THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; SEPTEMBER 11, 2018
A few thoughts to kick start your Tuesday evening;
1. Do you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 on the morning of 9/11 in 2001? I remember it like it was yesterday. Just like November 22, 1963 when President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, I will never, ever forget that dreadful morning. I had just returned from a morning walk and was eating breakfast while watching TV when the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York. I remember asking out loud, “How could a huge passenger airliner stray that far off course?” While commentators on television scrambled for answers, the second plane appeared on the screen and headed straight for the south tower. When it struck at 9:03 there was no question this wasn’t a case of planes veering off course, but a terrorist attack like nothing we had ever seen. America was no longer safe from terrorism. It got worse. The Pentagon was struck at 9:37 and later we learned that brave passengers forced down yet a fourth plane that was also heading for Washington, DC. I sat in my chair, numbed by the whole chain of events and as the day wore on and as I watched as brave first responders did their best to save lives, I realized that the world had become a far more dangerous place and that life as I knew it would never be the same. Throughout the day, I’ve had a heavy heart thinking about all those who lost family, friends and loved ones on 9/11.
2. I realize it’s been 17 years, but I still wonder what might have been when 9/11 postponed Florida’s game with Tennessee. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Florida would have won the game if it had been played on the original date (September 15) instead of December 1. Florida had to play the December matchup without Earnest Graham (the only two games UF lost that year were Auburn and Tennessee, both without Graham) while Tennessee really didn’t start clicking on all cylinders until mid-October. That’s not an excuse for the 34-32 loss at The Swamp, just a fact of life. Had the Gators played and won in September, they would have faced an LSU team they had already beaten (44-15) in the SEC Championship Game. If they had won that one, UF would have played Miami for the national championship in the Rose Bowl. If there was a team capable of knocking off that talented Miami team it was the Gators, but we’ll never know. As for Tennessee, the Vols were destroyed by LSU the next week. Florida obliterated Maryland, 56-23, at the Orange Bowl in Steve Spurrier’s final game as Florida’s head coach. I don’t do much coulda, shoulda, woulda in my life but for some reason I’ve always wondered what might have been if 9/11 hadn’t altered Florida’s season.
3. When the season began, how many of you had Colorado State circled as a must win game for the Gators? I don’t know of a single soul who can answer honestly that this was considered a game that could possibly shape Florida’s entire football season. But, here we are, still reeling from the first loss to Kentucky since the Reagan administration, and we haven’t a clue how the Gators are going to respond to adversity. Will this be a team that got a wakeup call last week and took on a search and destroy mentality this week, knowing fully well that following up a bad performance with a poor or mediocre game against a Mountain West Conference opponent that has losses to Hawaii and Colorado will not bode well for the remaining nine games on the schedule? Or, will this be a team that either remains in a funk or just doesn’t have it to play at a peak level? The only way we’ll know for sure is if the Gators (a) play with great passion and energy Saturday and (b) show marked improvement in all phases of the game. It’s an old but true adage that the most improvement a college football team shows during a season is between week one and week two. That the Gators played so poorly in game two was a major disappointment. With seven straight SEC games on the schedule, the Gators cannot afford a poor performance against Colorado State.
4. There is no question the Gators are going to have to generate an effective pass rush against Colorado State, which averages 367.3 yards per game through the air. Quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels, a grad transfer from Washington, has hit 64.6% of his passes and averages 8.48 per attempt. Leading receiver Preston Williams (6-4, 215 pounds) has caught 27 passes for 391 yards (14.5 per catch) and four touchdowns while second leading receiver Olabisi Johnson has caught 17 for 286 yards (16.8 per catch) and three scores. This is a team that protects its QB quite well (four sacks allowed in three games and 138 pass attempts) so the Gators cannot allow Carta-Samuels the luxury of checking down to second and third options. Florida has to get off the line in a hurry and put the pressure on him relentlessly, otherwise he is good enough to pick the UF secondary apart.
5. Since we’re on the subject of pass rush, the Gators will be facing a Colorado State team that has had its share of difficulties getting to opponents’ quarterbacks. The Rams have only one sack in three games and they’re allowing a whopping 298 yards per game. In getting their first win over Arkansas, the Rams allowed only 138 passing yards. Some of that had to do with the fact too often neither Ty Storey nor Cole Kelley could throw it in the ocean from the end of the pier, but it actually had more to do with Arkansas running for 299 yards (5.64 per carry). How do you lose when you run for 299 yards? It will be tempting for the Gators to run, run and run some more, but Florida has to show the ability to protect the passer well enough that there is time to see the field and find his primary receiver. In Florida’s two games, Feleipe Franks has carried 16 times for 78 yards. He carried 11 times for 44 yards against Kentucky. Two of those rushing attempts were sacks and the bulk of the other nine carries were scrambles. If Franks runs often against Colorado State, it should be because he’s got a run-pass option and the run is open.
6. SOME SEC FOOTBALL NOTES: Ole Miss (2-0) gave up 629 yards (241 rushing and 388 passing) last week against D1AA Southern Illinois. I will be surprised if Alabama (2-0) doesn’t score at least 50 points and rack up 700 yards Saturday in Oxford … Paul Finebaum of ESPN/SEC Network calls Arkansas (1-1) the SEC’s worst team. I tend to agree … Auburn (2-0) may have the perfect complement for north-south load JarTavious Whitlow (150 yards, 6.82 per carry) in 5-7, 173-pound freshman waterbug Shaun Shivers (124 yards, 8.86 per carry). The Tigers have to spring these guys loose in the running game Saturday against LSU (2-0) if they intend to win … This is the third game for grad transfer QB Joe Burrow (21-44 passing for 291 yards and 2 TDs). If he doesn’t come up big at Auburn, LSU has no chance …Georgia (2-0) LT Andrew Thomas is doubtful for Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee. As if the Bulldogs are going to need him … Nick Fitzgerald can certainly run (159 yards against K-State last week), but his lack of accuracy (11-27 for 154 yards, 2 TDs and a pick) has to be a concern for Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead. Fitzgerald has never completed more than 56% of his passes and he has thrown half as many picks (22) as he has TDPs (41) in his career … Missouri QB Drew Lock has thrown 79 TDPs and 9,382 yards in his career … With Hurricane Florence tracking toward landfall between Myrtle Beach and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, South Carolina’s Saturday game with Marshall could be in jeopardy … Through two games, Vanderbilt (2-0) has nine sacks for 53 yards in losses.
7. Here is the Tuesday night Las Vegas lines on games involving SEC teams:
Florida (1-1) is a 20.5 home favorite over Colorado State (1-2)
Tennessee (1-1) is a 30-point home favorite over UTEP (0-2)
Vanderbilt (2-0) is a 14-point underdog at #8 Notre Dame (2-0)
#7 Auburn (2-0) is a 9.5-point home favorite over #12 LSU (2-0)
Arkansas (1-1) is a 7-point home favorite over North Texas (2-0)
#1 Alabama (2-0) is a 21-point road favorite over Ole Miss (2-0)
#3 Georgia (2-0) is a 32.5-point home favorite over Middle Tennessee (1-1)
Texas A&M (1-1) is a 27-point home favorite over Louisiana-Monroe (2-0)
#16 Mississippi State (2-0) is a 33-point home favorite over Louisiana (1-0)
Missouri (2-0) is a 7-point road favorite over Purdue (0-2)
South Carolina (2-0) is a 13.5-point home favorite over Marshall (2-0)
There is no line for Kentucky (2-0) at home against D1AA Murray State (0-2)
8. SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Gators Peter Alonso has a really good chance to make the New York Mets Major League roster next year after a season split between AA and AAA in which he hit 36 home runs, drove home 119 and hit .285 … Another former Gator who could find himself on a big league roster next year is shortstop Richie Martin, who hit six homers, drove home 44, stole 25 bases and hit .300 for the Oakland Athletics AA affiliate … If I had a vote in the MVP races in both the American and National leagues, I would give my AL vote to J.D. Martinez of the Boston Red Sox and my NL vote to Jose Baez of the Chicago Cub. My Cy Young votes would go to Cleveland’s Corey Kluber in the AL and Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola in the NL … Just a gut feeling but I think the Houston Disastros and Chicago Cubs will play in the World Series … I don’t watch the NFL but I do pay attention to the stats. Former Georgia QB Matt Stafford threw one TDP and completed four passes to the New York Jets Monday night. The Detroit Lions, who lost to the Jets, 44-17, signed Stafford to a 5-year deal worth $135 million. I wonder how much he would get paid if he actually was any good? … I have to wonder how long the Cleveland Browns will stick with QB Tyrod Taylor (15-40 passing for 197 yards in game one)? Yes, Taylor ran for 77 yards but that had more to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rotten defense than Taylor’s speed and elusiveness. I have to think Baker Mayfield won’t spend a lot of time on the bench … Jordan Spieth didn’t qualify to play in Atlanta for the PGA Tour championship. Spieth hasn’t won a tournament this year, has only five top ten finishes and he’s missed the cut five times in what can only be called a very disappointing year … And since I’m on the subject of the PGA tour, former Gator Billy Horschel’s strong play at the BMW Championship (tie for second, -19) has moved him up to #27 on the money list ($3,343,200) and into ninth place in Fed Ex Cup points … Athlon’s college basketball yearbook has already hit the stands. Athlon doesn’t have the Gators ranked and predicts UF to finish sixth in the SEC. The magazine does think the Gators will make it into the second week of the NCAA Tournament, however. Athlon picks nine SEC schools to make the tournament field … UCF’s game at North Carolina, North Carolina State’s road trip to West Virginia and Virginia Tech’s home game with East Carolina have been cancelled due to Hurricane Florence.