THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; NOVEMBER 5, 2018
SO MUCH FOR A NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER
With so much at stake Saturday, the last thing you expected to see from the Florida Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC) was a mail-it-in effort but that is exactly what we got. Here were the Gators with a 10-win season and a New Year’s Six Bowl well within their grasp if they could simply run the November table against four teams they should beat, but instead of focus and unrelenting effort we saw a team that appeared to be going through the motions. So much for a November to remember.
Of course, Dan Mullen did what all good coaches do. He put the blame squarely on his shoulders and the shoulders of his coaching staff. “Obviously a disappointing performance by us. That’s on the coaches,” Mullen said. But really, how many times did Mullen throw into double coverage when there was a wide open receiver begging for the football? And how many times did Mullen whiff on an edge rusher? And how many times did Mullen fail to hold a block long enough so a running back could pop through a hole?
Don’t get me started on defense or special teams but it’s more of the same and it’s confusing why it happened. There was so much to play for and yet this team acted like a 1-10 team just wanting to get a nightmare season over. Missouri is not a bad football team, but there is no excuse for a team that showed what it’s capable of doing at Starkville and against LSU playing with so little emotion and effort against a team that hadn’t won a single SEC game.
So where do the Gators go from here? Do they continue to mail it in and lose three of the last four, Idaho being the exception? Or do they scrap the attitudes from Saturday and come out swinging Saturday against a South Carolina team that not only is playing like there is no tomorrow but would love nothing more than to give Will Muschamp a stick it in your ear Florida win? South Carolina can’t match Florida in terms of talent, but Will Muschamp doesn’t have to worry that his team will cop play like it doesn’t matter.
Mullen said it best Saturday evening: “We have a great opportunity to see where we’re at as a program. When things get tough, where are we?” Indeed. A 9-3 record is possible. Does this team want it?
TRASK HAS EARNED HIS CHANCE
After Feleipe Franks rolled snake eyes against Georgia, I was willing to chalk that up as a bad game by a not ready for prime time quarterback. After a repeat performance against Missouri, I’m convinced Franks may never be ready for prime time. I’m not sure the demons of spending two years coached by Old Yeller and Doug Nussmeier can be exorcised and I’m not sure the University of Florida can afford to be patient for Franks to prove capable of playing at the level it takes to win in the SEC. Two steps forward and one step backward I can live with but we’re back to 2017 where it’s one step forward and two steps backward.
Like a lot of folks, I’ve been wondering when Mullen would give Kyle Trask his chance. After seeing Trask go Saturday against the same first team Missouri defense that Franks couldn’t figure out, I’m convinced the Gators have a better chance to win these last three games with Trask taking the snaps.
There was no deer in the headlights look from Trask even though he entered the game in less than desirable circumstances. Missouri knew he was going to throw nearly every down and brought the house practically every play. Trask stayed poised and actually looked to second and third receivers when given time (given the play of the O-line, that wasn’t often!). He didn’t look like a kid who had thrown only four passes (all completions) in mop-up duty against Charleston Southern and Tennessee. In a little more than a quarter Trask went 10-18 for 126 yards (7.0 per attempt) and a TD. In his last two outings, Franks is a combined 22-43 for 189 yards with a TD and an interception. If you’ve already done the math then you know that is 4.39 yards per attempt. The only kind way to describe it is rotten.
Mullen says he will make a decision this week about who gives the Gators the best chance to win. Unless he’s hired an exorcist with a track record of quick results, the best chance is Kyle Trask.
THE REST OF THE SEC
#1 ALABAMA (9-0, 6-0 SEC): Let’s talk scary for a moment. Alabama had its worst offensive game of the year and still put up 29 points and 576 yards against the LSU defense. Defensively, the Tide pitched a shutout and held the Tigers to 196 yards. The offense can do things no Alabama team has ever done. The defense is starting to play like the great Alabama teams always play.
ARKANSAS (2-7, 0-5 SEC): The season can’t end soon enough for the Hogs, whose next three games are LSU, (at) Mississippi State and (at) Missouri. Bad is about to get worse.
AUBURN (6-3, 3-3 SEC): Auburn staged a brilliant comeback to beat the Aggies. Liberty is sandwiched between Georgia and Alabama. A 7-5 season is imminent unless there is a miracle on the road in Athens and/or Tuscaloosa.
#5 GEORGIA (8-1, 6-1 SEC): In beating Florida and Kentucky decisively, Georgia looked really, really good but is Georgia that good or were Florida and Kentucky bubbles that were ready to burst? Auburn, UMass and Georgia Tech end the regular season and then comes big bad Bama in the SEC Championship Game when Georgia finds out if it’s for real.
#12 KENTUCKY (7-2, 5-2 SEC): The dream was nice while it lasted but there are still three wins to be had against Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and Louisville. While the Wildcats aren’t going to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game they still could make it to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl as a New Year’s Six team.
#9 LSU (7-2, 4-2, SEC): LSU played a marvelous defensive game against Alabama and still lost by 29 points and still gave up 576 yards. The Tigers are a very good football team and should finish the season 10-2. They’re very young and if they add the right parts to the puzzle, they’ll be a national championship contender next year.
#18 MISSISSIPPI STATE (6-3, 3-3 SEC): What’s with Nick Fitzgerald? Ever since he looked like he belonged back in high school in the loss to LSU he has suddenly discovered he can throw accurate passes. He’s 31-50 and 484 yards with six TDs and no picks in his last two games while running for 295 yards and two more TDs. Can he play like that Saturday in Tuscaloosa?
MISSOURI (5-4, 1-4 SEC): The Tigers are following a familiar script. In 2017, the faithful were ready to fire Barry Odom and then the Tigers won six straight to go bowling. The faithful were ready to can Odom again but Saturday’s blowout win over Florida sets the stage for a 4-0 November. Vandy, (at) Tennessee and Arkansas remain and the Tigers will be heavy favorites to win all three.
OLE MISS (5-4, 1-4 SEC): Getting to 6-6 would be an accomplishment but with that defense (gives up 36.1 points and 499.1 yards per game), it’s going to be a chore. The last three are (at) Texas A&M, at Vandy and home against Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.
SOUTH CAROLINA (5-3, 4-3 SEC): The Gamecocks have rediscovered offense in the last two games and they’re dangerous. They added Akron on the schedule to make up the game lost to the hurricane so they’ll get to 12 games. Of the four remaining games, (at Florida, Chattanooga, at Clemson and Akron) only the Clemson game seems out of reach. An 8-4 or even a 7-5 would be quite a good season because this is a very young team.
TENNESSEE (4-5, 1-4 SEC): The Vols gained only 192 yards and scored only 14 points against Charlotte which doesn’t bode well for the final three games of the season (Kentucky, Missouri and at Vanderbilt). Two wins would send the Vols bowling but they’ll be lucky to win one of the three.
TEXAS A&M (5-4, 3-3 SEC): Just when it seemed the Aggies were hot and ready to finish the regular season 10-2, they’ve lost two straight. Welcome to the SEC West, Jimbo. Ole Miss, UAB and LSU remain on the schedule. Looks like another 7-5 season in Aggieland.
VANDERBILT (4-5, 1-4 SEC): Winning two of the last three (at Missouri, Ole Miss and Tennessee) would send the Commodores bowling for a second straight year. A 4-8 or even 5-7 finish would be a huge disappointment.
SHUFFLING THE PLAYOFF DECK
The In Crowd
Alabama (9-0): Through the first six games it was thought Alabama had a good but not great defense. After the last three games we’ve seen that the defense is playing as well as anyone in the country. Throw in that offense and Bama is scary good.
Clemson (9-0): The Tigers were content to hand the ball off against Louisville so they ran for 492 yards and scored 77 points. The more you see Clemson, the easier it is to believe that this is the only team in the country capable of matching up with Alabama physically and in terms of speed.
Notre Dame (9-0): I’m not at all convinced that Notre Dame is one of the four best teams in the country. Against an SEC schedule I think the Irish would lose three games. Against the schedule they play, however, they will go unbeaten and because they are Notre Dame and play by their own set of rules, they will be in the playoff if they are unbeaten.
UCF (8-0): The Knights are as entertaining as any team in the country and only Alabama may have more team speed. But could they score on Alabama? I know they couldn’t keep Alabama out of the end zone. Still, if you’re going to let unbeaten Notre Dame in, then why not UCF with 25 straight wins?
Michigan (8-1): The Fighting Harbaughs are cleaning up in the Big Ten. Their defense is ferocious and they can throw the ball fairly well to balance out that power running game, but it’s obvious the Big Ten is vastly overrated and the loss to Notre Dame is dubious because Notre Dame is also overrated. Still, it’s Michigan. Win out and the Harbaughs are in.
Oklahoma (8-1): Kyler Murray is the most exciting player in college football and if it weren’t for Alabama’s dominance and Tua Tagovailoa, he would win the Heisman in a landslide. The Sooners can light up the scoreboard but they have to. That defense can’t stop anyone. They have to win out and hope Michigan loses a game.
Ohio State (8-1): The Buckeyes are so vulnerable but if they beat Michigan and then win the Big Ten Championship Game there will be tremendous pressure to include them in the Final Four. The biggest if of all is beating Michigan.
West Virginia (7-1): Now that Texas has been disposed of, the Mounties still have TCU, (at) Okie State and Oklahoma on the schedule. If they win out, win the Big 12 championship game and Ohio State beats Michigan, they’ll have a shot.
Georgia (8-1): Georgia will play in the SEC Championship Game and will have to beat Alabama to get into the playoff. With two losses, Georgia won’t get in.
Washington State (8-1): Wazzoo is the best team in a bad league, the only team in the Pac-12 that doesn’t have three losses. The Cougars would almost have to be the last 1-loss team standing to get in the playoff but stranger things have happened.
The Out Crowd
LSU (7-2): With the exception of Alabama and Clemson, the Tigers can beat anyone in the country.
Kentucky (7-2): It was a good run for the Wildcats, who still are in play for a New Years Six bowl game.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Kansas becomes the third Division I school with a vacancy. David Beaty has been informed that he will not be retained at the end of this season. Kansas is 6-39 during Beaty’s four years on the job, 3-6 this season … I’ve had it with these Dr. Pepper “Fansville” commercials. Dr. Pepper had a good thing going with Larry Culpepper and they blew it with this “Fansville” stuff, which I rate right down there with Flo and the gecko … Florida State is 4-5 and with (at) Notre Dame, a red hot Boston College and the Gators still on the schedule, a losing season seems all but assured. Willie Taggart supporters are dwindling after a second straight blowout loss. Taggart, by the way, took over play calling responsibilities from offensive coordinator Walt Bell prior to the loss to North Carolina State … You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that Bobby Petrino’s team has quit on him at Louisville. Never was that more obvious than the 77-16 loss to Clemson. The Cardinals are 2-7 and giving up 40.8 points per game … The Miami Dolphins are assured of another year in which they are the only unbeaten team in pro football history after the Los Angeles Rams dropped their first game of the season to become the final NFL team to suffer a loss.