If you look at things strictly from a scheduling standpoint, it’s not a longshot to think the Florida Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) can repeat as SEC East champions. Whereas Tennessee (5-0, 2-0 SEC) has a made to order final month of the regular season and a one-game lead over the Gators, the Vols do have back-to-back games at Texas A&M and home against Alabama that are quite losable. No one should be shocked if the Vols tank the next two. Florida, on the other hand, has a difficult schedule remaining but there isn’t a single game that isn’t winnable and that includes the season ender in Tallahassee against FSU (non-conference).
The Gators can’t count on Tennessee losing more than two SEC games so that means a 5-0 conference run is a necessity, perhaps improbable but certainly not impossible. The Gators get LSU at home Saturday – if the game is played because of Hurricane Matthew – and that shapes up as the toughest opponent remaining on the schedule. Florida has beaten Georgia the last two games and has the personnel to make it three in a row. The Arkansas game in Fayette Nam is the major concern because the Razorbacks have the personnel and the home schedule to go on a serious run. Missouri and South Carolina aren’t gimmes, but they’re beatable and Presbyterian will be dial-a-score. Given the way the FSU defense is playing, even an offensively challenged team like the Gators stands a chance to put some points on the scoreboard. And, if the Seminoles tank the season – quite possible – the Gators could very will win that one.
Now 11-1 is extremely improbable, particularly given Florida’s injury situation but 10-2 is do-able and would win the SEC East as long as that next loss is FSU.
I’m not saying the Gators will run the table but the schedule makes it a very real possibility.
Remaining home games (4): 10/8 LSU; 10/15 Missouri; 11/12 South Carolina; 11/19 Presbyterian
Remaining neutral site game (1): 10/29 Georgia in Jacksonville
Remaining road games (2): 11/5/16 Arkansas; 11/26 Florida State
Prediction: I’m tempted to say 8-4 with SEC losses to LSU and Arkansas, but I think this team somehow pulls 9-3 out of the hat with two losses in these three games – LSU, at Arkansas, at Florida State.
BREAKING DOWN THE REST OF THE SEC SCHEDULES
#1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC): The next four games will determine if Alabama is a legitimate national championship contender or a possible pretender. Nick Saban is still the coach so Alabama will be favored in every one of these games, but this is as tough a stretch as anyone in the country will play – roadies at Arkansas and Tennessee, home game with Texas A&M, and then after an open date, LSU in Baton Rouge. Who ever heard of Alabama having a stretch of four very tough games with three of them on the road?
Remaining home games (4): 10/22 Texas A&M; 11/12 Mississippi State; 11/19 Chattanooga; 11/26 Auburn
Remaining road games (3): 10/8 Arkansas; 10/15 Tennessee; 11/5 LSU
Prediction: Alabama will lose one of the next four games, but will repeat as SEC West champ and then win the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
#17 Arkansas (4-1, 0-1 SEC): The home schedule is conducive for Arkansas to maybe get to 9-10 wins but it starts Saturday with Alabama in Fayette Nam and the following week with Ole Miss coming to town. If Arkansas makes it white knuckles or possibly springs the upset on Alabama and then kneecaps Ole Miss, then the Hogs are going to be in the thick of the SEC West race.
Remaining home games (4): 10/8 Alabama; 10/15 Ole Miss; 11/5 Florida; 11/12 LSU
Remaining road games (3): 10/22 Auburn; 11/19 Mississippi State; 11/25 Missouri
Prediction: The Razorbacks go 2-2 at home, 3-0 on the road to finish the regular season 9-3 and set themselves up for a serious national championship run in 2017.
Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC): Someone in Auburn needs to climb a water tower and paint “Save Gus” in big blue letters. The schedule has 7 wins written all over it but Gus might need 8 or 9 to save his job. All three homers are winnable although Arkansas is a real challenge. The easiest of the road games is this weekend with Mississippi State.
Remaining home games (3): 10/16 Arkansas; 11/5 Vanderbilt; 11/19 Alabama A&M
Remaining road games (4): 10/8 Mississippi State; 10/29 Ole Miss; 11/12 Georgia; 11/26 Alabama
Prediction: Auburn is a better team than last year, but the Tigers still look like 7-5 to me.
Georgia (3-2, 1-2 SEC): When you look at Georgia’s remaining schedule you understand why there were folks who thought Kirby Smart might inspire the Bulldogs to national prominence in his rookie year. Weak would be an understatement. The Florida game is the toughest game left on the schedule. Georgia should be ashamed with anything less than 9 wins and 10 is attainable if the Bulldogs can figure out a way to beat Florida.
Remaining home games (4): 10/15 Vanderbilt; 11/12 Auburn; 11/19 Louisiana Lafayette; 11/26 Georgia Tech
Neutral site game (1): 10/29 Florida in Jacksonville
Remaining road games (2): 10/8 South Carolina; 11/5 Kentucky
Prediction: Florida will beat Georgia – again – and someone else will figure a way to knock the Bulldogs off for an 8-4 finish, which should be embarrassing considering the weakness of the schedule.
Kentucky (2-3, 1-2 SEC): The schedule says this is Mark Stoops’ final year on the job. The bank account says they don’t want to pay the $13 million it would take to buy him out. Vanderbilt and Austin Peay are the only two games you look at and think winnable. The other five all have a big L written all over them and that final two-some on the road of Tennessee and Louisville could see 125 points scored against the Mildcats.
Remaining home games (4): 10/8 Vanderbilt; 10/22 Mississippi State; 11/5 Georgia; 11/19 Austin Peay
Remaining road games (3): 10/29 Missouri; 11/12 Tennessee; 11/26 Louisville
Prediction: Kentucky goes 4-8 and while everyone in the bluegrass would love to hire a new coach, they’ll save the money in case they have to spend it on something basketball related.
LSU (3-2, 2-1 SEC): The Coach O Audition Tour has already begun and the Tigers are 1-0. Coach O needs to go 7-1 with one of those seven Alabama if he wants to be the HBC in Baton Rouge next year. There is enough talent to pull that off, but the schedule is a beast. Maybe too big of a beast.
Remaining home games (4): 10/15 Southern Miss; 10/22 Ole Miss; 11/5 Alabama; 11/19 South Alabama
Remaining road games (3): 10/8 Florida; 11/12 Arkansas; 11/24 Texas A&M
Prediction: If LSU wins the next three – at Florida with homers of Southern Miss and Ole Miss – then the Alabama game could be very, very interesting. Reality, however, says Coach O guides the Tigers to a very respectable 8-4.
Mississippi State (2-2, 1-1 SEC): The streak of 6 straight bowl games is on the line with a schedule that is going to require the Bulldogs springing an upset or two. Mississippi State should win games with Samford, BYU and Kentucky but will have to play way above its pay grade to get to 6-6 or 7-5.
Remaining home games (4): 10/8 Auburn; 10/29 Samford; 11/5 Texas A&M; 11/19 Arkansas
Prediction: Auburn is the missing link to preserve the bowl streak with a 6-6 regular season.
Remaining road games: 10/14 BYU; 10/22 Kentucky; 11/12 Alabama; 11/26 Ole Miss
Missouri (2-3, 0-2 SEC): After nearly boring its fan base into a coma last year, the Tigers are chunking the ball over the yard from the moment they get off the bus. Even without a decent defense, the Tigers have a chance to go bowling, which will be one of the year’s greatest upsets. Games with Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina are all winnable.
Remaining home games (4): 10/22 Middle Tennessee; 10/29 Kentucky; 11/12 Vanderbilt; 11/25 Arkansas
Remaining road games (3): 10/15 Florida; 11/5 South Carolina; 11/19 Tennessee
Prediction: Mizzou will win two more and might even make it to 5-7 but that’s about it.
#14 Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1 SEC): The three worrisome games are all on the road – Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M. Winning two of those games would be an accomplishment. The home schedule is very winnable.
Remaining home games (3): 10/29 Auburn; 11/5 Georgia Southern; 11/26 Mississippi State
Remaining road games (4): 10/15 Arkansas; 10/22 LSU; 11/12 Texas A&M; 11/19 Vanderbilt
Prediction: A 9-3 record is entirely possible but 8-4 is realistic. Maybe a better question is will the NCAA drop the hammer on the Rebels before the season comes to an end?
South Carolina (2-3, 1-3 SEC): There are two winnable games (UMass and Western Carolina) remaining on the schedule which would mean Will Muschamp improves the Gamecocks by one full win over last season. Missouri is also winnable. Anything more than that and they should think about painting images of Muschamp on the façade of Williams-Brice Stadium.
Remaining home games (5): 10/8 Georgia; 10/22 UMass; 10/29 Tennessee; 11/5 Missouri; 11/19 Western Carolina
Remaining road games (2): 11/12 Florida; 11/26 Clemson
Prediction: Although 4-8 seems about right considering the talent level Muschamp inherited, a 5-7 record is most attainable and would represent a seriously good first year on the job.
#9 Tennessee (5-0, 2-0 SEC): For the most part, Tennessee’s hopes and dreams of living up to the hype come down to the next two weeks – at Texas A&M this week and home against Alabama next. Win them both and the Vols are going to be in the SEC Championship Game, one win from the playoffs. Lose them both and it’s Hello Citrus Bowl, which Steve Spurrier used to call the winter home of the Tennessee Vols.
Remaining home games (4): 10/15 Alabama; 11/5 Tennessee Tech; 11/12 Kentucky; 11/19 Missouri
Remaining road games (3): 10/8 Texas A&M; 10/29 South Carolina; 11/26 Vanderbilt
Prediction: Common sense says the Vols can’t keep falling behind by 10 or more points then coming back to win. They have a very good chance to lose the next two but even if they do, they won’t crash and burn. The Vols go 10-2 and still win the SEC East but lose the SEC Championship Game.
#7Texas A&M (5-0, 3-0 SEC): If the Aggies played Alabama in College Station you’d like their chances to run the table but they do have to go to Tuscaloosa. The only other games that are troublesome are Ole Miss and LSU, both of them homers.
Remaining home games (5): 10/8 Tennessee; 10/29 New Mexico State; 11/12 Ole Miss; 11/19 Texas-San Antonio; 11/24 LSU
Remaining road games (2): 10/22 Alabama; 11/5 Mississippi State
Prediction: The Aggies will go 10-2 and finish top 10 in the country but won’t make the playoff.
Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-2 SEC): Derek Mason needs 6 wins to save his job but there are only two winnable games (Tennessee State and at Kentucky) left on the schedule.
Remaining home games (3): 10/22 Tennessee State; 11/19 Ole Miss; 11/26 Tennessee
Remaining road games (4): 10/8 Kentucky; 10/15 Georgia; 11/5 Auburn; 11/12 Missouri
Prediction: Vandy goes 4-8 and Derek Mason becomes somebody’s high priced defensive coordinator in 2017.
CHANCE FOR MIAMI TO MAKE A STATEMENT
Nobody has to remind the Seminoles that they’ve already lost two ACC games and their chances of making the playoff or a New Year’s Six game are lodged in the sludge on the bottom of the sewer. But, simply because FSU is down and out doesn’t change the fact that Saturday’s game at Dolphins Stadium is a chance for Miami and first year coach Mark Richt to make a statement. The Canes have lost six in a row to FSU and they really don’t care that FSU is down and out. All they know is if they intend to reclaim South Florida as their personal pick and choose breeding ground for future NFL players, it starts by sticking it to FSU. FSU desperately needs this game to right a ship that is taking on water but desperate teams sometimes do stupid things … like lose to a Miami team that needs a couple of recruiting classes to catch up to FSU in terms of personnel. Simply beating FSU won’t say Miami is all the way back, but it’s certainly a statement that the times they are a-changing.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin told Bill Simmons on “Any Given Wednesday” that one NFL owner as forbid his team to join in the mounting protest when the national anthem is played. Rumor has it that the Kansas City Chiefs owner has made it clear that the players work for him and his rule is they stand at attention … that if they don’t like it they can find gainful employment somewhere else.
University of Texas president Greg Fenves has tweeted his support for embattled head football coach Charlie Strong. Votes of confidence have this tendency to be omens of bad moons rising in the very near future.
Florida State fans didn’t appreciate Nick Weiler’s 54-yard game winning field goal last Saturday. They’ve been sending the North Carolina kicker mean tweets ever since.
Former Baylor Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford told CBS This Morning that the school stood in the way when she was investigating the scandal that resulted in the dismissal of the school president, AD and head football coach Art Briles. This is the kind of news that will make it very hard for Baylor to land a quality coach to fill Briles shoes after this season.
With Hurricane Matthew approaching, UCF and Tulane have agreed to reschedule their game for November 5.
The National League Playoffs began last night with the San Francisco Giants beating the New York Mets. Did any of you watch?
QUESTON OF THE DAY
Two-part question: (1) Will Miami knock off the Seminoles this week and (2) can the Gators finish better than 8-4?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I’ve developed a nice taste for the music of Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. She has a great blues voice that has her in constant demand to play with the likes of Bob Weir, Warren Haynes, Chris Robinson and The Avett Brothers. Today’s music is a September 16 performance when they opened up for Tedeschi Trucks.