The two-quarterback system that Will Muschamp intends to implement against Missouri Saturday night may be exactly what the doctor ordered for a Florida offense that has managed only 538 yards and 37 points the last two games. The Gators do need an infusion of energy and perhaps the combination of the electricity that Treon Harris brings combined with the experience of Jeff Driskel will be the right combination to make the Florida offense work efficiently.
While Florida tinkers with a two-quarterback offense, Missouri’s fate rests on the arm of Maty Mauk. Turning Mauk into a liability is the key to the Gators (3-2, 2-2 SEC) staying alive in the SEC East race while giving Missouri (4-2, 1-1 SEC) serious strikes in its efforts to retain its SEC East title. The Gators definitely need a better offensive effort than they’ve had the last two weeks when they’ve managed only 538 total yards and only 27 points, but whether the offense is proficient or erratic, the outcome Saturday will still be in the hands of the Florida defense.
The Gators and Mauk are no strangers. Last year when James Franklin was injured, Mauk completed 18 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown against a depleted Florida defense. When the Gators couldn’t apply any pressure, Mauk was able to hit the deeper routes that he prefers and the Gators had no answers. With Franklin graduated, Mauk has started every game for the Tigers this season with mixed results. He looked like an All-SEC candidate in the first four games when he threw 14 touchdown passes against the likes of South Dakota State, Toledo, UCF and Indiana, but he’s looked like the worst quarterback in the league the last two when he’s a combined 21-55 for 229 yards with four interceptions and a fumble. Against South Carolina, Mauk was 12-34 for 132 yards, just 65 yards in the first three quarters. The stats are padded a bit because of completions of 41 and 26 yards in the final seven minutes when Missouri rallied to win.
South Carolina took away the 14-17 yard medium routes that Mauk loves to throw, a blueprint that Georgia followed precisely last week when the Bulldogs held Mauk to 9-21 for 97 yards. There were also four completions to the Georgia secondary. Georgia gave Missouri the underneath routes but Mauk ignored them, tried to throw downfield against Georgia’s two-deep and the result was the worst offensive game in years for a Gary Pinkel-coached team.
Given time to throw with little pressure in his face, Mauk can light up any defense in the country. Where he has problems is with teams that get in his face. He’s listed at 6-0 and that’s generous. He has problems seeing over his linemen and once he starts moving his feet he has a tendency to make low percentage throws. He’s hampered by a below average receiving corps that hasn’t shown a willingness to fight for the ball once it’s in the air.
If the Gators come out with a passive defensive plan Saturday night, Mauk is capable of a big game but if they bring the heat with the pass rush and take away the medium to deep routes, the Gators should come up with a winning effort.
It would be nice if the Harris-Driskel combination ignites the offense, but for reasons unknown, offense and the Gators haven’t exactly been best of buds the last three-plus years. So the pressure will be on the defense to produce and that means bringing the heat off the edge and staying assignment sound in the secondary. The key to the pass rush is what’s going on opposite Dante Fowler Jr. With Bryan Cox Jr. and Alex McCallister emerging as legitimate threats, it has opened the door for Fowler to make plays. In the secondary, the Gators can’t afford lapses like the one that LSU converted for a 41-yard gain on third and 25 in the fourth quarter Saturday night. Things should be better against Missouri if Vernon Hargreaves III is back, enabling Brian Poole to play the nickel where he is much more effective. But, whatever communication problems have created blown deep coverage this season have to be resolved this week in practice, because Maty Mauk is stubborn. He’s going to throw the ball down the field and it will be up to the Gators to respond appropriately.
#10 Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC): If Georgia goes 4-0 the rest of the way against the SEC, the Bulldogs will punch their ticket to Atlanta. Easier said than done. The next two games are at Arkansas and Florida in Jacksonville, plus there is a roadie to Kentucky and Auburn in Athens. It’s realistic that Georgia could lose one of those four, but if the Bulldogs beat both Florida and Kentucky they will hold the tiebreaker over Kentucky, Missouri and Florida.
Kentucky (5-1, 2-1 SEC): This is a shocker. Kentucky can write its own ticket for Atlanta. Of course, that would mean winning at Tiger Stadium, springing an upset over Mississippi State and knocking off Georgia, which is highly improbable but stranger things have happened. There are two other SEC games on the agenda – at Missouri and at Tennessee, which are no gimmes. Kentucky could afford to lose one of its SEC games as long as it beats Georgia and Missouri and as long as Florida drops a third SEC contest. The Wildcats are the longest of shots to win the East but would you have thought for even one second that at the midway point of the season Mississippi State is the #1 team in the nation?
Florida (3-2, 2-2 SEC): The Gators will probably be double-digit favorites to beat both Vanderbilt on the road and defense challenged South Carolina in November, which means the critical games are the next two – Missouri at home Saturday and Georgia in Jacksonville in a couple of weeks. Should the Gators beat both Missouri and Georgia, they would hold the tiebreaker over Kentucky, Missouri and Georgia in any tie whether that’s with two SEC losses or three.
Missouri (4-2, 1-1 SEC): Missouri lost its tiebreaker with Georgia last Saturday and could lose its tiebreaker with Florida this week but still win the East if it runs the rest of the table. That’s where things get tricky because the Tigers have home games with Kentucky and Arkansas still on the schedule and a road trip to Texas A&M. Realistically, for Missouri to win the East it has to lose no more than two SEC games and get some help so that Georgia, Florida and Kentucky all have three league losses.
Liberty Bowl: Kansas State vs. South Carolina
Texas Bowl: West Virginia vs. Missouri
Music City Bowl: Minnesota vs. LSU
Belk Bowl: Duke vs. Kentucky
Outback Bowl: Nebraska vs. Ole Miss
Citrus Bowl: Ohio State vs. Alabama
Gator Bowl: Louisville vs. Texas A&M
Birmingham Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Florida
Fiesta Bowl: Southern Cal vs. Auburn
Peach Bowl: Marshall vs. Georgia
Rose Bowl: Baylor vs. Florida State
At some point it gets to you. Just ask Steve Spurrier. Just ask Urban Meyer about what it’s like when winning just isn’t good enough. Nick Saban is the latest SEC football coach to let the pressure get to him. Bama beat Arkansas on the road Saturday, a game in which the Crimson Tide didn’t play particularly well, but at least they won. That wasn’t good enough for the media that follows the Crimson Tide nor was it good enough for fans still reeling from the loss at Ole Miss. They wanted a blowout.
Saban blew up Monday. Speaking to the media in Tuscaloosa, Saban let it all out:
"Everybody's got such a high expectation for what our team should be. I was just happy to see our players be happy about playing a game and winning. Right? And it really, sort of, if you want to know the truth about it, pisses me off when I talk to people that have this expectation like they're disappointed that we only won the game 14-13 and the way we played. Really. That's frustrating. You wanna talk about something that's frustrating? That's frustrating. To me. For our players. Who played with a lot of heart in the game."
Welcome to life at the top, Nick. You created the expectations and now you have to live with them.
As if the pressure of high fan expectations isn’t enough pressure, Saban will be feeling the media heat today when he has to answer questions about sophomore tight end Kurt Freitag, arrested after a search of his Bryant Hall dorm room yielded 112 grams of marijuana and $4,461 in cash. Agents of the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force were tipped off by an informant that Freitag was planning a major drug deal so they intervened.
About the only thing missing Monday when Jimbo Fisher met the media and addressed the mounting evidence that his Heisman Trophy quarterback is a complete and total slug was a recording of the late, great Tammy Wynette’s country music standard “Stand By Your Man.” Despite in-depth reporting by the New York Times, Fox Sports and others that paint a picture that Jameis Winston has gotten favorable treatment and protection from both Florida State and the Tallahassee Police Department, Fisher says Winston has done nothing wrong, which is why he’s going to play Saturday when Notre Dame comes to Tallahassee.
With Fisher, it doesn’t matter that Winston faces an FSU student conduct code hearing regarding the alleged sexual assault of an FSU co-ed, a hearing that could result in Winston being kicked out of school. The case will be heard by one of three former Florida Supreme Court justices rather than students or faculty in an attempt to provide a non-biased adjudicator.
The hearing could establish that Winston indeed assaulted the woman but Fisher dismissed the media reports that Winston has gotten away with a crime: “The facts are the facts. I see stories written that don’t have all the facts and taint them toward their side. This country is based on bing innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent … but there is no victim because there was no crime. We’re [publicly] convicting a guy over things that are not true based on evidence. There is no evidence.”
That might have something to do with the Tallahassee Police Department.
Of course, the hearing isn’t even the latest of Winston’s problems. He is tied to the same autograph broker who played a major role in Georgia’s Todd Gurley getting suspended indefinitely. Gurley, who missed last Saturday’s game with Missouri, has been tied to at least $400 in payments but the investigation continues and could result in missing multiple games, perhaps even the rest of the season. Winston, as you might expect, claims he wasn’t paid for the autographs, that he signed them out of the goodness of his heart.
It’s always that way for Jameis Winston. Any time something goes wrong, Jameis claims youthful ignorance, says he’s sorry and claims he won’t screw up again. That’s the established M.O. Always he is the perpetual victim and always what happened really and truly is somebody else’s fault. And always, there is Jimbo there to defend him.
With Jameis, it’s a case of an arrogant, coddled athlete who has been led to believe he can do anything he wants without consequences. With Jimbo, it’s all about winning, and, of course, the money. In the immortal words of Bobby Bowden, “There’s millions of dollars at stake here.”
Do you expect the Gators will show marked offensive improvement by using a two-quarterback system against Missouri and how much do you expect Treon Harris to play?
Today’s music is dedicated to Famous Jameis. This is “So You Think You’ve Got Troubles,” the 1957 rockabilly hit by the late great Marvin Rainwater. Jameis might think he’s got troubles with the student conduct hearing but the real problem might turn out to be the NCAA, which tends to take a dim view of athletes signing autographs for money. Just ask A.J. Green.TAILGATER Wooden Ice Chest Giveaway