1. IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN A DIFFERENT STORY IF: Two very reliable sources have confirmed that Treon Harris would have started the LSU game if not for the five days lost while the sexual assault allegations played out. LSU wasn’t playing anywhere close defensively to the level we saw Saturday night and given the way the Gators play when Harris is the starter, you have to wonder what might have been. Even without Harris the Gators should have beaten LSU. Had he played against LSU and led Florida to a win, you have to think the Gators wouldn’t have laid such an egg against Missouri the next week.
2. VANDY STACKED THE BOX TO STOP THE RUN: The Commodores made a calculated gamble that they could throttle the Florida run game and force Treon to make plays to beat them. They showed every kind of blitz imaginable to get people in the gaps to throttle the running game and to pressure Harris when he threw the ball, all with mixed results. The running game was curtailed early on but as the game wore on, the Gators picked up yards by pounding away. As for the disruption of the passing game, it never happened because the kid showed remarkable pocket presence. He wasn’t fazed when sacked twice and didn’t throw anything close to an interception. When allowed to take the ball downfield, he showed poise and touch. The Commodores wanted to force Treon to beat them and he did.
3. BETTER TO BITE YOUR TONGUE: To paraphrase a passage in The Bible, It’s better to bite your tongue and have people think you might be a fool than to speak and leave no doubt whatsoever. By now, Leon Orr probably wishes he had stuck a sock in his mouth because he’s (a) off the team and (b) had to ride home on a Greyhound while his victorious teammates flew to Gainesville on a charter plane.
4. MUSCHAMP IS OUTSTANDING WHEN IT COMES TO DISCIPLINE: You can argue until the cows come home about the areas of coaching that Will Muschamp needs to improve, but there is no arguing his approach to discipline. It is no nonsense, Will’s way or the highway and the results have been close to spectacular. While they can’t go a day in Tallahassee worrying who’s going to embarrass the school and force Jimbo Fisher into another arrogant, disingenuous defense of his collection of thugs, Muschamp runs a tight ship in which the players know if they don’t meet his standards and represent the University of Florida in a first class manner they’ll be gone.
5. SCORCHING HOT: While Mississippi State and Florida State are both unbeaten and hold the top two positions in the polls, you could make a case that the three hottest teams in the country are Oregon, TCU and Ohio State. All three played what were deemed showdown games heading into the weekend and all three came away with decisive wins that elevate them into the national championship playoff picture. All three have a common denominator – outstanding quarterback play. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is everybody’s Heisman leader but he’s no hotter than TCU’s Trevone Boykin or Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.
6. THE PLAYOFFS HAVE ACTUALLY BEGUN: Supporters of the BCS claimed the regular season would be rendered irrelevant by a playoff, but that notion has been proven false. Saturday, Auburn, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Kansas State were all eliminated from contention. This week, the games to watch are Mississippi State and Alabama and Florida State at Miami. Should Mississippi State win, Alabama will be eliminated as a contender. If Miami can spring the upset, Florida State can forget making the playoffs. A one-loss team from the ultra-weak ACC will probably be left out of the playoff picture if the choices are a one-loss TCU or Baylor from the Big 12, a one-loss Oregon or Arizona State from the Pac-12 and a one-loss Ohio State from the Big Ten.
7. BIG TROUBLE IN CHAPEL HILL: If former Gator offensive coordinator Larry Fedora has a functioning brain, he will bail on North Carolina as quickly as possible. Fedora inherited a real mess and has done an admirable job of piloting the football program through a maze of NCAA sanctions, but the latest findings of academic improprieties that date back 18 years ago are going to bring down the NCAA hammer. Fedora is too good a coach to have to deal with what’s coming. And, Carolina’s basketball program is certain to take a major hit now that there is proof positive all five starters from the 2005 national championship team took sham courses. It’s hard to imagine Roy Williams was unaware.
1. MISSISSIPPI STATE (9-0, 5-0 SEC): Dan Mullen gave Alabama plenty to think about this week by throwing in several new looks and gadget plays in the win over D1AA UT-Martin. If Mississippi State can beat Alabama on the road this weekend, the Bulldogs will only need a win over Vanderbilt to finish as the only SEC West team without two losses.
2. ALABAMA (8-1, 5-1 SEC): Everybody wondered what would happen the first time Blake Sims had to make the plays to win a game. Wonder no more. Bama doesn’t get to overtime if Sims isn’t the picture of calm and know where to go with the football. In overtime, he threw the perfect fade to DeAndrew White for the win to set up this week’s showdown for the SEC West marbles with Mississippi State.
3. Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2 SEC): Hugh Freeze and the Rebels will spend the next year looking back and wondering what might have been. They are seven points away from unbeaten and perhaps what would have gone down as the greatest football showdown in the history of the state. Ole Miss can still finish strong and post the best season since the 60s, but it could have been so much better.
4. LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC): Think of the overtime loss to Alabama Saturday night as another day at the learning lab for the Tigers. They won’t be losing games like that next year when the kids are sufficiently grown up and LSU is on everyone’s national championship radar. They’re good this year. They will be exceptional next season.
5. AUBURN (7-2, 4-2 SEC): Dumb penalties, defensive meltdowns and fumbles at crunch time took the Tigers out of the national championship picture. The Tigers will still have a say in who wins both the SEC East and West. If they beat Georgia, they take the Bulldogs out, and if they win the Iron Bowl they can take out Alabama. If you can’t win a championship, then that’s not a bad consolation.
6. Texas A&M (7-3, 3-3 SEC): Kenny Hill returns to the Aggies after a two-game disciplinary suspension. There is every good chance he will ride the pine the rest of the way because the Aggies have found their QB of the future in freshman Kyle Allen, who threw four TDPs in the win at Auburn. Now that the Aggies have spoiled Auburn’s season, they have a chance to spoil Missouri’s this week.
7. GEORGIA (7-2, 5-2 SEC): Georgia’s chances of getting to Atlanta come down to stopping Auburn’s running game Saturday in Athens. If the Bulldogs can stop the Tigers and come away with a win, they’ll probably win the SEC East because there’s no way Missouri is going to go 3-0 down the stretch. In Georgia’s favor for Saturday: Todd Gurley returns from his four-game suspension.
8. MISSOURI (7-2, 4-1 SEC): The good news for the Tigers is they lead the SEC East and only need to win the next three games to repeat as division champs. The bad news is the three-game gauntlet remaining of roadies to Texas A&M and Tennessee and a season-ender with Arkansas reeks of two or three losses.
9. FLORIDA (5-3, 4-3 SEC): In the last two weeks the Gators have gone from a team heading nowhere fast to shaping up to be the team everybody thought they would be when the season began. Win Saturday against South Carolina and Florida has done its part to stay in the SEC East race. The Gators still need some help in the form of one Georgia loss and two Missouri losses, but it’s the SEC and stranger things have happened.
10. ARKANSAS (4-5, 0-5 SEC): The Hogs have lost 18 straight SEC games. For all the talk about how much they have improved this season, they’re on the verge of a second straight reverse run of the SEC table with LSU, Ole Miss and a roadie to Missouri still on the schedule.
11. TENNESSEE (4-5, 1-4 SEC): The Vols found the right quarterback at just the right time. Josh Dobbins is going to give Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt fits the next three weeks. Expect Tennessee to go bowling.
12. SOUTH CAROLINA (4-5, 2-5 SEC): No one is more disappointed in the Gamecocks this year than Steve Spurrier, who thought he had a team capable of winning the SEC East when the season began. He can’t win the East but he can still spoil seasons for both Florida and Clemson and get the Gamecocks to a bowl game. And once the season is over, he can put in a call for resumes to find a new defensive coordinator.
13. KENTUCKY (5-5, 2-5 SEC): After winning five of their first six, the Wildcats have reverted to their old Kentucky ways. They are the Mildcats once again but a win over either Tennessee or Louisville will get them to a bowl game and that would be a significant sign of progress.
14. VANDERBILT (3-7, 0-6 SEC): The three-year bowl run has come to an end and Vanderbilt has slipped back into its old losing ways. Mississippi State and Tennessee are the final two games and both will have added incentive to pour it on the hapless Dores – Mississippi State to keep its playoff hopes alive and Tennessee to get to a bowl game. Meanwhile Derek Mason has his work cut out to ensure that Vandy doesn’t revert back to its losing is okay ways of the pre-James Franklin years.
(1) Mississippi State; (2) Florida State; (3) Oregon; (4) Alabama; (5) TCU; (6) Baylor; (7) Arizona State; (8) Ohio State; (9) Auburn; (10) Ole Miss; (11) Nebraska; (12) Michigan State; (13) Kansas State; (14) UCLA; (15) Notre Dame; (16) Georgia; (17) Arizona; (18) Clemson; (19) Duke; (20) LSU; (21) Marshall; (22) Wisconsin; (23) Colorado State; (24) Georgia Tech; (25) Utah.
Florida State has won 25 in a row and won the national championship last year, but the unbeaten run and chances to make the playoff may hinge on beating Miami on the road next Saturday. Given the way Duke Johnson is running the ball for Miami and the way Jameis Winston is throwing the ball to the other team (11 picks already), the end of the run at the top could be near for the Seminoles.
(1) Florida State; (2) Mississippi State; (3) Alabama; (4) Oregon; (5) TCU; (6) Ohio State; (7) Baylor; (8) Auburn; (9) Arizona State; (10) Ole Miss; (11) LSU; (13) Arizona; (14) Georgia; (15) UCLA; (16) Kansas State; (17) Duke; (18) Marshall; (19) Clemson; (20) Michigan State; (21) Notre Dame; (22) Wisconsin; (23) Colorado State; (24) Georgia Tech; (25) Texas A&M.
3. Big 12
4. Big Ten
6. Notre Dame
The in crowd:
1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: In the win over Utah, which clinched the Pac-12 North, Mariota threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 114 more with another score. His season numbers are 2,780 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and only two interceptions. On the ground he has picked up 524 yards and eight more touchdowns.
2. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: He had good numbers Saturday – 206 passing yards, two TDPs, 54 rushing yards and a touchdown – but they were against a D1AA team. His Heisman bid comes down to two games, next Saturday against Alabama and two weeks from now against Ole Miss. For the season he has 2,231 yards and 18 touchdowns passing, 779 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing.
3. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: If Wisconsin were a contender for the playoff, then people would be taking more notice of what Gordon is doing. Against Purdue, he had 205 rushing yards for one touchdown and caught three passes for 44 yards and another TD. His season numbers are 1,501 rushing yards for 19 touchdowns (7.6 per carry) and 11 catches for 83 yards and two more TDs.
4. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU: Boykin was spectacular in the showdown win over K-State, throwing for 219 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 123 and three TDs. He has TCU in the national playoff hunt with 2,691 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and only four picks; 546 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
5. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: In Alabama’s overtime win over LSU that kept the Crimson Tide in the national playoff hunt, Cooper had the only Bama touchdown in regulation as part of an 8-catch, 83-yard night. His season numbers are 79 catches for 1,215 yards and 10 touchdowns.
6. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: He destroyed Michigan State with 300 passing yards and three touchdowns along with 86 rushing yards and two more. His season numbers are 2,156 passing yards for 26 touchdowns and 582 rushing yards for another eight TDs. Since the Virginia Tech loss he has thrown 23 touchdown passes and only two picks.
The out crowd:
(1) Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (knee injury and a bad game against Michigan State); (2) Jameis Winston, QB, FSU (already 11 picks against so-so competition and just about as many off the field issues); (3) Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor (bad game on the road at K-State); (4) Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (he could have been a contender); (5) Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall (fantastic numbers but he plays a weak schedule to crowds of 30,000 or less); (6) Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame (too many turnovers).
How would you rate Will Muschamp’s handling of the Leon Orr situation?
It only took Phil Perry 20 years to become an overnight success story in the rhythm and blues music scene. He started out with a group called the Montclairs in 1971, a gig that lasted four years, then spent the next 15 years playing bars and doing background vocals. In 1991 he came out with a terrific album called “The Heart of Man” that featured a remake of the Aretha Franklin hit “Call Me.” Just as Aretha’s version made it to #1 on the R&B charts in 1970, Perry’s version hit #1 in 1991. My favorite song off this album is “Forever.”