Since the Gators open their season Saturday night with UMass in the place Steve Spurrier renamed “The Swamp” and because Spurrier is actively involved in Florida football once again, we’ll start the week with a blast from the past – Spurrier’s first game as Florida’s head ball coach back on September 8, 1990 against Oklahoma State.
After three years of an offense that was essentially Emmitt (Smith) left, Emmitt right and Emmitt up the middle, Florida fans were ready for something new and exciting. Everyone knew what Spurrier had done with the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits and at Duke, but his starting QB for Okie State was Shane Matthews, who was the 6th string QB at UF the year before so there was a certain amount of apprehension.
All that disappeared in 75 seconds. That’s how long it took Matthews to take the Gators down the field to their first touchdown. The first play was a 26-yard Matthews to Ernie Mills pass and the second was a 17-yarder to Tre Everett. On the third play, Matthews and Mills hooked up for 22 yards to the Oklahoma State 5. Two plays later, Dexter McNabb went around the left side for Florida’s first TD.
That was just the beginning.
By the time the first quarter ended, Matthews had 141 passing yards (the Gators averaged only 148 PER GAME in 1989). By the time he sat on the bench and watched the backups toss the ball around, Matthews had accumulated 332 passing yards on 20-29 completions to 10 different receivers. While the Gators were racking up 567 offensive yards, the defense held the Cowboys to 238 total yards and got a safety while special teams got in the act with a blocked punt and a blocked field goal.
This was the first step on the way to a 9-2 record that was actually the best in the Southeastern Conference but due to NCAA sanctions from the Galen Hall era, the Gators were denied the SEC championship and a chance to go to a bowl game.
Here is a video of the Oklahoma State coach’s show from the next day:
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE FOR SEC TEAMS
(Last year’s records in parentheses)
Appalachian State (11-2) at #9 Tennessee (9-4): The Vols haven’t been this hyped in the preseason since 2005. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel picks them to make the Final Four this year and John Adams, the respected columnist with the Knoxville News-Sentinel has them #5 on his preseason list. The Vols are favored by 20.5 points (as of Sunday night) to easily dispose of Appalachian State of the Sun Belt Conference. But what happens if the Happy Appys put up a fight that lasts well into the fourth quarter? What happens if the Appys pull off a Michigan? Remember when the Appys beat Michigan at the Big House in 2007? Could it happen again?
South Carolina (3-9) at Vanderbilt (4-8): Can the first game of the season be make or break? It can if you’re South Carolina and Vanderbilt and the loser is in hunt to go wire-to-wire holding up the bottom of the SEC East standings. Vandy is a shaky 3.5-point favorite and if the Dores kick the can in game one, buzzards will be circling the football complex in Nashville.
UMASS (3-9) AT FLORIDA (10-4): Barring a sinkhole that devours The Swamp and all its inhabitants, we will be getting our first live looks of Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks the entire second half and we can let the debate begin which one elects to transfer out prior to 2018. The Gators are favored by a mere 35.5 points.
South Alabama (5-7) at Mississippi State (9-4): Dak Prescott is gone but Dan Mullen thinks the Bulldogs are going to be every bit as good offensively as they were last year. That’s not good for South Alabama, which gave up 37.4 points per game and sacked the QB all of 11 times. Those who don’t think there is a QB controversy brewing in Starkville now will change their minds because all three guys Mullen shows off Saturday will light up the Jaguars. The Sunday line is -29.5 Mississippi State.
Missouri (5-7) at West Virginia (8-5): If you are a brand new coach like Mizzou’s Barry Odom with the remnants of a team that was really bad last year, the last thing you want to do is go to Morgantown where the folks will start getting greased on Thursday. It’s going to be hostile and making it worse, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen knows his over-under is 9, as in win 9 or more he’s getting paid to coach next year; less than 9 and he’s getting paid not to coach next year. The Sunday night line is surprisingly close. WVU is favored by 9.5.
UCLA (8-5) at Texas A&M (8-5): The buzzards aren’t circling just yet in Aggieland but they are sitting on the telephone wire, waiting for the signal that Kevin Sumlin is walking the green mile to a $15 million buyout. Sumlin says he’s oblivious to the pressure but we’ll see Saturday. A win would certainly help his cause to remain gainfully employed. The Aggie defense will probably settle this one. UCLA’s Josh Rosen is going to be so close and so often to Myles Garrett he’ll be able to tell what Myles had for lunch by the aroma of his breath. Aggies are a -3.0 favorite.
LSU (9-3) vs. Wisconsin (10-3) at Green Bay, WI: The Cheeseheads at Lambeau Field will get an up close and personal look at the guy who could be the NFL’s next Jim Brown in Leonard Fournette. If Dave Aranda were still Wisconsin’s DC you’d bet he would have a scheme capable of slowing down Mr. Fournette. Unfortunately for the Badgers. Dashing Dave is on the LSU sideline and the Tigers defense is going to be ferocious. LSU is a 10-point favorite. I predict a 200-200 game – 200 yards rushing for Fournette and only 200 total yards for Wisconsin.
Louisiana Tech (9-4) at Arkansas (8-5): By halftime we will be reminded why Skip Holtz was run out of Tampa. This will be ugly early. The Sunday line is Arkansas by 26. The Hogs might lead by 26 at the end of the first quarter. Remember the name Devwah Whaley, freshman RB. He’s going to be something special.
Georgia (10-3) vs. North Carolina (11-3) at Atlanta: Ask any Georgia fan and he’ll tell you this one is in the bag. Of course that same Georgia fan will also tell you that Georgia will probably make the Final Four this year. The folks in Vegas aren’t quite that optimistic. That the Bulldogs are only -3 favorites and this game is in the Georgia Dome tells you the oddsmakers might know something the casual Georgia fan does not – that 7-5 or 8-4 is entirely possible this year.
Southern Mississippi (9-5) at Kentucky (5-7): What’s that old saying? Hell has no fury like an offensive coordinator scorned? Something like that. Shannon Brown, last year’s OC at Kentucky is the OC at Southern Miss now and he might have better personnel than he would have had if Mark Stoops hadn’t fired him. Kentucky is a -6.5 favorite, but there might not be a single 3-and-out the whole game. Whoever has the ball last probably wins. Not that Kentucky fans really care. They’ll be talking about Midnight Madness by the end of the first quarter.
Southern California (8-6) vs. Alabama (14-1) at Arlington, TX: Sporting News actually predicted that Southern Cal will spring the upset Saturday night at Jerry’s World. There are two chances that will happen – no way and no how. Alabama is a -10.5 favorite. It should be that bad after the first quarter.
Clemson (14-1) at Auburn (7-6): Sean White will start the game at QB for Auburn. He has NFL written all over him – as in Not for Long. If John Franklin isn’t in the game by the third offensive series, Auburn could be in deepest and darkest because Deshaun Watson is the Clemson QB and Kevin Steele is the Auburn DC. The only way Auburn wins is a shootout. Clemson is only a 6.5-point favorite which is surprising.
Labor Day game
Ole Miss (10-3) vs. Florida State (10-3) at Orlando: Chad Kelly has beaten Alabama in Tuscaloosa so he’s not going to be the least bit intimidated by the Seminoles and he’s going to get annoyed at the War Chant. FSU is a -4.5 favorite and that’s largely because of Dalvin Cook and the fact Ole Miss hasn’t settled on a left tackle yet. FSU is a shaky favorite. Very shaky.
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: There is no word who will start at QB and there might not be until Tuesday. It will either be Cooper Bateman or Blake Barnett or true freshman Jalen Hurts, who is just too good to redshirt.
Arkansas: Junior Austin Allen is the unchallenged starting QB but there is a raging battle for the #2 between Ty Storey and true freshman Cole Kelley, who has wowed the coaches with his arm strength ... The O-line depth gets a boost this week with the return from injury of Jalen Merrick and Paul Ramirez.
Auburn: Sean White is the starter for game one but most people think John Franklin III will be the starter no later than game 2 … Starting DB Stephen Roberts was arrested for trying to elude an officer and possession a firearm without a license over the weekend. Both charges are class A misdemeanors in Alabama.
Georgia: A starting QB still hasn’t been named but when Georgia practiced Friday, freshman Jacob Eason was still taking the first team reps with Greyson Lambert running the second team … Kirby Smart says he could have Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and freshman Elijah Holyfield healthy and ready to go at RB for the season opener with North Carolina in the Georgia Dome.
Kentucky: Drew Barker is the incumbent #1 QB but he will likely be spelled at the goal line for juco transfer Stephon Johnson, who makes great decisions on the read option … Reggie Meant, who left fall camp three weeks ago, is no longer enrolled at Kentucky and is officially off the roster.
LSU: The starting QB is incumbent Brandon Harris backed up by Purdue transfer Danny Etling … Leonard Fournette, who missed practice last week with a sprained ankle is practicing at full speed.
Mississippi State: Dan Mullen is expected to name a starter today between Nick Fitzgerald, Damian Williams and Nick Toiano. Fitzgerald is thought to have a slim lead … Starting DT Nick James was arrested for public intoxication Sunday morning. James got 10 starts at nose tackle last year.
Missouri: Drew Lock is the incumbent starting QB backed up by Marvin Zanders.
Ole Miss: There is no question that Chad Kelly is the #1. He’s also the best QB in the SEC. The backup battle is still raging between redshirt freshman Jason Pellerin and true freshman Shea Patterson … Tony Conner will start at safety although he says his knee is only about 90%.
South Carolina: No starting QB has been named among senior Perry Orth and true freshmen Brandon McIlwain and Bentley. Will Muschamp might not name a starter until Wednesday night but smart money is on Orth since the Gamecocks open the season on the road … Charges of malicious injury to property against punter Sean Kelly have been dropped. Kelly was charged with breaking an iPhone after he was kicked out of a downtown Columbia bar back on August 12.
Tennessee: Joshua Dobbs will be the starting QB backed up by sophomore Quinten Dormady … DT Shy Tuttle is practicing but is questionable for the opener with Appalachian State.
Texas A&M: Okahoma grad transfer Trevor Knight is the unquestioned starting QB backed up by Jake Hubenak, the only other scholarship QB on the roster.
Vanderbilt: Kyle Shurmur is the starting QB and Wade Freebeck is the backup.
KAEPERNICK MIGHT HAVE RUN HIMSELF OUT OF THE LEAGUE
Colin Kaepernick was well within his constitutional rights to sit during the playing of the National Anthem back on Friday night. Kaepernick says he’s standing up to oppression of others. It’s fairly obvious that when you make $19 million a year to sit the bench (which is what he will be doing this year unless he’s cut) you are anything but oppressed. Whatever his reasons, Kaepernick hasn’t done anything illegal but that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. Public opinion seems heavily against him and he’s involved in a running feud with San Francisco 49ers management. Even before his boycott of The Star Spangled Banner, Kaepernick wasn’t exactly on the good side of 49ers HBC Chip Kelly, who has spent most of training camp making it perfectly clear that his plans at QB don’t include Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers have a dilemma on their hands. They would probably love to cut Kaepernick but he makes too much money. Trading might have been an option prior to Friday night. There probably aren’t too many NFL owners willing to take on a $19 million salary for a player whose skills are in obvious decline not to mention whose mere presence might cause a chunk of the fan base to protest with their wallets.
For all we know, Kaepernick night feel the need to martyr himself for people he believes have no voice and if that’s the case, more power to him. However, whether he’s right or wrong, there are consequences to his actions and that might mean he is running himself right out of the league.
At some point you’ve got to ask yourself if all these injuries and all these hits are worth it? Tony Romo has a broken bone in his back, just the latest in a long string of injuries. If he has good people handling his money and has no worries about where his next meal is going to come from, he needs to do the smart thing and call it a career. Nothing is worth being a cripple for life, which is what he’s going to be at an early age, perhaps even if he walks away now.
Former Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott has been impressive during the preseason and the Cowboys didn’t hesitate to name him their starting QB. However, they plan to trade for or sign a free agent veteran backup. Behind Prescott is rookie Jamiel Showers.
FSU, strength and conditioning coach Vic Viloria was arrested over the weekend for DUI. For his punishment, he won’t be allowed to supervise walk-on bench presses the week of the game with D1AA Charleston Southern.
Former Gator QBs Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel seem to be closing in on NFL roster spots. In his most recent outing with the New England Patriots, Brissett was 9-9 for 85 yards and a TD. In the 49ers loss to the Green Bay Packers, Driskel was 4-8 for 43 yards and ran twice for 17.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What is your best memory of a Florida season opener?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I think Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes is one of the most amazing talents of the past 10 years. She writes great songs and delivers them with the grab you by the lapels soul of the late, great Otis Redding. This is a terrific band whose April release “Sound and Color” is one of the best albums of 2016. Today’s music is a Lollapolooza Chile concert from earlier in the year.