Here we are seven games into the 2015 season and the Florida Gators are already at or near the win total predicted by all the experts back in the spring and summer months. At 6-1, the Gators are a win over Georgia on October 31 from winning their first SEC East championship since 2009. The remaining five games are conducive to at least nine wins. Would anyone be totally shocked if the Gators ran the table the rest of the way? How about 10-2? That’s not as good as 11-1, but that’s another win total that is easily within the realm of possibility.
Three months ago the idea of 10 or 11 regular season wins seemed preposterous. Three months later and anything less will be somewhat of a disappointment.
If asked to pinpoint the secret of the Gators’ success so far, most would point a finger at head coach Jim McElwain, and certainly, he deserves plenty of credit for a 6-0 start that is within a fake field goal and one or two other plays on a Saturday night at Tiger Stadium from 7-0. McElwain hired what seems to be a very cohesive staff that is a good mix of teachers and recruiters. His Mac’s way or the highway approach seems to have resonated well with the players and we can’t discount the importance, particularly considering Will Muschamp was extremely popular with his players. It says plenty about the character of the players Muschamp recruited that they have bought into a new staff, new system and new approach to discipline and accountability with very few examples of resistance.
Add all these things together and there is a sense of excitement that has been missing throughout the Gator Nation for quite some time. Instead of expecting something negative or quite often the worst, there is an expectation that McElwain will find a way to win. You hear that from the fans. You see it in the players’ faces. People really believe that as long as Mac is on the sidelines, the Gators are not going to lose.
Back in the not so distant past when the Gators were really good, expectations ran championship high every year. Opposing fans called it Gator arrogance. There is a fine line between arrogance and supreme confidence. I like to think the Gators under Spurrier and Meyer trended more to supremely confident than arrogant. There were very few times in the 18 years of Spurrier and Meyer that Gator fans expected to come out on the short end of any score. One of the things that irritated opposing fans so much was the unwavering belief of Florida fans that the Gators were going to win.
When this season began, there were plenty of doubts moving forward about this Florida team and rightfully so there are still a few doubts that will continue linger. After all, this is only season one and we’re only seven games into it and McElwain and his staff haven’t had a chance to fill all the roster holes with recruits tailored to his system. But, with each game you can sense that aura of supreme confidence returning.
Supreme confidence might not come back all the way this year, but it’s close. It’s very, very close.
3 OFFENSIVE POSITIVES FOR THE BYE WEEK
1. Through seven games, the Gators have only turned the ball over five times. They turned it over 24 times last year. When you protect the football you are almost always in the hunt at the end of the game.
2. One of the most important stats of all is yards per pass attempt. As a team the Gators are averaging 7.9 per attempt, their most since 2009. The best season during the Muschamp years was 2011 under Charlie Weis when they averaged 7.5 per attempt. Treon Harris is averaging 9.2 per attempt this year, the same he averaged last year as a true freshman.
3. Only two Gators (Demarcus Robinson and Quinton Dunbar) caught more than 20 passes in 2014. Through seven games in 2015, three receivers already have 20 or more – Demarcus Robinson (36-371, 2 TD); Jake McGee (23-200, 3 TD) and Brandon Powell (20-294, 3 TD). Antonio Callaway is Florida’s most explosive receiver (16-308, 2 TD), averaging 19.25 yards per catch. He’s also averaging 14.75 on punt returns which ranks 12th nationally.
SEC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player of the Week: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Defensive Player of the Week: Lewis Neal, DE, LSU
Special Teams Player of the Week: Marshall Morgan, PK, Georgia
Freshman of the Week: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
Defensive Lineman of the Week: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Offensive Lineman of the Week: Vadal Alexander, RT, LSU
THE SEC IN NCAA STATS
Scoring (points per game): (7) Ole Miss 43.6; (Tie, 20) LSU 37.3; (23) Tennessee 37.2; (Tie, 27) Texas A&M 36.5; (32) Alabama 35.6; (Tie, 41) Mississippi State 34.1; (49) Georgia 33.1; (Tie, 56) Florida 31.6; (Tie, 85) Kentucky 26.2; (89) Auburn 25.5; (98) Arkansas 23.8; (Tie, 110) South Carolina 20.4; (119) Vanderbilt 19.3; (Tie, 124) Missouri 16.6
Rushing (yards per game/per attempt): (4) LSU 325.5/6.93; (19) Tennessee 222.0/4.59; (22) Georgia 215.6/5.76; (33) Alabama 198.7/4.78; (49) Auburn 183.7/4.22; (57) Arkansas 177.3/4.73; (70) South Carolina 168.1/4.63; (71) Ole Miss 167.1/4.96; (79) Texas A&M 162.0/4.34; (87) Vanderbilt 156.7/4.02; (98) Mississippi State (141.9/475; (104) Kentucky 135.5/3.83; (110) Florida 126.7/3.51; (121) Missouri 103.4/3.23
Passing (yards per game/per attempt): (10) Ole Miss 353.9/9.42; (22) Texas A&M 291.0/8.16; (26) Mississippi State 283.1/8.16; (41) Arkansas 256.0/8.78; (46) Kentucky 252.0/7.56; (49) Florida 249.6/7.87; (56) Vanderbilt 242.3/6.11; (68) Alabama 231.4/6.84; (78) Georgia 213.9/8.14; (80) Tennessee 212.7/7.05; (98) Missouri 187.0/5.74; (101) South Carolina 185.3/6.83; (110) Auburn 170.7/7.42; (120) LSU 135.3/7.45
Total Offense (yards per game/per play): (11) Ole Miss 521.0/7.31; (28) LSU 460.8/7.07; (31) Texas A&M 453.0/6.21; (43) Tennessee 434.7/5.54; (45) Arkansas 433.3/6.50; (47) Alabama 430.1/5.70; (48) Georgia 429.4/6.74; (52) Mississippi State 425.0/6.58; (68) Vanderbilt 399.0/5.07; (79) Kentucky 387.5/5.64; (87) Florida 376.3/5.55; (97) Auburn 354.3/5.33; (98) South Carolina 353.4/5.57; (125) Missouri 290.4/4.50
Turnovers Lost: (Tie, 2) LSU 2; (Tie, 7) Florida 5, Tennessee 5; (Tie, 16) Arkansas 6; (Tie, 21) Mississippi State 7; (Tie, 30) Kentucky 8; (Tie, 46) Auburn 9, Georgia 9, Missouri 9, South Carolina 9; (Tie, 60) Texas A&M 10; (Tie, 96) Alabama 13; (Tie, 108) Ole Miss; (Tie, 116) Vanderbilt 16
Sacks Allowed (total and yards lost): (8) Arkansas 5-29; (Tie, 17) Alabama 8-68, Georgia 8-48; (Tie, 23) LSU 7-56; (Tie, 29) Mississippi State 9-66; (Tie, 40) Vanderbilt 9-54; (Tie, 49) Auburn 10-73; (Tie, 53) South Carolina 12-76, Ole Miss 12-96; (Tie, 59) Tennessee 11-89; (Tie, 78) Missouri 16-99; (Tie, 107) Florida 20-104; (Tie, 116) 19-133, Texas A&M 19-115
Scoring (points per game): (6) Missouri 12.9; (15) Alabama 16.7; (17) Florida 17.3; (22) Mississippi State 18.0; (23) Vanderbilt 18.5; (25) Georgia 19.4; (40) Ole Miss 22.1; (43) LSU 23.0; (Tie, 45) Arkansas 23.2, Kentucky 23.2; (Tie, 54) Texas A&M 24.3; (Tie, 61) Tennessee 25.7, Auburn 25.7; (66) South Carolina 26.3
Rushing (yards per game/per attempt): (3) Alabama 70.9/2.44; (Tie, 8) LSU 92.2; (15) Arkansas 107.0/3.49; (21) Missouri 113.7/2.83; (23) Vanderbilt 114.8/3.52; (25) Florida 116.8/3.46; (27) Georgia 120.9/3.30; (35) Ole Miss 130.1/3.17; (63) Mississippi State 161.6/3.70; (Tie, 66) Kentucky 167.5/4.04; (72) Tennessee 170.5/4.61; (97) Texas A&M 195.2/4.78; (101) Auburn 197.7/5.07; (104) South Carolina 200.1/5.33
Passing (yards per game/per attempt): (11) Missouri 165.3/5.73; (25) Texas A&M 183.2/6.07; (28) Georgia 187.0/6.29; (40) Florida 197.9/6.07; (41) Alabama 201.0/5.29;(Tie, 45) LSU 205.0/6.24; (48) Mississippi State 206.9/6.58; (49) Kentucky 207.3/6.72; (55) South Carolina 214.1/6.75; (64) Vanderbilt 223.2/6.41; (69) Auburn 228.5/6.50; (70) Ole Miss 229.3/5.88; (90) Tennessee 248.5/7.03; (101) Arkansas 258.3/8.33;
Total Defense (yards per game/per play): (6) Alabama 271.9/4.06; (8) Missouri 279.0/4.04; (15) LSU 297.2/4.74; (21) Georgia 307.9/4.64; (22) Florida 314.4/4.74; (31) Vanderbilt 338.0/5.01; (43) Ole Miss 359.4/4.49; (45) Arkansas 365.3/5.92; (47) Mississippi State 368.4/4.90; (54) Kentucky 374.8/5.18; (59) Texas A&M 378.3/5.33; (83) South Carolina 414.3/5.98; (87) Tennessee 419.0/5.79; (93) Auburn (426.2/5.75
Turnovers created: (Tie, 7) Alabama 16; (Tie, 17) Florida 14; (Tie, 27) Ole Miss 13; (Tie, 38) South Carolina 12; (Tie, 60) Georgia 10, Missouri 10; (Tie, 73) Texas A&M 9, Auburn 9; (Tie, 92) Arkansas 8, Tennessee 8; (Tie, 103) Vanderbilt 7, LSU 7, Kentucky 7; (Tie, 111) Mississippi State 6
Sacks (total and yards lost): (Tie, 9) Texas A&M 20-111; (Tie, 15) Alabama 22-123; (Tie, 17) Florida 21-174; (Tie, 22) Missouri 20-107; (Tie, 24) LSU 17-112; (Tie, 28) Mississippi State 19-141; (Tie, 74) Georgia 13-78, South Carolina 13-88; (Tie, 79) Vanderbilt 11-67, Kentucky 11-77; (86) Auburn 10-62; (91) Ole Miss 11-72; (Tie, 96) Tennessee 9-52; (Tie, 116) Arkansas 6-45
#8 Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC): Quarterback Jake Coker has proven to be an inspirational leader with the way he takes (and delivers) hits while trying to extend a play with his legs. Teammates have nicknamed him “Vanilla Vick.” Coker’s aggressiveness is a mixed bag, per Nick Saban, who says, “Sometimes I wish he wouldn’t take the hits, but I like to see the other team’s reaction when he does that.” … C Ryan Kelly (concussion) and WR/RB Kenyan Drake (thigh) have been cleared to play against Tennessee.
Arkansas (2-4,1-2 SEC): The Arkansas folks are talking medical miracle when it comes to wide receiver Jared Cornelius, who suffered a double fracture of his left arm against Texas Tech a month ago. Cornelius could play Saturday when the Razorbacks host Auburn. “There is an outside chance,” Bret Bielema said. “Jared Cornelius is out there running around doing some things. I’m just going to let that one progress, keep my nose out of it until the doctors say he’s cleared.“
Auburn (4-2, 1-2 SEC): There has been no official announcement about who will start at quarterback when the Tigers visit Arkansas, but it appears Sean White will be taking the first snap for the third straight game. “I think it’s safe to say he’ll probably start the game Saturday,” offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. White passed for 255 yards in the win over Kentucky last Thursday but it’s been 66 pass attempts since an Auburn QB threw a touchdown pass.
Georgia (5-2, 3-2 SEC): Georgia is hoping the bye week will allow a number of dinged up players to get better before the Florida game. Running back Sony Michel has a strained groin while defensive tackle Chris Mayes is dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of the Missouri game. DT Trent Thompson (ankle), LB Jordan Jenkins (groin), C Brad Kublanow (ankle) and WR Isaiah McKenzie (hamstring) are the others slowed by injury.
Kentucky (4-2, 2-2 SEC): Mark Stoops is still looking for a signature win. His next three games are against Mississippi State, Tennessee and Georgia. He’s 0-6 against those three … Nose tackle Melvin Lewis fractured his fibula in the loss to Auburn and is done for the year. His place in the starting lineup will be taken by sophomore Matt Elam (6-7, 360).
#5 LSU (6-0, 4-0 SEC): Quarterback Brandon Harris, who threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns against Florida issued a warning to LSU’s future opponents. “I play with a chip on my shoulder, keep doubting me,” Harris said … Tight end Dillon Gordon (6-6, 300) will miss the rest of the season with an Achilles injury suffered against Florida.
Mississippi State (5-2, 1-2 SEC): After falling behind 14-0 to Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State went on a 45-6 run that was the best football on both sides of the ball the Bulldogs have played all season. “After the 3:51 mark of the first quarter, absolutely it was our most complete game,” Dan Mullen said … LB Dez Harris torn an ACL against Louisiana Tech, his third ACL injury since his senior year in high school.
Missouri (4-3, 1-3 SEC): With three SEC losses, the Tigers can forget a third straight trip to Atlanta but they can get bowl eligible with two more wins. Missouri has a very winnable game Saturday against Vanderbilt. “This game’s very, very important for us,” said head coach Gary Pinkel. “I can’t devalue that in any way.” Pinkel did not comment on the status of suspended QB Maty Mauk at his Monday press conference.
#24 Ole Miss (5-2, 2-1 SEC): Hugh Freeze only had to look at the tape to figure out why the Rebels lost to Memphis. “We had 30 missed tackles in the game,” Freeze said at his Monday press conference. Freeze said that center Robert Conyers will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Robert Nkemdiche, Trae Elston and Will Gleeson are all undergoing concussion protocol before they will be cleared to play against Texas A&M.
South Carolina (3-4, 1-4 SEC): In the first game of the post-Steve Spurrier era, South Carolina’s offense came awake due to a 119-yard rushing performance by Brandon Wilds and a 7-catch, 160-yard game from wide receiver Pharoh Cooper. The defense also came up big with Skai Moore (sack, interception, forced fumble, recovered fumble, 11 tackles) leading the way.
Tennessee (3-3, 1-2 SEC): The bye week was important for Tennessee, which could return three offensive linemen from injury for the Alabama game Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Mack Crowder, Jashon Robertson and Brett Kendrick should all be ready to go. “We fully anticipate everyone back,” Butch Jones said. Wide receiver Jason Croom (knee) will miss the game, however.
#15 Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1 SEC): Take away those three pick sixes and the Aggies outscored Alabama 21-20. “It’s virtually impossible to win when you give away 21 points,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. Starting QB Kyle Allen threw three interceptions against Alabama and backup Kyler Murray threw one.
Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3 SEC): Quarterback Johnny McCray accounted for 4 (3 interceptions, 1 fumble) of Vanderbilt’s 5 turnovers in the loss to South Carolina. “I just thought he made some poor throws,” head coach Derek Mason said. “And that’s not blame, that’s just being able to look at it and say just take what the defense is giving you. If you don’t like what you see then at least pull it down and punt and give us a chance to play defense.”
Wisconsin is the latest school to bolt adidas. Wisconsin’s 10-year deal with Under Armour will pay $96 million. In the last year, adidas has lost Michigan and Tennessee to Nike and Notre Dame and Wisconsin to Under Armour.
The latest non-Chip Kelly to Southern Cal rumor that’s juicy is the one that has Pete Carroll returning to lead the Trojans back to the glory days. Carroll was 97-19 as USC’s head coach but he left just before the NCAA crippled the program with heavy sanctions. Would USC be foolish enough to bring back Carroll or bring in any coach (Chip Kelly) with a bad NCAA history?
Finances might save Mike MacIntyre’s job at Colorado. The Buffs are 3-4 and destined for their third straight losing season under MacIntyre but times are tight in the athletic department so a buyout is probably out of the question.
Only 12 unbeaten teams remain in Division I and three of them (Temple, Memphis and Houston) are from the American Athletic Conference. Is it possible that one of these teams will run the table and crash the College Football Playoff party?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Time for an honest answer: what was the maximum number of wins you believed possible for this Gator team when the season began?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I saw an old video of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” Monday so I went to Youtube and spent a couple hours listening to some of his live concerts. Today’s music is from his “Secret World Live” tour. Double issues of his first four solo albums were released last Friday.