THESE TRUTHS WE HOLD TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
1. If the late, great Yogi Berra were still alive and had seen the Gators’ 20-14 win over Florida Atlantic Saturday, he probably would have said, “This is like dejavu all over again.” My mind raced back to the Louisiana Lafayette game in 2012 when the Gators had to block a punt and score in the final 10 seconds to win that game. The Gators should have beaten the Rajin Cajuns by 20 or more points in 2012. They should have beaten FAU even worse Saturday. For a minute there, I thought Charlie Weis was calling the plays again.
2. The bad news is the Gators played about as bad as they could play and still won. The good news is they won the game. It’s like something my Little League baseball coach told me back in 1964 after I got four hits in a game against Kiwanis – two bloop singles, a pop fly double that barely made it over third base and an infield hit. My coach told me, “They all look like line drives in the scorebook.” All wins look alike in the W and L column.
3. Sometimes when Treon Harris throws the ball I think the receiver should have the option to call for a fair catch. He actually throws a decent deep ball as witnessed by the 53-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Callway, but on the 15-18 yard routes there is WAY too much air under them.
4. As easy as it is to complain about Treon, we do need to take a moment to be thankful that even though he’s got all these very visible flaws that every armchair quarterback in the country can see and dissect, he’s still a whole lot better than most of the backup QBs I’ve seen who have been pressed into action. Since (a) Will Grier isn’t going to be playing for another 11 months, (b) we hear all these good things about Luke Del Rio but we’ve never seen him go against an SEC defense and (c) we can hope for Felipe Franks or some other stud high school QB but won’t know for sure until the ink dries on an LOI, we can at least be thankful that Treon has a 9-3 record as a starter. There are a lot of more highly regarded QBs who throw a prettier and more accurate pass that have worse records.
5. If you are a religious type, then say many prayers for Treon this week and the week after. You could ask for God to transform him into a rocket armed QB who makes split second decisions then throws the ball to the right receiver every time, but that might be asking too much. Perhaps the right prayer would be that Treon survives the potential beating he’s going to get from the FSU (25 sacks) and Alabama (38 sacks) pass rushes unless the O-line can get its collective act together.
6. It’s amazing that Florida has won 10 games this season with such an inexperienced offensive line. The Gators are averaging only 3.58 yards per carry and have given up 33 sacks. Let’s put this in better perspective. Vanderbilt averages more rushing yards per game (150.36 to Florida’s 137.18) and has given up fewer sacks (24) than the Gators (33) in 24 fewer pass attempts this season.
7. On a more positive note, Jarrad Davis and Antonio Morrison are every bit as good as any two linebackers in the country, and that includes that very good group at Alabama. While both Davis and Morrison are hard hitters and ferocious in their pursuit of ball carriers and quarterbacks, they avoid the temptation to go for the kill shot on every play. They fully understand that the idea is to put the guy with the ball on the ground. Yeah, it’s nice if you can light him up, but rule #1 is get the guy on the ground.
8. It’s funny how teams go out of their way to throw the ball in the direction of VHIII. Do they think they’ll have an easier time picking on Jalen Tabor? Tabor has put up All-SEC numbers – 24 tackles, interceptions with 2 of them run back for TDs, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack and 14 passes broken up.
9. The more I watch Antonio Callaway, the more I think I’m looking at the second coming of Wes Sandy Chandler. And, just as I used to think UF never got the ball in Chandler’s hands often enough, I think the Florida offensive brain trust has to find ways to get the ball in Callaway’s hands more often. He’s got 27 catches for 541 yards (20.04 per catch) and 4 TDs, plus he’s got 391 punt return yards (14.91 average) and another TD.
10. The way the offense has performed lately, none of the “experts” are going to give the Gators much of a chance to knock off either FSU this week or Alabama, should the Crimson Tide avoid the upset this week and make it to Atlanta. Judging by what I’ve seen through 11 games, I think it would be foolish to count a Jim McElwain-coached team out.
WEEK 12: SEC POWER RANKINGS (AP rankings)
1. #2 ALABAMA (10-1, 6-1 SEC): The last time Alabama played Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium the Crimson Tide only needed a field goal to keep the dream of a three-peat national championship going. If Alabama doesn’t beat Auburn Saturday, it will have been three years since the last Bama national title. Here’s a handy reminder of what happened back in 2013.
2. #10 FLORIDA (10-1, 7-1 SEC): The Gators have perfected the manly art of winning ugly. If they can figure out a way to win ugly the next two weeks, then they will have a chance to win a national championship. Ugly can be beautiful, you know!
3. #19 OLE MISS (8-3, 5-2 SEC): The Rebels can beat anybody when they bring their A game as they did Saturday against LSU. When you see them play like that you shake your head and ask how did they ever lost three games?
4. #23 MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-3, 4-3 SEC): There is not a better quarterback in the SEC than Dak Prescott, who lit up Arkansas for 508 passing yards and 5 TDs and ran for 46 yards and 2 more TDs. The Bulldogs are 8-3. Not bad for a team that the SEC media predicted for a dead last finish in the SEC West.
5. ARKANSAS (6-5, 4-3 SEC): In September, the Hogs could play defense but couldn’t score. Now it’s November and they can score points in bunches but can’t stop anybody. They won’t win any championships but they are the SEC’s most entertaining offensive team.
6. TEXAS A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC): The Aggies moved up three spots this week because they racked up 486 yards of offense on the Vandy defense while the Aggie D pitched a shutout and held the Dores to 148 total yards. That was impressive. They should play like that more often.
7. TENNESSEE (7-4, 4-3 SEC): Jalen Hurd pounded Missouri into submission, running for 151 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Vols can clinch second place in the SEC East with a win against Kentucky Saturday.
8. LSU (7-3, 4-3 SEC): This is an all too familiar script. LSU starts out great then plays Alabama and the season falls apart. The Tigers have lost three in a row and the boosters want to buy out Les Miles’ contract. He probably announces he’s “stepping down” Saturday after the Tigers face the Aggies in Baton Rouge.
9. GEORGIA (8-3, 5-3 SEC): Mark Richt had one foot out the Georgia door until Sony Michel saved his job with an overtime touchdown against Georgia Southern. If he beats Georgia Tech Saturday, he’s 9-3 and will not get fired.
10. AUBURN (6-5, 2-5 SEC): Auburn is going bowling, which, considering where they were three weeks ago, is an accomplishment. Now, if they could only knock off Alabama in the Iron Bowl the faithful would forget that this was supposed to be their year.
11. VANDERBILT (4-7, 2-5 SEC): It’s always two steps forward and one step backward for the Commodores. Two steps forward were the close encounter with a win against Florida and beating Kentucky. The step backward was the hosing they took at the hands of the Aggies in Nashville Saturday night.
12. MISSOURI (5-6, 1-6 SEC): Saturday is Gary Pinkel’s final game as the Mizzou head coach unless the Tigers do the unthinkable and beat Arkansas in Fayette Nam. Strangers things have happened.
13. KENTUCKY (5-6, 2-6 SEC): They really don’t want to fire Mark Stoops at Kentucky, so if the Mildcats at least put up a fight against Louisville Saturday he probably coaches in Lexington next year. Win and he erases any doubt.
14. SOUTH CAROLINA (3-8, 1-7 SEC): The faint hopes Shawn Elliott had of getting the interim removed from his title came to an end with the 23-22 loss to The Citadel. If the Gamecocks can’t beat a D1AA team, then next Saturday’s game with Clemson is going to be brutal.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATE
There are reports that LSU and Les Miles are going to part ways. The buyout money ($15 million for Les and $3 million for assistants) is already in place. Jimbo Fisher is top name on the drool list for the boosters.
North Texas has a list of seven who have submitted resumes for the vacant head coaching job. The name that stands out is Baylor OC Kendal Briles. It will be an upset if he doesn’t get the job.
Multiple reports say Charlie Strong will be back at Texas.
Iowa State did Sunday night what everyone expected them to do three weeks ago. Paul Rhoads has been dismissed. The Cyclones are 3-8 this year.
WEEK 12: AP TOP 25
1. Clemson 11-0
2. Alabama 10-1
3. Iowa 11-0
4. Notre Dame 10-1
5. Oklahoma 10-1
6. Michigan State 10-1
7. Baylor 9-1
8. Ohio State 10-1
9. Oklahoma State 10-1
10. FLORIDA 10-1
The rest of the top 25: (11) North Carolina 10-1; (12) Michigan 9-2; (13) Stanford 9-2; (14) Florida State 9-2; (15) TCU 9-2; (16) Navy 9-1; (17) Northwestern 9-2; (18) Oregon 8-3; (19) Ole Miss 8-3; (20) Washington State 8-3; (21) Houston 10-1; (22) UCLA 8-3; (23) Mississippi State 8-3; (24) Toledo 9-1; (25) Temple 9-2
If I had a vote:
1. Alabama 10-1
2. Clemson 11-0
3. Oklahoma 10-1
4. Iowa 11-0
5. Notre Dame 10-1
6. Baylor 9-1
7. Michigan State 9-1
8. FLORIDA 10-1
9. North Carolina 10-1
10. Ohio State 10-1
The rest of my top 25 would be: (11) Michigan 9-2; (12) Ole Miss 8-3; (13) Florida State (9-2); (14) Stanford 9-2; (15) Navy 9-1; (16) TCU 9-2; (17) Mississippi State 8-3; (18) Northwestern 9-2; (19) Oregon 8-3; (20) Washington State 8-3; (21) Houston 10-1; (22) UCLA 8-3; (23) Temple 9-2; (24) Pittsburgh 8-3; (25) Western Kentucky 9-2
RATING THE CONFERENCES
1. SEC: This is as shaky a hold on #1 as there has been in nine years. Alabama might be the best team in the country, but when Florida struggles to beat FAU, Georgia needs overtime to beat Georgia Southern and South Carolina loses to a D1AA team, it’s obvious the league isn’t nearly as strong as it used to be.
2. Big 12: Oklahoma can win the league by beating Okie State Saturday. Okie State, Baylor and TCU are all excellent teams but the rest of the league is mediocre at best.
3. Big Ten: The league isn’t nearly as strong as the media would like us to believe, but it has a compelling finish with the possibility of once-beaten Michigan State going against unbeaten Iowa in the league championship game. Michigan has a great future and the Buckeyes need a new offensive coordinator.
4. Pac-12: The Pac-12 is ahead of the ACC not because Stanford is that good – NOT! – but because the Pac-12 has more good teams than the ACC.
5. ACC: Clemson could win the national championship while North Carolina and Florida State are very good. The rest of the league is a dumbster fire.
THE HEISMAN RADAR
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Last week: 9-68 rushing, 2 TDs vs. Charleston Southern, 1-28 receiving; Season: 1,526 rushing yards (6.13 per carry), 21 TDs.
2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Last week: 343 passing yards and 3 TDs vs. Wake Forest, 44 rushing yards and 1 TD; Season: 2,944 passing yards, 26 TDs (10 INTs); 642 rushing yards, 6 TDs
3. Christian McCaffrey, RB Stanford
Last week: 192 yards rushing vs. California, 1-49 receiving, 1 TD, 3-148 KO returns, 1 TD; Season: 1,546 rushing yards (5.95 per carry) and 7 TDs, 34-416 receiving for 3 TDs; 813 KO return yards (31.27 average) for 1 TD
4. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Last week: 15-106 rushing, 2 TDs vs. Chattanooga; Season: 1,475 rushing yards (7.97 per carry, 16 TDs; 19-207 receiving, 1 TD
5. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Last week: 508 passing yards, 5 TDs vs. Arkansas, 46 rushing yards, 2 TDs; Season: 3,159 passing yards, 23 TDs (3 INTs), 478 rushing yards, 9 TDs
Nightmare scenario for the College Football Playoff Committee: Michigan State loses to Penn State, Michigan beats Ohio State and then beats Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game; Notre Dame loses to Stanford and then Stanford loses the Pac-12 championship game; North Carolina beats Clemson in the ACC championship game; Florida beats Florida State then Alabama in the SEC championship game.
Those all Kelly green uniforms worn by Notre Dame Saturday night are best described in one word: hideous.
Immediately after seeing his national championship and Heisman Trophy find refuge with the whale poop on the bottom of the ocean, Ezekiel Elliott was griping that he only carried the ball 12 times for 33 yards against Michigan State. Elliott blamed the coaches for the lack of carries. Were the coaches to blame for a lack of carries or did Michigan State have the Ohio State offense so well diagnosed that it would have been stupid to keep handing Elliott the ball?
Speaking of the Ohio State offense, the Buckeyes gained only 132 yards against the Michigan State defense that gave up 499 yards to Nebraska. It was the first time ever an Urban Meyer-coached team didn’t make it to 200 total yards. Bet the ranch there is a new OC in Columbus next year.
There are 40 bowls and only 71 bowl eligible teams. The fact that some bowls will have to take teams with losing records tells you there are way too many games. You could trim 8-10 of those bowl games and nobody would miss them.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Two-part question: Are the Gators capable of elevating their game enough to beat Florida State this weekend and what do they have to do to beat the Seminoles?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Sunday afternoon I came across a recent live performance by String Cheese Incident at the Skyway Theater in Minneapolis just before their fall tour concluded. What makes the band so interesting is that they have incorporated so many elements from bluegrass, reggae jazz, country, Latin and rock and roll that they have an almost inimitable sound.