THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; SEPTEMBER 4, 2018
A few thoughts to kick start your Tuesday afternoon:
1. We will have a much better idea Saturday night against Kentucky of just how far Feleipe Franks has come since Dan Mullen and QB guru Brian Johnson started teaching the nuances of quarterbacking in their offensive scheme back in January. In game one, Franks started slowly but came on strong and finished with five touchdown passes while hitting 13 of his last 14 passes in the win against Charleston Southern. It was Charleston Southern, which didn’t have a single player on its defensive two-deep that the Gators would have even considered recruiting. Kentucky will present a far more formidable defense than the one Franks saw last week but don’t think for even a second that either Franks or the Gators showed a whole lot against CSU. That first game was more about getting the kinks out against someone you don’t see every day in practice. Serious football starts Saturday. Kentucky does have the luxury of having faced Mullen the previous nine years (Dan was 8-1 against the Mildcats while he was piloting Mississippi State) and they got a good look at Franks last year so there is some familiarity. While I don’t have access to Mullen’s private conversations with Ball Park Franks, I would guess that the conversations are going something like this: “You don’t have to win the game, just make the right reads and get the ball to your playmakers. If you can avoid the mental mistakes and put the ball in their hands, the offense will take care of itself. Be a leader. Command the huddle. Manage the offense. Don’t try to be a hero. You do those things and the Gators are 2-0.” I believe Franks will turn in a solid performance and the Gators will make it 32 wins in a row over Kentucky.
2. The Gators came in at #25 in the both the Coaches and Associated Press top 25 polls. The Gators are one of seven Southeastern Conference teams in both polls. Both the Gators and #24 South Carolina were unranked last week. I’m actually surprised that Texas A&M didn’t crack the top 25 in either poll. That might change Saturday night if the Aggies can knock off #2 Clemson at Kyle Field. Stranger things have happened.
Associated Press: 1. Alabama 1-0; 2. Clemson 1-0; 3. Georgia 1-0; 4. Ohio State 1-0; 5. Wisconsin 1-0; 6. Oklahoma 1-0; 7. Auburn 1-0; 8. Notre Dame 1-0; 9. Washington 0-1; 10. Stanford 1-0; 11. LSU 1-0; 12. Virginia Tech 1-0; 13. Penn State 1-0; 14. West Virginia 1-0; 15. Michigan State 1-0; 16. TCU 1-0; 17. Southern Cal 1-0; 18. Mississippi State 1-0; 19. UCF 1-0; 20. Boise State 1-0; 21. Michigan 0-1; 22. Miami 0-1; 23. Oregon 1-0; 24. South Carolina 1-0; 25. Florida 1-0.
Coaches: 1. Alabama 1-0; 2. Clemson 1-0; 3. Georgia 1-0; 4. Ohio State 1-0; 5. Oklahoma 1-0; 6. Wisconsin 1-0; 7. Auburn 1-0; 8. Notre Dame 1-0; 9. Stanford 1-0; 10. Penn State 1-0; 11. Washington 0-1; 12. Southern Cal 1-0; 13. Michigan State 1-0; 14. Virginia Tech 1-0; 15. LSU 1-0; 16. TCU 1-0; 17. West Virginia 1-0; 18. Mississippi State 1-0; 19. Boise State 1-0; 20. UCF 1-0; 21. Miami 0-1; 22. Michigan 0-1; 23. Oklahoma State 1-0; 24. South Carolina 1-0; 25. Florida 1-0.
3. Only eight times during Florida’s 31-0 streak against Kentucky have the Gators failed to win by more than a touchdown. Florida won by five (24-19) in 1988 during the Galen Hall Era; by four (24-20) in the “Oh my! Doering’s got a touchdown” game in 1993 when Stevie Wonder was Florida’s coach; by seven (41-34) in 2002 and three (24-21) in 2003 when The Zooker coached the Gators; by eight (45-37) in 2007 when Urban Meyer roamed the sidelines with Dan Mullen calling the plays in the booth (Tim Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winning sophomore that year); by six (36-30) in a triple overtime thriller in 2014, Will Muschamp’s last year as UF’s head coach; and by five (14-9) in 2015 and one (28-27) last year during the Jim McElwain years. During the 31-game winning streak, the Gators have outscored Kentucky by 715 points.
4. Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader writes, “If Kentucky is going to snap the embarrassing losing skid against Florida anytime soon, it would behoove the Cats to do it before Mullen has time to get the Gators’ program hitting on all cylinders again.” Writes Jon Hale of the Louisville Courier-Journal: “Beating a team once in 32 years still wouldn’t qualify the series as an actual rivalry, but it would send a message that old Kentucky is gone for good.”
5. Instead of a Mr. Two Bits, we’ll have a Ms. Two Bits Saturday evening. Bridget Sloan, arguably the greatest gymnast in NCAA history, will get the honors. During her four years at Florida, Sloan won six individual NCAA titles while leading the Gators to three consecutive (2013-15) national championships. The former Olympic bronze medalist told Chris Harry of floridagators.com, “I’ve had goals over the course of my life. One was to make the Olympic team. One was to be a national champion. And, yes, one was to be Mr. Two Bits.” Well, in this case, Ms. Two Bits. A quick Bridget Sloan story. The Gators got off to a horrendous start on the beam in the Super Six finals of the NCAA championships in 2013. Then Florida coach Rhonda Faehn was trying to compose her team and think of something to say that would get them re-focused when Bridget Sloan stepped up. “We got this!” she said confidently to her teammates. “We got this!” Bridget wasn’t the least bit fazed by the poor beam scores. There was bounce in her step, energy in her voice. It was just another day at the office, she told them. Just focus and a championship will be Florida’s. Her overflowing confidence spread like wildfire among her teammates and the Gators proceeded to nail it on floor, vault and bars to take home the first of three straight national titles.
6. Here are Tuesday point spreads for SEC games this weekend: Florida is a 14-point favorite over Kentucky; Alabama is favored by 36.5 points over Arkansas State; Georgia is a 10-point favorite at South Carolina; Mississippi State is a 9.5-point favorite at Kansas State; Texas A&M is a 12.5-point underdog at home against Clemson; Arkansas is a 13-point favorite at Colorado State; Missouri is an 18-point favorite at home against Wyoming; and Vanderbilt is a 9-point favorite at home against Nevada. There is no line for the following SEC matchups with D1AA teams: Southern Illinois at Ole Miss; East Tennessee at Tennessee; Southeastern Louisiana at LSU; and Alabama State at Auburn.
7. A few SEC football thoughts: Was Nick Saban’s response to a question by ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor cantankerous and uncalled or? Absolutely. Do you think for even one second the Alabama fans and administration are even remotely bothered by Saban’s response? Never in a million years. As long as Nick is winning national championships (five since 2008) he can pretty much say whatever he wants and the fans and administration won’t even blink … Georgia coach Kirby Smart calls South Carolina do-it-all wide receiver Deebo Samuel “probably the most underrated player in all of college football.” If the Gamecocks are to beat Georgia Saturday in Columbia, Deebo is going to have to come up big … ESPN Stats Info gives Georgia a 27% chance to win the SEC. I wonder what the percentage will drop to if South Carolina pulls off the upset? Don’t laugh. Stranger things have happened … Why do I think the Aggies have a legitimate shot at spring the upset on #2 Clemson Saturday? If they win, it’s a clear signal to Nick Saban and Alabama that they’ve got competition in the SEC West that isn’t named Auburn … To those who weren’t impressed with LSU grad transfer QB Joe Burrow consider this: He arrived in the summer and is still learning the offense yet he consistently got the Tigers in the right play against one of the nation’s tougher defenses in Miami. By October, Burrow is going to be very difficult to deal with … Arkansas coach Chad Morris has already made the switch at QB. Cole Kelley has been demoted and Ty Storey is the new starter … Ole Miss has an offense that could score at least five touchdowns every game. The Rebels have a defense that could give up at least five touchdowns every game … Ole Miss coach Matt Luke got a $150,000 bonus for beating Texas Tech. I wonder how much he would get paid if he actually beat a decent team instead of one coached by Kliff Kingsbury? … First year coach Joe Moorhead says he will turn Mississippi State from “good to great.” Moorhead also says the Bulldogs “have earned a right to be confident.” The Bulldogs certainly have earned the right but not because of anything Joe Moorhead has done. What Dan Mullen did the previous nine years is nothing short of miraculous. So far, Moorhead has beaten a Division IAA team … They’re all giddy about offensive coordinator Derek Dooley at Missouri. The reality is the Tigers may have enough talent that even Dooley can’t screw it up. Maybe … It was a bad Monday for Tennessee. First, running back Trey Coleman left the program and then 4-star quarterback Kristian Story decommitted, If you’re a gambler, put your cash on the Lanett, Alabama product committing to Nick Saban and Alabama.
8. A few random thoughts: Former Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, who calls Louisville’s settlement offer “insulting,” writes in his memoirs, “In my case I was fired and Louisville effectively tore up a long-term contract and said, ‘So sue me.’ Well, I am” … In attempting to use an analogy from John Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men,” Herman said, “Lennie wanted so badly to touch the rabbit and play with the rabbit – he squeezed it so hard he killed the rabbit.” Uh, Tom, hate to tell you this but Lennie killed a puppy, a mouse and a woman, not a rabbit. Herman coaches about like he quotes Nobel Prize winning authors. He’s 7-7 in his Texas career … FSU folks are wondering what went wrong after a 24-3 loss to Virginia Tech in Willie Taggert’s debut. A good place to start would be the offensive coordinator, Walt Bell, who Taggert hired from Maryland. Last year, Bell directed Maryland to a very McElwain-like 24.1 points and 323.3 yards per game. Just in case you keep track of things like this, UF offense was good for 22.1 points and 335.9 yards per game … How long before Mark Richt says the gig is up for quarterback Malik Rosier? … Call it the McElwain Effect, but Shea Patterson, who had a habit of lighting up SEC defenses at Ole Miss, looked about as average as you can look for Michigan, where Jim McElwain coaches the wide receivers and has a lot of say in the plan of attack … One week a season doesn’t make, but Bryce Love’s Heisman chances are already nosediving after he gained 29 yards on 18 carries in Stanford’s 31-10 win over San Diego State … If you’ve been known to wager a dollar or two on all things college football, then but at least a 5-spot on Clemson freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence taking over as the first team QB at some point in Saturday’s game at Texas A&M … Phil Mickelson looked like the Phil of old Monday in the closing round of the Dell Technologies Championship when he fired a 63 … Michigan State basketball is skating with the NCAA. Why am I not surprised? … Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, the best college basketball writer in the country (and second place isn’t even close), polled more than 100 Division I basketball coaches and asked the question Jordan or Lebron? Michael Jordan was the runaway winner with 82% of the coaches.