak to the Gators. “It’s not something I want to put in front of them. We’re pretty motivated already.”
#10 LSU: LSU’s defense hasn’t given up a point in its last 19 possessions, not since the third quarter of the season opener against Wisconsin. One reason the defense is playing so well has been the play of Danielle Hunter, who shifted from end to tackle and already has 14 tackles including 2.5 for loss. In the secondary, Dwayne Thomas has taken charge with 12 tackles including 1.5 for loss, a half sack, one interception, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Jack Cristil, who called Mississippi State football and basketball for 58 years from 1953 to 2011 has passed away. He was 88 years old. Cristil, John Ferguson (LSU), Larry Munson (Georgia) and Cawood Ledford (Kentucky) were broadcast legends in the era when radio ruled college football and there weren’t 40 or more games on television each weekend ... Dan Mullen is trying to patch up a defense that allowed 548 yards including 435 through the air against UAB.
#20 MISSOURI: Stopping big plays on the ground is the focus of the Missouri defense this week. The Tigers gave up a 75-yard run in game one against South Dakota State and gave up four runs of 16 yards or longer including a 45-yard touchdown run against Toledo.
#13 OLE MISS: Freshman offensive lineman Christian Morris won his eligibility appeal with the NCAA. Now it’s a matter of getting him ready to play on an offensive line that certainly needs depth ... After a game in which he threw three interceptions, Bo Wallace bounced back with more than 300 yards passing and no picks against Vandy, prompting head coach Hugh Freeze to say, “Bo Wallace had one of his better games since we’ve been here. He made very few mistakes and his receivers played well.”
#24 SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks are in a must win situation Saturday when they host Georgia. Lose and they start the SEC schedule in an 0-2 hole that is next to impossible to dig out of. “We’re believing we can play a lot better but we need to go do it on the field and this would be a good week to show it,” said head coach Steve Spurrier ... Spurrier hopes the lessons learned in weeks one and two will show in week three with improved play. “We’re coaching as hard as we can – offense, defense, special teams – and hopefully it will start coming together,” Spurrier said.
TENNESSEE: Wide receiver Von Pearson is out for Saturday’s game against Oklahoma in Norman and right end Ethan Wolf is questionable. Pearson, who has seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown, has a high ankle sprain, while Wolf, who has caught eight passes for 46 yards, has a bruised knee.
#7 TEXAS A&M: The city of College Station has dropped a disorderly conduct charge against receiver Ricky Seals-Jones, citing insufficient evidence. Seals-Jones was cited for allegedly shouting obscenities outside a College Station bar back in the spring. His attorney says that he was provoked by an intoxicated person who bumped into him. Seals-Jones has caught eight passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns so far this season.
VANDERBILT: Head coach Derek Mason has once again opened up the quarterback competition. Patton Robinette got the start in game one but was yanked early and Stephen Rivers and Johnny McCrary finished. Rivers played the whole game against Ole Miss but wasn’t impressive. Now Mason is going to decide who starts at the end of this week. Vandy is averaging 5.0 points per game two games into the season.
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon: His performance against #7 Michigan State (318 passing yards and three TDPs plus 42 rushing yards) moved him past Todd Gurley into the top position. If Oregon stays unbeaten he could stay at the top of the Heisman heap. The stats so far are 585 passing yards, six TDs (no picks) and 85 rushing yards (5.7 per carry) and a TD.
2. Todd Gurley, Georgia: He dropped a spot but only because Georgia didn’t play last week. He can make a statement with a rip and shred performance against South Carolina. He has 198 rushing yards for three TDs and a 100-yard kickoff return so far.
3. Jameis Winston, Florida State: Through two games he hasn’t played anywhere close to the level he played last year, but he’s got an ACC schedule ahead, which means a lot of games against subpar opponents that will allow him to pad the stats. The stats so far are 654 passing yards and three touchdowns and 11 rushing yards for another TD. Not great but not bad either.
4. Taysom Hill, BYU: What’s not to like about this guy? He has passed for 489 yards and three touchdowns and run for 196 and five more through two games. He’s got two wins on the road (UConn and Texas) already and a schedule that almost shouts unbeaten season. He could pass for 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000.
5. Kenny Hill, Texas A&M: His coming out party against South Carolina has everybody raving about his maturity. He’s got six games against SEC West competition that can work for him or work against him. If he plays great against the likes of LSU, Auburn and Alabama he’s a legitimate contender. But those teams are good, better than South Carolina so bombing isn’t totally out of the question at this point. He has thrown for 794 yards, seven TDs and no picks.
ESPN.com’s experts have come out with their week three bowl projections with the Florida Gators taking a step up in prestige after an opening game win over Eastern Michigan. Last week the experts foresaw the Gators in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, but this week it’s the Outback Bowl against either Ohio State or Nebraska. The experts foresee only one SEC team in the national semifinals – Georgia – and it’s a split decision for defending champ Florida State. One of the experts sees the Seminoles in the Rose Bowl vs. Georgia in a national semifinal while the other sees the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl against Texas A&M.Alabama: Vs. Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl or vs. Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl
Auburn: Vs. Cincinnati or Marshall in the Peach Bowl
Florida: Vs. Ohio State or Nebraska in the Outback Bowl
Georgia: Vs. Oregon or Florida State in the Rose Bowl (National semifinal)
LSU: Vs. USC in the Fiesta Bowl or Ohio State in the Capital One Bowl
Mississippi State: Vs. Pitt in the Music City Bowl or Clemson in the Belk Bowl
Missouri: Vs. TCU or Kansas State in the Texas Bowl
Ole Miss: Vs. Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl or Texas Tech in the Liberty Bowl
South Carolina: Vs. Wisconsin or North Carolina in the TaxSlayer (Gator) Bowl
Tennessee: Vs. Iowa in the Music City Bowl or Duke in the Belk Bowl
Texas A&M: Vs. Florida State in the Sugar Bowl or Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl
Based on what you’ve seen so far, who would you project as the four teams that make the first college football playoff?
I started listening to Randy Newman when I was working at the old Record Bar on West University Avenue after school back in the 1960s. He was known primarily known as a songwriter back then when he was writing music for Dusty Springfield, Wilson Picket, Three Dog Night, Manfred Man, Paul Simon and Peggy Lee, among others, but I was really attracted to the depth of his lyrics. Long before there was “Short People” or “Mama Told Me Not to Come” there was “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” from his debut album “Randy Newman.” That song has been covered by Bobby Darin, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Peggy Lee, Dusty Springfield, Nina Simone, Neil Diamond, Helen Reddy, Mama Cass Eliot, Ricky Nelson, Norah Jones, Barbra Streisand, UB40, Peter Gabriel and Joe Cocker among others. It’s a song I never tire of hearing.