In a perfect world, there never would have been a second half meltdown in Knoxville. The Gators would have continued sticking it to Tennessee and done to the Vols what Alabama did yesterday. In that perfect world scenario, the Gators would be unbeaten, ranked in the top ten nationally and would have the SEC East all but wrapped up.
As we all know that didn’t happen, but there are times when football gives you a mulligan. Consider that the case with UF. All the Gators have to do is win their next four games and they’ll be playing for the SEC championship in Atlanta for the second straight year. Winning four in a row is a dubious but do-able task, particularly since the only home game is South Carolina on November 12 but Georgia (in Jacksonville), Arkansas in Fayette Nam and LSU in Baton Rouge are winnable games. It will take near perfect efforts from the Gators but if they play as well as they did in the first half of the Tennessee game or as well as they played defensively for much of the Missouri game Saturday, winning isn’t out of the question.
The Gators don’t have to play again until October 29 in Jacksonville and the extra week will allow needed healing time for linebackers Jarrad Davis (sprained ankle), Kylan Johnson (leg), and Jeremiah Moon (thumb) and D-linemen Caleb Brantley (hand), Joey Ivey (thumb) and Jordan Sherit (knee). If those six are healthy and ready to go, you have to like Florida’s chances to dominate on the defensive side of the ball.
The questions are and will be on the offensive side of the ball. Saturday the Gators gained 523 yards but has there ever been an offensive performance with that much yardage that seemed so very average?
Luke Del Rio kept underthrowing wide open receivers who were behind the Missouri secondary. What that tells us is he was tentative about stepping into his passes and putting extra weight on his knee. In two weeks that problem should be solved and with the emergence of Tyrie Cleveland to balance the field opposite Antonio Callaway, the Gators have the weapons they need on the outside to take the offense to a new level.
The Gators are averaging 426.5 yards and 30.3 points per game. While those are modest numbers compared to what some teams are putting up, they represent an increase of 90 yards and 7 points per game over last season so progress is being made but there is plenty of room to improve, particularly on the offensive line, which was flagged for 8 false starts against Missouri. If the O-line can clean things up and can play a full game at the same level it played for a half at Tennessee 4-0 is not an impossibility.
SEC EAST IN THE PRESEASON RANKINGS
Athlon: 7. Tennessee; 17. Georgia; 21. Florida
Lindy’s: 6. Tennessee; 15. Georgia; 31. Florida
Phil Steele: 7. Tennessee; 23. Georgia; 34. Florida
Sporting News: 13. Tennessee; 19. Georgia
And here we are seven weeks into the season and the standings look like this:
1. Florida 5-1, 3-1 SEC
2. Tennessee 5-2, 2-2 SEC
3. Kentucky 3-3, 2-2 SEC
4. Georgia 4-3, 2-3 SEC
5. Vanderbilt 3-4, 1-3 SEC
6. South Carolina 2-4, 1-4 SEC
7. Missouri 2-4, 0-3 SEC
THE COACHES TOP 25 POLL
SEC teams in bold face
1. Alabama 7-0
2. Ohio State 6
3. Clemson 7-0
4. Michigan 6-0
5. Washington 6-0
6. Texas A&M 6-0
7. Louisville 7-0
8. Baylor 6-0
9. Nebraska 6-0
10. Wisconsin 4-2
11. Houston 6-1
12. FLORIDA 5-1
13. West Virginia 5-0
14. Boise State 6-0
15. Florida State 5-2
16. Oklahoma 4-2
17. Arkansas 5-2
18. Utah 6-1
19. Tennessee 5-2
20. Western Michigan 7-0
21. North Carolina 5-2
22. Ole Miss 3-3
23. LSU 4-2
24. Auburn 4-2
25. Navy 4-1
A GOOD DAY WAS HAD BY ALL
Alabama has now gone 9 straight games scoring at least one non-offensive touchdown, the longest streak in 20 years. Against Tennessee, the Crimson Tide got a TD on a pick 6 from Ronnie Harrison and a spectacular punt return TD from Eddie Jackson, their 10th and 11th non-offensive scores of the season. Alabama has scored 4 times on fumble returns for TDs, 4 on interception returns and 3 on punt returns.
And speaking of Alabama, is there anyone better in the country at developing a QB than OC Lane Kiffin? True freshman Jalen Hurts is the third first time starter he’s had at QB in his three years in Tuscaloosa. Just ask Tennessee if they want to see Hurts again. All he did Saturday was throw for 143 yards while rushing for 132 and 3 TDs. Overall, Alabama ran for 438 yards and finished with 594 yards of offense against the Vols.
Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham was a one-man wrecking crew in Vandy’s shocking, 17-16, win over Georgia in Athens. He was in on 19 tackles, had 2.5 tackles for -5 yards in losses and broke up a pass. He made the solo tackle on Isaiah McKenzie on fourth and 2 that sealed the win for the Commodores and quite possibly saved HBC Derek Mason’s job.
West Virginia is 5-0 and has to be taken seriously as a threat to win the Big 12 after blowing the doors of Texas Tech, 48-17. One big reason the Mounties are doing so well is the play on the offensive line where former Gator player/assistant Joe Wickline is getting the job done. The Mounties are averaging 534.2 yards (6.81 per play), 216.2 rushing yards (5.15 per attempt) and 318 passing yards (8.7 per attempt) per game. They’ve given up only 4 sacks for -15 yards.
Oklahoma wide receiver DeDe Westbrook caught 9 passes for 184 yards and 3 TDs against Kansas State, one week after he caught 10 passes for 232 yards and 3 TDs against Texas.
Louisiana Tech wide receiver Carlos Henderson had 12 catches for 326 yards and 5 touchdowns in Tech’s 56-28 win over UMass.
South Florida QB Quinton Flowers is putting together a spectacular but under the radar season. In leading USF to a 42-27 win over UConn, Flowers threw for 213 yards and 2 TDs and ran for 157 yards and 3 more scores.
Since Urban Meyer arrived at Ohio State, the Buckeyes are 56-4, 8-3 against teams ranked in the top 15, and, after Saturday night’s overtime win against Wisconsin in Madison, 20-0 on the road in Big Ten play.
When Coach O took over for Les Miles at LSU, his first business order was to fire OC Cam Cameron and promote Steve Ensminger to the play calling position. In the two games since LSU has scored 87 points and gained 1,093 yards. Against Southern Miss Saturday night, the Tigers ran for 183 and passed for a season high 276.
Okay, so it was Iowa State. Still, for Texas to hold the Cyclones to 280 yards and a pair of field goals is a very big deal for embattled Charlie Strong, who might not have survived the weekend if the Longhorns had found a way to lose that game.
Jarvion Franklin of Western Michigan personally outgained Akron Saturday. In the Broncos’ 41-0 win, Franklin ran for 281 yards and a TD and caught a pass for 18 yards. Akron gained 283 yards, 153 passing and 130 rushing.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora got a 20-13 win over Miami Saturday night. Who would have predicted the Tar Heels would own road wins against Florida State and Miami in the same season … if ever?
… AND FOR SOME, A BAD DAY WAS HAD BY ALL
Georgia outgained Vanderbilt 421-171 and dominated time of possession 35:04-24:56. Somehow, Georgia lost (sarcastic moment please … pity!), 17-16. Am I mistaken or wasn’t Kirby Smart the clone of Nick Saban who was going to win the SEC East and then thrash the boss in Atlanta?
Since we’re on the topic of Georgia, that was quite an Einstein-like moment for OC Jim Chaney when he elected to run a sweep with 175-pound Isaiah McKenzie on fourth and 2 with the game on the line rather than give 228-pound Nick Chubb the football. McKenzie never made the first down marker and Vandy took over, running out the clock to seal the win.
Rutgers lost … again. The spin in New Jersey today is that progress was made because the Scarlet Knights scored their first TD since September 24 in their 24-7 loss to Illinois.
Notre Dame had Stanford at home and Stanford was playing WITHOUT Christian McCaffrey. Somehow the Irish lost 17-10, which drops them to 2-5 and means they have to go 4-1 the rest of the way just to be bowl eligible.
Tennessee ran for 32 (count ‘em yards) against Alabama and threw for 131. Did you happen to see how Bama’s Tim Williams grabbed Joshua Dobbs and tossed him backwards like a rag doll?
After going 36-5 the last three years, Michigan State is now 2-4 and has lost four straight games. The Spartans looked like lost balls in the tall grass trying to defend Northwestern Saturday, a 54-40 beat down that was far worse than the score would indicate.
UCLA punter Austin Kent boomed a punt that went for -1 yards against Washington State. The line of scrimmage was the 43 and when a UCLA defender mercifully swatted the ball out of bounds it was spotted at the 42. Wazzoo won that game and is now tied with Washington at the top of the Pac-12 north. Way down south, UCLA is now 1-3 in the league and 3-4 overall.
Does anyone remember when Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop made the statement “Nobody will run the ball on Tennessee”? That was back in May. This is October. Alabama ran for 438 yards against Shoop’s defense Saturday. Maybe we got it wrong. Maybe “Nobody” was code word for Alabama and he was making a statement about things to come?
BOISE STATE’S TEE RETRIEVER
Now this is fun! Whenever Boise State kicks off, once the play is blown dead, a dog sprints from the sideline to grab the tee and bring it back to the BSU sideline.
The folks in Baton Rouge just can’t let go of things. They’re still trying to pin blame on Jeremy Foley and on SEC commissioner Greg Sankey without acknowledgement that LSU AD Joe Alleva spent a week trying to bully his way into a favorable position. Foley will leave the AD office at Florida in two weeks with his reputation intact. Sankey has a whole lot of work to do to rebuild his. As for Alleva, I can’t imagine a coach in the country who wouldn’t think twice or three times before going to work for him. Alleva’s ego is large enough to apply for statehood.
There are some rumblings that the bromance between Brian Kelly and Notre Dame is in a fractured state and that a parting of the ways might be a mutual decision. Would Notre Dame turn its attention to Les Miles? There are some folks who think so. If the Irish like Les, they better move in a hurry. Purdue fired Darrell Hazell Sunday (9-33 record) and Les Miles sits at the top of the Boilermakers’ wish list.
Lane Kiffin has outscored his former employers 101-16 this year. Alabama hung 52 on Southern Cal in the season opener and 49 on Tennessee Saturday. Figure Kiffin will be somebody’s head coach next year.
Tennessee’s defense took another blow it can’t stand over the weekend when linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin had another surgery on his ailing shoulder. He’s done for the year.
The San Francisco 49ers got hosed by the Buffalo Bills, 45-16, in Colin Kaepernick’s first start at QB since last year. Kaepernick threw for 187 yards and a TD and ran for 66 yards and 1 TD. During the national anthem, fans chanted “USA! USA!” Kaepernick said afterward that taking a knee during the national anthem is patriotic. I do not have ot make this up.
Am I the only one who is reminded by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott of those days of yesteryear when the faces of the Dallas Cowboys were Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith?
The Kansas City Chiefs knocked off the Oakland Raiders, 26-10, Sunday. Do any of you remember when that game used to be as good as it got in the NFL?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
The Gators control their own destiny in the SEC East. Four straight wins assures them of a trip to Atlanta. How do you see UF finishing up its SEC schedule?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The California Honeydrops will be making a swing through the south in the next 2-3 weeks with dates at the Fox Theater (Atlanta) on October 22, St. Augustine Amphitheater on October 29, The Green Parrot (Key West) on October 31, Broward Center for Performing Arts on November 1 and Ruth Eckerd Hall (Clearwater) on November 2. Today’s music is a live set at something called Campout for the Cause from early in the summer.