Time for a sobering walk down Reality Lane.
After a 523-yard outburst against Missouri on October 15, Florida’s offense averaged 264.2 yards per game and scored all of 7 touchdowns. Since that win, the Gators have averaged just 16.6 points per game.
In the final six games of 2015, the Gators averaged 15.2 points and 271.5 yards per game. A 10-1 start became a 10-4 finish and it had everything to do with the ineffectiveness of the offense.
With Alabama ahead this week in the SEC Championship Game and a bowl game beyond that, UF is staring another disappointing finish, most likely 8-5. Yes, the Gators have won the SEC East twice, but let’s face it, folks: the SEC East is horrible and I’m being kind.
More sobering reality.
Other than 564 yards and 45 points against Kentucky in the second game of the year, the Florida offense had only one game with more than 300 total yards against a team with at least a break even record. The Gators managed 372 yards and 2 offensive touchdowns against South Carolina, which finished its regular season 6-6. While Florida’s offense has fallen back on its inept ways, Kentucky has averaged 511.66 yards and 37.5 points in its last 6 games to finish the season 7-5.
Since the Missouri game, Florida failed to score an offensive touchdown in losses to Arkansas and Florida State. Against FSU, the Gators were 0-12 on third down conversions. In the two weeks following a 31-10 win over the Gators in which the Razorbacks gave up only 241 yards, Arkansas allowed 547 yards and 38 points to LSU and 533 yards and 42 points to Mississippi State.
I’ve had it with the lack of experience excuse for the offensive line. Missouri had a collective 2 Division I starts on its O-line at the beginning of the year yet the Tigers are averaging more than 500 yards per game, have a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 750-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver. Missouri’s problems are all on defense, not on offense.
I’ve also had it with the lack of player development by quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Florida has quarterbacks who consistently fail to see open wide receivers, running backs who can’t pick up a blitz and receivers who neither run disciplined routes or show much willingness to fight for the football.
Florida’s defense has carried the load all year just as it did last year, but the Gators are going to lose plenty to graduation and early entry to the NFL this year. Next year will be like 2007 all over again when kids had to play out of necessity. In 2007, the Gators at least could outscore some people.
I don’t hold out much hope they will be able to outscore people in 2017 unless there is a major overhaul of the offensive coaching staff.
As my grandfather used to say, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be what you’ve always been.”
It’s time to do something different on offense.
GATORS IMPROVE TO 6-1 WITH WIN OVER CANES
On a day when KeVaughn Allen, John Egbunu and Canyon Barry combined for 16 points, the Gators (6-1) had to rely on unexpected sources for the offensive lift to get them past Miami (4-2), 65-56, in the consolation game of the Advocare Invitational at the Disney Complex in Lake Buena Vista. Kasey Hill’s best game of the year – 16 points including 8-10 from the foul line, 2 rebounds, 3 assists ad 2 steals – and freshman Keith Stone’s breakout game (15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block) made up for the lack of production from Allen, Egbunu and Barry.
Stone came off the bench in the first half to score 9 points including a pair of 3-pointers to help the Gators to a 34-30 lead at intermission. Miami drew even with the Gators (43-43) midway through the second half, but Hill came up with a steal and drove in for a layup to give the Gators the lead for good with 9:41 to go. In the final 9 minutes of the game, Egbunu came alive offensively to score on 3 dunks and the Gators hit all 6 of their free throws to put the game away.
Next up for the Gators is a Thursday matchup with North Florida at the UNF Arena Thursday night.
LSU GOES WITH COACH O
On Thanksgiving there were reports that a deal between LSU and Houston’s Tom Herman was all but agreed to and would be announced Saturday morning. Herman was the flavor of the day because Jimbo Fisher of Florida State had agreed to terms on money but LSU wouldn’t give him the 10-year contract he sought.
When Herman indicated he was leaning toward Texas, Crazy Joe Alleva moved immediately to take the interim tag off Ed Orgeron. Coach O has a 5-year contract and as much money as he needs to hire a superb staff. He would love to hire best bud Lane Kiffin as his OC but if Lane doesn’t get a head ball coach gig, he’ll stay in Tuscaloosa where he’s making $1.6 million working for Nick Saban. If Kiffin stays put, former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian, another buddy of Coach O, would probably be the OC. LSU is about to make DC Dave Aranda the highest paid assistant in the country so he’s staying.
NOTABLE IN THE SEC
Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC): In the month of November, Alabama outscored four opponents 122-18 and didn’t allow a touchdown. Alabama averaged 442.8 yards and 30.3 points while opponents managed 191.3 yards and 4.5 points.
Arkansas (7-5, 3-5 SEC): Bret Bielema says he plans no changes on his staff, which is pretty shocking considering the Razorbacks tanked defensively and finished the season giving up 30.8 points per game and 6.91 yards per opponent’s offensive play.
Auburn (8-4, 5-3 SEC): John Franklin III could elect to stay at Auburn as a backup QB, change positions or take the graduate transfer route. Franklin (41 carries for 414 yards and 2 TDs) might be the ideal QB for a triple option team like Georgia Tech (senior QB graduates), which throws sparingly and requires a running QB.
Georgia (7-5, 4-4 SEC): Georgia could lose two key offensive and two key defensive players early to the NFL Draft. Running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel both have decisions to make as do linebacker Lorenzo Carter and safety Dominick Sanders. Of the four, Chubb and Sanders are almost certain to go while Carter and Michel may come back based on the evaluations they get from NFL scouts.
Kentucky (7-5, 4-4): Kentucky placekicker Austin MacGinnis has proven to be Mr. Clutch for the Wildcats. He has hit 15-18 field goals this year with a 51-yarder as time expired to beat Mississippi State and a 47-yarder when the clock struck zero for the win over Louisville.
LSU (7-4, 5-3 SEC): D-line coach Pete Jenkins will be back, too, but special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto is gone.
Mississippi State (5-7, 3-5 SEC): The Bulldogs lost three games on the last play of the game. Even though they are 5-7, they have a good chance to get into a bowl game since there aren’t enough teams with at least 6 wins to fill the 80 guaranteed bowl slots.
Missouri (4-8, 2-6 SEC): The way he turned Missouri’s offense around is going to make coordinator Josh Heupel a hot commodity. Missouri averaged 280.9 yards and 16.2 points in 2015. Heupel turned things around in his first year as Mizzou averaged 500 yards and 31.4 points per game.
Ole Miss (5-7, 2-6 SEC): Dave Wommack is retiring as the Rebels’ defensive coordinator. Hugh Freeze needs to find a dynamic new coordinator but he’s also got to find some players. The Rebels gave up 34 points and 461 yards per game this season.
South Carolina (6-6, 3-5 SEC): After the Gamecocks were hammered by Clemson, 56-7, Will Muschamp went to midfield to shake Dabo Swinney’s hand but the Clemson coach wasn’t interested. During the pregame there was a scuffle between the teams and South Carolina players claim Clemson players were using the N word.
Tennessee (8-4, 4-4 SEC): If it were up to Vol fans, Butch Jones would be a goner after 8-4 with losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky and no trip to Atlanta. Jones will be back but that has more to do with the fact UT is looking for a replacement AD for the “retiring” Spanky Hart.
Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC): The Aggie administration would be absolutely thrilled if Kevin Sumlin decided to take another job. If he leaves by his own volition prior to January 1, 2017, there is no buyout. If A&M fires him, the buyout is more than $15 million.
Vanderbilt (6-6, 6-6, 3-5 SEC): After beating Tennessee Saturday night to become bowl eligible, Vandy HBC Derek Mason declared “This is our state.”
COACHES TOP 25 POLL
SEC teams in bold face
1. Alabama 12-0
2. Ohio State 11-1
3. Clemson 11-1
4. Washington 11-1
5. Wisconsin 10-2
6. Michigan 10-2
7. Oklahoma 9-2
8. Penn State 10-2
9. Colorado 10-2
10. Oklahoma State 9-2
11. Southern Cal 9-3
12. Florida State 9-3
13. West Virginia 9-2
14. Western Michigan 12-0
15. Louisville 9-3
16. FLORIDA 8-3
17. Stanford 9-3
18. Virginia Tech 9-3
19. Auburn 8-4
20. Navy 9-2
21. LSU 7-4
22. Nebraska 9-3
23. South Florida 10-2
24. Utah 8-4
25. Iowa 8-4
IF THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF TEAMS WERE CHOSEN TODAY
The phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” appears seven times in the New Testament. Since football hadn’t been invented yet, we can’t say the words are prophetic but they seem an apt description for what is going on with the College Football Playoff Committee this week as they contemplate a final four that could have two of the five power conference champions watching instead of participating. As long as it’s a 4-team playoff one conference champ is going to be left out and perhaps feel shafted as was the case with both Baylor and TCU in 2014.
The dilemma for this year is Ohio State (11-1), #2 in all the polls including the only one that counts. The Buckeyes just beat #3 Michigan (now 10-2) but they won’t play for the Big Ten championship because they lost to Penn State (10-2). It’s inconceivable that Ohio State would drop down to #5 after winning the biggest game of the season so you have to figure the Buckeyes are in. But what does the playoff committee do if Penn State beats Wisconsin (10-2) in the Big Ten Championship Game? Does the committee eliminate one of the 1-loss teams – Clemson or Washington? Imagine how unhappy the ACC and Pac-12 people would be if one of their 1-loss champs joined a 2-loss Big 12 champ – either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State – on the outside looking in.
That would almost pale in comparison to the uproar in the Big Ten if Penn State wins the conference championship game and doesn’t get in the playoff while Ohio State is in.
At this point, the committee members have to be hoping and praying Wisconsin beats Penn State. Since Wisconsin’s 2 losses are at the hands of Michigan and Ohio State it would allow the playoff to proceed with unbeaten Alabama from the SEC, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington.
Of course, if Wisconsin beats Penn State, Virginia Tech beats Clemson and Colorado beats Washington, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State could sneak in.
Weeping and gnashing of teeth!
RESHUFFLING THE HEISMAN DECK
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: To follow up the disaster against Houston, Jackson threw 3 interceptions and fumbled in Louisville’s 41-38 loss to Kentucky, offsetting an otherwise brilliant (281 passing yards for 2 TDs; 171 rushing yards for 2 TDs) performance. His lead is shaky and he could fall out of the #1 slot because several other contenders have another game to play. Jackson’s numbers for the year are 220-382 passing for 3,390 yards (8.9 per attempt) and 30 TDs (9 INTs); 234-1,538 yards rushing (6.57 per carry) for 21 TDs.
2. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Mayfield has been the nation’s hottest QB in November and he’s got a marquee game Saturday against #10 Oklahoma State to state his Heisman case. Mayfield’s numbers heading into Saturday are 222-311 passing (71.4%) for 3,381 yards (10.9 per attempt) and 35 TDs (8 INTs); 71-138 rushing for 6 more TDs.
3. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama: It used to be a sophomore couldn’t win it and along came Tim Tebow. Then it Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston won as redshirt freshmen. Can a true freshman break down that last barrier? Hurts just keeps getting better and Bama is unbeaten and looking invincible with him running the offense. Through 12 games he is 209-317 passing for 2,454 yards (7.7 per attempt) and 21 TDs (9 INTs); 154-840 rushing (5.45 per carry) for 12 TDs. If he’s the MVP of the SEC Championship Game will that be enough to vault him to the top?
4. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: By turning Senior Day (6 TDPs against South Carolina) into his own personal statement, Watson is back on the A-list. Another statement game in the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech could elevate his fortunes. So far, Watson is 305-452 passing for 3,626 yards (8.0 per attempt) and 34 TDs (14 INTs) with 112-44 rushing (3.96 per carry) for 4 more TDs.
5. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: After he all but willed Ohio State to a double overtime win over Michigan, he’s back on the podium list. Barrett is 214-316 passing for 2,428 yards (7.0 per attempt) with 24 TDs (5 INTs); 194-847 rushing (4.37 per carry) for 9 more TDs.
6. Adoree Jackson, DB/WR/KR/PR, Southern Cal: If you are looking for the ultimate darkhorse candidate, this is it after his spectacular game against Notre Dame in which he carried the ball 1 time for 12 yards, caught 1 pass for 52 yards and a TD, ran back 3 punts for 66 yards and a TD, and ran back 4 kickoffs for 161 yards and yet another TD. Over on the defensive side of the ball, he had 2 tackles and broke up 2 passes. For the season, Jackson is 5-49 rushing, 1-52 receiving, 19-302 (15.89) for 2 punt return TDs, 22-671 for 2 KO return TDs, 4 interceptions, 11 pass breakups, 1 fumble return for 26 yards and 51 tackles including 2 for loss. The Heisman is supposed to go to the best player regardless of position. Jackson can make quite a case that he’s that guy.
If I’m the athletic director at Houston, my first call will go to Lane Kiffin now that Tom Herman has flown the coop for Texas.
The Countdown to Firing Day carnage has just begun. Fired this weekend were Charlie Strong (Texas), Charlie Partridge (Florida Atlantic), Brian Polian (Nevada) and Ron Caragher (San Jose State). Expect at least five more firings in Division I this week with potential Pac-12 openings at Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State.
Tom Brady is now tied with Peyton Manning for the most wins as a starting QB in the NFL with 200. Brady’s career record (counting playoffs and Super Bowls) is 200-61. Manning finished his career at 200-92.
At 9-2 the Oakland Raiders are tied for the second best record in the NFL and the franchise is looking stronger than it has since the days when Jon Gruden was the HBC. Will the sudden upswing get the Raiders the new stadium they need or will the fans get jilted for Las Vegas in 2018?
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Do you believe Jim McElwain will take the steps necessary to infuse the offense by shaking up his staff or do you think he will try to go status quo for 2017?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
From 1966-70, Tommy James and the Shondells were money in the bank for Roulette Records, delivering 7 top 10 singles. Founded in 1959 when he was 12 and known by his given name Tommy Jackson, the Echoes evolved into The Shondells and had a nice 5-year run. Today’s music is a 1999 concert. The sound was consistent even 30 years after the music was relevant.