If you weren’t already convinced, Saturday’s win over Missouri was confirmation that the University of Florida is indeed DBU. Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson both ran back interceptions for touchdowns and the Gator secondary completely shut down Missouri QB Drew Lock, who came into the game averaging more than 300 yards per game but finished just 4-18 for 39 yards. That’s 2.2 yards per pass attempt.
Tabor and Wilson might just be the best cornerback tandem in the country, but they are just two important links in a Florida secondary that is holding opponents to 132.8 yards per game and 5.69 yards per pass attempt. The Gators rank #1 nationally in pass efficiency defense and #2 in passing yards allowed. UF has 10 interceptions this season. The Gators had 14 last year when the secondary included first rounders Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal as well as Brian Poole, who is in the regular rotation for the Atlanta Falcons this year. Tabor, Wilson and Marcus Maye should all go in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Having corners like Tabor and Wilson to go with safeties like Maye, Nick Washington, Marcel Harris and nickels such as Duke Dawson and Chauncey Gardner means the Gators rarely have to double up on a receiver and can give help to the front seven against the run. Obviously, it’s working because UF ranks #3 nationally in total defense (252.5 yards per game) and #2 in scoring defense (12.0 per game).
Now take a moment to think how much better this defense is going to be in two weeks if these seven guys are healthy and able to go full speed again: linebackers Jarrad Davis, Kylan Johnson and Jeremiah Moon, DTs Caleb Brantley and Joey Ivie and DEs Jordan Sherit and Bryan Cox Jr.
BOWLING FOR DOLLARS
Bowl eligible: Alabama 7-0; Texas A&M 6-0
One win away: FLORIDA 5-1; Tennessee 5-2; Arkansas 5-2
Two wins away: Auburn 4-2, LSU 4-2; Georgia 4-3
The rest of the conference: Ole Miss (3-3) should have no problems getting in. Kentucky needs three wins and has potential wins against Mississippi State and Missouri and an almost guaranteed win against Austin Peay. Vandy should win against Missouri and Tennessee State but getting to six means an upset against Auburn, Ole Miss or Tennessee. Mississippi State needs to go 4-2 the rest of the way against a schedule that includes Alabama, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Ole Miss.
Bowl eligible: Clemson 7-0
Two wins away: Louisville 5-1; Florida State 5-2, Wake Forest 5-2, North Carolina 5-2, Pittsburgh 5-2; North Carolina State 4-2; Virginia Tech 4-2; Miami 4-2; Georgia Tech 4-3
Bowl eligible: Baylor 6-0
One win away: West Virginia 5-0
Two wins away: Oklahoma 4-2; TCU 4-2; Oklahoma State 4-2
Bowl eligible: Ohio State 6-0; Michigan 6-0; Nebraska 6-0
One win away: Iowa 5-2
Two wins away: Penn State 4-2; Maryland 4-2; Minnesota 4-2; Wisconsin 4-2
Bowl eligible: Washington 6-0; Utah 6-1
One win away: Colorado 5-2; Arizona State 5-2
Two wins away: Washington State 4-2; Stanford 4-2; Southern Cal 4-3
Two wins away: Army 4-2; BYU 4-3
Bowl eligible: South Florida 6-1; Houston 6-1
One win away: Memphis 5-1
Two wins away: Temple 4-3, Navy 4-1; Tulsa 4-2
Two wins away: Old Dominion 4-2; Middle Tennessee 4-2; Western Kentucky 4-3; Louisiana Tech 4-3; Southern Miss 4-3
Bowl eligible: Western Michigan 7-0
One win away: Toledo 5-1; Central Michigan 5-2; Eastern Michigan 5-2
Two wins away: Akron 4-3; Ohio 4-3; Ball State 4-3
Bowl eligible: Boise State 6-0
One win away: San Diego State 5-1
Two wins away: Wyoming 4-2; Air Force 4-2
One win away: Troy 5-1
Two wins away: Appalachian State 4-2; Idaho 4-3
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: He had his “least” productive game of the year against Duke – 181 yards passing and 1 TD; 144 yards rushing and another TD. For the season he has accounted for 30 touchdowns with 114-96 passing (9.2 per attempt) for 1,806 yards and 15 TDs (4 INTs); 113-832 rushing (7.36 per) for another 15 TDs. He’s already played the two marquee games on the schedule so he’s got to do something truly spectacular in the final six games like do a 30-30 (rushing/passing TDs) to make sure he keeps his lead over the others on the A-List.
2. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: He practically willed Ohio State to win the game with Wisconsin to keep the Buckeyes perfect at 6-0. He threw for 226 and a TD and ran for 92 and 2 more in that game. For the season, Barrett is 96-152 passing for 1,207 yards (7.9 per attempt) and 16 TDs (4 INTs); 91-434 rushing (4.77) and 6 more TDs. He should make the Heisman podium without a problem, but his chances to win it could very well rest on what he does the last game of the season against Michigan.
3. Jake Browning, QB, Washington: He had the week off so his stat line is unchanged – 104-144 passing for 1,418 yards (9.8 per attempt) and 23 TDs against only 2 INTs. He has rushed for 3 other TDs. The schedule isn’t going to help him (Utah is the only ranked team still on the schedule) so he’s going to have to put up incredible numbers and lead the Huskies to an unbeaten season.
4. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: He came up big when Clemson needed him to avert an upset against North Carolina State, throwing for 378 yards and 2 TDs and rushing for 35 yards and 1 more score. His seasonal numbers are 164-258 passing for 1,950 yards and 20 TDs (8 INTs); 71-279 rushing (3.93 per) and 1 TD. The Florida State game in two weeks will go a long way toward whether or not he wins the Heisman. If he leads the Tigers to a blowout win and they run the regular season table, he might win the Heisman in a landslide, particularly when you add in the fact he’s got character in the Wuerffel and Tebow mode.
1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: He is third in the country in rushing yards (159-900, 5.66 per attempt, 7 TDs) and he’s handy in the passing game (21-356, 1 TD). To get on the A-List he has to put up Star Wars numbers against Clemson in two weeks and then go unconscious and run for 200 a game the rest of the season.
2. Donnell Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State: He leads the country with 1,111 yards (6.65 per carry) and has scored 11 TDs. He has three 200-yard plus games. But he gets all these yards against teams nobody knows anything about on the Left Coast after most people have gone to sleep on Saturday night. He’s really good, just not good enough. For his career he has 5,309 rushing yards for 56 TDs.
3. Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston: That loss to Navy a couple of weeks ago not only shot down Houston’s chances to crash the College Football Playoff party but Ward’s chances of getting on the Heisman podium as well. He’s 157-224 passing for 1,938 yards (8.7 per attempt) and 11 TDs (5 INTs) and has run for 414 yards and 6 TDs.
4. Jabril Peppers, S/RB/WR/KR, Michigan: While he might be the most versatile player in the country, he will need better numbers to make the podium and Michigan will have to finish unbeaten. He has 39 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks for -28 yards, 5 quarterback hurries, 1 forced fumble, 14-249 on punt returns for a TD and 5-98 rushing for another TD.
5. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: If Oklahoma hadn’t gone 0-2 against Houston and Ohio State, Mayfield might be in the hunt. He’s 125-177 passing for 1,803 yards, 16 TDs (5 INTs) and 104 rushing yards for 3 more TDs.
6. Zach Terrell, QB, Western Michigan: Okay, he’s from the MAC and that automatically assures you that he won’t win the Heisman. But, it doesn’t change the fact he’s really, really good and would be really, really good playing on any team in the country. His numbers are impressive: 122-174, 1,597 yards (9.2 per attempt), 17 TDs, 0 INTs; 142 rushing yards, 5 TDs.
1. Quinton Flowers, QB, South Florida: If he played in a power league against a tough schedule he would be no less than a B-Lister. He’s 106-181 passing for 1,535 yards (8.5 per attempt), 13 TDs (5 INTs); 94-665 rushing (6.97) with 7 TDs.
2. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama: This could change as the season moves along. He’s still figuring out the Alabama offense but when he has a full command he will be scary and he’s just a true freshman. He’s 113-178 passing for 1,385 yards (7.8 per), 9 TDs (3 INTs); 74-428 rushing (5.78) with 8 TDs.
3. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina: He’s having a great year but he plays in the same league as Deshaun Watson and Dalvin Cook. For the season he’s 178-254 passing for 2,068 yards (8.1 per attempt), 15 TDs (2 INTs) and 4 rushing TDs.
BIG 12 WILL STAY AT 10 TEAMS
A couple of things happened Monday when the Big 12 presidents voted unanimously to remain at 10 teams: (1) the league assured that it will remain the weakest of the Power 5 conferences and the least likely to get a team into the college football playoff and (2) Tom Herman’s fate at the University of Houston was pretty much sealed.
The Big 12 has the worst TV deal among the Power 5 conferences and it will remain the worst although TV certainly had something to do with status quo. Neither ESPN nor Fox Sports were eager for the league to expand because that meant obligations to add $25 million to league coffers for each expansion team. Without expansion and that pro rata clause that guarantees the payments, the Big 12 can restructure its current TV contracts. That will mean more money per school but it won’t be anything like the bucks the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 are making.
If Houston had been invited to join the league, Herman was assured of a raise to more than $5 million per year to stay at the school. With no expansion, there is no way Houston can afford to pay Herman that kind of money. The Cougars aren’t going to be the hottest ticket in the state against the likes of Temple, UConn, East Carolina and Cincinnati. Herman is too good a coach to stay at Houston when schools with money and facilities will offer him just about anything his heart desires. You can almost bet the farm that he’ll be the first on the wish lists at LSU, Texas and Southern Cal although neither Texas nor Southern Cal have vacated their HBC positions just yet. Having Herman available could hasten those decisions.
While entertaining expansion, the Big 12 engaged in talks with 20 schools and got them to spend millions on why us presentations. All those schools are left holding an empty bag of promises now. BYU was thought to be a frontrunner to join but the school’s stance on LGBT issues and its refusal to play any sport on Sunday created potential nightmares.
A few months ago there were rumblings that maybe Texas and Oklahoma would seek to join the Pac-12 or SEC where there are bigger television payouts and more opportunities to make the playoffs but both seem content to remain in a weak 10-team league. They have clout in the Big 12 that they wouldn’t in the SEC, Pac-12 or even the Big Ten.
There are 80 spots available for bowl games, but right now CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm is projecting only 73 teams will finish with at least six wins. Palm also projects the following final four matchups: Alabama vs. Washington in the Peach Bowl and Clemson vs. Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Utah HBC Kyle Whittingham earned a $160,000 bonus for getting the Utes bowl eligible while Mike Riley of Nebraska got a $150,000 bonus for getting the Cornhuskers eligible to go bowling.
Purdue has a long wish list to replace fired Darrell Hazell, but the three names at the top are likely former LSU coach Les Miles, Illinois State HBC (and former Purdue linebacker) Brock Spack and Air Force HBC Troy Calhoun. Purdue is in the Big Ten West which means there is no annual gauntlet of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State so this could turn out to be a very attractive job.
Tennessee just lost another key defensive player for the season. DT Kahlik McKenzie is done for the year after suffering a season-ending injury against Alabama.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
The SEC West’s dominance has many people thinking the SEC should consider divisional realignment. The ACC has two 7-team divisions that aren’t based on north-south or east-west. Would that work for the SEC or should the league leave things as they are and it’s up to the teams in the East to close the gap with the West?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I listened to Gary Clark Jr.’s “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim” today for the first time in months and wondered why I’m not listening to him more often. He’s as good as it gets as a blues guitarist but it’s pretty evident that he draws a lot of influence from jazz, soul and country as well. Today’s music is his 2016 performance at Glastonbury.