THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; SEPTEMBER 5, 2018
A few thoughts to kick start your Wednesday afternoon:
1. First and foremost in Todd Grantham’s defensive game plan for Saturday night is neutralizing Kentucky’s running game, particularly junior tailback Bennie Snell Jr., who ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the Mildcats’ 35-20 win over Central Michigan last week. Snell has run for 2,549 yards and 34 touchdowns in his 27-game UK career. The nephew of former Ohio State and New York Jets’ great Matt Snell, Bennie Snell Jr. is only the third SEC back in history (Herschel Walker and Leonard Fournette are the other two) with at least 2,400 yards and 31 rushing touchdowns after his first two years. Last season Snell accounted for more than half of Kentucky’s rushing yards (he had 1,333 in 13 games; the team had 2,102 total) and 19 of the team’s 27 rushing touchdowns. Against the Gators, Snell had 14 carries for 59 yards and he caught two passes out of the backfield, good for 22 more yards. The philosophy for the Gators and every team on the UK schedule has to be don’t let Bennie Snell Jr. beat you. Until a quarterback and some wide receivers prove they can get the job done, sell out to stop Snell in his tracks.
2. This is the third year for UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, who spent ten years at Auburn (1999-2008) working for Tommy Tuberville, a year at Tennessee (2009) on Lane Kiffin’s staff, three years (2010-12) working for Jimbo Fisher at FSU and another three years working for Tuberville at Cincinnati (2013-15). The Mildcats averaged 30 points and 420.2 yards per game in 2016 but last season those numbers dipped to 25.5 points and 349.8 yards. In his two previous seasons, Kentucky has been quite run heavy, averaging 234.15 per game (5.44 per carry) in 2016 and 161.69 per game and 4.31 per carry in 2017. In game one of 2018, Kentucky ran for 299 yards and threw for 128 in the win over Central Michigan. Given Kentucky’s reliance on the run and lack of explosiveness in the passing game (UL averaged 4.7 per pass attempt and tossed a pair of interceptions against CMU), expect the Gators to stuff the box and let the corners handle the wideouts one-on-one. Juco transfer Terry Wilson had that deer in the headlights look when he started the game at QB for the Mildcats last week. If he starts out shakily against the Gators, expect him to get a very quick hook because Florida is going to dare him to make plays.
3. Once again, without trying to read more than it deserves into Feleipe Franks’ performance against a D1AA defense last week, consider this: Of Franks’ 16 completions, 14 were either for first downs or touchdowns. That’s phenomenal even against a scout team that you practice against on a daily basis. What that tells us is that Franks is very cognizant at all times of down and distance, plus he knows where to go with the football. It also tells us that his receivers are fully aware of where the yard markers are. How many times in the last three years did we complain that the receivers ran five-yard routes when they needed eight for a first down or that the QB unloaded too quickly instead of letting the receivers run their patterns? The Gators, by the way, were 7-7 in the red zone (five touchdowns and two field goals) and they were good for 25 first downs last week (12 rushing, 12 passing and a first down by penalty). Florida was actually quite efficient in the red zone last year, scoring either a TD or a field goal on 30 of 31 trips. Of course, that’s the problem. When you only get into the red zone 31 times in 11 games, something is really rotten.
4. Since we’re talking stats, the stats that matter most offensively are yards per carry, yards per pass attempt and sacks allowed. Last week the Gators averaged 5.26 per carry, 8.9 per pass attempt and they gave up one sack. Obviously, that’s against a D1AA defense but the running game should be better (last year average per carry was 4.3, which is below average for a good team) because the O-line is more experienced and better coached this year plus the Gators have the depth at running back so that there should never be a case of tired legs. Additionally, the yards per pass attempt is a clear indicator that UF is trying to do something other than dink and dunk. The Gators averaged only 6.3 yards per attempt last year (7.5 is considered decent) and UF averaged better than 7.0 per attempt (against Missouri) only once in their last seven games in 2017. As for sacks allowed, the one sack the Gators gave up was in the fourth quarter when freshman Emory Jones was still trying to get that deer in the headlights look off his face. Last year, the Gators gave up 37 sacks. At Mississippi State, John Hevesy’s offensive line gave up only 13 in 13 games in 2017.
5. ESPN’s Football Power Index, which bases its results on 10,000 computer simulations, is predicting the Gators will go 10-2 this season, losing only at Mississippi State and to Georgia in Jacksonville … Since starting the season 2-0 with a 6-3 goal differential, Florida soccer is 0-3-1. The Gators are scoreless since the 4-2 August 24 win over Florida Atlantic … Freshman Thayer Hall (87 kills in her first five collegiate matches) might go down as the greatest player in Florida volleyball history when all is said and done … Mary Wise might have found a real beast in the middle in 6-6 freshman Lauren Dooley, who came up big in the fourth set in UF’s win over UCF Sunday.
6. SEC Stuff: Former Gamecock wide receiver Tori Gurley is standing by his July prediction that South Carolina will knock off Georgia. That goes contrary to the folks in Vegas who favor Georgia by 10 … Jalen Hurts isn’t going anywhere. He’s an injury to Tua Tagavailoa away from regaining his starting job at Alabama. If he spends the season as Tua’s caddy, expect him to transfer out soon as Bama’s season is over … If Texas A&M expects to knock off #2 Clemson Saturday evening in College Station, Kellen Mond is going to have to prove he can stand tall in the pocket against what most experts feel is the best defensive front in the country. The Aggies didn’t give up a sack in the opener but that was against a D1AA defense. Mond had a serious case of happy feet last year as a freshman. Through the last four years and one game of 2018, the Tigers have gotten to the QB 201 times … Ole Miss corner Jaylon Jones is done for the year with an ACL tear … Nick Fitzgerald’s suspension is over. He’ll start at QB for Mississippi State at Kansas State Saturday night … Backup corner John Broussard Jr. is leaving the Auburn program to “pursue other things” per head coach Gus Malzahn … Georgia won’t know if WR Terry Godwin is available to go against South Carolina until Thursday at the earliest … LSU will be without RT Adrian Magee for 2-3 weeks and OLB K’Lavon Chaisson is done for the year with an ACL tear … WR Richaud Floyd (broken foot) is in an air cast and still a few weeks away from playing at Mizzou … Jarrett Guarantano is still listed as the starting QB at Tennessee, but HBC Jeremy Pruitt says Stanford grad transfer Keller Chryst is going to get his share of reps. He should. The Vols next two games are against D1AA East Tennessee and a UTEP team that might be the worst Division I team in the country not named Charlotte.
. Countdown to Firing Day 2018, Edition One will debut Thursday but here are a few nuggets to digest while you salivate over who will be the first to join the Extinct Species List: No seat is hotter than that of Kansas coach David Beaty, who dropped the season opener against D1AA Nicholls State from the Southland Conference. Besides a dismal 3-34 career record, Beaty also got the dreaded vote of confidence from AD Jeff Long after the loss to Nicholls. Who do athletic directors think they’re fooling? The vote of confidence is almost like saying, “He’s gone … just not this week” … Illinois had to come from behind to beat bottom feeder Kent State in game one. The next three games are Western Illinois, which is quite capable of kicking the Illini up and down the field; then South Florida, which will kick Illinois up and down the field; and Penn State, which might drop 70 or more on the Illini. Buzzards are circling over Lovie Smith’s offices … Another bad experiment gone worse is ECU, which fired a perfectly good head coach in Ruffin McNeill to hire Scottie Montgomery off David Cutcliffe’s Duke Staff. Montgomery is 6-19 in his third year at ECU, which lost to D1AA North Carolina A&T in the season opener. The Pirates still have to play Virginia Tech, South Florida, Houston, UCF and Memphis. Four wins might be a real stretch … They still haven’t ruled whether or not D.J. Durkin will continue as Maryland’s coach. Not only is Maryland dealing with the offseason death of a player who overheated during a workout but there are allegations that Durkin arranged lawyers for players involved in a sexual assault case. Complicating matters is interim coach Matt Canada beat Texas in Austin, which likely means Maryland gives Durkin the axe sooner and not later … It’s too early to put Jim Harbaugh (Michigan) and Tom Herman (Texas) On Life Support but they will both be on the Endangered Species List. Harbaugh underperforms and is overpaid while Herman hasn’t shown he can win with a very talented roster that Charlie Strong left behind when he was unceremoniously canned.
8. Some random thoughts: I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing the political opinions of professional athletes and celebrities. I wish to be entertained, not lectured about their “astute” political observations. Just shut up and play the damn game! … Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos is trying to find a 12th game for the Cornhuskers, whose season opener against Akron was cancelled because of weather. If neither Akron nor Nebraska are playing in their conference championship games, then it’s possible the game will be rescheduled for December 1. Moos is also looking at an October 27 open date that could possibly be filled with a D1AA team … A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has ruled that the NCAA’s show cause orders violate California law. Under NCAA by-laws, a school that wishes to hire a coach who gets show cause has to go before the NCAA to show reason why the coach should be hired and an NCAA committee has to approve. Expect the Superior Court ruling to be overturned since membership in the NCAA is voluntary … In the ESPN Heisman Experts weekly poll, Stanford running back Bryce Love fell from first place all the way down to eighth. The current top five are Will Grier (West Virginia QB), Ed Oliver (Houston DT), Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin RB), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama QB) and McKenzie Milton (UCF QB) … Quick show of hands here: How many of you are hoping Oklahoma runs up the score on Chip Kelly and UCLA Saturday in Norman? … I don’t gamble, but if I did I’d have money on Southern Cal beating Stanford on the road Saturday night … FSU coach Willie Taggart says the Seminoles “didn’t handle adversity well” in their 24-3 loss to Virginia Tech. Ya’ think? It wouldn’t shock me to see the Seminoles lose 5-6 times this year.