If last week’s 16-10 win over LSU taught us anything, it is don’t count the Florida Gators (8-2) out just because they’re playing short-handed. On the road in Baton Rouge and without numerous starters and key backups on both lines of scrimmage and in the secondary, nobody really gave the Gators much of a chance to beat LSU in Tiger Stadium but somehow, someway, UF prevailed.
Would it be asking too much for a repeat performance on the road in Tallahassee Saturday night?
It was quite a feat for Florida to shut down LSU in the red zone last week but the Tigers aren’t exactly known for their offensive efficiency. Florida State (8-3) on the other hand, has plenty of offensive weapons. Scoring points really hasn’t been a problem for the Seminoles this year even with redshirt freshman Deondre Francois doing on the job training. Francois has thrown for 2,990 yards and 17 TDs while only throwing 5 picks and he’s shown good mobility while adding another 124 rushing yards and 3 TDs.
Francois is only one of the problems. Dalvin Cook (1,467 rushing yards, 17 TDs) has to be the focus of the UF defense. Cook is so good at finding open space that opponents can shut him down only to see him break a couple of long runs that change the dynamics of the game. Florida knows that first hand from the last two seasons in which Cook has run for 144 yards (2014) and 183 last year. In both games, the Gators held Cook in check except for 2-3 long runs that altered the game completely.
If all of Florida’s defensive moving parts were in order and the Gators were at full strength you’d like the Gators chances of stopping the FSU offense, but the Gators are depleted and they may be without left guard Martez Ivey over on the offensive side as well. That left side of the UF offensive line will have to figure out a way to keep DeMarcus Walker (13 sacks) out of Austin Appleby’s hair and open up some holes for Jordan Scarlett to run the football.
To win this game, Florida is going to have to do it with bubble gum and baling wire on the defensive side and the offense is going to have to help out the defense by running the football consistently. If UF neutralizes Dalvin Cook and DeMarcus Walker, then UF is in the hunt.
It is a tall order and after last week, it’s hard to pick against the Gators, but perhaps last week was reverse mojo. The Gators could use more of that this week. The pick is Florida State 23, Florida 14.
GATORS GET IMPRESSIVE WIN OVER SETON HALL
Mike White’s Florida basketball team (5-0) got its most impressive win of the season Thursday night in the Advocare Invitational, knocking off a good Seton Hall (3-1) team from the Big East Conference, 81-76, despite three players fouling out. KeVaughn Allen scored 21 and Canyon Barry added 20 for the Gators, who play 11th-ranked Gonzaga (4-0) Friday night in the tournament semifinals, played at the ESPN Disney complex in Lake Buena Vista.
Florida led, 60-59, at the under 8 minute timeout in the second half when a Devin Robinson jumper from just inside the 3-point line sparked the Gators on a 9-4 mini-run to take control. During the stretch run, Barry scored 6 points, grabbed 3 rebounds and handed out a perfect pass that John Egbunu converted into a dunk, while Allen scored 8 points and blocked a shot and picked up a steal.
Point guards Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza both fouled out but not before combining to score 20 points, grab 3 rebounds and set up teammates with 4 assists. Chiozza, who hit 6-8 from the foul line, was Florida’s third player in double figures with 14. Egbunu contributed 8 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
THE SAYER SAYS SOOTH
#1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC) 32, #16 Auburn (8-3, 5-2 SEC) 10: Yes, you throw out all the record books when Alabama and Auburn play in the Iron Bowl except that it’s hard to ignore the fact that Alabama’s defense is scary good and that freshman quarterback is playing like he’s been playing college football for at least 2-3 years. Auburn isn’t going to have much success running the football nor are the Tigers going to throw it very well, especially with QB Sean White either out or playing in a diminished capacity. When Bama gets the ball, Jalen Hurts is just the kind of QB that drives an over aggressive defense nuts. Bama will win it and it won’t be nearly as close as the score might indicate.
#24 Tennessee (8-3, 4-3 SEC) 26, Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5 SEC) 21: It’s so tempting to pick Vanderbilt to score the upset here, particularly since the Commodores have the motivation of bowl eligibility if they win. It would be particularly sweet for Vandy since UT defensive coordinator Bob Shoop recruited most of Vandy’s seniors four years ago when he worked for James Franklin. Now if Butch Jones and the Vols figure out a way to blow this one, buzzards might start circling the UT football complex on Sunday. It’s one thing to have the excuse of an injury-ravaged team when getting blown out by Alabama. It’s something altogether different to lose to Vandy under any circumstance. The difference will be Josh Dobbs being able to escape the pass rush and turn negative plays into positive yardage.
Arkansas (7-4, 3-4 SEC) 37, Missouri (3-8, 1-6 SEC) 28: Missouri averages 509+ yards per game and Arkansas gives up 6.3 yards per play. Under most circumstances that would spell a bad afternoon for the Hogs, but fortunately, Missouri’s defense is also very bad. Arkansas has more weapons at its disposal to compensate for bad defense and the Hogs finish the regular season with 8 wins while Mizzou coach Barry Odom starts thinking about the wholesale firing of his entire defensive staff.
Georgia (7-4, 4-4 SEC) 24, Georgia Tech (7-4) 21: If this game were played at Grant Field in Atlanta, I would pick Georgia Tech without hesitation. Since it’s in Athens, Georgia is a very shaky choice. The key for Georgia will be to get the lead and maintain it. Falling behind a team that lives to grind out 20-play, 80-yard drives is not conducive to winning. Georgia fans need to get a close look at Nick Chubb. It’s unfathomable that he might consider returning for his senior season after the kind of injury he came back from this year.
#11 Louisville (9-2) 47, Kentucky (6-6, 4-4 SEC) 24: This is Lamar Jackson’s chance to redeem himself with Heisman voters after he was sacked 11 times last week by Houston. There is absolutely no chance Kentucky will sack Jackson 11 times. The Mildcats have gotten to the QB exactly 18 times in 11 games. Mostly, they will be chasing Jackson, who really needs a monster game. He will seem like Josh Dobbs (Tennessee QB who passed for 223 yards and 3 TDs, ran for 147 and 2 against UK two weeks ago) on steroids. This will get ugly early.
#4 Clemson (10-1) 33, South Carolina (6-5, 3-5 SEC) 14: This might actually turn out closer than anyone expects because (a) South Carolina has this habit of making teams play down to their level and (b) Clemson has spent the entire season playing down to the level of their opponents. In the end, however, Clemson’s defense will overwhelm freshman QB Jake Bentley and the Tigers will be a win in the ACC championship game away from making the College Football Playoff for the second straight year.
Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 SEC) 35, Mississippi State (4-7, 2-5 SEC) 33: If Mississippi State could play a lick of defense, I’d pick them to win in a heartbeat but (a) they are horrible defensively and (b) the game is being played in Oxford, the choice is Ole Miss in a squeaker. Ole Miss will go bowling and Mississippi State’s school record streak of six straight years to a bowl game will come to a screeching halt.
Multiple reporters at ESPN say Houston coach Tom Herman could strike a deal to become LSU’s head coach by Saturday morning. University of Houston AD Hunter Yurachek says neither Herman nor his agent have indicated they are in conversations with LSU. LSU issued a statement saying there are “a lot of unsubstantiated rumors” about its coaching search and that the school plays to “take our time” in landing a new coach. This has the sound of another botch job by Crazy Joe Alleva, who found a way to screw up hiring Jimbo Fisher last year.
And speaking of Fisher, if LSU actually hires Herman it means Jimbo told Crazy Joe he would rather endure a weekly colonoscopy rather than work for him. This could also mean there may be legs to growing rumors that Jimbo could be swayed by an offer from Texas.
Okay, since Texas has been mentioned, the Longhorns say they haven’t even made their best offer to Tom Herman. Those same ESPN reporters who say Herman to LSU is a done deal say that IF Herman goes to LSU and Charlie Strong beats TCU in the season finale Saturday that Strong’s chances of remaining the HBC in Austin have substantially increased.
USA Today is reporting that Penn State is working on a raise and a contract extension for James Franklin.
You have to wonder if maybe the folks in Aggieland have grown weary of Kevin Sumlin, who just endured his third straight nosedive November after Thursday night’s 54-39 loss to LSU. The Aggies are 3-9 in SEC games during the month of November since 2013.
While on the subject of Texas A&M, isn’t coordinator John Chavis supposed to be a defensive guru? Then how is it the Aggies allowed offensively challenged LSU to go off for 622 yards and 54 points Thursday night with quarterback Danny Etling throwing for 324 yards and 2 TDs and running back Derrius Guice breaking Leonard Fournette’s school rushing record with 285 yards and 3 TDs.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
How much chance do you give Vanderbilt to knock off Tennessee Saturday and if the Commodores succeed, do you think Butch Jones is in trouble?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
The band Lettuce has been around for 23 years, led by talented guitarist Eric Krasno. Their music is a combo of funk, soul, jazz and rock. The band is far better live than in the studio. Today’s music is a 2016 performance at a club in Asheville, North Carolina.