When the season began, we couldn’t have known that Will Grier was the trigger man Jim McElwain needed to turn Florida from one of the dullest offensive teams in the SEC into one capable of quick strikes and vertical stretching of the field. As we’ve seen since Grier’s suspension, the 2015 offense with Treon Harris triggering things isn’t a whole lot different than the one Harris ran last year. Oh, McElwain certainly takes more shots downfield and does a better job of creating mismatches with his personnel, but Harris has his limitations and that translates into a limited offensive package as the Gators move into the final stretch of the season.
And that puts the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the defense, but that’s what we expected when the season began, isn’t it? Because there were so many uncertainties with the offense, the expectation was the defense would have to carry the Gators if they were going to equal or better last year’s 7-5 record. The Gators are already one win better than last year and the way the defense is playing, it’s not outrageous to think UF could go to Atlanta with 11 wins notched. When your defense shuts down the run, locks down the receivers and gets after the quarterback, good things happen. That’s what we’ve gotten so far and is it unreasonable to expect anything different in the last three regular season games?
Through nine games, the Gators are 8-1 and their defensive numbers are borderline staggering. Florida has allowed only 15 touchdowns and nine field goals. They allowed 30 TDs and 15 field goals in 12 games last year. Five opponents have been held to 10 or fewer points. The Gators have allowed only 7 rushing touchdowns and 8 passing touchdowns.
Here are a few other 2015 numbers compared to 2014:
Scoring defense: 14.4 (2015); 21.1 (2014)
Rushing defense: 114.4 per game/3.37 per carry (2015); 116.17/3.17 (2014)
Pass defense: 174.3 yards per game/5.68 per attempt (2015); 213.6 yards/6.0 (2014)
Total defense: 288.8 yards per game/4.47 yards per play (2015); 329.8/4.55 (2014)
SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player of the Week: Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas
Defensive Player of the Week: Alex McCalister, DE, Florida
Special Teams Player of the Week: Adam Griffith, PK, Alabama
Freshman of the Week: Darrin Kirkland, LB, Tennessee
Offensive Lineman of the Week: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
Defensive Lineman of the Week: Chris Jones, DE, Mississippi State
MICHAEL SAM SAID IT
In addition to praising outgoing University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe – “a lot of respect for [Wolfe], and it’s sad he had to leave under these circumstances” – former Mizzou All-American Michael Sam told MSNBC, “As a former student-athlete here, I did not experience any racial issues here. But I did also see some … and nothing was done about it. It’s time for someone to do something about it and this is what it’s all about.”
With Wolfe’s resignation, Mizzou’s game with BYU in Kansas City Saturday will go on. Missouri would have had to pay a $750,000 forfeiture fee if the game had been cancelled.
THE SEC IN NCAA STATS
Scoring (points per game): (11) Ole Miss 40.7; (29) LSU 36.0; (34) Tennessee 35.1; (36) Arkansas 34.8; (37) Mississippi State 34.7; (46) Alabama 33.1; (66) Georgia 29.1; (70) FLORIDA 28.6; (77) Auburn 27.1; (102) Kentucky 22.6; (106) South Carolina 21.7; (126) Vanderbilt 14.8; (127) Missouri 14.7
Rushing (yards per game/per carry): (6) LSU 277.3/6.32; (27) Georgia 208.7/5.59; (29) Tennessee 207.3/4.52; (36) Alabama 195.3/4.53; (41) Arkansas 192.3/4.96; (46) Auburn 188.9/4.19; (56) Ole Miss 177.8/4.97; (58) South Carolina 175.8/4.69; (73) Texas A&M 168.6/4.42; (86) Vanderbilt 154.9/3.74; (94) Mississippi State 147.1/4.71; (Tie, 105) FLORIDA 137.6/3.70; (108) Kentucky 135.8/4.06; (118) Missouri 113.2/3.54
Passing (yards per game/per attempt): (10) Ole Miss 348.8/8.94; (20) Mississippi State 296.3/8.33; (27) Arkansas 280.2/9.27; (43) Texas A&M 248.9/6.96; (63) Florida 229.7/7.74; (64) Kentucky 228.7/6.68; (65) Alabama 227.9/7.12; (77) Tennessee 215.0/7.36; (97) Georgia 193.4/7.35; (99) South Carolina 191.3/6.81; (101) Auburn 190.2/7.75; (106) Vanderbilt 184.9/5.55; (111) Missouri 169.3/5.29; (116) LSU 153.3/8.28
Total offense (yards per game/per play): (9) Ole Miss 526.6/7.04; (27) Arkansas 472.6/6.85; (36) Mississippi State 443.4/6.64; (43) LSU 430.5/6.90; (47) Alabama 423.2/5.63; (Tie, 48) Tennessee 422.3/5.62; (Tie, 52) Texas A&M 417.4; (67) Georgia 402.1/6.32; (82) Auburn 379.1/5.44; (91) FLORIDA 367.2/5.49; (92) South Carolina 367.1/5.60; (94) Kentucky 364.4/5.39; (112) Vanderbilt 339.8/4.54; (125) Missouri 282.6/4.41
Sacks allowed (sacks/yards lost): (Tie, 9) Arkansas 9-64, Georgia 9-51; (Tie, 24) LSU 10-76; (Tie, 31) Mississippi State 13-91; (Tie, 38) Auburn 14-98; (43) Ole Miss 16-127; (Tie, 49) Alabama 16-126; (Tie, 58) South Carolina 18-114; (Tie, 66) Tennessee 19-143; (Tie, 78) Vanderbilt 20-126; (Tie, 93) Texas A&M 23-158, Kentucky 23-154; (Tie, 105) FLORIDA 25-124, Missouri 25-160
Turnovers Lost: (1) LSU 3; (6) Arkansas 7; (Tie, 20) FLORIDA 10, Mississippi State 10, Auburn 10; (Tie, 25) Tennessee 11; (Tie, 35) Missouri 12, South Carolina 12; (Tie, 74) Alabama 15; (Tie, 84) Georgia 16, Kentucky 16, Texas A&M 16; (Tie, 118) Ole Miss 21, Vanderbilt 21
Scoring (points per game): (Tie, 4) FLORIDA 14.4, Missouri 14.4; (7) Alabama 16.3; (11) Mississippi State 17.2; (Tie, 12) Vanderbilt 17.4; (Tie, 20) Georgia 18.4; (Tie, 40) Ole Miss 23.0; (45) LSU 23.5; (Tie, 55) Texas A&M 24.8; (58) Tennessee 24.9; (Tie, 70) Auburn 27.2; (Tie, 72) South Carolina 27.3; (82) Kentucky 28.9; (86) Arkansas 29.4;
Rushing (yards per game/per carry): (2) Alabama 71.7/2.12; (14) Vanderbilt 112.4/3.37; (16) LSU 113.3/3.53; (18) FLORIDA 114.4/3.37; (22) Missouri 121.2/2.98; (27) Ole Miss 125.7/3.19; (28) Arkansas 129.4/4.00; (29) Georgia 131.4/3.61; (60) Tennessee 162.1/4.34; (68) Mississippi State 167.7/3.93; (93) Auburn 191.2/4.78; (97) Kentucky 195.3/4.63; (109) South Carolina 208.3/5.24; (115) Texas A&M 218.3/5.03
Passing (yards per game/per attempt): (11) Georgia 173.9/6.26; (12) FLORIDA 174.3/5.68; (14) Missouri 177.3/5.89; (22) Texas A&M 184.9/6.33; (26) Alabama 189.6/5.56; (42) Mississippi State 201.7/6.09; (44) Vanderbilt 203.7/6.28; (58) Kentucky 216.6/7.33; (59) LSU 217.4/6.17; (62) South Carolina 219.7/6.96; (80) Auburn 239.3/6.53; (81) Tennessee 239.6/6.93; (87) Ole Miss 248.3/6.29; (114) Arkansas 283.6/8.56
Total defense (yards per game/per play): (3) Alabama 265.3/4.15; (6) FLORIDA 288.8/4.47; (11) Missouri 298.6/4.22; (14) Georgia 305.3/4.75; (19) Vanderbilt 316.1/4.81; (25) LSU 330.6/4.91; (48) Mississippi State 369.3/4.87; (52) Ole Miss 374.0/4.74; (70) Tennessee 401.7/5.59; (71) Texas A&M 403.2/5.55; (Tie, 78) Kentucky 411.9/5.74; (80) Arkansas 413.0/6.31; (90) South Carolina 428.0/6.00; (94) Auburn 430.6/5.62;
Sacks (sacks/yards lost): (8) Alabama 29-170; (Tie, 12) FLORIDA 27-204; (Tie, 15) Texas A&M 26-247, Missouri 26-153; (Tie, 23) Mississippi State 25-182; (Tie, 31) LSU 21-153; (Tie, 45) Vanderbilt 21-135; (Tie, 73) Tennessee 17-94; (Tie, 82) Ole Miss 18-127; (Tie 84) South Carolina 16-107, Georgia 16-93; (Tie, 104) Kentucky 13-87, Auburn 13-93; (Tie, 123) Arkansas 8-61
Turnovers created: (Tie, 15) FLORIDA 19; (Tie, 19) Alabama 18; (Tie, 27) Ole Miss 17; (Tie, 53) Auburn 16, South Carolina 16, Texas A&M (Tie, 65) Vanderbilt 14, Georgia 14; (Tie, 78) Missouri 13; (Tie, 88) Kentucky 12, Tennessee 12; (Tie, 96) Mississippi State 11, Arkansas 11; (Tie, 105) LSU 10
#3 ALABAMA (8-1, 5-1 SEC): Jacob Coker isn’t going to win any style points, but his play at QB is one of the primary reasons why Alabama looks more and more like the team to beat for the national championship. Coker has had four straight games when he completed 70% or more of his passes. Against LSU he was 18-24 for 184 yards and he didn’t turn the ball over. “He did a good job of what we needed to do in this game,” Nick Saban said in evaluating Coker’s performance against LSU.
ARKANSAS (5-4, 3-2 SEC): The Razorbacks are brimming with confidence after back-to-back overtime wins over Auburn and Ole Miss. “Practices are a lot of fun,” HBC Bret Bielema said Monday. “Our kids are engaged. They’re tuned in to what we’re asking them to do. What happened at the end of the game Saturday doesn’t surprise you.”
AUBURN (5-4, 2-4 SEC): The perception is that Georgia is at best spinning its wheels and going nowhere. The perception at Auburn is the Tigers are finally figuring things out on both sides of the football. After a dominating performance running the ball and stopping Texas A&M, the Tigers are opening the week as a 1-point favorite over Georgia.
#11 FLORIDA (8-1, 6-1 SEC): Florida’s 6th-ranked defense is a bit banged up heading into its final SEC game at South Carolina Saturday. Out is backup defensive tackle Joey Ivie. Listed as questionable are defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard and safety Keanu Neal. Over on the offensive side, left tackle Davie Sharpe is listed day-to-day.
GEORGIA (6-3, 4-3 SEC): Georgia’s passing numbers against Kentucky raise questions about the quarterback position for the final three games of the season. Greyson Lambert, who got the start, was 6-13 for 64 yards while Brice Ramsey was 4-6 for 26 yards. That’s 4.73 per pass attempt, which is borderline pathetic.
KENTUCKY (4-5, 2-5 SEC): Tailback and leading rusher Stanley “Boom” Williams was cleared to practice Monday and should be ready to play Saturday when the Wildcats visit Vanderbilt in Nashville. Williams has rushed for 563 yards and 3 touchdowns and caught 12 passes for 52 yards. .
#9 LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC): “There’s still a lot of football to play and to let that game [Alabama] define us, I’m not going to let that happen,” HBC Les Miles said Monday at his press conference. Miles noted that fullback J.D. Moore reinjured his knee in the first half of the loss to Alabama and it probably done for the season. The Tigers play host to Arkansas Saturday night.
#20 MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-2, 3-2 SEC): Dan Mullen had to fight back the tears at his Monday press conference when speaking of freshman defensive tackle Keith Joseph Jr., who died in an auto accident over the weekend. Mullen said, “Losing a family member who was part of your program; there’s nothing more devastating that you’ll have to go through as a coach.” Mullen praised Joseph for being a high character guy and a 4.0 student in the classroom.
MISSOURI (4-5, 1-5 SEC): The threatened boycott of Saturday’s game with BYU has come and gone. Now how will Missouri react? Will the distraction make a bad season worse? Or will Gary Pinkel’s 100% support of his players inspire the Tigers to play well enough to break a 4-game losing streak?
OLE MISS (7-3, 4-2 SEC): What made the 53-52 overtime loss to Arkansas so painful for HBC Hugh Freeze was the way Ole Miss played on the offensive side of the ball. Freeze called it “maybe the most efficient offensive game since I’ve been here.” Ole Miss passed for 368 yards, ran for 222 and didn’t turn the ball over once.
SOUTH CAROLINA (3-6, 1-6 SEC): The Gamecocks may only be 1-2 since Shawn Elliott became the interim head coach, but they’ve been extremely competitive, beating Vanderbilt by 9 points at home and losing closely contested games on the road with Texas A&M (lost by 7) and Tennessee (lost by 3). With their final three games at home, the Gamecocks still have hopes of finishing strong and getting to a school record 7th straight bowl game. Of course, that would mean beating the #11 (Florida) and #1 (Clemson) teams in the nation.
TENNESSEE (5-4, 3-3 SEC): The Vols should have little problem getting bowl eligible for the second straight year when hapless (1-8) North Texas comes to Knoxville. Still, Butch Jones is concerned about distractions and says the Vols have to get a “Neyland Focus.” Jones called the Vols “a young football team” that sometimes struggles with focus. That’s exactly what he was saying last year. Aren’t these guys a year older?
TEXAS A&M (6-3, 3-3 SEC): The Aggies will play wait and see with quarterback Kyler Murray, who not only endured a bad game (3 interceptions) against Auburn, but was knocked out of the game with a head injury. If Murray can’t go, then HBC Kevin Sumlin will have to decide whether to go with Jake Hubenak or return the starting job to Kyle Allen, who allegedly has a shoulder issue.
VANDERBILT (3-6, 1-4 SEC): File this under if you can’t say something good, say nothing at all. Quarterback Johnny McCrary was praised by HBC Derek Mason for going an entire game against Florida without committing a turnover. If that’s the good, then here’s the bad: McCrary was 3-14 passing for 30 yards and his 11 carries netted exactly 3 yards.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATES
Illinois fired athletic director Mike Thomas. Interim chancellor Barbara Wilson said “a change of leadership was needed in order to move forward.” With a vacant AD position, a vacant HBC and an interim chancellor, it would seem that Illinois is a gigantic mess and will miss out on landing a top level head coach. Unless Illinois moves quickly to fill the chancellor and AD positions, why would any decent coach take this job without knowing who his bosses will be?
Expectations are that Minnesota will move quickly to replace the retired Jerry Kill, possibly naming interim Tracy Claeys the HBC sometime this week.
California HBC Sonny Dykes isn’t in danger of being fired, but he wants to move on, especially if he can land a job in Texas. He might be a candidate to take over at Houston if Tom Herman takes another job. Herman is reported the top target for South Carolina.
Although Southern Cal is winning under interim coach Clay Helton, he’s not expected to land the permanent job even if he wins the remaining three games on the schedule. Helton is likely to emerge as a candidate for several vacant positions.
It seems more and more likely that Rich Rodriguez will be heading east to Virginia Tech, where he will work for AD and longtime friend Whit Babcock.
After losing to D1AA Portland State in game one, Washington State boosters were ready to fire Mike Leach. Now that Wazzoo is 6-3, throwing the ball all over the yard and playing the most exciting brand of football in the Pac-12, the boosters are wondering if they’ll be able to keep Leach in Pullman. Leach is indeed available and his name is going to be associated with several open jobs.
J.T. Barrett sat out the Minnesota game as punishment for a DUI. He will start Ohio State’s Saturday game at Illinois.
We began last week with 11 undefeated teams and now there are only six – Clemson (9-0), Ohio State (9-0), Oklahoma State (9-0), Baylor (8-0), Iowa (9-0) and Houston (9-0).
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Can the Gators generate enough offense in the last three games to run the November table and finish the regular season 11-1?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Today I was reminded of the passing back in September of old friend Barr Nobles, who earned a measure of fame as one of the country’s best music critics while working for the San Francisco Chronicle. I worked with him at the Savannah News-Press back in the early 1970s where he doubled as city editor and music critic. If there was a concert in Savannah or within driving distance he would always ask if I needed a ticket. Barr had a particular love for Grace Slick, so when I was listening to an old Jefferson Starship concert today, I thought about my old friend. Today’s music is dedicated to Barr Nobles, good friend and one of the best rock and roll writers ever.