THESE TRUTHS WE HOLD TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
1. No team in the SEC and perhaps in all of college football is as good at dragging you down to their level as Vanderbilt. The Commodores have made a season out of taking otherwise decent teams – especially on the offensive side of the ball – and turning them into stumbling fools. The big concern moving forward is that the Vandy game might have thrown Florida’s fragile offense completely out of synch with so little time left in the season.
2. What Vanderbilt did in the way it cleverly disguised its blitz packages will be a blueprint for South Carolina this week. Treon Harris spent much of the day dazed and confused by the Vandy scheme, reduced to guessing what was coming next because he certainly couldn’t read the defense.
3. This will be the most important week of November for Jim McElwain, Doug Nussmeier and the rest of the Florida offensive coaching staff. First and foremost, they have to re-instill some confidence in the entire offensive unit, and that might require simplifying even more what they’re doing. Since it all starts with the triggerman, they’ve got to re-focus Harris and make certain he doesn’t take the field in Columbia with a deer in the headlights look about him.
4. How much of Saturday’s debacle was the O-line simply getting beaten off the ball or the QB unable to read the defense and check into a call where the O-line was capable of getting the job done? Yes, there were some serious problems with the tackles, but it went beyond that because there were far too many times when the entire O-line looked like it was on a completely different page than the QB.
5. With the exception of the one play that Ralph Webb ran 74 yards for a touchdown, Florida held Vanderbilt to 101 yards on 61 plays. I don’t care if you’re facing a scout team offense, when you hold a team to 1.65 yards per play, you’re playing lights out defense.
6. The Gators dodged a bullet when Austin Hardin kicked the game-winning field goal from 43 yards out. It’s strange that the coaching staff will trust Hardin to kick off and then send him in to try a 43-yard field goal, but they won’t trust him with an extra point or they’ll go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 5 rather than kick a chip shot field goal. What is this mysterious injury that has plagued Hardin? It’s an absolute miracle that none of the previous games required a field goal at the end to win.
7. Back to Treon Harris. It does no good to complain since there is no alternative. The Gators would be far better off with Will Grier but Will Grier isn’t coming back this year and Treon is all there is. The good news is he has a history dating back to his high school days of making plays when they count. The bad news is he’s not a very accurate passer and that could spell further trouble in the days ahead. But, he’s all the Gators have.
8. The future is very bright for Florida football under Jim McElwain. It was remarked by a friend earlier in the week that what Mac and his staff have done this season is make a rather nice chicken salad out of chicken poop. I wouldn’t go so far as to call what Mac inherited as chicken poop, but there were plenty of holes that had to be patched up and the patch job has held up nicely. From what we’ve seen so far, he’s a pragmatist who will systematically recruit to get the Gators to the point where they have 44 or more players of SEC caliber ready to go at all times. Everybody in the SEC has at least 22 SEC caliber players. Those that have 22-33 can typically expect to win 6-7 games. Those who have 33-43 can typically expect to win 8-9 games. To consistently win 10 or more games every year you better have a two-deep on both sides of the ball that is filled with SEC caliber players.
THE SITUATION AT MISSOURI IS CRITICAL
ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported Sunday evening that “the entire Missouri team is not united over the decision to stop practicing until grad student Jonathan Butler ends his hunger strike.”
Unrest has been brewing on campus for the past three months because of a number of racial incidents. Criticism of university president Tom Wolfe has been widespread not only in Columbia but throughout the state. Perception is that Wolfe has been slow to react and has not done much to deal with the situation.
McMurphy is reporting that the decision to boycott came about after Butler visited with a number of football players Saturday night. While head coach Gary Pinkel, assistants, support and team have announced they stand behind the decision of players to boycott, the hope is that things will be resolved by Tuesday.
One player told McMurphy, “As much as we want to say everyone is united, half the team and coaches – black and white – are pissed. If we were 9-0, this wouldn’t be happening.”
Coaches are hoping there will be some resolution by Tuesday. Mizzou plays BYU in Kansas City Saturday.
WEEK 10: SEC POWER RANKINGS (With AP Top 25 rankings)
1. #3 ALABAMA (8-1, 5-1 SEC): The way Alabama manhandled LSU on both lines of scrimmage, you have to wonder (a) how did they ever lose a game and (b) is there anyone in college football capable of beating them? Ever since Nick Saban settled on Jacob Coker as his one and only QB, the offense has gotten progressively better and Coker has proven to be an outstanding leader. Derrick Henry is simply a beast among men.
2. #9 LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC): Two things we learned Saturday night: (1) LSU’s offensive line isn’t nearly as good as we thought; and (2) teams with physical offensive lines can run on the Tigers. LSU is a very good team, but not nearly as good as we thought. Leonard Fournette is still the best running back in the country but if his O-line can’t block anybody he gets stopped in his tracks.
3. #11 FLORIDA (8-1, 6-1 SEC): Now that the Gators have clinched the SEC East, the most important job this week is to avoid an emotional letdown this week against South Carolina.
4. #20 MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-2, 3-2 SEC): No team in the SEC has improved more from week one to week 10 as Mississippi State. If not for the coaching job Jim McElwain has done at Florida, Dan Mullen would easily be the coach of the year. The Bulldogs play host to Alabama in Starkvegas Saturday. Can they protect Dak Prescott? If they can’t they’ll get their doors blown off.
5. OLE MISS (7-3, 4-2 SEC): Ole Miss has the best offense in the SEC. The defense can be good but for reasons unexplained, it doesn’t always show up. Against Arkansas, the Rebels were a scoring machine. The defense turned Arkansas into a scoring machine, too. The Rebels are out of the SEC championship picture now, but they’re dangerous enough to put a whipping on both LSU and Mississippi State in the last two games of the season.
6. TENNESSEE (5-4, 3-3 SEC): Butch Jones was one South Carolina fumble away from being on the hot seat once again. The schedule says the Vols go 3-0 the rest of the way and finish 8-4 but this is a team that cannot be trusted to take care of business.
7. GEORGIA (6-3, 4-3 SEC): After the Kentucky game, Mark Richt asked where these reports that there is a rift between him and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt are coming from? This was a classic feign innocence while circling the wagons ploy. Count on this: Whether Mark Richt is or isn’t Georgia’s coach next year Jeremy Pruitt will not be the DC.
8. TEXAS A&M (6-3, 3-3 SEC): Supposedly, Kyler Murray solved the Aggies’ quarterback controversy against South Carolina. Now that Auburn made Murray look like the freshman he is, the Aggies have a QB controversy once again.
9. ARKANSAS (5-4, 3-2 SEC): The Hogs have scored at least 50 points in their last three games and they’re feeling rather good about themselves. Will they catch LSU with a hangover from the Alabama game when they meet in Tiger Stadium Saturday night? An 8-4 finish isn’t out of the question.
10. AUBURN (5-4, 2-4 SEC): The Auburn that manhandled the Aggies Saturday is the Auburn that was expected way back in August. The Tigers didn’t turn the ball over, ran for more than 300 yards and Will Muschamp’s defense actually showed up. If the Tigers can duplicate the effort Saturday, then Georgia is in trouble.
11. VANDERBILT (3-6, 1-4 SEC): In their five SEC games, the Commodores have only scored two touchdowns one time and that was against Georgia in the conference opener. Against eight Division I teams, the Commodores’ biggest offensive outburst was the 17 they scored against Middle Tennessee State. Calling the Dores offensively challenged insults all the offensively challenged teams in Division I.
12. KENTUCKY (4-5, 2-5 SEC): The Wildcats have lost their last four games and now they play Vanderbilt, which will bring them down to even lower levels. Ugly will get uglier Saturday in Nashville. Kentucky needs to find a way to win two out of the last three to make it to a bowl game.
13. SOUTH CAROLINA (3-6, 1-6 SEC): In his three games as the interim head coach, Shawn Elliott has come home with a win and played both the Aggies and Vols competitive until the end. The Gamecocks are treating their Saturday encounter with Florida as if it’s a championship game.
14. MISSOURI (4-5, 1-5 SEC): The Tigers actually scored a touchdown and ran for more than 100 yards in a game. That’s the good news. The bad news is the defense, which has been rock solid all year, is starting to buckle a bit.
WEEK 10: AP TOP 25
1. Clemson (9-0)
2. Ohio State (9-0)
3. Alabama (8-1)
4. Baylor (8-0)
5. Oklahoma State (9-0)
6. Notre Dame (8-1)
7. Stanford (7-1)
8. Iowa (9-0)
9. LSU (8-1)
10. Utah (8-1)
The rest of the Top 25: (11) FLORIDA (8-1); (12) Oklahoma (8-1); (13) TCU (8-1); (14) Michigan State (8-1); (15) Michigan (7-2); (16) Houston (9-0); (17) North Carolina (8-1); (18) UCLA (7-2); (19) Florida State (7-2); (20) Mississippi State (7-2); (21) Temple (8-1); (22) Navy (7-1); (23) Wisconsin (8-2); (24) Northwestern (7-2); (25) Memphis (8-1)
If I had a vote:
1. Ohio State (9-0)
2. Alabama (8-1)
3. Clemson (9-0)
4. Baylor (8-0)
5. Oklahoma State (9-0)
6. LSU (7-1)
7. Notre Dame (8-1)
8. FLORIDA (8-1)
9. Iowa (9-0)
10. Oklahoma (8-1)
The rest of my Top 25 would be: (11) Stanford (8-1); (12) Houston (9-0); (13) TCU (8-1); (14) Michigan (7-2); (15) Mississippi State (7-2); (16) Michigan State (8-1); (17) North Carolina (8-1); (18) Utah (8-1); (19) Navy (7-1); (20) Temple (8-1); (21) Ole Miss (7-3); (22) Northwestern (7-2); (23) Memphis (8-1); (24) UCLA (7-2); (25) Southern Cal (6-3)
RANKING THE CONFERENCES
1. SEC: The way it looks right now, it will be Florida and Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and if both are 11-1 at the time, the winner will go to the college football semifinals. LSU is still in the hunt in the SEC West but the Tigers have to go 3-0 the rest of the way and Alabama would have to lose to either Mississippi State or Auburn.
2. Big 12: The November carnage began when Okie State plastered TCU. This week Baylor plays Oklahoma. By the time November ends, all the good teams in the Big 12 will have played each other. Odds are nobody finishes unbeaten.
3. ACC: Barring an upset of incalculable proportions, Clemson will make the Final Four. The Tigers have three cupcake games remaining in the regular season and then the ACC Championship Game. Right now it looks like North Carolina will win the ACC Coastal Division. The Tar Heels are on an 8-game roll. With two losses, Florida State’s ACC and national championship hopes are down the drain.
4. Big Ten: When Ohio State plays with a modicum of inspiration the Buckeyes can beat anybody in the country. If they aren’t inspired, they could figure out a way to lose to Michigan State and Michigan or even Iowa. Iowa is also unbeaten and like Michigan State, which lost to Nebraska, just isn’t that good. The rest of the league is pretty bad.
5. Pac-12: Stanford and Utah are the best two teams in the league and the rest of the league really isn’t close. That should tell you plenty. There isn’t a team in the Pac-12 that could finish in the top half of the SEC.
THE ALL TOO EARLY HEISMAN RADAR
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Last week: 38-210 rushing, 3 TDs vs. LSU; Season: 1,254 yards (5.8 per carry), 17 TDs
2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Last week: 19-31 rushing, 1 TD vs. Alabama; Season: 1,383 yards (7.1 per carry), 16 TDs
3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Last week: 26-114, 1 TD vs. Minnesota; Season: 1,244 yards (6.4 per carry), 15 TDs
4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Last week: 23-147 rushing vs. Colorado, 3-15 receiving, 2-46 kickoff returns, 1-12 punt returns; Season: 1,207 yards (6.1 per carry), 6 TDs; 28-325 receiving, 2 TDs; 10-37 punt returns; 21-605 kickoff returns
5. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Last week: 11-216 receiving, 2 TDs vs. Kansas State; Season: 58-1,178 (20.3 per catch), 20 TDs.
Will the FSU and ACC media question Jimbo Fisher’s decision to play Sean Maguire at QB when Everett Goldson was declared healthy and available?
Last week it was shame on the ACC officials for blowing the ending of the Duke-Miami game. This week it’s the Big Ten officials, who seemed to blow the ending of the Nebraska-Michigan State game. Now think to the Florida-Vanderbilt game and that botched replay of CeCe Jefferson, who was down before the ball came loose. Instant replay was supposed to solve the problem of blown calls, but instead it seems it has only shown how incompetent so many of the zebra crews are.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Moving forward, what is Florida’s biggest concern: Treon Harris at QB or the play of the O-line?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Starting with the single “Born to Be Wild,” Steppenwolf was one of the bands that defined the counterculture that began in the late 1960s. When “Born to Be Wild” and Steppenwolf’s version of the Hoyt Axton song “The Pusher” were part of the soundtrack for the movie “Easy Rider” the band’s popularity went through the roof. Until the mid-1970s, Steppenwolf was one of the top draws at music festivals but constant problems between front man John Kay with band personnel led to a couple of prominent breakups and an end to a unique sound. Today’s music is the band’s first album “Steppenwolf.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8Hnf2vp9Ho