THESE TRUTHS WE HOLD TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
1. The Florida Gators are 10-2 and while both the LSU and FSU games were winnable, the Gators could just as easily be 6-6. Rather than gripe about the two that got away, it’s time to be thankful for the smoke, mirrors and whatever else Jim McElwain and his staff had to pull out of the hat to get the Gators to the 10-win mark. If they can get 10 wins out of a team with so many obvious holes and shortcomings then you have to think the sky is the limit when they bring in the recruits they need to fill in all the blanks.
2. All the complaining in the world won’t change the fact that it’s sink or swim with Treon Harris at QB. He’s not going to develop a rocket arm, laser-like accuracy or great decision making skills any time soon but he is all the Gators have.
3. This is not pouring on Treon, but FSU made no attempt to disguise its blitz packages yet Treon couldn’t read them. Every time FSU safety Derwin James lined up on or within a yard or two of the line of scrimmage, he was coming on the blitz and Treon rarely – if ever – saw him. James had one sack and disrupted at least six other plays.
4. Rather than blaming Treon or even Will Grier, let’s get to the root cause of the problem, which is recruiting. That Mac had to take Josh Grady as a transfer so he would have a third QB tells you he didn’t inherit a full cupboard. Not every QB you recruit is going to pan out, but you don’t build a solid program when you recruit and can’t hold onto the likes of Skyler Mornhinweg and Max Staver.
5. Florida’s margin for error was already razor thin so losing Demarcus Robinson to a 1-game suspension was critical. Without Robinson to keep the FSU safeties honest, the Seminoles were able to devote the necessary resources that neutralized Antonio Callaway. One obvious conclusion from watching Saturday’s game is that the Gators have to bring in wide receivers who can both stretch the field and pose enough of a threat to open things up for Callaway.
6. It is imperative that the Gators get at least a couple of first downs on every possession to give Johnny Townsend a chance to flip the field. As good as the defense is, it is compromised when opponents start beyond their own 40.
7. It’s even more remarkable that the Gators are 10-2 considering the lack of a reliable placekicker. It is said that Austin Hardin doesn’t miss in practice but after three years it’s fairly obvious his near perfect practices don’t transfer to game day. This has to be at the top of the recruiting priority list.
8. What Dalvin Cook did in the fourth quarter Saturday (13 carries, 140 yards, 2 TDs) shows what happens when Florida’s front seven get worn down. The Gators can expect Alabama to come out grinding in Atlanta next week. The Tide fed the ball to Derrick Henry 46 times and he responded with 271 yards.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY UPDATES
1. They can say it was a “mutual decision” until they turn blue in the face, but Georgia fired Mark Richt. All he did was win 145 games in 15 seasons. His buyout is $4.8 million. The hot names at Georgia are expected to be Mississippi State HBC Dan Mullen, Alabama DC Kirby Smart and Houston HBC Tom Herman. Smart is a Georgia alum so there will be a lot of pressure to “hire one of our own” but AD Greg McGarity knows Mullen from his days as Jeremy Foley’s right hand man at Florida. Herman is 11-1 at Houston in his first year as a head coach and he was 38-3 as Urban Meyer’s OC. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution thinks Smart will emerge as the top choice.
2. Supposedly, Miami has been zeroed in on Alabama O-line coach Mario Cristobal and former coach Butch Davis, but will that equation change with Richt suddenly available? Richt was the backup QB for Jim Kelly at The U back when Howard Schnellenberger was the head coach and Howie still has a lot of influence with prominent boosters and former players.
3. Les Miles, was, is and will be the coach at LSU and Jimbo Fisher was, is and will be the coach at FSU. How LSU AD Joe Alleva handled things is about as low class as it gets.
4. Missouri made the big pitch for Toledo’s Matt Campbell but didn’t pull the trigger immediately. Iowa State did and landed Campbell with a $2 million contract. Mizzou was also courting Bowling Green’s Dino Babers. There were Sunday reports that Babers took the UCF job but Babers told a Toledo Blade reporter that the reports aren’t true then tweeted later on that he is still the coach at Bowling Green.
5. Virginia Tech has its man in Memphis coach Justin Fuente, who will do the smart thing and keep Bud Foster on as DC. The Commercial-Appeal reported Sunday that Missouri defensive coordinator Barry Odom has been offered the job as Fuente’s replacement at Memphis.
6. Mike London “resigned” at Virginia, which is a kind way of saying a buyout number of $2.7 million was proposed and agreed upon. Because VaTech moved so quickly, expect Virginia to have its coach no later than next Sunday. Before Mark Richt was fired at Georgia, there was a lot of thought that former Rutgers/Tampa Bay Bucs coach Greg Schiano would emerge as the top candidate. Richt would be a great fit at Virginia, where there is ample talent and in the ACC division opposite Clemson and Florida State.
7. South Carolina has already been turned down by Tom Herman. With Mark Richt out at Georgia, will the Gamecocks lose their second choice – Bama DC Kirby Smart, who is a Georgia alum? The South Carolina situation has the making of another Tennessee, which has settled for a fifth choice or lower in each of its last three coaching searches.
8. Rutgers killed two birds with one stone, firing inept athletic director Julie Herman and HBC Kyle Flood. The athletic department is in a mess and desperately needs someone who knows how to clean things up. Greg Schiano did it once and he’s available. Former Miami coach Al Golden and Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm are thought to be on the short list.
9. If Southern Cal doesn’t go with interim Clay Helton, there is some speculation that Pat Haden will target TCU coach Gary Patterson as the replacement.
10. As expected, Tulane fired Curtis Johnson. LSU wide receivers coach Frank Wilson is expected to emerge as the hot candidate.
11. Hawaii pulled a small surprise by bypassing former coach June Jones in favor of Nevada OC/QB coach Nick Rolovich, who played QB at Hawaii for Jones in 2000-01. Don’t be surprised if Rolovich hires Jones as his OC.
WEEK 13: SEC POWER RANKINGS
1. ALABAMA (11-1, 7-1 SEC): If not for that inexplicable stumble against Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide would be unbeaten and the clear favorite to win it all.
2. OLE MISS (9-3, 6-2 SEC): Ole Miss has proven it can beat anyone in the country. Ole Miss has also proven it’s capable of losing games it should win. The Bulldogs were very, very good Saturday night.
3. FLORIDA (10-2, 7-1 SEC): Defensively, the Gators are one of the top 3-4 units in the country. Offensively, they’re right where they were during the Muschamp years.
4. MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4, 4-4 SEC): The loss to Ole Miss can’t take away from the fact that winning 8 games this year was a remarkable coaching achievement for Dan Mullen.
5. ARKANSAS (7-5, 5-3 SEC): The Hogs have to figure out a way to start the season as well as they finish it. This team could have and should have won 10 games.
6. LSU (8-3, 5-3): Now that Les Miles is going to be back, it’s time to hire an offensive coordinator with at least a small measure of imagination. If there is a serious passing threat, Leonard Fournette could gain 2,500 yards next year. A long look should be given to Western Kentucky OC Tyson Helton.
7. GEORGIA (9-3, 5-3): What does it say about a program that will fire a coach that has won 144 games in 15 years, gone to 15 straight bowl games and hasn’t spent any time in the NCAA jail house?
8. TENNESSEE (8-4, 5-3 SEC): The Vols finished the regular season on a 5-game win streak, but there isn’t a win over a team with a winning record in the bunch and the signature win over Georgia loses luster because Mark Richt was fired.
9. TEXAS A&M (8-4, 4-4): There is a lot of dissatisfaction with Kevin Sumlin. Don’t be shocked if BOTH Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray elect to transfer out. All is not well in Aggieland.
10. AUBURN (6-6, 2-6 SEC): Priority #1 is recruit a decent QB. Priority #2 is recruit some D-linemen. The 2015 season exposed all the holes that previous recruiting classes didn’t fill.
11. VANDERBILT (4-8, 2-6 SEC): The defense improved this year. The offense is still dreadful. The depth is abysmal.
12. MISSOURI (5-7, 1-7 SEC): Priority #1 for whoever Mizzou hires as its next head coach is retain the services of D-line coach Craig Kuligowski, who cranks out stud pass rushers and NFL prospects.
13. KENTUCKY (5-7, 2-6 SEC): Joker Phillips was fired after going 13-24 (4-20 SEC) in three seasons. After three seasons Mark Stoops is 12-24 and 4-20 in the SEC. Stoops would probably get the axe if UK hadn’t spent $120 million to upgrade Commonwealth Stadium and forked out another $50 million for football training and practice facilities.
14. SOUTH CAROLINA (3-9, 1-7 SEC): Whoever is the new head coach inherits a bare cupboard on both sides of the football.
WEEK 13: AP TOP 25
1. Clemson 12-0
2. Alabama 11-1
3. Oklahoma 11-1
4. Iowa 12-0
5. Michigan State 11-1
6. Ohio State 11-1
7. Stanford 10-2
8. North Carolina 11-1
9. Notre Dame 10-2
10. Florida State 10-2
The rest of the top 25: (11) TCU 10-2; (12) Baylor 9-2; (13) Northwestern 10-2; (14) Oklahoma State 10-2; (15) Oregon 9-3; (16) Ole Miss 9-3; (17) Houston 11-1; (18) FLORIDA 10-2; (19) Michigan 9-3; (20) Temple 10-2; (21) Utah 9-3; (22) Navy 9-2; (23) LSU 8-3; (24) Southern Cal 8-4; (25) Wisconsin 9-3
If I had a vote:
1. Alabama 11-1
2. Clemson 12-0
3. Oklahoma 11-1
4. Iowa 12-0
5. Michigan State 11-1
6. Ohio State 11-1
7. North Carolina 11-1
8. Florida State 10-2
9. TCU 10-2
10. Oklahoma State 10-2
The rest of my top 25 would be: (11) Stanford 10-2; (12) Notre Dame 10-2; (13) Ole Miss 9-3; (14) Baylor 9-2; (15) FLORIDA 10-2; (16) Houston 11-1; (17) Michigan 9-3; (18) Oregon 9-3; (19) Northwestern 10-2; (20) Navy 9-2; (21) Utah 9-3; (22) Mississippi State 8-4; (23) Temple 10-2; (24) LSU 8-3; (25) Southern Cal 8-4
RANKING THE CONFERENCES
1. Big 12: The Big 12 has more really good teams than the SEC and right now, the only team in the country playing better than Oklahoma is Alabama. Since there is no conference championship game, give commissioner Bruce Bowlsby credit for loading the schedule in November so Oklahoma, Okie State, Baylor and TCU went head-to-head to create a playoff atmosphere.
2. SEC: Alabama is the only complete team in the league. Ole Miss has a great offense and Florida has a great defense. Combine the two and you would have the elements of a national championship team. Beyond that, there are some good teams in the league and down at the bottom some that are borderline horrible. The SEC isn’t anything close to what it used to be.
3. Big Ten: Ohio State decided to play a complete game a week too late, leaving us to wonder what might have happened if Urban Meyer (a) hadn’t screwed around with the QB situation and (b) hired a real OC instead of splitting the duties between Ed Warinner and Tim Beck. Iowa probably gets trounced by Michigan State next week. Michigan is a decent but not great team. The rest of the league is really bad.
4. ACC: Clemson is ranked #1 in the nation. North Carolina and Florida State are top 10 teams. The rest of the league isn’t very good but it’s still better top to bottom than the Pac-12.
5. Pac-12: Stanford is the only team in the league with just two losses. The best team in the league is Oregon, which has three losses and won’t play in the conference championship game.
THE HEISMAN RADAR
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Last week: 46-271 yards rushing, 1 TD; Season: 1,797 yards rushing (6.09 per carry), 22 TDs
2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Last week: 20-27, 279 yards passing 1 TD, 21-114 rushing, 2 TDs; Season: 3,223 passing yards (8.7 per attempt), 27 TDs (10 picks), 756 rushing yards (5.44 per carry), 9 TDs
3. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Last week: 27-94 rushing, 3-19 receiving, 5-109 kickoff returns, 1-6 punt returns; Season: 1,640 rushing yards (5.71 per carry), 7 TDs; 37-435 receiving (11.76 per catch), 3 TDs; 1-1 passing, 28 yards, 1 TD; 922 kickoff return yards (29.74 per return), 1 TD; 12-38 punt returns; Total Yards: 3,063
4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Last week: 17-25, 180 passing yards, 2 TDs, 11-77 rushing, 1 TD; Season: 3,389 passing yards (9.6 per attempt), 35 TDs (5 picks); 420 rushing yards (3.21 per carry), 7 TDs
5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Last week: 30-214 rushing, 2 TDs; Season: 1,672 rushing yards (6.38 per carry), 19 TDs
QUESTION OF THE DAY
As you see it, what are Florida’s recruiting priorities and in what order? (Example: 1. QB; 2. OT; 3. LB; 4. PK; etc.)
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Sunday seemed like a perfect day for listening to Mark Knopfler and the musical choice was his CB “Sailing to Philadelphia” from 2000. The title song “Sailing to Philadelphia” features vocals from James Taylor and “The Last Laugh” features vocals from Van Morrison.