THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; OCTOBER 31, 2018
MOTIVATION FOR A NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER
The first College Football Playoff Poll was unveiled Tuesday night and to no one’s surprise, Alabama and Clemson top the chart at 1-2 followed by LSU and Notre Dame. Unless LSU can knock off Alabama this weekend, then go on to win the SEC championship, the Tigers won’t be in the final four, but a 10-2 LSU would certainly make the New Year’s Six bowl games and so would 10-2 Florida. The Gators made their debut at #11 and as long as they finish in the top 12 in the playoff poll, they’ll be playing in one of those six (playoff semifinals included) higher paying and more prestigious bowl games.
The Gators are 6-2 and they will need a 4-0 November to make it to the New Year’s Six. Even though Florida’s two losses are to higher ranked teams – #6 Georgia and #9 Kentucky – the Gators would in all probability take a plunge in the rankings if they lost one of their four remaining games. Missouri, South Carolina and Florida State are currently unranked and barring a miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead proportions, they won’t be anywhere close to a ranking when UF plays them. When Idaho was scheduled, the Vandals were a Division I team. Now they’re back in Division IAA where they belong. They won’t pull a Georgia Southern (see 2013) on the Gators but even playing the Vandals won’t help matters, so it will be imperative for Florida to delve out a beating of epic proportions. A 4-0 November will get the Gators into the upper tier bowl games and that has to be motivation for UF to play at a peak level the rest of the way.
If the New Year’s Six games were scheduled today here is what they would look like (per espn.com):
Saturday, December 29
Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl: #11 FLORIDA (6-2) vs. #10 Ohio State (7-1)
Goodyear Cotton Bowl (playoff semifinal): #4 Notre Dame (8-0) vs. #1 Alabama (8-0)
Capital One Orange Bowl (playoff semifinal): #3 LSU (7-1) vs. #2 Clemson (8-0)
Tuesday, January 1
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: #9 Kentucky (7-1) vs. #12 UCF (7-0)
Rose Bowl: #8 Washington State (7-1) vs. #5 Michigan (7-1)
Allstate Sugar Bowl: #7 Oklahoma (7-1) vs. #6 Georgia (7-1)
The College Football Playoff Poll
1. Alabama 8-0
2. Clemson 8-0
3. LSU 7-1
4. Notre Dame 8-0
5. Michigan 7-1
6. Georgia 7-1
7. Oklahoma 7-1
8. Washington State 7-1
9. Kentucky 7-1
10. Ohio State 7-1
11. FLORIDA 7-1
12. UCF 7-0
13. West Virginia 6-1
14. Penn State 6-2
15. Utah 6-2
16. Iowa 6-2
17. Texas 6-2
18. Mississippi State 5-3
19. Syracuse 6-2
20. Texas A&M 5-3
21. North Carolina State 5-2
22. Boston College 6-2
23. Fresno State 7-1
24. Iowa State 4-3
25. Virginia 6-2
RANKING THE SEC TOP TO BOTTOM
1. Alabama (8-0, 5-0): Although Alabama doesn’t seem quite as dominant defensively as past years, there has never been an Alabama team with an offense this good. There is every good chance that the only team in the SEC really capable of challenging the Crimson Tide are the number twos on the Alabama two-deep.
2. LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC): The Tigers are likely to be asking if anyone got the license plate on that 18-wheeler that flattened then following their close encounter with Alabama Saturday night in Death Valley. This is a very good, borderline great LSU team. It’s just that Alabama is that much better.
3. Georgia (7-1, 5-1 SEC): The Bulldogs are a very good football team. They are not, however, anywhere close to the football team that made it to the national championship game last year.
4. Kentucky (7-1, 5-1 SEC): That the Wildcats are playing Georgia for the SEC East title Saturday is a big surprise to everyone but the Wildcats. They really believed they could get this far. They also believe they can beat Georgia Saturday.
5. Florida (6-2, 4-2 SEC): There are four games in which the Gators can make this a November to remember, starting with Saturday’s Homecoming game with Missouri. Florida won’t win the SEC East. This year. The future is looking very, very good.
6. Mississippi State (5-3, 2-3 SEC): Dan Mullen left a world class defense behind in Starkville. When the offense gets it going the Bulldogs are a really good football team capable of beating any team in the SEC except Alabama.
7. Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC): The Aggies are much like the Gators in this respect – if you’re going to beat them, this is the year to do it because the future is looking very, very bright.
8. South Carolina (4-3, 2-3 SEC): The Gamecocks have had to battle the injury bug and inconsistency by the offensive line and wide receivers but they’ll still finish with 6-7 wins which would be an accomplishment all things considered.
9. Auburn (5-3, 2-3 SEC): There isn’t a more disappointing team in the SEC than Auburn. Nothing that a new offensive coordinator, quarterback coach and offensive line coach couldn’t cure.
10. Missouri (4-4, 0-4 SEC): So much more was expected of the Tigers and if they don’t go bowling this year, Barry Odom might find himself out of a job. Odom’s big mistake this year was hiring Derek Dooley as his offensive coordinator.
11. Ole Miss (5-3, 1-3 SEC): Considering they’re doing hard time at the NCAA’s version of Club Fed, the Rebels are a big surprise. One more win and they’re break even in a season in which they can’t go bowling. That’s called success.
12. Vanderbilt (4-5, 1-4 SEC): Conceivably, the Commodores could go 3-0 down the stretch and erase all the doubts about Derek Mason. Three wins and they probably host the Music City Bowl. Two and they probably get exiled to Birmingham where, if they lose, they will be required to stay an extra week.
13. Tennessee (3-5, 1-4 SEC): The Vols are actually better than anyone thought they would be. The Vols could go bowling if they can win three games in November although donkeys might fly before that happens.
14. Arkansas (2-7, 0-5 SEC): There will be no winning season and respectability isn’t an option either, not with LSU and Mississippi State the next two games. If the Hogs figure out a way to beat Mizzou in the season’s last game, they could be the reason Barry Odom gets fired.
GATORS SHOOT WELL IN HOOPS EXHIBITION
Florida’s basketball season opener is next Tuesday night in Tallahassee against 17th-ranked Florida State but the Gators got in an exhibition game Tuesday night at the O-Dome, scoring a 95-70 win over Division II Florida Southern before a crowd of 8,025. Six Gators scored in double figures (Jalen Hudson 14, Deaundre Ballard 13, Dontay Bassett 12, Keyontae Johnson 12, Noah Locke 11 and KeVaughn Allen 10) as the Gators shot an even 50% (35-70) from the field overall and 51.9% (14-27) from the 3-point line. Fourth-year coach Mike White has the best collection of shooters he’s had at UF so scoring shouldn’t be an issue this year although the Gators had dry spells at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half Tuesday night.
There should be concerns about the defense. That Florida Southern only scored 70 points wasn’t for a lack of open shots. The shots were there they just didn’t drop although the Moccasins did heat up in the second half to cut Florida’s 29-point halftime advantage to 14 with a little more than nine minutes to go. Florida regrouped and expanded the lead back to the final 25, but given their size and quickness advantage the Gators should have won this one by 40 or more.
The good news, however, is White has a week to solve some of the issues before the games count. This is a very talented Florida roster. If White can iron out some of the kinks, this is a team that not only will make the NCAA Tournament but will have a chance to make some waves in March.
TRUE WEIRDNESS AT MARYLAND
What happened with the University of Maryland football program is mind boggling. The University System of Maryland Board of Regents cannot fire the football coach at the University of Maryland, but they can fire the president of the university. University president Wallace D. Loh wanted to fire football coach D.J. Durkin, on administrative leave since the summer after the death of a player who overheated during a workout. The regents recommended that D.J. and athletic director Damon Evans should be reinstated and they were willing to fire Loh if he pink slipped Durkin. Loh was in favor of keeping Evans and he made that abundantly clear at a Tuesday press conference in which he announced he is resigning at the end of the school year. Loh never mentioned Durkin by name although he did confirm that he has been reinstated as the football coach. You don’t have to be a member of Mensa to figure out that Wallace Loh had the equivalent of a gun held to his head by the regents.
As if it’s not already the kind of storyline that would make a month of good viewing on a soap opera, both ESPN and The Athletic reported that multiple players walked out of Durkin’s first team meeting since reinstatement. Numerous parents previously indicated they would pull their sons out of Maryland rather than have them play for Durkin. Stay tuned because this story is only going to get juicier.
The parents of Jordan McNair, whose death after being forced to run gassers during the summer, sparked the suspension of Durkin and the firing of the strength and conditioning coach, were outraged by the decision. “I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach and somebody spit in my face,” said Marty McNair, Jordan McNair’s father.
One side note, Maryland has gone 5-3 with offensive coordinator Todd Canada serving as the interim head coach. It will be interesting to see if the Terps play like they’re happy Durkin is back Saturday when Michigan State comes to College Park or if the team goes in the tank. If I had to wager, I’d say they go in the tank.
So to summarize what has happened today: Maryland cornered the market on Tuesday weirdness and did the unthinkable. Since we’re on the subject of weirdness, try imagining you are the parent of a high school football player and D.J. Durkin calls and asks for a home visit.
And yet he’s still got a job. Go figure.
DENNIS DODD ON MARYLAND
Dennis Dodd, the fine college football columnist for cbssports.com, was none too pleased that Maryland decided to retain Durkin. Dodd wrote:
“The Maryland players must protest. Probably a boycott is best. Don’t play, guys. Your lives are at stake.
“Some sort of extreme dissent is all they have left. Their university abandoned them. Their strength coach humiliated them. Their head coach created a culture of intimidation. Oh yeah, and one of their brothers collapsed and eventually died running gassers while all of them watched.
“Jordan McNair paid for this culture with his life.
“Meanwhile, that coach, D.J. Durkin, will continue to be paid and return to leading them team.”
Dodd’s suggestion to the Maryland players:
“Be creative, guys. Don’t stop walking out of Durkin’s return. Boycott a game, the rest of the season. Football just isn’t that important in comparison.”
To that I say amen.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Florida and now Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is dealing with an enlarged congenital arachnoid cyst on his brain that has caused frequent and severe headaches. Meyer plans to continue coaching Ohio State “as long as I can” … The Big 12 Conference has fined Baylor University $2 million for what it calls “reputational damage to the conference and its members” from a sexual assault scandal involving the football program that was revealed two years ago … Rick Pitino won’t be coaching college basketball again, but the former Louisville coach is hoping to get an NBA gig for next season … Expect some fallout from the college basketball corruption trial at both Arizona and LSU and they aren’t the only ones who will eventually have to answer for paying players … Former Gator defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. must feel like he won the lottery. Tuesday he was traded from a bad Jacksonville team to the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams … A couple of surprise NFL trades: The Denver Broncos traded wide receiver Demariyus Thomas (36-402 receiving for three TDs) to the Houston Texans for a fourth round draft pick and the Green Bay Packers traded safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Washington Redskins for a fourth rounder … The World Series matchup of the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers drew the fourth lowest TV ratings in history, down 25% from last year alone.