THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; OCTOBER 11, 2018
In each of their three losses this season, the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-3, 0-2 SEC) have given up more than 200 rushing yards. Notre Dame pounded out 245 yards (5.1 per carry) in a 22-17 win over Vandy. South Carolina, which isn’t known for its prolific running game, gouged the Commodores for 273 yards (5.69 per carry) and three rushing touchdowns. Although Georgia spent the majority of last week’s 41-13 win over Vandy allowing Jake Fromm to take target practice against a porous secondary, Georgia still ran for 219 yards and averaged 6.44 per carry.
In their three wins against non-SEC opponents, Vandy has handled the run quite easily, allowing a combined 254 yards on 96 attempts (2.64 per carry).
Those numbers make it abundantly clear that Florida’s game plan in Nashville this weekend should start with a commitment to grind Vanderbilt’s front seven to a pulp. The 14th-ranked Gators (5-1, 3-1 SEC) have run for more than 200 yards in four of their five wins including two of three against SEC opponents. Last week against an LSU defense that came into the game surrendering just 88 rushing yards per game, the Gators kept hammering away to finish with 215 yards (5.0 per carry). That was only the fourth time in the last three years that an LSU opponent has gone off for more than 200 yards against a Dave Aranda defense.
Dan Mullen had to be encouraged by what he saw in the running game against LSU as the Gators gave the Tigers a solid mix of power between the tackles and an outside game that featured Feleipe Franks showing option skills we really hadn’t seen in the first five games. Florida’s offensive line, with Brett Heggie taking over at right guard, got stronger as the game went on. In the fourth quarter with the Gators leading, 20-19, and needing a couple of critical first downs for field position, the O-line did its part and killed 4:03 off the clock.
Vandy sold out against the run against Georgia last week and paid a severe price because Fromm hit 17-23 passes for 273 yards (12 yards per attempt) and three touchdowns. Georgia threw for another 68 yards after Fromm went to the sideline for good but by that time, Vanderbilt’s defense had been carved up so badly that the running game began to gouge the front seven for big yards.
So it’s going to be a pick your poison kind of game for the Vanderbilt defense. If the Commodores try to play the Gators straight up, Mullen will likely go with a ground and pound attack. If the Commodores commit to stop the run, he won’t hesitate to take advantage of the one-on-one matchups in the passing game. Vanderbilt gets little to no pressure from its defensive line (only one sack for -3 yards). The other 10 sacks (-61 in losses) have come from blitzing linebackers or defensive backs. It must be noted that while LSU brought a lot of pressure last week, the Tigers never sacked Franks.
THE SAYER SAYS SOOTH: The last time the Gators played Vandy in Nashville (2016), it was a white knuckles affair, won by UF, 13-6, but that’s the only close call the Gators have had at Vanderbilt Stadium since 2006. The Gators have already proven they can win on the road (at Tennessee, at Mississippi State) in far more hostile environments than they’ll be in Saturday. As long as the Gators don’t show up overconfident, they should win this one by a comfortable margin. I like it something like Florida 28, Vanderbilt 10.
ELSEWHERE IN THE SEC
Missouri (3-2, 0-2 SEC) at #1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC): Missouri’s offense has this really bad habit of shooting itself in the foot, which is not what you want to do against a team like Alabama. Even if the Tigers play a fine offensive game Saturday, however, they’re still going to get hosed because there is no way their defense is going to put up even moderate resistance against the Alabama offense. Alabama is a 28-point favorite. Don’t be surprised if the Crimson Tide leads by that many at the end of the first quarter.
#2 Georgia (6-0, 4-0 SEC) at #13 LSU (5-1, 2-1 SEC): This is the day of reckoning for both teams. It’s the first tough opponent for Georgia, which has had its way with six mediocre opponents. It’s LSU’s chance to stay in the hunt for the SEC West championship. Win or lose, Georgia still controls its SEC East destiny but a loss would certainly send shivers through the Poodle Nation and might just create doubt that won’t go away before the Cocktail Party in a couple of weeks. As for LSU, the Tigers will have 100,000 Cajuns in rare form. They’ll need every ounce of energy and all the noise they can generate. Georgia is a 7-1/2-point favorite. This game should come down to who can dominate the fourth quarter.
Tennessee (2-3, 0-2 SEC) at #21 Auburn (4-2, 1-2 SEC): This should be a get well game for Auburn, but the way the Tigers’ O-line has been playing it could turn out to be a close call. An upset? That would require Tennessee playing at a higher level than we’ve seen so far. A Tennessee win would break an 11-game SEC losing streak. An Auburn loss would signal bad times ahead for the Tigers. Auburn should win it but it might be a lot closer than the 15-1/2-point spread.
#22 Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1 SEC) at South Carolina (3-2, 2-2 SEC): This is a battle of best friends and former roommates in Aggie coach Jimbo Fisher and Gamecock coach Will Muschamp. The Aggies are favored by a scant two points for a game that could be played in monsoon conditions due to the after effects of Hurricane Michael. This game will probably be decided by pass rush. The Aggies have allowed 21 sacks in six games while South Carolina has only gotten to the QB eight times. On the other hand, South Carolina has given up only eight sacks in five games while the Aggies have registered 16 in six games. If the Gamecocks avoid turning the ball over, they can win this one.
Ole Miss (4-2, 0-2 SEC) at Arkansas (1-5, 0-3 SEC): This is a matchup between the two worst defenses in the SEC. Ole Miss could hang 50 on the Arkansas defense easily. Unfortunately for the Rebels, their defense could just as easily give up 50 to Arkansas. This might be the only chance either team has to get an SEC win this year. Ole Miss is a 7-point favorite and probably leaves Fayette Nam with a win.
THOUGHTS ABOUT COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Chip Kelly is still looking for his first win at UCLA and there is a good chance he will do a reverse run of the table in his first year. Kelly is trying to run his Oregon offense with a bunch of players who were recruited to run a pro-style offense under Jim Mora. Translation: Things are going to get worse and stay worse at UCLA before they get better. Apathy has set in among fans, too. When 10th-ranked Washington came to town last weekend, announced attendance was 51,123 at the 91,136-seat Rose Bowl. Announced attendance is considered generous. Do you think Kelly might be asking himself, “What the hell was I thinking when I took this job over Florida?” … Shilo Sanders, whose dad is the fairly famous Deion Sanders, has received a scholarship offer from Florida State. He has offers from Georgia, South Carolina, Colorado State, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State … Minnesota’s starting right tackle Saturday against Ohio State will be 17-year-old true freshman Daniel Faalele, a mere 6-9, 400-pounder. I bet his mama is happy someone else is footing the grocery bill … 12th-ranked Michigan is an 8-1/2-point favorite over 15th-ranked Wisconsin in a Big Ten showdown Saturday at the Big House in a game that will pit Wisconsin’s power running game (287 yards per game) against Michigan’s stout run defense (96.5 yards allowed) … UCF at Memphis could be as entertaining as any game this weekend. UCF takes an 18-game winning streak into the game and last season beat Memphis twice, the second a 62-55 overtime win that sent the Knights to the Peach Bowl against Auburn. This season, UCF is averaging 48.6 points per game while Memphis is averaging 46.2.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL CORRUPTION TRIAL: In the ongoing college basketball corruption trial taking place in New York, former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola testified that he made payments to the families of DeAndre Ayton (Arizona), Dennis Smith Jr. (North Carolina State), Brian Bowen Jr. (Louisville) and Silvio De Sousa and Billy Preston (both to Kansas). Gassnola testified that he agreed to pay $25,000 to Bowen’s family to get Brian Jr. to play AAU ball for the Adidas-sponsored Michigan Mustangs.
Wednesday, Jeff Smith, the director of compliance at Kansas, denied he knew of $90,000 in payments to Preston’s family and $20,000 to De Sousa’s legal guardian. Preston never played at Kansas. De Sousa sat out half of the 2017-18 season before he was declared eligible by the NCAA.
On Tuesday, North Carolina State’s compliance officer testified that she was not aware of a $40,000 payment that was made to Dennis Smith Jr.’s father. Allegedly, that payment was facilitated by a consultant for Adidas and a North Carolina State assistant.
Gassnola, formerly the director of Adidas-sponsored New England Playaz AAU program, pleaded guilty to wire fraud. He’s gone state’s evidence as part of his plea agreement.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and formerly of The Rock School in Gainesville just signed a shoe deal with Under Armour that is reported to be the most lucrative contract of any NBA big man. Embiid used to be with Adidas. Both Puma and New Balance also made a big pitch to land him … In game one of the American League Championship Series Saturday night, the Houston Disastros will send righthander Justin Verlander against Boston Red Sox lefty Chris Sale. In his only start in the AL Divisional Series, Verlander gave up only two hits in five innings and struck out seven. In his 6-1/3 inning start against the Yankees in the ALDS, Sale gave up five hits and struck out nine … The Los Angeles Dodgers will throw Clayton Kershaw at the Milwaukee Brewers Friday in the first game of the National League Championship Series … The NFL fined Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin $25,000 for criticizing officials after the Steelers routed the Atlanta Falcons, 41-17 … Tex Winter died Wednesday. Winter is one of the great coaches of big men in history and the inventor of the triangle offense that Phil Jackson used to win six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and three with the Los Angeles Lakers … Former New York Mets/Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Lenny Dykstra was indicted by a New Jersey grand jury, charged with possession of cocaine, possession of methamphetamines and making terrorist threats to an Uber driver back in May. Dykstra spent a year in jail in 2012 for grand theft auto. He could spend 10 years in prison if convicted on the latest charges.