In many ways you could call doubt the great equalizer in college football. Take the Florida Gators for instance. From 1970-89, the Gators went 5-15 against Georgia, There were any number of games when UF had more talent and seemingly had the game in control only to lose to the Bulldogs during those days. Remember Richard Appleby to Gene Washington on the right end around pass? Or how about Fourth and Dumb or Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott? In those three games – and there were several others – Florida had this penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
One reason: the doubts. No lead seemed safe against Vince Dooley and at some point, almost as if on cue, the Gators would start doubting themselves, lose confidence and Georgia would win a game it had no business winning.
The roles are reversed now. Since Steve Spurrier arrived in 1990, Georgia has become just another notch in the Florida belt. Even with Will Muschamp losing three times to Georgia (2011-13), the Gators still own a 20-6 record against the Bulldogs since 1990 and a 2-game winning streak.
Georgia has the doubts. The Bulldogs come to Jacksonville EXPECTING to lose. Oh, there is always bravado and trash talk, but deep down the Bulldogs know that barring Moses standing on the rock, holding up his staff so the Red Sea will part, they’re going to lose to Florida.
The same is true for Tennessee.
The Vols have the doubts and no matter how they talk about this is a brand new year, how what has happened in the last 11 years has no effect whatsoever on Saturday’s game in Knoxville, and how this is their best team in years, they still know deep down in their hearts that it will take something akin to changing water into wine for them to beat the Gators.
When the Gators play Tennessee, it really doesn’t matter if UF is the more talented team or if the Gators have the best QB. In the 11 years since Tennessee last beat Florida, here are the UF quarterbacks of record: Chris Leak 2005-06; Tim Tebow 2007-09; John Brantley 2010-11; Jeff Driskel 2012; Driskel with the win, Tyler Murphy with the save in 2013; Driskel with the win with relief from Treon Harris in 2014; and Will Grier 2015. The Vols should have lost with Leak and Tebow quarterbacking the Gators, but from 2010-16 what’s the excuse?
You could almost argue that Dolly Parton could have been Florida’s QB since Tebow left and the Gators still would have beaten Tennessee. That’s because Tennessee has the doubts. The Vols go into the Florida game expecting to lose and weird things happen like they did in 2011 when UF eked out a 10-9 win or last year when Will Grier and Antonio Callaway hooked up for that 63-yard touchdown pass with 52 seconds remaining and then Aaron Medley missed what would have been a game-winning 55-yard field goal by inches on the final play of the game. If you were around back when didn’t that remind you of what used to happen to Florida when the Gators faced Georgia?
Tennessee remembers last year and each of the 10 years before that. They can’t ignore history and history will cause doubts.
So do not fret because this will be Austin Appleby’s first game to start at QB for the Gators. He’s played in big arenas before only this time he’s got talent and coaching support that he never had at Purdue. He came here to Florida to play in games just like this. He will be ready and he will not doubt himself or his team for even a second.
The same can’t be said for Tennessee. The Vols will spend the week doing their Little Engine That Could (I think I can! I think I can!) impersonations but it won’t erase the doubt. None of that preseason hype can rescue them, either. If anything it’s just more pressure on top of all the doubt. And given the mood of Vol fans, they’ll know that if Butch Jones crashes and burns Saturday there will be a Fire Butch Jones website springing up Saturday night.
It’s game week in Knoxville. The Gators are coming to town with a defense that looks and plays like an F5 tornado that leaves a trail of destruction in its wake. The Vols are at home with an offense that can’t get it together, a defense that has been pushed around by the likes of Appalachian State and Ohio U, and a case of the doubts that have been waiting an entire year to once again rear their ugly little pea pickin’ heads.
Life is beautiful.
Florida injury updates: QB Luke Del Rio (knee) is out; WR Antonio Callaway (quad) is day to day; RG Tyler Jordan (eye) is out; LB Kylan Johnson (leg) and CB Chris Williamson (knee) are probable.
SEC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offense: Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama
Defense: Justin Evans, DB, Texas A&M
Special teams: Eddie Jackson, PR, Alabama and Josh Growden, P, LSU
Freshman: Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M
O-Line: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
D-Line: Arden Key, E, LSU
SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
#1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC): With wide receiver Ardarius Stewart out with a sprained knee, Cam Sims and Robert Foster are expected to split the snaps Saturday against Kent State. True freshman Trevon Diggs could also factor in the rotation.
#18 Arkansas (3-0, 0-0 SEC): The Hogs had problems getting to the quarterback last season when they registered only 20 sacks in 13 games. Through their first three in 2016, they’ve already gotten to the QB 10 times for 78 yards in losses. Saturday they’ll be going against Texas A&M, which has allowed only 3 sacks in 3 games, in part because QB Trevor Knight (28-151 rushing, 3 TDs) isn’t afraid to tuck and run if the protection breaks down.
Auburn (1-2, 0-1 SEC): There is plenty of work to do this week with the offensive line, which was destroyed by Texas A&M. The Aggies had 13 tackles for loss and 4 sacks for 32 yards in losses. This week Auburn’s O-line will be going head-to-head with an LSU defensive front that registered 6 sacks last week against Mississippi State.
#11 Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC): Heading into Saturday’s game with Ole Miss, there are serious concerns about a running game that has produced only 268 yards on 77 carries the last two games. That’s against a Division IAA defense (Nicholls State) and a Missouri defense that leaked like a sieve in its first two games of the season. It’s enough of a problem that HBC Kirby Smart said Monday, “We have to find other ways to run the ball, because right now we can’t run the ball in the style we want to.”
Kentucky (1-2, 0-1 SEC): Quarterback Drew Barker had an MRI Monday but will see a specialist on Wednesday, so it’s highly unlikely he will even suit up Saturday for South Carolina. That means juco transfer Stephen Johnson II, who threw for 310 yards and 3 TDs against New Mexico State in relief of Barker, will get his first collegiate start.
#17 LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC): LSU’s offense had its best game of the season overall (392 yards) against Mississippi State, but the second half only produced only 89 yards and no points, prompting HBC Les Miles to remark, “Should this offense come to play for 60 minutes, I think we’d be happy about it.”
Mississippi State (1-2, 1-1 SEC): The Bulldogs were burned for 303 yards and 23 points in the first half against LSU, but turned things around in the second half when they held the Tigers to 89 total yards, forced two fumbles from Leonard Fournette and only 4 first downs, all of them on one drive.
Missouri (1-2, 0-1 SEC): Just how much improved is the Missouri offense? In 12 game as a true freshman last season, Drew Lock threw for 1,332 yards and 4 TDs with 8 interceptions. Through three games so far this season, Lock has already thrown for 1,106 yards and 9 TDs with only 3 interceptions. He averaged 5.1 per pass attempt last year. This year it’s a healthier 8.8 yards per attempt. Wide receiver J’Mon Moore, Mizzou’s leading receiver last year with 29 catches for 350 yard and 3 TDs, already has 18 catches for 320 yards and 2 TDs.
#21 Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC): Left tackle Jeremy Liggins and wide receiver Derrick Jones are practicing, but they still haven’t played a snap since coming off suspension. When they play is pretty much up to them per HBC Hugh Freeze, who said, “They have to do what I’ve asked to be reinstated.”
South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC): HBC Will Muschamp hasn’t ruled out burning the redshirt off freshman QB Jake Bentley, who skipped his senior year in high school to enroll at South Carolina. The Gamecocks started true freshman Brandon McIlwain at QB in the win over East Carolina and while he was an improvement over Perry Orth, who started the first two games of the season, he didn’t exactly light up the ECU defense.
#12 Tennessee (3-0, 0-0 SEC): There is no lack of respect for the Florida defense from head ball coach Butch Jones, who said Monday, “This is probably the best defense we have faced since I’ve been here.” The Tennessee offense has struggled so far, allowing 20 tackles for loss and 7 sacks for -56 yards in three games ... On the injury front, All-SEC corner/punt returner Cam Sutton has a fractured ankle that will keep him out a minimum of eight weeks. Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin has what has been diagnosed as a muscle strain but he is expected to play against Florida.
#13 Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0 SEC): The Aggies are off to a great start, but it might be a little early for jumping on the bandwagon. Three years ago they started 6-1 only to finish 9-4. In each of the last two seasons the Aggies have started 5-0 only to finish 8-5. The Aggies will be seriously tested by Arkansas this week at Jerry’s World in Arlington, TX.
Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC): This was supposed to be the year Derek Mason got Vandy back on the winning track, but the Commodores are 1-2 after getting hosed by Georgia Tech, 38-7, a game in which they gave up 511 yards of offense including 222 through the air. The twitterverse exploded with calls to fire Mason after the loss. The noise will become unbearable if the Commodores lose to Conference USA’s Western Kentucky on the road this weekend, particularly with Florida on the agenda first Saturday of October.
The lawyer for former Tennessee, Southern Miss and Murray State basketball coach Donnie Tyndall, who is appealing a 10-year show cause by the NCAA, says the NCAA is trying to force Tyndall out of coaching. Not really. He can coach, just not in the NCAA where there are actually rules to follow.
And speaking of fired basketball coaches, George Washington canned Mike Longeran over the weekend for “conduct inconsistent with the university’s values.”
Urban Meyer didn’t make a whole lot of recruiting mistakes when he was Florida’s HBC but I still haven’t figured out how he let Linval Joseph get away. The former Alachua Santa Fe and East Carolina nose tackle is in his seventh NFL season as an absolute beast for the Minnesota Vikings.
Unless Baylor runs the table, you can almost bet the farm that the Big 12 will be staying home when the college football playoff begins.
Is Florida State a prime candidate for a second straight upset? South Florida QB Quinton Flowers may not be Lamar Jackson, but he’s just the kind of QB that can wear the Seminoles out when they face of Saturday in Tampa. After watching the film of the Seminoles doing their best imitation of matadors when they were on defense against Louisville, USF has to think Flowers and stud running back Marlon Mack could come up big.
Louisville only has two real obstacles standing in the way of running the regular season table – an October 1 date at Clemson and a November 6 roadie to Houston.
Miami’s quick start has the Canes believing they’re back but we’ll have a good idea if they’re contenders or pretenders the next two weeks when they travel to Georgia Tech and then play at home against the Seminoles. There is also an October 29 roadie to Notre Dame that will tell Mark Richt just how far he’s brought the Canes back and just how far they have to go to return to glory.
Is it my imagination or has someone finally figured out what to do with Trey Burton?
The way Carson Wentz is playing for the Philadelphia Eagles I have to wonder if the Los Angeles Rams wish there could be a draft do-over. Wentz looks like he belongs in the NFL. So does Dak Prescott, drafted in the fourth round by the Dallas Cowboys. Meanwhile Jared Goff, who the Rams selected with the #1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft sits behind Case Keenum and Sean Mannion.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Okay, we’re three weeks into the season and still way too early to be picking the college football final four, but I’m asking anyway. Based on what you’ve seen so far, who do you think makes the final four?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
My dad would have been 91 on Monday. While he was still alive I introduced him to Spyro Gyra and the music moved him. I spent Monday listening to Spyro Gyra, which has been making music since 1974, and remembering my dad. Today’s music the band’s 2009 album “Down to the Wire.”