You’ve heard that old saying “you can’t judge a book by the cover.” Well, evidently you can’t judge an offensive line by the number of career starts. Take Missouri for instance. Last year the Tigers had one of the most experienced offensive lines in the Southeastern Conference yet they couldn’t run nor could they protect the passer. Their 280.9 yards and 13.6 points per game were bottom five nationally. Entering the 2016 season, Missouri had a collective three starts on the O-line, dead last in the SEC and among the worst totals in the entire country. So how’s that working out?
The Tigers are averaging 508.6 yards per game (350.6 passing; 158 rushing) and 6.5 yards every snap. Quarterback Drew Lock has thrown for 1,675 yards and 14 touchdowns largely because he doesn’t have to worry about throwing from the seat of his pants. The Tigers have given up three sacks in five games totaling 24 yards in losses.
Part of the success story has to do with OC Josh Heupel’s scheme, whose cornerstone is unloading the football before the pass rush can disrupt a play, but even with that, the O-line has performed far better than expected.
For 14th-ranked Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC) to knock off Missouri Saturday afternoon on Homecoming Day, the Gators are going to have to find a way to dominate at the line of scrimmage. The Missouri scheme relies so heavily on Lock making quick decisions and then unloading the ball in a hurry, which has a way of neutralizing the blitz and opening up running lanes for big plays on completed passes. It’s likely the Gators will rush four, crowd receivers and force Lock to try to beat them with dinks and dunks. That’s what LSU did and the result was Lock managing only 4.9 yards per pass attempt and a running game that generated only 77 yards on 22 attempts.
If the Gators hold Missouri to similar numbers Saturday, you can expect a similar score to the one LSU hung on Mizzou – 42-7.
ANOTHER DAY, NO DECISION BY GREG SANKEY
By letting Tuesday come and go, Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey has fewer options about rescheduling LSU at Florida. A decision should have been made last Thursday when the game was first postponed or, at the latest, Friday. Instead it has been five days and apparently there is no answer in sight.
From all accounts, Sankey is trying to have one of those come together moments when everybody reaches a happy agreement. Well, that’s not going to happen. LSU has dug in its heels. Florida has a home game with LSU that it expects to play and Georgia has made it perfectly clear it has no intention of cooperating with any scheme that moves the Florida-Georgia game up a week.
This isn’t the kind of leadership we’ve come to expect from the top in the SEC. Do you think for even a second that Roy Kramer or Mike Slive wouldn’t have had a plan in place immediately? Do you think that either one would allow Alleva to show them up in public?
You know the answer to that.
Sankey’s indecision gives him that NFL look. No, not National Football League. As Jerry Glanville once quipped, “NFL … as in Not for Long!”
1. BIG TEN: There are four teams (#2 Ohio State, #4 Michigan, #9 Nebraska and #10 Wisconsin) in the top ten and nearly every expert out there is predicting the Michigan at Ohio State game will decide both the Big Ten title and who goes to the CFP. Wisconsin has a chance to make a statement if it can knock off the Buckeyes this week, win the West and then beat Michigan in a rematch in the Big Ten Championship Game. Nebraska is 5-0 but isn’t getting a whole lot of love. A lot of experts think the Huskers might lose this weekend to twice-beaten Indiana on the road.
2. SEC: It’s midseason and Alabama is perfect, which is what the Crimson Tide was predicted to be preseason. The Tide plays at Tennessee, hosts the Aggies and then at LSU in its next three games and there is that matter of Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Auburn is starting to take on the appearance of a real football team. A&M and Ole Miss both have great offenses but do they have enough defense to beat Alabama? Over in the East, Tennessee hosts Alabama this week and after that the schedule includes a couple of convents, the Amish School for Carpenters and the champs of the powder puff league in The Villages. If the Vols can finish the season with one loss and win the SEC title game, they will be in the CFB.
3. ACC: Clemson is starting to look like the team that was so hyped preseason. The Tigers have already knocked off Louisville so the only danger looming is FSU in Tallahassee in two weeks. Because Clemson beat Louisville, the Tigers will have to lose twice to lose their division. Over in the other division, the Virginia Tech-Miami game on October 20 should decide the champ. It is difficult to imagine Clemson losing a game and not making the final four.
4. PAC-12: Is Washington that good or are Stanford and Oregon that bad and way overhyped? Washington looks that good on the field but the way Stanford and Oregon are playing it makes you question if the Huskies are simply benefitting from playing in a weak league. Arizona State looks good enough to win the Pac-12 South and face the Huskies in the league championship game.
5. BIG 12: Baylor and West Virginia remain unbeaten so they’re the torch bearers for a league that is by and large a huge disappointment this year. For either the Bears or Mounties to get into the playoff they’ll have to run the table and hope for a bunch of two-loss teams ahead of them. For example, a 1-loss Louisville, Texas A&M or Michigan would more than likely seriously outscore an unbeaten WVU or BU when the first CFP poll comes out.
6. AMERICAN: You can forget Houston crashing the playoff party after the Cougars went in the tank against Navy. Even if the Cougars knock off Louisville in November, their chances of the playoff have come and gone already. A bigger problem for the Cougars might be winning their own division since they trail Navy by a game.
7. MOUNTAIN WEST: Does this sound vaguely familiar? Boise State (5-0 and ranked #15 nationally) is the league’s only chance to bring home a big paycheck at bowl time. Even with two wins over Pac-12 teams, the Broncos aren’t going to make the CFB but they could get a New Year’s Six bowl as the highest rated non-Power 5 team if they can run the table.
8. MAC: Western Michigan is ranked #23 nationally and has wins over two Big Ten teams. There are only two tough teams – Akron this week and Toledo on November 25 – so the Broncos have a chance to go unbeaten. The folks in Kalamazoo better enjoy P.J. Fleck while they have him. He won’t be coaching Western Michigan next year. You can count on that.
9. CONFERENCE USA: Middle Tennessee seems to be the best of an overall mediocre league. Southern Miss got absolutely torched by Texas-San Antonio last week which hurt the league’s overall credibility. Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech are good enough to be dangerous for a half against a Power 5 team.
10. SUN BELT: After starting out so impressively with Appalachian State nearly pulling off the upset at Tennessee and South Alabama knocking off Mississippi State of the SEC, the league has been fairly unimpressive, highlighted by 4-loss Arkansas State, a loser to D1AA Central Arkansas, knocking off Georgia Southern last week. Whoever wins the Troy-Appalachian State game on November 12 probably wins the league.
#1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) at #11 Tennessee (5-1, 2-1 SEC): For the Vols to truly be back to national prominence this is the game they have to win. They came ever so close to making this a showdown of unbeatens last week in College Station only to lose in overtime despite turning the ball over 7 times. The Vols have to feel that if they can hold onto the football then they can have a reasonable shot at knocking off the #1 team in the nation and getting back into the college football playoff picture. As for Alabama, this is the second leg of a 4-game gauntlet (Texas A&M and LSU will follow) that is as tough a stretch as any team will play all season. Tennessee’s penchant for turning the ball over should have the Crimson Tide defenders drooling. They’ve scored four TDs this season.
#2 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at #8 Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten): Keep a close eye on this one. The Badgers have knocked off LSU and came within a whisker of beating Michigan at The Big House a couple of weeks ago. Playing before the friendlies at Camp Randall Stadium could be the difference in staying in the playoff picture and putting a huge damper on Ohio State’s always sky high hopes. Indiana all but shut down the Ohio State passing game last week. If Wisconsin can do the same thing then the Badgers could spring the upset.
#10 Nebraska (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at Indiana (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten): This is the game in which we find out if Nebraska is a contender or pretender. The Huskers are only a 3.5-point favorite, which isn’t much considering Indiana has two losses and isn’t ranked, but the Hoosiers played Ohio State tight until late in the fourth quarter last week in Columbus and they fit into that “better than their record” category.
#12 Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1 SEC) at #22 Arkansas (4-2, 0-2 SEC): Normally you wouldn’t call a game between two teams with two losses a showdown but believe it or not, Ole Miss is still in the hunt for the SEC West title – okay it’s a long shot but it’s still a chance – and Arkansas is good enough to go on a run that sees the Hogs finish out the season with a 9-3 or 10-2 record. So, this game is a very big deal for both teams. It isn’t the end of the world for the loser, but three losses pretty much end all hopes of playing in one of the more prestigious bowl games.
Rather than cave to the calls to add another conference game to the schedule in the future, the athletic directors of the ACC have voted to stay at 8 games. North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham hopes this is the last vote for awhile, noting that this was only the “sixth or seventh” vote to expand the schedule that has been rejected by the ADs.
Tennessee DT Danny O’Brien, who was taken off the field on a cart last Saturday at College Station, has been dismissed from the UT football team for what is described as a violation of team rules. The UT statement says O’Brien’s dismissal isn’t related to the injury he suffered against Texas A&M but stated “should he require any additional care, it will be provided by the University of Tennessee.” There is a lot of speculation that this is cryptic talk for a violation of the NCAA PED (performance enhancing drugs) policy.
The NFL’s TV ratings darn near on life support and we’re only a quarter of the way through the season. Some blame the dip on San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, who takes a knee rather than stand at attention for the national anthem. Kaepernick will get his first start of the season Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. I wonder if ratings will go up or really hit the skids for that game?
You can all but count on the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas now that the Nevada State Senate has approved by a 16-5 margin a funding package to build a domed stadium on The Strip. The deal still has to be approved by the Nevada House but that’s not expected to garner much opposition. Of course, the Raiders have to get 75% approval from the NFL owners to make a move out of Oakland, but just like getting approval of the Nevada House, that doesn’t figure to be all that difficult. The final cost of the new ball yard is estimated at $1.9 billion of which the Raiders would chip in with $500 million to assist.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If approved, state and local municipalities in Nevada will be on the hook for $1.4 billion of the $1.9 billion it costs to build a stadium to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. Do you think taxpayers should foot the bulk of the bill to bring teams owned by billionaires to their locales?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Good friend Doug Wedgworth’s days are consumed with fighting against a very aggressive form of cancer. I don’t know anyone who loves the shag and the great Carolina beach music more than Dougie, so today’s music is a live performance by one of his all-time favorite bands, The Embers, which feature his buddy Craig Woolard. I hope the music has you feeling like shagging the morning away Dougie.