Not that they’ll really be needed Saturday when the 23rd-ranked Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) host North Texas (1-1) of Conference USA in a paycheck game at Steve Spurrier Florida Field, but odds are strong that wide receivers Antonio Callaway (leg) and Tyrie Cleveland (hamstring) won’t suit up. The Gators have plenty of receivers who can use the work and they’ll be going against a UNT secondary that gave up 300 passing yards and 3 TDPs in its season opening loss to SMU.
Considering the Gators will travel to Knoxville next week for a showdown with Tennessee that could very well decide the Southeastern Conference East Division championship, a game usually decided by the team that runs the ball best, you should expect an offense against UNT that will throw a little less and instead rely heavily emphasize the ground game. It is an opportunity for Florida to fine tune the play on the offensive line against a team that has struggled to make stops. Against SMU, the Mean Green gave up 272 yards and a whopping 5.91 yards per carry. Bethune-Cookman from D1AA only ran for 157 yards but the Wildcats did average 4.91 per carry
In racking up 244 rushing yards against Kentucky, the Gators averaged 4.88 yards per carry, which represented a substantial increase from the 107 yards and 3.69 per carry in game one against UMass. The improvement was welcome but there are concerns that UF rarely got to the second level. Freshman Lamical Perine, who led UF with 17 carries for 105 yards, broke runs of 17 and 36 yards in the fourth quarter after Kentucky was worn down but in the first three quarters the Gators had only four carries that got 10 or more yards and none of them went more than 16.
Florida’s improved passing game should keep opponents from loading up the box to stop the run and that should create more running lanes, but another factor could be the presence of true freshman Jawaan Taylor. Almost all of Florida’s big plays in the running game in the second half came off the right side where Taylor replaced tackle Fred Johnson, who went down with an ankle injury. At 6-5, 340, Taylor’s play against Kentucky seemed to provide the O-line with the missing link it’s been needing. He’s only going to get better.
Florida statistical ranking in the SEC:
Scoring offense: #4, 34.5 per game
Total offense: #5, 463.5 per game
Rushing offense: #9, 175.5 per game
Passing offense: #3, 288.0 per game
Third down conversions: #2, 23-37 (62.2%)
Sacks allowed: #1, 1-6 yards
Turnovers: #1 (tie), 1 interception
Scoring defense: #1, 7.0 per game
Total defense: #1, 168.0 per game
Rushing defense: #3, 70.0 per game
Passing defense: #1, 98.0 per game
Third down conversions allowed: #1, 5-23 (21.7%)
Sacks: #1, 9-59
Turnovers forced: #3 (tie), 4 (1 fumble, 3 interceptions)
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: 9/13/2016 EDITION
ON LIFE SUPPORT
1. Darrell Hazell, Purdue: The Boilermakers are 1-1 so far but their combined attendance for the two home games is 65,142. Stadium capacity is 57,236. Translation, the football program is bleeding red ink in addition to going nowhere.
2. Paul Haynes, Kent State: The Golden Flashes lost to D1AA North Carolina A&T of the MEAC. In two weeks they travel to Tuscaloosa to face their most famous alum, Nick Saban. We know how that will turn out. Big question is does Haynes make it to October?
3. Chuck Martin, Miami (OH): Losing to D1AA Eastern Illinois might have been the nail that sealed Martin’s coffin. Western Kentucky and Cincinnati are the next two games and they will get ugly early. He might finish the season but he won’t be gainfully employed next year.
4. Brad Lambert, Charlotte: Charlotte is 3-11 the last two seasons since joining Division I – 2-0 vs. D1AA and 1-11 against Division I opponents. If Lambert can’t beat Eastern Michigan this week, there isn’t another winnable game on the schedule.
5. Ron Turner, Florida International: Two home games against Power 5 opponents have drawn a combined 33,173 fans and losses by a combined 48 points. The next three games will determine his fate – at UMass, UCF and Florida Atlantic.
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
1. Les Miles, LSU: Okay, Les changed quarterbacks to Danny Etling and the first thing that changed was a pass hit a receiver in stride. Such a concept. The big question is will Les allow Etling to throw the ball down the field, which he does well, or will the LSU offense continue to be as predictable as there is in college football? If predictable, buyout be damned ($12.9 million) and let the Lexit begin.
2. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech: Kliffy is 20-20 since taking over as the HBC at Texas Tech. To post a winning season, the Red Raiders will have to win shootouts (they lost 68-55 to Arizona State last Saturday). Kliffy is not the most popular guy in Lubbock. A losing season will likely do him in.
3. Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic: He’s 7-19 overall and 1-1 this year with the only win over a D1AA team. He desperately needs to get to at least 5 wins but there are only two games left on the schedule that seem remotely winnable.
4. Paul Petrino, Idaho: They really should give Paul a year more. Let him show what he can do in Division IAA which is where the Vandals will be after this year and where they were once a power in the Big Sky Conference.
5. Trent Miles, Georgia State: The Panthers won’t come anywhere close to matching last year’s 6 wins. The next four games have loss written all over them and that will put Miles On Life Support.
6. Doug Martin, New Mexico State: He could have penciled his name in as HBC next year if he could have beaten New Mexico last Saturday (32-31 loss). If he can get to 5 wins (won 3 last year), he probably saves his job.
7. Doug Beaty, Kansas: He’s 1-1 but the program is an absolute mess and there isn’t a single Big 12 Conference game in which the Jayhawks will be favored to win. Folks in Lawrence are thinking this is a job that is going to require a better and more experienced coach than Beaty to turn things around.
VERY WEAK PULSE
1. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: Lost in the glow of scoring 47 points in a win over Middle Tennessee is the fact the Dores only gained 344 total yards and 211 were by Ralph Webb. If Vandy loses at Georgia Tech and at Western Kentucky the following week, a loss to Florida could elevate Mason to On Life Support.
2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn: The over-under is 8 wins in the regular season. If Gus gets to 8 he’s coaching at Auburn next year. He could do himself a lot of good by beating the Aggies this week.
3. Chad Morris, SMU: They’re paying him a lot of money by Conference USA standards ($2.6 million) and they’re 1-1 this year with a win over North Texas and a blowout loss to Baylor. The schedule looks like it has another 8 losses on it.
4. Dave Doeren, North Carolina State: He’s 19-21 since he arrived from Northern Illinois and only went 15-11 with Jacoby Brissett as his QB the two previous years. He doesn’t have Jacoby anymore and a schedule that includes Notre Dame, Clemson, Louisville, FSU, Miami and UNC. That’s conducive to a losing season and a loser will send Doeren packing.
SAVED BY THE BUYOUT
1. Mark Stoops, Kentucky: If this were basketball, folks would be lining up to contribute to the $12 million buyout. It’s football. He stays one more year.
2. James Franklin, Penn State: He’s basically worn out his welcome in Happy Valley, but he’s got a very smart lawyer and they don’t want to pay the buyout.
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
SEC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offense: Austin Allen, Arkansas, QB
Defense: Micah Abernathy, Tennessee, DB
Special Teams: Daniel Carlson, Auburn, PK and Tre’Davious White, LSU, DB/PR
Freshman: Jonathan Johnson, Missouri, WR/PR
Offensive line: Dan Skipper, Arkansas, LT
Defensive line: A.J. Jefferson, Mississippi State, DE
#1 Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC): There is legitimate concern with a running game that struggled to get any traction against Western Kentucky (39 carries, 124 yards). Nick Saban groused at his Monday press conference, “It’s a combination of fundamental execution. It was a combination of they got more up there than we could block. But if we block them right, we should have 4- and 5-yard runs – if we get movement, if you have the right hand placement, if we step the right way. Those are all the things, to me, that I’m talking about that we need to do better. Is it easier to run when you’ve got a light box? Yes. But I think regardless of what the box is, if you do it correctly and you execute it correctly you’ve got a much better chance of having success.”
#24 Arkansas (2-0, 0-0 SEC): HBC Bret Bielema took exception to TCU fans booing linebacker Brooks Ellis who went down with crams and eventually had to go to the locker room “I thought it was a very sick moment,” Bielema said. “As Vernon Hargreaves (Arkansas LB coach) said to me, ‘Yeah, I want Brooks Ellis out of the game. You’re right. We’re taking what we think may be our best player off the field.’ It makes no sense to me.”
Auburn (1-1, 0-0 SEC): Auburn is unranked but through two games seems vastly improved from last year. Combine that with the home field advantage and the Tigers have begun the week as a 4-point favorite over #20 Texas A&M (2-0, 0-0) Saturday at Jordan Hare Stadium ... Sean White’s play against Arkansas State – 17-23 passing for 244, 3 TDs; 10-60 rushing – has at least temporarily put an end to the quarterback controversy. Against Arkansas State, backup John Franklin III ran 4-70 during mopup time and didn’t attempt a pass.
#13 Georgia (2-0, 0-0 SEC): DE Jonathan Ledbetter, who missed the first two games of the season on suspension for a July DUI, will be out once again for Georgia’s visit to Missouri. Since it was Ledbetter’s second alcohol related arrest, protocol says it should be a 6-game suspension but no one at Georgia will confirm.
Kentucky (0-2, 0-1 SEC): HBC Mark Stoops says he’s considering a more active role in the defensive game planning. After watching the last two games in which the Wildcats gave up 89 points and an average of 542 yards per game, you have to wonder why it took so long for Stoops to step in because DC D.J. Eliot isn’t getting the job done. Regarding the loss to Florida, Stoops said, “It didn’t appear to me that we had a lot of belief in winning that game.”
#22 LSU (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette, who was held out of the Tigers’ 34-13 win over Jacksonville State due to lingering effects of a sprained ankle from week one, is expected to be ready to go Saturday when Mississippi State comes to Baton Rouge. Fournette gained 138 yards on 20 carried against Wisconsin.
Mississippi State (1-1, 1-0 SEC): Nick Fitzgerald broke the school record for rushing yardage by a QB in the Bulldogs win over South Carolina. Fitzgerald’s 195 yards on 17 carries beat John Bond’s 36-year old record of 163 set in 1980.
Missouri (1-1, 0-0 SEC): As a team, Missouri threw for 1,986 yards last season with Drew Lock throwing for 1,332 and 4 TDPs as a true freshman. Through two games this season, Lock has thrown for 730 yards and 6 TDs without a single interception.
#17 Ole Miss (1-1, 0-0 SEC): Speaking of Saturday’s opponent Alabama, HBC Hugh Freeze said, “They may be better than last year, if that’s possible.” Ole Miss has beaten Alabama the last two years and gave the Crimson Tide their only loss during the 2015 run to the national championship. Speaking of the Bama defense, Freeze said, “I think they’re a little better defensively than they’ve been. Believe it or not, they’re faster.”
South Carolina (1-1, 1-1 SEC): HBC Will Muschamp is mulling a QB change but one place that will change for certain is the secondary. Muschamp said Sunday night, “You can’t tolerate lack of effort to want to tackle. That’s something you can’t tolerate. We don’t have a lot of options but we are going to have to make some changes.” Against Mississippi State, the Gamecocks allowed first time starter Nick Fitzgerald to throw for 195 yards and 3 TDPs.
#15 Tennessee (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Starting MLB Darrin Kirkland will miss the Ohio U game for sure with a high ankle sprain. His status is being called week-to-week. Kirkland had 7 tackles and 1 sack before his injury in the fourth quarter. Also injured are DE LaTroy Lewis, who HBC Butch Jones says will be “out several weeks” with a sprained ankle, and All-American KR Evan Berry, whose hamstring has him listed day-to-day.
#20 Texas A&M (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Lost in all the hype about the 67 points and 672 yards of total offense against D1AA Prairie View A&M was the defensive effort. The Aggies shut out the highest scoring team in D1AA from last year (45 points a game), holding the Panthers to 205 total yards with just 32 on the ground. The Aggies will be facing an Auburn offense this week that is coming off a 51-point, 706 total yard effort against Arkansas State that included 462 rushing yards.
Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1 SEC): In addition to running for 211 of Vanderbilt’s 344 total offensive yards against Middle Tennessee State, Ralph Webb forced a fumble on a punt that resulted in a safety. Webb might be the only stud running back in the entire SEC to play in non-return roles on special teams. Webb is currently 777 yards away from the school rushing record. The record is 3,143 by Zac Stacy. Webb has run for 2,367.
The NCAA has elected to pull seven championship events from the state of North Carolina in reaction to the state’s bathroom bill. The NCAA’s job is to promote student athletes and the sports in which they participate. It seems that the organization has opened up a real can of worms here by using college sports as leverage to further the agenda of political correctness.
David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox hit his 33rd homer of the season and the 536th of his career to tie Mickey Mantle for 17th on the all-time Major League Baseball list.
Never one to mince his words, Washington State coach Mike Leach, whose team is 0-2, stated Monday, “Right now we have the atmosphere of a JC softball team. That’s what we are, a JC softball team.”
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy wondered out loud Monday why a Power 5 conference school like OSU played a home game (and lost) against a team from the MAC (Central Michigan) and the officials were from the MAC. MAC officials blew a call at the end of the game that cost Okie State the win. “The best (officials) will be at (the Power 5) level,” Gundy said. “When we’re playing in these games, we need to use our officials or we don’t sign a contract.”
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Should the NCAA use championship events as leverage against states that fail to take a politically correct stance or is the organization well within its boundaries to pull events and place them in states where it agrees with the laws and political climate?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I found this album online by Chuck Leavell as a solo act. Chuck played keyboards with the Allman Brothers in the 1970s and had his own band, Sea Level, which was highly underrated. He’s also toured with Eric Clapton, Gov’t Mule, The Black Crowes and the Rolling Stones among others. Today’s music is his 2012 album “Back to the Woods.”