Pardon me while I fill in for my buddy Franz while he is on the mend. We are praying and hope he will be back with us soon, but he is doing just fine in recovery.
It wasn’t a great showing by the Gator football team in Knoxville Saturday, but this is a long season and as we have seen very early on, there is nobody left on the Florida schedule that can’t be beat. The games that looked the toughest in the preseason were Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, Georgia, and Florida State. The Gators didn’t fare well in the first as we know, but LSU just fired their coach, Arkansas was just roughed up pretty good by Texas A&M, Georgia was taken behind the woodshed by Ole Miss, and the Seminoles were dismantled pretty easily by Louisville a couple of weekends ago.
Right now, the toughest opponent on that docket looks to be Arkansas. Despite losing pretty handily to the Aggies Saturday, they were right in the game in the second half before things just got away from them pretty quickly. Sound familiar? They have been really good the rest of the early season. The problem for Florida is that they go on the road to Arkansas this year, that game will be tough.
I would put FSU next in line. They rebounded nicely this past weekend against an outmanned USF team in Tampa. The competition level really wasn’t close there for them. They still have a rough row to hoe before they play the Gators having to play North Carolina, Clemson and Miami moving forward. Given Miami may have played the weakest schedule of any Power-5 conference school so far, they look to be at least somewhat of a challenge.
Georgia looked okay early on, then was throttled by Ole Miss. They had no answer for the Rebels on either side of the ball. While Jacob Eason will continue to get better, they have a few concerns including the health of running back Nick Chubb. The Bulldog defense is tied for 12th in the SEC giving up 30 points per game.
LSU just fired their head coach and are in flux. Their offense is anemic with star players everywhere and no rhyme or reason to their madness. Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron has been named interim head coach.
Every one of those games is winnable for this Gator team. That wasn’t exactly clear in the preseason.
Of course the flip side is that with the way Florida played in the second half of the contest Saturday, every one of those is losable, and maybe a couple of more we haven’t mentioned as well.
They certainly haven’t been consistent this season. The offense has shown spots of brilliance, and then major lapses in that department. They have shown a little more ability to move people up front on offense than a year and then at times they are like running through wet paper.
Will there be a quarterback battle now? That very well could be the case. Austin Appleby will get another game this weekend on the road at Vanderbilt to make his case, and outside of an interception where he was trying to make a play when seemingly nobody else was, he performed pretty well in a very hostile environment. Quarterback battle seems like a good thing. These two have the right mental make up for it.
Some good signs moving ahead on offense include Del Rio coming back, the receiver corps improving and getting deeper with Callaway healthy, C.J. Worton making a move, Tyrie Cleveland getting involved, the continued experience of Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond and Tyler Jordan’s return in the next game or two from his recovery.
The defense needs to lick their wounds and stay aggressive. Going into the season Dobbs was supposed to be the best quarterback they faced, that is likely the case still. They will be fine.
The point of all of this is that there is a lot of football left. The big issue is that the Gators are basically two games out for being in the SEC race. They will likely need Tennessee to lose one more conference game than the Gators do moving forward. The Vols have Georgia, Alabama, and Texas A&M still on their schedule. Those all come in the next three weeks. Then they have their typical November to remember schedule.
We should know a lot more about Florida’s fate in the SEC East by the conclusion of the Florida – LSU contest in two weeks, but there is a good chance that if the gators can just handle their remaining business, they can play for all their goals.
SEC TRAFFIC REPORT
TEAMS ON CRUISE CONTROL
Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC): The Tide moved to 4-0 and remains firmly on top of both the coaches’ poll and the AP poll. They had some injuries pop up in their 49-0 win over Kent State and they do have some limitations at quarterback and running back, but the overall depth and talent of the squad should have them favored throughout the rest of the schedule.
TEAMS IN THE PASSING LANE
Texas A&M Aggies (4-0, 2-0): They disposed of (3-1) Arkansas to the tune of 45-24. They turned a close game in the middle of the third quarter into a blowout starting with a fourth and goal line stand at the two yard line followed by a 92 yard bomb for a touchdown. The Aggies have a very talented defense and are running the ball more than usual and beating the talented Hogs like they did in Arkansas was a terrific feat.
Tennessee Volunteers (4-0, 1-0): Give the Volunteers credit. I assumed if Florida jumped on them, they would fold like a cheap tent and they did just the opposite. That was their MO early last year and they seemed to have gotten away from that. They did it with some serious health issues on defense that they probably will be able to work through as the season progresses. They have a murderous next three games playing at Georgia, at Texas A&M, and home against Alabama. They will be in a different group after that three game slate.
Ole Miss Rebels (2-2, 1-1): The Rebels are 2-2 so far this season, but the big 45-14 win over Georgia on Saturday was kind of a mindbender. The Rebels have played three Top 25 teams so far in Georgia, Baa, and FSU and have scored at least 45 points in all three contests. Chad Kelly is the best quarterback in the conference by far and it appears that the Aggies are the big one for them to worry about when they travel to College Station in mid-November.
PUMPING THE BRAKES
Arkansas Razorbacks (3-1, 0-1): The Razorbacks pulled off the upset at TCU a couple of weekends ago, so they are capable of playing with most. But, the way the Aggie game went, they have a lot to circle the wagons over. The offensive line, which is usually a huge staple of head coach Bret Bielema and his teams, has struggled. They still have a brutal SEC West schedule to go through.
Florida Gators (3-1, 1-1): The Gators should be happy they only fell five spots in both of the polls. It is very likely most of America was tuned in to see the second half meltdown. The truth is the offense is still a lot better than a year ago and the defense outside of 30 minutes in Knoxville has played as well as anyone in the country. But, these boys have a lot to prove after giving up 38 straight points on Saturday.
Georgia Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1): They had the big opening weekend win over North Carolina that doesn’t look like much. Like Florida they went on the road this past weekend and met a buzz saw in Ole Miss. The defense, led by ‘guru’ Kirby Smart is bottom two in the conference. They do have a favorable SEC tilt as usual, so they have a lot to play for.
Auburn Tigers (2-2, 1-1): When I watch Gus Malzahn in postgame interviews he just seems to show a bit of desperation. They certainly lived on the wild side with the last second (literally) win over LSU this past weekend, but their defense has improved a great deal over last season, which is good with all of the offensive issues they have had. Auburn won 18-15 against LSU and did it scoring six field goals. That is living on the edge. Give them credit for getting the first SEC coach fired of the season.
Missouri Tigers (2-2, 0-1): The Tigers handled FCS foe Delaware State to the tune of 79-0 on Saturday, they can score some points. Their losses at undefeated West Virginia and to Georgia at home aren’t bad ones, but we just don’t know where they are at this point. Quarterback Drew Lock seems like the real deal and he has some receivers around him, but we don’t have a good feel on the rest of this team just yet.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1): Dan Mullen might be having his toughest year with the Bulldogs with contests against South Alabama and UMass going late into the fourth quarter before decided. Those are the two wins. They lost a close game at coach-less LSU and won a tough one at home against South Carolina. There just isn’t much to smile about this year in Starkville yet as before the game with UMass they hadn’t scored more than 27 points in a game.
Kentucky Wildcats (2-2, 1-1): The Wildcats finally had their first feel good moment of the season by beating Will Muschamp and South Carolina in Lexington by the score of 17-10. It may have been a gift of a game, but the W was much needed. A home loss to Southern Miss and a whipping at Florida to start the season had this team in a real funk. Only scoring 17 points against the gamecocks with what was supposed to be a big offensive year for them should still leave plenty of worry for those that are in charge.
South Carolina Gamecocks (2-2, 1-2): The Gamecocks have played three teams in this category and are 1-3 against them. That should tell you all you need to know. It does appear that Muschamp has woken up his defense a bit and they are playing pretty well.
Vanderbilt Commodores (2-2, 0-1): The Commodores may have overachieved going on the road and defeating a decent 2-2 MAC team in Western Kentucky (2-2). Winning 31-30 in overtime can have its positives. They can run the ball pretty well and the defense is pretty good. They have a long way to go and host the gators this weekend.
HEAD ON COLLISION
LSU Tigers (2-2, 1-1): Lose in the last second on the road in conference in the fourth game of the year and your head coach gets fired. The Tiger administration is kicking itself for not doing this a year ago. Now the place is a wreck, they still have a crappy offense with first rounders littering the roster on that side of the ball. Can they bounce back? They are going to have to surprise a lot to do so.
THIS AND THAT
This looks to be a big year for coaching changes. We already saw Les Miles get the boot in Louisiana. Things are heating up in Los Angeles at UCLA. They all of a sudden aren’t exactly ecstatic at UCLA either. If Les Miles gets the touchdown in the last second like it appeared for a few minutes, are we talking about who replaces Gus Malzahn at Auburn? Somebody new will be hired at Baylor. Kingsbury at Texas Tech is feeling the heat. There are many more. It is going to be a crazy coach search season this year.
Speaking of that Auburn - LSU affair, I don’t think I have ever witnessed such an absolute change in the outcome of the game where no play was actually run to do it. I was convinced LSU pulled off the upset for a few minutes as the television folks kept looking to see if the receiver’s feet were in bounds on the catch at the end. Only to see that time had elapsed before the play ever started. The thrill of victory and agony of defeat in a nutshell.
We still believe that a new Athletic Director will be named at Florida early this week.
QUESTION OF THE DAY…
Do you think there is going to be a quarterback battle when Luke Del Rio returns?
MUSIC OF THE DAY…
This isn’t usually my gig, so to speak, but I am going to approach this like Franz does. I am a musician in that I play a few wind instruments and did for about 12 years of my life. So I have a real appreciation for the art. My earliest memory of going to see live music was the first concert my parents took me too. None other than Helen Reddy. I am guessing Franz hasn’t pulled this one out before.