Can the Florida Gators do the unthinkable and come away from Tuscaloosa, Alabama with a win this weekend? The answer is yes. Winning in Tuscaloosa certainly isn’t probable, but it’s not impossible. Since Nick Saban took over as head coach in 2007, Alabama has lost six home games including one to Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt Conference. Yes, that was 2007, Saban’s first year and the Crimson Tide wasn’t very good, but even in a bad year, Alabama should never lose to a team from the Sun Belt.
Last year, Auburn beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In both 2011 and 2012, both national championship seasons, Alabama’s only losses (one each year) came in Tuscaloosa. LSU did it in 2011 and Texas A&M did it in 2012. The LSU game was a defensive struggle (LSU won, 9-6) and the Texas A&M game was a shootout (the Aggies won, 29-24, behind Johnny Football). The common thread in these last three losses is that none of the teams that sprung the upset on the road played a perfect game.
So nix the idea that the Gators have to play a perfect game to beat Alabama. Sure, it would help, but it’s not exactly a necessity. The five keys to beating Alabama are Tuscaloosa is (1) winning the turnover battle; (2) keeping Alabama’s offense in front of the safeties; (3) winning first down both offensively (4-5 yards gained) and defensively (3 or fewer yards); (4) converting in the red zone; and (5) avoiding big mistakes in the fourth quarter.
Even if the Gators accomplish all five goals, they could still lose this game, but if they win the five keys, they’ll have a chance to do the unthinkable.
Last Week: 10-1
Year to date: 31-1
#3 Alabama (3-0, 0-0 SEC) over Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC): Multiple choice question: Was Florida (1) looking ahead to Alabama last week; (2) not nearly as good as everyone thought or (3) Kentucky is simply better than anyone could have expected. These and other questions will be answered Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Nobody really expects the Gators to win, but they definitely need to at least make it a respectable – perhaps even close – game. Of course, we could ask a multiple choice question of Alabama, too. Is Alabama (1) overrated, which seems entirely possible based on what we saw against West Virginia in the season opener or (2) simply playing bored until there is a team capable of challenging them?
Arkansas (2-1, 0-1 SEC) over Northern Illinois (3-0): Everyone is talking about how improved the Hoggies are but are they really? Auburn could have scored a whole lot more than 45 on Arkansas in game one and there are two wins over a D1AA bottom feeder and a Texas Tech team with the worst defense in the Big 12. Northern Ill already has a win over a Power Five conferences team (Northwestern) on the road and isn’t going to be intimidated by “Whoooo pig! Sooey!” Arkansas should win. Emphasis on should. Northern Ill could. Emphasis on could.
Georgia (1-1, 0-1 SEC) over Troy (0-3): This might be the worst possible game for Georgia. Oh, the Bulldogs are going to win without breaking a sweat (they’re 42-point home faves) but they are so superior that they won’t do what they need to do, which is get in the habit of pounding Todd Gurley until the opponent sues for peace and offers up acceptable terms of surrender.
#8 LSU (3-0, 0-0 SEC) over Mississippi State (3-0, 0-0 SEC): Mississippi State is 1-14 against LSU, Alabama and Auburn in the last five years, 38-14 against everybody else. If Dan Mullen is ever going to break through against the upper echelon of the SEC West, then this is going to have to be the year. Meanwhile, those rumors that LSU was too young and too inexperienced this year? Well, forget about them. This one might prove closer than the 10-point spread Vegas forecasts, but LSU should win.
#18 Missouri (3-0, 0-0 SEC) over Indiana (1-1): Missouri quietly gets better every week. Of course, it’s easy to get better when you haven’t played anybody. Indiana is a nobody with a coach who’s counting the days until he gets pink slipped. Mizzou should win this by more than the 14-point Vegas line.
#14 South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) over Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC): We won’t know when this one is over if South Carolina’s defense has actually improved or if Vandy’s offense is actually that putrid. To lose this one would be the ultimate embarrassment for Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. They won’t lose but they might play bored, which will infuriate Stevie Wonder all the more.
June Jones, SMU: He’s gone and Houston Nutt wants the job.
Ron Turner, Florida International: Ron Turner is the poster child for FIU’s inept athletic department. They fired Mario Cristobal, who built the program and got them to a bowl game and hired Turner who is turning the Golden Panthers into college football’s version of a Third World country.
Charlie Weis, Kansas: If they fire Charlie, they’ve got to pay him the full amount of the rest of this year and the next two years. Charlie has a sharp lawyer. Just ask Notre Dame. He needs some sharp football players because there’s a really good chance the Jayhawks are going to lose to a MAC team (Central Michigan) this week.
Brady Hoke, Michigan: On paper, Michigan should beat Utah this weekend in Ann Arbor. Oh, if only games were played on paper, then Brady Hoke would have no worries. Games are played on the field, however, and that’s where Brady has a problem. Win this week and he’s still endangered. Lose and he’s On Life Support.
Tim Beckman, Illinois: Last week when the Fighting Illini lost to Washington, 44-19, Beckman praised his team for winning the second half, 7-6. I’m not making this up. He should beat Texas State of the Sun Belt this week, but if he doesn’t he could be on the Extinct Species list or at least On Life Support next week.
Bob Davie, New Mexico: They long for the good old days of 6-6 in Albuquerque. A 6-6 this season would be a miracle of feeding the 5,000 proportions. If the Lobos can’t beat archrival and fellow bottom feeder New Mexico State this week then it’s only a matter of time before Bob and his realtor start trying to come up with a good price to put his home on the market.
Kevin Wilson, Indiana: Last week the Hoosiers lost at home to Bowling Green of the MAC. This week they will lose to Missouri in Columbia. Wilson will probably be On Life Support next week and the Dead Man Walking list a couple of weeks later.
Larry Blakeney, Troy: He just got the dreaded vote of confidence. Now all he has to do to make everybody happy is beat Georgia in Athens on Saturday.
Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia: Holgorsen has a huge buyout, which works in his favor. Now, if he can get the Mounties to at least scare the bejabbers out of Oklahoma this week, the pressure will ease off. Until the next loss.
Randy Edsall, Maryland: The folks in College Park and the alums don’t like him, but he’s got a huge buyout and that’s the only thing saving him. The drumbeat to send him packing will get loud this week when the Turtles travel to Syracuse.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska: About the only way Bo is ever going to make the Nebraska fans like him is to run the table. If he loses Saturday night to Miami to fall from the unbeaten ranks, Husker fans will be threatening a tractorcade to bring Lincoln traffic to a standstill unless they bring in a coach who can at least win at a 90% clip. So far, Bo is a mere 61-24. If those aren’t credentials for firing then I don’t know what is. Please note the sarcasm.
Willie Taggart, South Florida: When folks are talking about how good they had it when Skip Holtz was coaching, then you know you’re in trouble. If USF can’t beat UConn this week in Tampa, then Taggart will move on up to the Endangered Species List.
Based on the last couple of months, you would think that the NFL is suddenly overrun by brainless, entitled thugs who think nothing of smacking a woman around or taking it out on a child or driving drunk or under the influence of some drug. Well, fact is, the NFL has been overrun by these types for years now. Why we’re hearing so much about them now is that there is a heightened awareness of domestic violence, child abuse and misuse of drugs and we have media organizations like TMZ that somehow come up with video and other evidence and get it viral in a hurry through social media platforms. The problems are nothing new, but the awareness that these problems exist is, hence the sudden outrage.
For an organization with an obvious image problem, you would think the NFL is doing everything it can to clean things up such as perhaps finding a team and a place for one Tim Tebow, now doing his work for the SEC Network and Good Morning America. The NFL is in serious need of a squeaky clean poster child and there isn’t one squeakier or cleaner than Tim. And consider this: There are 30 teams in the NFL, each of which carries three quarterbacks on its roster, two active and one emergency. You can’t convince me that there are 30 emergency quarterbacks better than Tebow. You can’t convince me that there are 30 backups better than Tebow. In fact, you can’t convince me that there are 30 starting quarterbacks better than Tebow.
So why isn’t Tim on an NFL roster? The excuse that has been allowed to filter out to the media is that he’s a distraction. You mean Tim being a Christian and living a wholesome lifestyle is a distraction and having a running back who beats his kids with a tree branch until they bleed isn’t? Or Tim being a guy who gives of his time and supports charities and faith-based initiatives is a distraction and a running back who breaks his wife’s nose with a head butt isn’t?
Another excuse is that Tim doesn’t throw a pretty pass. Have you seen some of the ducks thrown by Josh McKown, the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Bucs? McKown, by the way, has never won an NFL playoff game. Well, actually, he’s never even started an NFL playoff game. Tim Tebow is 1-1 as a starting quarterback in the NFL playoffs. That’s an equal or better record than the following: Jay Cutler, T.J. Yates, Matt Schaub, Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Matt Cassel, Nick Foles, Matt Stafford, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton. It’s also a better playoff record than NFL legends Jim Hart, John Hadl, Charlie Conerly, Roman Gabriel, Bert Jones, Bobby Hebert and Y.A. Tittle, none of which ever quarterbacked a playoff win.
If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is serious about changing the image of the NFL, then he desperately needs to make sure players like Tim Tebow are given a fair shot. If he wants the public perception to be that the thugs of the league are the exception and not the rule, then he needs to get on the horn and tell the 30 NFL teams that their blacklist – yes, it’s real – of Tim Tebow has to end. Today.
Put yourself in Roger Goodell’s shoes. What would you do to clean up the NFL’s image?
There is a lot of good music coming out of the state of Alabama lately but St. Paul and the Broken Bones might be the band that is going to make the most noise in the future. They have a unique sound for these days and times, but if it seems familiar then think back to the 1960s and the music that was coming out of Muscle Shoals. Lead vocalist Paul Janeway has one of the best R&B voices in music today and he’s got a nice horn section to back him up. The band will be playing the Bear Creek Music Festival (definitely worth seeing) in Live Oak on November 16. They will be playing the old Beecham Theater in downtown Orlando on January 15. This is “Call Me” from their “Half the City” album that was released back in February.