Daily thoughts on the Florida Gators and SEC

Some thoughts to jump start your Friday morning.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001 when the unthinkable happened and Muslim extremists crashed two planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and another into the Pentagon?

I can close my eyes and replay that entire morning and much of the next several days as the world as I knew it changed forever. This was Tennessee week and I woke that morning excited that it was one day closer to the annual matchup between the Gators and UT that would decide the SEC East championship in September. In a matter of an hour, football was the last thing on my mind.

As the early morning numbness began to wear off and the reality that terror knows no borders or boundaries began to sink in, I made a call to good friend Gene Bazemore in Orlando. His son, then a top analyst for Prudential, worked in the World Trade Center and as the death toll estimates began to mount, I hoped and prayed that Gene had heard from his son. We talked several times that day but there was no call and no way to get a call through to New York, which was flooded by calls from hundreds of thousands of people trying to find out if friends and loved ones were safe.

As two days became three and three days became four, my friend was living on adrenaline and faith. Finally, five days later, Gene called to tell me the good news. His son was alive all because he had seen a friend on the street on 9/11 and the two of them stopped for coffee since they were early. Their lives were spared but so many of their friends and colleagues died that day. In the years since, I’ve talked to so many people who were deeply affected by 9/11. I’ve talked to husbands who lost a wife, parents who lost a child, brothers and sisters who lost a sibling, best friends who lost the one person who knew them so well. Some of them have managed to piece life together and move on, but others who have tried just can’t let go.

Take a moment when you have it today. Remember those who lost someone they loved on 9/11 and say a prayer for those who wake every day with holes in their hearts. Remember also that freedom is precious. America was attacked that day because the freedom we have is still the envy of a world gone crazy.


Last week Treon Harris got the start at quarterback. This week it’s Will Grier. Who starts really isn’t a big deal at this point in the season. It might be in a few weeks, but for now, Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier have a method to their madness that they really aren’t sharing with the rest of us. If you’re into theories, here are five that might explain the decision:

1. Treon started last week. This week it’s Will’s turn.

2. Will Grier had a better week at practice and earned the start although Treon Harris will play.

3. Will Grier’s dad was the backup QB to Jeff Blake at ECU back in 1991 so McElwain gives Will the start for the sake of nostalgia.

4. McElwain and Nussmeier are still looking for a #1 QB and neither Treon nor Will have separated enough to make that determination.

5. For now at least, McElwain and Nussmeier see a greater benefit from playing two quarterbacks and until having a #1 becomes a necessity, they’ll stick with the two QB system.

Pick your favorite theory. One of them or all of them might be reasonably close to the truth.


Last week: 13-0

Season: 13-0

FLORIDA 33, EAST CAROLINA 17: This is just what the doctor ordered for game two. The Gators had an easy first game win and now they take a step up in competition against East Carolina, which was marching for the tying touchdown in the Birmingham Bowl back in January before Vernon Hargreaves III intercepted Shane Carden in the end zone with 2:08 left in the game. ECU returns its offensive line, a slew of experienced receivers and experience on defense led by tackling machine Zeek Bigger (140 stops last year). Treon Harris got the start and the win in the bowl game last year. This time, Will Grier gets the start but Harris plays. ECU’s offense isn’t as good as last year. Florida’s defense is nearly as good as last year and that will be the difference.

#2 Alabama 55, Middle Tennessee 7: This should be over by halftime. Derrick Henry will look like the second coming of Red Grange and Jacob Coker will have a chance to build upon last week’s efficient start against Wisconsin. If Alabama wins by fewer than six touchdowns it’s an upset. This game is nothing more than Alabama’s tuneup for next week’s SEC headline game with Ole Miss.

#6 Auburn 49, Jacksonville State 7: There are two chances Auburn loses this game – no way and no how. In this glorified scrimmage the goal will be to get Jeremy Johnson untracked in the passing game and for Will Muschamp to get some real game experience for some of his freshmen. Auburn goes to LSU next week. The idea is for no one to get hurt.

#10 Georgia 34, Vanderbilt 3: Some folks are touting this as a “trap game” for Georgia, which plays South Carolina in Athens next week. Some folks drink their own bath water. Georgia could sit Nick Chubb and it still wouldn’t be close. If Georgia hits the 50-point mark, then buzzards will be seen circling over Derek Mason’s Nashville home. 

#14 LSU 27, #25 Mississippi State 23: You can’t win a national championship in September, but you sure can lose one. If LSU loses to Mississippi State, it will be next to impossible to remain in the national championship hunt. The stakes are different for Mississippi State. You would think after five straight bowl games the football program has been validated, but until the Bulldogs regularly knock off ranked teams and win 9-10 games a year, Mississippi State will be thought of as an SEC West bottom feeder. The Bulldogs need this game badly. Heisman hopes are on the line for LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott.

#16 Texas A&M 45, Ball State 14: This is a paycheck game for Ball State. They’re here for the paycheck and will take their beating like men. The Aggies are for real on both sides of the ball. Freshman Christian Kirk is the next Percy in college football. If he touches the ball 10 times he probably gets more than 200 all-purpose yards. The Aggies could reach double figures in sacks.

#17 Ole Miss 38, Fresno State 14: If Ole Miss scores fewer than five touchdowns it’s because the Rebels are looking forward to their trip to Tuscaloosa next week. The goal Saturday is get a bunch of points early and then make sure nobody gets hurt the rest of the way. Question of the game: will Hugh Freeze throw another pass out of the backfield to Robert Nkemdiche?

#18 Arkansas 44, Toledo 12: Last week’s game was too pretty, too much finesse for Bret Bielema. Way too much passing yardage and not enough Ground Hog. Alex Collins might run for 200 yards. If the Hogs hold Toledo to fewer than 10 points that defense is for real.

#19 Oklahoma 41, #23 Tennessee 33: Oklahoma has a really good chance to win this game against Tennessee’s porous defense, but to hear Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker an Oklahoma win will bring the SEC down to the real world. Uh, Eric … this is #19 against #23. It’s not like you’re playing a good team or even an SEC West bottom feeder.

#21 Missouri 33, Arkansas State 17: Why is it that Missouri always looks so beatable in September? Is Gary Pinkel trying to dupe the rest of the SEC into thinking the Tigers aren’t all that good in month one so he can ambush them in October and November? Mizzou will win Saturday. It might not be pretty. And if Drew Lock looks as good as he did last week, Mizzou fans will be talking about a quarterback controversy on Monday.

South Carolina 21, Kentucky 20: If this game were played in Lexington, we’d just flip the score and go with Kentucky. The game is in Columbia and Steve Spurrier rarely takes one on the chin at the Chicken Coop. Spurrier has to play freshman QB Lorenzo Nunez this week. The last thing he wants or needs to do is send out a true freshman for the first time next week in Athens against Georgia.


Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors just gave $3.1 million to Michigan State. “Michigan State means everything to me,” Green said. Former Spartan hoops All-American Steve Smith gave $2.5 million for an academic center for Michigan State athletes and then gave $600,000 to endow a basketball scholarship. When will some of the former Gators decide it’s time to show some appreciation?

Linebacker Mike Freeze is taking “a personal leave of absence” from TCU football. He’s the fourth defensive starter gone for the season, a serious blow to a team playing in one of the best offensive leagues in the country.

Okay, I thought Beth Mowins had no business calling a college football game on television. Then I listened to the Thursday night crew for Fox Sport. Forgive me Beth Mowins. I might prefer the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard to listening to you but compared to the Fox crew, you are the female Keith Jackson.

Yet a sixth Rutgers player has been arrested in connection with home invasions that led to assault charges and dismissal of five other players. This latest arrest coupled with an NCAA investigation that head coach Kyle Flood allegedly tried to influence a professor regarding grades does not bode well for either the program or for Flood.

Okay, so much for distractions. Tom Brady didn’t look like he was the least bit fazed by Deflate-Gate Thursday night when the NFL season opened with the Patriots and Steelers. That looked like the mid-to-late season Brady (25-32, 288 yards, 4 touchdowns) the way he sliced and diced the Pittsburgh defense.

When he was the QB at Florida, Jeff Driskel was handicapped by a bad offensive system and offensive coordinators who were so transparent everybody in the ball yard knew what was coming next. Jeff’s at Louisiana Tech now and while it’s obvious he is playing looser and with less pressure than he ever felt at Florida, he’s handicapped now by Skip Holtz. Driskel had a nice game for Tech in the 41-38 loss to Western Kentucky (357 passing yards, 2 TDs; 55 rushing yards, 1 TD) but did you see those third and short and fourth and short play calls that everybody in the ball yard (especially the Western Kentucky D-coordinator) knew were coming? This was a winnable game that Skip Holtz lost. With six dropped passes, Jeff must have felt like he was still in Gainesville.


Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when America was attacked on 9/11?


I watched the ending of Stephen Colbert’s debut show on CBS earlier in the week with an all-star cast of musicians doing a rather funky version of “Everyday People,” which was first recorded by Sly and the Family Stone back in 1968. Sly Stone’s band combined the rhythm and blues of Motown and Memphis with West Coast funk and it was truly unique. Today’s music is their live performance at the Texas Pop Festival in 1969.

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