Where is Benny Hinn when you need him?
Judging by the injury report Florida coach Jim McElwain gave at his Monday morning press conference, the 2nd-ranked Gators (10-1, 7-1 SEC) are in serious need of a faith healer between now and Saturday when 14th-ranked Florida State (9-2) comes to The Swamp.
As of Monday, Alex McCalister (DE), Jonathan Bullard (DT), Jordan Sherit (DE), Joe Ivie (DT) and Taven Bryan (DT) could be listed anywhere from questionable to what McElwain calls “probably out.” Linebacker Antonio Morrison got a shaky “probable” from McElwain. Over on the offensive side of the ball, left tackle David Sharpe, left guard Martez Ivey, center Cam Dillard and wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Powell are all battling through injuries.
The injury situation on the D-line was so bad last Saturday that Antonio Riles, who has been playing guard on the other side of the ball all season, was in the D-line rotation against Florida Atlantic and true freshman DE/LB Keivonnis Davis burned his redshirt. McElwain said Riles was credited with a couple of pass breakups while Davis had three tackles.
The injuries on the defensive line are critical because to beat FSU, the Gators will have to find a way to contain Dalvin Cook, who has averaged 7.97 yards per carry while running for 1,475 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. The Seminoles average 184 yards per game on the ground and average 5.59 yards per carry.
A couple of things to keep in mind: (1) This is one of the biggest rivalry games in the country and rivalry games have a history of creating medical miracles; and (2) it will be Senior Day at The Swamp and as closely knit as this team is, every player on the team will want to be on the field to send the seniors off properly with a win.
A COUPLE OF THOUGHTS REGARDING WILL GRIER
That the NCAA came back with a decision so quickly after Will Grier’s appeal is a bit of a shock. There was always a 50-50 chance the NCAA would take Grier’s good grades, exemplary conduct record prior to the suspension and solid off the field involvement into account and rule to halve the punishment to time served this season. There was precedent in Grier’s favor on that end so why was the suspension upheld? It comes down to two possibilities: (1) The NCAA did not believe Will Grier’s story that it was a complete and total accident, a one-time brain dead moment in which he bought and used an authorized supplement; or (2) the NCAA believed that Grier used the store bought supplement in an attempt to mask the use of an anabolic steroid. Personally, I go with option #1.
#2 ALABAMA (10-1, 6-1 SEC): As if Auburn will need incentive against #2 Alabama Saturday, Bama cornerback Cyrus Jones offered this bulletin board material Monday when speaking about Auburn’s wide receivers. Jones said, “I don’t think they’re nothing special, honestly.”
ARKANSAS (6-5, 4-3 SEC): With his 7 touchdown passes against Mississippi State last Saturday, Brandon Allen has set the Arkansas single season record with 29 TDPs for the season. Allen has thrown for 3,023 yards and averages 9.2 yards per pass attempt.
AUBURN (6-5, 2-5 SEC): Auburn, which is a -13.5-point underdog for Saturday’s Iron Bowl game with Alabama, is expected to use two quarterbacks against the Crimson Tide if redshirt freshman Sean White (knee injury) is cleared to play. Jeremy Johnson hit 13-19 passes for 163 yards and 2 TDs, plus ran for 23 yards and 2 TDs last Saturday against Idaho.
GEORGIA (8-3, 5-3 SEC): The SEC officiating crew essentially gave Georgia its overtime win over Georgia Southern. There was an inadvertent whistle as Georgia Southern’s Derek Keaton attempted to fair catch a punt in the third quarter. Keaton muffed the punt and Georgia recovered to set up a touchdown pass that tied the game at 14-14. Per Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Rule 4-2-3 clearly states that the play should have been nullified in that situation.” Had the officials made the correct call, Georgia would have been forced to punt all over again.
KENTUCKY (5-6, 2-6 SEC): At his Monday press conference, HBC Mark Stoops said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re getting better.” Maybe so, but if Kentucky loses to Louisville Saturday, it will miss out on a bowl game for the second straight year after a fast start. UK was 5-1 in 2014 and then lost its last six games. The Mildcats started 4-1 this season and have lost five of the last six.
LSU (7-3, 4-3 SEC): The dissatisfaction with HBC Les Miles seems over the top when you consider the fact he’s won 77.5% of his games at a school that has won 65% of its games throughout the years. From 1962-2000, LSU won 10 games just twice and averaged 7 wins a year. In the 11 years Miles (110-32) has been the HBC, LSU has averaged 10 wins a season and has had seven seasons with 10-plus wins.
#23 MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-3, 4-3 SEC): There will be no shortage of NFL wide receiver talent on the field for Saturday’s Egg Bowl game with Ole Miss. Everybody knows all about those four Ole Miss wide receivers, led by LaQuon Treadwell (72-1,060, 8 TDs) but Mississippi State doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone with Fred Ross (69-816, 4 TDs), De’Runnya Wilson (50-757, 9 TDs), Fred Brown (25-371, 3 TDs) and Donald Gray 16-328, 2 TDs).
MISSOURI (5-6, 1-6 SEC): Gary Pinkel hasn’t decided what he’s going to do after retiring but he says he will definitely be active. Pinkel said, “I’ll do something of significance. I’ll find something. I’m not really worried about it. I just think there’s a time here where I’ve got to get organized, get going on it ... I’ve got to do something constructive. I’ve got to do something significant.”
#19 OLE MISS (8-3, 5-2 SEC): Should Alabama do the unthinkable and lose to Auburn in the Iron Bowl Saturday, Ole Miss will be the SEC West champ by virtue of its win over Alabama … There is no information regarding the status of linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche for the Egg Bowl. Nkemdiche spent last week in the hospital and remains under “medical supervision.”
SOUTH CAROLINA (3-8, 1-7 SEC): Saturday’s season-ending game with #1-ranked Clemson is probably the final game of Pharoh Cooper’s career. Cooper, who will probably declare for the NFL, has 62 catches for 887 yards and 7 TDs this season and 151 catches for 2,225 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career.
TENNESSEE (7-4, 4-3 SEC): Vanderbilt only gives up 18.1 points per game but the Vols have opened up at -17.5-point favorites … With his 151 yards against Missouri last Saturday, Jalen Hurd went over the 1,000-yard mark (1,038) for the season.
TEXAS A&M (8-3, 4-3 SEC): Will Kevin Sumlin go with Kyle Allen at QB again this week? Making his first start since the Ole Miss game, Allen threw for 336 yards and a TD while leading the Aggies to a 25-0 win over Vanderbilt last Saturday.
VANDERBILT (4-7, 2-5 SEC): Considering Vandy averages only 14 points per game and ranks 119th in total offense, Ralph Webb’s 1003 yards through 11 games is rather remarkable.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATES
Syracuse fired Scott Shafer a week earlier than expected. Syracuse started the season 3-0 but has lost eight straight games. LSU D-line coach Ed Orgeron, a popular Syracuse assistant for Paul Pasqualoni back in the 1990s, has indicated he would like to be considered for the job.
The three names on the Virginia Tech drool list are said to be North Carolina HBC Larry Fedora, Mississippi State HBC Dan Mullen and SMU HBC Chad Morris.
Nobody needs to make a home run hire as badly as Southern Cal AD Pat Haden, whose hiring and firing of Steve Sarkisian combined with the trending disaster hire of basketball coach Andy Enfield has the USC alums wondering if he’s got any kind of an eye for talent. The most recent name connected with the open job at USC is TCU coach Gary Patterson. The way Patterson has won big at TCU with under the radar recruits from a 100-mile radius of Fort Worth has to intrigue the USC faithful. At USC, Patterson wouldn’t have to scrounge for talent, which is in abundance within a 100-mile radius of the USC campus.
Is Lane Kiffin on the UCF radar? ESPN’s Joe Schad calls Kiffin “a good fit” to be George O’Leary’s replacement.
THE SEC IN NCAA STATS
Scoring (points per game): (12) Ole Miss 40.5; (Tie, 23) Arkansas 35.8; (31) Alabama 35.0; (Tie, 41) Mississippi State 41.5; (Tie, 48) Tennessee 32.6; (52) LSU 31.9; (Tie, 58) Texas A&M 30.3; (Tie, 69) Auburn 28.1; (Tie, 76) Georgia 27.7; (80) FLORIDA 27.4; (96) Kentucky 24.7; (110) South Carolina 21.0; (125) Missouri 14.5; (127) Vanderbilt 14.0
Rushing (yards per game/per attempt): (9) LSU 246.1/5.87; (26) Tennessee 213.7/4.59; (31) Auburn 200.9/4.47; (32) Alabama 198.9/4.83; (35) Georgia 195.8/5.24; (42) Arkansas 191.2/5.03; (59) Texas A&M 179.2/4.55; (61) Ole Miss 175.5/4.96; (67) Kentucky 169.1/4.87; (91) South Carolina 152.3/4.35; (93) Vanderbilt 150.4/3.60; (100) Mississippi State 139.6/4.29; (104) FLORIDA 137.2/3.58; (117) Missouri 117.9/3.49
Passing (yards per game/per attempt): (11) Ole Miss 342.5/8.89; (16) Mississippi State 316.3/8.36; (29) Arkansas 279.0/9.27; (36) Texas A&M 259.5/7.08; (66) FLORIDA 222.9/7.71; (70) Alabama 218.5/7.11; (80) Kentucky 210.3/6.23; (86) South Carolina 206.3/7.07; (92) Tennessee 199.6/6.95; (104) Georgia 183.7/7.24; (105) LSU 182.1/7.78; (109) Auburn 176.1/7.25; (110) Missouri 173.0/5.50; (112) Vanderbilt 168.5/5.42
Total offense (yards per game/per play): (9) Ole Miss 518.0/7.01; (26) Arkansas 470.2/6.91; (34) Mississippi State 455.9/6.48; (39) Texas A&M 438.7/5.77; (44) LSU 428.2/6.56; (54) Alabama 417.4/5.80; (57) Tennessee 413.4/5.49; (83) Georgia 379.5/6.05; (84) Kentucky 379.4/5.54; (87) Auburn 377.0/4.97; (100) FLORIDA 360.1/5.36; (101) South Carolina 358.5/5.59; (119) Vanderbilt 318.8/4.38; (124) Missouri 290.9/4.46
Sacks allowed (number/yards lost): (Tie, 8) Arkansas 11-74; (Tie, 11) Georgia 12-82; (Tie, 33) Auburn 16-109; (Tie, 39) Alabama 17-128, Ole Miss 17-131; (Tie, 46) LSU 16-116; (Tie, 57) Tennessee 21-156; (Tie, 59) South Carolina 22-134; (Tie, 67) Mississippi State 24-150, Vanderbilt 24-152; (Tie, 85) Kentucky 27-170, Missouri 27-167; (Tie, 94) Texas A&M 28-185; (Tie, 114) FLORIDA 33-176
Turnovers lost: (2) LSU 8; (3) Arkansas 9; (Tie, 16) Tennessee 12; (Tie, 24) Auburn 13; (Tie, 33) FLORIDA 14, South Carolina 14; (Tie, 39) Mississippi State 15; (Tie, 48) Alabama 16, Missouri 16; (Tie, 72) Georgia 18; (Tie, 85) Texas A&M 19; (Tie, 93) Kentucky 20; (Tie, 109) Ole Miss 22; (Tie, 118) Vanderbilt 24
Scoring (points per game): (Tie, 3) FLORIDA 14.5, Alabama 14.5; (7) Missouri 15.1; (13) Georgia 17.8; (14) Vanderbilt 18.1; (Tie, 25) Tennessee 20.5; (31) Mississippi State 21.5; (Tie, 34) Texas A&M 21.8; (38) Ole Miss 22.5; (58) LSU 25.7; (61) Kentucky 26.5; (Tie, 63) South Carolina 26.6; (71) Auburn 27.2; (87) Arkansas 30.0
Rushing (yards per game/per attempt): (2) Alabama 77.8/2.47; (8) FLORIDA 108.3/3.18; (19) Arkansas 122.5/3.78; (23) Missouri 125.9/3.21; (24) Vanderbilt 126.1/3.70; (Tie, 128) Ole Miss 131.0/3.34; (32) LSU 135.7/4.14; (46) Georgia 148.1/3.90; (47) Tennessee 148.8/4.12; (62) Mississippi State 165.2/4.10; (82) Auburn 180.9/4.50; (89) Kentucky 185.4/4.34; (104) Texas A&M 202.5/4.82; (113) South Carolina 215.7/5.14
Passing (yards per game/per attempt): (2) Georgia 151.9/5.88; (8) Texas A&M 168.4/5.97; (10) FLORIDA 173.5/5.61; (12) Missouri 175.4/5.72; (21) Alabama 187.2/5.69; (35) Kentucky 200.2/6.95; (41) South Carolina 206.4/7.09; (44) Vanderbilt 208.7/6.34; (53) Mississippi State 215.0/6.46; (56) LSU 216.0/6.51; (58) Tennessee 217.9/6.53; (82) Auburn 237.0/6.60; (99) Ole Miss 255.2/6.29; (123) Arkansas 302.8/8.67
Total defense (yards per game/per play): (3) Alabama 265.0/4.12; (6) FLORIDA 281.7/4.34; (9) Georgia 300.0/4.70; (10) Missouri 301.3/4.31; (22) Vanderbilt 334.8/5.0; (35) LSU 351.7/5.33; (47) Tennessee 366.7/5.28; (49) Texas A&M 370.8/5.28; (54) Mississippi State 380.2/5.17; (57) Kentucky 385.5/5.39; (58) Ole Miss 386.2/5.27; (83) Auburn 417.9/5.49; (89) South Carolina 422.1/5.94; (92) Arkansas 425.3/6.32
Sacks (number/yards lost): (Tie, 3) Alabama 38-225; (Tie, 6) FLORIDA 36-253; (Tie, 14) Texas A&M 32-187; (Tie, 34) Missouri 27-159; (Tie, 40) LSU 24-167; (Tie, 44) Vanderbilt 26-156; (Tie, 48) Mississippi State 25-182; (Tie, 69) Tennessee 22-122; (Tie, 83) South Carolina 20-137; (Tie, 90) Georgia 19-112, Ole Miss 19-130; (Tie, 98) Kentucky 17-110, Auburn 17-122; (Tie, 108) Arkansas 15-102
Turnovers created: (9) FLORIDA 24; (Tie, 17) Alabama 22; (Tie, 34) Ole Miss 20; (Tie, 54) Auburn 18, Georgia 18; (Tie, 65) Texas A&M 17, Vanderbilt 17, South Carolina 17, Kentucky 17; (Tie, 77) Arkansas 16; (Tie, 82) Missouri 15; (Tie, 95) Tennessee 14; (Tie, 102) LSU 13; (Tie, 110) Mississippi State 12
Urban Meyer says Ezekiel Elliott was correct to question the play calling in Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State, but says his stud RB chose the wrong forum in which to air his grievances. Meyer also says he is going to be more involved in the play calling for whatever is left of this season. Translation: Ohio State has too much talent to be floundering offensively this season, which means QB coach/co-OC Tim Beck is a goner.
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, knocked out of the Sooners’ win over TCU last Saturday, passed the concussion protocols on Monday and is expected to play Saturday when OU visits Okie State. If Oklahoma wins the game, the Sooners are Big 12 champs. If Okie State wins and Baylor wins its two remaining games with TCU and Texas, Baylor is the Big 12 champ.
Speaking of Oklahoma, it was a classy moment last Saturday night at Senior Day when Brian Bosworth presented stud wide receiver Sterling Shepard an autographed photo of the 1985 OU national championship team. Shepard’s dad Derrick, who died of a heart attack in 1999, was a linebacker on that team.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If you are the LSU athletic director, do you (a) fire Les Miles and pay the $15 million ironclad buyout or (b) give him an ultimatum to hire someone with a creative, wide open offense if he intends to keep his job?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Driving back from Tampa today, I listened to Cream’s “Wheels of Fire” album from 1968. It was the band’s only #1 album in their all too brief career. Eric Clapton went on to have a great career, but Cream was one terrific band.