Coaches will tell you there is never a good time for an injury, but since they are a part of the game, there is no time for a player to go down than on a week like this for the 23rd-ranked Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC). North Texas (1-1) of Conference USA comes to town and while the Mean Green have already matched last season’s win total, they are in no way, shape or form ready to handle even a shorthanded Florida team that needs a good tuneup before heading to Knoxville next week..
The Gators will be without starting right guard Tyler Jordan, who needs eye surgery, and that means the O-line will be shuffled. The depth chart shows redshirt freshman Richard Desir-Jones (6-4, 292) as next man up at the position but it’s also possible sophomore Fred Johnson (6-6, 311) could slide down from right tackle, a move made possible by the emergence of true freshman Jawaan Taylor (6-5, 340). Taylor stepped in and played extremely well in last week’s win over Kentucky when Johnson sprained his ankle. He gets the start at RT this week so Johnson is available to move inside.
Desir-Jones and Johnson will be going against a North Texas defense that has been gashed for 214.5 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry so far. Even if Jordan had been healthy, it’s a game that the Gators would have probably game planned for ground and pound, so losing Jordan won’t result in any major changes to the play calling. Getting Desir-Jones and Johnson plenty of reps is important because they’ll be going against a veteran Tennessee D-line in Knoxville next week.
The injury to Jordan isn’t the only one that has the Gators relying on replacements this week. Wide receiver Antonio Callaway is highly doubtful due to a quad injury and freshman wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland is still nursing a hamstring so he’s also out. Although losing Callaway takes away Florida’s best deep threat, the Gators shouldn’t have a problem. You can figure that Brandon Powell (11-116, 2 TDs) will move from the slot to the outside where he will likely be Luke Del Rio’s top target.
Over on the defensive side, outside linebacker Jeremiah Moon, who had played mostly special teams, will have surgery on his thumb and that will keep him out for a number of weeks.
Even with injuries to the O-line and wide receiver positions, Florida is still much stronger than North Texas, in its first season under former North Carolina offensive coordinator Seth Littrell.
THE SAYER SAYS SOOTH!
This week’s games:
Last week: 10-2 (.857)
Season: 16-9 (.640)
#23 Florida 51, North Texas 7: The Gators are favored by 36.5 points and that seems about right. It won’t be close and it will give Jim McElwain a chance to get some of his backups game ready for next week in Knoxville.
#1 Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC) 31, #17 Ole Miss (1-1, 0-0 SEC) 21: Remember the second half of Ole Miss and FSU when FSU’s superior depth completely wore out the Rebels? Well, that’s what you can expect Saturday afternoon. Chad Kelly will be the best QB Alabama will face until the playoffs, but Kelly can’t play defense and that’s where the cracks in the Ole Miss game plan will take place. Watch for a revival of the Alabama running game and remember the name B.J. Emmons. He has been spoon fed so far but he’s Bama’s most instinctive runner and it’s time to cut him loose.
#13 Georgia (2-0, 0-0 SEC) 28, Missouri (1-1, 0-0 SEC) 21: Kirby Smart says Missouri’s experienced defense is a real concern. He must have been looking at last year’s film because Mizzou and defense have been two ships that pass in the night so far. Kirby better be more concerned about what Mizzou is doing on the other side of the ball. Coordinator Josh Heupel is the same guy whose offense lit up a Kirby Smart defense in the Sugar Bowl three years ago. Meanwhile, Georgia’s offensive line has problems and QB Jacob Eason looks NFL ready on one throw and like he’s still in high school on the next. Georgia is a shaky pick here. If Mizzou lights up the Georgia defense and stuffs the running game, we could see an upset.
#15 Tennessee (2-0, 0-0 SEC) 34, Ohio U (1-1) 14: The Vols better get the kinks worked out of their offense Saturday against Ohio U because they’re going against a lockdown defense next week against Florida. The Vols are supposed to have a dominant ground game but it’s been a no show so far and Josh Dobbs throwing reminds you of Saddam Hussein’s SCUD missiles that rarely hit a target. His 3 TDPs against Virginia Tech were all jump balls that were a tribute to tall receivers who outleapt and outmuscled defenders. If Tennessee’s offense struggles against Ohio U, the Vols might very well have a date with mediocrity this year.
Auburn (1-1, 0-0 SEC) 27, #20 Texas A&M (2-0, 0-0 SEC) 24: Auburn’s defense is the best the Aggies have faced this year. They frustrated Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, who’s a better QB than Trevor Knight. If the Tigers can frustrate Knight Saturday, they will spring the upset. Auburn ran for 462 yards last week and totally dominated the clock. If the Tigers can run the ball effectively this week and avoid killer turnovers, they will spring the upset and the fire Kevin Sumlin faction in Aggieland will be calling for a new HBC.
#22 LSU (1-1, 0-0 SEC) 23, Mississippi State (1-1, 1-0 SEC) 17: Les Miles plans to start Danny Etling at quarterback Saturday. He can make all the throws that Brandon Harris wishes he could make. The real question is will Les and OC Cam Cameron actually let him utilize LSU’s fast, talented receivers or will this be the usual Leonard Fournette left, Leonard Fournette right and Leonard Fournette up the middle? If it’s the usual offense, LSU could very well struggle against a Mississippi State team that isn’t afraid of playing under the lights in Tiger Stadium. Can MSU QB Nick Fitzgerald give the Tigers fits the way Jacksonville State dual threat QB Eli Jenkins did last week? If Fitzgerald can have success on the ground, Mississippi State will be in this game well into the fourth quarter.
#24 Arkansas (2-0, 0-0 SEC) 48, Texas State (1-0) 13: Any questions about quarterback Austin Allen were answered last week when he led a 2-minute drill comeback to send the game with TCU into overtime, then threw a TDP and ran for the game-winner in the extra periods. The Hogs are going to be a factor in the SEC West. This week is a tuneup. The Aggies come to town next week.
Kentucky (0-2, 0-1 SEC) 44, New Mexico State (1-1) 14: This is a must game. Oh, Kentucky is going to win, but it is a game that the offense has to look like it did in the first half against Southern Miss and the defense has to actually show up. More important, the Wildcats have to act like they actually care. For most of the Florida loss they looked like a team going through the motions. If they don’t play (and win) with enthusiasm Saturday, it’s probably a sign that Mark Stoops has lost his team and that’s hard to do three games into a season.
South Carolina (1-1, 1-1 SEC) 17; East Carolina (2-0) 15: When South Carolina fans think football this season the word UGLY should come to mind immediately because that’s the only hope the Gamecocks have of winning. ECU wants to go tempo. Will Muschamp will want to slow it down to a crawl and make it very boring. If his defense can get a lot of 3-and-outs early it could frustrate ECU and that would play right into Muschamp’s hands. The Gamecocks won’t score much but if they can get two TDs and a field goal, it might be enough to win. If this game were anywhere but Columbia it would a no-brainer and the choice would be ECU.
Georgia Tech (2-0) 22, Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1 SEC) 14: If pretty is what you’re looking for, you probably need to look somewhere else. Vandy can’t throw and Georgia Tech really doesn’t want to throw so it’s going to be all about who grinds it out in the running game. Vandy has one weapon in Ralph Webb, who gashed Middle Tennessee for 211 yards last week. Georgia Tech runs backs at you in waves and the combination of fresh runners and that funky option offense that is such a pain to prepare for because no one can really simulate it in practice will be the difference. In Nashville, the pick would be Vandy. This one is in Atlanta. Losing coach (Derek Mason, Vanderbilt; Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech) will spend the next week feeling the heat from alums who think things should be much better.
A hotel tax is being proposed to raise $750 million toward construction of a stadium that will lure the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. It will still take 3/4ths of the NFL owners to approve the Raiders making the move but that might prove a formality.
Either Tommy Tuberville has a really good team at Cincinnati or else Houston is nowhere close to being the 6th-ranked team in the country.
As part of the pregame ceremony of Saturday’s game with #2 Florida State, Louisville plans to honor the late Muhammad Ali, native son and the greatest heavyweight champ of all time.
Is it just my imagination or does Buffalo wide receiver Sammy Watkins look like he’s lost a bunch of steps? He just doesn’t look explosive anymore.
Michigan HBC Jim Harbaugh refuses to publish a two-deep on game week, so this week’s opponent Colorado released a fictional two-deep that had Elmer Fudd at QB backed up by Danny DeVito with Gillette Sure and Secret Degree as the 1-2 punch at right guard. The defense featured a free safety and a costly safety. Happy Gilmore was listed as the punter. Not that anyone should be surprised but Harbaugh didn’t see the humor.
Arizona dismissed running back Orlando Bradford. It might have something to do with Bradford being charged with seven felonies (four counts of aggravated assault and three counts of kidnapping) on a domestic violence arrest.
NFL ratings are down after one week. I’m wondering if it’s just because it’s early season and the games aren’t all that compelling to watch or has all the publicity of protests by Colin Kaepernick and others created a backlash that might grow into a PR nightmare for the league?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If there is an upset this weekend in the Southeastern Conference, what game will it be?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The Louisville based band My Morning Jacket has parlayed success on the concert and music festival circuits that it’s starting to have real success selling records as well. The band’s 2015 release “Waterfall” was extremely well received by the critics, but the band is best heard live where front man Jim James gives a consistently good show. Today’s music is the band’s August 27 performance at the Lockn Festival.