There is that old adage that the most improvement in any football season is from week one to week two. That needs to hold true this week for the Florida Gators, who don’t get a paycheck game on week two but a Kentucky team that has had this game circled since last year. The Wildcats thought they should have beaten the Gators in Lexington last year (14-9 Florida win). There isn’t a single player on either roster that was alive the last time the Wildcats beat the Gators (1986; it was 10-3 and the second year of the debilitating NCAA sanctions that allowed UF to sign only 12 scholarship players).
If there is one word that aptly describes week one for both Florida (1-0, 0-0 SEC) and Kentucky (0-1, 0-0 SEC) it is disappointment. But, it’s far easier to build on a disappointing win such as Florida’s 24-7 win over UMass than it is Kentucky’s second half collapse against Southern Miss. The Wildcats held a 35-10 lead at one point and led, 35-17, at the half. When you’ve lost a game in that manner and you’re facing a team that hasn’t lost to your school since Ronald Reagan was president, it’s not all that difficult for disappointment to morph into major doubt.
Florida’s goal this week is to clean things up. The Gators will be without Dre Massey (knee injury, gone for the season) but they will return tight end C’yontai Lewis and freshmen wide receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells on the offensive side of the ball and corner Jalen Tabor on the defensive side. Wide receiver C.J. Worton (ankle) and corner/nickel Duke Dawson (shoulder injury suffered against UMass) could also be back. Tabor’s presence should clear up some problems in the secondary, particularly if Dawson can play nickel. Over on the offensive side, nobody has the speed of Massey, but Lewis is a proven offensive threat, Worton had a great spring and camp, and Cleveland potentially is the best wide receiver recruit to sign with the Gators in years.
Improvement has to come from the O-line, which lacked consistency in the run game, and at quarterback, where HBC Jim McElwain admitted there were “probably about six throws” for which Luke Del Rio would like to have a do-over. There were also four drops.
Other than the injury to Massey, there isn’t a single issue that the Gators can’t improve and possibly correct.
That’s not exactly what they’re dealing with in Lexington where the Kentucky defense couldn’t get off the field. Southern Miss ran 96 plays including 68 on the ground. The Golden Eagles put up 520 offensive yards, controlled the ball for 40:32, and scored the final 34 points of the game.
Of equal concern for the Wildcats, they only ran 17 plays in the second half and turned the ball over three times.
Whereas Kentucky expects to improve this week, the Southern Miss game exposed so many flaws. There are serious depth issues on defense. The offensive line gave up four sacks and couldn’t push around a D-line that started three players who were no more than 265 pounds.
There were positives in the passing game for UK. When Drew Barker had time to throw, he completed 15 passes for 323 yards and 4 touchdowns while averaging 13.5 yards per attempt. He’s got wide receivers with SEC speed who can stretch the field including Garrett Johnson, who caught 6 passes for 143 yards and 2 TDs against Southern Miss.
Positives, however, are outweighed by first game negatives for the Wildcats. Even if they improve, it seems there are more holes to fill than there are plugs with which to fill them. Florida’s issues seem far easier to correct and from what we’ve seen of Kentucky, if the UF offense can’t land haymakers to the proverbial jaw of the UK defense, then it could be a second straight frustrating year.
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
#1 Alabama (1-0, 0-0 SEC): For the immediate future, Alabama will go with both Jalen Hurts and Blake Barnett at QB. HBC Nick Saban said, “We are playing both of these quarterbacks ‘for now.’ You guys don’t need to read anymore into that. It doesn’t mean we’re going to do it all season. If we’re going to have young quarterbacks, they have to play so they can develop”… Saban made it official that he has hired former Washington and Southern Cal head coach Steve Sarkisian as an offensive analyst.
Next Saturday: vs. Western Kentucky (1-0)
Arkansas (1-0, 0-0 SEC): HBC Bret Bielema said that QB Austin Allen was hampered by four dropped passes against Louisiana Tech and that one of his two interceptions wasn’t his fault … Cornerback Kevin Richardson is lost for the season with a significant pectoral injury. Bielema says D.J. Dean will be back from his hamstring injury and will replace Richardson in the lineup. Henre’ Tolliver will shift to nickel and Ryan Pulley will take over at the corner opposite Dean.
Next Saturday: at TCU (1-0)
Auburn (0-1, 0-0 SEC): Auburn’s three-headed quarterback (Sean White, Jeremy Johnson, John Franklin III) combined for 15-30 passing for 175 yards and 2 interceptions and ran 10 times for -20 yards against Clemson ... Malzahn and Auburn basketball coach Gus Malzahn each contributed $250,000 to the “Because This Is Auburn” fund raising campaign.
Next Saturday: vs. Arkansas State (0-1)
#17 Georgia (1-0, 0-0 SEC): Nick Chubb (32-222, 2 TDs) and freshman Brian Herrien (7-59, 1 TD) more than made up for the absence of Sony Michel (broken arm) and Elijah Holyfield (sprained ankle). Both Michel and Holyfield should see at least limited duty Saturday against D1AA Nicholls of the Southland Conference … In his first collegiate action, true freshman QB Jacob Eason was 8-12 passing for 131 yards (10.9 yards per pass attempt) and 1 TD. Starter Greyson Lambert was 5-8 for 54 yards (6.8 per attempt).
Saturday: vs. Nicholls (0-0)
Kentucky (0-1, 0-0 SEC): A major concern for the Wildcats heading into Saturday’s game with Florida is getting the defense off the field. In the season opener, Southern Miss held onto the ball for 40:32 and ran 96 plays, good for 520 yards and an average of 5.42 yards per play … Depth is an issue for the Wildcats, who list 15 freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores on the two-deep roster. Against Southern Miss MLB Courtney Love played all 96 defensive snaps and NT Matt Elam played between 70-80 snaps, which HBC Mark Stoops says was “too high.”
Next Saturday: at Florida (1-0, 0-0 SEC)
#5 LSU (0-1, 0-0 SEC): Former LSU All-American Marcus Spears, an analyst on the SEC Network, called for HBC Les Miles to be fired on the Paul Finebaum Show Monday … Guard Josh Boutte has been suspended for one game for a vicious late hit on Wisconsin DB D’Cota Dixon.
Next Saturday: vs. Jacksonville State (1-0)
Mississippi State (0-1, 0-0 SEC): Conspicuously absent in game one was slot receiver Malik Dear, who was serving a one-game suspension. Dear’s ability to affect both the passing and running game were sorely missed in the 21-20 loss to South Alabama … The Bulldogs shot themselves in the foot on third down where they converted only 2-9.
Next Saturday: vs. South Carolina (1-0, 1-0 SEC)
Missouri (0-1, 0-0 SEC): The spin at Missouri is even though the defense gave up 494 yards to West Virginia, the Mountaineers managed only 26 points. It has to be a concern that the Tigers allowed West Virginia 241 rushing yards and an average of 5.02 yards per carry. Another concern is the pass rush. The Tigers didn’t score a single sack against the Mountaineers ... HBC Barry Odom says he goofed when he lifted QB Drew Lock in the second quarter for Marvin Zanders. Although Zanders looked good running the ball, the passing game bogged down and Lock wasn’t nearly as sharp when he came back in.
Next Saturday: vs. Eastern Michigan (1-0)
South Carolina (1-0, 1-0 SEC): HBC Will Muschamp plans to go with senior Perry Orth as his starting QB against Mississippi State but says true freshman Brandon McIlwain will get into the game … Muschamp says no decision has been made whether or not to redshirt true freshman QB Jake Bentley. Bentley skipped his senior season in high school to enroll at South Carolina. Muschamp says Bentley will continue to get reps in practice and will travel with the team.
Next Saturday: at Mississippi State (0-1, 0-0 SEC)
Tennessee (1-0, 0-0 SEC): Amid rumors that QB Josh Dobbs is playing with broken ribs, HBC Butch Jones said Monday, “Whoever your sources is, check your source” … Jones says the Vols were hindered in their win over Applachian State by seven missed tackles and inconsistency on the offensive line. The Vols, who had the best rushing attack in the SEC last year, ran for 127 yards against Appalachian State and averaged only 2.95 yards per carry.
Next Saturday: vs. Virginia Tech (1-0) at Bristol Motor Speedway
Texas A&M (1-0, 0-0 SEC): Even with three brand new (and young) starters in the O-line, the Aggies ran for 203 yards and allowed only one sack. True freshman RB Trayveon Williams led the Aggies with 94 rushing yards and Oklahoma transfer Keith Ford contributed another 65.
Next Saturday: vs. Prairie View A&M (0-0)
Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-1 SEC): Derek Mason continues to be second guessed for lifting QB Kyle Shurmur and inserting backup Wade Freebech into the game in the loss to South Carolina. Vandy had a 10-0 lead at the time and seemed in control of the game. Freebech was 0-1 passing and ran twice for -2 yards. After that the Vandy offense went in the tank and South Carolina scored the final 13 points of the game to pull off a win.
Next Saturday: vs. Middle Tennessee State (1-0)
DANNY KANELL’S TAKE ON THE SEC
On Mike and Mike Monday morning Kanell said:
“They are the top conference in college football. They are. I think they’re extremely talented and they have a ton of guys in the NFL but it’s not that far removed from everybody else. There’s always a conversation around here (ESPN) that the SEC is head and shoulders above everybody else. And the more people around here that say it, the more you all kind of go into this group think and everyone falls in line with it. All I’ve wanted to do is challenge that line of thinking and say ‘Hey, they’re not unbeatable.’ And I think we saw that this weekend.”
BAD WEEKEND FOR THE SEC
The SEC’s weekend to forget continued Monday might when #11 Ole Miss blew a 22-point lead in Orlando and dropped a 45-34 decision to #4 Florida State. Ole Miss had a 28-6 lead with five minutes to go in the first half, but from that point on it was all FSU, which got more than 400 passing yards from Deondre Francis, a redshirt freshman making his first collegiate start. The loss completed a miserable 6-6 weekend for the SEC, which went 6-6 in non-conference games including two losses to the ACC, one to the Big Ten, one to the Big 12, one to Conference USA and one to the Sun Belt.
OPERATING REVENUE FOR ALL 14 SEC ATHLETIC PROGRAMS
1. Texas A&M $192,608,876
2. Alabama $148,911,674
3. FLORIDA $147,105,242
4. LSU $138,642, 237
5. Tennessee $126,584,033
6. Auburn $124,657,247
7. Kentucky $116,494,690
8. Georgia $116,151,279
9. Arkansas $114,172,847
10. South Carolina $113,172,545
11. Missouri $91,217,718
12. Ole Miss $87,602,519
13. Mississippi State $76,170,407
14. Vanderbilt $70,661,736
Other schools of note:
Florida State $120,822,522
South Florida $45,479,012
Florida Atlantic $30,919,633
Florida International $28,613,452
It is being reported that Johnny Manziel is taking online classes at Texas A&M but living in Los Angeles.
Houston QB Gary Ward Jr. has been cleared to return to practice after an MRI on his shoulder revealed no structural damage. Ward should return to practice Wednesday. Houston (1-0) plays host to D1AA Lamar on Saturday.
In scoring a 50-47 win over Notre Dame in two overtimes Sunday night, Charlie Strong got his first win over a ranked team in his two-plus years at Texas. And speaking of Texas, OC Sterlin Gilbert was the offensive coordinator at Temple (TX) HS just five years ago. His offense dialed up 237 rushing yards and 280 passing yards against Notre Dame.
With Sam Bradford traded to the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles have elected to go with rookie QB Carson Wentz.
Venus Williams lost Monday and Serena Williams won and advanced at the US Open Tennis in New York. Did anyone notice?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
The critics are calling the SEC Alabama and the 13 dwarves. Is the SEC truly down or was it just a fluke of an opening weekend?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I stumbled upon the Eric Krasno Band by accident when I listened to their new album “Blood from a Stone” that was released back in July. This is a band that fuses rock and roll with soul and funk quite nicely. Krasno has been around awhile and he’s a serious musician. I like the sound of the new band. Today’s music is a live performance that was recorded back on August 20.