These truths we hold to be self-evident:
1. It is fairly amazing what happens when there is competent coaching on the offensive side of the football.
2. For all the preseason hype about Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss) and A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama), there isn’t a better defensive tackle in the SEC than Jonathan Bullard. He is going to look back on his decision to return for his senior year at UF and laugh all the way to the bank because his draft stock is rapidly trending upward.
3. Ferocious is the only way to describe the way Antonio Morrison plays linebacker. He hits to hurt and is showing the feet of a ballerina the way he maneuvers in traffic to get to the ball carrier. Morrison reminds me of a former University of Miami linebacker named Randy Shannon.
4. Demarcus Robinson finally played a game start to finish with reason and purpose. There was no loafing on plays when the ball went to someone else. He blocked people. He ran the right routes, caught the ball in his hands and then tucked it away and made life hell for whoever was trying to bring him down. If Robinson is playing with that kind of intensity the rest of the season, he’s going to make a lot of plays possible for teammates because he will command so much defensive attention.
5. I said it last week and I’ll say it again. When Robinson, Antonio Callaway, Brandon Powell and Jake McGee are on the field together, Florida has four playmakers and the best set of receivers since the 2009 season.
6. Will Grier has always had the big arm so it’s not surprising he makes these laser guided throws that catch receivers in stride. It’s a pleasant surprise, however, to watch how he’s learning to take a short gain rather than force the ball into coverage. As his decision-making skills continue to improve, Florida’s offense will become more diverse and more difficult to defend.
7. Whatever Mike Summers is being paid, it’s not nearly enough. Florida’s offensive line doesn’t play like one that ranks #126 of 128 Division I teams in experience. Just like Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier juggle their skill player combos to create mismatches, Summers has interchangeable parts on his O-line that he uses in different situations. Just think how good these guys are going to be in the future.
8. Vernon Hargreaves III has earned the respect by making plays. Pay attention to the other side of the field where Quincy Wilson is evolving into a lockdown corner with size, strength, speed and skills.
9. Through five games, the Gators have 18 sacks for -147 yards. As impressive as that is consider this: 15 of the 18 sacks have come from the front four with Bullard leading the way with 4.5 followed by Alex McCalister with 4.0. This is the first time in a long while that the Gators could bring the heat from any one of the four positions on the D-line.
10. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a Florida team play with this much confidence, which is a tribute to Jim McElwain and his staff. The confidence we see on the field has also created an excitement level for UF football that has been absent since 2009. The last two crowds at The Swamp have been downright intimidating if you aren’t wearing orange and blue.
WEEK FIVE: SEC POWER RANKINGS
1. TEXAS A&M (5-0, 2-0 SEC): The Aggies have as many or more offensive weapons than any team in the country. They also have a defense that is on the verge of some really great things. You could make a case that Kyle Allen has evolved into the SEC’s best QB and that Myles Garrett is the best defensive player in the league. The Aggies don’t play again until October 17 when Alabama comes to College Station.
2. ALABAMA (4-1, 2-1 SEC): Two things of note from the 38-10 win over Georgia: (1) Jake Coker (11-16, 190 yards, 1 TD; 6-28 rushing, 1 TD) is starting to look like an SEC-caliber QB; and (2) it’s very difficult to beat Alabama when the defense shows up to play. Derrick Henry got 26 carries (148 yards, 1 TD) against Georgia. If Bama continues to give him 20+ carries a game, it will open up Coker off play action. The defense made Greyson Lambert look like a very ordinary quarterback.
3. LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC): Leonard Fournette got his yards (236) and TDs (3) Saturday. A lot of folks think he’s the best running back in the SEC since the days of Herschel and Bo. The Tigers have the fastest receivers in the SEC. If they ever figure out how to get the ball in their hands, the offense could be downright scary. The defense is about to improve exponentially when Jalen Mills returns (probably this week) and three other dinged up defenders get healthy.
4. FLORIDA (5-0, 3-0 SEC): The offense continues to be a work in progress although you have to admit, the progress is really, really good. It’s the defense that still has to carry this team but when it’s playing at the level it played Saturday night against Ole Miss, this is a Florida team that can play with and beat anybody.
5. OLE MISS (4-1, 2-1 SEC): The offensive line is a mess. Injuries and the suspension of Laremy Tunsil finally took an insurmountable toll against Florida and the result was a 38-10 loss that made the Rebels look very ordinary. If the problems with the O-line aren’t resolved in a hurry, this is a team that could take a serious tumble the rest of the way.
6. GEORGIA (4-1, 2-1 SEC): Perhaps Georgia should consider The Platters’ 1956 hit “The Great Pretender” for its new fight song. After all, every single year there are folks who say, “This is the year Georgia wins the big games and gets into the national championship picture.” Enter Alabama. Exit the hype. Figure Georgia will figure out a way to lose one more game, perhaps two.
7. MISSISSIPPI STATE (3-2, 1-2 SEC): Give Mississippi State an SEC East schedule and the Bulldogs are a top 10 team nationally. In the SEC West, they have two losses already and they still haven’t played Alabama or Ole Miss. This team could win nine games, but to do that Dak Prescott is going to have to play at an even higher level and hope teammates raise their level too.
8. ARKANSAS (2-3, 1-1 SEC): When Arkansas goes Ground Hog, good things happen. The Hogs controlled the ball so well in the second half against Tennessee that the Vols had only four possessions. Alex Collins pounded away for 154 yards and 2 TDs while freshman Rawleigh Williams was good for another 100. Arkansas ran the ball 50 times and threw 24. If the Hogs maintain that kind of ratio the rest of the way, they could be a spoiler in the SEC West.
9. MISSOURI (4-1, 1-1 SEC): The offense was substantially better with freshman Drew Lock in control (2 TD passes, 0 interceptions) and the running game showed signs of life (163 yards). Lock is the answer at QB and the defense is stout, but will that be enough to seriously contend for a third straight SEC East title?
10. AUBURN (3-2, 0-2 SEC): Peyton Barber ran for 147 yards and 5 touchdowns and the defense turned San Jose State over four times. Auburn won and continued to improve. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Tigers still have a long way to go on both sides of the football.
11. TENNESSEE (2-3, 0-2 SEC): The Vols have blown a two-touchdown lead in all three losses and the giddiness that Vol fans were feeling back in August has been replaced with the reality that another 6-6 (or worse) season is entirely possible. A growing number of fans believe the answer is firing Butch Jones, but considering the state of finances in the UT athletic department, they’re probably stuck with him for at least one more year.
12. KENTUCKY (4-1, 2-1 SEC): Just when you think Kentucky is ready to become a real SEC football team the Wildcats do something stupid like needing overtime to beat D1AA Eastern Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium. The Cats might get to six wins and make a bowl game, but that doesn’t mean they’re very good.
13. VANDERBILT (2-3, 0-3 SEC): The Commodores can beat a Conference USA team and if an SEC opponent shows up slightly cocky or distracted, they can make it interesting. Are the Dores improved? Yes. Are they any good? No.
14. SOUTH CAROLINA (2-3, 0-3 SEC): South Carolina’s defense is much improved and the offense was good enough to win against Mizzou if only freshman QB Lorenzo Nunez hadn’t made three dumb throws. Nunez is going to be really good someday but for now it’s on the job training and Saturday it wasn’t pretty.
WEEK FIVE: AP TOP 25 POLL
1. Ohio State (5-0)
2. TCU (5-0)
3. Baylor (5-0)
4. Michigan State (5-0)
5. Utah (4-0)
6. Clemson (4-0)
7. LSU (4-0)
8. Alabama (4-1)
9. Texas A&M (5-0)
10. Oklahoma (4-0)
The rest of the top 25: (11) FLORIDA (5-0); (12) Florida State (4-0); (13) Northwestern (5-0); (14) Ole Miss (4-1); (15) Notre Dame (4-1); (16) Stanford (4-1); (17) Southern Cal (3-1); (18) Michigan (4-1); (19) Georgia (4-1); (20) UCLA (4-1); (21) Oklahoma State (5-0); (22) Iowa (5-0); (23) California (5-0); (24) Toledo (4-0); (25) Boise State (4-1)
If I had a vote:
1. Ohio State (5-0)
2. Baylor (5-0)
3. Texas A&M (5-0)
4. Alabama (4-1)
5. TCU (5-0)
6. LSU (4-0)
7. Clemson (4-0)
8. Utah (4-0)
9. Michigan State (5-0)
10. FLORIDA (5-0)
The rest of my top 25 would be: (11) Northwestern (5-0); (12) Oklahoma (4-0); (13) Florida State (4-0); (14) Ole Miss (4-1); (15) Notre Dame (4-1); (16) Oklahoma State (5-0); (17) Michigan (4-1); (18) Stanford (4-1); (19) Georgia (4-1); (20) UCLA (4-1); (21) Southern Cal (3-1); (22) California (5-0); (23) Memphis (5-0); (24) Iowa (5-0); (25) Boise State (4-1)
RANKING THE CONFERENCES
1. SEC: There isn’t a dominant team in the SEC at this point but we may have to alter that thinking in a couple of weeks when Alabama visits Texas A&M. That’s going to be a war and the team that emerges from that game victorious is going to factor heavily into the playoff picture. Meanwhile, LSU and Florida have some flaws but both teams are young and have great upside. The SEC has at least four teams capable of winning the championship in any of the other four Power 5 conferences.
2. Big 12: If defense is your thing, then the Big 12 is not your league. Even though Oklahoma came up with seven sacks against West Virginia that was an aberration and certainly not the norm. Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma and Okie State can all light up the scoreboard but none of them play a lick of defense.
3. Pac-12: UCLA bombed against a so-so Arizona State team. That leaves Utah and California as the only unbeatens in the Pac-12 as we near the midway point of the season. Who would have thought that? Stanford remains vastly overrated as does the rest of the conference, but it’s still a better league than either the Big Ten or ACC.
4. Big Ten: Supposedly, the best two teams in the league are Ohio State and Michigan State. They looked like middle of the pack SEC teams Saturday. Both of them are lucky they don’t have to face Northwestern and that nasty defense. Jim Harbaugh has Michigan looking very good. Iowa 5-0? The Hawkeyes aren’t very good in spite of the record and the rest of the league is worse.
5. ACC: Clemson hung on to beat Notre Dame, a game the Tigers should have won by at least two touchdowns. Florida State hung on to beat Wake Forest Gump. Miami lost to Cincinnati. North Carolina, which lost to South Carolina, is 4-1 and Virginia Tech lost to Pitt. This league is really, really weak.
ALL TOO EARLY HEISMAN RADAR
1. Leonard Fournette, RB, Ole Miss: Just another day at the office for Fournette, who ran for 233 yards and three more touchdowns. In four games, Fournette has 864 rushing yards and 11 TDs. He averages a mere 8.7 per carry.
2. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: He extended his 100-yard game streak to 13 but that 83-yard touchdown run was long after the game was decided. Even though Chubb had 146 rushing yards against Bama, he didn’t help his Heisman cause. For the season he has 745 yards (8.2 per carry) and 7 TDs.
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Mayfield threw for 320 yards and 3 TDs against West Virginia. He’s had at least 3 TDs in every Oklahoma game so far. His season numbers are 1,382 yards, 13 TDPs and 3 interceptions, plus he has run for 139 yards and 4 TDs.
4. Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State: Elliott carried the Buckeyes past Indiana with 279 rushing yards for 3 TDs. Judging by Cardale Jones’ inconsistency, Zeke better come up big the rest of the way if the Buckeyes have a hope to repeat as national champs. For the year, Elliott has 729 rushing yards (7.3 per carry) and 8 TDs.
5. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU: Boykin threw for 5 TDs and 332 yards against that pitiful Texas defense. Boykin has great numbers – 1,802 passing yards, 19 TDPs and 3 INTs; 242 rushing yards and 2 TDs – but that’s against a collection of VERY bad defenses.
Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com writes, “McElwain has a bigger win in five games as a head coach than Jones has in three years at Tennessee.”
If Charlie Strong knew what he knows now prior to taking the Texas job, you have to wonder if he (a) would have taken the job or (b) demanded more money (he’s paid $5 million) before signing the contract. It’s going to take awhile to get things right in Austin, perhaps more time than the boosters will be willing to give Strong.
Those zany Big 12 zebras are at it again. They awarded a first down to Oklahoma State when it should have been fourth-and-4. Okie State scored four plays later and eventually beat Kansas State, 36-34. This is just the latest in a long line of incompetence by the league’s officials throughout the years. These guys make ACC officials look like guys you would actually hire.
Jameis Winston experienced his first 4-interception day Sunday. The Tampa Bay Bucs would feel a whole lot more secure about the future if they had drafted Marcus Mariota.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
When you evaluate Florida’s 5-0 start, what is more impressive: (1) the improvements in the offensive line or (b) the development at the skill positions which has created a number of SEC-caliber playmakers?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I completely forgot that Neil Young and Stephen Stills formed a band, toured and collaborated on an album back in 1976. This weekend while digging through an old box looking for a book I wanted to re-read, I came across their “Long May You Run” album, a pleasant reminder of an era when the music was so good. I still find it hard to believe that these two guys didn’t put together a few more albums because their talents blended so well.