These truths we hold to be self-evident:
1. As good as Florida’s defense was against Kentucky, it’s going to have to be a whole lot better in the coming weeks when the Gators play some teams that have better skill people and better offensive lines than the ones they saw Saturday night.
2. The margin of error is so razor thin the Gators can’t continue the special teams blunders. A delay of game erased what would have been a 29-yard field goal that would have given the Gators a 10-3 lead over Kentucky. The blocked field goal on the next play is an inexcusable breakdown in the protection unit. Punting is inconsistent at best and punt coverage has already given up 73 return yards. Remember 2008? The Gators gave up 73 the entire season. They gave up 21 for the entire 2009 season.
3. Antonio Callaway has the speed and talent to become the best Florida wideout in years. He has to (a) get the ball more often and (b) the offensive line has to give Will Grier time to throw the ball down the field. Hit Callaway in full stride in a seam and you have a race to the end zone that he’s probably going to win.
4. At some point the offensive line will grow up and play up to its talent level. Until they do, the offense is going to be an adventure and will require all the funky formations and attempts to bamboozle opposing defenses that can be squeezed out of the devious brains of Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier.
5. The defense can’t continue to give up big plays on third or fourth down. It’s one thing to let someone get three yards on third-and-2 or two yards on fourth-and-1. It’s something altogether different when you give up gains of 17, 33, 12 and 14 yards on third downs and a 20-yard gain on a fourth down.
6. Will Grier gives the Gators the best chance to win games. Treon Harris is a great kid who has done nothing wrong but it’s time to go with a #1 QB and it’s obvious by letting Grier go all the way against UK that the coaches feel his skill set is the best fit with what they’re trying to accomplish. It’s also obvious that Grier has the quicker release and a good feel for when to tuck it and run. Harris has quicker feet but Grier is every bit as instinctive as a runner.
7. While The Two Jordans might have more speed and bigger upsides at running back, Kelvin Taylor is the only one of the three who can actually pick up a blitz, therefore he’s going to be on the field more often. When Cronkrite and Scarlett (MIA for Kentucky) are on the field, there is a 90% chance the Gators are running the football.
8. Alex McCalister and Jonathan Bullard give the Gators a terrific inside-outside pass rush threat. They are both playing well enough to command a double team and that’s opening up avenues to the passer for Joey Ivie and freshman CeCe Jefferson, who’s going to be a terror off the edge once he figures a few things out.
9. Tennessee is a serious step up in the competition. The Vols are definitely beatable, but they’re good enough both offensively and defensively to beat a team that isn’t fully focused. This has to be Florida’s best practice week of the season and the Gators have to eliminate the silly mistakes if they are to make this 11 straight wins over the Vols.
10. The Gators have to adapt the Al McGuire theory of defense against Tennessee: cut the head off the snake and the snake dies. For the Vols, the head of the snake is quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs is a terrific runner if he breaks containment. The Gators have to get consistent pressure on Dobbs but they can’t over-pursue and allow him to break containment.
WEEK THREE: SEC POWER RANKINGS
(Also includes AP ranking)
1. #3 Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC): A lot of folks who are supposed to know about these things predicted that once Ole Miss played a “real defense,” like the one at Alabama, we wouldn’t be seeing those 70-point games. They were correct. Alabama “held” Ole Miss to 43. The Rebels can score on anyone.
2. #8 LSU (2-0, 2-0 SEC): Is there a better running back anywhere in the country than Leonard Fournette? The last time we saw a man among boys like this playing running back in the SEC his name was Herschel. Fournette ripped and shredded Auburn’s defense for 228 yards and three touchdowns. Wonder how many yards and TDs he would have had if he had played the fourth quarter? Said LSU guard William Clapp, “The scary thing is he keeps improving.”
3. #7 Georgia (3-0, 2-0 SEC): If there were any doubts that Greyson Lambert is Georgia’s #1 QB, they were put to rest against South Carolina where Lambert hit 24-25 passes for 330 yards and three TDs. Nick Chubb got 159 to make it 11 straight games with more than 100 yards. He surpassed 2,000 yards for his career. Only Herschel did it faster. Georgia still hasn’t played anyone. The Bulldogs get D1AA Southern U this week then they go to Tuscaloosa where championship dreams could either bloom or die.
4. #14 Texas A&M (3-0, 0-0 SEC): Even with 44 points and 535 yards against Nevada it’s fairly clear the offense still hasn’t figured everything out. The defense took a step backward although Myles Garrett (3.5 sacks) showed why he’s the best pass rusher in the country. At some point these guys will put an entire game together and from that moment on, nobody – no matter what conference they hail from – is going to want to play the Aggies.
5. #12 Alabama (2-1, 0-1 SEC): Five turnovers didn’t help matters at all against Ole Miss. Turnovers can be corrected. Can Alabama correct a defense that has given up 40 or more points in the last three games that really mattered? Hey, wasn’t it just two or three years ago that everyone was claiming Bama DC Kirby Smart was the next genius ready to be unleashed as a head ball coach?
6. Mississippi State (2-1, 0-1 SEC): The only thing that stood between the Bulldogs and a win against LSU in week two was Leonard Fournette. The Bulldogs are young and talented and will only get better as the season goes along. Beating Auburn on the road next Saturday would be a giant step in the right direction.
7. #25 Missouri (3-0, 0-0 SEC): At some point Gary Pinkel has to put Maty Mauk on the bench and go with Drew Lock. As long as Mauck is the QB the offense is going to be inconsistent. There is nothing wrong with Mizzou’s defense, however. They’re only giving up 9.7 points and 217 yards per game.
8. Tennessee (2-1, 0-0 SEC): The Vols like to think of themselves as real contenders for the SEC East championship. Winning the East starts with breaking the 10-game losing streak to the Gators in Gainesville on a day that promises to be hot and muggy. The heat and humidity at The Swamp has always been a problem for the Vols in the past. If it is a problem this year, they’ll lose.
9. Auburn (2-1, 0-1 SEC): In the days leading up to the LSU game, Auburn safety Johnathan Ford said Leonard Fournette “shouldn’t be difficult, not much of a challenge.” What wasn’t difficult or not much of a challenge was Auburn’s defense. When you have a defense that can’t or won’t tackle and add it to an offense with a quarterback who couldn’t read a defense spelled CAT if you spotted him the C, the A and the T, you’ve got a team that will be fortunate to win 7-8 games.
10. Arkansas (1-2, 0-0 SEC): Ever since Bret Bielema complained about the weakness of the Ohio State schedule, Arkansas is 0-2 against unranked teams. The Razorbacks re-discovered their running game (228 yards) but they couldn’t stop Texas Tech on the ground (171 yards) or through the air (315).
11. Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC): The Florida defense is the real deal. Florida’s offensive line is going to be a liability until these young kids grow up. Will Grier is the #1 QB and there is a star in the making in wide receiver Antonio Callaway.
12. Kentucky (2-1, 1-1 SEC): The Wildcats are better than they were last year. That’s for sure. Are they good enough to get to six wins and go to a bowl game? They will only favored in three games the rest of the way (Eastern Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Charlotte) but they’ll have to find another win somewhere to go bowling.
13. South Carolina (1-2, 0-2 SEC): Maybe the only good thing that came out of the loss to Georgia is that Lorenzo Nunez will be the QB for the Gamecocks from here on out. The defense was bad last year. It’s still bad.
14. Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC): The Gamecocks scored 47 points. Sure, it was Austin Peay, which would have difficulty beating a good high school team from Dade County, but at Vandy 47points is 47 points no matter who you score them against. It’s back to reality next week at Ole Miss.
THE AP TOP 25
The top ten:
1. Ohio State
2. Michigan State
(Tie) 3. TCU
(Tie) 3. Ole Miss
6. Notre Dame
10. Florida State
The rest of the top 25: (11) Clemson; (12) Alabama; (13) Oregon; (14) Texas A&M; (15) Oklahoma; (16) Arizona; (17) Northwestern; (18) Utah; (19) Southern Cal; (20) Georgia Tech; (21) Stanford; (22) Wisconsin; (23) BYU; (24) Oklahoma State; (25) Missouri
If I had a vote the top ten would be:
1. Ohio State
2. Ole Miss
6. Michigan State
9. Notre Dame
10. Texas A&M
The rest of my top 25 would be: (11) Alabama; (12) Arizona; (13) Florida State; (14) Oklahoma; (15) Oregon; (16) Clemson; (17) Utah; (18) Georgia Tech; (19) BYU; (20) Wisconsin; (21) Missouri; (22) Northwestern; (23) Stanford; (24) Southern Cal; (25) Mississippi State
RANKING THE CONFERENCES
1. SEC: Only in the SEC could Alabama and Auburn lose on the same day and the conference would still be the strongest in the country. Ole Miss, LSU and Texas A&M all have the look of contenders and it’s too early to write off Alabama. The SEC was 5-1 against non-conference opponents, 0-1 against the power 5.
2. Big 12: TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma have the look of top ten teams. The Big 12 was 5-2 in non-conference games this weekend, 1-1 vs. power 5 schools.
3. Pac-12: Stanford beat Southern Cal, but Stanford is still overrated as was Southern Cal. Oregon can score but the defense gave up four touchdowns and 28 points to Georgia State. Right now, the game to circle on your calendar is next Saturday night when unbeaten UCLA goes to unbeaten Arizona.
4. Big Ten: Ohio State is playing overrated and Michigan State really hasn’t beaten a good team (No, Oregon is not a good team). The rest of the league stinks. The Big Ten was 9-3 in non-conference games, 2-3 against the power 5.
5. ACC: The best three teams in the league are Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Were any of you impressed by those three this past weekend? The ACC was 7-3 in non-conference games this weekend, 3-3 against the power 5.
MATT HAYES SAID IT
Matt Hayes of The Sporting News points out that for all their recruiting prowess, Alabama has problems at quarterback and for the last three years can’t put a defense on the field that can come up big in big games. After the loss to Ole Miss Saturday, Hayes writes:
“So it should come as no surprise that, in another big game, Alabama gave up another 40-spot. You want to blame someone?
Blame Saban’s defense, the one thing that for years was this program’s steady crutch, its sturdy shield. The quarterback should be a caretaker (See: John Parker Wilson, Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron) because the defense would erase any mistakes from the offense.
Now the defense has a caretaker at quarterback (Jake Coker), but the defense can’t stop anyone in a big game. Yes, Alabama had five turnovers – but all five turnovers could have been erased with a stout defense.”
ALL TOO EARLY HEISMAN RADAR
These are my top five contenders:
1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
2. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
4. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
5. Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
One thing that is obvious watching Ohio State so far is that Tim Beck doesn’t have the same feel for the offense as departed O-coordinator and now head coach at Houston Tom Herman. The Buckeyes have turned very predictable and it shows in the way the offense stalls out.
Alabama is looking more and more like a 2-3 loss team, which would mean a third straight season without a national championship for Nick Saban. Do you think Nick’s wanderlust will kick in and he’ll start thinking about a second NFL gig or perhaps the Texas job if the new AD says two years of Charlie Strong is enough?
UCF lost at home to Furman, which tells us that George O’Leary’s sell-by date has expired. George is the interim AD. That is probably the only thing saving the job of the football coach.
When the season began, Bret Bielema was the flavor of the day in Arkansas. Now that he’s lost two straight games to unranked teams and starts the SEC schedule next week against Texas A&M, you have to wonder when the buzzards start circling in Fayette-Nam. If the Hogs post a losing season, the heat on Bielema is going to go from toasty warm to unbearable.
Auburn’s offense is dysfunctional without a running quarterback. Jeremy Johnson makes terrible decisions and isn’t a very good runner. If Gus Malzahn had a QB who could pose a running threat Johnson would be sitting the bench. If backup Sean White could run he would have been playing QB all along.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Does Florida’s win over Kentucky offer you encouragement for the rest of the season or have too many holes been exposed?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I discovered the band Moon Taxi when they were opening for a Tedeschi Trucks Band concert. The band has done three albums including a 2013 release, “Mountains Beaches Cities.” Their newest album “Daybreaker” is scheduled for release on October 2. This is a really good club band that stays on the road about half the year and will eventually make it to a club near you. You’ll get your money’s worth. Today’s music is a live concert performance by Moon Taxi at The Blackheart in 2013.