It’s not exactly a match made in heaven, but perhaps exactly what the doctor ordered for a Florida offense that has struggled to find consistency this season. The 8th-ranked Gators (9-1, 7-1 SEC) have gained more than 400 yards only three times all season. Florida Atlantic (2-8), on the other hand, has held only three of 10 opponents to fewer than 408 yards. The Owls, who will face the Gators at noon Saturday in The Swamp, have given up 408 or more three times, 500 or more three times and 618 in their season opening loss to Tulsa.
It does indeed have the feel of a get well game and with Florida State next week and Alabama in all probability in the SEC Championship game a week later, it’s a real chance for the Gators to get the offense untracked a little bit. FAU doesn’t have an SEC-caliber defense, but it’s certainly tougher than what UF might see if a Division IAA opponent had been scheduled such as Eastern Kentucky last year. The only thing that benefits from the token resistance of a D1AA team is the stat book.
FAU’s problem is a combination of youth and not enough good players. The Owls are capable of playing tough for a stretch or two each half, but eventually depth and inexperience betray them.
Saturday, the Gators will have a nice opportunity to get their offensive line and running game in gear, something they’re going to need against FSU and Alabama. If the Gators can’t run the ball enough to keep the defenses honest against those two teams (FSU gives up 140.9 yards per game and has allowed only 6 rushing TDs; Alabama gives up 77.1 yards per game and has allowed only 5 rushing TDs), then it will be a long day at the office for the passing game.
The Gators have some weapons in the passing game that we’ll see Saturday, but they desperately need the threat of a running game to at least slow down the pass rush – FSU has 24 sacks this season; Alabama has 38. The Gators are going to have opportunities to take downfield shots against FAU Saturday, but it’s the running game that needs the work. It’s fairly obvious what Kelvin Taylor brings to the running game, but Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier need to get the two Jordans – Scarlett and Cronkrite – some carries because their speed to the outside is going to be needed against FSU and Bama.
HEARTFELT PRAYERS FOR DOUG FLUTIE
What a tragedy for the former Heisman Trophy QB who spent his formative years growing up in Melbourne. Both Flutie’s mom and dad passed away within an hour of each other Wednesday morning. Flutie’s dad who had been ill died of a heart attack in the hospital. Less than an hour later, his mother had a heart attack and also passed away.
#3 ALABAMA (9-1, 6-1 SEC): Although he’s brought in the consensus #1 recruiting class five consecutive years, Nick Saban says Alabama doesn’t pay any attention to the rankings. “The rankings mean nothing to us,” Saban said. We try to evaluate players based on how they fit the criteria for what we’re looking at for certain positions … what kind of people they are … what kind of students they are and all that kind of stuff. I just don’t know how accurate that information is [from recruiting services] is sometimes, in terms of how you rate guys.”
ARKANSAS (6-4, 4-2 SEC): Here’s a novel idea from Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who has reshaped a longstanding basketball concept for football. “There are 14 teams in the Big Ten and SEC,” Bielema said. “Let them rank each other and play each other, and just leave that date open. Then we schedule three other opponents that are FBS and go.”
AUBURN (5-5, 2-5 SEC): Gus Malzahn is leaning toward starting Jeremy Johnson at quarterback against Idaho Saturday, in part because redshirt freshman Sean White is still recovering from a knee injury. Auburn needs to beat Idaho to become the seventh and final SEC West team to earn bowl eligibility.
#8 FLORIDA (9-1, 7-1 SEC): Left tackle David Sharpe reinjured his foot in practice Wednesday so he’s questionable for FAU. Defensive ends Alex McCalister (foot) and Jordan Sherit (hamstring) and DT Joey Ivey are doubtful at best.
GEORGIA (7-3, 5-3 SEC): Mark Richt has shuffled the offensive line again. Brandon Kublanow, who has started every game at center, has been moved to right guard to replace Greg Pyke, who injured his knee last week against Auburn. Kublanow’s pace in the middle of the line will be taken by 5th-year senior Hunter Long. The rest of the O-line will be Isaiah Wynn at left tackle, Kolton Houston at left guard and John Theus at right tackle.
KENTUCKY (4-6, 2-6 SEC): Without directly asking for patience from the Big Blue Nation, HBC Mark Stoops appealed to fans on his Tuesday night radio show. Stoops said, “In this sport, it takes guys to develop year-after-year, top 20 recruiting classes five years in a row and then you’re going to be an SEC heavyweight.” Later, in the show Stoops said, “I’m asking you to still hang in there because it’s not build overnight. Don’t give up on these players and this team.”
#17 LSU (7-2, 4-2 SEC): Amid reports that Les Miles is in a win or else situation at LSU, here are some numbers that will factor into any decision to jettison The Hat – buyout for Les is a mere $15 million; buyout for assistant coaches is $2 million. Now add in the cost of hiring a new coach and new assistants and we’re easily at $20 million plus. Those numbers tell us it’s unlikely Les goes anywhere unless it’s by his choice.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-3, 3-3 SEC): Dak Prescott has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of the last four games. Saturday in Fayetteville, he will be going against an Arkansas defense that gives up 282.3 yards per game and 8.5 yards per pass attempt. Prescott has thrown for 18 touchdowns with only two interceptions this year, plus he has run for 7 scores. In his career, he has 59 touchdown passes and 38 rushing touchdowns.
MISSOURI (5-5, 1-5 SEC): Missouri’s much maligned running game has come to life in the last two games, going for 215 yards in the loss to Mississippi State and 190 in the win over Brigham Young, the best two games of the season. Russell Hansbrough, who ran for more than 1,000 yards last year, is finally healthy and that shows in his last two games in which he has run for a combined 179 yards, nearly half his total (381 yards) for the entire season.
#25 OLE MISS (7-3, 4-2 SEC): Upgrades to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium are slated to begin next week. Among the upgrades will be to bowl in the north end zone, which will raise capacity to 64,038. It’s all part of a $200 million long range plan to upgrade the entire athletic plant.
SOUTH CAROLINA (3-7, 1-7 SEC): Skai Moore has 95 tackles through the first 10 games and 244 for his career. With five more tackles, he will become the first Gamecock to reach 100 tackles for a season since Jasper Brinkley did it in 2006.
TENNESSEE (6-4, 3-3 SEC): The Vols struggled offensively last week against Conference USA bottom feeder North Texas. This week they will be going against a Missouri defense that ranks fifth in the nation in scoring defense (14.7 ppg) and eighth in total defense (297.7 ypg). The Tigers are 14th nationally against the run (113.7 ypg) and 17th against passing (184 ypg).
TEXAS A&M (7-3, 3-3 SEC): Sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett is a finalist for the Lombardi Award. Garrett, who had 11.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss as a freshman, has 10.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 5 forced fumbles and 1 blocked punt this season.
VANDERBILT (4-6, 2-4 SEC): Vandy special teams will have to be at their best to contain Texas A&M freshman Christian Kirk Saturday. Kirk leads the nation in punt returns with a 24.5-yard average and he’s run two punts back for TDs. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Commodores were gashed by Florida punt returner Antonio Caldwell, who ran 8 punts back for 110 yards.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATES
There are reports that Rich Rodriguez will not be a candidate at Virginia Tech and that AD Whit Babcock has turned his attention to former Gator OC and North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora. Supposedly, RichRod is hoping for a return to West Virginia, which supposedly has given Dan Holgorsen a win the last three or else ultimatum.
Missouri AD Mack Rhoades says he doesn’t have a blueprint of head coaching experience, age or offensive or defensive background as he starts his search for a replacement for retiring Gary Pinkel. “I’m not locked into any certain candidate … I’m not into the hottest names, I’m more about winning titles.” Rhoads does say he is partial to Houston coach Tom Herman, who he hired before taking the job at Mizzou.
Houston is putting together an improved financial package and addressing facilities issues in an effort to convince Tom Herman to stay put.
The Palm Beach Post is reporting that Miami’s search committee has “zeroed in” on Texas coach Charlie Strong. Strong denies he’s interested and the Texas administration says it supports Strong, but a lot of folks who have connections to both the coach and Miami say the interest in taking over at The U is mutual.
Dennis Franchione denies he’s planning to step down at Texas State. He’s not going to get fired, but if he comes back in 2016 his coaching career will be on the line.
Former FSU Heisman Trophy QB Chris Weinke, the QB coach of the St. Louis Rams, is interested in the UCF job.
Would Southern Cal take the interim label off Clay Helton if the Trojans knock off Oregon and UCLA in the last two games? He’s got the support of influential Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke.
It is expected that North Texas will zero in on either TCU co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham or Baylor OC Kendal Briles.
I am more convinced than ever that it would be good for Division I football to eliminate regular season games with teams from D1AA. Because the D1AA teams need big paychecks to keep their athletic programs alive, eliminate the charade of intrasquad spring games and instead have a real game against a D1AA team. At most places, the game would either sell out or bring in far more paying fans than you get for the typical spring game so it would likely produce more than enough income to pay a big guarantee to the D1AA team. There’s an added plus: there is far less embarrassment to lose to the D1AA team in the spring than there is in the fall, and for the D1AA team, you don’t risk a serious beating at the beginning or in the middle of a successful season. Eliminating the D1AA games would also encourage the power conference schools to play more of the D1 bottom feeders and help them balance their budgets, plus would open the door for more games against other power schools.
TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson (79 catches, 1,327 yards, 14 TDs) will miss the Horned Frogs’ final two games against Oklahoma and Baylor. QB Trevone Boykin is listed day-to-day.
Is there some rule that when schools with Native American names for their athletic teams bow to political pressure and change, they have to have “Hawks” in the new name? Miami Ohio was the Redskins but now are the Red Hawks. Louisiana Monroe used to be the Indians but now they are the WarHawks. North Dakota, which was known as the Fighting Sioux, is now known as the “Fighting Hawks.”
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Two-part question: (1) Would you like to see games against D1AA schools eliminated and (2) would you be in favor of changing the spring game format to allow Florida to play a team like Bethune-Cookman or FAMU rather than the current intrasquad format?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Bonnie Raitt spent more than 20 years as one of the top opening acts for just about every big name in the music business, but earned her place as a headliner in 1989 when she released her “Nick of Time” album that hit #1 on the charts and followed that up two years later with “Luck of the Draw” which peaked at #2. Since that breakthrough, she’s won 10 Grammy Awards and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She’s 66 years old, shows no signs of slowing down and still has one of the great voices of all time. Today’s music is a video of her 1995
“Road Tested” tour.