THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; OCTOBER 22, 2018
NOTHING LIKE A LITTLE DISRESPECT
As of Sunday night, Georgia had been established as a 6-1/2 point favorite by the folks in Las Vegas to beat the Florida Gators in the annual renewal of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. As of Sunday noon, the people who vote in the Coaches and Associated Press polls had Georgia ranked sixth and seventh respectively. Florida, meanwhile, was 11th in the Coaches Poll and ninth in the AP. If you’re a Gator fan who saw the Gators beat LSU and then watched LSU put Georgia in a blender and turn the Poodles into doggy puree, you’re seething. If you’re Dan Mullen, however, you’re wearing a grin that Ajax couldn’t begin to wipe off.
Mullen was here in 2007 and he remembers all too well when Georgia rushed the field after scoring a touchdown on the Gators in the first quarter. He remembers all too well how Urban Meyer used that disrespect to fuel the Gators for an entire year. Just in case you’ve forgotten, paybacks were hell as Florida neutered the Poodles, 49-10, in 2008. That was the game when Meyer called time out twice in the final minute of the game just to remind Georgia that you don’t get away with disrespect.
Mullen doesn’t have a whole year to sell the Gators on the disrespect angle, but a week will do just fine. All he has to do is remind the Gators that they’ve won three SEC games on the road and they’ve come away with wins against two of the nation’s best defensive teams – Mississippi State in Starkville and LSU. The only ranked team Georgia has played was LSU and in that one the Tigers ran for 275 yards and threw for 200 for a 36-16 win that would have been far worse if Coach O hadn’t gone conservative in the red zone.
Georgia couldn’t run on LSU (113 yards) and when the Poodles tried to throw it, LSU intercepted twice and sacked Jake Fromm (State Farm) four times. Against that same LSU defense, the Gators ran for 215 yards and threw for 176. LSU ran every blitz package in the books and never once sacked Feleipe Franks.
So, don’t be too upset that the folks in Las Vegas and the people who vote in the polls are favoring Georgia. They’ve been doing it all year. There is every good reason to believe they’ll be wrong – again because there is every good reason to believe Dan Mullen will play the disrespect card to the hilt all week long, much to Florida’s advantage.
THE SEC DOWN THE STRETCH
#9 FLORIDA (6-1, 4-1 SEC): The Gators can’t win the SEC East without help. They have Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina in the next three weeks but even if the Gators go 3-0, they still need Kentucky to lose a game to win the East title.
#7 Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC): The next three games are Florida, (at) Kentucky and Auburn. A 3-0 record and Georgia wins the East.
#12 Kentucky (6-1, 4-1 SEC): The three remaining SEC games are (at) Missouri, Georgia and (at) Tennessee. The Wildcats have played beyond anyone’s expectations. At some point you have to wonder if they realize where they are and panic.
Missouri (4-3, 0-3 SEC): In each of their four non-conference wins, Mizzou has scored at least 40 points. In three SEC losses, the offense hasn’t gotten the job done. The next two games are against Kentucky and (at) Florida, two of the better defensive teams in the league. The goal for Mizzou should be win two more and become bowl eligible.
South Carolina (3-3, 2-3 SEC): There are five remaining games on the schedule and three of them – Tennessee, (at) Ole Miss and Chattanooga – are winnable. Going bowling would be an achievement.
Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC): The tough part of the schedule is behind the Vols. Four of the five remaining games are winnable. Two wins and they’re going bowling, a testament to improvement under first year coach Jeremy Pruitt as well as a soft schedule.
Vanderbilt (3-5, 0-4 SEC): As the Commodores proved Saturday night in Lexington, they’re good enough to make people sweat but not good enough to beat a good team. They have to win three of their last four to go bowling and all four (at Arkansas, at Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee) are games they’re good enough to actually win.
#1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC): About the only thing that can derail this Alabama express is boredom. The Crimson Tide has outscored eight opponents by a combined 165-31 in the first quarter and 145-27 in the second quarter for a halftime total of 310-58. To put things in perspective, Alabama has scored more points by halftime than any SEC team has scored in four quarters this season.
Arkansas (2-6, 0-4 SEC): Arkansas got a shutout against non-conference Tulsa. That’s the good news. The bad news is there isn’t another non-conference game on the schedule and only Saturday’s game with Vanderbilt looks remotely winnable.
Auburn (5-3, 2-3 SEC): Let’s not get too carried away with the 31-16 win over Ole Miss. Yes, the defense played well and the offense not only put up 31 points but 484 total offense yards, but it was the Ole Miss defense. The Tigers still have to play the Aggies, Georgia and Alabama. This season has 6-6 written all over it.
#4 LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC): The Tigers have played defense at a truly elite level in the wins over Georgia and Mississippi State. They’ll need to play even better when Alabama comes to town in two weeks, plus they’ll have to come up with an offensive game plan that works.
Mississippi State (4-3, 1-3 SEC): The Bulldogs are at a juncture in which the season could go south. Not only do they have four SEC games including (at) Texas A&M and (at) Alabama, but they have to make a decision about quarterback. Do they stick with Nick Fitzgerald, who can’t throw a lick, or go with Keyontae Thompson?
Ole Miss (5-3, 1-3 SEC): The Rebels are in the NCAA jailhouse so they’re not going bowling so winning one of the remaining four games would ensure a break even season and two would get them to a surprising seven.
#16 Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1 SEC): It is conceivable that the Aggies could go 5-0 down the stretch and finish 10-2 in Jimbo’s first season. Auburn could be tough on the road and LSU will be a beast to handle, but those games are definitely winnable.
OHIO STATE LOSS SHUFFLES THE PLAYOFF DECK
Ohio State’s monstrous loss to Purdue has shuffled the playoff deck considerably. The door is now open for UCF to make it to the Final Four if the Knights can run the table and finish the regular season with a 25-game winning streak. The Big 12, which was out of the picture, is back in as long as either Oklahoma or Texas can emerge with only one loss and even the Pac-12 has a remote chance if Washington State can go 5-0 down the stretch.
Alabama (8-0): Chris Peterson, the Washington coach, made the remark that his team would be unbeaten playing Alabama’s schedule. Well, Washington lost to Auburn and it will be an upset if Auburn loses by fewer than four touchdowns to Alabama. Personally, I think the Aggies would beat Washington by at least 30 and the Aggies lost by 22 to Bama without Tua playing past halftime.
Clemson (7-0): The Tigers have the look of the only team in the country that would stand a chance against Alabama. They will be favored by at least a couple of touchdowns in every remaining game so they might not be challenged until they first playoff game. Freshman QB Trevor Lawrence and that defense are the real deal.
Notre Dame (7-0): After the way the Irish struggled with Pitt a couple of weeks ago, the remaining five games on the schedule don’t look like such a lock. Win the final five games and the Irish make the playoff due to their perfect record, but let’s get serious here. Notre Dame beat Michigan in game one. The rest of the schedule is a bunch of pansies, but remember, Pitt was a pansy that lost to North Carolina and was obliterated by UFC by 31.
UCF (7-0): As the number of unbeaten teams dwindle and the big guys from the power conferences go down in flames, the idea that UCF could make it to the Final Four doesn’t seem so preposterous, does it? If the Knights win another AAC title and have a 25-game winning streak, how are you going to keep them out?
LSU (7-1): First things first, LSU has to win the SEC West and that’s a rather tall order. Alabama will travel to Baton Rouge a week from Saturday and then there is that regular season finale with Texas A&M on the road. The defense is good enough to win both of those games, but can the offense score enough points?
FLORIDA (6-1): The only way the Gators are going to get in is to run the regular season table, starting with Saturday’s renewal of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. The Gators also have to hope that Georgia beats Kentucky and then there is that teensy problem of beating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Difficult, but not impossible. Remember, water was once changed to wine.
Georgia (6-1): Georgia has to beat Florida in Jacksonville this week, then beat Kentucky in Lexington next week and then Alabama in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game. After seeing the way LSU blew Georgia’s doors off, only someone who was dropped on his head too many times as a baby would think the Poodles could pull off that trifecta.
Kentucky (6-1): A roadie at Missouri and a homer with Georgia seem to be the only things standing in the way of Kentucky making it to the SEC Championship Game with its first East title ever. That’s actually the easy part. Once you get to Atlanta you have to deal with Alabama.
Michigan (7-1): The Fighting Harbaughs are breathing the rarified air of the top spot in the Eastern Division of the Big Ten. They still have to play Penn State (this week) and Ohio State, plus win the Big Ten Championship Game to get into the playoff.
Ohio State (7-1): Seriously, how do you get hosed by 29 points by a team that not only has three losses (Purdue) but has losses to Eastern Michigan (MAC) and a Missouri team that hasn’t won an SEC game? But if the Buckeyes beat Michigan, win the Big Ten title game, win the Big Ten Championship Game and emerge with one loss, they’ll be in. That’s a lot of ifs.
Oklahoma (6-1): The Sooners and the Big 12 were all but out of it a couple of weeks ago, but that was before Ohio State was caught with its drawers down at Purdon’t. Oklahoma’s chances rest on the shoulders of quarterback Kyler Murray, which begs the question: What the hell was Kevin Sumlin thinking when he ran Murray off at Texas A&M?
Texas (6-1): The Longhorns are the only team in the Big 12 with a perfect league record. If they run the regular season table and then beat a one-loss Oklahoma in the conference championship game, they’ll have a legitimate shot at the playoff.
West Virginia (5-1): The Mounties still have to play (at) Texas and Oklahoma. After the way they played in losing to Iowa State, they’re serious longshots but stranger things have happened. After all, Thor Heyerdahl once sailed 5,000 miles across the Pacific in a handmade raft called Kon-Tiki.
Washington State (6-1): Wazzoo is the only Pac-12 team with one loss. Odds are the Cougars are going to drop at least one more game (they’re at Stanford and Colorado and they play Washington at home) but if they can run the table they will have about as much chance as you will have to pick the winning Powerball numbers this week. So there is a chance!
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Gator Tre Burton had a career day in the Chicago Bears’ 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots. Burton had nine catches for 126 yards and a TD … Because he’s dealing with cracked ribs, a bruised lung and a partially collapsed lung, Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson rode a bus from Houston to Jacksonville to avoid the air pressure on the team plane. Watson and the Texans handed the Jaguars a 20-7 loss … The World Series begins Tuesday at Fenway Park with the Los Angeles Dodgers squaring off against the Boston Red Sox. I’ll be pulling for the Dodgers … Scott Frost got his first win at Nebraska and Chip Kelly got his second straight win at UCLA. I’m glad they’re where they are and that Florida has Dan Mullen … After winning the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges (in Korea), golf has a new #1 in Brooks Koepka. Koepka shot a 21-under par 267 and pocketed a cool $1,710,000, which is nice work if you can get it … I’m happy to see Appalachian State finally crack the AP top 25 poll. The Apps only loss was by a touchdown in overtime at Penn State in the first game of the season.