THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; OCTOBER 17, 2018
YOU A FRANKS SKEPTIC? ARE YOU NOW?
Be honest now. How many of you were skeptical when Dan Mullen named Feleipe Franks as his starting quarterback in August? Then after the Kentucky game, how many of you thought that by the Tennessee game either Kyle Trask or true freshman Emory Jones would be taking the quarterback snaps?
I’ll admit it. I was a skeptic in August and I had very little hope that Franks could be salvaged after the loss to Kentucky. It had very little to do with talent because I’ve always thought Franks had tremendous physical skills, just that two years of coaching by Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier were too much even for noted quarterback whisperers such as Florida head coach Dan Mullen and QB coach Brian Johnson to overcome.
Well, I was wrong and if you were a skeptic, time for you to join me in admitting Mullen and Johnson do know what they’re doing. Now, this isn’t to say Franks is a polished, finished product but where he is today compared to where he was after that Kentucky game is light years difference. The Franks we saw in the Kentucky game was quite like the Franks we saw last year – fragile football ego waiting for the world to come crashing down around him after a mistake. The Franks we saw in the Vanderbilt game is a quarterback who can regain his composure after mistakes like that first drive interception or that drive-killing second quarter fumble and then rally his team to win going away.
That’s progress, and there will be more progress in the final five games of the season. Yes, there will be some mistakes but don’t let the mistakes cloud your judgment. Remember that Feleipe Franks is having to undo two years or horrendous coaching in a bad offensive system and he’s learning on the fly to be a legitimate Southeastern Conference quarterback with coaches who are adapting the system to his skills. What a concept.
Through seven games, Franks is 103-182 passing (56.6%) for 1,406 yards (7.7 per attempt) and 15 TDs (5 interceptions). His QB rating is 143.19. In 11 games in 2017, Franks was 125-229 (54.6%) for 1,438 yards (6.3 per attempt) and nine TDs (8 picks). His QB rating was 113.31.
AROUND THE SEC
#1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC): This is scary. Speaking to ESPN SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt, Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa said, “Well, there’s a lot of things that I haven’t done correctly.” Oh really? Through seven games, Tua has thrown 21 touchdown passes and has yet to throw his first interception while leading an Alabama offense that is averaging 53.6 points and 567 yards per game. And, as if Tennessee doesn’t have enough to worry about Saturday – Alabama is, after all, a 29 point favorite – Tua says his knee is just fine and that “I’m a lot better actually than I was last week after the Arkansas game.”
Arkansas (1-6, 0-4 SEC): Hog fans should savor this moment. The Vegas oddsmakers are listing Arkansas as 3-1/2 point favorites over Tulsa. Since the Hogs are going to be underdogs in every other game they’ll be able to remember what it felt like when someone actually liked them.
Auburn (4-3, 1-3 SEC): Tuesday Gus Malzahn gave offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey what is typically a kiss of death – the old vote of confidence. Auburn is averaging nearly 60 fewer rushing yards, 16 fewer passing yards and five fewer points than in 2017. While the Tigers passed for 322 yards and had 448 total yards in the loss to Tennessee last Saturday, it was a terrible offensive performance. The best the Tigers could do in the four previous games was 341 yards of total offense against non-conference Southern Miss. Malzahn says he has no plans to take over the play calling, something you can get away with when you are in the first year of a 7-year, $50 million contract with a $32,143,750 buyout.
#8 Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC): You almost knew this would happen. The moment Georgia lost its first game the quarterback controversy would begin to heat up in Athens. Fromm has lost only three games in two seasons as the starter. Last Saturday he completed fewer than 50% of his passes with two interceptions in the loss to LSU, prompting quite a few Georgia fans to scream for Kirby Smart to turn the team over to true freshman Justin Fields. Even the Atlanta Journal-Constitution weighed in with a Tuesday article entitled “Fromm or Fields: Who should be Bulldogs’ starting QB?” Through seven games, Fromm is 99-148 passing (66.9%) for 1,409 yards (9.5 per attempt) with 13 TDs (4 picks). In mostly mop-up duty, Fields is 18-25 passing (72%) for 200 yards (8.0 per attempt) with two TDPs and is 18-136 rushing (7.56 per carry) for three TDs.
#14 Kentucky (5-1, 3-1 SEC): There is a good reason why Kentucky is ranked 14th nationally and a legitimate threat to win the SEC East for the first time since the SEC split into divisions in 1992. It’s called defense. The Wildcats gave up 175.31 rushing yards per game last year; 119.33 in 2018. Opponents threw for 251.6 yards per game last year; 185.5 this year. The Wildcats are 11-point favorites over Vanderbilt Saturday night.
#5 LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC): If the run defense that LSU put on the field last week against Georgia (30-113; 3.77 per carry) shows up Saturday night against Mississippi State, the Tigers have a really good chance to win. If they play run defense the way they did in the loss to Florida (43-215; 5.0) there’s a really good chance they’ll bite the bullet. LSU is a 6-1/2 point favorite.
#22 Mississippi State (4-2, 1-2 SEC): if the Bulldogs throw the ball as poorly as they have the last three games, they’ll leave LSU with their third loss Saturday evening. The Wildcats averaged 4.5 yards per pass attempt in the loss to Kentucky, 3.8 in the loss to Florida and they somehow won averaging just 4.1 per attempt against Auburn. Last week, LSU picked off Jake Fromm twice and held the Georgia QB to less than 50% completions.
Missouri (3-3, 0-3 SEC): Since wide receiver Emanuel Hall went down with a groin injury in Mizzou’s win over Purdue, Drew Lock has thrown only one touchdown pass. Lock had thrown for 11 in the first three games. Hall had 18 catches for 430 yards (23.89 per catch) and three TDs in the first three games.
Ole Miss (5-2, 1-2 SEC): Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu’s numbers through seven games are better than those of Shea Patterson (transferred to Michigan) in 2017. Before he went down with an injury in game seven last year, Patterson was 166-260 passing (63.8%) for 2,259 yards (8.7 per attempt) and 17 TDs (9 picks); -16 rushing yards for one TD. Through seven games in 2018, Ta’amu is 146-222 (65.8%) for 2,298 yards (10.4 per attempt) and 15 TDPs (5 picks); 53-253 rushing (4.77 per attempt) and four TDs.
South Carolina (3-3, 2-3 SEC): If South Carolina is to get things turned around, the Gamecocks are going to have to figure out how to protect the football. Quarterback Jake Bentley has thrown seven interceptions and the team has lost five fumbles. They’re -5 in turnover margin, tied or last in the SEC.
Tennessee (3-3, 1-2 SEC): The Vols are coming off a game in which they gave up 322 passing yards to Auburn. That’s troubling because Saturday they’ll be going against an Alabama passing attack that is averaging 350.3 yards per game and has thrown 27 touchdown passes with only one interception.
#17 Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1 SEC): What a difference Mike Elko is making as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator. With virtually the same personnel that last year gave up 30.3 points and 408.5 yards per game under John Chavis, the Aggies are showing tremendous improvement in 2018. Under Elko, the Aggies are allowing 20.6 points and 323.3 yards per game. Texas A&M is giving up only 81 rushing yards per game.
Vanderbilt (3-4, 0-3 SEC): Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who had a 43-yard run and a 75-yard touchdown reception against Florida last week before leaving the game with an unspecified injury, should be good to go Saturday at Kentucky. Vaughn is Vandy’s leading rusher with 495 yards (6.88 per carry) and five TDs; 7-131 receiving (18.71 per catch) and a TD.
The three guys in front
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: Tua had his worst game of the season last week. Does this sound terrible: 12-22 passing for 265 yards (12.0 per attempt) and three TDs? Oh, to be Tua. He’s cruise controlling his way to a Heisman. In seven games he is 88-123 passing (71.5%) for 1,760 yards (14.3 per attempt) and 21 TDs without an interception; 25-117 rushing (4.68 per carry) and two more TDs.
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: Ohio State has had three 400-yard plus passing games in school history. Haskins has two of the three in the month of October. Haskins is 175-242 passing (72.3%) for 2,331 yards (9.6 per attempt) and a nation-leading 28 TDPs (4 interceptions), plus one rushing TD.
Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: Despite the loss to Texas and last week’s open date, Murray is still very much in the Heisman hunt because he’s been nothing short of spectacular. Murray’s seasonal stats are 96-135 passing (71.1%) for 1,764 yards (13.1 per attempt); 57-377 rushing (6.61 per carry) for five TDs.
The next three guys
McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF: Milton ran for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter against Memphis last week, saving his Heisman chances. For Milton to make it to New York, he has to put up spectacular numbers and UCF can’t lose. Milton is 119-200 passing (59.5%) for 1,797 yards (9.0 per attempt) with 16 TDs (4 picks); 48-204 rushing (4.25 per carry) for six TDs.
Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky: When the Wildcats face Vandy Saturday, Kentucky has to give Snell the ball more than the 13 times he got it in the loss to the Aggies two weeks ago. Snell is 128-699 rushing (5.46 per carry) and eight touchdowns so far.
Will Grier, QB, West Virginia: The Mounties lost their first game in embarrassing fashion. Grier had 100 passing yards and was sacked seven times. So much for Heisman frontrunner status. This season he is 137-192 passing (71.4%) for 1,919 yards (10.0 per attempt), 22 TDs (7 picks). He needs to set the world on set the world on fire the last five games to get back in the race.
Blips on the radar
Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State: Penn State needed McSorley to be outstanding last week to avoid an upset loss to Michigan State, but he showed up ordinary and Penn State’s chances to win the Big Ten East and get into the College Football Playoff went up in flames.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: The overall numbers are outstanding – 143 carries for 950 yards (6.64 per carry) and eight TDs – but he’s been fairly ordinary in a pair of losses including a high profile whomping at the hands of Michigan.
Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis: He has Heisman-like numbers – 110 carries for 1,133 yards (10.3 per carry) and 13 touchdowns – but he plays for a non-power conference team that has lost three games.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: He gets rave reviews from the NFL scouts but he plays for a team that gives up 28 points a game. That won’t cut it when voters send in their final ballots.
ELSEWHERE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL: All-American defensive end Nick Bosa is leaving the Ohio State program to concentrate on the NFL Draft. Bosa suffered an abdominal injury that required surgery on September 20. The earliest he could come back would be in December so the decision was made to withdraw from school, concentrate on his rehab and get ready for the NFL Draft where he could be one of the first three players taken next April … UConn linebacker Eli Thomas is in the hospital after suffering a stroke last week … The Athletic is reporting that numerous parents of University of Maryland football players are fearful the school will not fire suspended head coach D.J. Durkin. The Board of Regents is scheduled to announce a decision about Durkin when it meets on Friday … Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin has offered a scholarship to 11-year-old Cole Leinhart, son of former Southern Cal Heisman trophy QB Matt Leinhart. Kiffin was the offensive coordinator at USC when Leinhart was a senior.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I really hate stadiums named for some corporation. There is something to be said about a game at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park or Dodger Stadium opposed to a game at something like CitiField or Tropicana Field. For example, I can’t imagine the Green Bay Packers playing at a stadium with a corporate name on it. Lambeau Field is perfect … The Houston Astros are down 2-1 to the Boston Red Sox in the AL Championship Series after the Red Sox took an 8-2 win Tuesday … I think I would be more inclined to watch the NBA if the league would adapt a baseball-like rule where a kid could sign straight out of high school but if he goes to college he has to stay until he’s finished three years or is 21 years old, whichever comes first. One and done is horrible and one reason I think the quality of the NBA is down has everything to do with too many kids who haven’t learned how to play basketball yet … Jon Gruden is 1-5 in his return to the Oakland Raiders. Why am I not shocked?