This is the attitude you like to see in your football coach – “We ain’t good enough to roll the ball out against anybody. We’ve got our hands full.”
Jim McElwain said that Wednesday when he was talking about 11th-ranked Florida’s Saturday encounter with Vanderbilt (3-5, 1-3 SEC). The Gators (7-1, 5-1 SEC) are 21-point favorites against a Vandy team that has scored only two touchdowns in its last three games and hasn’t scored more than 17 this season against a Division I team. While the Gators are no offensive juggernaut they are substantially better than Vanderbilt and the UF defense that hasn’t given up an offensive touchdown in three of their six SEC games.
From a talent perspective, Florida should have no problems winning this game, but talent is only a piece of the equation. Attitudes and emotions also have to be factored in which is why McElwain looks at the big picture, and knows nothing can be taken for granted. The Gators can’t simply show up and expect Vandy to roll over and play dead so Mac is treating the Commodores the same way he would treat an unbeaten team coming to The Swamp. Nothing is taken for granted.
This is a coach who obsesses with the details. In so many words he’s already told us this season that the Gators are like a chain, only as strong as the weakest link, which is why every little detail has to be covered and accounted for when he sends the team out onto the field.
Earlier in the week, I asked a former Gator All-American with close ties to McElwain how it is the Gators have far exceeded everyone’s preseason predictions and he answered, “Details and accountability. Everybody has a job to do. You’re a coach; you’re a player; you got a job to do. Take a shortcut with the details maybe you blow an assignment and maybe that causes us to lose. Nothing pisses him off more than players or coaches skipping over some little detail. He holds everyone accountable about every little thing. When everybody takes care of the details, the games take care of themselves.”
What that should tell you is McElwain will have the Gators ready to go Saturday when they can clinch the SEC East championship with a win over Vandy.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SITES SELECTED
The College Football Playoff Championship Game sites have been determined for 2018-20. Atlanta will host the game in January, 2018, with the next two games being played in Santa Clara, California and New Orleans. This year’s game will be played in Glendale, Arizona and next year’s game in Tampa.
Last week: 6-0
#24 MISSISSIPPI STATE 27, MISSOURI 7: With freshman Drew Lock sinking to new lows each week, Mizzou’s offense is so far in the tank that it’s beyond help this season, which can’t end too soon for the Tigers. Mississippi State, meanwhile, keeps getting better each week. The Bulldogs won’t get anything easy against Mizzou’s stout defense, but they won’t need much to win this game.
#7 ALABAMA (7-1, 4-1 SEC): Color Nick Saban unimpressed with Alabama’s #4 ranking in the first College Football Playoff Rankings. “It doesn’t mean anything, though, right now,” Saban said Wednesday on the SEC Coaches Teleconference after admitting he hadn’t even seen the rankings. “Because it only matters where you are at the end. So it doesn’t even matter right now. I don’t even know why they do ‘em.”
ARKANSAS (4-4, 2-2 SEC): The Razorbacks have done a good job of shutting down the run – only 117.88 yards per game, 3.64 per carry. The same can’t be said about a porous pass defense that is giving up 273 yards a game and 8.3 per pass attempt. That inability to neutralize opponents’ passing game could prove problematic this weekend against Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly, who has already thrown for 2,856 yards and 20 touchdowns. He’s averaging 8.7 per pass attempt.
AUBURN (4-4, 1-4 SEC): Quarterback Sean White and running back Peyton Barber, severely limited by injuries in the loss to Ole Miss, are practicing this week and should play against Texas A&M. The injury to Barber allowed juco transfer Jovon Robinson to have his best game of the season against Ole Miss, carrying 18 times for 91 yards.
#11 FLORIDA (7-1, 5-1 SEC): Martez Ivey’s status has been upgraded to probable for Vandy while left tackle David Sharpe is still listed as questionable. Both Ivey and Sharpe were dressed out for practice Wednesday.
GEORGIA (5-3, 3-3 SEC): As if there aren’t enough problems in Athens, two freshmen football players were arrested early Tuesday morning on marijuana charges. Backup linebacker Natrez Patrick and Chauncey Rivers, a D-lineman who has only played in two games, were charged with misdemeanor possession ... Georgia’s depth chart for the Kentucky game lists the starting quarterback as either Faton Bauta or Greyson Lambert … Mark Richt said the game plan for Florida included plenty of quarterback runs by Bauta but due to the way Florida aligned its defense, the Bulldogs checked out of the running plays.
KENTUCKY (4-4, 2-4 SEC): After consecutive blowout losses, there was a players only meeting at Kentucky called by senior linebacker Josh Forrest and fourth-year junior quarterback Patrick Towles. Kentucky started the 2014 season 5-1 and then lost its last six games. This year’s UK team started 4-1 and has lost three in a row.
#4 LSU (7-0, 4-0 SEC): Right tackle Vadal Alexander has had a year to think about what might have been against Alabama. Last season with LSU on the Alabama 6-yard line with 1:13 to go and the score tied at 10-10, Alexander retaliated against Bama D-tackle A’Shawn Robinson. The officials either ignored or didn’t see what Robinson did and flagged Alexander for a 15-yard penalty. Alabama won the game in overtime, 20-13. Recalling the play, Alexander said, “I think about it all the time. It’s something that motivates me to play hard, just know what the smart play is – to stop.”
#24 MISSISSIPPI STATE (6-2, 2-2 SEC): Dan Mullen says he doesn’t have to worry about turnovers with Dak Prescott at QB. “You know he’s really not going to make a bad decision when we’re going to take a shot down the field,” Mullen said on the SEC Coaches Teleconference Wednesday. “If its’ not therem he’s going to check it down he’s not going to force things.” Prescott has thrown for 2,038 yards and 14 touchdowns this season with only one interception.
MISSOURI (4-4, 1-4 SEC): Gary Pinkel is miffed by the snub of stud linebacker Kentrell Brothers from the Butkus Award semifinal list. Brothers leads the SEC and the nation with 103 tackles. He had 122 last year and has 307 for his career. Pinkel said, “It’s probably disappointing as I hear it because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, He’s 6-1-½, he’s 245, he’s quick, fast and instinctive. He’ll play at the next level. Sounds like somebody just missed it.”
#19 OLE MISS (7-2, 4-1 SEC): The Rebels are getting hybrid safety Tony Conners back at just the right time. Conners will spend his Saturday in coverage against Arkansas’ outstanding tight ends Hunter Henry (28-409 yards, 1 TD) and Jeremy Sprinkle (13-222, 2 TDs).
SOUTH CAROLINA (3-5, 1-5 SEC): Interim coach Shawn Elliott knows he needs to juice up an offense averaging only 21.4 points and 364 yards per game. It would help to get the ball to wide receiver Pharoh Cooper more often. “A guy like that has to have the ball in his hands,” Elliott said. Cooper has caught 44 passes for 609 yards and 4 touchdowns and he has run for an additional 104 yards and a TD.
TENNESSEE (4-4, 2-3 SEC): Evan Berry has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and averages a nation-leading 42.6 per return, which prompted South Carolina interim coach Shawn Elliott to remark, “Forty yards per kickoff return? Who’s kicking to him and why? Let me tell you one thing. It better be out of the end zone because even if it’s in the end zone he’s bringing it out.”
#25 TEXAS A&M (6-2, 3-2 SEC): Through eight games, sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett has 10.5 sacks for -58 yards, which ranks second nationally. As a freshman last year, Garrett finished with 11.5 sacks for -67 yards in 12 games.
VANDERBILT (3-5, 1-4 SEC): Vanderbilt is the toughest team on third down in the SEC, holding opponents to 25% conversions. That ranks fifth nationally. The Commodores are tied for second in the SEC in red zone defense and tied for 17th nationally. Opponents have only scored a touchdown or a field goal in 21 of 28 trips into the Vandy red zone.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR
Mark Richt is catching it from all sides these days. He’s 141-51 through 14 years, 8 games of his career and he’s brought home 2 SEC championships and 6 SEC East titles without ever putting the Bulldogs on probation. But, fans and many in the Georgia media seem to think he’s a real underachiever who should have done much more.
Let’s compare Richt to the greatest coach in University of Georgia football history. In his 26 years on the job, Vince Dooley was 201-77-10. He put Georgia on NCAA probation three times. He won six SEC championships and one national championship in 1980. But let’s break down the Dooley record. In his first 16 years on the job (1964-1979), Dooley went 116-56-6 in his first 16 years (1964-79) with three SEC championships. Then he struck gold by outbidding Southern Cal for Herschel Walker. That got him the 1980 national championship and three straight SEC titles (1980-82). With Herschel, Dooley and Georgia went 33-3. Without Herschel the Bulldogs were 56-24-4 the rest of the ‘80s.
It must be noted that Dooley only had to face Bear Bryant five times in his career (0-3 vs. Alabama in the 1970s) and Alabama only seven times total in 26 years. During his first 16 years he only faced LSU twice and Tennessee three times and for the full 26 years, he only faced the Vols seven times and LSU four times. It could be argued successfully that Richt has faced a much tougher SEC slate than Dooley ever did, yet you would be branded a heretic by a Georgia fan if you were to ever suggest that Richt has – at least at this stage of his career compared to Dooley’s – measured up.
Georgia fans may get what they want and Richt might be gone, but they need to be careful for what they ask. When Vince Dooley won his national championship, Georgia fans had waited nearly 40 years since the last one. There are no guarantees that they won’t wait another 40 years if they run Richt off.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATES
Rapper Luther Campbell, who says both Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban are on his speed dial and take his calls, claims that both Texas coach Charlie Strong and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen would take the Miami job if offered. Campbell’s list of four acceptable coaches at The U: Alabama OL Mario Cristobal, FSU WR Tim Brewster, Strong and Holgorsen.
There is reason to believe that Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock has Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez on his short list. RichRod was the head coach at West Virginia when Babcock was the assistant AD and they’ve maintained a close friendship ever since. RichRod would be extremely happy to get out of the desert. He’s also thought to be a candidate for the openings at Maryland and South Carolina.
The big loser in the College Football Playoff Rankings? That’s easy. It’s the Big 12. Even though November will be like a an over the top steel cage match with three unbeaten teams and a 1-loss team all facing each other and duking it out during the month, too many cupcake non-conference schedules and a lack of a conference championship game aren’t going to help.
Someone explain to me why Notre Dame gets so much love from the College Football Playoff Committee. It certainly can’t be strength of schedule. The Domers have a schedule that’s padded nicely by weaklings from the ACC. Of the six ACC games on the schedule, 8-0 Clemson is the only decent team and Notre Dame lost to the Tigers. The final game of the ND schedule is at Stanford and that’s being billed almost as a “play-in” game for the CFB playoff. Stanford and the rest of the Pac-12 are vastly overrated. You could make a case that the ACC is a stronger league. And, isn’t it hysterical and hypocritical at the same time that the committee punished the Big 12 for no conference championship game last year and Notre Dame could get in this year with no league title game and a far weaker schedule than the Big 12 teams play?
Former Gator QB Updates: Jeff Driskell has thrown for 2,736 yards and 19 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions through nine games at Louisiana Tech. Jacoby Brissett has thrown for 1,586 yards and 13 TDs with only 1 interception at North Carolina State.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
When it comes to college football’s Final Four, the Big 12 schools and Notre Dame have the advantage of no conference championship game. It’s a question that has been asked before but isn’t it time the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 demanded a level playing field which would mean a conference championship game for the Big 12 and Notre Dame joining a conference?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I discovered the band Maze which featured Frankie Beverly as the lead singer when they played the Saenger Theater in New Orleans in 1980. The band was one of the best touring soul music bands in the country for about 15-16 years. Frankie Beverly’s vocals just killed it. Today’s music is the audio album of that Saenger Theater concert.