OF THE DAY; OCTOBER 15, 2018
WHAT THE VANDY WIN PROVED
If this had been early September, there is no telling how the Florida Gators would have reacted when faced with an 18-point first half deficit. Certainly the 2017 Gators would have stuck their heads between their legs and kissed their butts good-bye, but this first year Dan Mullen edition is growing up before our very eyes. They certainly aren’t the same team they were earlier in the year. They’re not even the same team they were a week ago when they beat LSU. Against LSU, the breaks consistently went their way. For the first 25 minutes against Vanderbilt just about anything that could have gone wrong went wrong and yet the Gators had the resilience to see through the tough times and turn a potential disaster into a 37-27 win.
If you are looking for reasons to be excited about the remainder of the 2018 schedule and the future of Florida football, then consider this win over Vanderbilt as another example of how the football culture is changing for the better under Mullen and his staff. Not only are they teaching and developing the players on the roster, but they’re also building a team that is both physically and mentally tough. We saw the Gators out-tough LSU in The Swamp the week before. We saw a different type of toughness in Nashville because the Gators had to shake off what seemed to be a cloud of negatives and impose their will on the same Vandy team that had Notre Dame on the ropes in South Bend.
That bodes well for the final five games of the 2018 regular season and the future.
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While Vanderbilt did score 27 points, if you take away the two first quarter scoring drives Florida’s defense really didn’t play that badly. Of Vanderbilt’s 336 yards of total offense for the game, 224 came in the first half and 173 were on the Commodores second and third drives. The Commodores scored 21 in the first half and 17 of the 27 were giftwrapped, the aftermath of Florida turnovers. Vandy’s offense generated only 12 first downs (the Gators gave them five via penalty so the final number of 17 is a bit skewed).
The final offensive numbers were impressive. The Gators set season highs for plays (92, previous high 71 vs. LSU), rushing yards (292, previous high 222 vs. Colorado State), passing yards (284, previous high 241 vs. Charleston Southern) and total yards (576, previous high 446 vs. Charleston Southern). The Gators had two runners with more than 100 yards (Lamical Perine with 121, Jordan Scarlett with 113). Feleipe Franks had a career high passing yards with 284 (previous career high was 232 vs. Kentucky).
JUST PLAIN DUMB
The only thing dumber than college football’s rules committee is a box of rocks. Well, that’s actually insulting to the rocks but the committee is seriously dumber than whatever is next. Case in point that rule that saw Vosean Joseph ejected Saturday due to the entire Florida team getting a personal foul in the near brawl in the second quarter. Joseph already had a personal foul penalty but because the entire team was assessed a personal foul, it was considered Joseph’s second of the game and he was ejected. And if that’s not stupid enough for you, consider the fact that Vandy also got a team personal foul on the same play so the penalties offset. A second proof of dumbness is the fair catch rule on a kickoff that gives a team the ball on the 25 if they fair catch a kickoff inbounds. Say there is a fair catch at the two, the ball is given to the offense to start at the 25. I understand the desire to eliminate some of the injuries on kickoffs but awarding a team the ball at the 25 is dumb. Allowing advancement to the 25 negates a team’s ability to cover kicks and put teams in a serious starting hole. If they want to call a fair catch inside the 15 then give them a 10-yard advance. That would make far more sense.
If you don’t think there are pre-determined biases when it comes to college football polls then ask yourself how is it that Georgia got embarrassed, exposed and demolished by LSU and still only fell to sixth in the Coaches poll, eighth in the Associated Press? This is the same LSU that Florida beat the week before and yet Florida is 12th in the Coaches Poll, 11th in the AP. LSU moved up to fifth in both polls, which figures since the Tigers are the only team in the country to beat three teams that were ranked in the top ten when they played them (Miami, Auburn and then Georgia, which was #2). That Florida didn’t make the top ten is ridiculous, particularly when you consider that UF played about as badly as it could in only the second game of the season and still was just one play away from a win (the UK TD that made it an 11-point final margin came on the final play of the game and the game had already been decided). Since then the Gators have won five straight including back-to-back wins over ranked teams (Mississippi State was #23 and LSU #5 when the Gators played them). Georgia is 0-1 vs. ranked teams.
That lack of respect for Florida and too much respect for Georgia should be a point of motivation for Dan Mullen and his staff the next two weeks. The Gators have the bye week to get people rested and healthy and to put in a few new wrinkles before they go into game week mode next Sunday evening.
Of course, Georgia also has a week to shake out the cobwebs from getting boat raced by LSU, but the Poodles will go into the annual Cocktail Party in Jacksonville knowing fully well the Gators ran all over LSU (Georgia didn’t; only 113 yards) and forced three turnovers (Georgia had none against LSU but the Poodles lost four) while holding LSU to 372 yards and 19 points (Georgia had only 322 yards, gave up 475 and the Tigers hung 36 on that vaunted Poodle defense). Georgia will also go into this game having lost three of the last four to the Gators. Combine that with the fact Florida beat LSU and LSU probably should have beaten the Poodles by 35 instead of 20 and we have the football equivalent of reasonable doubt playing with the minds of every Georgia football player for the next two weeks.
COLLEGE PLAYOFF CONTENDERS AND PRETENDERS
Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC): Alabama scored only 39 points against Missouri and had a couple of offensive touchdowns called back for penalties. That will give Nick Saban something to gripe about all week. Pity Tennessee on Saturday because the Crimson Tide plays like a team possessed when Nick spends a week complaining. Can the Tide lose a game? Well, the Red Sea parted a few thousand years ago so anything is possible.
Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten): The Buckeyes have played like a team that is bored the last two games. They are good enough to win bored but they better snap out of it and get totally focused because they still have Michigan State and Michigan on the schedule. When they’re focused, the Buckeyes have a lights out offense and if Nick Bosa and some of those injured defenders are back in the lineup, they have a stout defense.
Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC): Clemson’s hopes rest on a healthy freshman QB in Trevor Lawrence and its defense showing up to play every single game starting Saturday with unbeaten North Carolina State coming to Death Valley. The defense is likely to do its job. Keeping Lawrence healthy might be more of a daunting task, but as long as he’s standing upright in the pocket, the Tigers are going to the playoff with an unbeaten record.
Notre Dame (7-0): Just when you think Notre Dame is good enough to run the table the Irish get a very lucky win over Pitt and the game was in South Bend. Circle those last two games: Syracuse and at USC. They don’t look like such surefire notches on the win belt anymore.
UCF (6-0, 3-0 AAC): Forget that UCF had to rally from 16 down to beat Memphis on the road. That is irrelevant. What is relevant is 19 consecutive wins. If UCF has a 25-game winning streak on Selection Sunday and the Knights get left out, the nation is going to channel its inner Ricky Ricardo and say, “You’ve got a whole lot of ‘splainin’ to do!”
LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC): After Jeaux Burreaux made the Georgia defense look so ordinary LSU is back in the hunt in a very big way. The next two games are Mississippi State and Alabama, both in Death Valley. If there is one team in the SEC capable of knocking off Alabama it is LSU in Death Valley. Just ask Georgia.
Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC): When the Poodles finally played a decent team they were taken to the woodshed by an LSU team that Florida beat the week before. The Poodles still control their destiny because they will win the SEC East if they beat Florida, Kentucky and Auburn back-to-back-to back and then knock of Alabama. Donkeys will fly before all that happens. Georgia has been exposed.
Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC): Florida’s road to the playoff is simple (inject sarcasm) – beat Georgia in two weeks followed by a 4-0 record in November, hope that Georgia beats Kentucky (UF would win the East by virtue of the head-to-head with Georgia) and then beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. That’s a lot of hoping.
Kentucky (6-1, 4-1 SEC): Like Georgia, Kentucky controls its playoff destiny although it would mean beating Georgia and going unbeaten the rest of the regular season, then knocking off Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Two chances that will happen: No way and no how.
North Carolina State (5-0, 2-0 ACC): This is probably the Wolfpack’s week to bask in the glow of playoff contention because they have to go to Clemson Saturday. Dreams die hard in Death Valley but if NC State pulls the stunner, they’ll be serious contenders.
Michigan (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten): Michigan was impressive in the way it handled Wisconsin at The Big House. The Fighting Harbaughs have to go on the road this week to Michigan State, which just beat Penn State in Happy Valley. This could be a crash and burn weekend for playoff hopes for the Harbaughs.
The Pac-12: The last gasp for a playoff berth exhaled Saturday when Southern Cal handed Colorado its first loss and Washington lost in overtime to Oregon. Oregon and Washington State both have only one loss but is anyone taking them seriously? I don’t think so.
West Virginia: Not only did the Mounties see their hopes of an unbeaten season crash land at Iowa State but Will Grier’s Heisman chances went down in flames as well. The Mounties could run the rest of the table, win the Big 12 Championship Game and finish with only one loss but they still wouldn’t get in the playoff. Their one hope was to win out.
Oklahoma, Texas and the rest of the Big 12: Oklahoma and Texas can score a lot of points but neither one has a championship level defense. They both have to play West Virginia and both go to Lubbock to play Texas Tech, which might be capable of beating either one of them in a shootout. The rest of the league is pretty poor. Oklahoma or Texas could each finish with one loss, but too many things would have to happen for either one to get in the playoff.
Miami: The Canes’ chances of making the playoff hinged on getting through the regular season 11-1 and then smacking Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. You don’t get to the playoffs when you lose to Virginia.
South Florida: The Bulls could finish unbeaten and they still wouldn’t get in. To finish unbeaten would mean beating both Cincinnati and UCF, both of which are unbeaten. Unlike their I-4 buddies at UCF, however, the Bulls won’t have the advantage of a 25-game win streak if they run the table.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Mike Jinks becomes the first coaching casualty of the 2018 season. Bowling Green fired Jinks Sunday, a day after the Falcons blew a 14-point first half lead and then gave up the final 14 points of the game to lose to Western Michigan, 42-35. Jinks was 7-24 in two-plus years at BGSU … Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who hails from Deerfield Beach, has 26 catches for 705 yards (27.12 per catch) and nine touchdowns in seven games. In 14 games last season as a freshman, Jeudy had 14 catches for 264 yards and two TDs … When Tennessee upset Auburn, it was the first SEC win for the Vols since November 19, 2016 … Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans should sue his offensive line for non-support after they gave up 11 sacks to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday. The Titans gave up more sacks than they had completions (10) … The NBA regular season begins on Tuesday. I won’t be watching basketball until the college season begins next month … Now that the New England Patriots have beaten the Kansas City Chiefs, 43-40, the Los Angeles Rams are the last unbeaten NFL team.