Here is what two games have told us about Luke Del Rio, who Saturday became the first Florida QB to throw for more than 300 yards against an SEC defense since Chris Leak did it against Arkansas in 2004 and the first Florida QB with more than 300 yards and 4 touchdown passes in an SEC game since Rex Grossman did it in 2001.
1. You will find quarterbacks who can throw the ball farther or put more zip on the ball, but his arm is more than adequate for what Jim McElwain needs him to do to make the Florida offense work. He’s got nice touch on the deep ball and whatever he lacks for zip on the ball on the throws that have to be threaded he makes up for with accuracy.
2. He understands that he doesn’t have to win games but simply execute. That means knowing where all his eligible receivers are, where the ball is supposed to go and knowing the opponent well enough to know where the holes are in their defense. It’s obvious that he spends enough time in the film room to know what’s likely to be available on game day.
3. Because he knows where his receivers are supposed to be and sees the entire field so well, he can get the ball out of his hands quickly enough to avoid the pass rush. It’s not a hair trigger release, but he doesn’t need one because his vision gives him those extra split seconds of time to unload.
4. He isn’t going to beat you with his feet, but he won’t lose a game because of his feet either. Watch him move instinctively in the pocket. He’s got a real feel for his blockers and the pass rush. A step here or a step there means the difference in adequate time to get rid of the football without pressure.
5. He is still a work in progress so he will make mistakes, but if you’ve watched how he handles things on the sidelines, he handles coaching well so he’s not going to be the type prone to making the same mistake over and over again.
Next up for the Gators: The Gators will face North Texas (1-1) of Conference USA next Saturday. The Mean Green lost game 1 to SMU, 34-21, but came back in week two to beat Bethune-Cookman, 41-20. The Mean Green average 206 yards per game rushing and 216 passing. The defense allows 214.5 on the ground and 187 through the air.
Florida by the numbers: The Gators are #2 nationally in total defense, giving up 168 yards per game. The Gators are #17 against the run (70 yards per game) and #6 against the pass (98 yards per game). Opponents are averaging only 2.03 yards per rushing attempt and 6.32 per passing attempt. Florida is tied for #6 in scoring defense at 7.0 points per game and tied for #4 in sacks at 4.5 per game.
Over on the offensive side, the Gators moved up to #45 in total offense (463.5 per game). The Gators are #29 in passing offense (288 yards per game; 7.48 per attempt) and #70 in rushing offense (175.5 yards per game; 4.44 per attempt). The Gators are tied for #57 in scoring (34.5 per game).
THE COACHES TOP 25 POLL
(SEC teams in bold face)
1. Alabama 2-0
2. Florida State 2-0
3. Clemson 2-0
4. Ohio State 2-0
5. Michigan 2-0
6. Stanford 1-0
7. Houston 2-0
8. Michigan State 1-0
9. Washington 2-0
10. Louisville 2-0
11. Iowa 2-0
12. Wisconsin 2-0
13. Georgia 2-0
14. Oklahoma 1-1
15. Tennessee 2-0
16. Texas 2-0
17. Ole Miss 1-1
18. Notre Dame 1-1
19. Baylor 2-0
20. Texas A&M 2-0
21. Oregon 2-0
22. LSU 1-1
23. FLORIDA 2-0
24. Arkansas 2-0
25. Miami 2-0
AROUND THE SEC
#1 Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC): There is a reason Nick Saban was grouchy. Alabama wide receivers dropped two touchdown passes, there were at least two other potential TDPs that were missed because of bad throws, the Crimson Tide ran for only 124 yards and 3.18 yards per carry and there were 12 penalties for 84 yards, most of them on the offensive line. It promoted Saban to state, “I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t do a better job for our team” … The QB situation is as good as settled. Freshman Jalen Hurts threw for 287 yards and 2 TDs with no picks in his first start.
Next Saturday: at Ole Miss (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
#24 Arkansas (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Okay, maybe the Razorbacks were looking ahead in week one when they had to rally past Louisiana Tech. The team that came from behind to knock off #15 TCU on the road in week two is a team the rest of the SEC better be prepared to reckon with. QB Austin Allen grew up in a big way, taking the Hogs on a 4-play, 58-yard TD drive and a 2-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime, then delivering a TD pass to Jeremy Sprinkle in the first overtime and running through what seemed half the TCU team for 5 yards and the winning TD in the second OT.
Next Saturday: vs. Texas State (1-0)
Auburn (1-1, 0-0 SEC): Auburn ran for 462 yards against an Arkansas State team that got its doors blown off by Toledo in game one but 706 yards of total offense and 51 points have the faithful hopeful that last year was an aberration and Gus Malzahn has regained his playcalling touch. Sean White gave the Tigers just enough running (10 carries, 60 yards) to go with sharp passing (17-23, 244 yards, 3 TDs) to make the offense click.
Next Saturday: vs. Texas A&M (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
#13 Georgia (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Perhaps the Bulldogs were looking ahead to their SEC opener on the road at Missouri next week, but the 26-24 win over Nicholls should be cause for concern in Athens. Nicholls scored 17 points off Georgia turnovers and made the Georgia offense look very average. Jacob Eason had problems making his reads, wide receivers ran wrong routes and contributed a few drops, and the O-line could only spring Nick Chubb for 80 yards, 40 of which came in the fourth quarter when the smaller Colonels were tiring.
Next Saturday: at Missouri (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
Kentucky (0-2, 0-1 SEC): It has to be embarrassing for HBC Mark Stoops that the offensive coordinator (Shannon Dawson) he fired has a win over UK and has Southern Miss scoring 50 points and averaging 567.5 yards per game. New OC Eddie Gran, the alleged offensive whiz kid, has managed to produce only 7 points in the last six quarters. Nothing fires up the Big Blue Nation for basketball quite like Kentucky football.
Next Saturday: vs. New Mexico State
#22 LSU (1-1, 0-0 SEC): There is no question LSU has the potential to be a dynamic offense with Danny Etling at QB and Brandon Harris on the bench, but two things have to happen: (1) Wide receivers such as Malachi Dupre need to play football instead of trying to save themselves for the NFL Draft; and (2) offensive coordinator Cam Cameron needs to do something wild and crazy like throw a pass on first down off play action, for instance … Leonard Fournette was held out of the Jacksonville State game because of his gimpy ankle. Derius Guice gained 155 yards in his absence.
Next Saturday: vs. Mississippi State (1-1, 1-0 SEC)
Mississippi State (1-1, 1-0 SEC): After what Nick Fitzgerald did against South Carolina (178 passing yards and 2 TDs, 195 rushing) you have to wonder what the heck was Dan Mullen thinking in the season opener when Fitzgerald spent all but a few snaps on the bench. The way LSU struggled with Jacksonville State dual threat QB Eli Jenkins (82 rushing yards, 248 passing) you have to think Mississippi State has a legitimate chance next Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
Next Saturday: at LSU (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
Missouri (1-1, 0-0 SEC): It’s fairly obvious the impact that OC/QB coach Josh Heupel has had on Drew Lock. Through two games, Lock has thrown for 730 yards and 6 TDs and he has yet to throw an interception. Missouri scored only 163 points in 12 games last year. The Tigers have 72 in two games so far this season. The first real test of how far Lock has come will be this weekend when he goes against a Georgia secondary that is giving up only 133.5 yards per game.
Next Saturday: vs. Georgia (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
#17 Ole Miss (1-1, 0-0 SEC): With Alabama coming to town, there has to be serious concern about the Ole Miss defense. On Monday, the Rebels gave up 419 passing yards to Florida State. Saturday, the Rebels were gashed for 239 rushing yards by D1AA Wofford. Those numbers don’t send a good message with the Crimson Tide next on the schedule.
Next Saturday: vs. #1 Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
South Carolina (1-1, 1-1 SEC): Perry Orth is a trooper and the kind of guy you want on your team, but not necessarily as your starting QB as he proved against Mississippi State when he was 9-17 for 83 yards and a pick, an average of 4.9 per pass attempt. As much as Will Muschamp wants to bring freshman Brandon McIlwain along slowly, the offensive situation is urgent enough that it’s time to throw the kid into the fire. Against Mississippi State, McIlwain was 11-22 for 126 yards and 2 TDs passing.
Next Saturday: vs. East Carolina (2-0)
#15 Tennessee (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Although the Vols looked much better offensively in week two, there are still some serious concerns. Josh Dobbs threw for 3 TDs against Virginia Tech, but only 91 yards, for just 4.8 yards per attempt and only 52.6% of his passes were completed. All three of the TD passes were jump balls, which tells you both Dobbs and the Vols got lucky. While they were impressive in forcing 5 Virginia Tech turnovers that allowed the offense to work with a short field, there are enough questions that make you believe this will go down as one of the most – if not THE most – overrated team of 2016. Tennessee gained only 330 total yards. What happens when the Vols play a team capable of stacking the box while still covering the wide receivers 1-on-1?
Next Saturday: vs. Ohio University (1-1)
#20 Texas A&M (2-0, 0-0 SEC): The 67-0 win over Prairie View A&M was nothing more than a glorified scrimmage over a team that will be a bottom feeder in the SWAC. We’ll have a very good idea of how good the Aggies are Saturday when they travel to Auburn and face a defense a stout defense that held Clemson to 19 points and Arkansas State to just 66 rushing yards.
Next Saturday: at Auburn (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1 SEC): Although the Commodores are celebrating a win and an almost astonishing 47 points against Middle Tennessee, the offensive numbers are sobering. Take away the 211 rushing yards by Ralph Webb and the Commodores managed only 123 offensive yards. Kyle Shurmur threw for 113 yards and a TD but he averaged only 4.0 per attempt. What will the Commodores do for offense when someone with a decent front seven stacks the box and kneecaps Webb and the running game?
Next Saturday: at Georgia Tech (2-0)
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: How do you follow up on accounting for 8 TDs in the season opener? Why you throw for 411 and a TD and run for 199 and 4 TDs in game two. If he lights up Florida State this weekend, he will find himself at the top of nearly every Heisman voter’s list.
2. Donnell Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State: Against Cal, he had 281 rushing yards and 3 TDs plus he caught 4 passes out of the backfield. Never heard of him? Well, all he’s done is break Marshall Faulk’s career rushing records at San Diego State and he’s still got 10 regular season games to go. For the season he has 379 rushing yards (7.58 per carry) and 8 catches for 70.
3. Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State: In his first two career starts, he’s accounted for 737 total yards (681 passing, 56 rushing) and thrown 5 TDPs, but most impressively he led FSU back from a 28-6 deficit to beat then #11-ranked Ole Miss.
4. Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Ohio State: Against Tulsa, he carried 8 times for 78 yards and caught 5 passes for 82. For the season he has rushed for 162 yards (7.71 per carry) and a TD and caught 14 passes for 239 yards (17.07 per catch) and 2 TDs.
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: Stanford had a week off. Next up is Southern Cal.
2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: He missed Saturday’s game with Jacksonville State with a sprained ankle. Mississippi State is next on the agenda.
3. Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston: He was held out of Saturday’s game with Lamar as a precaution due to a shoulder injury suffered in week one against Oklahoma. Next game is against Cincinnati Thursday night.
4. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: Through two games he has accounted for 587 offensive yards (498 passing, 85 rushing) and 9 TDs (6 passing, 3 rushing). Saturday’s game against Oklahoma could be a Heisman elimination game between Barrett and Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield.
5. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: He played only about half the game against Louisiana Monroe but threw for 244 yards and 3 TDs. For the season he’s completing 71.7% of his passes for 567 yards (10.7 per attempt) and 5 TDs without a pick. His Heisman hopes could take a substantial leap with a big game against Ohio State this week.
1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: He threw for 3 TDs but had two passes picked off vs. Troy. In two games he has 4 TDPs and 3 INTs.
2. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: He gained only 80 yards against a D1AA team and coughed up the football, leading to a Nicholls touchdown.
If the final play of regulation should not have been a penalty, then why is it the Big 12 and MAC officials can’t simply say game over and award Oklahoma State a win over Central Michigan? Another question. Why didn’t the Big 12 replay central officials catch the error? Final question. Why was Oklahoma State even in a position to lose that game anyway?
If Miami can stay healthy, the Hurricanes are going to sneak up on some people this year. Even though it’s hard to judge progress against inferior opponents, Mark Richt has the Hurricanes on track to be 4-0 when FSU comes to town the first weekend in October. A 9-3 or 10-2 record is entirely possible.
Running back Kalen Ballage set an NCAA record by scoring 8 TDs in Arizona State’s 68-55 win over Texas Tech. Ballage ran for 137 yards and 7 TDs and caught 2 passes for 48 yards and another TD.
It was a good weekend for the Del Rio clan. Not only did Luke have a big game to lead the Gators past Kentucky, dad Jack rallied the Oakland Raiders to a 35-34 win over the New Orleans Saints, going for 2 and the win instead of the tie with 47 seconds to go in the game.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Which SEC team improved the most from week one to week two of the 2016 season? Which team is the biggest surprise and which is the greatest disappointment?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The Denver-based folk rock band The Lumineers, which went triple platinum with their self-titled first album in 2013, released their second album “Cleopatra” back in April. They will be playing next Sunday night in Atlanta as part of the Music Midtown Festival. Today’s music is a live performance on radio station KEXP.