If there is going to be a letdown for 11th-ranked Florida (8-1, 6-1 SEC), this is the week you would expect it. The Gators clinched the SEC East last week and no matter what happens Saturday in Columbia against South Carolina (3-6, 1-6 SEC), the Gators are still going to Atlanta to play for the SEC championship.
The fact the Gators are going to Atlanta is the reason Williams-Brice Stadium will have a big game feel about it. Barring a miracle 3-0 finish that would take on raising Lazarus from the dead proportions, the Gamecocks aren’t going anywhere and for some interim coaches, this game would be just another that has to be played in a season that can’t end quickly enough.
Most coaches. Not Shawn Elliott.
Elliott is loved and adored by nearly every player on the South Carolina roster. Nothing would please them more than to see the interim taken off Elliott’s head coaching title, but they understand completely that this is an SEC job that pays $4 million a year so AD Ray Tanner is going to be able to pick and choose from coaches who already have made marks as head coaches. So, the players are planning to do the next best thing, which is to give Elliott the signature win he will need to land a coordinator’s job or perhaps a head ball coach job at a lower level. The South Carolina players also know that the assistant coaches are auditioning for their next gig and a well-coached win over Florida will go a long way toward helping them land on their feet.
The Gamecocks will be jacked Saturday and so will the crowd. They’re making this game their Super Bowl, so the Gators can figure it’s going to be extremely loud and electric.
It would be shocking if the Gators aren’t equally charged by the atmosphere. If they lack motivation in the locker room, they will feel the energy the moment they run out on the field, which is why whatever remains of the post-Vanderbilt hangover will bid farewell in a hurry.
Don’t expect the Gators to light it up, but expect a far more efficient offensive effort than we saw last week. History tells us Treon Harris won’t have consecutive bad games so figure he will be better than he was against Vanderbilt, and considering the struggles the Gamecocks have had with stopping the run, it should be a good game for Kelvin Taylor and Jordan Scarlett.
Of course, there is always that chance the Gators won’t feel the energy and that they’ll let down. A chance for sure … but it’s not going to happen.
Last week: 4-3
#11 FLORIDA (8-1, 6-1 SEC) 27, SOUTH CAROLINA (3-6, 1-6 SEC) 14: The Gamecocks aren’t going anywhere but knocking off the SEC East champ would help salvage a really bad year. However, the Gamecocks are good enough to make it close. That’s all.
#3 ALABAMA (8-1, 5-1 SEC) 24, #20 MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-2, 3-2 SEC) 20: Conventional wisdom says Mississippi State’s inability to run the ball makes this a close but comfortable win for Alabama. But what if Dak Prescott can run the ball effectively when the protection breaks down? The folks in Starkvegas think they can win. They can if Prescott lights it up. Odds are Alabama keeps him contained just enough.
#9 LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC) 28, ARKANSAS (5-4, 3-2 SEC): LSU is a -7.5-point favorite, so why does this have the feel of a brewing upset? Leonard Fournette has to make up for last week to both salvage his Heisman hopes and to lift LSU past Arkansas. But, don’t be shocked if the Hogs spring the upset and win by a couple of TDs.
AUBURN (5-4, 2-4 SEC) 21, GEORGIA (6-3, 4-3 SEC) 17: If Auburn plays like it did last week, it’s a win for the Tigers. If Georgia plays like it plays last week against Kentucky, it’s a win for the Tigers. You could call this the Desperation Bowl because both teams are desperate for a win. Auburn wins a white knuckler.
TEXAS A&M (6-3, 3-3 SEC) 44, WESTERN CAROLINA (6-3) 7: They have a full blown quarterback controversy that has split the locker room and too many problems to solve any time soon at A&M. Doesn’t matter. The Aggies will still blow the doors of D1AA Western Carolina.
TENNESSEE (5-4, 3-3 SEC) 55, NORTH TEXAS (1-8) 7: North Texas is so bad that even Butch Jones couldn’t screw things up. Vol fans will celebrate bowl eligibility and start making plans for the arduous journey to Nashville for the Music City Bowl.
BYU (7-2) 21, MISSOURI (4-5, 1-5 SEC) 7: The hope in Missouri is that the Tigers will be inspired by the protest and do something they haven’t done in more than a month, which is win a football game. Too many distractions. BYU will be focused and Mizzou will lose a game it might have otherwise won.
KENTUCKY (4-5, 2-5 SEC) 10, VANDERBILT (3-6, 1-4 SEC) 7: Here you were thinking Vandy-Florida was as ugly as it gets. This one will be uglier. Kentucky has a better kicker.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: WEEK 11 EDITION
EXTINCT SPECIES LIST
1. Tim Beckman, Illinois
2. Dan McCarney, North Texas
3. Randy Edsall, Maryland
4. Steve Sarkisian, Southern Cal
5. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina (retired)
6. George O’Leary, UCF (retired)
7. Al Golden, Miami
8. Jerry Kill, Minnesota (retired)
9. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech (retired)
10. Norm Chow, Hawaii
ON LIFE SUPPORT
1. Mike London, Virginia (3-6): All Mike London has to do to keep his job is beat Louisville, Duke and Virginia Tech to get bowl eligible. A loss to Louisville Saturday ensures yet another losing season. The people who write checks are thinking what has to be done eventually should be done immediately.
2. Trent Miles, Georgia State (2-6): The spin on this season is that while the Panthers are losing, they don’t lose as badly as they used to and the losses are exciting. Losses are losses. Georgia State is 3-29 under Miles. A 4-0 finish MIGHT save his job. Anything is possible, right?
3. Kyle Flood, Rutgers (3-6): The last three games are winnable but even going 3-0 the rest of the way might not save him. The folks in admin want a new coach.
4. Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe (1-8): Some people are hard headed and just can’t take a hint. Like the folks at Lousy-Monroe, for example. Todd Berry has been in Monroe for six seasons and he’s been a head coach for 14. He’s turned in three winning seasons and one break-even in 14 years. What must this man do to prove to these people that he just can’t coach?
5. Scott Shafer, Syracuse (3-6): He might not last the weekend after #1 Clemson gets hold of his guys Saturday for what will be the seventh consecutive loss. He was a questionable hire to begin with and he’s proving all the skeptics correct.
6. Chuck Martin, Miami Ohio (2-8): He got a win over Eastern Michigan, which is a perpetual bottom feeder so the folks at Miami, which has a long and rich tradition of winning don’t think too much of it. He’s 4-18 overall and probably needs to win his last two games against Akron and UMass.
7. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State (3-6): When your coaching career has tubes in its nose and a ventilator is pumping fast as it can, the last thing in the world you need following a blowout loss to Oklahoma is for Okie State to come to town. The sadists in charge of I-State athletics love watching a coach squirm. Otherwise they would have put Rhoads out of his misery long ago.
8. Paul Haynes, Kent State: He’s been on the job three years and averaging three wins a season, which might have something to do with attendance figures that will be fortunate to better last year’s 113th place among 127 D1 programs.
9. Mark Richt, Georgia (6-3): Mark Richt is a very good football coach who will win wherever he goes. The question is why does he continue to subject himself to the wrath of fans who have no appreciation for the face he’s 142-51 in 14+ years, which is a far better record than Georgia icon Vince Dooley had at the same point in his career … and Richt has done that against tougher schedules than Dooley ever faced. If he wins the last three they won’t fire him, but is it worth it to him to stay?
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
1. Curtis Johnson Tulane (2-7): He’s hanging on by a thread, a thread that might snap completely if Two Lane figures out a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory Saturday against Army.
2. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State (2-7): He can delay the inevitable by knocking off Hawaii this weekend. If he loses to the Rainbow Warriors, he might not survive until Monday.
3. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (4-5): The 2014 season ended with six straight losses. The Mildcats have lost four straight and are road dogs to Vanderbilt. A win over Vandy would go a long way toward regaining lost confidence. Getting to the 6-win mark is essential. Getting to 7 means breathing room. A 5-7 season puts Stoops’ head on the chopping block.
4. Terry Bowden, Akron (4-5): The bad news for Little Terry is he has to win his last three games and get bowl eligible if he intends to be gainfully employed next year. The good news is the last three games are winnable against Miami (OH), Buffalo and Kent State.
5. Darrell Hazell, Purdue (2-7): There was talk about a week ago that the buyout ($6 million) was too expensive and Hazell would be back for year four of this unmitigated disaster next season. Apparently, some of the boosters took offense so Hazell is back on the Endangered Species List and needing to figure out two wins against the last three of Northwestern, Iowa and Indiana.
6. Paul Petrino, Idaho (3-6): The Vandals won’t win the next two – Appalachian State and at Auburn – but they could beat Texas State in the last game and finish with four wins, which is the most since 2010. There is some sentiment to replace Petrino, but (a) could they get someone better and (b) could they afford even a cheap buyout?
7. Dennis Franchione, Texas State (2-6): Because he went 7-5 in 2014, he probably gets another year, but he really needs to win the next three games (Georgia State, Lousy-Monroe, at Idaho).
8. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech (5-5): Kliff is17-18 in three years and with Sonny Dykes, son of Spike Dykes, the winningest coach in Texas Tech history, making it known that he wants to return to Texas, this could open up in a hurry. Kliff has to win one game but he’d feel a lot safer if he won both the K-State and Texas games.
9. Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic (2-7): There isn’t a lot of confidence the Owls will win even one of their last three games. There is even less confidence Patridge will be back for year three.
10. Ron Turner, Florida International (5-5): If the season ended today, Turner would probably be okay but the last two games are Marshall and Western Kentucky. Two blowout losses and Turner won’t get a fourth year.
1. Willie Taggart, USF (5-4): He’s got three games to get one win. It would be a real bonus if the one happened to be Saturday against Temple. If USF springs the upset, Taggart’s job could be safe until 2017.
2. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (3-6): After losing to Florida, Mason declared the Commodores are every bit as good as the Gators. When you make statements like that the faithful ask, “Then why are we 3-6?” A win over Kentucky Saturday would help. He will get another year but it’s getting time to produce.
3. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (4-5): They plan to keep him around one more year. The Hoosiers won’t beat Michigan this week, but they should beat Maryland and Purdue in the last two games. Lose all three and maybe all bets are off.
4. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado (4-6): This is year three and Mac’s record is 10-24 with season-ending losses to Washington State and Utah looming. The only thing standing between Mac and his pink slip is the Okeechobee-sized lake of red ink the athletic department is swimming in.
5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (4-4): He’s got four very winnable games to close out the season and he might need every one of them but 7-5 is a likely finish. The real question: Does Dana hang around another year and go through the same pressure of his neck always on the chopping block, or does he seek out greener pastures?
6. Doug Martin, New Mexico State (2-7): The folks in administration want him back. A lot of that has to do with tailback Larry Rose III, who has gained 2,392 yards and scored 21 TDs in the last 21 games. The Aggies are 4-17 over that stretch.
Obviously, being QB at Ohio State gets no respect with the Columbus police these days. Caught on dashcam when he was stopped for a DUI last month, Barrett is heard saying, “I’m the quarterback of Ohio State. C’mon man. Officer, there’s nothing you can do?”
Renovated Kyle Field is one of the loudest stadiums in the country. Says Texas A&M 12th Man Foundation board of trustees member, Sam Torn, “Our goal is when an opposing team walks out on that field, it’s going to be so wild and so intense, literally someone is going to wet their pants.”
Charlie Strong to Miami? Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald seems to think it’s entirely possible. There are folks in South Carolina who think Strong could be the next coach of the Gamecocks.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What is your score for Florida-South Carolina and will we get an upset in either of these games – Alabama at Mississippi State or Arkansas at LSU?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The more I listen to Keb Mo, the more I wish I had gotten turned on to his extraordinary music years earlier. There is a reason he’s won seven Grammy Awards. Today’s music is a live recording of his AVO session from 2011. He will be touring Florida in February of 2016 (Hollywood, Clearwater and Jacksonville).