October is here and as we look back, we can say this certainly wasn’t a September to Remember for the Florida Gators. Their season opener with Idaho was wiped out due to a torrential rainstorm and they lost the game everyone figured they would lose, although by a much larger than anticipated margin. So what have we learned in five weeks?
1. New coordinator, faster tempo, new formations similar offensive results: Losing that Idaho game might have taken a bigger toll than any of us could imagine because there wasn’t a game to work the kinks out. Sure, the Gators looked invincible against Eastern Michigan, but a homeless shelter would be favored by two touchdowns against that defense. Instead of EMU being the work the kinks out second game, the Gators had to make adjustments on the fly against an SEC team in game two and it showed with a stinky first half. The second half and overtime periods against Kentucky looked promising but it was at least two steps backward against Alabama. In the last eight quarters of regulation football the Gators have scored 41 points or 20.5 points per game. They averaged 18.8 last year. Still a work in progress.
2. The secondary has more holes than anticipated: The last thing anyone expected was breakdowns in the secondary since that’s Will Muschamp’s personal play toy, but after giving up 814 passing yards and a slew of touchdowns in the last two games the secondary is a mess. But maybe it should be. Cody Riggs is starting at Notre Dame. Louchiez Purifoy is the nickel for Indianapolis in the NFL and Marcus Roberson has the same job for St. Louis. Jaylen Watkins plays as much as any starter in the Philadelphia secondary. Does anyone doubt the UF secondary would be really special if Purifoy, Roberson and Riggs were still in school and starting alongside Vernon Hargreaves III? Muschamp has some talent to work with but he’s got to find the right combination in a hurry.
3. Thunderfoot is back but field goals are an adventure: The snakes that inhabited Kyle Christy’s head are gone and now he’s flipping the field just about every time he punts. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Gators are in trouble if they have to depend on a field goal to win a game. Frankie Velez has limited range and who knows what is going to happen when Austin Hardin’s foot strikes the ball?
4. Jeff Driskel still holds the football too long: Muschamp says Driskel gives the Gators the best chance to win. Most folks would feel a whole lot better about their quarterback if he didn’t hold the ball so darn long, hit an occasional deep ball and didn’t stare down receivers. Driskel runs hot and cold. He can be near brilliant as he was in the second half and overtime against Kentucky and he can look like a lost ball in the tall grass as he did against Alabama.
5. The next four games will determine the season: When the season began everyone figured the Gators would walk over Tennessee beat rebuilding LSU and Missouri at home and then go into the Georgia game battling for the top spot in the SEC East. Now all four games have a foreboding look about them. That’s not to say the Gators can’t go 4-0 – stranger things have happened – but 0-4, while not probable, is indeed possible. Somehow, the Gators need to come out these next four with no worse than a 3-1 record.
#3 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC): There are no quarterback issues. Blake Sims is in complete charge and the offense is seriously explosive. There are still a few holes to patch but Bama is starting to look like a team that can win the national championship.
The Crimson Tide is a 7-point favorite on the road at Ole Miss.
Arkansas (3-2, 0-2 SEC): The Razorbacks are vastly improved, but they still might go 0-6 against the SEC West. If they were in the SEC East they would be serious challengers to make it to Atlanta. If not for Todd Gurley, Alex Collins might be the best running back in the league.
The Razorbacks are idle this week.
#5 Auburn (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Surprisingly, it’s the defense that has been the most consistent. The offense isn’t hitting on all cylinders yet but it’s still good enough to scare the bejabbers out of every defensive coordinator in the league. Nick Marshall
Auburn is an 8-point favorite at home against LSU.
#13 Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Hutson Mason at quarterback is an ongoing issue and the secondary can’t cover anyone. The solution might be to feed Todd Gurley and let him control games but the offensive coordinator seems to have issues with giving Gurley the ball more than 20 times per game.
The Bulldogs are 33-point favorites at home against Vanderbilt.
Kentucky (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Because the Wildcats play in the SEC East, they’ve got a chance to win enough games to go to a bowl game. They’re much improved over last season, particularly on the offensive side where Patrick Towles is quite the improvement over the three who tried to play quarterback last year.
The Wildcats are 6-point home underdogs to South Carolina.
#15 LSU (4-1, 0-1 SEC): Now that Les Miles has turned the offense over to Brandon Harris the LSU offense could be scary good. He’s got lots of weapons to choose from. If the defense can play better than it did against Mississippi State the Tigers could be in the hunt for the SEC West title.
The Tigers are 8-point road dogs at Auburn.
#12 Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC): September told us the Bulldogs are (a) good enough to be taken very seriously and (b) have a quarterback (Dak Prescott) who would win the Heisman with some big wins in October and November. If the Bulldogs knock off Texas A&M Saturday then they are very real and very, very dangerous.
The Bulldogs are a 2-point favorite at home against #6 Texas A&M.
#24 Missouri (4-1, 1-0 SEC): The Tigers would be lucky to win a game against the SEC West. Lucky for them they play in the SEC East where they might be good enough to beat all their division opponents. Defensive end Shane Ray might be better than Michael Sam and Kony Ealy.
The Tigers are idle this week.
#11 Ole Miss (4-0, 1-0 SEC): The offense has problems hanging onto the ball, but the defense might be the best in the SEC. The Rebels will learn just how far they’ve come and how far they have to go Saturday when Alabama comes to town. The Rebels might have the best two linemen in the league, one on offense (Laremy Tunsil) and one on defense (Robert Nkemdiche).
The Rebels are 7-point home dogs to Alabama.
South Carolina (3-2, 2-2 SEC): If the Gamecocks could play defense like they did for more than 50 minutes against Missouri then they can win the SEC East. If they can’t then every game is going to be an adventure. Look for Steve Spurrier to go old school and try to shorten games by playing keep away by handing the ball off to Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds so they can run behind that monstrous offensive line and chew up clock.
The Gamecocks are 6-point favorites on the road at Kentucky.
Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC): The defense is good enough to give the Vols a chance to win games against SEC East teams. If Justin Worley can (a) stay healthy and (b) remember to throw the ball to the people who wear the same color shirt he’s wearing then they could go bowling at the end of the year.
The Vols are 3-point favorites at home against Florida.
#6 Texas A&M (5-0, 2-0 SEC): The Aggies looked like world beaters against South Carolina. For three quarters against Arkansas they looked like a team from the SEC East. Kenny Hill needs to play like he did in the fourth quarter against Arkansas. The Aggies go to Starkville Saturday, a place where championship dreams can die.
The Aggies are a 2-point road dog at Mississippi State.
Vanderbilt (1-4, 0-3 SEC): After three years of bliss, it’s back to the reality of the basement. Vanderbilt has too many troubles to document in this space, but they do have a stud in outside linebacker/pass rusher Caleb Azubike. Now if they could only find a quarterback.
The Commodores are 33-point road dogs at Georgia.
This is how ESPN.com’s two experts see the bowls:Independence Bowl: Miami vs. Tennessee
Liberty Bowl: West Virginia vs. Arkansas
Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. LSU or TCU vs. Missouri
Music City Bowl: Missouri vs. Virginia or Tennessee vs. Penn State Belk Bowl: Duke vs. South Carolina or Virginia Tech vs. South Carolina
Peach Bowl: Auburn vs. East Carolina or Mississippi State vs. East Carolina
Fiesta Bowl: Auburn vs. Michigan State
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Alabama or Clemson vs. Texas A&M
Outback Bowl: Nebraska vs. Mississippi State or Ohio State vs. Florida
Cotton Bowl: Baylor vs. Georgia
Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Georgia or Wisconsin vs. Ole Miss
Gator Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Ohio State or LSU vs. Louisville
Birmingham Bowl: Memphis vs. Florida Rose Bowl (National semifinal): Oregon vs. Texas A&M or Oregon vs. Florida State
Sugar Bowl (National semifinal): Florida State vs. Oklahoma or Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Music City Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Florida
Capital One Bowl: Ohio State vs. Missouri
Outback Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Ole Miss
Gator Bowl: Maryland vs. South Carolina
Peach Bowl: Georgia vs. Cincinnati
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Auburn
Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. USC Rose Bowl (National semifinal): Florida State vs. Oklahoma
Sugar Bowl (National semifinal): Alabama vs. Oregon
Tony Barnhart, writing for the Atlanta Journal Constitution in his Mr. College Football column writes:
“I don’t know if it’s the weekly Jameis Winston soap opera or what. But at this moment Florida State does not look like one of the nation’s top four teams.”
The folks who know Jameis Winston best say the FSU quarterback is an embarrassment to his hometown of Hueytown, Alabama according to a story at AL.com. You have to wonder when the students at FSU, residents of Tallahassee and Seminole fans will arrive at the same conclusion … They held a “Fire Dave Brandon” rally at Michigan. CBSSports.com’s Jon Solomon says there were as many media as there were folks who are disenchanted with the Michigan athletic director … Speaking of Michigan, the on again, off again concussion of quarterback Shane Morris is now on again which has caused Michigan president Mark Schlissel to issue an apology for how the school handled the news … Mark Davis, who inherited the Oakland Raiders when dad Al croaked, says he would be amenable to hiring Jon Gruden once again as head coach. Gruden took the Raiders to a 38-26 record from 1998-2001 then left for the Tampa Bay Bucs, who beat his old team in the Super Bowl the next year. All this talk about Gruden is news to Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders’ GM who fired Dennis Allen as coach on Monday. McKenzie says he’ll be the one picking the next head coach … Colors of the day for Oregon Thursday night against Arizona will be black and pink as part of the emphasis of Breast Cancer Awareness Month … Kentucky has suspended four players for Saturday’s game with South Carolina including starters Dorian Baker and Stanley Williams for their participation in a pellet gun incident on campus … North Carolina State head coach Dave Doeren has apologized for claiming FSU faked injuries to slow down his hurry up offense in the fourth quarter last Saturday. Obviously the order to apologize comes from up above. I watched the game and I don’t care what Jimbo says, those guys were faking injuries … Georgia guard Brian Kublanow will not participate Saturday when the Bulldogs play Vanderbilt due to Yom Kippur. It’s not like he’s actually going to miss a football game. It’s Vanderbilt, which is currently a 33-point road dog.
What is your prediction for Florida’s next four games?
From 1980-1991 Huey Lewis and the News produced albums that went platinum and two others that went gold along with three #1 singles and 16 other songs that made it into the top 20 on the charts. They did a soul/doo wop album called “Four Chords and Several Years Ago” album in 1994 then weren’t heard from very much until 2010 when they came out with “Soulsville,” a compilation of 1960s soul songs that made the band relevant again. They play a lot of small venues but they still put on a great show, especially when they do an a capella doo wop segment. This is an a capella doo wop style version of the old Shirelle’s hit “Mama Said.”