THESE TRUTHS WE HOLD TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
1. The stars and planets are aligning. All the Gators have to do is beat Georgia next Saturday and their ticket to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game has been punched barring Vanderbilt winning its last four games. Think about this for a moment: the Gators could have their ticket punched to Atlanta BEFORE November 1. Now who in their right mind would have ever thought that possible before the season began?
2. Last year the Gators ran for 418 yards against Georgia and needed to throw only six passes. There was absolutely nothing in Florida’s offensive resume to indicate the Gators were capable of a 400-yard rushing game but there were obvious flaws in the Georgia defense that the Gators took advantage of. Florida ran the ball 60 times and there was no rocket science or trickery. Florida just lined up and ran the same play over and over again.
3. Georgia held Missouri to 21 rushing yards in its last outing, but Missouri is absolutely inept offensively so that the D-line from the convent powder puff flag football league could hold them under 100 yards. In Georgia’s last three SEC games, South Carolina ran for 174 yards while Alabama totaled 189 and Tennessee 207. Just because the Gators haven’t run the ball well in awhile, don’t think for one second that Georgia’s rushing defense can’t be exploited.
4. Now that the Florida coaches have seen Treon Harris in action against a top notch defense (LSU), you can almost bet the farm they spent the off week tweaking the offense to better fit his skills. Georgia has to blitz or there is no pass rush (only 1-½ sacks from D-linemen), so everything the Gators do in the passing game is going to be predicated by Treon’s mobility. Florida can’t let him be a sitting duck in the pocket and when Georgia blitzes, there is room for Treon to run if he can get past that first wave. Josh Dobbs ran for 118 yards against Georgia.
5. Both Alabama and Tennessee seriously exploited Georgia’s pass defense. The Bulldogs have only allowed 7 touchdown passes and just 6.3 yards per attempt but those numbers are seriously padded by the ineptitude of the South Carolina, Southern U and Missouri passing games. Both Jake Coker (Alabama) and Josh Dobbs (Tennessee) got rid of the ball in a hurry and let the receivers pick up plenty of yards after the catch.
6. Against four weaklings to start the season Greyson Lambert was 52-68 for 733 yards, 7 TDs and 0 picks, an average of 10.2 per pass attempt. In his last three games against Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri, Lambert is 48-88 for 533 yards (6.1 per attempt), 2 TDs and 2 picks. He was 10-24 for 86 yards (3.6 per pass attempt) against Alabama. Alabama discovered that (A) Lambert couldn’t read a blitz spelled CAT if you spotted him the C and the A and (B) he really doesn’t like to take a hit. Florida will strike him. You can count on that.
7. Shut down Malcolm Mitchell (35-505 for 4 TDs) and Georgia’s receivers aren’t even average.
8. Before Nick Chubb went down, Georgia was averaging 244.8 yards per game and 6.5 per attempt on the ground. In the two games since, Georgia is averaging 142.5 per game and 4.45 per carry. Chubb could deliver inside or outside. Without him Georgia has no one who can consistently power up the gut.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATE
A little more than 24 hours after saying Al Golden’s job was safe for the moment, Miami athletic director Blake James announced that Golden has been fired and assistant coach Larry Scott will serve as the interim. Heading into the season, Golden pretty much understood a 9-3 record was a necessity to keep his job, but even though 9-3 is still possible, losing to Clemson, 58-0, before a half-empty stadium was the last straw. During the game, many former Miami stars were busy on Twitter demanding that Golden be fired. They got their wish. Now the search for a successor begins. Miami lacks great facilities and doesn’t pay all that well (Golden was making $2.4 million which would make him the lowest paid head coach in the SEC), but the sheer amount of talent within 200 miles of the campus might still lure a big name. But, figure most big names will say no, so here are five guys who would be smart hires (in no particular order) for The U: (1) Justin Fuente, Memphis HBC; (2) Brent Venables, Clemson DC; (3) TCU co-OC Doug Meacham; (4) Rich Rodriguez, Arizona HBC; (5) Tom Herman, Houston, HBC.
George O’Leary announced that he’s “retiring” as the head coach at UCF Sunday, one day after the Knights were hammered by Houston, 59-10. Let’s get real here. The “retirement” act is for public consumption. O’Leary signed a contract extension a couple of years ago that is good through 2020. O’Leary and UCF agreed to a buyout figure that had incentives for him to step down early and that’s exactly what happened. If the UCF administration is really smart – that’s a coin flip – then they’ll be talking to Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables or Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
WEEK 8: SEC POWER RANKINGS
1. #4 LSU (7-0, 4-0 SEC): The Tigers played like a team that would have much rather spent the night at a disco instead of slogging through the mud and the rain at Tiger Stadium, but they still racked up 497 yards and 48 points. Leonard Fournette got 150 more yards and QB Brandon Harris threw for 286 yards and 3 TDs. The Tigers didn’t turn the ball over and have coughed the ball up only twice all year. LSU gets a week off before going to Alabama.
2. #7 ALABAMA (7-1, 4-1 SEC): If Alabama can win the next two games (LSU and at Mississippi State) there is every good chance a ticket will be punched to Atlanta. Winning those two games depends on (A) Derrick Henry getting 25 or more carries per game and (B) avoiding the breakdowns in the secondary like they experienced against Ole Miss.
3. #11 FLORIDA (6-1, 4-1 SEC): You really have to like Florida’s situation heading to Jacksonville this weekend. Nobody expected them to be in this situation. Everybody expected Georgia (2 SEC losses) to be unbeaten at this point so the pressure will be all on the Bulldogs.
4. #25 MISSISSIPPI STATE (6-2, 2-2 SEC): The Bulldogs still haven’t found one running back who can carry the load, but as long as Dak Prescott is the quarterback, the Bulldogs are going to be okay. Against Kentucky, Prescott threw for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns and ran for 117 and 3 more. Along with Florida, this is the team that has made the most improvement from game one to this point of the season.
5. #19 OLE MISS (6-2, 3-1 SEC): If the Land Sharks play defense the rest of the way like they did against the Aggies, then Ole Miss is back in business as a contender. Ole Miss played with real fire and intensity against A&M, something we haven’t seen in weeks. Adding Laremy Tunsil to the O-line made a huge difference as the Rebels ran for 230 yards. If the Rebels can run, they’re very difficult to beat.
6. GEORGIA (5-2, 3-2 SEC): Georgia is trying to sell Saturday’s game with Florida as one of those “all our goals are still in front of us” games. The reality is this is a very beatable team with serious issues at QB, a soft O-line and a defense that doesn’t live up to the hype given coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. When Nick Chubb went down, the heart and soul of the team died.
7. TEXAS A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC): The Aggies have completely lost their mojo. Kyle Allen has gone from a QB who looks like a future pro to one who looks like he needs to spend some time on the pine. It’s time for Kevin Sumlin to give his stud freshman Kyler Murray a chance to jumpstart an offense that is going south in a hurry.
8. TENNESSEE (3-4, 1-3 SEC): The Vols have four very close losses against four very good teams. They also have five very winnable games in front of them. Vol fans think an 8-4 season is in the cards. Of course, they thought 11-1 was possible back in August.
9. ARKANSAS (3-4, 2-2 SEC): The Hogs beat Auburn in four overtimes. That doesn’t say much about Arkansas just as it doesn’t say much about Auburn. There are five games remaining and three of them are very losable. If they don’t get to 6-6 Bret Bielema is going to feel some intense heat.
10. AUBURN (4-3, 1-3 SEC): You can apply the can of beans theory to Auburn. So much is wrong with their offense and defense, it’s like eating a can of beans and trying to figure out which beans made you fart and which ones made the farts stink. Five games remain. Auburn will be heavy underdogs in four of them.
11. KENTUCKY 4-3, 2-3 SEC): The Kentucky team we saw Saturday night in Starkville looked a lot like the Kentucky teams we’ve learned to expect through the years. Memo to Kentucky: If you wish to win in the SEC, recruit better linemen on both sides of the football.
12. SOUTH CAROLINA (3-4, 1-4 SEC): The real question isn’t how many games South Carolina can win the rest of the way (they play five and will be big underdogs in four of them) but who’s going to be the new head coach? The three hot names are Kirby Smart (Alabama DC), Justin Fuente (Memphis HBC) and Tom Herman (Houston HBC).
13. VANDERBILT (3-4, 1-3 SEC): Derek Mason finally has an SEC win after 11 straight league losses. With that, the Commodores are no longer the worst team in the SEC.
14. MISSOURI (4-4, 1-4 SEC): And here we were thinking Florida’s offense was bad from 2011-14. A Brent Pease offense would look like something out of Star Wars the way these guys are playing. Calling the Mizzou offense incompetent would be a compliment. Against Vandy, Mizzou was 0-14 on third down.
WEEK 8: AP TOP 25 POLL
1. Ohio State (8-0)
2. Baylor (7-0)
3. Clemson (7-0)
4. LSU (7-0)
5. TCU (7-0)
6. Michigan State (8-0)
7. Alabama (7-1)
8. Stanford (6-1)
9. Notre Dame (6-1)
10. Iowa (7-0)
The rest of the top 25: (11) FLORIDA (6-1); (12) Oklahoma State (7-0); (13) Utah (6-1); (14) Oklahoma (6-1); (15) Michigan (5-2); (16) Memphis (7-0); (17) Florida State (6-1); (18) Houston (7-0); (19) Ole Miss (6-2); (20) Toledo (7-0); (21) Temple (7-0); (22) Duke (6-1); (23) Pitt (6-1); (24) UCLA (5-2); (25) Mississippi State (6-2)
If I had a vote:
1. Ohio State (8-0)
2. Baylor (7-0)
3. LSU (7-0)
4. Clemson (7-0)
5. Alabama (7-1)
6. TCU (7-0)
7. Michigan State (8-0)
8. FLORIDA (6-1)
9. Notre Dame (6-1)
10. Oklahoma State (7-0)
The rest of my top 25 would be: (11) Iowa (7-0); (12) Stanford (6-1); (13) Michigan (5-2); (14) Oklahoma (6-1); (15) Memphis (7-0); (16) Houston (7-0); (17) Ole Miss (6-2); (18) Florida State (6-1); (19) Toledo (7-0); (20) Duke (6-1); (21) Mississippi State (6-2); (22) Utah (6-1); (23) Temple (7-0); (24) Pitt (6-1); (25) North Carolina (6-1)
RANKING THE CONFERENCES
1. SEC: LSU, Alabama and Florida are all in great shape and in the championship hunt. Ole Miss rejoined the living just as Texas A&M dug its own grave. Mississippi State has two conference losses and a date pending with Alabama so the Bulldogs won’t contend this year. Next year? Different story altogether. Georgia thinks it can win five in a row and look like an almost national champ contender once again.
2. Big 12: Baylor just lost its QB for the season and TCU’s defense absolutely stinks. Both Baylor and TCU have to play 1-loss Oklahoma, which looks like it’s figuring things out. Meanwhile Okie State is unbeaten and will play Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma in Stillwater. Top to bottom it’s a far better league than the Pac-12, Big Ten or ACC.
3. Pac-12: The only reason the Pac-12 rates this high is because the Big Ten and the ACC are that bad. Utah got exposed by Southern Cal. We tend to forget that Stanford is still the team that Northwestern’s defense overwhelmed. Oregon would be fortunate to break even in the SEC. Funny, how all those people telling us the Pac-12 had caught up with the SEC are very, very quiet now.
4. Big Ten: Ohio State is the only decent team in the league. Michigan State, Iowa, Michigan and the rest of the pretenders are not ready for prime time. As for the rest of the league, they should schedule more games with the ACC.
5. ACC: Clemson is the real deal and Florida State and Duke are both pretty good. North Carolina looks a lot better each week but the Tar Heels did lose to South Carolina.
ALL TOO EARLY HEISMAN RADAR
1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
He ran for 150 yards and a TD in a quagmire Saturday night. For the season he has 1,352 yards (7.68 per carry) and 15 rushing TDs.
2. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Bye week. Season totals are 166-250 passing for 2,539 yards (10.2 per attempt) and 25 TDs, 440 rushing yards (5.71 per attempt) and 5 TDs.
3. Ezekial Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Ran for 142 yards and 2 TDs Saturday, his 8th straight game with more than100 yards. Season totals are 1,130 yards (6.77 per carry) and 13 TDs.
4. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Against Tulsa, Lunch was 32-44 passing for 447 yards and 4 TDs, plus he ran for 1 more. Season totals for Lynch are 174-244 passing for 2,366 yards (9.7 per attempt) and 17 TDs (only 1 pick) and 2 rushing TDs.
5. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Against Tennessee, Henry ran for 143 yards and 2 TDs, including the game winner. For the season he has 1,044 rushing yards (5.8 per carry) and 14 TDs.
FSU can only blame itself for the loss to Georgia Tech. The Seminoles played sloppy football and squandered enough touchdown opportunities that it should have never come down to a last second field goal attempt. But, since we’re on the subject of that field goal attempt, it’s worth posting a video of the block and return that gave Georgia Tech the win.
Baylor’s hopes of a national championship have taken a serious hit with the announcement that QB Seth Russell is done for the year with a fractured bone in his neck. Russell’s season ends with 2,104 passing yards and 29 touchdowns, plus 402 rushing yards and 6 TDs. Baylor will turn to true freshman Jarrett Stidham, who is 24-28 for 331 yards (11.8 per attempt), 6 TDs and O INTs in backup duty.
With J.T. Barrett at the controls (14-18 for 223 passing yards and 3 TDs, 102 rushing yards for 2 TDs), the Ohio State offense looks frighteningly efficient. And speaking of Ohio State, Urban Meyer now has four winning streaks of 20-or-more games in his coaching career. That’s a first for college football.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
When you assess Florida and Georgia, which team has the most pressure heading into Jacksonville Saturday afternoon?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
“Brothers In Arms” was the last studio album before the first breakup of Dire Straits. They got back together six years later in 1991 to produce their last studio album “On Every Street” and then recorded two more live albums, neither of which did very well in the US. “Brothers In Arms” won two Grammy Awards and several critics have it on their list of the best 100 albums ever.