THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; OCTOBER 30, 2018
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
The final score at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was Georgia 36, Florida 17. Forget that 19-point difference. This was a whole lot closer than that and the reason Florida didn’t at least have it white knuckles at the end had everything to do with momentary lapses in focus.
Dan Mullen pointed that out Monday.
“We had two fumbles, either of them were on big hits or like spectacular plays,” Mullen said. “It was our lack of ball security. That’s attention to detail. We had two blown coverages. That’s attention to detail.”
There was also that Feleipe Franks overthrow of a wide open Van Jefferson that would have gone for a TD and he failed to read zone and underthrew another wide open receiver that resulted in a Georgia interception. Throw in the fumbles, the blown coverages and those two misfired passes and you have six plays that decided the football game.
It was like that in the Kentucky game, too. The final score was 27-16 but UK scored a meaningless TD on the game’s final play. A handful of misfires and miscues gave that game away in much the same way the Gators gave away the Georgia game. The difference in 6-2 (4-2 in the SEC) and 8-0 and ranked in the top four nationally comes down to a handful of plays in two games.
Or as Mullen would say it, “Attention to detail.” Championship level teams don’t lose ball games because they lost sight of the little details and that’s something Mullen and his staff have to hammer home this week. For the Florida Gators to once again become an elite program they not only have to stay focused on the difference-making details but they also have to bounce back from adversity.
Mullen and his staff did a tremendous job of getting the now 14th-ranked Gators to put the past behind them after the loss to Kentucky. The Gators zeroed in on fixing those costly mistakes and paid attention to details. That sent them on a 5-game tear that had them ranked 9th nationally prior to the Georgia game. So, we’re right back where we were in week three, needing once again to have amnesia when it comes to the week before while focusing in on doing all those little things that make the difference between winning and losing.
Missouri (4-4, 0-4 SEC) comes to The Swamp Saturday feeling like it was robbed of a signature win over Kentucky when a controversial pass interference call on the game’s last play gave the Wildcats an untimed down at the Mizzou two. UK made the best of its manna from heaven and got a TD to keep its SEC East hopes alive while keeping Missouri winless in SEC play. That Mizzou is winless and feels like it was robbed last week is the exact reason why Mullen and the Florida staff have to get the Gators fully focused on all the little details this week. Anything less than Florida’s best will result in a second straight loss.
If the Gators do their part on the practice field and it carries over into Saturday’s game at The Swamp (4 p.m., SEC Network), then the Gators will win their seventh game. If we see false starts, fumbles, interceptions and bad reads on both sides of the ball, then instead of a November to remember, the Gators will be in danger of a season-ending freefall.
MONDAY STORY LINES IN THE SEC
#1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC): Backup QB Jalen Hurts (high ankle sprain) is questionable for Saturday’s matchup at LSU. “It’s day-to-day, he’s going to start throwing today,” Nick Saban said Monday. “These things typically take 7-10 days … I can’t really answer that one now.”
Saturday: at #4 LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC), 8 p.m., CBS
Arkansas (2-7, 0-5 SEC): There is frustration in Fayette Nam. One week after the Razorbacks shutout Tulsa and held the Golden Hurricane to 260 total yards, they gave up 45 points, 442 total yards and 250 rushing yards to Vanderbilt. Fortunately there is an open date to try to fix a few things before hosting LSU November 10.
Auburn (5-3, 2-3 SEC): The Tigers have given up 652 passing yards and three TDPs in their last two games. They better have figured out how to stop the pass because Texas A&M comes into this game averaging 276.1 yards per game through the air.
Saturday: vs. #25 Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC), 12 noon, ESPN
#6 Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC): Georgia is coming off its best win of the season but it didn’t impress former Auburn/Ole Miss coach Tommy Tuberville. On Bo Mattingly SportsTalk Monday morning, Tuberville said, “Georgia is a very average football team compared to what they were last year.”
Saturday: at #11 Kentucky (7-1, 5-1 SEC), 3:30 p.m., CBS
#11 Kentucky (7-1, 5-1 SEC): Kentucky didn’t get much out of Benny Snell Jr. against Mizzou (19 carries, 67 yards) but it got nasty defense. The Wildcats allowed Mizzou just 84 rushing yards and 165 through the air. Heading into Saturday’s game with Georgia, Kentucky is tied for first with Clemson in scoring defense (just 13.0 per game) and 10th in total defense (295.3 yards per game). For his effort against Mizzou (11 tackles, 2 sacked and 2 forced fumbles), UK linebacker Josh Allen was named Walter Camp Football Foundation’s National Defensive Player of the Week.
Saturday: vs. #6 Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC), 3:30 p.m., CBS
#4 LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC): Everybody knows that LSU safety Grant Delpit is one of the best in the country but someone should have stuck a sock in his mouth Monday. Talking about playing Alabama, Delpit stated, “They really haven’t played anybody like us yet.” In the immortal words of Jim Croce, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape!”
Saturday: vs. #1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC), 8 p.m., CBS
#21 Mississippi State (5-3, 2-3 SEC): The Bulldogs were impressive on defense against Texas A&M, holding the Aggies to 61 rushing yards and just 13 points. Mississippi State ranks #4 nationally in scoring defense (13.0 per game) and #6 in total defense (283.8 yards per game).
Saturday: vs. Louisiana Tech (6-2), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
Missouri (4-4, 0-4 SEC): For Missouri to spring the upset on 14th-ranked Florida Saturday, quarterback Drew Lock is going to have to play like he does against non-conference teams. In four non-conference games, Lock has thrown for 1,412 yards (9.9 yards per attempt) and 15 touchdowns (1 interception). In four SEC games, Lock has thrown for 732 yards (5.34 per attempt) and one touchdown (5 interceptions).
Saturday: at #14 Florida (6-2, 4-2 SEC), 4 p.m., SEC Network
Ole Miss (5-3, 1-3 SEC): Ole Miss used its bye week to “self-evaluate.” It doesn’t take a genius nor does it take a week of introspection to figure out that the Rebels can’t stop anybody. They’re dead last in the SEC in defense and #123 nationally, giving up 497.8 yards per game. They’re also dead last in the SEC and #107 nationally in keeping people out of the end zone. Opponents are averaging a mere 34.6 points per game.
Saturday: vs. South Carolina (4-3, 2-3 SEC), 12 noon, SEC Network
South Carolina (4-3, 2-3 SEC): The Gamecocks protected Jake Bentley (only one sack allowed) and got a running game going (224 yards) last week. It also helped getting D.J. Wonnum back. Out since the first game of the year, Wonnum had two sacks in the Gamecocks’ 27-24 win over Tennessee.
Saturday: at Ole Miss (5-3, 1-3 SEC), 12 noon, SEC Network
Tennessee (3-5, 1-4 SEC): Saturday is get well day in Knoxville because the Vols bring in sacrificial lamb Charlotte from Conference USA. This is just the sixth year of college football for the 49ers, only their fourth in Division I. The Vols should be able to light up Charlotte, which will be a welcome change for UT fans who have watched their heroes average only 315.6 yards per game in five straight SEC contests.
Saturday: vs. Charlotte (4-4), 4 p.m.
#25 Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC): The Aggies need to figure out how to get their running game going again. They were held to 61 net yards in their loss to Mississippi State. They have netted 330 rushing yards in their last three games, averaging a scant 3.08 per carry.
Saturday: at Auburn (5-3, 2-3 SEC), 12 noon, ESPN
Vanderbilt (4-5, 1-4 SEC): When Derek Mason looks back on the 2018 season he’s going to be asking himself why didn’t he get the ball in Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s hands more often early in the season. Vaughn had 19 carries combined (for 84 yards and two TDs) in losses to Notre Dame and South Carolina. In the four games he’s played in since the South Carolina loss, Vaughn has 59 carries for 453 yards (7.67 per carry) and four touchdowns.
The two way out in front
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: If Alabama doesn’t lose a game, Tua will win the Heisman. If Tua has a brilliant game this week at LSU, then the engraver can get to work putting his name on a trophy. Tua’s eight game numbers are 107-152 passing (70.4%) for 2,066 yards (13.6 per attempt) and 25 touchdowns with ZERO interceptions; 26-123 rushing (4.73) for two more TDs.
Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: If by any chance Tua stumbles down the stretch, Murray is putting up scary good numbers for the Sooners. Try 134-183 passing (73.2%) for 2,329 yards (12.7 per attempt) and 28 TDs (3 interceptions); 71-474 rushing (6.68 per carry) for six more TDs. Not bad for a guy who has already signed a baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics.
The next four guys:
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: That loss to Purdue was a killer. Haskins could still get on the podium in New York if he lights up Michigan State and Michigan, however. His numbers are 224-315 passing (71.1%) for 2,801 yards (8.9 per attempt) and 30 TDs (5 picks). He has also rushed for 56 yards and a TD.
McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF: Since he sat out the East Carolina game with an injury, Milton needs to come up big on national television Thursday night against a good and improving Temple team. Milton’s 2018 looks like 119-200 passing (59.5%) for 1,797 yards (9.0 per attempt) and 16 TDs (4 picks; 3 were in one game); 48-204 rushing (4.25 per carry) for six TDs.
Will Grier, QB, West Virginia: Grier’s bad game against Iowa State will haunt him unless he can channel his inner Joe Montana the rest of the way. Grier is 154-219 passing (70.3%) for 2,272 yards (10.4 per attempt) and 25 TDPs (7 picks) plus he has run for one TD.
D’Eriq King, QB, Houston: King is in the discussion because he threw for five and ran for two while accounting for 551 yards of total offense in Houston’s win over South Florida. King’s gaudy numbers are 169-262 passing (64.5%) for 2,403 yards (9.2 per attempt) and 28 TDs (5 interceptions); 69-413 rushing (5.99 per carry) for 11 more TDs.
Blips on the radar
Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky: Kentucky was able to win without Snell coming up big last week at Mizzou. If he lays a similar egg this week against Georgia he won’t even finish top 10 in the voting. Snell’s season is 179-935 rushing (5.22 per carry) for nine TDsl 10-75 receiving.
A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College: Dillon put BC on his back (32-149 rushing, 1 TD) and carried the Eagles to a two TD win over Miami last week. Even missing two games with injuries, Dillon is 138-801 rushing (5.8 per carry) for seven TDs; 6-43 receiving for another TD.
Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State: McSorley hasn’t had a great game since Ohio State and his Heisman stock has dropped like a rock. He’s 122-231 passing (52.8%) for 1,628 yards (7.0 per attempt) and 12 TDs (4 picks); 110-617 rushing (5.61 per carry) for nine more TDs.
Karon Higdon, RB, Michigan: Any chance Higdon has to bolt past some of the others to get on the Heisman podium will come down to how well he plays against Penn State this week and Ohio State in the season ender. The Sarasota native is 153-831 rushing (5.43 per carry) for 831 yards and six TDs; 4-31 receiving.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Lovie Smith, the Illinois coach who would be smart to have his lawyer negotiating a buyout about now, lost his defensive coordinator. Hardy Nickerson resigned for “health reasons” after the Illini gave up 63 points and 712 yards to Maryland. Nickerson’s defenders rank 127th nationally (out of 130 teams) in total defense, 122nd in rushing defense and 120th in pass defense. That would create “health” issues for anyone … Leading receiver Nyqwan Murray and reserve linebacker Zaquandre White will be sitting the first half of Florida State’s game with North Carolina State in Raleigh, Both threw punches in the Seminoles’ 59-10 loss to Clemson … Hue Jackson’s takeover of the Cleveland Browns offense lasted one game. After losing 33-18 to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, not only was Jackson’s playcalling season over but so was his head coaching season. He’s been canned with a career record of 3-36-1. Why did it take so long? … Overall you could say it was a bad day to be a coach in Cleveland. The LeBron-less NBA Cleveland Cadavers fired Tyron Lue Monday … Southern Cal coach Clay Helton fired O-line coach Neil Callaway Monday and relieved Tee Martin of playcalling duties … Urban Meyer snuffed out rumors that he’s planning to retire after the 2018 season Monday, telling the media that he will be back for the 2019 season … Keep a close eye on what’s going on at Maryland this week. The end could be near for school prez Wallace Loh, AD Damon Evans and suspended football coach D.J. Durkin.