I am reminded of this Jim Carey scene in the movie “Dumb and Dumber” when I think of Florida’s chances against unbeaten and #1 Alabama (12-0) in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. You know the scene when Carey asks the girl what kind of chances he has with her and she responds “More like one in a million.” Carey responds, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”
I’m not saying there is no chance the Gators (8-3) beat Alabama Saturday because if they simply show up, there is always a chance. But to say the chances are good would be one of the great understatements in the history of college football.
Just take a look at the Gators and Alabama against four common opponents:
Alabama and Florida vs. common opponents
Florida 45, Kentucky 7: This was easily the best game the Gators played all year as they ran for 244 yards and passed for 320 while scoring 6 offensive touchdowns. Luke Del Rio hit 19-32 passes for all of Florida’s yardage and TDs through the air. Freshman Lamical Perine ran for 105 yards and Antonio Callaway caught 5 passes for 129 yards and a TD. UF’s defense held Kentucky to 149 yards, just 55 through the air, and racked up 5 sacks and 3 interceptions.
Alabama 34, Kentucky 6: Alabama rolled up 488 offensive yards and got a pair of TD passes from QB Jalen Hurts to Calvin Ridley, who caught 11 passes for 174 yards. Freshman RB Josh Jacobs ran for 100 yards. Alabama didn’t give up a touchdown and only 161 yards, 89 through the air and 79 on the ground.
Tennessee 39, Florida 28: In jumping out to a 21-3 lead, Florida was playing flawlessly in the first half, but there was a complete second half collapse. The Vols lit up the Gators for 498 total yards and 36 second half points. Florida had no answers on either side of the ball in the second half.
Alabama 49, Tennessee 10: The Crimson Tide shredded the Vols for 409 rushing yards with Hurts going for 132 and 3 TDs to go with his 177 passing yards and 1 other score. Additionally, Bo Scarbrough ran for 109 yards and Damien Harris ran for 94. The Alabama defense held Tennessee to 32 rushing yards and 131 passing. Ronnie Harrison scored on a 58-yard interception return and Eddie Jackson returned a punt for a TD.
Arkansas 31, Florida 10: The game before the Razorbacks played UF, they gave up 56 points an 632 yards (543 on the ground) to Auburn. The game after UF, the Razorbacks gave up 547 yards and 38 points to LSU. The Gators managed 241 yards and didn’t score an offensive touchdown.
Alabama 49, Arkansas 30: Alabama had great balance offensively with 264 rushing yards and 253 passing. Hurts was 13-17 passing for 253 yards and 2 TDs plus he ran for 2 more TDs. Harris ran for 122 yards and ArDarius Stewart caught 5 passes for 122 yards. Arkansas was one of only two teams that gained more than 300 yards against the Alabama defense. The Razorbacks couldn’t run the ball but Austin Allen threw for 400 yards and 3 TDs but he was picked off 3 times by Minkah Fitzpatrick, who ran one back for a TD. Alabama sacked Allen 7 times for 53 yards in losses with Tim Williams picking up a fumble and returning it 23 yards for a TD.
Florida 16, LSU 10: The game ended with Florida stopping Derrius Guice inches from the goal line to preserve a most unexpected win. Florida stopped LSU three of five times in the red zone, holding the Tigers to a TD on their first possession and a field goal. The Gators got 108 rushing yards from Jordan Scarlett and just enough passing to keep some second half drives going. The defense did its part even though the Tigers gave up 423 yards.
Alabama 10, LSU 0: For three quarters it was 0-0, then Jalen Hurts got just enough offense and the Bama defense continued to do its thing. Alabama held LSU to 33 rushing yards and 92 passing, sacking the LSU QB 5 times.
Florida comes into this game about as banged up and beaten up as any team in America. If the Gators were to play with a full defensive deck, you would think along the lines of Alabama-LSU or Florida-LSU, but the Gators are missing too many important players and the offense has only gained more than 300 yards once in the last five games. I think Florida does a decent job on defense, but the difference will be Hurts, who is the most difficult player to defend the Gators have seen this year.
The Gators will show up to play, so there is indeed a chance but … Alabama 24, Florida 3.
GATORS TUNE UP FOR DUKE WITH EASY WIN OVER UNF
The 24th-ranked Gators improved to 7-1 with an easy, 91-60, win over North Florida at the UNF Arena in Jacksonville Thursday night. The Gators shot 58.5% from the field and hit 9-19 (47.4%) from the 3-point line while holding UNF to 37.7% overall and 27.3% beyond the arc.
All 11 Gators who played scored with four scoring in double figures, led by Chris Chiozza with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 steals. Additionally, Justin Leon chipped in with 13, Canyon Barry with 12 and Devin Robinson with 10.
It is being reported that Indiana fired HBC Kevin Wilson, who has taken the Hoosiers to consecutive bowl games. Wilson might not be a head coach next year but you can bet the ranch he will be in demand as an offensive coordinator. Remember Oklahoma 2008? That was Wilson’s offense. Indiana won’t search for a replacement. Defensive coordinator Tom Allen was given a 6-year contract to take over.
Lane Kiffin has indeed emerged as a top target for Houston. Les Miles and Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley are in the mix as well. Houston will be talking to Dana Holgorsen of West Virginia, but it’s unlikely he makes the move.
Miles is no longer in the running for the Purdue job. That could be a sign that Purdue will land either Western Michigan HBC P.J. Fleck or Western Kentucky HBC Jeff Brohm. Fleck isn’t going to comment on anything until after Friday night’s MAC championship game with Ohio University and Brohm isn’t talking until after Saturday’s Conference USA title game.
Florida Atlantic athletic director Pat Chun says he wants a new coach who has been somebody’s HBC in the past. There is speculation that former USF HBC Jim Leavitt (now the DC at Colorado), former FIU HBC Mario Cristobal (now OL coach at Alabama) and former Miami HBC Randy Shannon (UF linebacker coach) will be interviewed. Chun said he is consulting with Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel. Meyer has a great relationship with Cristobal, Shannon and Leavitt.
Texas A&M prez Michael Young says Kevin Sumlin “has my complete support.” A&M would have to fork out $15 million to fire Sumlin, but if Sumlin were to leave on his own volition before January 1, he wouldn’t owe the school any money.
Mike MacIntyre is expected to get a hefty raise and lengthy contract extension from Colorado after winning the Pac-12 South and going 10-2. Colorado was picked dead last in the division in the preseason.
Matt Wells will keep his job at Utah State but there will be staff changes.
THE STATE OF SEC COACHING
Alabama (12-0): Nick Saban likely wins his fifth national title at Alabama, which puts him one away from Bear Bryant’s all-time record. Alabama is at the point that if assistant coaches leave for head coaching jobs, there is no shortage of former head coaches or outstanding coordinators who would crawl backwards to Tuscaloosa for a chance to have their careers rejuvenated. OC Lane Kiffin could get the Houston job and there is a lot of talk that DC Jeremy Pruitt and OL coach Mario Cristobal will have HBC titles beside their name next year.
Arkansas (7-5): This year’s 7-5 record is considered a step back so some of the enthusiasm about Bret Bielema has diminished. Bielema had one of the best offenses in the country this year, but his defense stunk it up. Shockingly, Bielema says he’s happy with DC Robb Smith and his entire defensive staff. Consider Bielema officially on next year’s hot seat.
Auburn (8-4): When Auburn was 7-2 and as hot as any team in the country, Gus Malzahn was once again the second coming. Losing two of the last three games, however, has the faithful on the Plains wondering if this is the guy who can get the job done long term. Malzahn has a pretty good staff, but he desperately needs an outstanding recruiting year that includes a quarterback who can run as well as throw. A 2017 with fewer than 9 wins isn’t going to cut it.
Florida (8-3): Surprise, surprise. The Gators are in the SEC Championship Game for the second straight year so Jim McElwain is on solid ground. Moving forward you expect some staff changes on the offensive side of the ball and it’s entirely possible either DC Geoff Collins or LB coach Randy Shannon will get HBC jobs.
Georgia (7-5): You have to wonder if there is a growing feeling of buyer’s remorse in Athens. They fired Mark Richt for winning 10 games a year and brought in Kirby Smart, who’s supposed to be the whiz kid. Well, Richt has Miami well on the way back to its glory days and Georgia is looking like the team that got Ray Goff and Jim Donna fired. Smart is in no danger of being fired but he’s got to make some staff changes. He’s probably going to lose DC Mel Tucker to the HBC job at Georgia State.
Kentucky (6-6): Not only did Kentucky break its bowl-less streak at four years but Mark Stoops finally made Mildcat football exciting again. He bought himself at least three more years to turn the UK program in to a consistent winner. He could lose OC Eddie Gran, but if Gran leaves QB coach Darin Hinshaw will simply take over the play calling so not much will change. Will Stoops fire good friend D.J. Eliot and bring in a new DC?
LSU (7-4): Coach O got a 5-year deal that pays $3.5 million a year and his defensive coordinator got a 3-year deal that makes him the nation’s highest paid assistant coach. Now all Coach O has to do is find an offensive coordinator who can take advantage of all the speed he has at his disposal. He would love to hire Lane Kiffin, but he’s either staying at Bama or taking a head coaching job. If Kiffin stays at Bama, expect Coach O to hire former Washington and USC head coach Steve Sarkisian. Another possibility that is being whispered is Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.
Mississippi State (5-7): The Bulldogs won the Egg Bowl and even with a losing record they’re going to a bowl game since there aren’t enough 6-6 teams to fill all the slots. That keeps the bowl streak alive at 7 years and it sends a shot of optimism about the future in Starkville. Dan Mullen has an offense that can light it up. If the defense can get off the field next year an 8-9 win season is entirely possible. Other than Nick Saban, Mullen might be the most secure coach in the SEC.
Missouri (4-8): Considering the lack of offensive production in 2015, Missouri’s 500 yards and 31 points a game was an absolute shock. Equally shocking was Missouri’s tumble from defensive elite to one of the worst units in the country. Barry Odom won fans over with an exciting offense and most of the moving parts including QB Drew Lock will return next year. All the questions will be on defense. Odom has already dismissed one of his defensive coaches and by the time spring football gets here, expect that side of the ball will have experienced a near overhaul. OC Josh Heupel is another OC who could get a call and an offer for big bucks from Coach O at LSU.
Ole Miss (5-7): For now, the Ole Miss administration is standing strong by Hugh Freeze. That could change if the NCAA doesn’t accept the self-imposed sanctions and drops the hammer on the Rebels. If the NCAA goes easy and Freeze rights the ship and gets Ole Miss back on a winning track, this year’s 5-7 will be forgiven. If the NCAA goes draconian it could threaten nuclear winter in Oxford if Freeze isn’t fired. A new DC has to be hired with Dave Wommack retiring and there could be a couple other staff changes on that side of the ball.
South Carolina (6-6): By getting to a bowl game in a year when expectations were low and talent deficiencies so evident in so many places, Will Muschamp justified his hire. Now that he’s gotten the Gamecocks to a bowl game in year one, the expectations won’t be quite so low next year. What this year did, however, was ensure he’ll get the remaining four years of his contract. Muschamp has assembled a nice staff of recruiters so he probably won’t make any changes.
Tennessee (8-4): A lot of wishful thinkers have been talking about the possibility that Butch Jones would take a lesser buyout figure and find a new place for gainful employment, but that isn’t going to happen. As disappointed as the administration is with all the transfers and the 8-4 finish, nobody is going to make a move until a new athletic director comes on board this summer. So Jones is safe for 2017, but beyond that, he better start producing at a better rate. Since Jones will be back, the big question is whether he will bring back DC Bob Shoop, who claimed nobody would run on UT this year. The Vols gave up 231 yards per game on the ground and three games of 400+ to Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri.
Texas A&M (8-4): The president of the school gave what can only be described as a lukewarm endorsement for Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin won’t get fired because they don’t want to spend the $15 million they’d have to pay him on a buyout, but if he decided to take another job, a lot of people would be happy. If he goes 8-4 again, he will be job searching after the 2017 season. Will Sumlin stick with John Chavis as his DC? The Aggies were destroyed for 622 yards and 54 points by LSU in the last game of the year.
Vanderbilt (6-6): At midseason the Vandy faithful were wondering who would replace Derek Mason. Then came the win over Georgia in Athens and the 2-game win streak at the end that got the Commodores bowl eligible. The fact that Vandy’s offense came alive has people feeling warm and fuzzy about Mason and the future. Figure he bought himself a new three years.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
The Gators go into Saturday’s game 24-point underdogs against Alabama. In your esteemed opinion, will Alabama cover the spread?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I have this music addiction with kd lang. If I hear one of her songs when I’m driving it stays in my head until I can find a couple of her CDs. What an incredible voice. Today’s music is her album “Recollection” which spans the 25 years she’s been singing professionally.